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The Kanye West Playlist, and more

The Kanye Playlist

Ready or not, here comes Kanye West! The strangely lovable Chicago headcase's new single, Power, showed up on iTunes on July 1. And you know what? It's good: a tribal hook, a self-deprecating sample of King Crimson's 21st Century Schizoid Man and typically high-low lyrics taking aim at his ego and the boobirds who can kiss his ego ("Screams from the haters, got a nice ring to it / I guess every superhero needs his theme music"). In September, album Good Ass Job, a continuation of the Dropout Bear saga, will drop.

Personally, I think this is swell news. Last fall, 'Ye famously shanghaied Taylor Swift's victory speech at the MTV VMAs — and took a beating for it. So the motormouth (who, among other unsound bites, once stated that George Bush "doesn't care about black people") suddenly went underground, a stunning vow of silence akin to the Cookie Monster going cold turkey on chocolate chips.

But in light of recent celebrity foibles, especially those involving Tiger Woods and Mel Gibson, West's arrogance seems almost charming now (almost). Anyway, I like the 33-year-old a bunch, and think a hip-hopper who treats his albums as wildly vacillating shrink sessions is far more captivating than one who solely brags about what brand of Champagne he pours for breakfast. So in celebration of West's return, here are his 10 best tunes, the ultimate prima donna primer:

From 2004's The College Dropout:

1 Jesus Walks

2 Spaceship

3 The New Workout Plan

From 2005's Late Registration:

4 Gold Digger

5 Hey Mama

From 2007's Graduation:

6 Stronger

7 Big Brother

From 2008's 808s & Heartbreak:

8 Heartless

9 Love Lockdown

From 2010's Good Ass Job:

10 Power

To hear the Kanye Playlist, go to Pop Life online at


Loving the Danger

One of my fave albums of the year is the self-titled debut by Broken Bells, a.k.a. the sparkly tandem of the Shins' James Mercer and Gnarls Barkley's DJ Danger Mouse. (I've listened to the Bells song Vaporize 100 times and that sucker still plays like a trick of the light. Buy it now. You won't be sorry.) Anyway, Danger Mouse is now making a bid for two 2010 classics with Dark Night of the Soul, his teamup with Sparklehorse's enigmatic multi-instrumentalist Mark Linkous, who passed away in March. In stores on Tuesday, the album is a stellar example of Danger Mouse's gift for pensive, prickly but ultimately redemptive soundscapes. The L.A. stalwart born Brian Burton digs his squiggles, his spacey synth palettes, his soaring harmonies, but never at the cost of genuine heart. He's also unfailingly cool, as Little Girl, a neo-surf riff featuring the Strokes' Julian Casablancas, proves in a sublime 4:33 burst. All manner of notables helped complete the project, from the Flaming Lips and Iggy Pop to director David Lynch, who contributed photographs for a limited-edition package. It's a moving reminder of Linkous' rich legacy — and Danger Mouse's yowza future.

Big Boi's Party Platter

Although Andre 3000 was the more versatile half of Hotlanta's inimitable OutKast, the truth is that the duo's best rim-rattling, booty-boppin' bass beats were laid down by the chunky-but-funky Big Boi. Although the fate of OutKast is anybody's guess, Big Boi wants us to know there's certainly no writer's block on his side. New solo album Sir Lucious Left Foot . . . The Son of Chico Dusty proves that no one soundtracks a Friday night cruise (cue up Shutterbugg and get low and slow) as well as Big Boi. But genuine artistic ambition doesn't end at that mouthful of an album title: General Patton merges operatic grandiosity, rapid-fire rhymes and militaristic braggadocio. And Tangerine is a tingly Middle Eastern-inflected salute to strippers (but, um, really classy ones!). The songs intricately pose a challenge to BB's former co-worker: Can you top that, 'Dre?

The Kanye West Playlist, and more 07/13/10 [Last modified: Wednesday, July 14, 2010 10:51am]
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