Switching gears from the minimal dubstep for which he is best known, ‘A Case Of You’ sees the Mercury Prize-nominated James Blake stripping things back to just voice and piano. While it might seem like a major departure for an artist so closely associated with urban music, this cover of the 1971 Joni Mitchell song actually makes perfect sense.
Long before he began dabbling in electronics, Blake started playing piano at the age of six, eventually going on to study Popular Music at Goldsmith’s college. While his early shows were mostly just him and a laptop, it’s clear that Blake’s love of live performance never went away. Following the release of his self-titled debut album Blake put together a full live band, allowing him to bring fresh life to his studio creations on stage.
“I’m a keyboard player, and just being able to play live in front of people and exercise that love of doing it in a way that I’ve never been able to do is great,” he told Pitchfork. “Before, there was frustration in being behind a computer and playing all this stuff – it was almost like being the pianist for a silent film. It’s not like you want the recognition, you just want to do it live and show yourself you can do it. There’s actually nothing better for me than to sing and play the piano in front of people.”
The haunting ‘A Case of You’ is an undeniably good fit for Blake. Joni Mitchell’s style is not an easy one to emulate, but he does a tremendous job of navigating the song’s vocal peaks and troughs. Despite its contrast to much of his musical output, Blake’s take on ‘A Case of You’ is a welcome addition to his repertoire.
Ubiqtuous would be an apt way to describe Cee-Lo’s ‘Forget You/ F** You’. Watched on YouTube 32 Million times, covered by Hollwood A-listers William Shatner and Gwyneth Paltrow and nominated for four Grammy awards: the record was undoubtedly one of the most inescapable of 2010.
‘Forget You’s’ use of a retro Motown-esque backing gave it a timeless quality, but with lyrics referencing ‘X-Box’ the record could never be accused of being a simple pastiche. Despite being one of the oldest themes in pop music, Cee-Lo’s handling of the break up song is perhaps the most direct and original ever. It takes a special song and a special artist to make the line “F**k you and F**k her too” something your Granny could happily sing along to, but Cee-Lo pulled it off with aplomb. Although the radio edit removed some of the expletive emotion, ‘Forget You/ F**k You’ will remain one of 2010’s most endearing records.
The penultimate track in our 2010 countdown is ‘Telephone’ a great pop song which reached epic proportions of fame due to its well crafted audio sensibilities and by having one of the most widely anticipated videos of the year. It’s also notable for bringing together two of the biggest female stars on the planet; Lady Gaga and Beyoncé
At a huge 9 and a half minutes, the video for ‘Telephone’ didn’t disappoint and has currently racked up a staggering 97 million YouTube hits to date. The video, directed by Jonas Åkerlund, featured Lady Gaga showing off an even more streamlined physique than seen previously, leaving nothing to the imagination while she dallies around in cigarette adorned sunglasses, prison tape bikini outfits and indulging in lesbian prison kisses; the sort of outlandish behavior we’ve come to expect from the eccentric star. Beyoncé however showed a more daring side to her repertoire as she played the part of Gaga’s bailer and partner in crime as the two embark on a killing spree in a traditional American diner.
The song itself lyrically appears to be an ode to a lover who persistently calls while the protagonist in question is trying to party at a club, it has been said the song is more an observation of Gaga’s life in the limelight. Beyoncé adds a harder edge to the song with her sing-song style hard rapping however both songstresses come out shining in this collaboration.
Caribou’s ‘Sun’ was undoubtedly the one track that every hipster could agree on this summer. Its warm and fuzzy vibe radiated from festivals, cool clubs and tastemaker radio stations almost constantly – yet the record refused to diminish in popularity. Pitched somewhere between a minimal techno record and a synth pop ditty, the record’s ever surging swells of synthy goodness gave it the rare trait of being both danceable and sonically interesting.
In a wider context ‘Sun’ was the track that spearheaded Caribou’s long player ‘Swim’, one of 2010’s most celebrated albums. Making the jump from the folk tinged indie of Caribou’s former album to the dance influenced sounds of ‘Swim’ may have been unexpected, but it’s a move which won the Canadian a whole new audience over the course of the year.
The only artist to claim two tracks in our countdown of the year, ‘Monster’ is another highlight from KanYe West’s staggering ‘My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy’. On this track Yeezy enlists the help of some of hip hop’s most powerful illuminate, with Jay-Z, Rick Ross and Nicki Minaj all contributing verses. Surprisingly Bon Iver also lends his vocal to the track; the unlikely pair became friends after West was introduced to the folk troubadour’s track ‘Woods’ by Ed Banger boss Pedro Winter. Despite the plethora of talent on display, the tracks finest moment belongs to Nicki Minaj. The fast rising female rapper’s schizophrenic bars completely steal the show; giving us enough reason to see past her lacklustre debut album ‘Pink Friday’ - let’s just hope KanYe is free to produce her follow up LP.
After West’s infamous stage invasion at the VMA’s, where he interrupted Taylor Swift’s acceptance speech, there was only one way KanYe could win back his credibility. Despite inspiring one of the most amusing blogs of the year, West simply had to deliver the goods in order to put the episode behind him. Thankfully his fifth album stands up as one of the strongest of 2010, topping polls from such tastemakers as Pitchfork, Rolling Stone, Spin, Stereogum and MTV. The video for the track is set to debut on Christmas day and certainly looks likely to live up to the ‘Monster’ title. Check out the ghoul filled preview above.
