AS x Numbers (Vol. 2)

At the request of many families, I decided to carry on with our adventure through the wonderful world of counting with song titles, already aware that looking at numbers 21 to 40 would undoubtedly present a much bigger challenge than numbers 1 to 20 – if I had struggled at number 11, imagine number 22? I might as well take this opportunity to thank the suggestions received for this playlist, as this is indeed much harder than I thought. Well, in any case, funny you mention the “family” part – you didn’t, I did – because after my parents were so touched with their references on AS x Numbers (Vol. 1), I realized it might have seemed cold to not mention any of my brothers (I have two, in case you’re wondering). And so, mostly because Christmas is around the corner [Author’s note: and John wants his gifts], allow me to address that issue in AS x Numbers (Vol. 2), a playlist that my older brother would be particularly proud of, with elements of funk, soul and R&B alongside the occasional movie or videogame reference. Please note that I am deliberately leaving my younger brother out of this – his music taste is considerably better than mine, so he will require a more “sophisticated” piece than my older brother. Your time will come, little one!

Picking up at number 21, I must say things started off pretty easily, as 50 Cent’s iconic 21 Questions immediately popped to mind, but this time I had my guard up – I wasn’t going to get all pumped up after nailing the first one. I was going to take it step by step and carefully assess all options before making a decision. Well, that whole plan went south immediately in our second song, as number 22 proved to be the ultimate challenge. After ruminating on the subject for the vast majority of my week and using all available lifelines just like on Who Wants to be a Millionaire? – I phoned several friends and even asked for help from the audience (which is, unsurprisingly, pretty non-existent for a quarantined writer) – I embarked on an excursion to the dark side of the web to uncover some unknown gem about the number 22. Turns out there isn’t any. There really isn’t – and yes, I even considered Taylor Swift, Lily Allen and Bon Iver but… Taylor Swift, Lily Allen and Bon Iver. And so let’s bend the rules of math a bit [Author’s note: as a disclaimer to our American readers, I am allowed to do so because… well, because we are talking about a playlist and not a 240-year old democratic election process], and answer Bob Seger’s maths problem of 2+2=? like a 6-year old.

Thankfully the next songs proved to be much easier and provided the necessary motivation for the rest of my endeavour – yes, I truly considered quitting on number 22. With a little help from some blasts from the past, we quickly move from The Brothers Johnson groovy Strawberry Letter 23 [Author’s note: shout out to Shuggie Otis’ original but had to go with my brother’s suggestion, as Quincy Jones’ production really takes the tune to the next level] to Happy Monday’s iconic anthem Twenty Four Party People (1987). From there, a small stop in Chicago’s 25 or 6 to 4, before funking it up with CHIC’s 26 from 1980’s Real People, again in tribute to my brother’s endless love and praise for the American disco legends.

It was on number 27 where I hit the second dead end – for a number so deeply connected with the music scene, I was surprised of the lack of suitable options for our playlist. I know it might be a bit morbid, but do I need to remind you of the 27 Club, of which Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, Kurt Cobain or Amy Winehouse are all a part of? Yes, I would have expected the homages to number 27 to be pouring from the sky, but here we are. Once again, resorting to some creative approaches and the audience led me to Culture and their prophetic Two Sevens Clash, released in 1977 – when two sevens clash, get it?

Moving on, we – drastically! – change the laidback reggae mood to accommodate our next song, the hauntingly beautifully orchestrated main theme of 28 Days Later [Author’s note: it’s a must see, arguably the best zombie movie and a sharp political allegory] but we quickly follow that with the more uplifting 29 Palms, from Robert Plant’s 1993 Fate of Nations. From the iconic English lead singer and lyricist of Led Zeppelin we move to another rock and roll great, Mr. Chuck Berry and his Thirty Days, before turning to the soul and jazz vibe of Laville and his 2019 single Thirty One to infuse our playlist with some more funk – an instant El Mascarado tune. For number 32, Eric Clapton’s version of the iconic 32-20 Blues. There were indeed several other covers to choose from – Muddy Waters, New York Dolls and even Keith Richards, to name a few – but there is something about Clapton’s arrangement that raises the song to a new standard.

We follow the English rock and blues guitarist with a trip to my teenage years, back to 2008 and to the downtempo of Thievery Corporation’s 33 Degree – most of my fellow snobs are not particularly fans of them (nor of Fat Freddy’s Drop, the fools!), but just like that saying “Dripping water hollows out stone, not through force but through persistence”, I am hoping that one day I will get them there. Moving on, if in AS x Numbers (Vol. 1) we paid homage to one of El Mascarado’s favourite artists with Radiohead’s 2+2=5, this time around we will do so with Nine Inch Nail’s 34 Ghosts IV – maybe one day he will elucidate our dear readers on what he has against two of the greatest acts of the 20th century – before getting to The Flaming Lips and their fantastic Thirty-Five Thousand Feet of Despair, where we learn about the story of an insane pilot who hangs himself in a bathroom mid-flight. For number 36, we once again take some “creative” liberties and propose King Krule’s 363N63, from his eponymous debut EP. I could have gone for System of A Down or John Cooper Clarke, but there is something about the Southwark-born artist’s sound that just clicks with me – most likely the melancholy.

As we get closer to the end, we rock it up with Queens of the Stone Age’s 3’s & 7’s as our number 37 – now, I sure remember the long hours perfecting this track in Guitar Hero, so this song does have a special place in my heart. Additionally, it really is a fantastic rock belter, so definitely worth the listen. We then drop the pace considerably for our next song, Apollo Brown’s Thirty Eight, the intro song to his album of the same name – it is a small interlude basically to catch our breath and to pave the way for the absolutely hilarious 39 from Tenacious D. Now, if you have never heard any of Jack Black’s works, I urge you to really pay attention to the lyrics, as you will find yourself cracking up on your own… Or maybe it just happens to me. For our closer, Sublime and the iconic 40oz to Freedom from the album of the same name would have been my first pick, but may I please direct you to AS x Hedonism (Vol. 1), where that song already is part of the festivities. For this one, I also have to thank Audio Snobbery’s audience lifeline, who sent across U2’s 40as a suggestion, a great tune that will also get the approval of my father and brother. Yes, I am playing the family card once again – Christmas is right around the corner, remember?

Well, seems like once again we were able to put together a great playlist, with decidedly a much weaker pool of candidates than numbers 1-20. So the question now really is – how high can we go?