As a perfectionist, I can be hard on myself. As a caring individual (when I wanna be...), I have a 'more the merrier' mentality. So I often wonder why I put myself through hell trying to narrow down each year to 30 songs. It totally goes against my ethics. Still every year there are about 30 songs out the hundreds that I like that I can't get enough of, that get me hyped, or get me thinking when they turn on---and this year is no different. Though 2011 didn't have the most prolific songs to ever grace this world (it really was a weird year), these 30 were my favorites of the bunch.
....#30 through #21 are here for your aural enjoyment...
30. All Tied Up - Robin Thicke
When it comes to skipping the foreplay and getting to the point, Robin Thicke isn't a bashful boy about it. Sometimes it's a bit TMI outside of the music dome (he should never do interviews again), but when it comes to the tunes, it's a-okay.While a lot aren't too sure where Thicke stands musically, as Love After War earned itself a myriad of reviews from the disappointed to the satisfied, I can say is that he's back to his old tricks when "All Tied Up" is concerned. Mary J. Blige surprisingly co-writes/produces this yearning piece with Pro-J (it's quite a shame she didn't have this kind of keen sharpness on her My Life II set) and gives Robin room to play vocally around in. This song spells out the reasons why Robin can redeem himself nicely for next year as it capitalizes on the sexy times he's accustomed to---and who doesn't love that?
29. Fabulous Life - Mya
'Guilty Pleasures' they are usually dubbed, but sometimes you need a song that makes you cast cares away and no "label" is needed. Mya is so not being checked for in Americana, as she has gone into the loving arms of the J-Pop market, but folks need to remember that there were R&B starlets prior to 'Beyonce Domination', and Mya was in that shimmering conglomerate. Every once in awhile she'll release a song that reminds me of why I've always made room for her in my music library since the late 90's. "Fabulous Life" is one of those songs. It's a pleasure cruise of crisp, strident pop, that can be found on K.I.S.S., Mya's now sixth album, and is a bushel of fun that it'll make you want to take to the nightlife immediately. While everyone was "moving like Jagger", I'm sticking to the fabulous life.
28. Far Away - Marsha Ambrosius
For seven minutes Marsha Ambrosius has your attention with the soul stirring "Far Away"---and she makes it worth every minute. While most songs that deal with heavy topics like suicide tend to veer into loaded preach sermons that feel more 'after-school special' than they need to be, "Far Away" keeps things at a classy minimum. Even it's accompanying music video took it a step further and wonderfully tackled the timely topics of homophobia and bullying. Still, somehow, not everyone is impressed with how Marsha handles herself, as from eavesdrops and conversations I've had with musical minded pals, Marsha isn't cutting it vocally. To some degree, I can say I agree, as Marsha's debut solo effort Late Nights & Early Mornings didn't really sit with me on a full level like I wanted it to, but this little quiet storm number feels like the Marsha I remember from Floetry, thus I can't deny giving credit where credit is due.
27. Love On Top - Beyonce
Dammit. That's the word that flew out of my mouth when I heard "Love On Top". Dammit that I like this when I'm not one to worship at the alter of Bey Bey Cakes. Dammit that I liked---no loved this---to the point where it's made my end-of-the-year list. Though I'm from the party who suffered from the over-saturation of Beyonce in the early 2000's, I admit to sometimes finding moments where she gets it right. She hasn't matured a lick, but maybe Beyonce doesn't need to be the "deep" artist people want her to be (or the "deep" thinker her stans believe she is), she just needs to have jams to get the party started, nothing more or less. "Love On Top" is what happens when Bey controls herself and IS herself, and has fun while she's at it. Sunny brass and the 80's post-disco groove disposition makes this such a grand gesture---it's effortless, and when you do effortless, you get wonderful results.
26. Radioactive - Marina & The Diamonds
A nice sprinkling of single cuts by artists who are itching to own 2012 found their way to me this year, and didn't disappoint. For the second year in a row, Marina has found her way onto my list again, and with a slice of pop pie that is just as delish as what she offered on last years' The Family Jewels. "Radioactive" has all the flamboyance of a 90's dance floor sizzler, and is quite a hefty start to what Marina has in store for next year. Yet, it didn't need all the negative feedback it received from fans nor needed to have Marina shill some commentary about how her dying her hair blonde was to make a point about 'America's twisted idea of physical hierarchy'. Naw, all those trappings aren't necessary, a solid pop tune like "Radioactive" can stand on it's own---and it does.
25. Insomnia - Rahsaan Patterson
Any song from Bleuphoria could have made this list, but none rocked or reeled me in like "Insomnia". Rah's ode to the restless dreamers blends in his penchant for marrying electronic soul into raucous rock, and he does it with such sly conviction that you wonder "how does he do it?!?". The arrangement of this is brutally killer. It physically lets you into the tossing and turning trials of a would-be sleeper who will soon feel the light and hear the "birds sing", but has to have their lover return. If a night owl could talk, this would be it's theme.
24. Only Wanna Give It To You - Elle Varner (feat. J. Cole)
When a woman says she wants you instead of a new pair of shoes---you need to pay attention. Quick. This sort of plea doesn't get heard often, and sometimes it's a breath of fresh air when a woman can put her feminist fist down and succumb to being a hopeless romantic (we all are---just some braver to admit it than others). Elle Varner is wise beyond her years to know this, and is even wiser for embedding that message into a summery sweet treat that has already been lauded by R&B's most stubborn of critics (*waves hand*) With a backbeat of Mary Jane Girls' "All Night Long" and a layer of confectioner's sugar and the un-pretentiousness of a 90's love groove, Elle's first impression takes R&B off the life support it's on, and revitalizes it for the new wave of starlets. Welcome aboard.
23. Video Games - Lana Del Rey
It's weird how some people get instant fame, and others have to wait for years and years. It sort of fascinates me how certain people are just plucked up from obscurity and in a week's time we're worshiping. This is how I felt about Lana Del Rey (I guess everyone loves a tortured indie artist with lip injections) whose fame was a bit too rushed for my taste. When you extract the hype n' circumstance (a tactic I do with those who's image and personality taint their real product), her singles do have some weight and I have yet to be disappointed. To have my hipster moment of the year, "Video Games" is brutally searing, and brutally good. I had my doubts, but it's orchestral arrangement straight out of a 1960's movie score feels so luxe that it's hard to put down. Let's bookmark this page, and see if Del Rey can charm when her debut, Born To Die comes out next year.
22. Marizpan - Zo! (feat. Eric Roberson and Phonte)
Unlike with 2009's ...just visiting too, super producer Zo! didn't quite bowl me over this time with ....just visiting three, his now third attempt at re-imagining classic songs for the modern ear. Yet, "Marizpan" his collaboration with buddies, Eric Roberson and Phonte saves the day at being as savory and as luscious as the treat itself. Paying considerable amount of respect to Eric Tagg's original, but fashioning it with current sensibility, Eric Roberson's vocal display completely takes us on a soulful ride that is rid of indulgence and full of heart. Instant love happened at the press of the play button.
21. Hide Yourself - 14th
Such a pleasantry this is. What I like to focus on is the spilt personality it takes on as it begins as a brooding piano ballad and then transitions itself into a milky UK Garage bounce that serves up a unique urgency. It really does melt in your mouth. Like a broken record, I'll say it again and again---we'll be hearing more of 14th next year and thankfully so.