Nas & Damian Marley – “Count Your Blessings” – (2010)

Nas & Damian Marley’s 2010 collaborative album is pretty cool. And it’s pretty good – and I’ve never (and still am not) a fan of Nas – at all. But Damian Marley has the ultimate “rasta voice” and can make anything sound awesome. But in listening to the entire album, I came across this track and fell in love with it. It’s hands-down the finest effort on the entire CD. It’s a song with a message but it’s not overbearing. This was one of my absolute favorite songs to blare while I was in the pool last summer.

Don Omar – “Taboo” – (2010)

I love this song. “Lambada” is a song we’ll talk about next week in more detail, but needless to say this song borrows heavily from it. Even the video has elements of the “Lambada” video. “Lambada” itself was an unofficial (read: illegal) cover of an even older song but this song is much similar in nature to “Lambada” than the originator of this catchy, catchy tune. Add in the Latin/reggaeton vocals and a slightly up-tempo beat and you have the recipe for a winner. Throw in a gorgeous, tropical music video that will play in your head whenever you hear it and you have a killer summer song.

Shakira feat. Pitbull – “Rabiosa” – (2010)

Shakira songs always seem to have a fun feel to them. But that’s probably due in part to her being Latin. The beats help too. “Rabiosa” was the third single from Sale el Sol. The Spanish version (there’s always a Spanish version) features Dominican rapper El Cata and the English version features Pitbull, who also speaks Spanish (both rappers are unnecessary on this song). The combination of Shakira’s Spanish (there are still Spanish vocals in the English-language version) and the horn section – along with the beat – make this a perfect summer song. Also, the video rocks if you’ve ever wanted to see Shakira dance on a pole. And I love when she says “ratata.”

Michael Franti & Spearhead – “The Sound of Sunshine” – (2010)

Michael Franti had a huge hit in 2008/2009 and this was the follow-up single to that hit. While it didn’t match it in terms of success (or pure catchiness), it’s still good and managed to chart in the U.S. and a few European countries (and Japan). Michael Franti’s songs all have some kind of reggae roots in them, but this one is more of a pop rock track. The other thing I like about his music is that it is always positive. This is just an upbeat, happy song that is perfect for summer. It’s really hard to dislike.

Picco – “Venga” – (2010)

What do I know about Picco? Not much. He’s from Germany. And this song is in Spanish – and it’s really catchy. There’s a mariachi band in the music video – how much more German can you get? I like it for the house beat, the trumpet and the Spanish vocals. What is it about a song with a Latin leaning that makes it so much more summery or tropical? Am I the only one who thinks this way?

Don Omar feat. Lucenzo – “Danza Kuduro” – (2010)

I know it’s only April, but it’s warming up and summer is coming. A couple of things about the next five weeks: I’ll be posting five songs a week – upbeat, “summery” songs. This was essentially my pool playlist for last summer. Yeah, I’m calling it “Songs for Summer 2013” but it basically consists of songs that have come out in the past few years that are just great to listen to while lounging around or in a pool or ocean. This is the first of two songs from Don Omar on this mini-countdown. It’s Spanish and Portuguese and Don Omar is primarily a reggaeton performer. And “kuduro” is an Angolan form of dance.

Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers – “Jefferson Jericho Blues” – (2010)

Mojo was the first studio album by Tom Petty with The Heartbreakers since 2002. It is also the first album since 1981 to feature the band’s original bassist on every track. The album isn’t along the lines of previous Petty albums, as it is primarily blues-based. This is the first track on the album and it’s a good one. People may say Petty peaked in the 80s or 90s – but songs like this show he is a true rocker, capable of producing solid rock tracks – good music – and will hopefully continue to do so for many years to come.

William Naraine – “If I Could Fall” – (2010)

William Naraine was the lead singer of the Italian Eurodance group called Double You, which formed in 1985. The group hasn’t released an album since 1998. I guess that makes them “dormant.” Anyway, Naraine ventured out on his own and this was a single released near the end of 2010/beginning of 2011. I happen to really like it. There are a lot of upbeat dance tracks, but few have quality vocals. This does. And, if you watch the video, he kind of looks like Jeff Goldblum with wild-ass hair. This is easily one of my favorite dance tracks of the past few years.

