Archives for category: Music

liam-gallagher

Opinion
By James Pavel

Going solo was always going to be easier for Noel. He was the songwriter and the soul of Oasis and his individual creations versus Liam’s in the post-breakup era have been comparable to a Manchester City versus Crystal Palace matchup. But despite Liam’s Beady Eye shortcomings, more is still expected. He is, after all, the primary voice of the greatest British insurgence outside of Beatle mania.

So here in 2017 arrives yet another kick at the can from Liam, but this time ensuring no confusion over who or what is behind the project.

‘Greedy Soul’ is immediately forgettable and comes across as a Beady Eye B-side. ‘When I’m Need’ demonstrates what quitting cigarettes and alcohol can do for the system. Liam reaches notes he hasn’t hit in decades and the determination pays off. It’s the song John Lennon would have made in his last days if he hadn’t been too busy rolling around naked in the hay with his little China girl.

‘Wall of Glass’ has that grimy, down in the allies of England feel to it. Do you secretly hope to hear Noel come raging in for the chorus? Absolutely. But Liam holds his own on this one, making it arguably the first proper single he has put out, post-Oasis.

The gem of the album is ‘Chinatown.’ It captures Liam in a state of reflection, a song that finally displays who he really is – a man who has seen and been through some shit. It features instrumentation potentially viewed as too soft for an Oasis bloke, but not in 2017. ‘Show me that you’ve seen some places,’ dares Liam, as if he couldn’t fathom another individual matching his singular experiences.

‘I’ve all I need’ is Liam at his most honest, and honesty serves him well in his now advanced age. It sounds as though he has reconciled any angst or sourness with his brother, yet is still profoundly aware that their relationship is beyond repair. ‘There’s no time for looking back,’ he exclaims, which is true for both parties as Noel prepares to release his latest material. Some situations are meant to remain unresolved and we are better off going our own way – This track may be Liam’s way of convincing himself.

Liam and Noel could both wait for the next wave of 90s nostalgia to grasp the youth and cash in on an Oasis reunion. But they are both too stubborn, too bull-headed, but also too ambitious. Liam knows and believes he is a rock n’ roll God and that music still needs him. It’s that faith in one’s self that seems to define the greats. While many bands are happy to play the hits, Liam finally punches out a solo project that refuses to be dismissed.

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Opinion
By James Pavel

The Killers announced this week that not only will their bass guitarist Mark Stoermer not be touring with the band on their upcoming venture, but lead guitarist Dave Keuning will also sit this one out. The Killers release their 5th studio album this month, but only their second since 2009. After a bustling start to their career, the band’s material has slowed and unfortunately, so has their popularity. The two guitarists have done next to nothing compared to what lead singer Brandon Flowers has done during the band’s extended hiatuses. Rather than helping revive the group and planning a tour stronger than ever, the two guitarists seem to have zero interest in taking the band to the next level.

Even watching the two on stage, it seems that the life has been sucked of them. They have not been anywhere near as excited as they were prior to the Day & Age tour and now seem to almost dread appearing on stage with the other two members. Watching Dave perform at this year’s Lollapalooza was a clear indication that he no longer believes in the spirit of the Killers. The most energy he conveyed during the show was when Flowers announced they would perform a cover of Muse’s ‘Starlight.’ He is constantly dead-panning the audience and seems content with shoe-gazing during the entirety of live shows.

Stoermer has always looked like the weak link in the group and now his desire to not tour at all has made this suspicion valid. If you can’t tour and promote the new material, their shouldn’t be any room for this sort of negativity and failure to remain united.

Brandon and Ronnie have already announced their replacements and they have already proven to be more than up to the task.  Ted Sablay and Jake Banton will officially take over the roles of the two lost souls that once made up the Las Vegas quartet. Ted has already taken on the majority of the backup vocals from Dave and seems poised to take over the role completely. Jake has been Brandon’s right-hand man since his solo debut ‘Flamingo,’ and appears to be much more engaged and enthused with performing.

If Dave and Mark can’t help the group on their biggest tour in years, it should serve as a clear indication to Brandon and Ronnie that it’s time to make some serious adjustments to the starting lineup.

 

2016

Opinion
By James Pavel

20. One Dance – Drake feat. Wizkid & Kyla

Nobody matters more in rap music than Drake. Kanye has finally had his Britney Spears moment and it would be wise to not hold our breath anticipating past greatness upon his return. Drake has been the ultimate 6 man for what must be at least four years running, and has made the duties of a DJ remarkably simple in 2016. Drake followed by Drake followed by Drake featuring Drake. The song was only for one dance, but Drake got about nine out of you before the night was all set and done.

