Rudimental – ‘Feel The Love’ [LISTEN]
It’s rare for a song of the year to come from an artist that, 12 months ago, we didn’t know existed, but Rudimental, more than any other outfit – electronic or otherwise – have owned this last year for me. In that time, I’ve heard only three songs out of the Hackney, south London foursome: this track back in early June, the comparatively low-key ‘Spoons’ shortly thereafter and more recently ‘Not Giving In’ – a track with a similar vibe to this one and also a definite contender in the Song of the Year race. What Rudimental have managed to do, over the space of 6 months and 3 songs, is establish a name that is now synonymous with perfectly produced drum and bass and more thoughtful, poignant electronic sounds as well. It’s no easy feat going from zero to Song of the Year hero with such a limited discography but when every track the lads release is as packed with promise and excitement as this one, bestowing the award is a no-brainer.
Usually writing a blog, it’s handy to have the song on loop or very recently played in order to have certain features, lyrics fresh in the mind. With ‘Feel The Love’, any requirement of contemporaneity is stripped away by virtue of the track’s immutable anthemic quality. All you have to do is speak the words to remember the melody, recall debutant vocalist John Newman’s astoundingly soulful take on them, realise how Rudimental introduced one of the heaviest genre’s around into the mainstream effortlessly before Bieber, Brown or Bennassi could get their grubby paws on it. Newman has a lot to do with it. But so does Rudimental’s intelligent take on traditional dnb, infused with sax solos, breakdowns, clever little motifs. Beyond Rick Ross’ cameo in the equestrian-meets-hood video, the 91,000 copies it sold in a week in the UK delivering Asylum Records its first chart topper ever and the way it made me thump my steering wheel like it was nobody’s business for months on end, ‘Feel The Love’ is my Song of the Year because unlike other unlikely pop crossover hits, it actually makes you feel something. And that’s rudimental.
Usher ft. Diplo – ‘Climax’ [LISTEN]
The first time I heard ‘Climax’, I couldn’t move. It was so unbelievably raw, and wholly unexpected from the artists involved, that I just didn’t know what to do with myself. Going back through my records from that day, I can see now that I emailed the link, leaked by Diplo with typical understatement, to around forty people. I played it back to myself over the next few hours at work, convinced that it was a hoax. Giving this the Song Of The Year isn’t actually as difficult as I thought it was, because it really seemed to beam in from outer space and remap the direction from a genre so tired that it went looking for people like Diplo in the first place.
There is so much space in ‘Climax’ that it’s almost overwhelming. Before anybody really acknowledged that Diplo was capable of writing superb pop songs without an insistent, thumping BPM (though the excellent ‘Get Free’ would soon change all that), he’d quietly absorbed all the great bits in house bangers from across the world that nobody ever listened out for – the calm before the storm, the surge before the drop – and crafted an entire progression out of it. And Usher, to his credit, ran with it. There is a huge risk in releasing this kind of sound for an artist of his pedigree, particularly in the United States which is only just waking up out of a long slumber to recognise dance music as an art form. With no discernible beat, lyrics that speak more about the sensual side of sex than the glamorous one and a languorous, unfurling string crescendo, ‘Climax’ could have been the tune that buried Usher for good.
As much as I’d love to credit Diplo alone – and indeed his vision is what drives this song – it’s as much about Usher’s melody as it is about the production. Singularly gorgeous and crystal-clear in its definition, it showcases the boy who signed a record deal as a teenager finally stepping into manhood. It’s no accident that his schizophrenically produced but wholly underappreciated new record is entitled Looking 4 Myself. In the last decade, Usher’s spent a lot of time trying to figure out whether there’s a place in the musical landscape for a good-looking, well-toned, all-dancing black man when there are a plethora of similar kids coming up beneath him who are faster, more brash and less concerned with tradition. But we forget that Usher can really sing. Perhaps he forgot, too, while he was trying to be a club king on ‘Yeah!’ and other successful commercial fodder but abject critical failures.
‘Climax’ proves that you can get two (actually, three, if you count the young Nico Nuhly’s string arrangements) incredibly bright musicians in a room and actually produce something that sounds like a synthesis, rather than a competition or a battle of wills. As a song, it’s unique in its ideology in the 2012 landscape; a surging piece of drama which, ironically, never climaxes as one would expect it too. It’s tender, it’s delicate and it’s fucking wonderful. For a while there I was beginning to think that we’d all lost our way, and that the entire future of music would sound like it was being processed through a blender. But then Raymond opened his mouth, listened to his heart and started to sing. Our year was all the better for it.