There are many reasons to appreciate the now-defunct musical trio and spiritual entity known as N-Dubz: Their introduction of the phrase "Na na naaaaaiii" into popular lexicon; the way Dappy pushed wonky hats with strings and half-shaved chin patches out from the confines of NW1; Tulisa, and everything that comes out her mouth, including that time she called La Roux a twat and told Noisey about her deep love of ancient Sumerian tablets.
What people don't talk about enough, though, are the songs. The way they could take a conversation topic, any conversation topic, and spin it into a stone-cold banger that would have you thrusting at the speakers and spilling Bacardi down your tank top faster than you can scream, "shoulda put something oooon!" Buses, condoms, trainers, shitty boyfriends, Sylvester Stallone – name a subject and Dappy and Fazer have probably rapped about it, with some iconic choruses thrown in from Tulisa and her perfect voice.
But when you have a discography that spans 11 years, three albums and 26 music videos, there are inevitably going to be some songs that go harder than others, even though they obviously all go hard. So, in order to gain some sort of closure and comfort, we decided to do the lord's work and definitively rank N-Dubz' songs. As we can all agree that N-Dubz are the great teachers of our times, we based our ranking system on a scale of "least wise" to "most wise". We didn't rank every single song, because we were busy living our actual lives, but instead we chose 20 of their most significant and went from there. Please do not argue with the order. Blood was drawn over these.
If you want to know how many rank lines can be rammed into two whole minutes then may I present you with "Sex", a song about slut-shaming girls, outdated AIDS stereotypes, dubious attitudes towards consent, having sex with virgins then getting pissed off when they text you, and generally being a massive prick. Where does this song fall on our scale of wisdom? Where do you think? NEXT!
19. "Duku Man ft. Fearless"
If I were given just one adjective with which describe this song it would be "silly". In just two and a half minutes there are at least 11 references to genitals, one fart noise, and Dappy delivers the line: "I'm surprised that he never done a poo poo". Fearless, meanwhile, spends most of his time stealing off with other people's girlfriend's to "giver her willy" in a public bathroom and refuse to buy her a drink after. Also, Tulisa isn't even on it. All things considered: stay in school and do not try this at home.
18. "We Dance On (ft. Bodyrox)"
"We Dance On" has all the components of a song that should make sense – an uplifting melody, some nice vocals, a few catchy beats, a video with a dance routine – but when you put them all together, like this, it just sounds… fucked up. Why does the chorus resemble something a modern evangelical church choir would come up with, hand claps and all? How can you have so many words with literally no meaning? Why does something that's objectively happy make me feel so, so sad? The track ends on this line: "Ain't gonna work for life when we know we can dance on". N-Dubz, you know I love you, but this is trash.
17. "Playing with Fire"
Here we have a song with the chorus: "I'm such a good liar" sung in unison with Mr Hudson, a man who looks like Boris Johnson if he had all the fat sucked off his bones with an industrial machine. These two facts alone are enough to make this song an unwise choice for our favourite trio. Also, there's a twangy guitar solo at the end, and I'm not entirely sure why it's there. If you're going to have a guitar solo in your song, at the very least it should have dedication and purpose. It shouldn't give you the same feeling as a sad and hasty, half-hearted wank.
16. "N-Dubz Vs NAA"
When people speak about N-Dubz they often mention the "na na naiiis" but they don't often mention the "hoh hoh hoh hoh hohs". By that, we mean that high-pitched sound Tulisa makes when she does that twisty thing with her wrists – you know the one. Anyway, the "hoh hohs" were born at this precise moment, during the release of "N-Dubz Vs NAA", which is why this song deserves a lot of props for being so pioneering slash iconic. But just because it's pioneering, doesn't mean it's wise. There's nothing wise about arguing with Big Narstie about absolutely nothing. Seriously, listen to the lyrics. They're arguing about nothing. Verdict: not wise!
