With sincere apologies to Chuck Eddy, my two favorite records of the year also produced my two favorite singles: funny how that happens. And though ten songs increasingly feels like about forty too few, especially when Dr. Luke is working, nothing was knocking “Runaway” off this list. What can I say? Been waiting fifteen years for rap to get this emo and for emo to get this rap. As for the rest of it, well, as Sean Fennessey noted in this space last week, most of these songs are ignorant as hell. The rest are about love. I’m not proud:
Kanye West featuring Pusha T, “Runaway”
“24/7, 365, Jenny stays on my mind,” Pusha rapped at the VMAs, and though that’s not the line that made the album, it’s how I prefer to remember it, and I know I’m not alone–the ghost of a romantic turned something far worse haunts all of My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, never more powerfully than on this song. Inexcusable, irresistible, so self-indicting it’s practically triumphant, and it has the sobbing three-minute vocoder solo to prove it.
LCD Soundsystem, “I Can Change”
In which New York’s finest chronicler of entitled white male malaise and downtown hypocrisy turns the camera on himself, to devastating effect. The sound of the avoidable meeting the inevitable.
Katy Perry, “Teenage Dream”
What ten thousand exclamation points look like when set to music. Plus isn’t it nice to share things with other people every once in a while?
For the beat alone, a gossamer swirl of stammering and breathy exhortation. (It should also be mentioned here thatThe-Dream is never better than when pretending to be a heartbroken woman.) If this wasn’t your summer anthem, your summer probably wasn’t worth much.
Rick Ross featuring Styles P, “B.M.F. (Blowing Money Fast)”
The apotheosis of Rick Ross’s never-less-than-fascinating 2010 identity crisis also had the meanest Lex Luger beat in a year absolutely full of them, a roiling melee of gunshots, ominous melodies, and ear-shattering snare drums–the sonic equivalent of being rhythmically punched in the face for four straight minutes. That Big Meech and Larry Hoover did not ultimately find a way to rhythmically punch Rick Ross himself in the face over this appropriation of their respective identities may be the most significant tribute of all to the track’s brute force charisma.
Lloyd Banks featuring Juelz Santana, “Beamer, Benz, or Bentley”
Nothing sounded better out of passing cars and booming off of crowded stages in 2010 than this song, anchored by a creeping, sinister Prime beat and the rapping, equal parts glee and desperation, of two perennial sidemen making a last ditch effort for the attention of their city. They got it.
Das Racist, “hahahaha jk?”
Only these three dudes would flip by far the most expensive and sonically appealing track on their mixtape into a disquisition about their professional sincerity or lack thereof. Pretty much the exact moment this group’s send-up of oblivious rap-world-beating confidence becomes actual swagger, plus, you know, that last verse.
Marnie Stern, “Cinco De Mayo”
Lyrics too profoundly sad to reproduce here battle life-affirming melodies, everything pointblank and too close for comfort and over before you realize exactly what happened. So you play it again.
Chris Brown featuring Drake, T.I., Kanye West, Fabolous, Rick Ross, and Andre 3000, “Deuces (Remix)”
My excuse for having a Chris Brown song on this list is that he’s barely on this song at all–an absence in misanthropy and misogyny more than compensated for by Kanye West, whose excoriation of his ex and her new man (hint: he raps on this song, too) is pretty much a monument to wounded and hateful male vanity. So why laud it? Because together these seven men put on a clinic in what not to do (barring the ever courtly Andre, that is), and that’s important too. Add Fab’s dead-on Drake imitation and nearly all of rap’s turbulent 2010, for better or worse, is encapsulated in these spare bars.
Tyler, the Creator, “Bastard”
Alternately self-mocking, insular, despicable (more on that here), and funny; mostly, it’s a harrowing descent into one teenager’s version of hell. “Fuck a deal, I just want my father’s email, so I can tell him how much I fucking hate him in detail.” The one of those two things he’s gonna get will never be the one he really wants.