This isn’t the first UK garage list we’ve wrote and it certainly won’t be the last, we can promise you that. We’ve given you the best UKG tunes from the late-90s, the best tracks from ’95 to ’05 and the best speed garage tunes released in ’97 and ’98.
As garage is a genre with vocal tunes aplenty, we thought it’d be a treat to put together a list of those with uplifting, mood-enhancing attributes for when you need a pick-me-up.
Below you’ll find tracks by the likes of Roy Davis Jr, MJ Cole, Dreem Team, Kele Le Roc and more. Enjoy.
M-DUBS ‘BUMP ‘N’ GRIND’
UKG producers have a knack of making tunes licked with infectious vocals that just won’t leave your head, and M-Dubs’ ‘Bump ‘N’ Grind’ is one of the biggest offenders. Cries of ‘Baby are you up for this?’, ‘Me ready for the bump ‘n’ grind’, and ‘I am feeling hot tonight’ linger all day long after one listen, making it one of the catchiest UKG cuts ever. Skream dropping it when he played our Alter Ego series at the Orbit in London was a lovely moment to savour.
JHELISA ‘FRIENDLY PRESSURE’ (SUNSHIP’S INTO THE SUNSHINE MIX)
There’s such a bulky trove of bubbly UKG tunes, it’s really no surprise that champagne was the drink of choice at garage raves back in the day. Sunship’s Into The Sunshine Mix of Jhelisa’s 1995 hit ticks all the joyous, mood-lifting boxes, combining playful melodies with Jhelisa’s syrupy-smooth vocals, chopped and looped like a gooden, obviously.
BASEMENT JAXX ‘RED ALERT’ (STEVE GURLEY MIX)
Basement Jaxx’s ‘Red Alert’ is such a banger in itself, Steve Gurley would’ve been forgiven if he wanted to save face through the risk of not living up to the original with his remix. You’d be silly to think the d’n’b and garage specialist would do anything other than deliver a ribbon-wrapped 2-step package, though, and that’s exactly what he did.
TJ CASES FEAT. KAT BLU ‘DO IT AGAIN’
TJ Cases has a whole load of UKG tunes to choose from, but the Kat Blu-featuring ‘Do It Again’ is the perfect match for uplifting 2-step. Just listen to Kat Blu’s vocals. They’re impossible not to recite, combined with a booming bassline that’s ripe’n’ready for dancefloor action.
KRISTINE BLOND ‘LOVE SHY’ (TUFF JAM VOCAL MIX)
Singalong garage with that loose 2-step swing. You can’t beat it. The Tuff Jam Vocal Mix of Kristine Blond’s ’98 track is a bass-bouncing ball of upbeat vibes, with those cries of ‘hey, hey, hey, hey, hey’ so catchy you’ll even hear the most aggy of ravers reciting them.
TJR ‘JUST GETS BETTER’ FEAT. XAVIER (ORIGINAL DUB)
‘Just gets better with time,’ this one goes, and it’s right. The Original Dub of TJR (an alias of Karl ‘Tuff Enuff’ Brown and Matt ‘Jam’ Lamont) and Xavier’s ’97 cut is a timeless slice of UKG, bursting with bright, springy organs and loop-da-loop vocals dripping with soul. Gets me every time.
WOOKIE ‘BATTLE’ FEAT. LAIN
The lyrical content of ‘Battle’ speaks for itself when it comes to its inclusion in this list. Wookie’s track quickly became a classic upon its release in 2000, that deep, rebounding bassline the foundation for Lain’s lyrics about faith and spirit being the key to getting through trying times. If you’re feeling shitty, get this one on for an uplifting UKG pep talk.
AMIRA ‘MY DESIRE’ (DREAM TEEM REMIX)
‘It’s my desiiiiiiiiire’. Yep, that one. Amira’s belting vocals are unforgettable in Dream Team’s playful 2-step remix. It’s littered with ‘Ooooh’ and ‘Mmmm’ flavour, giving it that soulful kick, but it’s the chorus that really brings the heat. Cheeky sax drops and xylophone melodies just add to the classy vibes.
GERIDEAU ‘MASQUERADE’ (MJ COLE VOCAL)
You might be cursing saying we’re mad for including an MJ Cole cut that isn’t ‘Sincere’ or ‘Crazy Love’, but his Vocal Mix of Gerideau’s ‘Masquerade’ comes first in terms of enhancing the serotonin levels. Gerideau has one of those voices that reels you in and doesn’t let you go and, well, MJ Cole’s just MJ Cole.
BINI & MARTINI ‘HAPPINESS’ (X-MEN REMIX)
You’d expect a tune called ‘Happiness’ to do you wonders on a downer and the X-Men remix of Bini & Martini’s ‘Happiness’ doesn’t let you down. It’s just a whirl of UKG joy, an absolute waltzer of a tune with choppy vocals flying around throughout. There’s even a sample of N.W.A’s ‘Straight Outta Compton’ thrown in.
ROY DAVIS JR ‘GABRIEL’ FEAT. PEVEN EVERETT
The greatest garage tune ever made? That’s a discussion for another time. Here I’ll just say how this is anthem for tough times, one to sing along to and lift your spirits. Those floaty pads connect like a magic recovery sponge and Peven Everett’s vocals hit the sweet spot with every listen.
BORIS DLUGOSCH PRESENTS BOOOM ‘HOLD YOUR HEAD UP HIGH’ (JULIAN JONAH’S BAD BOY MIX)
Just look at the title of the tune. There’s no point dragging your feet or moping around, just whack this one on. Trust, you’ll have no choice but to feel invigorated, such is the power of the vocals and a bassline that comes through like a massive kick up the backside. Hold your head up high, will ya?
ANGIE STONE ‘LIFE STORY’ (BOOKER T VOCAL MIX)
Just one of the greatest soul singers ever given a garage makeover, nothing major. I joke, it’s L A R G E. Booker T’s Vocal Mix of Angie Stone’s 2000 track is a full-on UKG trampoline workout, bouncing up, then down, up, then down. Sorry in advance if you’re worn out after listening. You’ll be thanking me, though.
GLAMMA KID ‘TABOO’ FEAT. SHOLA AMA (MJ COLE FULL VOCAL MIX)
Shola Ama had to be in this list really, didn’t she? ‘Imagine’ could have easily slotted in, but the MJ Cole Full Vocal Mix of ‘Taboo’ her collaboration with Glamma Kid, is flowing with juice and swagger it had to have a spot. Many a times have been spent playing this one on repeat.
BIZZI ‘BIZZI’S PARTY’ (BOOKER T VOCAL LICK)
Another Booker T entry, and is it a surprise? His Vocal Lick of Bizzi’s ‘Bizzi’s Party’ is ramped-up UKG goodness, a fave for those pacy runs and cardio workouts. And a dancefloor energiser, of course.