Our look back at all things 2010 continues this week as we highlight some of the year’s most overlooked tracks. In this edition: different shades of soul.
El Debarge featuring Fabolous, “5 Seconds” (from Second Chance)
The end of 2010 saw critics cramming R. Kelly’s best-behavior throwback Love Letter onto their best-of lists at the last minute, and others lamenting the the perennially overlooked Ne-Yo, whose Libra Scale sold well but missed the zeitgeist. Add to this shortlist the quietly received, yet stellar new LP from Motown’s original Quiet Storm panty-remover El Debarge, whose legendary “All This Love” set the template for high tenors in subsequent decades. “5 Seconds” opens with a Fabolous verse calling back to Doug E. Fresh’s Reagan-era classic “The Show,” and showcases the veteran crooner in fine form, promising that he only needs the titular amount of time to teach her what she needs to know, and perhaps even change her life. Okay, stop giggling–I’m fairly certain that he doesn’t mean it that way. Hopefully, like this comeback, DeBarge is implying that he’s known for auspicious starts with much more to come.
Quadron, “Slippin'” (from Quadron)
In the same way that Mark Ronson perfected that shiny new retro-soul vibe with Amy Winehouse on “Rehab,” and Matthew Herbert draped Dani Siciliano and Dave Okumu in pulsating, pillowy soul for “Something Isn’t Right,” Robin Hannibal pushes all the right buttons around his collaborator Coco, who kills this vocal with a rare flair for range and restraint. If your ears were piqued to the hip ambient soundtrack of the awesomely charming 2010 liberal guilt fest The Kids are All Right, you’ve already heard it. And sure, though works great as accompaniment for beautiful wealthy people coming to terms with their respective stations in life, it stands alone for me as 2010s most replayable bit of robo-soul, which is saying a lot in a year featuring a Fembot and ArchAndroid.
Travie McCoy featuring Cee-Lo, “Dr. Feelgood” (from Lazarus)
Okay, I’ll be that guy. Mr. Contrarian, who not only preferred a rando Danish duo to Robyn and Janelle, but who also couldn’t swallow the “Fuck You” pill, no matter how many parties blasted it this year. Clarification: I love Cee Lo like anyone, and think that a musical public sphere featuring his presence is infinitely better for it, most definitely. But real talk: “Fuck You” felt fully focus-grouped, from the snickering curse-words made to be bleeped (the Grammy nod reminds me of the Oscars’ embrace of “Blame Canada” as a symbolic nod that they’re not above giggling at naughty words) down to the karaoke-friendly YouTube viral clip with animated lyrics. I’m fine with synthetic soul, but it shouldn’t feel this calculated. Sorry, everyone in the world. Anyway, my substitution: the Soul Machine’s powerful hook on this lead single from the ex-Gym Class hero’s solo album. Particularly as it sits in contrast to McCoy’s laconic sing/speak verses about fighting the urge to remain horizontal, Cee Lo’s ever-so-gently digitally-treated vocal on the chorus explodes like a ray of sunshine prying its way through some dusty venetian blinds. You don’t have to be a cranky naysayer like me, but give this blast of technicolor pop-soul a chance.
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The Most Overlooked Tracks of 2010: Benoit Piolard, Groove Armada featuring Jess Larabee, Holly Miranda
The Most Overlooked Tracks of 2010: The Bad Plus, CocoRosie, Parenthetical Girls
The Most Overlooked Tracks of 2010: Alley Boy and Young Dro, Trae, Husalah, and More