BEST SONGS OF 2005
(I originally posted this over at Soul Sides but decided to dupe it for Poplicks. --O.W.)
10. The Game feat. 50 Cent: Hate It Or Love It
From The Documentary (G-Unit/Interscope, 2005)
Th Game and 50 Cent's duet on “Hate It Or Love It” might seem rather bittersweet now that they, you know, hate each other but that doesn't change the fact that it’s a great song. The musical hook (taken from The Trampps) is rich and soulful, the chorus is clever and catchy and The Game’s underdog-on-top attitude makes this a strong anthem for up-and-comers everywhere. The fact that 50 would remix the song (albeit sans The Game) shows how good it was to begin with despite potentially bad memories of having to work on it with his now-nemesis. If you listen to the soundtrack of Get Rich or Die Tryin’ you’ll notice that many of the tracks on there try to duplicate this formula but none get it down as well as “Hate It Or Love It” does.
9. Lone Catalysts: One's We Miss
From Good Music (BUKA, 2005)
If this were just an instrumental, it'd still be one of my favorite tracks of the year; it's one of J-Rawl's best tracks I've ever heard (and he's got a grip of great ones). The soulfulness is perfect. But what makes it such an outstanding song is the pairing between Rawls' beat and J-Sands' lyrics that are part eulogy, part dedication to the memory of some of music and culture's great icons. Rock, rock on, ya'll.
8. UPC All Stars: Don't Get Discouraged
From 12" (Soul Cal, 2005)
This previously unreleased early '70s song comes from the same folks who brought you Omaha's L.A. Carnival. As I noted back in July when I first posted it, it's such an incredible song; it's mind-boggling that no one released it before. The track opens with that gorgeously relaxed keyboard riff before giving way for the brass section's power and then the song becomes this fantastic late-night jam. Plus, the song is so positive, it could be the anthem for a scrappy Little League team.
7. Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings: All Over Again
From Naturally (Daptone, 2005)
This album track lives up to the ideal of being timeless. Whether 1965, 75 or 2005, it manages to be beautiful, melancholy and ultimately uplifting. It’s so good I’m using it on an compilation I’ve curating – also as my closing song. No other track would have fit quite as well. Nuevo-soul? Retro-soul? Who cares - it's just exquisite soul.
6. Common: Be
From Be (Good/MCA, 2005)
People calling the album a 5 star effort seriously need to get their ears checked; some great songs, sure…but end-to-end burner? Far too inconsistent and even a little boring to qualify for classic status. That said, the album opens perfectly with the title track. It’s as good as anything Kanye produced on his own album and while Common’s constant introspection can border on syrupy at times, this manages to strike exactly the right note of sharing a personal moment on record without sounding like he’s navel-gazing.
5. Legendary K.O.: George Bush Doesn't Care About Black People
From k-otix.com (2005)
Credit Houston's K-Otix (aka the Legendary K.O.) with not only being one of the first to respond to the Katrina/New Orleans debacle with a topical song, but doing one that manages to be humorous, poignant and enjoyable, all at once (if you've heard some of the other songs, you'll know that it's not easy to be even one of the three). Sure, it helps that they simply jacked the beat for "Gold Digger" but that's precisely part of its charm: the song was meant to be something cut dirty and quick but its legacy has become, well, legendary.
4. Three 6 Mafia feat. MJG, 8-Ball and Young Buck: Stay Fly
From The Most Known Unknown (Sony, 2005)
Just when you thought everything out of the South was crunk or snap music, Memphis’ Three 6 turn to ‘70s era soul legend Willie Hutch and his song “”Tell Me Why Our Love Turned Cold.” A Southern posse cut for the ages, the song throws on Young Buck and MJG for a cut that seamlessly weaves together ‘70s blaxploitation, ‘80s electro and the fast chatter rapping that’s all the rage throughout the South now. Hands down, this is the best club cut of the year: if you can’t move to this, you just can't move.
3. Young Jeezy feat. Jay-Z: Go Crazy Remix
From 12" (Def Jam, 2005)
This nails the definition of “anthem.” Start with the Curtis Mayfield horns – the song announces itself with such authority from jump that you’re hooked instantly. The album version was tight (though I’m not sure we needed four verses from Jeezy) but the remix dumps the weak Fat Joe verse, gets Jeezy down to two and then gives Jay-Z an extended burst of lines: “I’m an 80s baby/master of Reagonomics/school of hard knocks, everyday college.” I keep jabbing rewind on this.
2. Kanye West: Heard 'Em Say
From Late Registration (Roc-A-Fella, 2005)
Ok, even if Kanye is using this song to shill for Pepsi (we don't want to knock the hustle but couldn't he have picked something else? I dunno, "Crack Music" maybe? After all, cola used to contain cocaine...), we still think it's one of the best on the album and just a remarkable song, period. Jon Brion's influence is subtle but that's precisely what makes it outstanding: he gives the track an added depth and nuance which only enhances the striking piano-lead beat. And while it's not a superbly deep song lyrically, the mix of both optimism and realism is poignant; you should see the Michel Gondry-directed video to really appreciate it. Besides, Kanye was, hands-down, the hip-hop artist of the year. He's not perfect but right now, he's good enough.
1. Amerie: I Thing (Siik Remix)
From Siik.org (2005)
I initially wrote about this as a sublime example of what a summer song should be like but even in the dead of winter (well, dead of a California winter), its charms haven't faded at all. Here's why: this is technically a mash-up since it's Amerie's acapella floated over the song "Arurian Dance" by the Nujabes from the Samurai Champloo soundtrack...however, while some mash-ups work because they take two, relatively incongruent pieces of music and manages to find a synergy between them, this remix by Siik sounds as if Amerie was MEANT to record her song with that music. If you want proof of intelligent design, forget studying flagellum: just play them this.