Thursday, December 16, 2004

Tom's Top 50 Singles of 2004 - Part 4

20. Juvenile, Wacko & Skip: Nolia Clap. It just hangs there. It hovers. Spaghetti-Westen whistle, sideways offstep drums & claps, churning horns, descending synthetic strings. It's got that clean little clipping thing, better than any clean little clipping generic Southern song all year. Great intro: "Bust it!" All three MCs have those great distilled Southern voices; they stretch their vowels between the drum bits and keeps the whole thing floating. It's hard to explain why I love half these songs, but it's especially hard with "Nolia Clap". It just rings through the air, it owns the room.

19. Slim Thug feat. T.I. & Bun B: Three Kings. Buttery slow crawling horns, like a swing 45 played on 33, with some G-funk synth and skittery hi-hats over it, and that's it. The original version sounds screwed & chopped because of Slim Thug's voice, that slow deep unbelievably thick drawl. T.I. is sniffy arrogant, bored even as he sucks up to Texas by shouting out every guy except Flip. But Bun B owns the track with maybe his best verse of the year. For weeks I had it in my head: "We goin' hard in the paint like Carmelo / This is for them boys that sip purple and sip yellow / Shorty shake your jelly like jello / She curvy like a cello / Damn, baby put me up before I even said hello", just perfect.

18. Fabolous: Breathe. Beautiful soul track, sounds stately and elegant and desperate and unbelievably sad. Fab turns it on like I've never heard him turn it on: "I address the haters and the underestimators / And ride up on em like they escalators / They shook up and hooked up to respirators / On they last breath talking to investigators." This is obvious Blueprint Jay-wannabe stuff, but it's also perfect Blueprint Jay-wannabe stuff, and it would've been one of the best tracks on The Black Album if Jay had done it. And it's such a cheese song concept, breathing, but if there's one thing Fab knows it's cheese song concepts. There aren't too many things like hearing an OK rapper make an amazing single. Speaking of which...

17. Terror Squad: Lean Back. The moment where the overblown epic thriller-soundtrack string intro gives way to the whistling middle-eastern riff and the clippity snares is one of the the most thrilling moments of music this year. It made everything sound huge and glorious, even like waiting on line with my friends at the state fair for one of those rides that turns you upside-down. The whole track is nice: dumb-stupid little dance, Joe and Remy coming as hard as I've ever heard them. But "Lean Back" is in the top 20 because of that intro.

16. J-Kwon: Tipsy. The New Yorker article about the Track Boyz (right? Track Boyz? Not TrakStarz?) said that they made thier drum noises by clapping, banging on things, slamming phone books down on tables. That explains why the "Tipsy" drums don't sound like any drums before ever, these huge all-consuming world-destroying noises. It doesn't explain the ravey vwerp-vwerp bleeding synth noises, though. It's just a big jumping stomping monster of a track, and it just about owned my brain for the entirety of March.

15. Mr. Vegas: Pull Up. I love what Nina Sky does to the Coolie Dance rhythm, that breezy cool calm warmth. But I also love what Mr. Vegas does to it, running all around it like a totally ecstatic puppy, frantic, overjoyed, uncontrollable. But this adrenaline freakout is all perfect rising epic dancehall hooks, and that amazes me.

14. Guerilla Black feat. Beenie Man: Compton. I know I should've gotten over it by now, but I haven't; Guerilla Black sounds so much like Biggie. Impossibly like him. Like I still have to just shake my head and marvel that this isn't a new Biggie single. And, you know, I love that voice, it's the voice of the greatest rapper of all time, you know? And plus this track is perfect, like a fusion of Just Blaze/Kanye helium soul and warm clacky late-80s dancehall, total warmth and grace and big-hearted stutter-groove. It glides.

13. Daddy Yankee: Aqui Esta Tu Caldo. I haven't even heard this entire song. All I've heard is the minute-36 edit on the Reggaeton Fever mixtape. I don't know if it was properly released as a single, I don't even know if it's from this year. I have no idea what Yankee's saying. But wow, the bit where the music drops out on the chorus and Yankee stops the frantic hardass Bounty Killer toasting and just starts wordlessly howling and the spooky chunky piano beat comes back in, man, that's my favorite moment in music this year. That's it. That's all I need.

12. Prince: Musicology. OK, so it's regressive James Brown funk jam with anachronistic shoutouts to JMJ and Chuck D and old people. Dudes in hip-hop clothes get kicked out of the club in the video. It's like the most rockist song ever. But holy god it knocks. Prince's moan at the beginning, the perfect little horns staps, the ringing bassline, the almost minimalist breakdown, the humming guitars, wow. I'd say it's the best Prince song since "7", except I haven't really listened to all that many Prince songs since "7". My bad.

11. Slim Thug feat. Mike Jones & Paul Wall: Still Tippin'. That lonely violin, that spare, eerie drum track, those thick slow flows: "Still Tippin'" is a terribly sad song, like heartbreakingly sad. They're talking about rims and I'm-so-great, whatever, it's a dirge, it's this sad empty sigh so thick and elastic that you just can't get out.