45-41

45. Push (Feeling Good On A Wednesday) – Sia (as Randy Marsh as Lorde)

South Park quietly had its best season in years, its cutthroat commentary climaxing with the absurd arc of Randy Marsh pretending to be international pop sensation Lorde. Because Tre Parker and Matt Stone never do anything half-assed, they recruited Lorde’s chart rival Sia to record ridiculous things like “help me unload the car/ya ya ya” and instantly ignite a web-blazing meme in the process. In a year with fantastic one-liners, the one we’ll probably quote for years to come (if only because Lorde seems like she’ll be a chart force for years to come) is “I AM LORDE/YA YA YA/I AM LORDE/LORDE LORDE LORDE,” which apparently doesn’t bother Lorde in the slightest.

44. Paperwork – T.I. (2), Pharrell (2)

If rappers aged gracefully, the already crowded race to the top would clog like a hypertensive artery. But as the grey years of Eminem, Ludacris, T.I., LL Cool J, and Ice Cube demonstrate, rappers either suck until the microphone gets pried out of their hands, or they start acting. T.I. might want to consider a full transition to the silver screen pretty soon, because while he remains a deft lyricist, any attempt at Casanova thuggery comes off as disingenuous after spending ten years recycling Outkast’s shtick. The title track is his latest album’s lone bright spot, a comprehensive memoir smoothly relayed over a rarely heard ¾ beat with Pharrell checking in as the guy who makes ever rapper’s work easier. It’s easy to lose the spotlight; it’s harder to shed talent.

43. Yonce/Partition – Beyoncé (3)

Beyoncé’s Ziggy Stardust is dirty and dark, and she’s damn good, too. “Yonce’s” minimalism strikes only because Bey’s bars are so enthralling, showing us what Lil Mama’s classic “Lip Gloss” would sound like if aged well in a Frank Miller comic, or maybe what “Vans” would sound like if it was about sex instead of shoes (though they’re probably the same to Beyoncé). It’s the perfect intro to “Partition,” the inner thoughts that eventually morph into an erotic explosion in the back of a limousine, filled with enough disco lights and one-liners to confuse even the sober. “I sneezed on the beat/and the beat got sicker” is a far superior boast than anything her husband-for-now has put out in the past five years, and around the time her vocals fall with “45 minutes to get all dressed up,” there’s no reason to believe that Jay Z is the more powerful of the two moguls. Beyoncé is the closest thing we have to royalty in this country, and as inhuman as she is, she merits all the flashing lights that will come for her in the next decade.

42. A Little God in My Hands – Swans

The whole “your favorite band from (x) decade returns to record after an (x) year hiatus!” doesn’t inspire much fanfare since the Rolling Stones have been singlehandedly bankrupting baby boomers since 1989. So when you hear that a noise rock band last active in 1997 (not named My Bloody Valentine) has decided to release a string of three albums in five years, “meh” would be a warranted response. Ignorance might be the expected one. But it’s entirely possible that Michael Gira spent those thirteen years masterminding his last three masterful albums, each over two hours of expansive and bleak guitar orchestrations ready and willing to suck up your afternoon in a huddled state of awestruck misery. And here comes the requisite age drop: he turns 61 in two months. I say this because he’s doing the whole angst thing better than anyone right now.

41. Stay With Me (Prince Fox Remix) – Sam Smith

Sam Smith isn’t particularly interesting; Disclosure remains the best thing that’s ever happened to Smith, and that his vanilla single “Stay With Me” charted higher than the earth-bending “Latch” frustrates me endlessly. That’s not to say he’s not talented, though. Prince Fox’s strings and synths couldn’t have brought Smith’s vocals to their celestial paradise had Smith himself not provided a worthy performance to begin with. But there’s such a substantial gap between the original single and many of its remixes that it begs to wonder where the more passionate art is coming from.

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