The 40 Best Albums Of 200940. In Love & War - Amerie
Amerie is the most underrated woman in urban pop music. Her last two albums ("Touch" and "Because I Love It") were so ahead of their time in terms of production and choice of collaborators yet she rarely bothers the charts. A trend that continues with her latest flop "In Love & War". This isn't as good as her previous efforts but it is a grower that gets under your skin. I love Amerie's voice and she really turns it out on the lead single "Why R U" and the Jonas Jeberg produced "Dangerous". However, two songs stand head and shoulders above the rest - "Dear John" and "Swag Back". Get downloading.
39. Sweet Temptation - Fey
Fey is Mexico's answer to Dannii. Yes, she's really that fabulous. "Sweet Temptation" is her second English language album and it's a trashy delight from start to finish. Sure, it's a bit derivative - Fey
38. I Am... Yours: An Intimate Performance at Wynn Las Vegas - Beyoncé
This is a stunning testament to Beyoncé's vocal talent. She sounds amazing stripped back to basics without all the studio trickery. Her haunting rendition of "Sweet Dreams" gives me chills, while "Resentment" packs infinitely more punch live. My only problem with "I Am... Yours" is the fact that I would have preferred a live version of her standard show. It's interesting to hear tracks Beyoncé didn't perform in concert ("Satellites" and "Hello") but this showcase doesn't reach the same heights. The highlight for me is the Destiny's Child medley. Hearing Beyoncé talk about going to auditions as a 9 year old is a timely reminder of just how hard she's worked to get where she is.
37. Jukebox - Priscilla Renea
I love this girl. Priscilla's debut album is an intriguing mix of genres and sounds. "Dollhouse" was one of the better Katy Perry knock offs to be released in 2009, while the rest of "Jukebox" mixes old school soul with quirky guitar pop. My favourite tracks are "City Love", "Pretty Girl" and the future camp classic "Fixing My Hair". She really does have a way with words!
36. Wonder - Lisa Mitchell
Lisa is the most interesting act to emerge from Australian Idol. Instead of jumping into a record deal, she took some time out to learn her craft. It was worth the wait. "Wonder" is a beautiful collection of low key, understated pop songs. While nothing tops the genius of "Neapolitan Dreams" or "Coin Laundry", the rest of the album is consistently lovely. "Love Letter" and "Stevie" are the best of the rest.
35. One Man Woman - Shena
Shena took it upon herself to single-handedly revive disco in 2009 with "One Man Woman". Despite releasing three amazing singles ("My Fantasy", "Can't Stop The Rain" and "Nasty Little Rumour"), the album never caught on. It's a shame but I suspect Shena's opus will continue to find new fans as the years go by. Consider this a future cult classic.
34. We're Too Young - Andy Bull
I don't think Australia was ready for Andy Bull's unique brand of piano driven 70s soul music. He's just too different for commercial radio and not quite edgy enough for the indie crowd. Perhaps England would be a happier hunting ground. Anyway, I love Andy's voice and can't get enough of "We're Too Young". The album's only shortcoming is the fact that nothing else on it quite matches the towering brilliance of "Small Town Girl".
33. Fixin' To Thrill - Dragonette
Canada's hottest band take things to the next level on their second album. "Fixin' To Thrill" is crisp, clever and catchy as hell. This is electro-pop with brains and real flair. Highlights include "Boys & Girls" (the Australian bonus track), "Pick Up The Phone" and "Gone Too Far".
32. Come To Life - Natalie Imbruglia
Now this is a turn up. I'm a loud and proud supporter of the more talented Imbruglia sister (Laura) but Natalie usually bores me to tears. Imagine my surprise when I fell in love with her latest flop. "Come To Life" is full of sad songs with pretty melodies and insightful lyrics. "Fun" cuts right through me and is possibly the break up song of 2009, while "Scars" and "Lukas" are a potent reminder that Natalie is a force to be reckoned with when she it right.
31. Sr. Kubrick ¿Qué Haría Usted? - La Prohibida
The (drag) Queen of Spanish pop surprisingly delivers one of the year's best dance-pop albums. Read my review to appreciate the full genius of this opus. Hopefully, I'll get the chance to see this stunning diva perform live the next time I fly to Spain to stalk Soraya.