15. "I Swear"
The year is two thousand and sexy, and N-Dubz have eclipsed emo bands in the battle of who can write the most he-said-she-said songs. In this treacherous tale, Dappy is concerned that one of the many girls he spends the rest of N-Dubz' albums parring off and cheating on is going behind his back with a guy who is clearly not as hard as Dappy is. Dappy doesn't like this. He doesn't understand why a woman would be kissing someone else under a bridge – you know, where most of us go for illicit affairs – when they could be tying him to a chair (which is presumably the only way you can keep Dappy from cheating on you). This one is good because it makes Dappy look a right knob for missing the 'do unto others…' part of RE class. Tulisa, in return, plays the part of 'girl who gets hers'. Both are proportionately terrible. Now that's what I call gender equality!
On the one hand, "Girls" is fucking terrible. It's essentially an upgraded version of "Sex" with a slowed down Lil Wayne-style refrain and lyrics that are only marginally less trash. On the other, "Girls" is the song that shows us that maybe Dappy acts like he does because he's been burned one too many times. That maybe, beneath his crooked woollens and thin pencil moustache is a heart that's too afraid of being broken. That maybe, he fucks with girls because he's afraid they'll fuck with him right back, and this time his heart won't be able to take it. The secrets are, as ever, hidden in the text. At the end of the track, he slips in a line about someone called "Mariah". Who's Mariah, Dappy? I would bet my bling he's not singing about Carey. In fact, I'd bet that this Mariah broke Dappy's heart. What I'm trying to say is, "Girls" might sound like a party tune, but buried beneath those synth lines and bass-heavy beats are real vulnerabilities bursting to get out. What can we learn from this? Look past the mask: there's hidden sensitivities in each of us.
13. "Feva Las Vegas"
You know how everyone gradually gathers around to watch someone on a winning streak in a casino because it sort of makes them feel successful by proxy? That's what fame is like. Suddenly, people who wouldn't lend you 12p for a pack of crisps start adding you on Facebook asking for cosigns and guestlist spaces and people in the music industry who wouldn't give you the time of day come around with offers of insultingly small amounts of cash. N-Dubz know this. As emphasised in the title, what they have shrewdly done here is draw comparisons between gambling and their own glo-up, which was arguably one of the most celebrated and hated in British music history. N-Dubz are having none of it, though. If this song were a meme it would be the kid with the spoons on his eyes "blocking out the haters". Let it be a lesson to us all.
12. "I Need You"
Nobody does a big budget video quite like N-Dubz. Each of them arrives in a different lavish mode of transport – a personalised helicopter for Dappy, a Yamaha R1 for Fazer, and a Lamborghini Gallardo SE for Tulisa – before hitting a club in Mayfair that looks like it's built inside an aquarium. It's all very extra for a song about missing someone, which Dappy has described as being "big and phat" as well as "up-to-date and about Facebook and stuff."
We couldn't tell you what we learned about life or relationships from this, but it is an extremely comprehensive class in how to make an entrance, so that's got to count for something.
11. "You Better Not Waste My Time"
There is nothing that makes me feel more blessed than this video, in which Tulisa casually gyrates in a pair of white trackies and sings these words while clutching a glass of white zinfandel: "Now do you bitches really think that I'm the same girl I used to be? Do you really think I will back down from you hoes if you try to bring it me?" Yes Tulisa! You tell those skanks from school! This is a track that's pretty much about telling everyone that ever crossed you how much money you make now. In fact, when I win the lottery (any day now), the first thing I'm going to do is crank up "Better Not Waste My Time" and blast it out my bedroom window while shouting all the words at passers-by. I'll show them. I'll show them all.
10. "Best Behaviour"
Finally, it arrives. Ten years and three albums into their career, Dappy is hit by the realisation that, actually, maybe if he stopped treating women like shit he might not reach the end of the day feeling like a used condom draped limply over a bin lid. Sure, his version of that might be "I need some kind of lady that will feed me daily," but as far as epiphanies go this is probably as much as we can expect from someone who has gone through adulthood without ever figuring out how to put a hat on properly. You'll have to set your own bar if you're to learn from this, but the general sentiment is there, as UK hip-hop's number one fuccboi raises his finger earnestly in the air and says: "I wanna hold somebody when I sleep!"
