20. Man of the Year – ScHoolboy Q (2)

The Black Hippie crew’s uncle-who-buys-you-weed and aforementioned bucket hat model Schoolboy Q somehow became Top Dawg Entertainment’s breadwinner on Kendrick Lamar’s off year. Despite no discernable skills besides choosing the correct instrumentals, rocking tight jeans and a beer belly, and surrounding himself with more talented artists than himself, Q found mainstream success and collaboration popularity that even King Kendrick hasn’t amassed quite yet. He’s hit four Hot 100 singles this year, more than I ever thought he would acquire in his career, much less off the momentum of one album. “Man of the Year” is the best of them, a confident stroll through every reason why even though he’s the third best rapper in his own four-man collective, he deserves some recognition through it all.

19. Talking Backwards – Real Estate

Oh boy, what a fall it has been. My loyal readers (all three of you) may remember that I placed this song at #1 in my midyear countdown. That’s a significant fall, especially since there are four other songs from that list that jumped this summer sleeper. Maybe it fell because its sunny disposition just doesn’t hold up beyond the September warmth. Maybe I discovered older Real Estate that I have been listening to a lot more than the band’s most recent album. Whatever the reason, it’s still an impressive song by the best beach band in the country from the sunny shores of…Brooklyn? Sure, why not?

18. Sunlight – The Magician, Years and Years

Olly Alexander from British electro trio Years and Years lends his white boy power vocals to Stephen Fassano’s club banger, and what results is the warmth and comfort of repetitive pleasure. “Sunlight,” named after a concept certainly worshiped in Britain like no other meteorological phenomenon, sounds exactly what it’s named for. You can probably hear it in a soccer stadium on Saturday afternoons, or in a Manchester disco later that night, or on a Sunday morning news broadcast while nursing a hangover. All of this is hypothetical; I don’t live in England, so I’m not familiar with the proliferation of The Magician or Europop in general. What I do know is that if you’re going to fill a disco, you might as well get the Europeans involved, or else the party is going to seriously suck.

17. 0-100/The Catch Up – Drake (6)

Pop quiz: how many singles charted for Drake in 2014? Here’s a hint: there were six fewer this year than in his magical 2013 in which he was a Yeezus resurrection away from rightfully capturing the throne. He spent 2013 as Drake and 2014 as featuring Drake and still found a way to release solo work as captivating as anything any rapper is putting out right now. “0-100” has already spent months on the radio without a companion album, but it’s generated even more hype than “Marvin’s Room” and “Started From The Bottom” did with his previous two albums, as well as inspired this perfect video. Tacking on “The Catch Up” masks an old promotional trick by presenting the soft side of Drake we love as equally as the confident stargazer that does everything as well as the last thing. And the answer to the quiz? Nine. Nine. Don’t blink, they go by real quick.

16. Sugah Daddy – D’Angelo and the Vanguard

He’s the most talented male vocalist in pop history. He’s got Prince’s creativity, Sly Stone’s tortured soul, and Marvin Gaye’s volatility, and he might be better than all of them when all is said and done. The dean of rock criticism calls him R&B Jesus, and fourteen years after his magnum opus Voodoo, he’s back for M.O.2.0, this time acknowledging himself as the Black Messiah. At least this time he’s giving his band the recognition it deserves, putting their name on the album cover as well, a well deserved distinction considering how expertly they follow D’Angelo’s scat on the lead single (or maybe it’s the other way around, I can’t tell). So whether it’s D’Angelo and the Vanguard, or the Vanguard and D’Angelo, it’s genius with company, and we’re all better off from them sharing the spotlight.


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