Hard to believe February's in a few days, no? In a little while, artists will actually be releasing albums en masse again! A few albums and mixtapes have already trickled in, and there's been far more than a trickle of new singles. And maybe in a little while, one of them might displace Adele at either the top of the album or singles charts. We keep track of our favorite songs of 2012, and we've already got several entries lodged in there. A few of them are on this year's playlist, plus a few older, somehow timelier tracks. So let's get to it.
1. ICE CUBE, "IT WAS A GOOD DAY"
We missed the 20-year anniversary of Ice Cube's meticulously determined good day (since posting, plenty of people have volunteered to be that guy who argues it's probably not an actual day, but who needs that?) So let's celebrate it late, while acknowledging that this is pretty much a classic in the hip-hop pantheon. If you listen to this track then accomplish at least three things Ice Cube does, you can call this a good day. Need a head start? Yo! MTV Raps is unsurprisingly on YouTube. (We were going to tie this in to other famous days, but among the tracks considered but discarded: Hoku's "Perfect Day," too vague; Vanessa Carlton's "Ordinary Day," too ordinary; Daniel Powter's "Bad Day," too much of a Daniel Powter track.)
2. SANTIGOLD, "BIG MOUTH"
There are two things worth noting about this track, and none of them have anything to do with any overblown disses. The first is that it's done by producers Switch and Buraka Som Sistema--if you're somehow a reader familiar with those two but not with this song, you can already guess how frenetic it sounds--and includes a fairly major sample. The second is that it's great; mere listening should tell you this, but I heard this earlier this week in a DJ set, and you really need that sort of experience to fully grasp this.
3. ARCTIC MONKEYS - "ON A MISSION"
Remember how we said this could be mistaken for an Arctic Monkeys original? Lo and behold, a guy has washed up on YouTube's comment shores with this: "anyone heard that katy b cover this song?" Yes. We have. And we refuse to let any good Katy B cover go unplaylisted.
4. KELLY CLARKSON, "MR. KNOW IT ALL (COUNTRY MIX)
We take back everything we said about "Mr. Know It All," Kelly! All the track needed was a fiddle-and-livelier drums makeover. We'll stop mentioning Bruno Mars now, and we won't feel so bad watching the video and reading our headlines in the video's headlines. (In all seriousness, though, this should have been the original mix.)
5. SEAN PAUL FT. KELLY ROWLAND, "HOW DEEP IS YOUR LOVE"
And speaking of artists we generally tend to like named Kelly, this track has Sean Paul and Stargate doing their respective things (rapping, synthing), but they know that the point of "How Deep Is Your Love" is to hear Rowland's rich alto sing things like "it might run down to the ocean floor." Her voice probably could.
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6. LADYHAWKE, "BLACK AND WHITE AND BLUE"
Frenetic and overstuffed and full of sounds competing with other sounds, "Black, White and Blue" sounds like what it's about. And if you're at a point where you think "life inside your head has come undone," but you can sing "Livin' on a Prayer" and make your music shine while thinking those words, you're doing better than us.
7. T-ARA, "LOVEY-DOVEY"
This is No. 1 on Billboard's K-pop chart right now (you didn't know they had one? Get familiar!), and even without a working knowledge of the major players and artists in the scene, it's easy to see why: it's the exact midpoint between today's dance and latter-day disco, with an infectious curtsy of a chorus and vocal burbles. As an introduction to the genre, it's as glorious as any.
8. MIIKE SNOW FT. LYKKE LI, "BLACK TIN BOX"
Miike Snow is a group with, among other people, producers Bloodshy & Avant (responsible for the few Britney Spears tracks that get critical praise, i.e. "Toxic" and "Piece of Me"); Lykke Li, meanwhile, turned in one of the more underrated, more haunting albums of last year with Wounded Rhymes. They've collaborated before and team up again for "Black Tin Box," crackling and claustrophobic.
9. CARINA ROUND, "JANUARY HEART"
This is the last weekend playlist where this track'll make sense. Carina Round's a British singer-songwriter, and she tends to get compared to PJ Harvey, but that's not quite accurate. Her current project, Early Winters is a little quieter, a little janglier; meanwhile, Slow Motion Addict, where "January Heart" appears, is a much louder, slicker affair (it's produced by Alanis collaborator Glen Ballard.) "January Heart" tricks you into thinking it'll be slow, but it turns out that's just slow seething.
10. ADELE - "SET FIRE TO THE RAIN"
Because it's No. 1 now, and we're going to be writing about it, and Adele's probably going to be performing it sometime this year when she's performing again, so let's showcase it now while it's only sorta-kinda and not completely overplayed.