1. Amy Winehouse, Back To Black
2. The Bird and the Bee, The Bird and the Bee
3. Common, Finding Forever
4. Original Soundtrack, Once
5. Kanye West, Graduation
6. R. Kelly, Double Up
7. Alicia Keys, As I Am
8. Lily Allen, Alright, Still
9. Rihanna, Good Girl Gone Bad
10. M.I.A., Kala
Ne-Yo, Because of You
Jay-Z, American Gangster
LCD Soundsystem, Sound of Silver
Robert Glasper, In My Element
Britney Spears, Blackout
No complaints in the top 10: Rihanna's Good Girl Gone Bad and M.I.A.'s Kala.
I just got a chance to listen to both of them this week and while I wasn't surprised at the high quality of M.I.A.'s album, I was pleasantly surprised at the quality of Rihanna's. In a year where reigning divas like Angie Stone and Jill Scott seemed to drag their feet, she really came out with some good pop material.
Questionables in the top 10: Common's Finding Forever, Kanye West's Graduation and Alicia Keys' As I Am.
For Common and Kanye, their albums are disturbingly sub-par compared to their previous work. And even if you could make the argument that all the other rap albums this year were weaker than these (which you can't), I can hardly find that to be a good reason to put them in the top 10. Just to name a few, Brother Ali's The Undisputed Truth, Black Milk's Popular Demand and One Be Lo's The R.E.B.I.R.T.H. were very good combinations of rhyming skill, intelligent subject matter and just plain ol' good beats arguably better than what Common or Kanye gave us.
While Alicia Keys is no doubt growing as an artist, it begs the question: what kind of artist is she growing into? It seems like she's just growing into a path well-worn by many other artists and for a young singer/songwriter with a lot to prove she's not really stepping up to the plate. Contrast that with the 61-year old Bettye LaVette (who has nothing to prove to anyone in the R&B world), who teamed up with the Drive-By Truckers to make the stunning The Scene of the Crime. No, LaVette isn't really a singer/songwriter, but who needs to write them when she can literally steal songs out from under the feet of music legends? Her covers of Willie Nelson's "Somebody Pick Up My Pieces" and Elton John's "Talking Old Soldiers" are to my ears the definitive versions of those songs and, while not exactly radio-friendly songs, easily lay any of Keys' best songs to waste in virtually every respect. Maybe Keys just needs to step back and prove that she can cover the greats before trying to walk alongside them.
First of all, let me state in no unequivocal terms that Alright, Still and Back To Black were good albums. IN 2006.
The Bird and the Bee was no doubt an original coming out party, but it's also bizarrely uneven, which is quite a feat when your backdrop is as simple as Esquivel-esque bachelor pad music.
The Once soundtrack? That's giving an awful lot of credit to essentially a couple of nobodies, especially considering that a far more well-known name in that genre (Suzanne Vega) put out a far superior album this year (Beauty & Crime). Even if you want to argue that their lack of name recognition shouldn't be held against them, Joan As Police Woman's Real Life similarly lacks name recognition but their album may be even better than Vega's. This is why you should always be hesitant about how to rate a soundtrack.
And the fact that Double Up even got NEAR anyone's top 10, much less in it, is a sure sign of one's mental deficiency. Saying that 1/3 of this album was nonsense is being quite generous. About the only radio hit that wasn't a complete embarrassment was "I'm A Flirt," and even that had its moments. R.Kelly's constant begging and pleading with the 17-year old female audience to be relevant to modern urban music is sad. One piece of advice for you, Kel: Jailbait was, is and will always be bad news for you. STOP THE INSANITY!
There's no good reason that Queens of the Stone Age's "Era Vulgaris" does not even get a mention. Seriously, these guys do nothing but crank out great hard rocking albums and this one was no exception. Nine Inch Nails' Year Zero is also top shelf music that got nary a peep. And could we get a little love for Jens Lekman already? Very few people in the indie music world manage to escape the sophomore slump and Lekman's Night Falls Over Kortedala easily trumps his debut. And I'm hardly one to purport putting grinding, time-shifting, unsettling post-punk metal amongst the best albums of the year, but Ire Works by the Dillinger Escape Plan was fantastic.
The lack of rock albums on this list in general is just silly.
So if Rihanna, Alicia Keys and (last year's) Amy Winehouse made the list, just how pray tell did Keyshia Cole's Just Like You manage not to make the list? Talk about an album above and beyond the competition! And Rahsaan Patterson certainly deserves top 10 praise for making a forward-looking throwback mess of a great album in Wines & Spirits, not to forget the aforementioned Bettye LaVette.
I can live with Because of You, American Gangster and Sound of Silver in the honorable category. In My Element is definitely good mainstream jazz, but it's not knockout stuff by any means; nothing really original to it. Karl Denson's Lunar Orbit, Timo Lassy's The Soul & Jazz of Timo Lassy and the Antibalas Afrobeat Orchestra's Security are easily a step ahead on both counts.
And Britney baby, I'm sorry, but your image is blown. Hillary Duff's Dignity pwns you. The end.