I remember reading, around the time that Ocean’s Eleven came out, David Holmes talk about his inclusion of the Elvis song “A Little Less Conversation” on the soundtrack, and his talking about how perfect the song was, how bizarrely in tune with contemporary tastes it seemed despite being recorded almost forty years earlier; he said something along the lines of “All you have to do is add a breakbeat and you have a ready-made hit waiting to happen” (Something that Junkie XL proved a year or so later, doing pretty much just that and having a number one hit). The same is true, I’ve always thought, of Nina Simone’s “Some Say,” which has surprisingly propulsive horns and an amazingly tight rhythm section – Simone may be a jazz singer, but there was a period in the late ’60s when she folded in both pop and R&B sensibilities to create songs like this, which could fit into any one of those three genres – and an opening that just begs to be sampled and repurposed somewhere.
There’s so much about this song that I adore – Simone’s performance is wonderfully relaxed yet powerful at the same time, and the lyrics are weirdly Summer of Love-ish with a smirk (The timing works; this song appeared on the impossibly good Silk and Soul album, in 1967) – but it’s really about the horn section and the drums for me, if I’m honest; just listen to the way the beat simultaneously is relentless and lazy, almost shuffling over itself, or the bassline the horns provide at 0:27. This song is something that just feels irresistible, the sound of someone enjoying what pop music was turning into at the time (Am I the only person who hears Revolver by the Beatles in this, in places?) and wanting to throw her own ideas into the mix. It’s impossible for me to hear this song and not want to sing along, or at least smile.