19. Waste a moment – Kings of Leon

Their biggest premier single off an album since ‘Sex on Fire.’ All the ‘ooohhs’ a KOL fan could hope for plus a stupidly fun guitar riff that a 12-year-old could play.  The Kings like to tell stories of cowboy renegades, almost living out southern fantasies they were never quite able to dream about while under strict Christian rule as youths. “Take your time to waste a moment,” was the second-greatest life mantra of 2016, falling only behind Donald Trump’s slightly altered “Grab life by the pussy.”

18. Kids – One Republic

They refuse to apologize for staying longer than their suggested five minutes. There is a spiritually, uplifting vibe that One Republic always manages to achieve, no matter the year. There are many things taken from us, but being a kid may be the greatest.

17. Ooh Love – Ria Mae (Neon Dreams remix)

Roller-skating in the summer licking ice cream is what ‘Ooh Love’ was made for. This song should not be listened to in the peak of winter as it may lead to false hope and empty promises.

16. TerraForm – Sam Roberts Band

Sam Roberts is what it sounds like to drive through the Canadian Rockies. He’s what it feels like when you first enter the city of Toronto. He’s what it looks like when the sun sets in Quebec. ‘Terraform’ is a Canadian escape, a new chapter for the band and the soundtrack for adventure for new listeners. The Tragically Hip has unfortunately signed off as Canada’s band, and Sam Roberts Band is running for office.

15. This is what you came for – Calvin Harris feat. Rihanna

Now, we talk about the accolades of Beyoncé and the never-flailing popularity of Taylor Swift. But in 20 years, what we may look back on when discussing female vocalists, is the ridiculous number of hits that Rihanna had during the stretch of the 2000s. A greatest hits performance by her is essentially a tour of what people were listening to on popular radio in the new millennium.

14. Secrets – The Weeknd

The Weeknd drops the single ‘Starboy’ and it was..meh. This is the same dude that dropped the hottest song of 2015, right? Turns out, the album is constructed around the idea of being a ‘Starboy,’ and not to worry because upon album purchase, you immediately become swim-fan obsessed with track six.  He takes a famous Romantics’ idea, ‘secrets in your sleep,’ and gets all iconic MJ on us.  If you can finally feel your face again, Abel Tesfaye is about to enter your dreams and hear all your secrets.

13. Love on the Weekend – John Mayer

It’s a simple song, but by a complex man. John Mayor is a self-healed egomaniac going back to the basics. He’s managed to nail every celebrity south of Seattle and now seems ready to get back to the organic details that make relationships special.

12. The kid who stays in the picture – Hot Hot Heat

They announced it is their last album and then manage to release the single that might just lift them from obscure Canadian band to just obscure band.  The song sounds familiar, likely because it is a clear demonstration that Las Vegas group The Killers have begun to rub off on predecessors. The irony is that this is the exact sort of track the Killers could use to find a home again on pop radio.

11. Never be like you – Flume feat. Kai

Points for being the most original-sounding track of the year. The base vibration takes the listener on a bumpy journey with this successful Australian/Canadian collaboration.

10. Black Beatles – Rae Sremmurd feat. Gucci Mane

If you didn’t freeze frame with your homies at some point in 2016, then you just weren’t paying attention. ‘Black Beatles’ became the mannequin challenge anthem, the latest trend in Internet mind-numbness. We’ve planked, we’ve dabbed and now we’ve remained in pause while appearing to be in the middle of an everyday task. The memories and function of this song will forever trump the sound and any sort of appeal the track ever had.

9. Pillow Talk – Zayne

Zayne needs no directions when it comes to the bedroom, at least per ‘Pillow Talk.’ There has been nothing released by One Direction that comes even remotely close to as modern as Zayne’s successful attempt at pop glory.

8. Can’t stop the feeling!- Justin Timberlake

The most universally-liked entertainer, maybe in history, makes detention halls, senior homes and prison yards brush off their dancing shoes. The track was almost as contagious as the Zika virus in 2016, but for JT, we welcomed its global dominance.

7. Daddy Issues – The Neighbourhood

What initially sounds like a love song is a letter to the ghost of Daddy. Daddy wasn’t there, but that’s okay because the Neighborhood is.  Dependence, promiscuity, and yes-pure craziness, can derive from daddy issues. If there were ever a song to unite strippers worldwide, this may be the one. We know the power of a mother’s touch, but the presence of Daddy can also become one of the defining sensations in a child’s life.