Avicii & Sebastien Drums – “My Feelings For You” – (2010)

The awesome video-game themed music video (more of a lyrics video) backs up this upbeat catchy dance song. This song is actually an updated (and infinitely better) version of a song with the same title by Cassius made back in 1999 (although it sounds much older). The “purists” that always come out of the woodwork to support abandoned artists when their songs are remade will no doubt disagree. The song was a big hit across Europe. And Avicii and Sebastien Drums are two different people. It’s not like a backup band or anything.

Ellie Goulding – “Lights” – (2010)

“Lights” was released as a single in March of 2011 from Ellie’s debut album (released about a year prior). The music is very in-line with what is popular today – a sort of electronica-pop mix (but with a distinct British feel). As would be expected from a song that sounds like this, it charted better in the U.K. than it did in the U.S. – but it’s catchy and very well done. Her voice is infectious and the music encourages you to sing along.

Scouting for Girls – “This Ain’t a Love Song” – (2010)

And the final track this week from the Songs-That-Were-Big-In-The-U.K.-But-Never-Appeared-On-U.S.-Radio file is this. This was Scouting for Girls’ first #1 in the U.K. and I think I can safely say they’ve never been played on American radio. It’s a fine song… something that could’ve been written in the 90s (that is a huge compliment). It’s not quite Oasis as there is not enough infighting in the band. I wish there were more songs like this topping the charts – in the U.K., U.S. or anywhere. It’s a great change of pace from the never ending stream of hip-hop.

Roll Deep feat. Jodie Connor – “Good Times” – (2010)

Grime is a type of music that I can best describe as garage band meets hip-hop. It’s like garage hip-hop. Roll Deep consists of a handful (okay, more than a handful) or members, none of whom are more famous on their own. Dizzee Rascal was in the group at its beginning and this song kind of sounds like he’s still there. This was a #1 single in the U.K. and made no waves in the U.S. It’s a fun song.

Brandon Flowers – “Crossfire” – (2010)

Brandon Flowers, the lead singer of The Killers, released his debut solo album in 2010. The first time I heard this song was on DeeJay TV in La Spezia, Italy. And it took us a few minutes to figure out that he was, in fact, the lead singer of The Killers (the song, which is really good, sounds like something from The Killers, but a little more mellow). What took longer to figure out – actually I still haven’t figured it out – was why Charlize Theron was in the music video. Oh, well… eye candy.

Lady Gaga – “Alejandro” – (2009)

I know, I know, “Two Lady Gaga songs in a row? Really?” Yeah, this is it, I promise. “Alejandro” was released as a single in late May of 2010. Where I live, songs make the radio about 3 months after they do everywhere else, so I never got to hear this before I left the continent. I remember seeing the video on DeeJay TV in Venice and thought it was catchy. So now, whenever I hear it, I think of sitting in a restaurant at about midnight in Venice. The owner was nice enough to still be open for a handful of Americans who were strolling around in the mind-boggling heat and humidity after 11:30 at night looking for dinner. It was the follow-up single to “Bad Romance” and it is better than that song. “Ale-Ale-Alejandro…”

N*E*R*D feat. Nelly Furtado – “Hot-N-Fun” – (2010)

While visiting Cinque Terre, we stayed in nearby La Spezia (just south of Riomaggiore). Each morning while waiting for each other to get ready so we could walk across the street to the train station from our hotel, we’d flip on the TV. There was one channel we could kind of understand and that was DeeJay TV (the station we saw Lady Gaga on in Venice). I remember seeing the video for this song and absolutely falling in love with the song. Still, a year later, I listen to the song at least weekly. Almost every time I hear it I think back to La Spezia and wish so hard that I was still there.

Jack Johnson – “You and Your Heart” – (2010)

I didn’t really know what to expect from the radio stations in Italy. I didn’t get a feel for it in Venice (I saw a Lady Gaga music video on TV, “Alejandro,” I think). We visited Cinque Terre, the national park that consists of 5 picturesque towns on the Italian Riviera (I highly recommend it). Anyway, our first full day there, we got off the train and walked through the tunnel into Riomaggiore (the southernmost of the 5 towns). When we walked out of tunnel we were in the upper part of the town and this song was blaring from a large patio area that overlooks the lower part of town. There was an unattended tent from a local radio station (whose name and call letters I forget) and it was playing this song. I found it kind of odd that this is what they were listening to, but it is on the coast and Jack Johnson is definitely coastal music.

