The Songs We Can't Escape

Mya, Beauty and the Streets: Mixtape, Vol. 1

Mya feat. Nicki Minaj

How many strip-club anthems are this sinuously sensual or concentrate on hair like this, and how exactly to throw it around while taking a turn on the pole? Or include nonsensically brilliant guest raps like "Ponytail, no scrunchie/Parachute, no bungie/Peggy and Al Bundy"? When you're not paying attention in 2010, this pair will be taking over the world. Trust.

"Glow Wreath"

Why so precious, guys? This Brooklyn outfit's unduly fond of singles and splits and LPs and DVDs, showing contempt for the traditional full-length and its accompanying promotional cycle. Which is a crying shame, because that astringency probably limits the potential audience for the sort of drum circling/cellophane electronics and keybs/tribalist, art-rock clusterfuck that "Wreath" has to offer.

Juelz Santana feat. Yelawolf
"Mixin' Up the Medicine"

Bob Dylan's lawyers are either cranking this in their Saabs or they're drawing up motions, but this "Subterranean Homesick Blues" flip is Santana's savviest, hardest salvo maybe ever, full of giddy, over-enunciated bravado, jangling guitar loops, and delivered-with-conviction punch lines like "If her body crazy, then I'll take her to the nut house/Pow!"

Lil Wayne feat. Eminem
"Drop the World"

After a mutually lackluster 2009 for these rap titans, who'd have imagined that Weezy and Em had something as strong and moving as "World" in them? Sure, the sugary, pulsating man-o-war production has a lot to do with it; even Master P would be hard-pressed to sound lame over this thing. But there's tangible emotion in these verses about loneliness at the top of the hip-hop game, and neither star is sure where he fits into the genre's shifting paradigm. Their fallback option—hopping into a spaceship and taking off—comes across as more poignant than it has any right to.

Smashing Pumpkins
"Song for a Son"

Warm, puddling mellotrons. Crisp acoustic strings. Introspective pianos. A subdued, reflective Billy Corgan. Then the electric guitars strike, transitioning us from an established post-Elton John mood into the netherworld of classic rock, where ax solos can simultaneously shred and intoxicate. I can't remember the last time a new Pumpkins song gave me goose bumps, but I pray this won't be the last.

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