I may have mentioned once or twice that I sort of like this Ke$ha person a little bit, haven't I? Admittedly, I've been able to base my opinion on a good deal more material than her 25 officially released tracks (not counting at least five additional feature spots, though on two of those she remains famously uncredited), but even that is one healthy dose of excellence that, much like the artist herself, has gone criminally underrated by a good-sized segment of the critical sphere despite the same myopic group's apparent adoration of Katy Perry, the bulk of whose work falls far behind the average Ke$ha track while the best of it ranges from comparable to outright recycling the Tennessee-born singer's stronger work. (More on that later.) Alas, there are a handful of tracks sprinkled throughout the official track listings of Ke$ha's hit debut album Animal and her followup EP Cannibal that can be legitimately regarded as suckage, which is more disappointing when they're compared to the European, Japanese and Australian release bonus tracks (not to mention a number of volumes in her large library of unreleased records). I find it particularly unfortunate that "VIP," one of the best overall tunes the 23-year old has put out, was included in every single release of Animal except in the US (couldn't it have been included in the re-release?). The icy electro-pop groove, wherein the famously anti-materialist singer elucidates on her disdain for the shallow, cash-hungry VIP scene in the same slinky, nonplussed alto that makes Animal's penultimate song "Boots & Boys" an unexpected late-in-the-game gem, calling out its hypocritical snobbery and dispassionate sexual desperation with biting quips anchored by the menacing, cooly delivered chorus ("There ain't no scene in the VIP for me; so you can take your class, shake that ass and drown in that martini."). "VIP," like "Boots & Boys," comes from the pen and the producer's booth of Mim and Olivia Nervo, a pair of 27 year old blond twins from Australia who left modeling careers behind in favor of a rather successful songwriting and producing career, which includes the Grammy-winning David Guetta/Kelly Rowland hit "When Love Takes Over" and songs for Kylie Minogue, Dream, Rachel Stevens, the Pussycat Dolls, and (rumor has it) the upcoming Britney Spears album, reportedly at the singer's personal request. Like Ke$ha, these gals are hot in more ways than one, and I look forward to what they unleash upon us in the years to come. Ke$ha, too.
24. “Hope She Cheats On You (With a Basketball Player)” Marsha Ambrosius (Late Nights, Early Mornings)
British R&B ingenue Marsha Ambrosius already sports an impressive resume as the 33 year old prepares for her debut LP in her new incarnation as bonafide solo artist, entitled Late Nights, Early Mornings, which is to drop early next year. Formerly one half of the genre-straddling duo Floetry, Ambrosius also has a sizeable string of notable writing and performing credits, including Michael Jackson's "Butterflies" (which she wrote and contributed backing vocals), Justin Timberlake's "Cry Me a River" (backing vocals) and tracks with R&B/hip-hop greats including Solange Knowles, Busta Rhymes, Macy Gray, Queen Latifah, Jamie Foxx, Patti LaBelle, and more. Ambrosius has a hefty and loyal following already, but rather than hedging bets in an R&B scene that's been remarkably male-dominated in recent years, Ambrosius has played her introduction with admirable gusto: the previously Rubenesque singer emerged in early promotional shots flaunting a newly svelte figure that had old fans abuzz and new ones craning their necks, then soon afterward dropped her lead single, with the eye-catching (or pandering, depending on your view) title "Hope She Cheats On You (With a Basketball Player)," which I can confidently say earned at least one paid download with mere curiosity value. Of course, such a gimmick only works long-term if the track measures up to the extra intrigue such a title bestows, and I was pleased to find my $1.29 hadn't gone to waste. Being as it was my first introduction to Ambrosius' rich voice with its distinctive timbre and lightly wavering vibrato, I could have reveled in that alone even without those great, refreshingly honest lyrics ("I may sound bitter...I'm a little bitter! Just a little bitter...." So much win.). But a good new R&B listen that also uses Kim Kardashian as a verb? "Sex so good..."
