This list is also a Top 25, but it is not limited to singles. I don't pay much attention to what is released and what isn't. I get most of my music online so my view of what is "released" is a bit skewed.
25. Estelle, Wait a Minute (Just a Touch)
Fuck American Boy, this is the joint right here. Frankly – I didn't care for Estelle's album at all, but man does this joint knock?! This is the only song where I feel that Estelle convinces me that she's that chick.
24. Ginuwine, Please You
The Underdogs laced G with this midtempo stunner. It has a fantastic melody and the production is just right to get the emotion across. If the new album has stuff like this, Ginuwine is back folks!
23. Raphael Saadiq, Oh Girl
This is the standout track on Ray Ray's 60s inspired new album. For me, its his singing that sells the song. He's just never sounded this convincing, this emotional, this open. Well done.
22. Day26, Got Me Goin
It saddens me that this song wasn't bigger. It knocks, y'all. Also - its the only song on the album that really shows what each vocalist brings to the table. Robert is all raw emotion, Brian is charisma personified, Willie is pretty, and BIg Mike whines wit the best of em.
21. Nas, Sly Fox
Ya'll exploit rap culture, then ya'll flip on us
And you own the post, and ya'll shit on us
What is they net worth?
They gon' try to censor my next verse?
Throw 'em off the roof neck first
Indeed! Nas' blistering critique is ultimately undone by the fact that most liberals already don't like Fox News. But the rhymes are, forgive the pun, sly as fuck. Don't sleep on this cat, folks.
20. Jennifer Hudson, Spotlight
It's a shame this is the only good song on Jennifer's debut. Once again Clive Davis has sucked the soul and passion out of a black woman's art. But Ne-Yo didn't let Jen down with this beautiful mid-tempo. It never really rises above a murmur, allowing Jen to flex the emotive skills instead of belting.
19. Erykah Badu, Annie
There need to be more songs like this out there. Because, man, do I love Erykah like this. These lil freestyle type songs show just how funky and free Erykah really is. Too bad this didn't end up on the album. This chick is bad, y'all, BAD!
18. Brandy, Honey
I didn't always think the sensual Brandy on Afrodisiac worked, but on Honey she seems to come into her full flirty powers nicely. Even with a lyric as silly as "if you got no money you will get no honey from me" works here. Few women freak a midtempo the way B-Rocka does. Can we get this as a bonus track on subsequent pressings of Human, Bran? Thanks.
17. Digital Black f. B. Simm, I Want You
Digital Black of Playa flies under the radar, moreso than his bandmates Static and Smokey. But his music is no less great. This song is his party track and even though it knocks, Black definitely injects some raw emotion into his vocals. And because of such effort the song hits you harder than it would otherwise. Listen to the song here.
16. New Kids on the Block, Click Click Click
First off – ignore Donnie's rap. The leaked version I have doesn't have it and that's one of the reasons I could appreciate this song. It's butter smooth black pop sung damn near convincingly by the whitest of white boys. For my money, it's all about Joe McIntyre. He kills this! Also – this song is written by Hakim Abdulsamad. That's Dial My Heart/The Boys, Hakim Adbulsamad. Nice work homie.
15. Michael Keith, Off Up in This Bedroom
It's all about the vocal arrangement here. This song opens Mike's debut album and sets the tone beautifully. This is baby-making music on a level no one is currently reaching. Just listen to them vocals! Dude is major!
14. Lina, Break Through
What I like about Lina's Break Through is that it's a fight song. The vocalizing at the end beautifully captures that sense that one should build up the confidence to go for whatever it is you want. It's subtle, but powerful.
13. Ne-Yo, Trouble
I can't believe Ne-Yo left this off the final album. This song rivals Addicted as his best work. The track is great and his singing has some real urgency, something he often lacks. He needs to go on 'head and let out that inner disco queen and get it on. This is great stuff here.
12. Musiq & Mary J. Blige, IfULeave
Man, when Mary J. elevates a song, she really really elevates it. If you listen to Musiq's verses, he doesn't really do anything different from what he's done before. But from the moment Mary starts to sing, you begin to feel the song. Her phrasing here is flawless. There is anger here, but mostly fatigue. You can hear it in the way she says "and that's why (pause) I." The pause is KEY!