6. Too Good – Drake feat. Rihanna

The most hyped album of the year by Toronto’s hype man didn’t quite live up to the mmm hype. Rather than deny the “too soft” complex that haters have and will continue to spew, Drake made an album loaded with slow-dance material, none better than ‘Too Good.” Drake and Rihanna is hip-hop’s most functional non-couple. They are a pair that may or may not have slept together, but for a refreshing first, audience are more concerned about what their next single will sound like and not when their next photo op will be.

5. Ful Stop – Radiohead

Radiohead have the rare ability to make any noise, any glitch, or any bleep sound remarkable. They rejoice in the ugly and linger in the unnatural.  No one seems to care less about how they are perceived, maybe because their legacy as one of the greatest bands of the past 25 years has been so firmly established. They are our version of Bob Dylan, but without any backlash and with instruments from outer space.

4. Threat of Joy – The Strokes

Julian hasn’t sounded this blissfully romantic since 2014’s ‘Chances.’ It is not the lyrics of music alone that create that warm sensation in our souls. It’s the words, it’s the synth, it’s the timing, it’s the syntax and it’s the drums.  ‘Let’s get into trouble, be there on the double’ is so simple and easy, but when heard on ‘Threat of Joy’ it sounds like Mark Twain with the warmth of Turks and Caicos.

3. Wow – Beck

Beck cools it on the country folk and drops a pound of shrooms for his latest endeavor. His eyes are as big as pool balls and all he can muster out is a resounding ‘Wow.’ Nobody likes to get weird like Beck and nobody made psychedelic rock music feel important in anyway in 2016 except for this American chameleon.

2. In a world possessed by the human mind – The Tragically Hip

In a country called Canada we were possessed by a live concert that showed an emotionally vulnerable, eccentric, sobbing lead singer muster his way through the hits for one last time before the world’s last greatest mystery takes hold. The live Hip show on the CBC was unquestionably the concert event of the year.

1. Don’t let me down – The Chainsmokers feat. Daya

Electronic dance music found a friend in Emo and managed to give soul to a genre crucified for being made for distracted robots incapable of comprehending or caring for lyrical-based content.

Chainsmokers have now been inescapable for two full years. Along with Drake they have held dance floors ransom, with no bidder in sight.

‘Don’t let me down’ separates from the pack because as much as it is a dance song, it is a song with human vulnerability. Sure, Calvin Harris’ monotone voice has attempted to inject a soul into what is predicted as a fleeting musical fad, but it took the smoke pit to successfully perform the procedure. The sign of a genre with legs is when the rest of music begins to incorporate its signature sounds rather than vice versa. Rap music has unquestionably fallen for years and rock music seems to have almost completely fallen out of grace with anything resembling the masses.

The Chainsmokers create music for a generation of debit tapping, snapchattting, Insta-filtering megalomaniacs that need a soundtrack that speaks to them with mechanical vigor, yet with straight-forward text-friendly lingo.

‘Don’t let me down’ has a star-gazing wanderlust buildup before a cliff-diving drop into a chorus that begs not to be disappointed. We welcomed the track’s inescapable methods and for this alone, it was the defining track of 2016.

drake2

Opinion
By James Pavel

No rapper in hip hop embodies the quintessential modern-day word smith like Aubrey Drake Graham.

Drake is less gun play more word play.

He proves that in the modern era, one exerts more swag by wearing a well-tailored suit on the cover of GQ rather than throwing up esoteric gang signs on the cover of XXL or The Source Magazine. Drake’s upcoming album ‘Views from the 6’ is the most hyped album of the year by a titanic size. Drake’s stake with the Toronto Raptors features a role that rappers a mere 15 years ago openly fantasized about without a notion that it would one day be possible for an MC from Canada.

It is too early to deliver a verdict on ‘Views from the 6’ but the fact that it has become such a centerpiece of music conversation for such a lengthy period of time speaks to the influence that Drake controls. Yes, Kanye West’s new album has gained plenty of attention but partially because Kanye is such a desirable centre of ridicule. West admitted that 2014 was the year of Drake and not of Mr. West. The problem for ‘Ye’ is that he has yet to reclaim the throne from the Canadian MC. Jay-Z jumping on a track every time a Drake album drops places a clear stamp of approval on Drake’s Toronto forehead regardless of how differently Drizzy nay-sayers or even Kanye, may feel.

