Loving Usher's "Yeah": those squealing rave-crunk synths from Lil' Jon's "Get Low" arranged into an eerie r&b jam pivoting around a magical flute sample (!) while Usher spreads his smoove vocals over the groove like honey. Lil Jon's presence, apart from the production, is limited to his ubiquitous shouts of "YEAH!", but this is as much his track as Usher's. Like Bonecrusher's remix of Sizzla's "Solid As A Rock", "Yeah" highlights crunk's appeals by setting them up againt a smoother and more traditional style, such that the crunk hovers malevolently around the edges of the song like an impending storm (I luv luv luv grime remixes of female r&b tunes for the same reason, but I'll talk more about that in a forthcoming Grime '03 round-up, assuming Luka Heronbone doesn't smash my face in first).
Actually maybe I'm just more generally into the increasingly pop-focused nature of crunk generally. I'll come clean and admit that I tend to find the harsher crunk a bit heavy going and just... unrelentingly shrill and blaring in a way I can appreciate but which buzzes unpleasantly in my ears. When I listen to the Banner album I prefer the mid-tempo tracks like "So Trill" or "Still Pimpin" to the all-out assault of "Might Getcha" or "What It Do" (though "Fuck 'Em" is of course fucking awesome). So it's great to hear Banner's "The Christmas Song" - possibly this year's second best christmas song after Elephant Man's "Badman Holiday" - all spectral crystalline synth runs and carollic choruses, this spooky record sounds simultaneously ancient and totally the new
thing - a gorgeous soundclash of muck 'n' magic.