Thursday, December 10th, 2009

The Singles Jukebox End-of-Year Best-Off 2009: Round 1, Group 3

Disembodied Female Voice: The five songs in today’s group are:

”Zero” by Yeah Yeah Yeahs, from New York. Its hobbies include leather, curtains and messing about in shopping trolleys.

”We Nuh Run” by Stush, from London. It enjoys squeaking, fierceness and being unimpressed by girls.

”House of Flying Daggers” by Raekwon featuring Inspectah Deck, Method Man, GZA and Ghostface, from New York. When not studying Eastern philosophies, it spends its time doing pretty drawings and fucking asses up with swords.

”Camp Out” by An Horse, from Australia. “Camp Out”’s interests include fucking about in the dark and visiting the cities and towns of Australia to learn about how they are all different places with their own individual names.

And ”Paparazzi” by Lady Gaga, from New York. “Paparazzi” enjoys casual poisoning, crutches and talking in Swedish for extended periods of time.

They’re all here to play The Singles Jukebox End-of-Year Best-Off 2009, with your host, William G. Stewart!

William G. Stewart: Thank you, and hello there. Our highest scoring contestant today is “Zero”, which scored 8.36 in the regular season back in March. You all know the rules, five of you are competing for two places in the second round of the competition, so without further ado we’ll get underway with:

Cecily Nowell-Smith: To be frank this ranking’s pretty vague: this group’s made up of one song I care about and four I don’t. Stush is incredible (5 points) — the cute angry squeak is the thing you can’t miss, but her whole range is so vivid. Listen to the way she calls out ‘we nuh run from dem’, her voice low and doomy, the same undertone of dread as is in the original Hard House Banton track but this time around it’s coming up against the iron wall of her determination. What was it Alex Macpherson said? “This chipmunk has teeth that can fuck you up”. As for the rest… they’re all okay. GaGa’s got that strange slow stateliness, the clarity of her voice, something really sweet in what should be a pretty trite reverse-objectification game (3 points). The Yeah Yeah Yeahs basically sound like the Killers would if they had a female singer. I’m not saying that’s a bad thing. I’m just saying that I find their Jukebox popularity fairly inexplicable (2 points). I really enjoyed Tegan and Sara’s “The Con” and maybe that’s why I just can’t be doing with An Horse (1 point): I dunno, she seems like a nice girl, everything sort of clatters in a not exactly predictable but certainly un-startling way. And really, if you want un-startling, not to say predictable, then let me introduce you to Some Guys From The Wu, making a record that sounds like a record they could have made fifteen years ago (0 points). I can’t care any more. I just can’t.

STANDINGS: Stush 5, Gaga 3, Yeahs 2, Horse 1, Raekwon 0

Melissa Bradshaw: Raekwon — what could be a greater 2009 hip hop fantasy than Dilla on a Wu return to form? (5 points) Hip hop never dies. You have to give “Paparazzi” credit (3 points) for combining being a female stalker with lies, revenge fantasies, and the mass media gaze: fearless Warhol wit. “We Nuh Run” is the definitive track for the current urban mood (2 points). “Zero” makes me wish everyone would stop returning to the 80s when they need a new direction, but I still love Karen O’s singing (1 point). Not really sure what to say about An Horse, though; horrible out of tune singing needs to have a point (0 points).

STANDINGS: Stush 7, Gaga 6, Raekwon 5, Yeahs 3, Horse 1

Martin Skidmore: It was a really tough call for the first place (both in the 2% I have given a 10 to), but my favourite hip hop single of the year by my favourite hip hop act ever (Raekwon, 5 points) wins over my favourite rock single of the year (Yeah, Yeah, Yeahs, 3 points). Stush was an easy third (2 points), this dancehall single being a touch unexciting. Okay indie (An Horse, 1 point) beats the irritation factor of Lady Gaga (0 points) to avoid last place.