Along with Kyle Lowry and Demar DeRozan, Drake is the face of the Toronto Raptors. Yet as you obviously know, Drake does NOT play for the Raptors. Think about that. He has actually made a Raptor hat more famous than a Raptor can. Drake sits court side because he can afford it but mainly because he is the official ambassador of the Toronto Raptors. Sure, he slaps hands with Steph Curry and Lebron James when they are in town because who the hell wouldn’t?

Drake reigns supreme because he’s reppin’ a city that never has been repped outside of Canada. And folks, he’s not just rapping about it. He’s singing, he’s crooning and he’s dancing inside glowing fluorescent cubes without a care in the 6.

og-dre

Opinion
By James Pavel

5. Let me Blow Ya Mind – Eve feat. Gwen Stefani

It was widely recognized that Gwen Stefani was one of the most talented and desirable women in rock n’ roll, but she had yet to be used in any context outside of No Doubt. That all changed in 2001 when Stefani collaborated with Moby on ‘Southside,’ and then more impressively, with Eve for the Dr. Dre/Scott Storch produced ‘Let me Blow your Mind.’ It was the whitest of the white girls tag-teaming a Dre banger with a black woman who had bear paws tattooed on her ta tas. It proved to be a beautiful contrast. Dre teaming with Gwen was surprising, but it helped him broaden his talents and made an even wider group of club-goers bounce to his music without them immediately recognizing that one one of their favourite pop stars was singing to beats conceived by a hip-hop icon.

 

 4. Who Am I? (What’s My Name?) – Snoop Dogg

It is one of his most raucous and heavy sounding beats of the 90s. ‘What’s my Name?’ was a child of the ghetto wailing proudly for the cities of Long Beach and Compton to boogie to. The beat was pure gangster-funk, a term Dre’s cousin Warren G would come to further define and utilize throughout his successful 90s career. Nothing sounded better in your friends Acura Integra bolstered with amps or in 2016, in your signature Dr. Dre headphones.

3. Nuthin’ but a G thang – Dr. Dre feat. Snoop Dogg

It was that siren spinning through the introduction, like a snake slithering its way over Dre’s Compton keyboards that helped transfix fans with this song from 1993 til’ infinity. It’s G-Funk for the California beaches because hey, gangsters need to lounge too. This track would signify the beginning of the true domination of Dre-produced tracks, an era that would launch the career of Snoop Dogg and then several years later, the real Slim Shady.

 

 2. In Da Club – 50 Cent

In an interview accessible through YouTube, 50 Cent’s nemesis Ja Rule describes his reaction to when he first heard the thunderous boom of ‘In Da Club.’ – Oh Shit. Ja Rule, Murda Inc. and the rest of the hip-hop world would be at the mercy of Fiddy after he dropped a track that featured Dre’s most pulsating and intimidating beat of his career. One could argue that this release was the pinnacle of rap music in terms of sheer popularity. There was no mass EDM scene, rock n’ roll was going through its most awkward phase of its existence and country music remained loyal to true cowboys and cowgirls. Dre’s production juxtaposed perfectly with Fiddy’s monstrous size and legendary survival tales. It would mark yet a fourth rapper that had their career grossly augmented by a superb beat via the Doctor of hip hop. This track had originally been bookmarked for Dre’s elusive and essentially mythical album ‘Detox,’ but he decided it would better serve the 50 Cent agenda. We can only hope that Dre receives annual Christmas Cards from the G-Unit household.

1. Still D.R.E. – Dr. Dre feat. Snoop Dogg

Green, neon goosebumps. It’s the sensation every rap head aged 12-30 experienced when this G’d up piano with bandanas falling off its keys absorbed our living rooms and our mental soundtrack for the entirety of 1999. This track roared that Dre’s not just back, he might even be better than he was back in 1993. He made Snoop Dogg relevant again after his ill-advised stint with No Limit Records, and he reminded everyone what California Love sounded like, with one of rap music’s defining orchestras.

 

2015gold1

Opinion
By James Pavel

20. FUN – COLDPLAY

Coldplay was on a war path to attempt to make the most peaceful and benevolent album known to planet Earth after the dreary affair titled, Ghost Stories. Yet the heart pangs left over in the debris from divorce and tales from the dead still manage to infiltrate Coldplay’s dogged attempt at a smiley face emoticon album. ‘Fun’ doesn’t sound as fun as it should be, because it’s really about somebody reflecting on the best parts of a relationship past its due date. (Below is a cover track.)

19. TRUE AFFECTION – FATHER JOHN MISTY

Father John cruises from Earth to space and only in the dark corners of nowhere does he allow his most sensitive thoughts to escape. It sound as though it has enough instruments to commission three school bands all competing at once, but all somehow works thanks to the genius of one of the few musical priests we can trust.

