[4] Outkast, ‘Ms Jackson’

Operating on some sort of mad, sickly, spandex level above conventional hip-hop, Outkast have the crossover appeal that hip-hop purists don’t want. At least Big Boi’s there to keep it real, but Andre 3000 is a space-age Prince even more indebted to the sleaze than his purple precedent. But then I’m not a hip-hop purist, so balls to it. And Big Boi can’t be keeping it THAT real, if he’s letting Soul Train glitter like this pass by under his nose.

The last thing you’d predict for this record is no reaction at all, but that’s what Junior gives it. She sits blankly staring at the stereo, not a twitch in her dancing feet. We found out later that she had a temperature, so well done, Dad, for trying to get her enthused about some shiny hipster-hop. I’m sorry, Miss Junior. Oooo.

I wonder if Erykah Badu’s mom took the apology with good grace. Somehow, all that appropriation of the wedding march makes ‘Ms Jackson’ seem a touch insincere. Glorious stuff, though, forever-evah.

[11] Macy Gray featuring Erykah Badu, ‘Sweet Baby’

1999’s …On How Life Is was an astounding success, a must-have and a false dawn; the sort of shot in a million that gives Second Album Syndrome a feast to feed off. Macy was in no mood to let anyone down and steamed right in with The Id, a funk-led mess that put her up there with Terence Trent D’Arby in the “oops – there goes that advance” pantheon of sophomore flops. A distinction she didn’t share with TTD was the sad truth her album wasn’t all that great anyway – but ‘Sweet Baby’ is.

Cut from the classic soul pattern, this is lush, heartfelt, teasing and sincere. Junior locked into the gentle sway of the verse/chorus/verse before whipping out the plastic guitar with its searing choice of plastic riff buttons for the second chorus – just in time for the still-relaxed beat to kick in, and to match Chili Pepper John Frusciante lick for lick.

Erykah Badu’s role is to provide an improbable second Ella Fitzgerald via Walt Disney vocal to support Macy’s, erm, Ella Fitzgerald via Walt Disney lead. It’s an equally improbably gorgeous mix. In the second half, Badu keeps the song honest while Gray lets loose with her Id, and we all love her now and ever.

[11] D’Angelo, ‘Brown Sugar’

To go with her shoulder rolls, Junior’s been learning a new dance move. It involves rocking her head from side to side, and got a good airing to D’Angelo. Dad was clicking his fingers on the snap of the beat. Junior could see it was apt comment on this crisp, cool-as-frozen-cubes-of-sweet-potato-baby-meals record.

‘Brown Sugar’ is as smooth as particularly unruffled silk. It’s sparse yet polished, with dashes of strings and tinkles of hammond, and it drifts by in a smoky haze. You’d fall asleep if it wasn’t so insidiously funky. D’Angelo was riding the crest of the “nu soul” wave, Maxwell, Erykah Badu and Jill Scott in his wake, but it all came to nothing in the end. None of them pressed the garish commercial buttons.

10 down, 10 to go. Gets a bit more obvious now. Robson & Jerome, Rednex and Celine Dion all still to come.