HEAVY ROT8T1ON: 18 old songs we played like they were brand new (or new songs we played so much they feel old) in 2018
But sometimes you gotta switch it up.
Because it’s not always about what’s hot right now, but which diamonds mined from earlier times you’re currently playing as if they just came out.
So here’s our run down, rather than a countdown, of past and present heat we had on repeat in ‘18.
“Jump to It”-Aretha Franklin
Sadly, 2018 became the year we lost the Queen.
Rather than wallow, it feels better to celebrate gifts, like this underrated, jubilant 1982 hit, “Jump To It”.
Aretha passed in August, but since then, not a week has passed without playing this.
“Red Red Red”-Fiona Apple
I don't understand about complementary colors
And what they say
Side by side they both get bright
Together they both get gray
But he's been pretty much yellow
And I've been kinda blue
But all I can see is
Red, red, red, red, red now
What am I gonna do
When you need an ill lyricist to break down this ROYGBIV ish, Fiona Apple, as they say in LA, is “The Business”.
YG’s Stay Dangerous was his first somewhat forgettable album, after a cinematic DJ Mustard-anchored debut, and Mustard free, surprisingly strong sophomore effort (Still Brazy) using the chaos of YG’s own suddenly successful but still krazy life and the era’s increasingly toxic environment to great thematic effect.
There’s no such unifying thread, or at times even much focus, on his third full length.
But this shit right here?!?!
A classic YG, lifted-and-conflicted, West-Coast gangsta-rap banger, in the vein and on the level of 2014’s“Really Be”.
You can really feel it in the way he falls back upon the pre-chorus part of this track:
“Ayy, damn this beat got bass, everything that’s bad for me right here in my face…”
“Cold Lips”-Twin Peaks
A Stones-like cut, far more killer than any filler the Stones have cranked out in decades.
I don’t know much about Twin Peaks as a band otherwise, partly because every time I go to put them on, I end up coming back to this.
“Cold Lips” has the ramshackle rock-and-roll, bratty, borderline misogynistic lyrics, plus raw feel, of some ’72 Glimmer Twin shit.
“You can live how you want, if you don’t mind living alone”
Words to live by…like a Rolling Stone.
A better Madonna-style single than Madge herself can claim in decades.
Just outta curiosity, when and/or what was Madonna’s last great hit, anyway?
Until one of our readers can prove otherwise, I’m gonna stick with “Music”.
That is 18 years ago now, my love.
So back to Young Knowles above.
Solange was definitely still in the “ain’t that Beyonce’s little sister?” stage when this one was made.
This was pre-elevator video, and a full four years before her critical 2016 album breakthrough landed her A Seat at the Table with the Big Kids.
Still, between me and you? This remains her best cut. Yup, I said it. And Wut?!?
“Where Are You Tonight? (Journey Through Dark Heat)”-Bob Dylan
Street Legal might be Bob Dylan’s most underrated album.
I won’t call it his best, but for the past few years, it’s been the one I’ve gone back to most, for a variety of reasons.
One is the simple fact it’s heard far less than most of his consensus “classics” (Highway 61 Revisited, Blonde on Blonde, Blood on the Tracks to name a few).
It’s the bridge between Dylan’s Rolling Thunder/Desire era and Slow Train Coming’s religious conversion.
He’s got one foot steeped in post-divorce debauchery, while the other is pointed towards the Holy Trinity.
On the final track of Street Legal, those conflicting states blissfully cross fade.
Quotables burst out of every measure, while a crack band, replete with a (rare for Dylan) horn section, pushes along.
You may also potentially hear the seeds being planted for Dylan’s second marriage, to backup vocalist Carolyn Dennis.
There's a long-distance train rolling through the rain, tears on the letter I write.
There's a woman I long to touch and I miss her so much but she's drifting like a satellite.
I left town at dawn, with Marcel and St. John, strong men belittled by doubt.
I couldn't tell her what my private thoughts were but she had some way of finding them out.
There's a white diamond gloom on the dark side of this room and a pathway that leads up to the stars.
If you don't believe there's a price for this sweet paradise, remind me to show you the scars.
