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Houston's Very Best Songs Ever

...otherwise known as the H-Town 20

15. "Guyana Punch"

The Judy's

Washarama

1981

The pride of Pearland, the Judy's carried the banner for Houston's punk/new-wave scene in the early '80s, and "Guyana Punch" was their showstopper. Even today, it sounds as snotty, fresh, danceable and eternal as ever. And austere — aside from backing vocals, the music is comprised of nothing more than bass, drums and singer David Bean's quintessentially bratty voice.

What's more, it remains hard to believe that a guy in his teens could write with such mature black humor and a well-developed sense of enigma. He took as his inspiration one of the more bizarre events of his childhood — the religiously inspired mass suicide of more than 1,000 followers of cult leader Jim Jones in Guyana — and turned it into a bleakly comic post-punk masterpiece. (Other grist for Bean's twisted mill included killers such as Gary Gilmore and the Son of Sam, girls, and TV.)

The Judy's almost made it. They did open for like-minded contemporaries Talking Heads, the B-52's and Devo, conquering Houston, Dallas and Austin along the way, and seemed singularly poised to break nationally. It didn't happen, in no small part through lack of interest from the band members themselves. The band wasn't joking when they named their label Wasted Talent. — J.N.L.

14. "Bootylicious"

Destiny's Child

Survivor

2001

Song titles become pop-culture catchphrases all the time — remember everyone walking like an Egyptian? — but precious few get bumped up to full-fledged dictionary definitions. Now, a reading from the Webster's New Millennium Dictionary of English, via Dictionary.com: "Bootylicious, adj. Sexually attractive, esp. in the buttocks." Cowritten by Beyoncé, Falonte Moore and Rob Fusari, with a generous assist from Stevie Nicks's 1981 hit "Edge of Seventeen" — Nicks appears in the video playing guitar — "Bootylicious" hit No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 in August 2001. Two years later, Soulwax's splicing the "Bootylicious" lyrics onto the "Smells Like Teen Spirit" music, for the brilliantly titled "Smells Like Booty," was one of the first widely circulated examples of the hybrid genre known as mash-ups. Beyoncé said the word meant "beautiful, bountiful and bounce-able" to her — not quite the same as Snoop Dogg's "the rhymes you were kickin' was quite bootylicious," meaning lame, on 1992's "Wit Dre Day." Even better, the trio's assertion "I don't think you're ready for this jelly" mirrors bygone vaginal blues terminology like Bessie Smith's "No One Can Bake a Sweet Jelly Roll Like Mine" — thus one of this decade's biggest hits owes its existence to the bawdy slang of a century ago. — C.G.

13. "Treat Her Right"

Roy Head & the Traits

Treat Me Right

1965

In 1965, the same year as Wilson Pickett's "In the Midnight Hour," the Supremes' "Back in My Arms Again" and James Brown's double shot of "Papa's Got a Brand New Bag" and "I Feel Good (I Got You)," Three Rivers native Roy Head and his San Marcos group the Traits wanted to tell you a story. A fast-paced, horn-charged tale about the proper way to treat a lady: "If you want a little lovin' you gotta start real slow, she'll love you tonight if you just treat her right." Gulf Coast R&B mogul Don Robey printed it up on his Back Beat label, and America loved it: "Treat Her Right" spent a solid month atop jukebox tracker Cash Box's R&B chart, the same span as Junior Walker & the All-Stars' "Shotgun" and only seven less days than the Four Tops' "I Can't Help Myself" and Fontella Bass's "Rescue Me." On the pop chart, only the Beatles' "Yesterday" kept it out of the top spot. Not bad, and as Head proved earlier this month at the Continental Club's Superstars of Soul revue, both he and "Treat Her Right" are as dynamic as ever, and may have even gained a step or two over the years. — C.G.

12. "Merry Christmas from the Family"

Robert Earl Keen

Gringo Honeymoon

1994

For the purposes of a Houston list, this one edges out the more famous "The Road Goes on Forever." There's something about Keen's droll description of Christmas that seems ineffably H-Town.

There's the incessant trips to the Stop N' Go (lyrics now need to be changed to Valero, but still...), the relatives, from chain-smoking new wife Kay who talks all about AA to electrically competent cousin David to Fran and Rita, the mystery kin from Harlingen, and the drinking — lots and lots of drinking, cut with plenty of football on TV. There's no snow save for the fake stuff on shelves at the Quik-Pak store, and nobody knows what to think of the Mexican boyfriend little sister brought to dinner until he sings "Feliz Navidad."

It's easily the greatest Texas Christmas song ever written, but it transcends the season and stands as a great slice-of-life depiction of suburban Texans handling stress as only they can — by stocking up at Spec's early and often and then filling in on accessories like celery and lemons as needed later. — J.N.L.

11. "Damn It Feels Good to Be a ­Gangsta"

Geto Boys

Uncut Dope

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