 

  1. NO ROOM IN FRAME – DEATH CAB FOR CUTIE

Nobody takes inanimate objects and transforms them into marvelous, complex observations like DCFC. A picture in a frame should be as so, but to Ben Gibbard, his lack of presence in the photo indicates a direct snub. No one is as hyper sensitive as poor ol’ Benny, but then nobody is more self-aware either. The latest Death Cab offering was nowhere near the scope and value of the one prior (Codes and Keys), but it still contained enough genuinely sharp perspective to keep the Death Cab camp content.

 

  1. BALLAD OF THE MIGHTY I – NOEL GALLAGHER

A rock n’ roll living legend demonstrates he still has a few aces up his pissed-on rain jumper. If there was ever any quarrel over who the more talented Gallagher brother was, Noel, the grumpier one, put those debates to a bitter sleep with the release of his second solo album. It sounds alive and ready to entertain an aging but eager audience, and yet it still smells of that familiar Oasis cologne we dosed ourselves in the 90s with.

  1. SUGAR – MAROON 5

They’ve been downloaded more than Justin Timberlake and Jay-Z combined. They are a group that will never go away and now we are kind of happy they didn’t. Sure, ‘This Love’ and ‘She will be Loved’ were barrels of fun, but we didn’t expect it to continue. But the stupidly catchy ‘Moves like Jagger’ arrived followed by ‘Love Somebody.’ Oh and just in case we didn’t know who Adam Levine was yet, the reality program The Voice implanted him into every living room across North America. In 2015, we received a charming and delightful track about nothing we’ve never heard before, but now we can all finally agree that we are content that the band named after the colour between red and purple managed to stick around.

 

  1. IN MY EYES – BEST COAST

They are the Beach Boys for hipsters and new millennials. Their obsession with California dreamin’ is equal, but with a female singer comes a unique set of issues and reservations. Best Coast lead singer Bethany Cosentino can’t recall how she met John Doe in the first place, but he has successfully infiltrated her mind, her heart, and even the two pools of water stuck in her head.

 

  1. BEYOND LOVE – BEACH HOUSE

It is a wave of dreams brushing over velvet skies, a description that one could apply to everything Beach House in general. They have such a specific sound, yet continue to engineer new methods of making it sound all new again, a quality that can only be used to describe a great band.

  1. LEAN ON – MAJOR LAZER & DJ SNAKE

It lands in the top three songs of summer 2015. It was everywhere, like women’s jean shorts with white pockets seeping through the thighs and Lipton’s twisted iced teas. This banger has an absurdly catchy refrain pounding its way through every sound system north of the Antarctica. ‘Lean On’ made contorting one’s fingers into a gun the wildest hand gesture since we were throwing up the Westside symbol.

  1. HOTLINE BLING – DRAKE

Nobody has had more harmless fun poked at them than Drake. People genuinely hate Kim Kardashian. People genuinely hope Kanye West is attacked by sharks. But nobody genuinely hates the homie from the 6. He manages to combine tennis lessons, skiing, and grey turtlenecks into the strangest version of interpretive dance we’ve seen in music video format. He has managed to make owls and Toronto appear to be his inventions and now he has turned a generic line like “you used to call me on my cellphone,” sound like yet another signature Drizzy quip.

  1. SORRY – JUSTIN BIEBER

Trumpets, raspy voices and a new four-minute, half-ass apology define another Bieber banger. Just in case ‘Where are Ü now?’ or ‘What do you mean?’ didn’t sell you on the Bieber fever revamp, ‘Sorry’ was the one that finally lured you in. Even the biggest haters were declaring their sudden affection for Canada’s most lovable brat. Couples were breaking up on purpose so they could sing this track to one another in unison. The power of Biebs was undeniable at the halfway point of the decade.

  1. FLESH WITHOUT BLOOD – GRIMES

This song is more hype than the sprinkler under the trampoline in the summertime. It’s a song by a woman who is believably weird as opposed to the forced blue hair and contrived rebellion of Miley Cyrus, Hillary Duffy etc. As they say in Austin, Texas, stay weird Grimes.

 

  1. LET IT HAPPEN – TAME IMPALA

No song sounded as desperately urgent as ‘Let it Happen,’ a title that begs the listener to surrender to the cheetah-like pace of life. “All this running around, I can’t fight it much longer,” they sing during a brief hiatus from the technological chaos we’ve been submerged in since the turn of the decade. The robotic, computer blizzard that blisters in and out of this MDMA-laced bouncy castle is the perfect sound to symbolize the never-ending text messages, the infinite Facebook and Instagram feeds and the obsessive reality jungle we all swing vine to vine from.