11. Q-Tip, Q-Tip for President
Tip takes the Eric B For President beat, snippets of our new president and gives us a new song about our new president, but also about taking hip-hop back. Straightforward. FLow is tight. Beat knocks. Damn, Tip is so nice.
10. Busta Rhymes, Don't Touch Me (Throw Da Water on 'Em)
Man, I hadn't realized till I heard this song earlier in the year how much I missed Woo Ha-era Busta Rhymes. Everything about this lights a fire under my ass. The punchlines, the flow, the complexity of the lyricis, the track. Busta did his thing here. Three and a half minutes of pure Busta insanity. Bravo!
9. Black Milk, Give The Drummer Sum
Man, Black Milk is my new obsession. But in truth, his rhymes are about average for a rapper/producer. Think decent like Erick Sermon, not "stop rappin, fool" like Kanye. But what he does do is make tracks that his flow nestles right into. This is my favorite joint off his album and is the best hip-hop song of the year. Hands down.
8. SugaRush Beat Company, L.O.V.E.
Despite being about love, the funk of this track puts the stank on it. Rahsaan has never sounded quite like this and I really like the change up. The track knocks, but it also burrows into your consciousness. You nod your head, but man there's just more to it than the rhythm.
7. Solange, Dancing in the Dark
Full disclosure – any song on Sol-Angel could be here. That's how tight Solange's record is. I picked this one because I think this is her strongest vocal work on the album. She glides all over the place beautifully and it's engaging.
6. Yahzahrah & Raheem DeVaughn, Nothing
Yahzarah and Raheem redo Miles Davis here with beautiful results. Yah coos. Raheem begs. There was nothing really out there like this in 2008. Both singers reaffirm here that they are major vocalists. Listen to the track here.
5. Snoop Dogg, Sexual Eruption (track below is the original version, not the video version)
It's a shame that so much of the music this year utilized the vocoder, because its overuse means that people don't have the proper appreciation for what Snoop accomplishes here. Snoop didn't just use this because he can't sing, he used it because he was trying to capture a time, a sound. And it works. This song is all 70s, all funk, all the time. Snoop found a way to pay tribute to the music he loves most, his own history with g-funk, and re-establish himself as a major talent all in one song. This was the most inventive song of the year, hands down.
4. Teedra Moses, So Kool
I love Teedra Moses, man. And I like that she took a pretty standard dance track and put her brilliant melody over it. And it doesn't feel like a cheesy remix, it feels organic. It actually reminds me of those great 80s dance tracks by Expose. I've been listening to this song endlessly for months. Teedra outdid herself by taking what she does best and making it for the clubs.
3. Usher, Revolver and Here I Stand (tie)
I chose these two songs because they are two very different songs, but both show what Usher did beautifully this year. On Here I Stand he proves that he's a soul man, through and through. On Revolver, he puts a different spin on pain showing how both people in a relationship hurt each other and how it can spin out of control. More importantly, on both songs his vocals are pitch fucking perfect. His falsetto on Revolver is as clear as its ever been and on Here I Stand his chest voice is full and robust in a way we haven't heard since very very early in his career. Man – I can't believe people slept on this album.
2. Jazmine Sullivan, Bust Your Windows
This is a fantastic song! I like it because the song is really about coping. By the end, Jazmine realizes that destroying his car didn't help at all (oh why can't i stop crying). It's this, along with backgrounds that ground the song and killer fuckin strings, that make this one of the best songs of the year.
1. Sy Smith, Star
I’m placing my bets without regret
It’s time to make the bed I want to lie in
Hearts make useless souvenirs
And I no longer wish to collect them
Lately it has occurred to me
That I’ve been hurt more than I care to share
I’ll bravely adorn my scars
I want to be your only star
Man, I can't tell you how much I love those words.
Star is a slow burn. It, similar to Lina's Break Through, is about picking yourself up again. These lyrics are repeated twice. The first time, Sy's phrasing is measured, as if she's trying to convince herself. But when they kick in the second time Sy sings, the tempo speeds up a bit and her phrasing is looser. She's there. Listen to how she sings this song. Genuinely moving. Best song of the year!