STANDINGS: Raekwon 10, Stush 9, Gaga 6, Yeahs 6, Horse 2

Iain Mew: As well as being the point at which it dawned on me that Lady Gaga is essentially Gwen Stefani’s solo career taken to extremes, “Paparazzi” is also one of the singles of the year (5 points) — huge, catchy and perversely emotionally devastating. I hadn’t listened to “House of Flying Daggers” til this and wish that I had, because it’s a total blast (3 points) with hooks worthy of its cartoonishly epic storytelling. I particularly love the video version with added mythologising intro. “Zero” is a fine display of the newly focused propulsive power of Yeah Yeah Yeahs but, well, it’s no “Heads Will Roll”, so third seems a fair result (2 points). “We Nuh Run” is equal parts terrifying, thrilling and annoying (1 point) but, in a contest for song of the year, rather that than An Horse, which I like but is pretty much the epitome of a competent [7] (0 points).

STANDINGS: Raekwon 13, Gaga 11, Stush 10, Yeahs 8, Horse 2

Martin Kavka: Group 3 consists of two actually fierce women, a woman who would be far fiercer if she could work up the courage to refer to her lovers with female pronouns (An Horse, 2 points), some guys delving deeper into an unnecessarily complex myth of fierceness (Raekwon, 1 point), and a woman who is so bereft of self (Lady Gaga, 0 points) that she can’t even sustain a single pose for an entire week (although those poses are not uninteresting). “Get your leather on” has been a mantra for me for much of 2009, so “Zero” (5 points) takes the win here. However, if Adam Lambert had released his “For Your Entertainment” video any earlier in the year year — a short film in which he in effect makes Karen O the epicenter of a drag show even worse than those found in the most rural gay bars — by now the trauma would have sunk so deeply into my psyche that Stush (3 points) would win by default.

STANDINGS: Raekwon 14, Stush 13, Yeahs 13, Gaga 11, Horse 4

Anthony Easton: Karen O has done this thing where she proves she has full aesthetic range, and a set of emotional responses that range from innocence as pure as a Spielberg suburb to decadent weltschermz so jaded Wiemar Berliner would recognize it. But this song, even more then her two other masterpieces this year (“Heads Will Roll” and “All is Love”) is a dedicated, brutal desecration of what happened and what will happen, self reflective, but not meta, dangerous but not quite fully gone, and in control — the Yeah Yeah Yeahs are in control of their message (5 points), something that people more famous but less secure (c.f .Adam Lambert, Amanda Palmer, Lady Gaga) have yet to manage. I find myself comforted by “Camp Out”. Comfort is under rated as a pop virtue. I could talk about the jangle, or the sweet percussion, or the slightly discursive vocals or the nice Hole reference, and all of those things are great, but the chorus gives me hope and allows for the possibility of disappointment. That is worth more then the list of musical virtues (3 points). Stush comes third (2 points), mostly for putting as much aural information in as limited space as humanly possible, plus that lovely, endearing squeak. I am bored of Raekwon’s self-aggrandizing mythology (1 point), and as for “Paparazzi”… fame and its erotic attachments have been a subject of LA noir solipsism since the beginning — what else is Chandler or Nathaniel West? Not only is there nothing new here, I remain unconvinced that the subject can be renewed at all. GaGa is not as cinematic, as avant, as fashionable or as interesting as she thinks she is, and her tropes are worn from over use. Bail (0 points).