30. Secrets & Lies - Bertie Blackman
Bertie has been the Queen of the Australian indie scene for years but "Secrets & Lies" has finally nudged her towards the mainstream. The move towards dark and dirty electro is inspired and perfectly compliments Bertie's voice and evocative lyrics. Ignore the album's first two singles and go straight to the amazing "Birds Of Prey" for an indication of just how good electro-Bertie can be. "Black Cats" has just been released as the 4th single - make sure you check out the brilliant remixes.
29. Ready For Love - Tata Young
Thailand's greatest diva roped in a bunch of Europe's hottest producers for her third English language album and kicked all the pretenders to the curb. "Mission Is You" and "My Bloody Valentine" are better than 99% of the rubbish in the US/UK/AUS charts. Am I completely delusional in hoping for international breakthrough? Check out my review here.
28. Mi Delirio - Anahí
I have to thank my lovely friend Joe from Milk Carton Pop Stars for introducing me to so many amazing Mexican pop goddesses this year. One of the most fabulous is Anahí, who came to fame as a member of the girlband RBD. "Mi Delirio" is her first solo album in 9 years and it was well worth the wait. The title track is dance-pop at its finest, while Paulina Rubio and Thalia will be kicking themselves for not recording "Quiero" and "Qué Más Da" first. My favourite? The ultra cheesy "Gira La Vida"!
27. Up In Something - Dash & Will
Australia is rude. These girls are every bit as good as The Veronicas but they can't give their music away. "Up In Something" was a spectacular flop but it's one of the tightest guitar pop albums I've heard all year. It compiles all their singles ("Fighting Over Nothing" and "Pick You Up" haven't lost any of their shine) and a fine selection of new tracks. The standout for me is "Too Young Too Dumb" - such a wasted opportunity for a well deserved hit - and the perky "Some Like It Hot".
26. Brand New Love Affair - Amanda Lear
Writing about Amanda Lear gets me into trouble, so I'll just direct you to my review. It's well worth hunting down. "Coming Up" and "C'est La Vie" rank as two of the best songs of her entire career.
25. Red Leaf - Shelley Harland
"Red Leaf" is quite possibly 2009's most beautiful album. Shelley's voice has a light, airy quality that floats above the dark and dreamy soundscape as effortlessly as a bird. That's not to say Shelley can't bring the intensity when she wants to. "Panic To Control" is breathtaking in its scope and has become something of a mantra for me. Other favourites include the title track and "Clouds Disappear". Read my interview with Shelley here.
24. Amante De Lo Ajeno - María José
Of all the holy Mexican divas to bless my Ipod in 2009, María José is my favourite. "Amante De Lo Ajeno" is not your average collection of 80s cover versions. Instead of revisiting the same old shit, María has only interpreted Spanish language pop hits. Her version of Melissa's "No Soy Una Senora" blew my mind but the whole album is amazing and has introduced me to so many new artists. Thanks to María, I've been initiated into the joys of Fiordaliso ("Sola, No Yo No Ser Estar") and Rocío Banquells ("Este Hombre No Se Toca"). Brilliant.
23. Embers - Nadia Ali
I've been in love with Nadia since her stint as the frontwoman of iiO. Her voice is so sultry and sexy - bitch could sing the Delta Goodrem Songbook and I'd at least illegally download it. "Embers" is Nadia's first solo album but it picks up where iiO left off. Fans of hits like "Rapture" should definitely check this out. "Love Story" is a great lead single but I prefer "Fantasy", "Crash N Burn" and "Fine Print". Electronic music is rarely this subtle and restrained.
22. Above & Beyoncé - Beyoncé
The "Sasha Fierce" remixes have been uniformly brilliant and "Above & Beyoncé" compiles 7 of the best. Dave Aude's "Halo" remix is an Oxford Street staple but the album is worth buying for the Karmatronic club mix of "Diva" alone. Hats off to B for keeping the gays happy.
21. Animal - Miike Snow
What do you get when you combine Sweden's hottest producers (Bloodshy & Avant) with an American singer-songwriter? The supergroup otherwise known as Miike Snow. I avoided this album for months due to the highly annoying lead single ("Animal") but when a friend recommended it to me, I gave it a try and was swept away by the icy beauty of their minimalist electro-beats. "Silvia" and "Song For No One", in particular, are utter perfection. I think these sneaky cunts have been offloading crap like "Nu-Di-Ty" on poor Kylie while keeping the good stuff for themselves. Rude!
