Can't beat 'em
From the ubiquitous to the underground, we rate the year's club tunes.
Despite dwindling unit sales, music piracy and the slow death of vinyl, 2009 was a big year for club music. Whether at a renegade loft party, Boom Boom Room or a posh club in River North, we watched as revelers exuberantly shed their recession blues.
While this was an uninspiring year for big shots like Lil Wayne and Kanye West, their shift to the backseat allowed some more deserving contemporaries to slip into the driver’s seat. One of the foremost among them is vocalist Keri Hilson. Carving up the industry since 2001, penning hits for Britney Spears and the like, the 27-year-old came into her own with her singles “Knock You Down” and especially “Turnin’ Me On,” which no doubt sparked many a late-night hookup.
When he wasn’t gracing the silver screen, entertainer Jamie Foxx gave legions of lushes an excuse for drunken indiscretions with his single “Blame It.” Call it a guilty pleasure, but the track was also a cut above. And when Foxx pulls in Ron Howard, Samuel L. Jackson and director Hype Williams for his video, who are we to hate?
Speaking of hating, some people seem to be up in arms about the proliferation of Jay-Z’s “Empire State of Mind” in Chicago. We get it: The song’s about New York and we’re in the Second City. But face it, the cut has more personality than all the monotony pouring out of the radio waves, making it the most refreshing Top 40 single we’ve heard all year.
Mainstream artists weren’t the only ones making an impression on the scene this year, but a few underdogs took a cue from their playbook. Aided by Lady Gaga and Chicago vets Kanye and Common, Kid Cudi— riding “high” off “Day ’n’ Night”—captured the indie hip-hop spotlight with the success of “Make Her Say.”
Another act capitalizing on high-profile associations, Miami-based electro remix trio DiscoTech clogged up blogs with mixes of everyone from Soulja Boy to T.I. If you’re looking for potent, big-room rerubs of the year’s most popular singles, look no further.
There was no coattail riding for DJ A-Trak, who had another bang-up year. He scored a huge remix hit with his treatment of Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ “Heads Will Roll,” but the real gem came in the form of “aNYway,” his discofied collabo with Armand Van Helden as Duck Sauce.
The year also saw the return of Basement Jaxx. One of the U.K.’s foremost electronic acts, the duo’s had its highs and lows since 2001’s Rooty, with this year’s Scars falling somewhere in the middle, but lead single “Raindrops” proves the boys have still got it.
A handful of this year’s top acts took the less-traveled road to success. Take the moody electronic musings of Sweden’s Fever Ray, whose brilliant self-titled album was a deeply introspective affair (though that didn’t stop her from selling out her October appearance at the Metro).
Moderat is another example of this understated approach. On its self-titled debut, the Berlin-based production duo Modeselektor added multi-instrumentalist Apparat to the fold and tamed much of its techno high jinks in favor of melodic songwriting across a genre-bending mix of techno, house and dubstep.
That last genre, dubstep, progressed strikingly this year. Its influence has spread from the U.K. underground, elevating artists like Zomby and Skream, who received international accolades for his speaker-rattling remix of La Roux’s “In for the Kill.”
While some styles emerged, others underwent a renaissance, as with the rise of four-man disco-DJ crew Horse Meat Disco. Breathing new life into classic tracks via their vinyl-only edits, these dudes have torn down the pretenses of club land, proving that, regardless how many records sell, there’s no better escape than getting down.