Shakira feat. Dizzee Rascal – “Loca” – (2010)

“Waka Waka” may have been the song of the summer from a European perspective, but Shakira wasn’t ready to call it a year. I know “Loca” wasn’t technically released until September, a month after I returned, but the music video was shot in Barcelona. There are two versions of this, the English and Spanish version. The Spanish version features El Cata doing the rap, the English has Dizzee Rascal. This is both of the performers’ second song on this list and it has exhausted my knowledge of Dizzee Rascal’s discography. “Loca” is a good summer song and the video showcases the beach in Barcelona, which Discovery Channel ranked as the third best beach in the world. Maybe, but it’s way crowded.

Yolanda Be Cool & DCUP – “We No Speak Americano” – (2010)

This week was spent in Belgium with a night in Amsterdam. I don’t know what sort of “Belgian music” I was supposed to have heard, but I didn’t really hear anything. For that sake, I didn’t really hear anything music-wise in Amsterdam either. But what I imagine music in Amsterdam to sound like is house music. Techno. This was one of the biggest songs of 2010 – in Europe especially. It was a #1 hit in both Belgium and the Netherlands – as well as most of the rest of Europe (and South Korea). This song is based on Renato Carosone’s 1956 song “Tu vuo fa l’americano,” which is pretty good in its own right, but it just doesn’t have that house feel that you’d normally expect from a song from the 1950s. Oh, and as it turns out, people in both the Netherlands and Belgium do speak Americano – and quite well.

Florence & the Machine feat. Dizzee Rascal – “You Got the Dirtee Love” – (2010)

Florence & the Machine pretty much rock as is. At the 2010 BRIT Awards, they performed their song “You Got the Love” live but it featured Dizzee Rascal’s song “Dirtee Cash” intertwined with theirs. This version of the song was only performed a few other times but it did sell over 250,000 copies and hit #2 on the U.K. charts. Florence Welch can really belt out lyrics – Dolores O’Riordan-style. The mash-up between these two is pretty good – Dizzee Rascal can spit a rap like few others. He had quite the summer as he will be featured on this European countdown-type thing once more in a few weeks.

Example – “Won’t Go Quietly” – (2010)

Example is a British rapper – but he doesn’t look like a rapper. He kind of reminds me of Screech. The song is a catchy, electronica-based pop song with decipherable lyrics – all with a European-bent. For whatever reason, this song probably wouldn’t have had much – if any – success in America (it didn’t – it probably wasn’t released in the U.S.) but I see no reason why not. When sung, the lyrics don’t have any sort of accent – something that seems to turn off American listeners. Everything about it says “this is going to get stuck in your head.” But whatever, I don’t get paid if it does well in America. And I like having some catchy songs to introduce to people that they haven’t heard.

Shakira feat. Freshlyground – “Waka Waka (This Time for Africa)” – (2010)

“Waka Waka” was the theme for the 2010 World Cup, which was being held in South Africa while I was in Europe – so it was way more intense than had I been in North America, which I’m sure was just thrilled with it. The popularity of this song was also quite European – it charted Top 40 in the U.S. but was a #1 in almost every European country and it stayed there for a majority of the summer. Every time I hear this song I picture Lionel Messi sprinting down the field in his white and blue Argentina jersey or the yellows and greens of all the Brazilian flags waving in the stands. This song kind of defines last summer, from a European perspective anyway. It’s very catchy and every time you hear it just imagine everyone around you blowing a vuvuzela.

Plan B – “She Said” – (2010)

Seemingly every Tube station in London had giant posters for The Defamation of Strickland Banks – the second album from London-based rapper Plan B – the entire time I was in London. The song sounds like it’s being sung by two different people but it’s not and when I first saw the music video I was like “Whoa, that is not what I was expecting him to look like. I remember catching the video a few times on TV, at least once in the U.K. and again in Italy. The song is just plain good. Also, recently I watched the movie Harry Brown with Michael Caine and Plan B (or Ben Drew) played the tough punk kid. He was very convincing in that role.

Professor Green feat. Ed Drewett – “I Need You Tonight” – (2010)

Generally speaking, I really don’t like rappers taking pop songs from the past and just rapping over them. It’s not original. Write your own music. That said, I love this song. That has a lot to do with INXS being able to write incredibly catchy hooks and some to do with the really cool accented rapping from Professor Green. I found this song on the U.K. singles chart before I left for Europe and I found myself listening to it on the train to London. It’s quite British – I don’t think the song has ever been played on American radio but it was a top 5 in the U.K.