20. Memoirs Of An Imperfect Angel - Mariah
Yes, I know I wrote a scathing review of this album and whinged about The-Dream ruining Mariah's career to anyone who would listen. And my opinion hasn't really changed. I still think half the album stinks but that doesn't nullify the excellence of the rest. "Obsessed", "Up Out My Face" and "Angels Cry" are vintage Mariah, while I have lived and breathed every second of "H.A.T.E.U" and "Standing O". Those songs have gotten me through the past few months, so for that alone "Memoirs" sneaks into my top 20. Deal, bitches.
19. The First Album (Deluxe Edition) - BoA
The Best of Asia (ie. BoA) proved she could do heavily autotuned urban-pop better than anyone else in the business when she unveiled her debut English language album. Some haters criticised her accent and choice of producers but I love her voice and robotic sound. The highlight for me is "Eat You Up", while "Energetic", "Obsessed" and "I Did It For Love" should have set the charts on fire. I hope the album's lack of success doesn't put her off trying to conquer the world again next year.
18. Mi Plan - Nelly Furtado
I still don't know why Nelly Furtado is singing in Spanish instead of her native Portuguese (oh wait, it's a bigger market) but I'm not complaining. "Mi Plan" is the perfect side project between albums. It's a return to the gentle, low key beauty of "Folklore" and gives Nelly the opportunity to collaborate with some of the most respected names in Latin music... and Josh Groban. "Manos Al Aire", "Más" and "Feliz Cumpleaños" rank among the diva's finest songs.
17. Just One Day - Kim Sozzi
Don't judge me! Sure, "Just One Day" is the perfect album for gays who find Cascada a little too edgy but I wouldn't know what to do if Kim wasn't around to quench my thirst for low brow Hi-NRG music. "Feel Your Love" was something of a breakthrough for the diva and I hope she pursues that dreamy dance sound in the future. In the meantime, I'm just going to revel in the sublime trashiness of "Just One Day". The best song on the album? It's impossible to surpass the best Nicki French song that Nicki never recorded. "Edge Of A Broken Heart" wouldn't sound out of place on "Secrets". Yes, it's that good.
16. Triangle - Perfume
Japan's best girlband have been rocking my world for the past couple of years but they exceeded my expectations on the glorious Capsule produced "Triangle". Apparently some fans are annoyed by the technopop sound but they clearly need to get their ears checked. Girls Aloud and Sugababes would kill to have anything as good as "Dream Fighter" or "One Room Disco" on their next album.
15. Live In New York - Kylie
Seeing Kylie live is a magical experience, hearing her live is almost as good. Read my review for more reasons why this belongs in your collection.
14. More Than Meets The Eye - EliZe
The Dutch Queen of Dance (c) released her Sophomore set in 2009 and won over a whole new army of gays. I love this woman and her unique brand of cheap and cheerful pop. Highlights include the oft covered "Shine Like A Superstar", the ABBA-tastic "Hook Me Up" and possibly the year's trashiest anthem "I Can Be A Bitch". Check out my review.
13. French Connection - Kate Ryan
The Belgian Queen of Dance (c) compiles all her French cover versions and unexpectedly delivers the year's guiltiest pleasure. Read more about this classy offering here.
12. Lungs - Florence & The Machine
I thought there was no way Florence could live up to the almost deafening hype but "Lungs" is an extraordinary album. Admittedly, it took a while to grow on me but indie-pop music doesn't get much better than "Rabbit Heart (Raise It Up)" and "Howl". And then there's the brilliant "Drumming Song", which sums up the chemical rush of love/attraction perfectly. I can't wait to see her live in January.
11. My Guilty Pleasure - Sally Shapiro
Now, this is how you revive Italo-disco. Someone send Annie a copy with a strongly worded letter.
10. Two Suns - Bat For Lashes
I thought Natasha's debut was an overhyped mess but "Two Suns" is sublime and deserves all the praise it gets. "Daniel" is a strong contender for song of the year but that moody anthem is just the tip of the metaphoric iceberg. Follow up singles "Pearl's Dream" and "Sleep Alone" are just as gloomily beautiful, while "Siren Song" is truly epic. A rich, lush, multi-layered masterpiece.
