by Dear Jayne
What's even better than a slow jam? A slow jam with really loud snares—snares like a combination of hand claps and wood blocks, designed to cut right through the dense underbrush of the mix's Missile Command effects, R&B-gone-trance synth arpeggios, harmonies, and vocal cross talk. Not to mention lyrics like "You're not gonna get the privilege/Until you prove you're with it," or "I'm gonna lock the doors so there won't be a disturbance" (a smirk at the seducer's art, devastating in context), or the for-the-ages "I can't wait to hear us make those ooh-ahh sounds." The chorus is a lot simpler: "When we're kissing, when we're kissing, boy/It feels like rain, rain, rain, rain." You'd think I'd have figured it out a lot faster than the three days of obsessive replaying it took, but this is an answer record—Rihanna offered shelter from the downpour, but Dear Jayne wants to drench you in it. Advantage: Dear Jayne. Or: What's even better than "Umbrella"? "Rain."
by Jill Scott
Minimalism: After the intro, for two minutes we get a nylon layer of gossamer-thread string pad, chimes, two thuds and a finger snap, occasional guitar plucks, sparse violin squiggles, and Scott enunciating every letter, holding back and thus keeping an edge. On the second verse, the edges go soft—every t no longer crossed, a preparation for the effective outbursts on the bridge and thereafter. Nevertheless the first verse and chorus ("My love is deeper, tighter, sweeter, higher, flyer/Didn't you know this/Or didn't you notice?") are what hold me in place every time with their absolute tautness.
"Just Fine (Remix)"
by Mary J. Blige, ft. Lil Wayne and Swizz Beatz
It's 2008—that must mean it's time for the Chubb Rock revival. The version of "Just Fine" on Blige's late-December Growing Pains is an easy tribute to late-'80s mall-aerobics music with a lyric that, impossibly, sounds even more self-helpy than usual and works for just that reason. But the remix is even better, and not because of Lil Wayne (though he sounds just fine), but because Swizz Beatz switches up the backing track completely, layering Mary and Weezy over Chubb Rock's "Treat 'Em Right." Instead of implying musical nostalgia, this maneuver puts it right up front the way the lyrics do their recovery dogma.