“Can’t Believe It”-T-Pain featuring Lil’ Wayne
I can’t believe I’m still listening to this Tallahassee Pain auto-tuned addictive piece of ear candy nearly 15 years after it hit.
I’ve even finally listened to this song enough to decipher every word of Lil Wayne’s gravelly mumbled verse thru a dense fog of codeine cough syrup.
Now that I’ve done so, I’m unsure if my enjoyment of the song has been helped or hurt.
Because if we’re truly talking poetic landmarks, it’s clearly all about the insane levels of lyrical game that inspired Ticonderoga Pain to rhyme “mansion” with “Wiscansin”.
“Don’t Walk Away”-Jade
I was too young to drive in 1992, let alone drive a Jeep capable of rattling the block.
But did Young Bambino hear this song back then and envision himself doing so?
You already know.
And the video featured a girl singing lead in a cut-off USC Trojans sweatshirt?
That worked for me on multiple levels.
This song still thumps in a 2014 Passat over a quarter century later.
Music Nerd Fun Fact: “Don’t Walk Away” became Q-Tip’s inspiration for A Tribe Called Quest’s classic “Award Tour” a year later.
“Powerglide”-Rae Sremmurd featuring Juicy J
Rae Srremurd may not make classic albums, but damn if they don’t make solid albums with at least one classic, fresh-sounding single every time out.
If you think that’s easy to do, go check out the respective catalog of the Migos for a few.
“Every Kinda People”-Robert Palmer
There’s no profit in deceit,
Honest men know that revenge does not taste sweet/
Whether yellow, black, or white,
Each and every man’s the same inside.
It takes every kind of people, to make what life’s about/
Every kind of people, to make the world go round.
Robert Palmer was a soulful cat.
Coming of age during his mid-80’s, Power Station-fronting, “Addicted to Love”, models in kabuki makeup on MTV, Pepsi-commercial days, I initially missed that.
His debut album, with The Meters as his backing band, Allen Toussaint producing and Lowell George on slide guitar, is one of my favorite albums of all-time.
As for this clip, from a couple years after that album came out, well, what can I say.
Put any artist worth their salt on The Midnight Special and watch magic happen.
Speaking of magic, somebody get this bass player a cape.
Sure, this song was originally a rock/soul song about groupies by Delaney & Bonnie.
It then got passed around like the song’s subject did, to Joe Cocker and Bette Midler.
A decade later, it became a Quiet Storm staple, onstage and off, for Luther Vandross.
But it’s Karen Carpenter’s achingly vulnerable vocal, and her brother Richard’s indelible arrangement, that truly breaks the “Superstar” mold, and our hearts, at the same time.
“I Don’t Wanna Leave You”-The Time
Imagine being such a bad, prolific motherfucker that during your peak decade (the eighties) you actually had to create a rival band to compete against you, play every instrument on said band’s early records, write and produce every song, all under an alias (Jamie Starr) before taking that band, a veritable wrecking crew of world-class Minneapolis-scene-bred musicians, out as the opening act on your first arena tour, where they pridefully tried to upstage you and steal the show every evening?
Listen to the way Prince, aka Jamie Starr, unleashes his one-man-band madness at the 4:09 mark, first on a crazy synth-solo, then with an inspired bit of boogie piano, while also programming the drums, plus singing backgrounds, before whatever happens at the 6:00 mark, when it all comes crashing down.
“17 Days (1983 Piano Demo)”-Prince
Recorded within a year of “I Don’t Wanna Leave You” in ‘82, this shelved live-in-studio recording, wouldn’t officially resurface until 2018, but on it P shows you that sometimes all a one-man-band needs to sound like a full-scale riot is one instrument and a mic.
This reissue provides some hope and light for fans that Prince’s estate just might get some things right.
What a run TDE has been on for the past few, particularly in Spring 2017, when Kendrick dropped DAMN on Easter Weekend, followed by Jersey Girl SZA dropping Ctrl on Summer’s eve. There’s lots to like about SZA’s debut album, but “Love Galore” is the joint that most keeps us coming back for more.
The production would feel right at home on DAMN, the lyrics a running dialogue between two young people unsure where they stand, but the thing that always kills me is the way SZA stretches “love” out in inimitable, multi-syllabic fashion, unspooling the word like thread from a bobbin, bouncing down a set of stairs.
