Friday, December 25, 2009

Best of 2009!

1. Nadia Ali - Embers
I suspect Nadia Ali titled her album "Embers" because she hoped that each song would continue to burn long after the flame of each song faded. Nadia definitely succeeds on her first solo album. Although she gained popularity primarily as part of the dance act iio, one cannot really categorize "Embers" as a dance album. There are some stunning ballads as well as upbeat pop numbers that utilize a exquisite balance of synthesizers and guitars. What truly makes this album a gem is Nadia's lyrical honesty. Nadia bares her soul and at many times shows the listener just how flawed and vulnerable she percieves herself to be. Vulnerabilty isn't a trait most people like to discuss but Nadia doesn't hold back. Whether she is singing about a love destined to 'crash and burn' or the empty "promises" that remain after a failed relationship, her frank and sincere delivery in each song is mesmerizing.

2. Whitney Houston - I Look To You
Don't call it a comeback because she's been here for years. Unfortunately the past 7 years we have seen Ms. Houston fight a very public battle with drugs and a messy divorce. This album marked her return to the recording studio. Instead of trying to reinvent herself or go over the top, "I Look To You" picks up where Whitney Houston last left off and serves as a request to her fans that they love her like she "never left". Whitney's voice (yes it sounds different but not as bad as the critics want you to believe because she still can outsing any other "diva" out right now) soars over the opening track "Million Dollar Bill". Whitney continues to shine during most of the upbeat songs, which is odd considering her biggest hits of the 80's were mostly ballads. Even the unlikely duet with Akon comes off very natural and endearing. There is nothing contrived or calculated about this album. From start to finish it truly does sound like she never left!

3. Lady Gaga - The Fame Monster
I usually need a month or two to really know if an album is shit or a masterpiece. Some albums can surprise me and end up being "growers". Lady Gaga's "Fame Monster" was released just in time for the holidays. Technically it is a new album but it was originally meant to be an expanded edition of her debut album. Either way, Lady Gaga was the "it" girl of pop music this past year......and rightfully so! Whether you love her or think she is an overrated anorexic white girl with bad taste in clothing, you cannot deny the popularity of her music. Not in recent times has a female singer been able to so flawless merge the underground NYC club life with a sense of modern mainstream pop. Her vocal abilities are amazing too as she has proven in numerous live events. Lady Gaga's 'fame' right now is a very welcome additon to my music collection. Pulsating dance grooves with some pop saavy lyrics make her music an addiction.

4. Wisin Y Yandel - La Revolucion
Never in a million years did I think I would one day be praising the likes of a duo like Wisin Y Yandel. A few years ago reggaeton became such a popular genre that even mainstream Top 40 english radio stations were eager to play new tracks by its most popular artists. Like every other fad, reggaeton had an expiration date that was coming up, but instead of letting the sound fade into obscurity, the major players began experimenting with new sounds to create a sort of pop-reggaeton-urban hybrid. Wisin Y Yandel have been the leaders of the pack and this album was surprisingly good. Once I got past the repetitive lyrics and horrible use of spanglish, I found myself listening to a rather fun party album!

5. Miranda! - Es Imposible
The Argentinean super pop group seemed to be losing its steam after its last album. A rushed greatest hits collection screamed "damage control" but they went back to basics and created a solid and enjoyable pop-rock with album. Less time is spent creating glitzy glam rock so more time can be devoted to good music and that unmistakeble Argentinean accent! Best song is "Mentia"!

6. Fey - Dulce Tentatcion/Sweet Temptation
Mexican pop singer Fey has become quite the comeback queen over the years with more ups and downs than a Motel 6 box spring on the weekend. Not only does Fey rise from the ashes of her past flop album but she manages to exceed expectations creating one of the most anticipated and critically acclaimed latin dance pop albums of the year. Fey has done her homework and manages to take the best of Kylie Minogue, Madonna, Britney and Lady Gaga to create a poptastic explosion of dancefloor gems and electropop heaven! What's even better is Fey's ability to exude a certain amount of sassiness that was missing from previous albums (La Viuda Negra, Provocame).

7. Nelly Furtado - Mi Plan
Hate her or like her, Nelly Furtado is never one to rehash her old songs for the sake of having a hit. Each album she releases is distinctly different from the previous and this time she tackles a foreign language. Nelly began to dabble with Spanish when she sang a duet with Juanes in 2002. Since then she has recorded several spanish versions of her songs and been featured on several latin pop hits (her appearance with Wisin Y Yandel on "Sexy Movimiento" is FIERCE!) but this album is all about Nelly and her genunine love for the spanish language. Granted half of the tracks feature other artists but it creates a very friendly and welcoming feel. That and Nelly's imperfect Spanish pronunciation make this album so likeable. Musically the album creates a nice balance between her folkloric material from "Folklore" and her more modern urban works with Timbaland.

8. Pitbull - Rebelution
Yes, that's right. Pitbull. Perhaps this was my guiltiest pleasure of the year (even more so than Wisin Y Yandel) but I have been a long time fan of Pitbull. Since his first Top 40 hit "Culo", I have always enjoyed his Miami party bass sound. Lyrically he never strays too far from talking about sex and women, this album is no exception, but he does it all with a sense of humor that you can't find with most rappers. He is a horndog and has no shame. It's ok though because the club anthems like "I Know You Want Me", "Shut It Down" and "Hotel Motel" make you forget Mr. Pitbull's raunchy side!

9. Mary J Blige - Stronger With Each Tear
Ok, so this album was just released last week, but it seems like Mary has released her past three albums during the holiday season. They all went on to be big favorites of mine so this time I am going to give her the attention she deserves. The Queen of Hip Hop Soul continues her 18 year reign with one of her most stunning and stellar albums yet. Mary isn't afraind to bare her soul and share her pain...and joy. Funky retro tunes (Good Love), amazing ballads (In The Morning) and future hip-pop classics (I Feel Good) adorn this collection.

1 comment:

  1. Fucking amazing! Nadia's album is stunning and should have had so much more success.

    What's Miranda like? I'll have to check them out.