1. Toni Braxton & Babyface, Love, Marriage, and Divorce – Not adding the word “Sex” to the title is one of the only false notes here — not that they fuck anywhere near as often as they fight, not that they fight as often as they simply try to figure things out. And that is the record’s sensuously-expressed triumph, the way, for instance, Babyface’s quiet, naively male plea, “I Hope That You’re Okay,” is immediately followed by Braxton’s damning “I Wish” (the crack in her voice upon wishing him a sexually transmitted disease is either ridiculously corny or deeply moving — or both), or the way their voices meld into near-indecipherable which-one’s-which on “Where Did We Go Wrong” (far as I can make out, she’s the husky one, he’s the falsetto). I’ve never cared much for Braxton’s solo hits before (though this makes me appreciate her voice in new ways), and Babyface is a producer I’ve no doubt taken for granted in the past, but even though the second half lags somewhat, this is the best album-as-album I’ve listened to in a very long time.
2. Madonna, You Can Dance – For the “Over and Over” remix, especially, the (I’m repeating what I already said on Facebook) Great Madonna song which inexplicably not only failed to reach #1 but which failed to reach anything; it wasn’t even released as a single. Dated 1987, back when her bedtime snacks beat everyone’s else’s year.
3. Lorde, “Team” – I think I prefer this to “Royals,” and I’m certain I will hear it approximately 350 less times than I heard “Royals,” which can only help.
4. The Verve, “The Drugs Don’t Work” – The best half of Urban Hymns (the elongated, slow-ish, gooey stuff, the stuff where they pull off a passable early-70s Moody Blues) is the only Brit-pop I’ve been able to connect with in the last several years, and “Drugs” is, for me, the signature song of that peculiar era, not that I’ve begun to work out why.
5. Dempster’s “I’m Too Sexy” ad — Here’s how you use pop music in a TV spot — you don’t merely play it, you play with it. This is genius.
6. Various business/self-help/work-that-resume/build-that-network books. I listed one here last week, no point listing others now because with books of this sort I start them, and never ever come close to finishing them — it almost seems beside the point to do so. Not to mention that as genres of books go, business and career books are more pop music than pop music itself: what’s a surefire formula to land you that job this month will be completely turned on its head (“old school thinking”) next month. How does anyone keep up with this stuff? Where do all the business books go?