1. Angélique Kidjo, “Tumba”
Grammy-winning Beninoise singer and activist Kidjo has the most powerful voice I have ever heard in concert, and sings in all four of her fluent languages. “Tumba,” off of her 2002 album “Black Ivory Soul,” is an animated dance with a killer beat.
2. Ella Fitzgerald, “(If You Can’t Sing It) You’ll Have to Swing It (Mr. Paganini)”
This rendition of Sam Coslow’s “Mr. Paganini” epitomizes, in my opinion, Fitzgerald’s career as a scat performer. Her jazz flows easily, with impeccable diction, in this comedic rhapsody.
3. Jamie Cullum, “Twentysomething”
This is one of my favorite Cullum originals, and not just because he claims to be “an expert on Shakespeare,” — although “that’s a hell of a lot.” I feel certain that many Lawrence graduates may relate to pianist/vocalist Cullum’s sardonic take on life after college.
4. Indigo Girls, “Shame on You”
Maybe it’s my inner hippie oozing out as a lifelong Madisonian, but there’s something undeniably beautiful about the locked-in harmonies, sometimes-fierce acoustic guitar playing and devoted fanbase of Amy Ray and Emily Sailers. I believe it is important, even if one does not care for their style, to respect the way they cheekily interweave political activism in their lyrics: “They say, ‘We be looking for illegal immigrants — can we check your car?/ I say, ‘You know it’s funny I think we were on the same boat back in 1694′.”
5. Tom Waits, “God’s Away on Business”
Sometimes I feel this way. In a low growl slightly creepier than his usual snarl, Waits effectively instill terror in my ears while detailing man’s self-destruction.
6. Adriano Celentano, “Prisencolinensinainciusol”
Celentano’s 1972 single regained some internet popularity a few years ago, and has been playing on my iTunes repeat ever since. The song’s lyrics, comprised completely of gibberish, are meant to mimic the sounds of American English. Indeed, a naive and inattentive listener may not even realize the difference.
7. Steely Dan, “FM (No Static At All)”
No iPod compilation is complete without a hit by the incomparable Donald Fagen and Walter Becker instructing us, “Kick off your high-heel sneakers, it’s party time.” This classic, originally composed for the 1978 film of the same name, comments on how FM radio, with “no static at all,” was a vast improvement on AM radio.