DJ Jazzy Beth (In Which I Effectively Spit Rhyme)

One thing I’m pretty good at — and I have no idea why or how — is karaoke rapping. Part of it is that I annunciate decently, learn lyrics quickly, and can talk in the necessarily rapid fashion needed (the too-fast Yankee speak my grandmother always complained about has its benefits).

Another part is the simple element of surprise. No one expects the 30-something white chick in the Gap outfit to bust out Kid Rock or Naughty By Nature. And so I only have to be 75% decent to earn 100% credit.

Natalie Portman rapping

My first experiment in the rap oeuvre was ‘Bust a Move‘ in about 1999, with my friend Kelly on chorus backup (‘You want it … you’ve got it’).  I tried ‘Funky Cold Medina’ at some point, but found it overly slow and ultimately boring.

With different partners — most prominently Kelly and Amy — I took Sir Mix-a-Lot’s ‘Baby Got Back’ to near-perfection, where words aren’t needed and charades accompany appropriate lyrics. This tradition started in 1988, just before the song came screaming back in ironic fashion. It is all-but retired these days due to over-saturation, but it got the job done on a weekly basis for years.

In the mid-2000s, I took on a new challenge – ‘O.P.P.’ My first public attempt was at a bar in Tampa with Molly. Right before I began, a table of about 15 African-American women walked in and sat right in front of me. And they supported my every syllable, complete with high-fives at its conclusion. The speed of this one is the biggest challenge, and I refuse to do it if I’ve had more than two drinks. Unless I attempt this at a country bar (I’ll never make that mistake again), it rarely fails to impress (unless I’ve had more than two drinks, in which case it is an embarrassing hot mess).

Fondness of O.P.P. chart, naughty by nature

At some point, I added Rob Base (and DJ Easy Rock’s) ‘It Takes Two” to the mix. Fun, but not as much a crowd pleaser as the others. No accounting for taste, or nostalgia.  I also (once) attempted ‘The Bad Touch’ by Bloodhound Gang. I stuck every last word, from Lyle Lovett to FedEx to Waffle-House-hash-browns, and the crowd ignored the whole effort. Does no one remember this song?

This year, I tried my pipes at a little Kid Rock’s ‘Cowboy.’ It’s a world of fun, slow paced, and one of my new go-tos. The biggest challenge is getting out the P-word (as Naughty By Nature would say, “It’s sorta like, uhhh, well, another way you call a cat a kitty”) without stammering or blushing. I am, after all, a 30-something white chick in a Gap outfit.

Kid Rock Cowboy

Note that I never add any new songs to my repertoire, by the way. I’m all about nostalgia. No Nicki Minaj for me – at least not for four years or so.

That said, it’s time to add something fresh-ish to the mix. Want to help me decide? The first choice has the challenge of a word I will not say and so will have to swallow; the second and third contain super-dated references (do people remember Tom Green? Chris Kirkpatrick?); the fourth requires a bit of singing and is perhaps far too iconic to eff with. The fifth? I just don’t like as well as the others.

Leave any other suggestions you might have in the comments. And ‘Rapper’s Delight’ is off the table because it is just too damn long and I won’t do that to an audience.

Top Summer Songs of the Decade (In Which I Try to Remember Hoobastank)

Last week’s lyric quiz, in advance of Labor Day, focused on so-called anthems of summer.  Those infectious ditties that roll onto the pop scene when the weather starts to brighten and fail to drop off the charts until the kids are back in school.  As promised, here’s my own opinion of what I ruled the songs of all summers going back to 2002, when American Idol was brand new (as was the Department of Homeland Security).

Without further ado…

2002: Hot in Herre, Nelly.  St Louis’ pride and joy busted forth with this first single from his second album, Nellyville.  The hook is just catchy enough that we’ll all-but forgive the slightly misogynistic undertones.

2003: Crazy in Love, Beyonce (f/ Jay-Z).  Let’s be honest.  This song would be nowhere without the horn-charged Chi-Lites’ sample. With it – and with Jay-Z’s assistance in the intro and the bridge – it was a summer power-anthem that extended way past August 2003.

2004: The Reason, Hoobastank.   Really?  Song of the summer?  This drippy, lackluster, near-whiney pseudo-ballad from the moderately promising alt-rockers who brought us “Crawling in the Dark?”  Come on guys, really?  A modified infinity symbol in your band name? It was either this or one of about seven Usher songs, and their respective votes cannibalized one another.  But an honorable mention would be “Yeah!,” which Mr. “Ursher” Raymond did alongside Ludacris and Lil Jon.  Take that and rewind it back.

2005: Hollaback Girl, Gwen Stefani.  Fundamentally annoying, sure, but it reignited the pop-culture landscape’s interest in Toni Basil’s “Mickey” and brought “bananas” back into the lexicon as a synonym for “nuts.”

2006: Crazy, Gnarls Barkley.  Gnarls Barkley is the coupling of hip hop producer Danger Mouse and performer Cee Lo Green. Gorillaz, meanwhile, is the coupling of Blur frontman Damon Albarn and British illustrator/writer Jamie Hewlett. You can of course see why I always confuse the two. Gorillaz had a winning song-of-the-summer in 2001, “Clint Eastwood,” which I like much, much, much better than “Crazy.”  That said, “Crazy” was inescapable five summers ago and had to make this list.

2007: Umbrella, Rihanna (f Jay-Z). Speaking of inescapable, nary a reality show on the air between March 2007 and December 2008 failed to use “Umbrella” – or some folksy/emo/punk version thereof – on its soundtrack. It’s a pleasant enough tune about a sweetly strong relationship, but it’s just about two choruses too long.    

2008: Just Dance, Lady Gaga. We saw both Gaga and Katy Perry bum-rush the charts in 2008 with this cut and “I Kissed a Girl,” respectively.  Little did we know that they would remain the biggest pop stars on the planet three years later. What’s more, “Just Dance” was one of the first songs in the new genre of “See how adorably screwed I am when I drink?” (non) cautionary tales. So thanks for that, Stefani. 

2009: I Gotta Feeling, Black-Eyed Peas.  This song has no substantive lyrics.  This song includes a random and somewhat jarring “Mazel Tov” shout.  This song’s title, when broken down grammatically, means “I got to feeling.” This song is unrepentantly repetitive. This song was arguably the best pop song of its year.

Wordle couresty of Flavorwire.com

2010: Your Love is My Drug, Ke$ha. God help us all, this white-trash ho puts out some catchy freaking nonsense pop. This is no exception. May we never tire of her “rapped”-verse-plus-punchy-chorus formula.  I like your beard.

2011: Tonight Tonight, Hot Chelle Rae. Possibly my favorite song on this list, but maybe that’s because it’s the newest. The carefree chorus lyric is betrayed by the pre-chorus … “Whatever … it doesn’t matter … oh well” and the lyric “I don’t know if I’ll make it, but watch how good I’ll fake it.”  It’s an existential crisis wrapped up in  a power-pop beat. Cheers to you, boys.  Hope to hear a lot more out of you.

Phew! And that’s that! What have been some of your favorite “summer anthems” of years past?