9. The End - Black Eyed Peas
Fergie & Co return with a new electronic sound and the result is the best album of their career. Actually, that's not quite right. "The End" is more a collection of really, really good singles than a cohesive set of pop songs but I'm not complaining. "Boom Boom Pow", "I Gotta Feeling" and "Meet Me Halfway" will all feature on 'best of the noughties' compilations twenty years from now. Read my review here.
8. The 95 Sessions - Dannii
I don't care if it is 15 years old. Vintage Dannii does it better! "The 95 Sessions" is reviewed here.
7. Some People Have Real Problems (2009 Tour Edition) - Sia
I know this was released in 2008 but I did my best to ignore it before becoming completely obsessed. Sia has always been an amazing talent but "Some People Have Real Problems" finally harnesses her full potential. Songs like "Lentil", "Day Too Soon", "You Have Been Loved" and "Soon We'll Be Found" are modern day torch songs that got me through some very hard times in 2009. Sia's new album is scheduled for April. Needless to say, my expectations are sky high.
6. I Look To You - Whitney
Fuck the Grammy Awards, Whitney's comeback is a smash in my book. What's so wrong with good, old fashioned love songs mixed with age appropriate urban pop? Time to release "Nothin' But Love", "A Song For You" or "Call You Tonight" and show the haters who's the boss. Check out my review here.
5. Hazardous - Vanessa Amorosi
Trading in the soulful rock of "Somewhere In The Real World" for Max Martin/Dr Luke inspired electro-guitar-pop was a great move. Vanessa took to her new sound like Amy Winehouse to crack and promptly delivered the album of her career. The brilliant "This Is Who I Am" was a well deserved number 1 hit but "Hazardous" isn't a one trick pony. The title track and second single is almost as catchy, while "Blow Me Away" and "Higher Ground" should keep the album afloat for months to come. My favourite song is still the super slutty "Touch Me". Check out my full review here.
4. She Wolf - Shakira
Now this is a tough one. At its best, I think "She Wolf" actually surpasses the albums ranked above it on this list. Tracks like "Men In This Town", "Gypsy" and "Mon Amour" showcase an amazing artist at her most daring and creative. The problem lies with The Neptunes produced aimed-squarely-at-the-US-market filler like "Long Time" and "Why Wait". It's not very good and it's not very Shakira. Regardless, "She Wolf" contains 7 of the best songs of 2009 and that ain't bad. Full review here.
3. The Element Of Freedom - Alicia Keys
I just wrote a long winded review for this, so I'll keep it short and sweet. "The Element Of Freedom" is the best album of Alicia's career - it's wider in scope and less forced than its predecessors. More to the point, I just click with these songs on an emotional level. Some of the many highlights include "Like The Sea", "Wait Till You See My Smile" and "Empire State Of Mind (Part 2)". Beautiful and upflifting.
2. The Fame Monster - Lady GaGa
I remember the internet backlash when it was originally announced that Lady GaGa was re-releasing "The Fame" with a bunch of new tracks. It seemed like a lazy exercise in marketing but everyone shut the fuck up when "Bad Romance" and "Alejandro" leaked. Even her haters are finding it increasingly hard to deny that Lady GaGa has her finger on the electro-pop pulse like no other diva in the business. "The Fame Monster" is, quite simply, the new measuring stick for dance-pop albums. You can find my full review here. Also, this piece is highly amusing in retrospect.
1. I Am... Sasha Fierce (Platinum Edition) - Beyoncé
Yes, I know it was released last year and even featured in my 2008 'best of' countdown - coming in at a lowly #8! - but "I Am... Sasha Fierce" has been the soundtrack of my year. Every song has a personal connection or reminds me of something or someone. I just can't imagine 2009 without it. Anyway, I'll stop ranting but check out my woman of the year post to fully understand the depths of my Beyoncé obsession. Oh and I went with the Platinum Edition over the Deluxe Edition because it contains the brilliant "Why Don't You Love Me?" and "Save The Hero" as well as B's cute cover of Billy Joel's "Honesty". A truly iconic work.