Through endless indie acts being heralded as "genius" and "" by 'credible' sources (some actually were, see Arcade Fire), to a plethora of summer haze dreampop that I rather enjoyed floating around blogs, to more acts crossing the fine line now present between urban and electronic dance music, this year hasn't been half bad for music IMO. It's been about 40/60. Which I'll take.
The girls did well this year. Kylie released the gay album of the decade, Kelis broke away from stereotypes and made a straight up brilliant house record, Katy Perry had great bubblegum pop singles, despite a disappointing album, and Nicki Minaj tried her damndest to live up to the hype and ALMOST did it, although that album cover exceeds expectations by a long shot, good on her.
Rihanna was great as ever, but ROBYN is the pop success of the year as far as I'm concerned. 3 mini albums followed by a mini greatest hits of the year, and not ONE filler track. Standing ovation.
The X Factor certainly has hit an all time low though. The show is brilliant, like a soap opera for those pretending to know about music, but the results have been appauling this year. I'm not talking about fluffy voiced Matt Cardle winning, I'm talking about the ACTUAL results... the albums that have been spurned from the show.
JLS's second album was just, just horrific, Cheryl Cole's voice now resembles a drunken ferret stumbling all over some actually not too bad tracks on her new album. I'd love to hear "Yeah Yeah" or "Amnesia" given to a decent singer, but I guess I never will. Last years top two, Joe McElderly and Olly Meh (I'm clever am I not?), both showed how little they have to offer musically with dull, insipid records with zilch personality or flair. And can I just say, "Ambitions"... a great song when performed by the band that it belongs to, Donkeyboy. Check these out.
Ah, the spirit of Bronski Beat. I have a desire to go and listen to "Smalltown Boy" right now.
Anyway, I could talk about the ingenuity and reinvention of indie with the Foals and Arcade Fire albums, and how great Janelle Monae is, and how Nicki Minaj has totally reinvented female identity within Hip Hop, but frankly I don't think it'd be any good. Read NME or something.
I just want to get on with talking about songs I like now thanks. 10 a day for next 5 days, then top 20 albums over the last two days of the year. That'll work out neatly I think. Yes.
50 "Whip My Hair" - Willow Smith
So wrong and yet so right. Who'd've thought a 9 year old girl could bring the most swagger to Hip Hop in 2010? (The absurdity of this statement is duly noted and ignored)
49 "Cold War" - Janelle Monae
"So you wanna be free? Well, below the ground's the only way to be"
Euphoric, intense yet poignant, sometimes uncomfortably so. A driving funk gallop gives beef behind Monae's desperate and emotional performance of this conspiracy anthem of the heart.
48 "My Boots" - Lights
"When I'm in the summer I forget how much I love her when she's in the groove."
Not a lesbian anthem. Supporting the similarly sugary synthpop act Owl City in the spring, Lights is a little Canadian ray of sunshine. Happy little ditties about video games and higher powers were in abundance on her sweet as pie debut, but this one off ode to winter is amoungst her most charming. Tinkly synths fall like snowflakes outside and gentle guitars crackle and pop like embers in the fireplace. Lovely.
47 "Katy on a Mission" - Katy B
The dubstep invasion of the charts reached its peak with this instant club classic. When Katy B talks of "erupt(ing) into the room" you can feel it through your speakers. Despite this, the track maintains a leisurely pace and thus an effortless class. When Katy taunts "so I sip his drink as I hold his gaze", you know she's in control.
46 "Let the Sun Shine" - Labrinth
The definition of R&B and Hip Hop was stretched to breaking point this year, with house beats and trance chords working their way into any commercial urban track you'd care to mention, and this life-affirming number by producer Labrinth is a prime example, practically a synthpop anthem. Nevertheless, the infectious warmth and happiness of this track makes genres seem irrelevant. So what if the lyrics are somewhat nonsensical? When Labrinth breaks into the ear-to-ear beam of a chorus, you somehow understand the joy in every word.
45 "Roman's Revenge" - Nicki Minaj feat. Eminem
"Yeah I said it... HAS-BEEN"
A bit risky of Nicki to drop this line in a track featuring the once great Eminem, but the faux-pas is easily overlooked amoungst the sheer volcanic eruption of the threatening, the unhinged and the outright bizarre that is Nicki's outstanding performance on this highlight from "Pink Friday". Eminem's performance is slightly cringy but, all things considered, not too bad. Though I suppose if Nicki can make a track featuring Will.I.Am credible, anything is possible.
44 "Indestructible" - Robyn
"I'm gonna love you like I've never been hurt before"
After the meltdown of "Dancing on My Own" and the healing in "Hang With Me", "Indestructible" comes as a triumphant overcommance of fear and hurt and declares that its ready to love again. The dramatic neo-classical backing and tidal wave synth chords second the sentiment admirably. Although probably the weakest of the three tracks, its placing at #43 is a decent hint at how incredible Robyn's output has been in 2010. More to come, needless to say.
(P.S. I LOVE this video)
43 "Suicide Dream 2" - How to Dress Well
Truly the best musical representation of any kind of dream in living memory. Vocals come and go indistinctly as a darkly ethereal pad crackles and distorts its beauty. The words are mere shapes, distant callings, not meant to be understood literally, but emotionally. The whole track is a vague, structureless poem that repeats itself indefinately, expands and takes the listener on a journey. Don't expect to understand the dream in question, but expect the music to hint as the fear and isolation hidden beneath the musical fog. Maybe it's best not to look much closer.
42 "Lions!" - Lights
"You don't have to feel safe to feel unafraid"
An uplifting message however you read it. Yet this is more than some feel good anthem: this is a self admitted ode to World of Warcraft. Which makes me love it all the more. As itsy bitsy as ever, timid beats and twinkle-twinkle-little-star vocals, but Lights has the remarkable ability to create a big noise for a little woman. Her head in the clouds and her music made in her bedroom, but this is music made for stadiums. Stadiums filled with computer geeks? Perhaps. But Lights makes it ok to be a geek, and most certainly ok to sing about computer games.
41 "Slow" - Rumer
"My love, my love, my love... killin' time is easy when you're here"
This breakthrough song for hazy voiced Rumer is one of the only truly, unashamadly romantic songs of the year. The song doesn't have a pace, it floats in mid air, each instrumental note hanging on Rumer's next breathless word, a woman who wants to give in to love when others tell her to be cautious and "slow this right down". The effect is captivating, heart wrenching and an exciting introduction to one of the years most talented new singers.
Wicked, DA DUN DONE. 40-31 tomorrow! Now I think champagne. I'm a little behind in the Christmas stakes.