Earlier in the week, every single of the year thus far was collected, scientifically analysed and the best twenty were listed. However, behind every (most) great songs is a great album, so sit back and enjoy the ten best of the year:
10. Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded – Nicki Minaj
Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded is the second album by Nicki Minaj, and is the follow up to her début Pink Friday. Here, Minaj throws everything she has and the kitchen sink at the wall in the hope something will stick (the album has three parts: the Hip Hop, the Pop and the R&B), and has thus created something of a disjointed, overly long album. She also removed the best song, Va Va Voom, from the standard version of the album, which could be her biggest hit. Having said that, the album has enough great songs to cement Minaj’s status as the queen of Hip-Hop.
Tracks to try before you buy: Va Va Voom, Starships, Beez In The Trap
09. Fall To Grace – Paloma Faith
Paloma Faith followed up 2009’s brilliant Do You Want The Truth Or Something Beautiful with this album. Faith wanted this album to have better written songs, so gone are the Upside Down’s and Stone Cold Sober’s, and in it’s place is a collection of ballads. This has left a very ‘Adele-ified’ version of Paloma Faith, which is arguably a bad thing as this album has far less personality than her début. However, she soars on tracks such as Picking Up The Pieces, which was her first Top 10 single. So, all in all this is a good album with moments of brilliance.
Tracks to try before you buy: Picking Up The Pieces, Black & Blue, 30 Minute Love Affair
08. MDNA – Madonna
In order to prove that she still has it, Madonna released MDNA earlier this year. The album is a lot more carefree than her previous effort Hard Candy, and contains her best music since the anthem that is Hung Up. Gang Bang is the highlight of the album, with over-the-top lyricism and an amazing breakdown. She then flourishes on the Sunday Girl-penned Turn Up The Radio, before revisiting her late 90’s sound on I’m A Sinner. Despite questionable single choices, this album is arguably her best since Ray Of Light.
Tracks to try before you buy: Gang Bang, Turn Up The Radio, Masterpiece
07. A Million Lights – Cheryl
After a terrible few years, Cheryl returned to pop this year with her third album A Million Lights. Having spent more than a year working on it, it came as a shock to find that Cheryl had only helped pen two tracks track on the album (Craziest Things & Under The Sun). Saying that, the album contains one of the best songs of the year in Call My Name, and the aforementioned Under The Sun is perfect for a summer’s day ‘under the sun’. The album only reaches the heights of these tracks twice more, once on the Wretch 32 assisted ‘middle-fingers-up-to-Ashley’ Screw You (although she insists it’s not about him) and again on Ghetto Baby, which sounds like a Lana Del Rey track with a ‘donk’ on it (well, she did write it).
Tracks to try before you buy: Call My Name, Under The Sun, Screw You (feat. Wretch 32)
06. Heartbreak On Hold – Alexandra Burke
Another artist who has had a bad year is Alexandra Burke. Her first album since leaving Simon Cowell’s label, Heartbreak On Hold was released in June and tanked commercially. However, this does not detract from the album itself. Album opener Heartbreak On Hold is a good old-fashioned ‘diva-banger’, the second single Let It Go bares a passing resemblance to the classic Show Me Love and Tonight is a perfect club song. Although not the most ground-breaking record ever, it does exactly what Burke said it was going to: uplift and make people dance.
Tracks to try before you buy: Let It Go, Tonight, This Love Will Survive
05. Electra Heart – Marina & The Diamonds
Having previously stated that she would never work with Dr. Luke, Marina Diamandis unleashed the brilliant Dr. Luke-produced Primadonna as the trailer single to her second album Electra Heart. This was her first number one album too, and it is hard not to see why. The quirks from her first album have been mixed with a pop sensibility to create a great album. The album has a fantastic run of songs (from Bubblegum Bitch to Power and Control), before falling into an almost bland second half. The last track however (Fear and Loathing) soars from the ashes and is arguably her best song to date.
Tracks to try before you buy: Fear and Loathing, Primadonna, Power and Control
04. Born To Die – Lana Del Rey
Arguably the most hyped album of the year, Born To Die is the debut album from Lana Del Rey. After a series of home-made music videos that went viral, Del Rey was already a household name before the album was even released. No pressure then. She didn’t disappoint though. Although the general theme of the album gets a bit monotonous towards the end, that doesn’t detract from the album’s high points. Video Games is beautifully tender, Radio is a nod to her new life as a singer and Off To The Races shows that she’s not just a competent balladeer. Born To Die is set for a re-release later in the yea, so who knows where this album will be on this chart in five months time.
Tracks to try before you buy: Video Games, Off To The Races, Blue Jeans
03. Make Me Believe In Hope – Bright Light Bright Light
Still criminally not signed to a major label, Rod Thomas (aka Bright Light Bright Light) released his album Make Me Believe In Hope independently this June. A collection of mature, thoughtful pop songs, this album is a shoe-in for every ‘best of’ list at the end of the year. Highlights include the singles Love Part II and Waiting For The Feeling, as well as the truly massive Moves and the emotive Debris. The album also includes Cry at Films, a brilliant duet with Del Marquis of the Scissor Sisters. This is a truly remarkable début by a truly remarkable artist.
Tracks to try before you buy: Love Part II, Waiting For The Feeling, Moves
02. Is Your Love Big Enough? – Lianna La Havas
From one truly remarkable artist to another, Lianne La Havas released her début album only a few weeks ago. After being unfairly labelled as a Corinne Bailey Rae-lite, she silences her critics on a fantastic, multi-dimensional album. The album opens with the sparse Don’t Wake Me Up, before exploding with the title track, which is destined to be one of this years festival anthems. The album then mellows down again on the outstanding No Room For Doubt, before once more raising the tempo on the fierce Forget. Other highlights include the single Lost & Found, the stunning Au Cinema and her big ballad Gone. Without doubt, Is Your Love Big Enough? is the most beautiful album of the year and given time, could be the overall best.
Tracks to try before you buy: No Room For Doubt, Forget, Is Your Love Big Enough?
01. Our Version Of Events – Emeli Sande
It was previously mentioned that Paloma Faith’s Fall To Grace is ‘Adele-idied’, which is also a characteristic of Emeli Sande’s début Our Version Of Events. Last August, Sande premièred the fantastic trip-hop influenced Heaven, which suggested an album would be coming in the same vein. However, the album is filled with sparse ballads. This doesn’t mean it’s bad though, quite the opposite in fact. River, Breaking The Law and Suitcase all showcase her enviable voice. The albums penultimate track, Hope, is a beautiful protest song, and is a clear highlight. Other highlights include the smash hit Next To Me and the albums best track My Kind Of Love, which, if it were a stick of rock, would have ’emotion’ written through it. This album is a master-class in balladry, and suggests that Sande is here to stay.
Tracks to try before you buy: My Kind Of Love, Hope, Heaven.