10. “PrimeTime,” Janelle Monae featuring Miguel
I’ve never gotten the breathless hype around Monae, who to me is the epitome of a b-level career R&B’er (and gets negative points from me for collabing with the likes of Of fucking Montreal), but this slow-burn come-on duet with wonderboy Miguel is the kind of thing you wish Alicia Keys and Usher would find in them (or maybe you don’t, actually). Bonus points for the Prince-y guitar solo.
9. “Problem,” Ariana Grande featuring Iggy Azalea
This is gonna be ‘14’s ‘Call Me Maybe.“ Only it’s more interesting musically – and even includes a musical reference to Ying Yang Twins’ "Wait.” Plus a typically sassy verse from Iggy, though really the star here is Grande, coming into her own as a pop princess. She’s one teen TV starlet who may have something.
8. “Love & Sex, Pt. 2,” Joe featuring Kelly Rowland
Joe trades the smoldering Motownisms of the original “Love & Sex” (a well-done duet with Fantasia) for the S.O.S. band tribute of “Pt. 2,” with well-paired partner Kelly Rowland. (Has she always been this decent a singer? I’m asking.) It brings me plenty of pleasure to see Joe rebounding after a couple of years in the wilderness – he *should* be one of the kings of Adult R&B and now appears re-ascendant.
7. “Partition,” Beyonce
Who knew she got so NASTY – not to mention answers to “Peaches”? This is deliciously filthy in every sense.
6. “Lookin’ Ass Nigga,” Nicki Minaj
The paradox of Minaj for me is that she’s a great rapper who makes shitty pop records. So when she goes back to making hip hop, it’s cause for celebration. Detail gives her a dark beat to spit all over, which she does in spades, sounding more *serious* than she has in years. If the rest of The Pink Print lives up to this, I’ll shout hallelujahs.
5. “Royals/White Noise (Live at the Brits 2014),” Disclosure & Lorde (featuring AlunaGeorge)
“White Noise” feels tacked on to me, here. The way that the Disclosure boys rework “Royals,” however – and the way Lorde rides it – is superb. They’ve taken a great single, one which I was far too late to the party on, and improved upon it. This is what a great mash-up sounds like, from a couple of young artists who I suspect are just gonna get better and more interesting over time.
4. “Legs Shakin’,” R. Kelly featuring Ludacris
The opener on Black Panties was my favorite cut from first listen, so I’m thrilled to finally have it as a single. Kelly’s production on this is expert, much more stripped-down than he normally goes, and Luda’s verse reminds you that he can still sound good when he bothers to do more than phone it in.
3. “Delorean Dynamite,” Todd Terje
“I LOVE THE ’80s,” via Oslo. A masterful DNA splice between the score for Drive and Jan Hammer’s “Miami Vice Theme.”
2. “Happy,” Pharrell Williams
1. “Drunk In Love,” Beyonce featuring Jay-Z
“Drunk” is right: this really does sound woozy. Jay-Z adds nothing but flow (the less said about the whole weird “eat the cake, Anna Mae” lyric, the better), but this is ultimately all Bey, from the way she makes the beat her bitch to the way she makes Jigga her bitch, too – she’s clearly on top.