  1. ANIMALS – DR. DRE FEAT. ANDERSON PAAK

Dr. Dre skipped the detox and headed straight for Hollywood. Dre hasn’t experienced failure in decades and that certainly wasn’t going to stop in 2015. He helped release one of the most successful movies of the year, a film depicting his rise to greatness, and then attached a very 2015-sounding soundtrack to it. The album was meh, but ‘Animals’ packed the exact same power, venom and tenacity that made NWA the world’s most dangerous group. (Below is an instrumental only.)

  1. KING KUNTA – KENDRICK LAMAR

Kendrick Lamar rides shotgun with the doctor as they pop the top on Dre’s Chevy Impala and manage to bounce all the way back to 1993. This instrumental could be off of Dre’s The Chronic or Snoop Dogg’s Doggystyle, but instead it arrives with the second most influential rapper in the game, the self-proclaimed King Kunta. Lamar’s To Pimp a Butterfly album was criminally overrated, but this Kunta track has legs on a daddy-long leg scale.

  1. STILL WANT YOU – BRANDON FLOWERS

Climate change and debt, he still wants her. The world is burning, but the Killers front man can only think about being madly in love. His second solo album would be telling, as it was certainly time for B-Flow to roar in a new direction. We heard every tale Las Vegas could offer, could Brandon finally revise his storytelling? The answer was a scintillating yes. He brought Mo-Town flavour to the reflection bakery and managed to carve a thoughtful and purposeful cake without sounding preachy or whiny. Brandon’s smiling the entire video, as if he knows we are all going to be OK, even if it doesn’t feel like it.

 

  1. BACK TO BACK – DRAKE

Back to back like he Jordan 96’, 97. Drizzy wants to be like Mike, but in reality he is the Steph Curry of the game right now. He’s making shots so easily and so consistently that the competition is currently suffering from a combination of slack jaw and night tremors. This is the most important diss track since 50 Cent destroyed Ja Rule’s career with ‘Back Down.’ It’s grimy, intimidating and laced with a couple of deadly one-liners, none more exceptional than “Is that your world tour or your girl’s tour?” Drizzy sings, he dances and he used to play a handicap kid in high school, but he proves you best not piss him off.

  1. BELIEVE – MUMFORD & SONS

Mumford and Sons borrow Coldplay’s template for ‘Fix you’ and achieve similarly explosive results. A slow, reflective build-up, followed by a memorable shotgun blast of electricity. It was Mumford’s best way of letting fans know that the banjo has been retired to the closet for now, and they better bring their ear buds and stomping boots in 2015.

  1. COFFEE – MIGUEL

It’s not Starbucks or Tim Horton’s. Nah, what Miguel is brewing can’t be found in stores, but only in private bedrooms near you. Coffee is what deters half the nation from driving off a bridge every morning or destroying the photo copier with a sledgehammer, but for Miguel a fresh pot symbolizes a successful night prior. ‘Coffee’ is a return to tremendous vocals and sensual RnB, a musical beverage desperately lacking from today’s musical vending machine.

  1. I CAN’T FEEL MY FACE – THE WEEKND

Billy Jean drama with Bruno Mars funk made the coolest song ever made about banging out booger sugar the second greatest track of 2015. From Tom Cruise lip-syncing on The Late Show with Jimmy Fallon, to every dance floor going mental when the DJ dropped it, this weekend madness was inescapable. With the exception of Taylor Swift, 2014 was void of any true pop classics. But in 2015, we have at least one single that will remain a dance floor anthem until we all go numb.

  1. WHERE ARE Ü NOW? – JACK Ü feat. JUSTIN BIEBER

The Bieber comeback plan was executed to perfection. Such a rotten apple in 2014, he was almost certainly on the path to wash-up village, population Lindsey Lohan. Bieber was mocked, ridiculed and despised. The boy who was supposed to be the next Justin Timberlake had fallen, and no one was certain if anyone cared enough to help him back up. And so began operation comeback. It began with the Justin Bieber roast on Comedy Central. The comedians/guests occasionally peppered Biebs, but left the heavy artillery for each other. When Biebs finally took the podium and thanked everyone, he gave us a juvenile smirk as if to say, “Why so serious?”

