by Rich Bunnell
On Discord & Rhyme, I frequently refer to a song being “a good track two,” which may seem completely arbitrary in the era of streaming and shuffle. But I mean it every time, and I mean it even more as we get further into this epic project obsessing over the dying art of the album. Similar to how film editing is part of what turns a bunch of shots into a movie, sequencing is part of what turns a bunch of songs into an album. When a critic rolls out the cliche that an album is more than the sum of its parts, in a majority of cases it means that the album was really well sequenced.
Jay-Z’s 1996 debut Reasonable Doubt features a track titled “22 Two’s” in which the now-billionaire spits out a verse that, as advertised, contains 22 instances of the word to/too/two. I personally can’t rap and (thankfully) have no ambition to, but I have made a lot of mix CDs in my day, and “22 Two’s” looked like an excellent title for one. So in 2006, I put together a compilation featuring 22 of my favorite track 2’s, all lovingly removed from their proper context and placed unnaturally in a row.
I don’t agree with all of my choices anymore, and would definitely swap out Michael Jackson’s “Baby Be Mine” for Janet Jackson’s “Nasty” in 2019. But here’s a runthrough of some of the highlights from this series of also-rans, and my rationale for choosing them:
Motorhead, “Love Me Like a Reptile.” Track 2 on Ace of Spades, and the song that follows the legendary title track. Figuring out how to open a comp of songs that don’t open albums was a bit of a conundrum, so I went with a band whose songs could all conceivably come roaring out the gate, and it works.
Devo, “It’s Not Right.” Track 2 on Freedom of Choice. This was actually the song that got me thinking of second tracks in general. It sits between the much bigger hit singles “Girl U Want” and “Whip It,” almost begging impatient listeners to hit the “track forward” button. But I love this weird little song, an unwieldy suspension bridge in 6/4 time, ready to collapse at any moment as you make your way to the MTV hit.
A Tribe Called Quest, “Buggin’ Out.” Track 2 on The Low End Theory. Q-Tip was always the more visible half of the Tribe’s duo of MC’s, but for the second track on their jazz-influenced sophomore album, the group flips the script, and the late Phife Dawg’s opening cry of “Microphone check, one, two, what is this?” is one of the most memorable moments in the group’s canon.
The 6ths, “Aging Spinsters.” Track 2 on Wasps’ Nests, which we covered in episode 021! As we discussed in the episode, the conceit of the 6ths album is a series of indie-rock singers recording a fake tribute album to Magnetic Fields bandleader Stephin Merritt. Not one to be left off his own fake tribute album, Merritt himself sings the lovely, understated second track, almost as if he’s introducing the project.
Prince, “Sexy MF.” Track 2 on Love Symbol Album. After seven minutes of informing you that his name is Prince, the Purple One gets down to business with one of the New Power Generation’s hottest grooves.
XTC, “I’d Like That.” Track 2 on Apple Venus, Vol. 1. Released after a seven-year, self-imposed hiatus, the first Apple Venus album contains some of Andy Partridge’s most ambitious material. But after opening the album with the unconventional, anti-automobile Philip Glass tribute “River of Orchids,” Partridge sits you down by the campfire and treats you to a straightforward love song for fricking once.
Kate Bush, “There Goes a Tenner.” Track 2 on The Dreaming, which we covered in episode 023. The Dreaming always keeps you guessing about what interesting sounds you’re going to hear next. Following the cacophonous “Sat in Your Lap,” a song about trying to fit all of human knowledge in your puny skull, Kate Bush treats you to … an oompah-music heist caper? And the hijinks don’t let up from there.
Jay-Z, “Politics as Usual.” Track 2 on Reasonable Doubt. “22 Two’s” is actually track 7 on its parent album, so I figured I’d include the actual, excellent track 2, which samples the Stylistics’ “Hurry Up This Way Again” and is a chance to hear one of the most outsized figures in hip-hop in his mortal form.
Here’s the full mix, as a Spotify playlist. Most of the rest of the tracks just follow the rationale “It’s track 2 on an album, and I like it,” but sometimes that’s enough. And yes, I acknowledge that the list is 1) very dude-heavy, and, following from this, 2) contains no Kylie Minogue. All the reason to compile 22 2’s 2!