Streaming Consciously: Hot Sixteen...Our Top 16 Singles Of 20SickDream
Reading that list isn't necessary to look at this one but may be instructive.
You can best believe a few from those would be represented here otherwise.
But why not go digging thru the digital dirt to find more earworms?!?
And by doing so, expand the web of praise we weave out to songs from additional albums, EP’s or singles, not previously included in our last pledge of musical love?
The only other caveat is they must've been released as singles during this year.
Editor's Note: rankings based solely on the quality of the song, not the video.
So with that in mind, we shall proceed, from #16 to #1.
16) Devastated-Joey Bada$$
Joey Bada$$ has been gaining steam in hip-hop for the past five years since his debut mixtape 1999, yet he's somehow still only 21. "Devastated" was his biggest swing yet as he attempts to make the leap to becoming one of the big dogs, drifting further from the mid-90's NYC retro-fetishistic aesthetic he initially cultivated, while managing to not come off corny in the transition. Watch out for Joey in 2017.
Critics (and Grammy voters) seem to prefer One Foot In The Grave/Sea Change/Morning Phase folkie, depressed-sounding Beck. We prefer the Mellow Gold/Odelay/Midnite Vultures tongue-in-cheek, two-turntables-and-a-microphone Beck. Both feel like artifice anyway but the latter is more entertaining, while Beck has always (to paraphrase one of his old peers) "faked it so real, he is beyond fake".
J-Pop meets Heavy Metal...why did it take us this long to realize the sublime possibilities?!?
13) Siberian Nights-The Kills
Allison Mosshart is a busy girl. Last fall saw the release of her third album by her other band, the Jack White super-group The Dead Weather. This summer, Mosshart is back with a fifth album from her band, indie-rockers The Kills. This particular raw, spooky, Portishead Third-sounding third single, features a memorable video directed by actor Giovanni Ribisi.
12) In Bloom- Sturgill Simpson
Kurt Cobain has been gone for nearly 23 years, yet his shadow still looms large. Sometimes that influence can lead to notable misfire covers. Sometimes the mere mention of his name can make for more gangsta music, or provide the title for a song with a similarly fatalistic world view. Country's "It" guy of the moment takes the Cobain path less traveled here on his cover of Nirvana's classic "In Bloom". Simpson even has the temerity, the unmitigated gall to swap out a Cobain line for a sunnier lyric of his own. Ballsy? Sure. Still effective? Even those who grew up on Nirvana would likely have to concede, yes.
10) Vincent-Car Seat Headrest
Speaking of Seattle, indie-rock critic's darling band Car Seat Headrest are based there, arriving by way of Leesburg, VA. While some of their more lo-fi songs and kid-tested/hipster-approved aesthetic might be a bit too twee for me, this song recalls the vibe of what made The Japandroids' Celebration Rock sound so exciting a few years back. Basically it feels like a true, unbridled, rock and roll record, about the double-edged sword that accompanies imbibing.
9) Cranes In The Sky-Solange
Being the baby sister of Beyoncé is both, to quote an album title by Bey's husband, the gift and the curse. Some root-for-the-underdog types, who related to that struggle in some way, hyped Solange's album as superior to Lemonade. We laugh about that now, while leaving them to continue to cry about it later. Still, despite some vocal limitations, A Seat At The Table, her first fully realized album length artistic statement, earns her one. "Cranes In The Sky", despite not quite being her best single yet (that's still "Losing You" for those keeping score) is the strongest example of why.
8) Suddenly-Drugdealer featuring Weyes Blood
I'm still not exactly clear on what producer Michael Collins, aka Drugdealer aka Saliva Plath aka Run DMT aka 1/2 of Silk Rhodes, does in the studio. But with friends like Weyes Blood's Natalie Mering (singing lead here) and Mac DeMarco helping out, does it even matter? This song starts like a Brian Wilson Pet Sounds-ish piano intro, then ascends into some kind of dreamy, psychedelic, late-seventies Carpenters-like-Lite-FM pop masterpiece about a minute in, then swerves back and forth to make for an intoxicating three minutes.
