So, I chose ten singles of varying genres to review and rank, released mostly from the week of May 20, 2013 (give or take, etc.) The rank is “10” being my least favorite and “1” being my champion single… or something like that.
no. 10 The-Dream, “High Art”
(from upcoming album IV Play) [Island]
“I make love to my girl, then I get high with my n***as…”
Somebody had to be the single least enjoyed – sorry The-Dream. “High Art” is pretty simple, even for Terius “The-Dream” Nash, as evidenced by the hook (“I make love to my girl, then I get high with my n***as…”). Basically, the lovemaking is the ‘art’ and the ‘high’ comes from weed, or something like that. Sure The-Dream’s sense of humor still resides, but this is no “Rockin’ That Sh**” or “Love King”. Jay-Z doesn’t propel the cut to the next level, though should he be expected to outperform The-Dream on his own track? Regardless, this won’t keep me from purchasing IV Play, due May 28.
no. 9 The Lonely Island, “Diaper Money”
“…got that diaper money / I got that wife p***y / I got that grave plot / I’m a grown a** man!”
“Diaper Money” gives The Lonely Island another ridiculous cut to go alongside “YOLO”. While the singles from the upcoming album as of yet pale to those from Incredibad (“I’m On A Boat” or “Dick in a Box”) and Turtleneck and Chain (“I Just Had Sex” or “Jack Sparrow”), “Diaper Money” is still good for its absurdity. “Lonely Island / we been here for a minute now / this is some grown man sh*t”, the comedians proclaim on the aggressive spoken word intro. By the end of the cut, listeners are aware that Andy Samberg and company “…got that diaper money / I got that wife p***y / I got that grave plot / I’m a grown a$$ man!” WOW. Reason enough not to grace the top five?!?!
no. 8 A$AP Ferg “Work (Remix)”
featuring A$AP Rocky, French Montana, Trinidad James and Schoolboy Q
“I gotta close the window before I record / cause New York don’t know how to be quiet” – A$AP Ferg
“Work (Remix)” gives you exactly what you anticipate – a juggernaut remix overstuffed with too much talent for its own good. I wouldn’t call this number quite ‘exceptional’ nor is it ‘unexceptional’, but it’s an interesting remix with superb hardcore production.
“I gotta close the window before I record / cause New York don’t know how to be quiet”, A$AP Ferg proclaims on the intro, before diving into the first verse. “Coogi down to the socks like I’m biggie poppa / Keep your girl head in my Tommy boxers…”, he proclaims, alluding to The Notorious B.I.G. French Montana takes the second verse (“when they mask up, coming for your ice / when they barefaced, they coming for your life”) while the molly-poppin’ Trinidad James reps for Trinidad, citing “Jamaica, I’m your brother…” Schoolboy Q cites different ages to assert his swagger (“Pimpin’ like I’m 33, move keys like I’m 36 / ship O’s like I’m 28, Tacoma know I’m pushing weight…”). A$AP Rocky is concerned about violence on the final verse (“A lot of homies cried, due to crimes, homicide / drivin’ by poppin’ nines, Pakistan, Columbine / out of line, pistols barkin’ “ar ar” ride or die…”). There is enough to compel for sure.
no. 7 Iggy Azalea, “Work”
“I’ve been work work work work working on my s***”
I hadn’t heard Aussie Iggy Azalea rap, but I’ve heard the buzz. Being the skeptic I can be, I had to hear Azalea for myself to see if she was indeed the real deal. True to the hype, Iggy can definitely rap. “Work” is one of the more unique sounding singles on the list, which should separate Azalea from others if nothing else. “Walk a mile in these Louboutins / but they don’t wear these sh*ts where I’m from / I’m not hating, I’m just telling you / I’m tryna let you know what the f**k that I’ve been through…”, Iggy assertively raps on the intro. But the hook clarifies the title: “I’ve been up all night, tryna get that rich / I’ve been work work work work working on my sh*t / Milked the whole game twice, gotta get it how I live / I’ve been work work work work working on my sh*t / now get this work…working on my sh*t.” A solid track with quick-paced, agile rhymes, “Work” may have landed higher had everyone else not brought the heat.
no. 6 B.o.B, “Headband”
featuring 2 Chainz
“Chop one, chop two, chop that a** down…all I want you to do is just drop that a** down…now look back at it…”
B.o.B must definitely be looking to return to ‘the good foot’, aka solid commercial sales (Strange Clouds was no success). “Headband” is certainly raunchier than most of B.o.B’s debut effort, The Adventures of Bobby Ray, which debuted at no. 1. Built for the club, it is safe to say that B.o.B and 2 Chainz are ‘horny’. B.o.B. Takes the first and third verse, including lines such as “Already got one, rolled up in my left hand / p***y on my mind, tighter than a headband / kush in my lungs, go ganja in my sweat glands / this sh*t I’m on, better than the next strand…” 2 Chainz is not to be outdone on his guest spot on the second verse: “Whistling Dixie / middle school, I was getting head on a ten speed / Gigolo blood line, pimpin’ hereditary…” Yeah, both of them are all about the booty, evidenced by the gimmicky second-half of the hook: “Chop one, chop two, chop that a$$ down…all I want you to do is just drop that a$$ down…now look back at it…” Easily the raunchiest cut on this list.
no. 5 K. Michelle, “V.S.O.P.”
