Not Necessarily "The Best" Of 2010. The criteria used for this list was pretty simple: the songs released in 2010 (or that came to my knowledge in 2010) that I played the most on my DJ sets during 2010.
Two main factors influenced this selection: my personal taste in music, of course, but also and more importantly the often-questionable taste of the dancers that attend the parties I play at (and as a mercenary DJ I play all sorts of events, from underground to mainstream, from big fancy clubs to house parties and weddings).
1.- Yolanda Be Cool – “Afro Nuts”: This one came out in 2009 but I didn’t find out about it until New Years Eve. Early that day I was looking for a great new song to play that night, right after midnight, and I ran into this excellent joint. I played it right after people came back to the dance-floor, after the fireworks (the party was on a boat), and it was an instant hit. So, technically it was the first song I played in 2010, and in the future, whenever I look back to this year, this song will be the first one to pop up in my memory, for sure. It has a great beat, an even better funky break and then that sped-up reggaetón sample that makes it recognizable for the mainstream crowd, so it’s a total crowd pleaser that works with almost everybody, gringos, Latinos, house fans, top-40 radio listeners, etc. This song became like some sort of secret weapon in my play-list arsenal during 2010, especially because it never crossed over completely as a mainstream hit (unlike the totally over-played summer hit “We No Speak Americano” by the same artist), so I felt that I was the only DJ in town playing it. The remix by Zizek’s Douster was also included on my Chorisapiens megamix.
2.- Juana Posse – “Cumbia Juana”: Nü-cumbia from Colombia gone Euro-dance-pop. I got turned into this hidden gem by a Colombian friend of mine early in 2010, and I spent a couple of days looking for the MP3 everywhere with no luck until I actually found the singer on Facebook, begged her for a bootleg and she was more than happy to share it with me. Not suited for the traditional cumbia dancers or the alternative nü-cumbia hipster crowd, but the mainstream cheesy crowd can instantly connect with this and they even get hooked and sing-along as if they knew it from the radio, even if they’ve never heard it before. It has some sort of magical effect like that—no matter how much you hate pop commercial music, this is so catchy that you can’t help it.
3.- Los Rakas – “Abrazame” (Uproot Andy Remix): I have to confess I was a little resistant to this one at first. I mean, the lyrics are a total corny cliché and the music is borrowed from a dancehall riddim. I didn’t give it a chance until I actually downloaded it, listened to it on my headphones once, and two days later I still had the song stuck in my head. It’s catchy as hell and radio-friendly enough to be played with guaranteed good reception at mainstream clubs, and the Uproot Andy twist makes it hipster-friendly too, so you can totally blend it into a nü-cumbia set at an underground party. Besides, they're from around the way, part of the video was shot a couple of blocks away from my old house and it has that random Carnaval intro with somebody singing Daniela Mercury's classic "Swing Da Cor" that's totally nonsense but it makes me laugh and reminisce of the early '90s when that was the hit (I bet you anything the rappers from Los Rakas didn't even know that song).
4.- Frente Cumbiero – “Ananas Tornillo”: Hands down the best single of the year. Released on 7” vinyl by Names You Can Trust, I knew this was going to be an instant hit since the first time I played it, and I was right. It sounds like old-school organic roots cumbia of the Afrosound kind, but it’s all sample-based and DJ friendly, so it can please all cumbia listeners, from the hardcore Colombians, to the Mexican sonideros to the digital cumbia crowd. It doesn’t have lyrics or a catchy chorus so I wouldn’t dare playing it for the mainstream crowd and it doesn’t have any recognizable funky or hip-hop infusion to crossover to the gringo audience, but any true cumbia lover will instantly fall in love with this. My only criticism is that it doesn’t have any break-down where you can blend in another song half-way through, it goes way up there on the second bar and it doesn’t take a second to rest until the end, so you are kinda forced to play the whole thing and I’m known for doing fast mixes and almost never play a whole song in my sets—I guess this one deserves to be the one exception. I’ll forever cherish this record along my most precious pieces on my collection.
5.- Don Omar Feat. Lucenzo – “Danza Kuduro”: Two years ago we were all going nuts for Angolan kuduro which we discovered thanks to M.I.A. and Buraka Som Sistema. Honestly, I never imagined that one day it was gonna cross-over to the top-40 radio market, but it did. Still, I very much doubt that Don Omar’s hit will spark the curiosity of more than 1% of his listeners to go out and try to find out what kuduro is. And anyway, besides the song’s name, it doesn’t even sound like real kuduro at all, so it’s not like all of a sudden cheesy mainstream DJs will start mixing kuduro in their sets. I used to hate Don Omar almost as much as I hate Daddy Yankee, but since this song came out, I have a little more respect for him. Maybe it’s because he lost weight and got rid of those ghetto-ass cornrows.
