We appear to have made up our minds, at last…
Martin Skidmore: One of my favourite new singers of recent years, with a strong soul voice and a complex feel for rhythm and timing. This is a really good song, too, offering plenty of scope for her vocal chops and substantial emotional content. The production is modern R&B, with ample space for her. One of my favourite singles of the year.
Jonathan Bogart: The production’s a deeeliteful return to the glory days of 1996, plenty of open spaces for her to fill in with meaning and emotion, but she’s less orgiastic than many of her peers, and the song’s structure takes an aloof, abstract approach to the emotion at its heart. The result is a dizzying blast of post-retro r&b that spiderwalks its way into the future. I’d almost call it psychedelic, but architecturally rather than sonically, and we need to be inventing new vocabularies instead of relying on the old ones anyway.
Al Shipley: Every classic hip hop break is going to get recycled a dozen times by contemporary R&B, but new rule: once a sample’s been used on one hit that’s a modern classic in its own right, either top it or leave it alone. And this doesn’t close to touching the use of the “Make The Music With Your Mouth, Biz” drums on Mya’s “Best Of Me (Remix).”
Katherine St Asaph: About 10-15 years ago, this might have sounded really derivative. Nowadays, it sounds more like record-scritchy, vocal-crashing joy.
Michaelangelo Matos: Like most of the parts here: the dusty breakbeat, the piano and sitar, the raw vocal. But it never totally coheres for me.
Hazel Robinson: Jazmine’s honey-over-sandpaper voice holds its own in a clusterfuck of every r’n’b sound since about 1994. Spellbinding, instantly singable and like a selection box of a thousands of particularly delectable truffles where you can keep deciding each new variant is your actual favourite. The ever-changing background fits the mood of the song perfectly, too, confused and turning on the spot in an ADHD iPod-on-shuffle skip of obsession. I just wish Missy Elliot would stop insisting on turning up to squeak things.
Alex Macpherson: A rich tapestry of samples provides the backdrop for a desperate, self-recriminating Jazmine Sullivan on “Holding You Down”: they chop and change as though she’s flicking obsessively through radio stations, and soon she’s as caught up in them as in her own cycle of codependence. The song’s constant switch-ups are tied together by one of her finest vocal performances to date. For an artist who trades so much on raw emotion, Sullivan’s debut showed her to be surprisingly stagey singer at times, but on “Holding You Down” she sounds genuinely on the verge of hysteria, pacing back and forth in a figure of eight to stop herself bouncing off the walls.