Music Revolution 2010: Albums of the Year (Excluding Kanye West)
Well, it’s that time of the year when we all take a look back and reflect on what we’ve experienced over the year 12 months. As I personally look back, I can say that things have been very interesting. The music of 2010 to most would be considered par for the course, but we have to dig deeper to see what really going on, as things are never what they appear to be. In this case, album releases have been excellent this year. It seems many artists, popular or underground, are tired of going through the motions are they were ready to take some chances. The results where my personal list of the nine best albums of 2010:
DISCLAIMER: As the title indicates, Kanye West’s CD, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, is not be included on this list solely because he’s on, or at the top of, everyone’s list. I LOVE the record. However, one of the main goals of The Well-Dressed Headphone Addict is to display things that aren’t so obvious.
9) Soldier of Love – Sade
I’m fairly certain that Sade Adu is in league with evil powers. Anyone who still looks flawlessly gorgeous without surgery, makes an amazing record after nine years away and still sell platinum to a fickle-as-ever public must’ve sold their soul to the devil. Ironic considering the heavenly sounds of “The Moon & the Sky” and “Skin.” Sade found a way on “Soldier of Love” to keep their signature sound and still be up to date without being obvious. When I heard that trumpet and those drums, I flipped out! I’m official ready to wait another decade for their 7th CD. They’ve yet to record a bad album!
8 ) I Learned the Hard Way – Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings
Easily one of the most consistent artists in music since their 2002 debut, 50-something Sharon Jones and Co. stay true to their Brooklyn soul identity. The emotional title track and the groove of “The Game Gets Old” prove that they’ve got the goods to make fans come to them rather than the other way around. Bosco Mann’s production and composition skills continue to get more potent and lasting, despite its refusal to adapt to any contemporary instrumental practices. I thank God everyday for the Dap Kings, for showing the world that people not only still play instruments, but play them well.
Favorite Track: “Without A Heart”
7) How I Got Over – The Roots
I have to admit, I didn’t think The Roots had it in them to make a record as 2008’s Rising Down. Fortunately, I was mistaken. Their “9 to 5” with Jimmy Fallon, if anything, has made them stronger, more unified, as it shows on this CD. Dear God 2.0 is as dark as anything Kanye did this year and Radio Daze illustrates why they’re so versatile as a band. The two John Legend collaborations, “The Fire” and “Doin’ It Again” show a more ferocious side of the Philly collective that was missing in their Wake Up! album later this year. If you don’t like How I Got Over for any reason, you got to love it because of the enduring chemistry between MC Black Thought and drummer Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson, who are both at the top of their games.
Favorite Track: “Radio Daze”
6) Nothing – N.E.R.D.
After hearing Seeing Sounds two years ago, I just knew that Pharrell, Chad and Shae had a great, consistent album in them coming sooner or later. Well, it came sooner. “Hot N Fun” was my personal choice for song of the summer, but it doesn’t tell the tale of this thought provoking record. Sure, all their previous albums have focused on various topics, but the sound more serious than ever, with political statements like “Life As a Fish” and “Help Me.” Nothing is also one of their funkiest albums – scary considering their history – thanks to the frantic “Party People” and vintage Neptune sounding “Perfect Defect.” I just hope the industry and public wake up and they get the media blitzing coverage and multi-platinum status that they’ve bestowed on others.
Favorite Track: “God Bless Us All”
5) Wake Up! – John Legend and The Roots
The day I heard that The Legendary Roots Crew and Grammy winning singer/songwriter John Legend were coming together to do a cover album, I was all over it. But it’s much deeper than just re-recording old 1960s and 1970s R&B tunes. Each track was carefully picked to reflect how the same issues and spirits the songs like “Hang On In There” and “Little Ghetto Boy” still resonate in the USA today. Questlove, Black Thought, James Poyser and Co. are hypnotically synced, keeping their hip hop “roots” in the music, but only its sonic essence and power. All 12 songs are funky, heartbreaking and/or thought provoking. And John Legend’s voice never sounded more beautifully raw and enraged. He showed that he’s not just a crooner, but he can be soothsayer of soul and truth.
Favorite Track: “Hard Times”
4) The Lady Killer – Cee Lo Green
Who would’ve thought that a song titled “Fuck You” would have such a possible reaction by the general public? But believe me when I tell you, that profanity laced track of pop perfection is just the tip of the iceberg. The Lady Killer finds the Goodie Mob MC and Gnarls Barkley front man combining his gentlemanly lothario image with traditional 1960’s pop and soul, and you’ve got an album tailor made to be a James Bond soundtrack. Songs like the Phillip Bailey assisted “Fool For You,” the 1980s-Fab “Bright Lights Bigger City” and Band of Horse cover of “No One’s Gonna Love You” find Green’s voice as appeal and revealing as ever and more so than any singer alive today.
Favorite Song: “Bodies”
3) Good Things – Aloe Blacc
He sings, he raps, he writes and he’s a first-rate band leader. However, unless you watch HBO’s “How To Make It in America” (Blacc sings its theme, “I Need a Dollar,” first single of this CD), nobody’s heard of him. Aloe Blacc’s sophomore set Good Things is the perfect fusion of its influences from his Stones Throw label (Madlib, J-Dilla, Dam-Funk) and Brooklyn’s Truth and Soul productions (Lee Fields, El Michels Affair): a set of cinematic soul that sounds old school but’s actually as lyrically hard hitting as hip hop could get. His melancholy voice makes tracks like “Loving You is Killing Me” and the aforementioned “Dollar” instantly timeless.
Favorite Song: “Politician”
2) Libra Scale – Ne-Yo
Michael Jackson’s influence on Ne-Yo is severely obvious to the average person. His latest album, Libra Scale, is no different. In fact MJ’s spirit has been injected into each and every song like steroids! And now, having said that, this is Ne-Yo’s best and most consistent album to date. Ne-Yo crafted a CD that told a broader tale of a man who revels in bachelorhood – playing the field and loving every minute – who unexpectedly finds love with just one woman, only to end up forever changing her into the same “monster” he still was on the inside. The singles “Champagne Life” and “One in a Million” are just small parts of a story. Songs like “What Have I Done” and “Cause I Said So” are his darkest and most intriguing.
Favorite Track: “Telekinesis”
1) The ArchAndroid – Janelle Monae
This Kansas City hurricane zapped a much needed jolt into the music business. Her major label debut, The ArchAndroid, has been the breakthrough album of 2010, drawing inspiration from jazz, hip hop, house, folk, soul, opera without every once sounding unorganized or predictable. “Dance or Die” shows off her ferocious rhyme flow, “Tightrope” exhibits her love of wordplay and “Cold War” displays her lovely singing voice and flare for the dramatic. It may not be fair to put this kind of pressure on a 24-year-old, but after being compared to the likes of Lauryn Hill and James Brown, and being personally hand picked to open for Prince’s hotly anticipated Welcome 2 America tour, the world can now expect nothing short of innovative greatness from Janelle Monae.
Favorite Track: “Locked Inside”