To supplement this year’s Pazz & Jop launch, Sound of the City asked a few critics to expand on the reasonings behind their voting. This is from the Voice‘s own Nick Murray, who kept things stable during Pazz & Jop .
I turned in my Pazz & Jop ballot on December 22, and instantly regretted my decision to rank both albums and singles alphabetically instead of by order of preference. A Voice colleague chided me for this decision after we got back to the office the next week, and she was probably right. Oh well. Had I given proper attention to sequencing my ballot, I probably would have gone mad, spending the last few weeks emailing revision after revision to Needlebase guru Glenn McDonald. Wait does my ballot suggest that Mr. Collipark’s unjustly unheralded Can I Have the Club Black Please? was the best rap mixtape of 2011? That can’t be right. Swap in that Gunplay. Or Lil B. Or Meek Mill. And so on.
My most shameless selection, clearly, was Liturgy’s Aesthetica, a band whose now-former drummer I profiled earlier in the year but whose genre (roughly, black metal) I have little more than a working knowledge of. That being said, Aesthetica made my ballot not for its place within (or, I’m told, above) contemporary metal, but for its relation to other products of Brooklyn’s DIY scene, where any night of the week you can find a bill with a handful of bands (usually one or two of whom will be fairly well regarded among critics) who are content to fuck around and provide entertainment for a room full of people looking to do the same. Then there was Liturgy, impossibly tight, taking their craft and their audience seriously, summoning impossibly large grooves and exploring every crevice. It was never less than thrilling.
And hell, maybe Can I Have the Club Back Please? was the best rap mixtape of 2011; at the very least, while playing music over my iPod, iTunes, livemixtapes.com, and Spotify has fragmented my once pristine play count stats, there’s a good chance I listened to it more than any other. Like all good crunk, it started as novelty—Crunk nostalgia? Already? Like they’re bringing ’88 back or something—but when the “Let the Beat Hit” beat, well, hits, irresistibly buoyant, bouncing like a stretched rubber band, you realize that these guys aren’t just talking about taking the club back, they’re making music good enough to actually do it.
Of course, in 2011, genres don’t die. Instead, they mutate, crossing the globe, making new friends, going underground or—if they were already undergroundƒpop. Such was the case with crunk: As Mr. Collipark brought the music back to where it started, LMFAO took it to Jingle Ball, where the rumbling 303s that provide the horsepower for track’s like Can I‘s “Boomerang” re-appeared, doing the same for love-it-or-hate-it “Sexy and I Know It.” I loved it, but I loved the duo’s “Party Rock Anthem” even more: Had I not pulled the alphabetical-order cop-out, it surely would have made my Top 5.
The other song I’ll isolate from my singles ballot is Prince Royce’s “El Amor Que Perdimos,” a bachata slow jam about the painful end of a long relationship. Like crunk, bachata faced a bit of an identity crisis in 2011, with former Aventura frontman Romeo Santos once again towering above the genre, this time with a debut solo record, Formula Vol. 1, that looked forward with crossover-ready tracks like the Lil Wayne-featuring “All Aboard” and the Usher-featuring “Promise” and backwards by assembling a bachata Dream Team for “Debate De 4.” It was great stuff, but I preferred Royce’s 2010, self-titled debut, which made many of the same moves but without the luxury of a Romeo Santos budget and rolodex. Now, listening to “El Amor Que Perdimos” for the first time since voting, the song affects me as much as ever, its softly sweeping melody and chorus flowing out of my speakers as a warm reminder of another lost outerborough summer where the music in the bodegas was as good as that at the parties—and maybe better.