Okay, We Get It--Yup
2006 YEAR-END BALLOT1. “Poppin’ My Collar,” Three 6 Mafia: They inspired John Stewart’s one moment of genius on the Academy Awards (“For those of you keeping track at home: Three 6 Mafia, one Oscar, Martin Scorsese, zero”), a line that I may or may not remember longer than my favorite song of the year. They’re again doing some heroic pleading on behalf of misunderstood pimps everywhere, one of the last special-interest groups in our soci- ety without adequate advocacy. This is leagues above “It’s Hard Out Here for a Pimp,” though--there’s a near-apocalyptic urgency about that exotic female chorus in the background, ditto the basso-profundo guy who handles the chorus, and, true to its genre, great romantic lines abound. My favorite today is “She might as well have gone ahead and sucked on my wood/And let me whisper somethin’ in her ear if I could,” but, you never know, that might change tomorrow. 2. “The Warning,” Hot Chip: This little wisp of nothing is the most beautiful thing I heard this year, even if, as advertised, it’s a warning about the band breaking your legs and putting you under the ground--all of which is pretty funny when you think about what Poindexters the people who put this record together must be. The anomalous interlude where they skronk around in their mechanical music museum for 30 seconds always jars, but I’ve learned to negotiate my way through it. I think it even serves a purpose: when they come back for one last verse of the real song, it all seems even more beautiful than before. 3. “The Race Is on Again,” Yo La Tengo: I got the album with the express purpose of finding something I could put on this list, which is not the way you’re supposed to do it, but “The Race Is on Again” is so good, I’m glad it didn’t slip by unheard. That it’s a song they could probably do in their sleep doesn’t much matter either. I do all my best work while sleeping too. 4. “Mr. Me Too,” Clipse w/Pharrell Williams: I don’t know if Michael Richards’ melt- down will be good or bad for charmers like Clipse: the ugliest word in the English language has regained its taboo value after years as ho-hum-part-of-the-scenery, and sure enough, I got a listener complaint when I played this on the radio two weeks ago. I’m 95% sure the caller was black, and seeing as he asked if I’d play some Captain Beefheart or Frank Zappa instead, I’m assuming he was bothered by “Mr. Me Too”’s bar- rage of N’s rather than all the F’s. (Or maybe not even that--his specific complaint was that his kids were listening.) Which is fine--it’s a word that should upset people, and if black comedians and black hip-hop artists are being put on alert by Al Sharp- ton, that’s a good thing. But, for better or worse, when all the hate comes packaged in something as musically arresting as “Mr. Me Too,” it’ll always have a strong pull on me--and now that the taboo’s back in place, the pull is that much more visceral. Addi- tionally, there are some great bits between all the N’s and the F’s. I love “Bof’us laughin’” when the singer and P-Diddy deplane in Aspen, and nobody comes up with better verbs than these guys--“juice-and-ginnin’” and “neck-and-chinnin’” on “When the Last Time” a few years ago, “dunce-cappin’ and kazooin’” on “Mr. Me Too.” 5. “Me & U,” Cassie: Seemed that I used to vote for the same kind of icy etherealness on a regular basis--Soul for Real’s “Candy Rain,” Hi-Tek’s “Round and Round,” and Ashanti’s “Happy” are three that come to mind--but it’s been a while. They put a spell on me then, they put a spell on me still. 6. “Dance Like a Monkey,” New York Dolls: I heard this for the first time when they did it on Letterman, and it passed the debacle test instantaneously and with ease (which, if you’re an optimist, amounts to “Please don’t let this be embarrassing”; if you’re a pessimist, it’s more like, “How embarrassing is this going to be?”). There’s a little too much “Lust for Life” about it, but it’s also got some of the old “Frank- enstein” in there, especially in the emblematic din after the line about inheriting the wind. I’ve got a friend who produces an arts show for a local television station, and a few months ago, Johansen and Sylvain were in his building doing an interview. He tracked down Sylvain and got him to autograph his old copies of the first two LPs, mentioning that he was there for the group’s show at Toronto’s Victory Burlesque Thea- tre in 1973, with Rush opening. Johansen arrived soon after, and Sylvain reminded him of the long-ago show. Johansen’s response: “Geddy Lee...he’s a funny guy!” I like the story as much as the song. 7. “London Bridge,” Fergie: Speaking of Frankenstein, not all monstrosities are cre- ated equal: Christina Aguilera’s “Ain’t No Other Man” makes me hide under the couch and ponder the abyss, “London Bridge” I love. What’s more, even though I’m the usually the last person to pick up on such things, I’ll preempt Frank Kogan and say there’s as much New York Doll here as there is in “Dance Like a Monkey.” It’s all in code, sort of, but the subject seems to be a pop-music perennial: The Invention of Sex, Part 3,017. 8. “Roger and Out,” Neil Young: I’ve only heard “Impeach the President” once, and it didn’t make much of an impression on me. I suppose that anyone who likes it would say that the war and Bush have reenergized Neil Young, but I don’t know, on the evidence of things like that awful 9/11 song a few years back, I think I like him better deen- ergized these days--I like him just fine when he’s got no energy at all. On “Roger and Out,” he and his “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door” choir are drifting down something called “the hippie highway,” where Neil observes that “it feels like yesterday.” Yes, it does, and it also sounds just like yesterday, too, on this miniature “Cortez the Killer”: half as long and half as good, which means good enough for the lower reaches of a Top 10. 9. “Sexyback,” Justin Timberlake: How exactly does one twerk? Not a masterpiece like “Rock Your Body,” but it’s got a hypnotic pull of its own thanks to the frantic “Take ‘em to the bridge” guy and the hardest production white money can buy, and, for me, it also has some high comedy value--specifically, the “Them other fuckers don’t know how to act” line. I don’t know if that’s supposed to be a bid for thug credibility, or if thug credibility is something Justin Timberlake already has among teenagers, but it’s as if Carol Brady had walked into the kitchen one morning and said, “Fix your own fuckin’ breakfast, Mike, I’m spent.” 10. “It’s Goin’ Down,” Yung Joc: This is crunk, right? Maybe that’s the subliminal message behind the weird spelling of “Yung,” which I really think ought to have some umlauts in any case--it’s a known fact that teenage hip-hop fans are crazy about umlauts. Just like Hot Chip above, Young Joc’s another instigator ready to “knuckle- up, any time, any place.” This is a warning, Joc, I’ll spell it out for you: don’t be messing with Hot Chip.