7) Black Beatles-Rae Sremmurd
We spoke on Rae Sremmurd in Streaming Consciously when their sophomore album dropped in August. We did have this particular cut marked as a key track and suggested single. Still, we won't pretend we knew the impact this particular monster the young Brown brothers created would have. The "No Flex Zone" creators somehow created a melody that has people singing along all over the globe, while even now counting Macca himself among their enthusiastic fans a year later.
6) Lockjaw-French Montana featuring Kodak Black
Speaking of ear worms, this one unearthed the marble-mouthed, hazy brilliance of Kodak Black, as he and the Macaroni-with-the-Cheese Mr. Montana, ride around Broward County Florida and Port-a-Prince Haiti, like a 2016 version of Dre & Snoop in the 'G Thing' vid back in '92. This being 20SickDream, it's MDMA or prescription pills on the menu, rather than chronic.
5) The Greatest-KING
So you're saying we have a true-blue R&B group from Minneapolis/Los Angeles, discovered by PRINCE, who call themselves KING, pay tribute to Muhammad Ali in the lead single "The Greatest", off their debut album? We'd have been on board even before you told us the production featured a Tom Tom Club "Genius of Love" homage, some old arcade-game sound effects plus a charmingly retro video, all while sounding like Sade palling around with her church friends.
4) Pain-De La Soul featuring Snoop Dogg
This song, released 4 months before De La dropped their crowd-funded first album in 12 years, became like a mantra throughout the spring and summer. The groove, the veteran mic synergy between the Plugs 1 & 2 with Uncle Snoop, and most of all the "if it don't kill you, it'll make you stronger" message truly resonated. The video, which manages to interrupt the song, features none of the artists, centering around a fictitious crooked bottled water manufacturer exposed during the in-song dialogue? Not so much.
3) All The Way Up-Fat Joe & Remy Ma featuring French Montana, Infared
French Montana on two songs near the top of the list for songs of 20SickDream? If you told us that before this year, we'd have told you to get the F outta here. Then again, we would have said that about lots of things, good or bad, that came along in a whirlwind year since. We can learn something from French Montana. He seems to be a dude that manages to put himself in the right position. In this case, the right position being the studio for the first banger featuring a reunited Fat Joe & Remy Ma post-prison. As soon as this one dropped, it was hard not to catch a flashback of "Lean Back", updated for the Uber Helicopter Set. This became one of the most crucial New York anthems in a few years, even Hov had to set longstanding chilliness with Joe aside, and hop on the remix in the name of civic pride. "All The Way Up" became the first domino to fall in what turned out to be the most fruitful so far this decade in the city where hip-hop was born.
2) Ain’t That Funkin’ Kinda Hard On You (Remix)-Funkadelic featuring Kendrick Lamar & Ice Cube
Three generations of legendary interplanetary funksmanship together on this one. The results? The best song George Clinton has made while steering the ship since the eighties, the freshest Cube has sounded on record since the nineties and Kendrick being Kendrick. It's good to be hard. But it's hard to be good.
1) OOOUUU- Young M.A.
The hardest-rapping MC in NYC is arguably a 24-year-old girl from BK. In a year of aforementioned New York rap anthems, Young M.A. came in and stole the summer with "OOOUUU", which had every rapper in the city trying to hop on a remix, official or otherwise. Young M.A. does not give the feeling that she's a one-hit-wonder, she's got talent and a perspective that rap has really yet to hear fully formed. It's also telling that she didn't try to chase "OOOUUU" with a comparable follow-up shortly thereafter. Nor did she take the acting gigs or the major-label deals being thrown at her in its wake. Instead, she has decided to let the song of the year speak for itself. Whatever she decides to do from here, she's opened up a lot of new eyes and ears, while we're still not tired of this cut here:
20SickDream Honorable Mention Six-Pack:
-Starboy-The Weeknd featuring Daft Punk
-Palm Trees/Late Night-GoldLink featuring Masego
-Super Hero-Kool Keith featuring MF DOOM
-American Valhalla-Iggy Pop
-GLOWED UP-Kaytranada featuring Anderson .Paak