[4] Beyoncé featuring Jay-Z, ‘Crazy In Love’

Crazy In Love

When the Lord was handing out booty, Beyoncé asked for hers to come ready-slapped. It still reverberates to this day. Like that booty, ‘Crazy In Love’ shakes in all the right places, from fearsome horny fanfare to splashy drum fills, an epicentre of deep R&B sass, the perfect first rumble for that coming-of-age solo career. Let’s ignore the Austin Powers single ‘Work It Out’.

Although that was good too.

Junior says:
“Everything sounds great and beautiful and I like her name.” She says things with so much more economy. Because everything does sound great – even Jay-Z’s typically leadfooted show – and a just-reined-in-enough B sounds beautiful. Cool name as well.

Best bit: Take-no-prisoners intro. No messing, no fear.

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[39] Rihanna featuring Jay-Z, ‘Umbrella’

It’s a Heart song, isn’t it? All power chords and stark emotion and, er, a phoned-in rap from Jay-Z. He and the Wilson sisters were like this. They’d bring the overwrought, he’d spit the rhymes. Then he ditched Nancy for his girl B and it was all just AOR/hip hop history. Rihanna of course conveys feeling with the natural poise of an office block, but ‘Umbrella’ benefits from her robotic delivery, keeping its secrets, peeling layers off slowly.

Junior says: “Ella-ella-ey-ey-ey” rather a lot. In fact, she says it pretty much every time she’s confronted by an umbrella of any hue, musical or rainworthy. It’s entered the lexicon.

Best bit: The thumping great beat in Rihanna’s first line.

[9] Jay-Z featuring Alicia Keys, ‘Empire State Of Mind’

New York reminds me of Christmas anyway, possibly through seeing When Harry Met Sally a dozen too many times, so it feels right to eulogise this love letter right now. But is it a no-holds-barred tribute? Alicia Keys’ commanding, spine-tingling holler sounds like a throaty homage, but The Hov swings between wallowing in the neighbourhood and caution-poem acknowledgement of those who have fallen by the wayside. It adds bite – “Mommy took a bus trip/Now she got her bust out” – and intrigue – “Good girls gone bad/The city’s filled with them” – to a big, ballsy anthem.

As I cue ‘Empire…’ up, Junior asks, “Will it make my shoulders go funky?” Built around samples from The Moments and Isaac Hayes, I should say so. She bounds about, dangerously overexcited, and seems to know every word of Keys’ contribution – until she starts singing her Nativity song over the top, sampling anew. Anyway, this one couldn’t fail to move her; it’s a tune as massive as Alicia’s champion asset.

Don’t bite the apple, Eve:

[7] Jay-Z ‘I Just Wanna Love U (Give It 2 Me)’

He was already well-enough-established by this point, largely thanks to forever soiling his legacy for a hit with the Little Orphan Annie-sponsored ‘Hard Knock Life’ back in 1998 – but now, right here, was where The Hov was riding highest: this hard-funk cut with ego on all cylinders, and The Blueprint album coming fast in the pipeline.

No diss-respect to Jay-Z’s laconic flow and easy rhyming, but the heavy lifting is handled by The Neptunes, and Pharrell Williams in particular. In 2001, before the horror of N*E*R*D’s second album, everything Williams touches is still turning gold and the descending, clipped riff and falsetto chorus are what makes ‘…Give It 2 Me’. So there.

Now, onto the Does Hip-Hop Have A Place At Glastonbury? debate…

Jokes. Junior took it easy, waiting for a good two or three minutes before clapping along to the springboard bass, bang on the rhythm. Come to think of it, I’m not sure she’s ever heard any of Noel Gallagher’s work – we can be pretty sure she won’t find much swing there.

[7] Rihanna featuring Jay-Z, ‘Umbrella’

Rihanna featuring Jay-Z, ‘Umbrella’

All this “featuring” lark really messes up your mp3 tags, don’t you think? On to more pressing concerns – here’s 2007’s big single, notwithstanding the Leona Lewis chicanery. A note: Leona’s single is quite good, if you can stomach that sort of thing. It’s not a patch on ‘Umbrella’, though, which picks up simple tools, fashions something vaguely unarresting but somehow ends up splendid. I was startled at the universal adoration poured its way, at least at first, but ended up shivering under Rihanna’s um-ber-rella-ella-ella-ay-ay-ay like everyone else.
 
Junior wasn’t particularly interested in yesterday’s gala play of this single, although she has been known to sing along with the simple title repeat – which has to be one of its chief strengths. Then there are the power chords, which give rock ballad muscle to an ostensibly r’n’b crooner. It’s a record with depth and everyman appeal, and somehow didn’t pall even into its third month at the top.
 
Only Wet Wet Wet have pulled off that trick before. Right, kids?
 
Right. Right, eagle-eyed viewers will have noticed we’re attempting two a day here. Expect the trend to continue, and the No.1 to be unveiled with breathless fanfare after a few festive beers on Friday afternoon.