STANDINGS: Yeahs 18, Raekwon 15, Stush 15, Gaga 11, Horse 7

Jordan Sargent: “Zero” is simply the Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ most full-blooded song to date, meeting the need to dance and be overtly “fun” at the exact right moment in their career (5 points). It’s so successful because it’s definitely a change of direction for them, but it doesn’t really feel like one. That’s how great bands operate. “House of Flying Daggers” works in the opposite way; it sounds like just about every Wu-Tang song ever, and naturally we are all fine with that (3 points). For me, “Paparazzi” was right about when I turned back around on Gaga (I love “Just Dance” but jumped off the bandwagon around “Poker Face”/”LoveGame”). It one-ups “Poker Face” by doing the staccato verses-into-blossoming chorus thing (2 points) but not having the disparity in quality between the two that weighs down “Poker Face”. “We Nuh Run,” while worlds better than “Camp Out,” doesn’t move me much (1 point). The latter is almost embarrassingly bad (0 points), as it ruins what could be a nice enough garage-pop tune with lyrics that don’t even begin to scratch at scratching at the surface of emotion.

STANDINGS: Yeahs 23, Raekwon 18, Stush 16, Gaga 13, Horse 7

Ramzy Alwakeel: Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ delicious ongoing development, this time into a killer electro trio, was marked by a single so confidently artful that it could have reclaimed the medium from the Emperor’s New Pop Songs movement, i.e. the entire faltering decade. “Zero” highlighted exactly where the likes of Lady Gaga had failed to grasp how natural a form the pop record can be (5 points). Nonetheless, the sheer success of “Paparazzi” (2 points) was nothing if not indicative of the commercial zeitgeist, and a hook is a hook; it’s just a shame she promised to be so captivating. “We Nuh Run” by Stush is a guilty compulsion, its post-jungle charms enhanced by a wry, somewhat up front lyric (3 points), while An Horse’s “Camp Out” supplied a pleasant enough Saddle Creek tribute at a time when Saddle Creek was looking increasingly less relevant, but nothing more (1 point). Finally, “House of Flying Daggers” has too many artists and not enough of anything else (0 points). In a decade when pretty much every musical school has struggled with its own stagnation, I don’t know why the hell anyone would listen to something so humourless.

STANDINGS: Yeahs 28, Stush 19, Raekwon 18, Gaga 15, Horse 8

John Seroff: No offense, but there wasn’t much in this group for me to get excited about. “Camp Out” was so indigestible and mediocre that I avoided both repeat listening and comment when it showed up on the Recovery list, but now that I’m backed into a corner, I’ll just say I honestly don’t see the appeal and leave it charitably at that (0 points). Both of this year’s top placed YYY tracks bopped onto the Jukebox before I got here, otherwise I certainly would have done my best to vote them off the island (1 point). Karen O and crew make great videos but with the exception of “Maps”, I’ve yet to hear a song from the band that I’d listen to by choice. It rankles me to place Gaga as high as second (3 points), but while Stush’s delivery on “We Nuh Run” is far more interesting than The Lady of Delphi’s on “Paparazzi” (Stush’s squealing “Fuck You And Fuck Your Playlist” and “Look Like SHITFACE Full Of Makeup” is maybe my favorite back-to-back dis of the year), it isn’t much of a song; it’s an overlong mush of annoying sirens, simple synthy samples and boring drum machine (2 points). “Paparazzi” isn’t a half-bad bit of glam but Gaga might as well be the demo-fill singer for all she adds to it. Gwen or Shakira or Keri or B or even J-Lo would’ve destroyed this; as is, there’s too much water and not enough scotch. That leaves the only track in this group that I genuinely like, but it’s a nostalgic doozy. Where other rappers are content with street dreams, the Wu-Tang are fast to re-imagine themselves as fallen African princes, kung-fu superheroes, world-beating braggarts, midnight movie good guys and Puzo-style family bosses. “Flying Daggers” has all the above at the band’s familiar meticulous whipsaw marathon pace. The batting order is crazy strong: Deck bunts a respectable single, Raekwon nails a solid base hit, Ghost ignores the rules and steals first and Meth cleans up with a violent, lisping home-run. Sharp and still in style (5 points).


