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The Best Songs of 2013 (So Far)

28. Kelis "Jerk Ribs"

Album: FOOD
Producer: Dave Sitek
Label: Federal Prism

This is the song Solange wishes she'd come up with. There's an effortless hipness to Kelis' performance, as if she simply can't help but create cooler music than her peers and contemporaries. Crafted by TV on the Radio's Dave Sitek, "Jerk Ribs" manages an unusual trick of feeling simultaneously funky and stiff, a lineage that is as much Talking Heads as it is the obvious funk band reference points the tight horn section might otherwise recall.

The overall feel is late-80s balearic pastiche, a strain of Fela Kuti, Paul Simon, and Conscious of my Conscience-era Womack & Womack. But reducing this track to the production tics would be as shortsighted as saying Kelis was a product of the Neptunes, or that Amy Winehouse was a Motown revivalist; as on all her tracks (aside from perhaps "Milkshake," where she and the Neptunes were at a parity), it is Kelis' vocal personality that dominates the proceedings. That her confident, powerful performance can somehow feel breezy and nonchalant is a tribute to her essential Kelis-ness. —David Drake

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