(from upcoming effort Rebellious Soul) [Atlantic]
“We gon’ light some candles tonight / very special / we gon’ do whatever you like / very special…”
Way back when, I wrote a post about how I was afraid that K. Michelle was making herself too risqué as an R&B artist. Singles like “Kiss My A**” were a bit too much to really propel her into mainstream commercial success. The specific post was in regards to Michelle’s raw “I Just Wanna”, which Michelle refined when she released it as a single (aka she refrains from using the f-word). “V.S.O.P.” is arguably her best offering as of yet, sporting all the cues to make it a popular R&B single. Sample intact (“Very Special” courtesy of Debra Laws), vocals commanding, this Pop & Oak produced single was a pleasant surprise. It isn’t a say Mary J. Blige “Be Without You” caliber cut, but it is enough to make you “…light some candles tonight / very special / we gon’ do whatever you like / very special…”
no. 4 Chris Young, “Aw Naw”
“Aw Naw somebody just bought a shot of that patron / hang on, I just might have to stay hey / aw naw / look at the time y’all / what happened to coats on / long gone / I should be half way home but / Aw naw…”
I really didn’t expect to like this cut, particular after I figured out it was another countrified booze fest (Luke Bryan’s Spring Break…Here To Party got me wasted just listening!). However, it is quite catchy and fun. Chris Young showcases a lot of personality against a grooving four-on-the-floor beat: “Aw Naw somebody just bought a shot of that patron / hang on, I just might have to stay hey / aw naw / look at the time y’all / what happened to coats on / long gone / I should be half way home but / Aw naw…” One thing that is clever about this number is the rhythm and phrasing. When country is good, it’s usually really good.
no. 3 Elijah Blake, “X.O.X.”
“How do I tell her, I don’t love her like we do / I still in love with you / How do I let her know, gotta let her go / damn I miss my ex, oh / damn I miss my ex…” – Elijah Blake
Elijah Blake finally releases something that gets my attention. Prior to “X.O.X.”, I wasn’t completely sold on the R&B singer compared to some of his contemporaries. On this particularly cut, he never over-sings, riding a cleverly utilized O’Jays sample (“Back Stabbers”). The typical love conundrum, Blake confirms his situation on the chorus: Chorus: “How do I tell her, I don’t love her like we do / I still in love with you / How do I let her know, gotta let her go / Damn I miss my ex, oh / Damn I miss my ex…” Common adds another level of sophistication to this refined contemporary cut: “Symphonies without sympathy, memories seem to visit me / when I pass Tiffany”. In my opinion, Blake does himself a favor with this single.
no. 2 Mario, “Somebody Else”
featuring Nicki Minaj
“You left me for somebody else now / (I wish I never loved ya) / You left me baby you left me / (Girl I can’t stop thinking bout you) / You left me for somebody else girl / (Girl I wish I never met you)…” – Mario
Mario has always been a bit underrated. Yes, I know he had a no. 1 for nine weeks with “Let Me Love You”, but the talented singer with a lovely tone seems to be overlooked compared with contemporaries such as Trey Songz or Chris Brown. “Somebody Else” is a superb single that separates itself from other current R&B cut. A mix between old- and new-school, Mario’s tone continues to impress, even with some falsetto thrown in there. Turning the ‘woman scorned’ message around to reflect a man’s hurt, the idea is interesting and ear-catching: “You left me for somebody else now / (I wish I never loved ya) / You left me baby you left me / (Girl I can’t stop thinking bout you) / You left me for somebody else girl / (Girl I wish I never met you) / You left me, baby you left me / (Cause I would never be alone)”. Nicki Minaj brings the offending woman’s perspective on her rap on the third verse (“But I let you get mad disrespectful, huh / you couldn’t be serious, was you? / looking at my new man, wish it was you? / but you’re dead now…”). Were it not for Mayer Hawthorne, this would’ve been my top choice.
no. 1 Mayer Hawthorne, “Her Favorite Song”
“But when she gets home, she puts her headphones on / she plays her favorite song and fades away / and when the music’s on she can do no wrong/ and she feels safe and calm and it’s ok”
So I called an artist who had a no. 1 hit once for nine weeks underrated… Sorry about that Mayer. The most underrated artist is often the one with the most impressive work. That is the case here as Mayer Hawthorne continues to do his soulful thang on “Her Favorite Song”. The elements of classic soul and neo-soul are still there, but Hawthorne definitely DOES NOT sound like an anachronism, tweaking the formula that has given him a following. The antithesis to B.o.B.’s sensually driven “Headband”, Mayer Hawthorne literally sings about his lady’s ‘favorite song’ soothing her: “But when she gets home, she puts her headphones on / she plays her favorite song and fades away / and when the music’s on she can do no wrong/ and she feels safe and calm and it’s ok / and she says (ba ba dum ba dee ah dum ba / ba ba dum ba dee ah dum ba…” Well produced, well written, and definitely another solid vocal from Hawthorne, “Her Favorite Song” is the single to beat.