Even more shoo-bee-dooing for 2011...#20 through #11 have arrived...
20. The Strangest Feeling - Jessie Ware
On the rise Jessie Ware is, as she comes from out of the shadows of her work with SBTRKT and Sampha to stake her flag among the dub-step/soul crowd. No sweat really as she's got a great entry in the guise of "The Strangest Feeling", a song that is dauntless and haunting, carried by writhing vocals by Ware. For some reason, this song feels oddly decades older than it is, yet is so chilling and abstract that it has to be from this century. The overseas market is really killing it when it comes down to sophisticated, icy soul tapestries like this.
19. The Edge Of Glory - Lady Gaga
There are just some songs that you instantly like when you first hear them. This is yet another one of those "!!!" moments that got my shoulder's a shimming and and me throwing my fist up in a Arsenio Hall "whoop" (totally dated myself there). An euphoric wash of electronic strings, cymbals, and pop smarts invades and proves that when Gaga stops putting her arrogance on display, she can craft a mighty fine pop tune that doesn't over-stay it's five minute mark. Added bonus is the late Clarence Clemons whose sax solo melts into the electronic fussiness of this and it makes it possible that yes, even in the 21st Century a sax solo can be welcomed with open arms.
18. I'm Gonna Dance - Ayo
Ayo is fighting for her right to well, be in this fist-pump-to-the-sky anthem that is packed with loads of posistivity and spirit. It truly was my musical 'motivational speaker' for this year, and whenever I feel a little in the dumps, this song instantly gets me back on track. It has all the right elements to it, from witty phrases (okay, she gets a little feminist, guys) to guzzling guitars that give Ayo her edgiest, boldest, and possibly poppiest track yet. While the German-born singer/guitarist had a nice n' quiet album out of Billie-Eve this year, it was the single of "I'm Gonna Dance" that stuck out it's sore rebellious thumb and showed off that Ayo can turn her usual flair for soul-folk into a rocking affair.
17. Big Brown Eyes - Benny Sings
How tidy and sweet is this song? There aren't any big synth explosions, drum machines, a rap solo, or any of the other trappings that seem to clutter or bog down perfectly good material. This is just a simple expression of love for someone with some whopping sepia peepers, and it's delectable with a high potency of sunny Soul that is not too much and not too little. This is just right, said Goldilocks.
16. Shake It Out - Florence + The Machine
In a contrast to the above "Big Brown Eyes", "Shake It Out" is a balls-to-the-wall epic climb that has to be brawny, especially as the lyrics are concerned, as it's all about getting over your fears and your oppressors---you know all that philosophical mumbo-gumbo that makes people like Florence popular among the Top 40 haters. Amid all the shattering percussion and Florence's yelps, yet another "motivational" song was added to my cannon, as the lyric: "and it's hard to dance with devil on your back" was pretty much my mantra for all of 2011 and will probably continue to be, as it is oh so poignant. Shame that I found the rest of Ceremonials a bit lackluster (save for "What The Water Gave Me" and "Only If For The Night"), but this is the jam worth looping.
15. The Streets - Camille Jones
On a whim this song came into my world, and I'm so glad it did because it's a fabulous slab of Electronica. Usually the best songs are those that are unexpected, the ones you didn't really seek out, or fit into your usual listening pattern, and this is a fine example of that. Camille Jones is a relative unknown (well, except in her native Denmark) and I really wish she wasn't such a secret because "The Streets" is too good to go unnoticed. Urgent and soulful, this is sort of reminiscent of something Roisin Murphy would pull, yet, Jones owns on this.
It's really all about that glorious rain of synthesizers in the beginning. It really and truly is. Okay, the rest of the song is sensational---fluffy, spirited, and just feels suited for confident impromptu dances this side of an 80's dance themed musical. But did I mention it's really all about that shower of synths in the beginning? Just in case you didn't catch that....
13. Hear My Call - Jill Scott
Bravo.We already know that Jill Scott can sang (note the "a"), but somehow her voice hasn't been used quite like this. Her diction as she languishes is just breath-taking, and for such a musing moment where inwardly she building up her broken spirit, she doesn't hold back. Truly this is an inspiring, spiritual piece and one that hit home for me once I heard it. I usually don't get misty hearing songs that much, but this one got my eye-ducts a little moist. Like I always said, Scott is that big sister I never had who has been-there, screwed-up-that who continues to teach, but never preach. She gives a master class when she performed this at the 41st NAACP Image Awards, and it's by far the finest performance, that I think, she's ever given.
12. Queen Of Wonderland (feat. Thundercat) - J*Davey
Nobody does electric, quirky and eclectic like J*Davey, and one of the finest examples of their caliber is "Queen of Wonderland". The avenues this song takes is the real show-stopper as you're taken on a real rhythm trip, not to mention the chunky bass-lines of Thundercat beefs things up to an edgy fair. Jack Davey revives the punk-New Wave sneers of the early 80's wonderfully here in the vocals, and it's really alllll good. Headphones and an open mind are required to properly experience this.
11. Turning Tables - Adele
It's safe to say that "Rolling In The Deep" is Adele's finest hour, but let's not forget about the other hours, which make up the brilliant 21. Since I like to be different and screw with everyone's expectations of me, "Rolling In The Deep" doesn't get the spotlight here---hell, it's been hogging the spotlight since it arrived last year, and well, with 340 billion covers later from John Legend to YouTube hopefuls, it's time to roll the song in the deep. "Turning Tables" brings back the idea of the ballad, especially to the mainstream which has made those type of tracks such a lost art due to people's attention spans about as long as it takes to warm a slice of pizza in the microwave. True, "Set Fire To The Rain" and "Someone Like You" reign supreme and gave Adele ample hits, but this understated stunner nails this one without all the huge theatrics and gives a stream-lined and heart-on-sleeve performance that is quite a thing of beauty.