9. "Strong Again"
Some songs are created with the pure purpose of getting pumped up to. "Eye of the Tiger" by Survivor is one. "Can You Feel It?" by The Jackson 5 is another. "Get This Party Started" by Pink is obviously another. And then there is "Strong Again" by N-Dubz, which is a song everyone should listen to when they're sinking, knees-deep in their own metaphorical shit and need a pick-me-up. "Strong Again" is the song that reminds you to brush your shoulders off and plough on. "Strong Again" is the song that teaches you how the universe is essentially a wheel of continuous flux and thus no bad situation remains the same. In fact, the true wisdom of "Strong Again" is best summed up in the following lines from Tulisa: "See the thing about life is that it's just too short, leave the past behind, and then you'll find, there's more to life than you first thought." On a scale of one to prayer hands emoji, "Strong Again" is positively spiritual.
This epic in six verses about love, lies and financial struggle between two equally fiery human beings is among N-Dubz' more emotional moments. Once again, Dappy is pissed that a woman he has feelings for snogged someone else under a bridge. I don't know why this keeps happening to him or why he's always hanging around bridges by himself, but poor Dappy is so traumatised he appears of have put his durag on the wrong way before putting a snapback on top.
Between Tulisa twisting her wrists in extremely high contrast dressed like a mum off The OC, the cut shots that look like scenes from Paranormal Activity and Fazer sort of playing the part of a Shakespearean narrator, this is N-Dubz at their most dramatic. The lesson contained within – and, indeed, within most N-Dubz songs – is stop fucking cheating on people. Specifically, stop cheating on Dappy under bridges where he can see you. Also, I don't think Tulisa gets enough credit here for essentially packing every chapter of R. Kelly's Trapped In The Closet in a single introductory verse. Who needs 33 chapters when you have forthcoming Female Boss, Tulisa Contostavlos?
7. "I Don't Wanna Go To Sleep"
This right here is the world's greatest song about getting off your face in a positive manner. Instead of drying you all out by breaking down the many reasons why, I'll just leave you with this following verse from Tulisa:
"Watch me shine I'm a star
Step into the club like they know who we are
Drink a few
That's my cue to take over this place
Spotlight's on my face
All the boys wanna taste
So, they can take a look but don't touch (don't touch)
Ladies watch don't hate (don't hate)
I came to get smashed
I don't wanna go to sleep I just wanna stay awake
I swear I think I owe this night to my self, me and my friends
What more can I ask for?
So grab a drink and follow meeeee!"
Pretty sure if someone handed me this alongside Plato's Theory of Forms in A-Level Philosophy and Ethics I'd have spent a lot less time throwing myself at everyone, searching for meaning in a world of otherwise abstract properties, and a lot more time drinking Lambrini with one hand and rejecting men with the other.
6. "Every Day of My Life"
May I present you with some vintage N-Dubz; a reminder of a more innocent time when Tulisa wore her hair in curls so crunchy you could crack them in half, and when Dappy looked like every hard man at your primary school. Seriously though, this track is an ice-cold banger and frankly deserves a lot more attention – that UKG-style melody, the grainy video filmed on someone's Motorola flip, and those lyrics. In fact, let's talk about the lyrics, in which Dappy and Fazer rap about everything bad in the world while Tulisa looks solemn and sings "ooooooooh". It's got all that a classic "moral message" rap needs: coke fiends, guns, feds, dealers, knives, snitches, prison, suicide, violence. Yeah it's depressing AF, but in the wise words of Dappy: "I'm just trying to open the eyes of the youths to show them what's going on." Preach.
5. "Wouldn't You"
There are so many reasons to love "Wouldn't You": The bangra-style intro. Tulisa's very chill purple silk corset. The inexplicable reference to gardening in the video. But most importantly, this is the moment in Uncle B when Tulisa takes centre stage, delegating the boys to a couple of bars on the side while she delivers some choice words to a fuckboy who won't commit. "Wouldn't you, wouldn't you, like to have me to yourself?" she sings, over the most tender melody that N-Dubz have curated for us thus far. "Who would be dumb enough to lose all that I have got for you?" So much Tulisa. So much win.