23. “Resuscitate Me” September (Love CPR)
The dance hall queen September is a Swedish artist who upholds Robyn’s uniform of cute short blonde hair and heartbreaking dance beats. She's best known for her 2005 single “Cry For You,” which she's milked for years since, releasing a new edit for the U.K. in 2008, and then Cry For You - The Album, a combination of her previous three studio albums and re-edited versions of her popular singles with a smattering of new material. The emotional standpoint has shifted from the defensive venom of "since I was lonely from the start/ I think the end is mine to write" to the breathless desire of the 26 year old's new single "Resuscitate Me," the lead English-language track off upcoming LP Love CPR (I spy a theme*...). The release came as a pleasant surprise to me, being a big fan of "Cry for You" but not yet an active follower of the artist behind it, and the track has quickly climbed my most played list. There's a music video, too: it's largely inconsequential, with an all-grown-up September evoking an odd mixture of Robyn (clearly the Swedish Madonna to her Britney) and Glynis Johns...although I strongly approve of her choice of on-screen paramour, a six-pack-adorned hunk of the same vintage as Katy Perry's conspicuously non-Russell Brand love/sex interest for "Teenage Dream." Love CPR lands in Europe on Valentine's Day, and while it's unlikely to touchdown on these shores I'll be sure it gets some coverage on this site at least.
22. “Caesar” I Blame Coco feat Robyn (Constant)
I Blame Coco, the awkward stage/band name of 20-year-old Coco Summer, launched debut album Constant in October and November throughout Europe to reviews generally of the "good enough" variety. It helps having such a heavyweight support team; the daughter of pop icon Sting worked heavily with Robyn's right-hand man/producer Klaus Ahlund and made the wise choice of including the Swedish pop queen on the sophomoric but infectious lead single "Caesar." Summer quipped in Rolling Stone that she'd had no intention of writing a pop song but finally created the psuedo-gothic pop-rock song as the satire of an upstart youth in revolt after being pressed by single-hungry label execs. With a theme of deviancy and sin peppered with references that could be pulled from standard tenth grade humanities curriculum, this song fronts a lot of supposed wrath towards pop conformance. However, in reality Coco hardly rages against the machine. Rather, she embraces the techno sound that blends with the back beat of classic pop-punk bass repetition with an awesome chorus courtesy of Robyn, ever the good sport as she is. As in Body Talk Pt 2's power of duality in "U Should Know Better" (feat. Snoop Dogg) this vixen duo creates an blend of olde and new. As an antagonist to authority prior to becoming a Vertigo Shtick column writer, my own personal black-eyeliner and aggressive red fauxhawk style is completely "GaGa" on Coco. Though to date I Blame Coco is mainly focused in the U.K., the internet will allow it to one across the Atlantic to hear her subsequent singles and alerts on the album. Never underestimate the crimson stained dagger of youth in the pop scene. -DS & MB
21. “Fuck You” Cee Lo Green (The Lady Killer)
Like so many others, I cheered when Cee Lo Green, in advance of his upcoming solo album Lady Killer, unleashed upon the world a single with a title almost as surprising as how the song more than lives up to the hype such a title invariably (and shrewdly) creates, and it has since hit the top ten on Billboard's singles chart and been nominated for Record and Song of the Year at the upcoming Grammy Awards. "Fuck You" is a kiss-off to a gold-digging ex-girlfriend and the fool whose arm on which she now hangs. Not exactly groundbreaking lyrical subject matter, perhaps, but the packaging is a disarming and rare delight: instead of angry guitars and caterwauling, "Fuck You" is a raucus, up-tempo and upbeat 60s-throwback number that could easily be performed by a church gospel choir without anyone raising an eyebrow, so pleasant and joyful is the presentation. And dammit, it still gets me every time.
Vertigo Shtick's Forty Favorite Pop Songs of 2010: #35-31
Vertigo Shtick's Forty Favorite Pop Songs of 2010: #40-36