[14] Keri Hilson featuring Kanye West & Ne-Yo, ‘Knock You Down’

Nobody told me that you become more susceptible to glossy R&B with age; I’ve had to find out for myself. It was shocking at first, thinking “This Ne-Yo album knocks most modern pop into a cocked hat/Jordin Sparks sounds awesome on ‘No Air’/Everything Beyoncé does is – how do you say it? – The Bomb/Christ, I like more than one Leona Lewis song” etc, but now I wear my bling on my sleeve. Well, I’ve got a 10 quid Casio watch.

Although blessed with a silky, appealing voice, Keri Hilson doesn’t have the charisma to pull off the hits, so she gets in the smartest talent bankrolling can buy. Seem to remember Kanye being a smart talent, anyway. 808s & Heartbreak sounded superb on first listen, then turned out to be a moany nothing; neither was I sold on ‘Supernova’, but if we’re talking charisma, Mr Hudson hasn’t even come within a universe of an ounce of it. Kanye’s rap on ‘Knock You Down’ is a mess – the Michael Jackson gag not in the same league as the same on ‘Slow Jamz’ – so it’s left to Ne-Yo to give the song some class. His disbelief at wanting to spend more time with the missus than his mates – “I used to be commander-in-chief of my pimp ship flying high!” – is enough to carry the track alone, but credit to Hilson for some fine cracked vocals as this soppy song peaks.

“This is a lady singing,” Junior points out, puzzled because she thinks Keri is a boy’s name. Maybe if you’re a rotten Chelsea player. She then confirms that it looks like a lady on the cover, so it’s a relief for Keri even as the boys threaten to subsume her. Not that you can tell Junior anything – when I inform her Ne-Yo’s on the mic, she says “I knew that”, and it’s possible she did, what with the bounder being everywhere these past few years. His touch is magic enough, and Junior demands a repeat play.

What? This isn’t ‘Miss Independent’?

[15] Ne-Yo, ‘Closer’

Ne-Yo

Hats in pop. It’s not fashion; these stars are bald as a cue ball. Pete Doherty, Captain Sensible, Linda Perry from 4 Non Blondes, Noddy Holder – all 100% cooters. In the comforting warmth of the studio, while penning and producing songs for the likes of Britney Spears, Paula Abdul, Rihanna and Beyoncé (the peerless ‘Irreplaceable’), Ne-Yo can let his chrome dome run free. But get him up on stage, and those spotlights aren’t going to stand for it.

Sorry, the song: the first real heavyweight of the countdown, a shining example of black American music’s bold ambition, ‘Closer’ is an r’n’b tune in pumping dancefloor clothing. It oozes confidence even as Ne-Yo bemoans his powerlessness.

This was one for the iPod on the bus, as Junior sat and listened carefully. I tapped her on the shoulder a minute or so in and asked if she knew what the song was: “Closer,” was the matter-of-fact reply – and I don’t think I’ve ever played it to her before. She announced it was “dancey”, which I suppose would please the lad.