“Here Comes De Honey Man”-Miles Davis & Quincy Jones (Live at Montreux)
Quincy Jones & Miles Davis have each likely led at least 25 projects a piece more important than their Live at Montreux collaboration, recorded in Summer 1991.
This performance at the world’s most famous annual jazz festival in Switzerland, which finds Miles revisiting his legendary late-50’s/early-60’s work with Gil Evans, live for the first time in 30 years, was recorded two months before he died.
Davis would play two more concerts after this, a “Miles and Friends” show in Paris, and a Homecoming Hollywood Bowl show.
A few weeks later in September, he checked into St. John’s Hospital in Santa Monica with bronchial pneumonia, and never checked out.
Not every rendition on Live at Montreux is a gem, but on this particular version of Miles/Evans taking on Gershwin (Porgy and Bess), is an emotionally satisfying win.
Miles’ trumpet playing is labored, muted, sparse even by his own known-for-leaving-lots-of-empty-space-between-notes standards.
But as Quincy’s orchestral arrangement crescendos, cymbals crashing down in utterly, unfairly loud fashion, you can hear and feel a legend rise to the occasion.
“Don’t Interrupt the Sorrow”-Joni Mitchell
Below are the names of every singer/songwriter/musician solo artist who may lay claim to the seventies, front to back, year to year, at or beyond the level of Joni Mitchell:
“That’s it! That’s the list.”(c)Tony Kornheiser
I might listen to a Marvin Gaye argument too, but seriously, “that about it”(c)Hov.
F’real tho, from 1970 thru 1979, what’s messing with this?!?!
But I digress, rather than plunge further down a rabbit hole brought forth by Joni’s genius.
Back to the song in question, from one of her more unquestionably underrated ‘70’s albums (rivaled only by Hejira) compared to the two most cited (Blue, Court and Spark) masterpieces.
“Don't interrupt the sorrow
He says "We walked on the moon
You be polite. "
Don't let up the sorrow,
Death and birth and death and birth and death and birth
He says "Bring that bottle kindly
And I'll pad your purse-
I've got a head full of quandary
And a mighty, mighty, thirst. "
Not sure I’ll ever be able to satisfactorily describe what “Don’t Interrupt The Sorrow” is about.
But here’s a hopeful toast, wishing for many more years here spent trying to figure it out.
“It’s Mine”-Mobb Deep featuring Nas
I’m not sure what it is about this song nowadays.
The chorus is a fairly unimaginative re-purposing of a then-only-one-year-old Brandy/Monica smash, “sung” by Nas, a rap legend infamously bad at hooks.
The beat is a “flip” of the Scarface theme that’s obvious enough ‘97 Puff Daddy coulda/woulda/shoulda thought it up.
Havoc’s opening salvo is average, even by Havoc standards.
Nas and Prodigy (RIP) both kill their verses, but not at a level you haven’t heard better, from either one, elsewhere.
The video is the kinda of turn-of-the-century Hype Williams standard issue model you’ve seen countless other times.
Of Murda Muzik singles, everyone, including me, was way more hype off the “Quiet Storm” remix than this in ‘99.
But nowadays, whenever putting this one on while behind the wheel, it takes self-discipline not to feel like I’m playing GTA, or some high-speed bumper-car game.
Judge if you want, we don’t give a fuck.
This song, this list, this life…It’s Mine.
“Naïve Melody (This Must Be The Place)”-Talking Heads (Stop Making Sense)
I don’t know if I’ll ever get married, but I do know a wedding song when I hear one.
And if any lovely, interested ladies now forming an orderly queue don’t hear it too?
That’s too bad, baby, looks like it probably ain’t gonna work out between me & you.
Honorably Mentioned Eight Is Enough For ‘18:
“Our Love Has Died”-Ohio Players
“That’s The Way I Feel About Cha”-Bobby Womack
“The Adventures of Super Rhymes”-Jimmy Spicer
“If You Know, You Know”-Pusha T
“I Don’t Wanna Party With U”-DJ Quik
“All I Do”-Stevie Wonder