He gave a semi-sincere apology and we all sort of forgave him. But all was truly washed away with the tide when he finally did what he was supposed to do – release tremendous pop music. ‘Where are Ü now?’ is the defining song of 2015 because it sounds from the version of the future that we were all supposed to live in. Yet we don’t have spaceships, teleports, or vacations planned in other galaxies. What we do have is music videos where paintings, tattoos and graffiti collide. We have music where boy band hysteria blends with underground dub step and pretty boys collaborate with tattooed skids. What we do have is a world where a megalomaniac from Ontario, Canada is the king of pop culture in 2015.

bling

Opinion
By James Pavel

20. Luniz – I got 5 on it

If you didn’t blaze at least one blunt in the 90s to this track, your life may be void of meaning. This track doesn’t disguise that it’s about drugs (see 2015’s ‘I can’t Feel my Face’), instead it celebrates its loyalty to joint rolling and hot-boxing, fresh with a chorus that sounds straight out of the late, great Nate Dogg’s stable.

19. Warren G feat. Nate Dogg – Nobody Does it Better

Nate wasn’t lying. Nobody crushed a hook like him and nobody has since. He was the West Coast maestro, the one who turned a couple sizzling bars into an instant classic. Warren G, Dr. Dre’s cousin (fun fact), brings his A-game and we catch Warren at his finest, singing about how everyone should be proud of their silver medals when they’re looking up at him on the hip-hop podium.

18. Outkast – Rosa Parks

Country music meets rap music, Humans meet ATliens and the world meets Andre 3000 and Big Boi. Two of music’s most eclectic characters dropped one of the funkiest rap tracks of the decade, a trend that continued right up until the 2000s where their career climaxed with a Grammy victory for album of the year. Andre 3000 is now maybe the most overhyped entertainer on the planet and Big Boi maybe the most underrated rapper in the game spitting solo, but we’ll never forget the hot sauce they spilled back in the decade where our greatest fear was computers tripping over a 0 being added to its date calculation.

17. Skee-Lo – I Wish

This track came out after the film Aladdin and when making three wishes to a giant blue man that sounded like Robin Williams was all the rage. Skee-Lo was refreshing because unlike other rappers, he rapped about what he did NOT have. Skee-Lo is self-depreciating and self-aware, two qualities that generally don’t see the light of day in the world of hip-hop.

16. House of Pain – Jump Around

Getting’ white boy drunk is a relatively new saying, but it should have erupted in 1992. These drunken Irishmen threw a party so boisterous that it has people jumping at football stadiums, pubs and weddings to this day. It temporarily turned rap into a mosh pit, but at its core is most definitely a hip-hop banger for the ages.

15. Craig Mack – Flava in Your Ear Remix

Bad Boy Records never sounded so unified. It features Big Daddy Kane’s 80s rhyme play escorted to the future, where Biggie and Mack drop lyrical mind tricks over and over again with LL Cool J helping on the remix with non-sexual lyrics for a change and Busta Rhymes sounding fresh out of the insane asylum.

14.  Master P – Gangsters Need Love too

P loved to squeeze all his signature grunts and yelps into each track, a tactic mimicked by today’s rappers such as Young Jeezy and even Kanye. P was, for a notable period, the wealthiest hip-hop producer on the planet. His label No Limit pumped out albums by Silk da Shocker, Mystikal and even Snoop Dogg, but the greatest album ever produced by the No Limit Soldiers was by P himself. “Ghetto D” is not west coast or east coast, it’s just a common-ground classic.

13. Lil Troy – I Wanna be a Baller

White people have never been so confused by hip-hop lingo when it comes to the term “Baller.” We assume rappers mean playing basketball, despite zero references to free throw shooting or slam dunks. “Ballin” of course means throwing American benjamins in the air, rolling in drop top convertibles, and drinking expensive alcohol that still tastes disgusting. We all want to be ballers, and Lil Troy provides the anthem.

12. LL Cool J – Doin’ it

Rap’s biggest pervert was the mastermind behind some of rap’s dirtiest tracks and made listening to rap more than just a boys club. Women dug LL, as he will remind you in every track, but this one had just enough testosterone to make dudes bob their head to. Based on this track alone, LL is the king of dirty talk and probably takes sexting to a disgusting new level.

11. Mobb Deep – Shook Ones part. II

The Mobb never achieved the glory and success they dreamed of, but what they did do was create one of the hottest rap songs of the 90s. M.O.B.B. was more than just a punch line in a Jay-Z diss track (The Takeover), as proven by the film 8 Mile when Rabbit’s go-to freestyle beat is this instrumental. It’s a stupidly sick beat that Havoc and Prodigy augment with grimy, back alley vernacular that shakes the booties off half-way crooks right across the country.