1. Yeah Yeah Yeahs, “Zero” — 29 points
2. Raekwon’s Tea Party, “House of Flying Daggers” — 23 points
3. Stush, “We Nuh Run” — 21 points
4. Lady Gaga, “Paparazzi” — 18 points
5. An Horse, “Camp Out” — 8 points

More convincing performance from the Yeahs today… but then again, this heat wasn’t exactly tight. Only nine people voted here — any other heat, and An Horse may even have made it into double figures — but even so, expecting Gaga to break the qualifying positions was perhaps an ask too far. Stush can possibly feel a bit hard done by — that said, those animated ghost warrior thingies are kind of cool.

Heat Four sees the return of Taylor Swift, who’ll be fending off French dudes, real women and girls with robots. With a bit of luck and a following wind, we’ll have it up later tonight.

15 Responses to “The Singles Jukebox End-of-Year Best-Off 2009: Round 1, Group 3”

  1. Stush robbed! Even though no one actually disliked it and tbh considering how recently it came to the Jukebox, I’m proud she did so well.

    Would’ve voted Stush > Raekwon > YYYs > Gaga > Horse. Stush the runaway winner; don’t LOVE the Raekwon album as much as others have this year but this is a pretty great single made even better by the video; It’s Blitz is in my top 15 albums of the year but “Zero” is my least favourite track on it; “Paparazzi” is OK but “Bad Romance” and “Telephone” are much better examples of why I gave in to the woman; An Horse, whatevzzz.

  2. The YYYs are so boring, the definition of cookie cutter rock! Why them.. why now.

  3. Cookies are delicious.

  4. Even though I like ‘Zero’ best out of this lot, I found myself rooting for Stush whilst reading the blurbs! Camp Out made little impact on me when I listened to it, and I can honestly say I have not heard Paparazzi all the way through yet – until Bad Romance turned up, I’d dismissed Gaga’s musical output as far inferior to the rest of her activities (judging by the first three singles) so didn’t bother with it. Flying Daggers is still very listenable but not as engaging as Zero or We Nuh Run.

  5. I am very happy that my top two both made it, though I do slightly regret Stush missing out. For me my top two were extremely close, with Stush not so far behind and the other two weedily scrapping to avoid the last place they both warranted.

  6. Happy to see that Stush thing didn’t make it, there’s some sense left in you yet. But if tomorrow Bisso Na Bisso or Make the Girl Dance are even close to 4th place I’m buying Les Inrockuptibles end of year issue. And Telerama.

  7. it’s funny, i’m essentially indifferent to that raekwon track but every time someone says something positive about it my dislike of it increases.

  8. [Gaga = $tush] >>>>> [Raekwon = YYYs] >>>>> An Horse. (Glad I didn’t have to calibrate that ranking more.)

  9. Gaga > An Horse > YYYs > $tush > Raekwon

    I’m white btw

  10. I share Martin K.’s disappointment that Kate Cooper won’t say “her,” but I’m more bummed that An Horse didn’t finish higher.

  11. uh, yeah, about that– you know, quite a few lesbians go out with people who really dislike pronouns, e.g. transmen, the genderqueer. Not using “her” can be pretty standard!

  12. Cis — I’m glad to know that there’s been progress since Patrick Califia became somewhat ostracized from the lesbian community after she ceased to be a dyke and became a bi transman. I’d assumed that people who identify as lesbians (such as Cooper, according to the press I’ve read) are attracted to people who gender-identify as women, and that crossing boundaries (by going out with transmen or genderqueer folk) made one de facto genderqueer and no longer lesbian.

    My knowledge of lesbian politics is still somewhat early 1990s, I s’pose.

  13. House of Flying Daggers isn’t as good as the first single off that album – New Wu, was it called? Also, are there any particularly good remixes of Paparazzi out there? The original has never done much for me but I think it has potential.

  14. Tray, the Stuart Price mix hearkens to his best productions on the Juliet album. And I have a soft spot for the Moto Blanco mix, which turns it into a nu-disco stomper.

  15. >>tap tap<<
    this thing on?