6.- Sabo & Cassady – “La Curura”: SF-based Bersa Discos hit a homerun with their sixth release by New York’s DJ Sabo. Every track on that EP is a guaranteed dance-floor packer, but it’s “La Curura” the one I played the most throughout 2010. At just about 100 BPM it’s easy to mix with pretty much anything, hip-hop, reggaetón, dancehall, cumbia, etc. It’s great for live mash-ups and creative blends and it also works as a transition cut to move from the lower BPM cumbias towards the funkier upbeat stuff. It doesn’t have mainstream appeal like other tracks on this record (“La Negra Chula” and “Chillando Goma”) but it works great with the traditional cumbia crowd and the curious gringos.
7.- La Cumbia De Patricio Cobarde – “Cumbia Imperial”: Another of my secret weapons always in hand during my 2010 sets. It’s lo-fi recording by a Chilean punk-cumbia band, in the sense of Chico Trujillo (a style that’s a lot more popular in Chile than the digital DJ-oriented nü-cumbias from neighbor Argentina) covering with tongue-in-cheek sense of humor Star Wars “Imperial March,” priceless! It’s not necessarily a dance track, but it still makes it into this list because I never wasted a chance to throw it in, even if only as a joke, in between my cumbia sets. Everybody loves it, especially the curious gringos who recognize the tune right away and start going crazy on the dance-floor.
8.- DJ Negro – “Pa Pa Pa Panamericano”: Like everybody else, I was really pissed off when I found out Miami’s biggest douchebag had done a version of Yolanda Be Cool’s “We No Speak Americano” and ruined a great track, morphing it into the most annoyingly overplayed summer hit since “Calabria.” But as a consolation prize I got this cumbia remix of the original song by Argentina’s biggest nü-cumbia unsung hero, DJ Negro, who managed to successfully slow down the beat to 90 BPM making it into a sonidero guaracha of sorts that can appeal to all crowds, from the most mainstream Pitbull-listeners to the underground heads. Bersa Discos spent all year promising a new DJ Negro release. I’m still waiting.
9.- Shakira – “Waka Waka”: You can hate all you want, but I still give some props to Shakira. Yes, she’s a total sell-out who got co-opted by the American Mainstream and lost all Latino cred since she dyed blonde. But still, she’s hot (however, if she keeps on losing weight she’ll lose me as a supporting fan too), she’s cute, she’s sexy, and she can dance. Maybe she doesn’t write good songs with witty lyrics anymore, as she used to back in the 90’s, but she still has the capability of laughing at herself and I respect her for that. She invited Calle 13’s Residente to rap on one of her latest album’s tracks and he totally disses her, telling her, to her face what we all Latinos have been saying since 2001: that she was better and hotter when she was a brunette and had more meat on her bones. Anyway, I don’t care at all about soccer and the world-cup so I wouldn’t normally include a song of this kind on my sets but I love African music and this one, even though it’s an absolute rip-off, provided me with a rare opportunity for playing something a lil’ more Afro at the mainstream Latino parties and weddings, so I thank Shakira for it.
10.- Sacassaia – “El Culebrón”: I play lots of Brazilian music on my DJ sets but they almost never make it into these end-of-the year lists because I tend to find out about them a bit too late. Brazilian dance-floor hits get to me with delay of a year or more, like “Rap Das Armas” that I played at almost every event in 2010, but it’s from (at least) early ‘09. “El Culebrón” is an odd gem because it’s not traditionally Brazilian, it’s a cumbia, and it’s sing in Spanish, or more accurately portuñol. Sacassaia was one of my propitious discoveries of the year and that song in particular made it to my Barbarie megamix, and since then I’ve been playing it in many of my sets, although never for the mainstream crowd, and not even on my monthly Brazilian nights (where I play more batucada, axé and baile funk). But the cumbia crowd was very receptive to this one. I love the lyrics' ironic sense of humor and the fact that a Brazilian song reminds me of Argentina’s Fauna just makes me happy.
(BONUS TRACK) 11.- Juan Magan – “Verano Azul”: When I first heard this on the radio I was like, “damn, just what we needed, another wannabe Pitbull doing Spanglish crap-rap summer hits.” But there was something I couldn’t quite point my finger at, that attracted me to this song and made it get stuck in my head for days. It wasn’t until I found out that Magan was from Spain and the song was called “Verano Azul” that it clicked: the beat was based on the theme song of a Spanish TV show every kid from my generation used to watch back in the early 80’s. Now the song is still hella wack, from a hip-hopper p.o.v. and I’ve only played it once in my set (so far), by request (that’s why it’s offered as a bonus track), but just the idea of sampling that obscure show (obscure for 90% of the listeners of this type of music, who were not born when the show aired) is pure genius.