If you actually pay for an album nowadays (still a thing), you’ll normally have to make a choice between two options: the regular version or the deluxe. In theory, the deluxe edition should be better, but they’re normally just padded with extra songs that weren’t good enough to make the full album. Every now and then though, you’ll find a real gem, a song that’s as good, if not better, than those that did make the cut. Here’s a selection of bonus tracks from the last decade that deserved more recognition.
Beyoncé – Schoolin’ Life
Beyoncé’s 4 was packed with stellar songs – “Love On Top”, “Countdown”, “I Miss You”, just to name a few – and yet “Schoolin’ Life” would still have been one of the album’s highlights. Written and produced by The-Dream, the 80s-style tune channels Prince and features synths that worm their way into your head before setting up camp. This is Queen Bey at her most uplifting: “Who needs a degree when you’re schoolin’ life?”
The xx – Reconsider
Japanese fans of The xx were treated to “Reconsider” with their purchase of the band’s sophomore album, Coexist. Just like every other xx song, it’s just right for those twilight hours, though it’s set apart by a twinkling guitar melody that cuts through the ambience. It really makes you wonder why they didn’t, ahem, reconsider and include it on the album (I’m so sorry).
Lil Wayne – I’m Me
It feels like a lifetime ago now, but when Lil Wayne called himself the “Best Rapper Alive” way back on Tha Carter II, he wasn’t just stunting. His run from 2005-2008 was astonishing – both the consistency and sheer quantity of his output during that period may never be matched again. Few songs captured his manic energy and nimble flow as well as “I’m Me”, which was intended to open Tha Carter III before it unfortunately leaked.
Drake – 9AM in Dallas
Drake has an annoying habit of leaving great songs off his albums – fan favourites “Come Thru” and “The Motto” were both relegated to bonus status. Recorded too late to make physical copies of his debut album, “9AM in Dallas” was released as an iTunes bonus track and sees him firing back at his critics with some of his most aggressive bars to date.
Erykah Badu – Honey
Despite being released as the album’s first single, “Honey” didn’t quite fit the raw feel of Erykah Badu’s New Amerykah Part One, but it’s still an essential addition to any summer playlist. 9th Wonder’s playful throwback beat radiates warmth around Badu’s irresistible vocals.
Nas – Nasty
Nas is rightly revered as one of the best rappers of all time, but if there is a criticism, it’s that many of his post-Illmatic albums were plagued by sub-par production (to be fair, he realises this and has a pretty compelling explanation). This is what people want from Nas – vivid rhymes over tight production – and he sounds right at home on that dusty breakbeat. For a superior listening experience, delete “Summer On Smash” from your iTunes (just pretend that song never happened) and put this in its place on Life is Good.
Jessie Ware – Strangest Feeling
Jessie Ware’s “Devotion” was so good that it could afford to throw out a track like “Strangest Feeling” to the deluxe disc. “I’ve been having the strangest feeling, that you walked out on me one evening,” Ware ponders, as her spellbinding voice floats over skittering drums, woozy synths and a rumbling bassline. With haunting lyrics and a more subdued atmosphere than most of her material, it highlights just how versatile she is.
Chief Keef – Citgo
Tucked away on the expanded version of Chief Keef’s unforgiving Finally Rich, “Citgo” proves that beauty really can be found anywhere. According to legend, Keef searched “finally rich type beat” on YouTube and came across the song’s ethereal instrumental. It’s utterly captivating, ebbing and flowing, threatening to boil over before simmering down, whilst his lo-fi mumbles add a surreal charm. His legal issues and violent content have attracted a lot of criticism, but whenever I hit play on “Citgo” all of my troubles immediately fade away, so he’s alright with me.
Alicia Keys – If I Ain’t Got You (Remix) feat. Usher
The original version of “If I Ain’t Got You” is an incredible song, but it somehow feels redundant after Usher joins Alicia Keys on this remix, which was added to various international editions of her second album. The duo trade verses and each deliver a rendition of the chorus, then it becomes truly transcendent in the last minute when they dive in to sing the chorus together. Breathtakingly perfect.