‘Rude Boy’ took all that’s great about Rihanna and placed it front and centre for all to see. With a quotable chorus that could almost rival ‘Umbrella-ella-ella’, ‘Rude Boy’ mixed Rihanna’s saucy persona with a swaggering dancehall influenced club beat to create one of the biggest radio hits of the year. The track saw the Barbadian singer rocket back to the top of the US charts after the relatively mediocre reception – at least by Rihanna’s high standards – of the ballad ‘Russian Roulette’. Poignantly, the record played to the singers strength for delivering up-tempo pop stompers and seemed to set the tone for Rihanna’s following electro influenced album, ‘Loud’, which has already generated two further number one singles in the shape of ‘Only Girl’ and ‘What’s My Name’.
The video for ‘Rude Boy’ also provided one of the pop year’s visual highlights. Although the video took more than a little influence form M.I.A. ‘Boyz’: seeing Rihanna don a gold lame body suit whilst riding a lion is probably going to provide a talking point whatever the year.
Having shot to fame with ‘Like A G6’, the Far East Movement fly into Shazam’s Tags Of 2010. After reaching over 10 million views on YouTube, Far East Movement’s superbly synth orientated track landed at #1 in the Billboard Hot 100, a prestigious position for a group that had nearly no history in the commercial spotlight. The accompanying video was posted back in June 2010 with the typical background of flowing champagne, fast cars and a heaving club. A surefire sign that they’re clearly enjoying their recent, viral enhanced, success.
They keep it simple but effective with the beat, a recipe that is hard to materialize into a hit but has radically taken off in their case. The refreshing and addictive track created a huge burst of tags from Shazamers. The track was #1 in the UK Pre-Release chart and is one of only eight singles in Billboard history to return the #1 spot after two or more singles had succeeded in the number one position. The track become so popular it spawned remixes including one by rap superstar 50 Cent with his own signature vocals.
A hard track to follow up, the Far East Movement will have some work to do to overcome the daunting sequel stigma that follows. Keep up to date with Shazam to hear about their next record. The single ‘Like A G6′ from Far East Movement is available to buy on iTunes.
2010 was recap time for P!nk. After five studio albums and 34 million records sold worldwide, the most popular rebel without a cause in modern pop reached that moment in every successful artist’s career to collect her ‘Greatest Hits…So Far’.
‘Raise Your Glass’, the first single and one of the few new tracks recorded for the compilation, was co-written by P!nk herself with Tre’Shon Jenkins and produced by her regular collaborator Max Martin. It effortlessly brought everybody’s favourite rock chick back on top of the charts, thanks to another unbeatably catchy chorus and its celebratory spirit. The perfect musical toast to a decade of making hits non-stop and to many more to come, for which we won’t have to wait long as her next proper album is due during the first half of 2011.
Undoubtedly the biggest Hip-Hop album released in 2010 was KanYe West’s ‘My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy’, despite only being released in late November. For KanYe and Hip-Hop fans alike, 2010 was just a countdown to the album, with a few distracting tracks released by other artists to pass the time. It was back in May this year when the repetitive yet stunning track ‘Power’ leaked creating an instant frenzy. After a remix by Swizz Beatz featuring Jay-Z, a 30 minute movie and some speculation on the album’s title, on October 4th KanYe announced the official release date of ‘MBDTF’ for November 22. KanYe’s G.O.O.D Friday campaign was well under way by this point, releasing exclusive and free tracks every Friday to the world. This viral concept wasn’t a new idea but something that Mr. West executed perfectly, leading the way once again.
At #9 in Shazam’s countdown of 2010’s top tracks is ‘Runaway’. Taken from ‘MBDTF’, the track varied from 3 to 5 minutes in length depending on which blog you fed from. Once the album was released, the whole 9 minute version was available. Riddled with a dusty piano riff, very personal anecdotes and obscure samples; the track was one of the stand outs from Yeezy’s much discussed and critically acclaimed album. The final product, including a deluxe version with the daring and blunt artwork, is available to buy now. Not one to procrastinate, KanYe has recently released a festive freebie of a Christmas carol. The track – ‘Christmas In Harlem’ – features a handful of his favourite rappers and is available to listen to here.
Big Boi’s solo debut ‘Sir Lucious Left Foot…The Son Of Chico Dusty’ has spawned a dramatic saga that began in 2007 and includes several proposed track lists, release date and record label changes; leading to growing fears for the record being shelved. You may think that as half of one the biggest selling hip-hop acts in the planet the way may be already paved for him. But in the case of the Outkast star, his star status only worked as an obstacle putting enormous commercial pressure to deliver radio-friendly hits, which often compromised his creative ideas.
After a series of critically acclaimed singles that failed to make an impact in the charts, ‘Shutterbugg’ worked the miracle. Collaborating with rising Richmond rapper Cutty, its slick, electro-tinged production was suddenly hitting the waves all over the planet – which finally gave ‘Sir Luscious…’ the green light. A few months afterwards, when we are all looking back at our favorites, few are not featuring Big Boi’s record as one most accomplished of 2010; which, if nothing else, proves that sticking to one’s vision always pays in the end.