4. "Say It's Over"
There are several ways you can break up with someone: a) ghost them until they finally get the hint when they see you necking someone else over a McFlurry;l b) dish out some garbage dialogue you cribbed from a romcom starring Matthew McConaughey about it being "me not you"; or the less popular c) tell them straight up, like an adult. Wherever you land on the 'piece of shit' scale, there will be a long and nauseating period of time where you know the conversation has to happen but instead of having it you spend weeks feeling repelled by their small acts of kindness and wincing when they touch you. This song is about that. To be fair there isn't much useful advice here but it is quite honest and relatable without being too offensive, and for that we'll give them props. Shame none of them managed to apply those qualities to their break up strategies, mind.
3. "No Regrets"
I have a secret daily tradition and it goes like this: every morning, without fail, after I've cleaned my teeth and adorned my body in the latest trendy outfit, I lock eyes with my reflection in the mirror and start rapping the N-Dubz version of "No Regrets". It starts quietly at first, barely a whisper, but soon I am screaming the lyrics at myself: "No regrets! No regrets! No point in crying over yesterday!" Why? Because "No Regrets" preaches precisely what Buddhism has been preaching for centuries before it: mindfulness is the surest path to enlightenment. This is N-Dubz at peak wise.
2. "Shoulda Put Something On"
If there were ever a timeless, go-to example of why Tulisa is actually the UK's greatest role model for young women, it is "Shoulda Put Something On". This frankly underrated cut from Against All Odds deftly addresses the nuances of safe sex and culpability via the timeless medium of Dappy rapping some wildly misogynistic trash about jizz flying everywhere while Tulisa claps back with her usual pearls of wisdom, such as: 'You're just a man / You don't understand / Get out of my face'. Dramatising an argument that's unfortunately common among teenagers and adults alike, "Shoulda Put Something On" provides both male and female perspectives on an unwanted pregnancy, like an episode of Jeremy Kyle set to snare claps and club synths. There's a lot to unpack but the basic argument goes thusly:
Guy: Why you mad for? I know I didn't use a condom but you didn't ask me to plus I'm broke. You know what men are like. Bye.
This was released in 2009 and honestly I'm not sure a more relatable slice of sex education has arrived before or since. Now we've entered an era in which the conservative government quietly voted against compulsory sex education in schools and opted, instead, to impose a ban on the vaguely termed "non-conventional" porn, might I suggest that we make "Shoulda Put Something On" part of the curriculum as a discussion topic. The moral of the story, I think, is: get some free condoms from the GUM clinic. Bag up for Tulisa. Bag up for Britain. You can have that slogan for free, Theresa.
1. "Live. Life. Love"
If there's one thing we've learned while listening to the entire N-Dubz back catalogue over and over again, in various orders, it's that every song has got flaws and perfections – just like life – and sometimes it's hard to differentiate the two. We know that already because N-Dubz present themselves in their purest and most honest forms – because they are wise – and that means mixing up the good stuff with the bad stuff in order to create an authentic piece of art. For that reason, it was very difficult to decide on the wisest song from Britain's wisest pop band. But we did, and it is "Love. Live. Life".
"Love. Live. Life" has a title that sounds as if it was purpose built to be inked into someone's skin. It has a melody that makes you want to repeatedly and vigorously pump your fist into the air in total glee. Most importantly, though, it contains the following lyrics: "I love the dream, I love the mix / Beautiful people all dress up in labels / Sipping the finest, eats are gourmet / Glass in the air now, the round of champagne", which I think we can all agree are the most aspirational lyrics this side of Fergie's "Glamorous".
This is a song that was made for both the club and the bedroom, and the tequila-soaked 3AM Uber drive in between. It is a song that reminds us that Dappy and Fazer don't always have to be little shits – they can make us feel good about ourselves too. It's a song that contains a chorus that is delivered in entirely one tone, but still makes you want to sing along anyway. It's a song that is brimming in simple, beautiful wisdoms, reminding us to live our lives and love it at the same time. It's the wisest N-Dubz song we've got.