Beanie Sigel ft. Peedi Crakk & Twista, "Gotta Have It" (Roc-a-Fella).
Lady Sovereign ft. Riko, "Random (Menta Remix)" (Casual, U.K.)
SLK Mob, "Hype! Hype! (Wonder Remix)" (Ministry of Sound, U.K.)
Lethal B ft. Stat Quo, Pitbull, and Kardinal Offishall, "Pow (Forward) Special" (Relentless, U.K.).
Ying Yang Twins, "Wait (The Whisper Song)" (TVT).
Crazy Titch, "Singalong" (In the Hood, U.K.).
Sizzla, "Spring Break" (VP).
Amerie, "1 Thing" (Columbia).
T.I., "Countdown" (Atlantic).
Rachel Stevens, "Negotiate With Love" (Polydor, U.K.).
Kelly Clarkson, "Since U Been Gone" (MCA).
The Futureheads, "Hounds of Love" (Astralwerks).
DJ C ft. Shinehead, "Billy Jungle" (MP3).
Seba & Lenk ft. Robert Manos, "Every Man for Himself" (Bassbin, U.K.).
2005's success stories so far have been mediocre-to-crappy: The Game needlessly meta-ing up the Top 10 (yeah, I like N.W.A too, guy); unspectacular R&B (Mario, Omarion, guys without "Mario" somewhere in their name); Usher's eighth victory lap; J.Lo fucking up a perfectly awesome beat; 50 Cent's boring fait-accompli omnipresence; alt-rock's turgid return (spearheaded by Green Day . . . how could you?!).
Business as usual, I hear you anti-pop snobs sniping, but the year's only four months gone and there's plenty of good stuff if you look (as always). England's got the jump on us, as it did last year, in all categories. Grime's already throwing up classics: Wonder's remix of SLK sucking all the air out like a spaceship hatch opening onto the deadly vacuum; Lady Sov low-riding in Menta's electro-hooptie fitted with smokescreen; Lethal B getting graced by three of North America's most underrated; Crazy Titch playing his 2-D voice against the orchestral corkscrews of his beat.
Shamefully, the U.S. rap here is all album tracks or low-key singles. T.I. is gumbo-thick groove-gunk midway between electric Muddy Waters and the Mover's hardcore techno. Beanie Sigel rides a chopped-up Charleston that better suits scatting Twista and scatterbrained Peedi. Ying Yang's a gimmick (it's in the title) that transcends itself. Jamaica slumps out of the limelight, apart from Sizzla's caffeinated raggage by a scary fundie nutcase gone wild.
Futureheads are from last year, but a single this year and the most joyful thing I've heard in either. The only U.S. rock track to match it is Kelly C.'s sky-kicking fusion of Interpol, Pink, "Maps," and Abercrombie. Rachel Stevens is the same song minus the rock and the drive, plus Martin Fry affect, and charmingly in love with its own posh cliché. The last two songs are jungle—one rugged bootleg, one smooth house glide. Amerie is just the best single of the year. So far, of course.
Jess Harvell is a freelance writer in West Chester, Penn.