 

10.  Coolio – Gangster’s Paradise

 Despite his ridiculous haircut, Coolio dropped some serious material in the 90s. The song served as the perfect appetizer for the feature film, Dangerous Minds, executing one of those perfect maneuvers where both song and movie achieve success.

9. Snoop Dogg – Gin & Juice

‘Gin and Juice’ is the defining backyard boogie that horrifies parents with real-life tales of what actually happens when Mom and Dad leave their teenager home alone so they can visit Aunty Betty for the weekend.  Pockets full of rubbers, enough booze to send a choir of students to the emergency room, and enough green in the air to decorate a St. Patrick’s Day parade and it all started with a little endo and a few sips of gin and juice.

8. Jay-Z – Dead Presidents II

It’s the hardest version of Jay-Hova, and therefore the realest version. He snags a sample off his future rival Nasty Nas and as he spits in his eventual diss, Nas made it a hot line, but Hova made it a hot song. It is how every submission in the early 90s coming out of New York tried to sound, except nobody nailed the exam like Jay.

7. Westside Connection – The Gangsta, the Killa and the Dope Dealer

 This song serves as the pinnacle of gangster rap. Not even in N.W.A was Ice Cube this menacing. Someone didn’t just piss in his corn flakes, there’s a full-on cowpie floating around in there, and he’s not happy about it. Normally co-conspirators signal the time to switch songs, but WC and Mac 10 do more than just hold their own with the Don Mega. This song samples Nine Inch Nails’ “Hurt” but they take the pain down Crenshaw Boulevard instead of a downward spiral via Trent Reznor.

6. Puff Daddy – I’ll be Missing you

 The best hip-hop sample ever? Probably. Puffy takes the Police’s creepy, stalker-tale and turns into a timeless dedication to the memory of Notorious BIG. Say what you will about Bad Boy Records, but they sure did a lot more for the memory of Big Poppa than Death Row ever did for their fallen soldier, Tupac Shakur. From a career standpoint, the track launched Puffy from Biggie’s hype man to a respected solo artist and eventual Grammy winner. This song is now synonymous with Biggie’s death and remains a staple of mourning.

 5. Nas – If I Ruled the World

 Nasty recruits pre-crazy Lauryn Hill and makes people remember what important rap sounds like. No one spits intellect like Nas and not many of his tracks arrive as crystal clear as the message in Rule the World.

4. Bone Thugs n’ Harmony – Crossroads

Eazy-E’s Clevland diciples pay him the ultimate tribute by having their greatest track serve as a toast to his legacy along with other precious, fallen loved ones. Bone went on to have an illustrious hip-hop career, but this track remains their cornerstone to this day.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VMYAEHE2GrM

3. Notorious B.I.G – Hypnotize

This song could be “Big Poppa,” or “Juicy” but it’s the music video that separates this track as Biggie’s all-time greatest. Remember, there was no YouTube, Netflix, Snapchat, Facebook etc., in the 90s; It was MTV and MuchMusic. So when a video dropped, the whole world paid attention. And no video was cooler (the 90s term for sick) than “Hypnotize.” Diddy was still Puffy and had more swagger than Kanye West and Jay-Z partyin’ at the Grammys. Plus, there’s mermaids. Hot mermaids.

2. Dr.Dre and Snoop Dogg – Ain’t nothin’ but a G thang

It’s the best back-and forth in rap history. Pass the hot potato has never been so fun, as both spit delicious, west-coast venom, and pave two roads that lead to hip-hop royalty and millions upon millions of records sold.

1. Tupac Shakur – Live and Die in L.A.

Tupac Shakur was the white Kurt Cobain of the 90s in terms of how he defined it, lived it and died in it. Nobody rapped harder, nobody repped harder and nobody has been missed more than rap’s ultimate poster boy. The track has a funky, floating in the Venice Beach waves which brilliantly juxtaposes the lyrics and Tupac’s life as a whole. The world’s worst kept secret is that we all dream of living in California and nobody exploited that cover-up better than the dude with Thug life tatted across his belly. “Every n**** in L.A. got a little bit of thug in em” was such a genius way of making every wannabe wankster believe that Tupac revered them in some twisted California brotherly manner. Most importantly, Tupac was not just a rapper for black people but for everybody because of his poignant poetry, his ability to point out social injustices and all accomplished with such unmatched thug passion that he remains the greatest rapper to have ever grabbed a microphone.