Playlists get weird around this time of the year. Half of them are big Best of 2011 retrospectives, maybe 40% are the same generic holiday-party playlists that double as non-holiday party playlists, and the rest are just full of holiday music that you already hear while shopping, doing errands or really just being anywhere near a storefront.
Where does this one fall? Well, our Best of 2011 is coming soon and will be awesome, and we're not a fratmusic.com competitor. That said, timely webcomics aside, we can't say this is a holiday tradition-free zone. But we understand. We get it. So we're going to taper off the holiday songs just as the world's tapering them up. By that, we mean a couple towards the end, when the party's good and jolly. Nobody will mind.
1. STOOSHE, "BETTY WOZ GONE"
R&B girl groups aren't as common as they should be, even taking into account that the U.K.'s been more receptive to them than the States. R&B groups with this much quirk (imagine if Nicki Minaj decided to front one and you'll get a little close) are rarer still. This track was nominated for BBC's Sound of 2012 poll along with such noted newcomers like, uh, Skrillex; the other great track on there, "212," wasn't new to me, but this was. And now it's new to you!
2. KE$HA, "ONLY WANNA DANCE WITH YOU"
Ke$ha getting her Cyndi Lauper/non-problematic "I Kissed A Girl" on as the beats race accordingly? Frankly, we don't care where this track came from or where, if anywhere, it'll go; this is clearly the better of Ke$ha's two songs released lately. (The other, of course, being "Put Your Beard In My Mouth.")
3. STEVE WINWOOD, "VALERIE"
2011: the Year of "Valerie"? The obvious reference is Amy Winehouse, whose version of "Valerie" is older, yes, but which appears on the surprisingly not-uncomfortable Lioness: Hidden Treasures. That's not why this is on the list. "Valerie" is on this list because, thanks to our weekly Turntable scrabbling and the services of whosampled.com, we just now realized that "Valerie" = "Party Rock Anthem," certainly among the year's biggest tracks. Listen to its chorus and the synths therein. Have your mind blown.
4. MGMT, "ELECTRIC FEEL"
Another from that "songs referenced in 2011 songs" room; this one's from Frank Ocean's decidedly raunchier "Nature Feels" from Nostalgia, Ultra. I'll turn this blurb over to what a staffer said in the office that day: "The first time I heard this song, I was blown away. I didn't know that a song could be this good." Sums it up.
5. SISQO, "THONG SONG"
Last of the classics. And yes, "Thong Song" (which is prominently, if possibly unintentionally, referenced in dance act The Rapture's "How Deep Is Your Love") counts as a classic; it's a lot better-produced than you probably remember, because you probably remember it as a gimmick song. The strings, the beat, the heaps of ado piled upon the key change--it's 2011, it's been years and the regrettable fashion trend it encouraged is over, and now you can just enjoy it.
How many times do you get covered by Amy Winehouse and Mike Tyson in the same week? Nearly a half-century after its release, Getz and Gilberto, still getting it done. You just don't get much more timeless than this.
For Goldfrapp and those holiday tracks we alluded to, click NEXT.
6. GOLDFRAPP, "YELLOW HALO"
If Alison Goldfrapp sings on something, and if the track swoons this much, there is no way we're not going to post about it.
7. WILLOW SMITH AND NICKI MINAJ, "FIREBALL"
Because it's about time this thing got its video. We thought Willow'd be well into her teens!
8. LADY GAGA, "CHRISTMAS TREE"
Holiday songs start now! Sort of. See, I can't really endorse this as a perfect song, but I do think it's absolutely hilarious how different Lady Gaga's Christmas songs are circa her "White Christmas" add-on this year and circa this synth-and-sleaze thing. I recommend listening to the two back-to-back. Here's the link.
9. THE PIPETTES, "SANTA'S ON HIS WAY"
Retro-pop act the Pipettes (what decade they're retro for, and how many Pipettes there are, depends on which incarnation of the group you're talking) are a natural fit for holiday music--go take a look at that comic up top again if you're not sure why. Everything's made of tinsel and baubles, there's a love theme a la "All I Want For Christmas Is You" but not an intrusive one, and it's one of the most joyous new holiday tracks I know.
DJ WHOQUESTION, "A MILLION NUTCRACKERS"
You are one of two people. You are the person for whom this sort of thing (in this case, a mashup of The Nutcracker and "A Milli" gets really annoying really fast, or you're the person who loves this sort of thing. Leave us latter people alone.