10. Lady Gaga: The Fame Monster
“Bad Romance” is topping more year-end lists than Animal Collective, and not without reason: if “ra-ra-ah-ah-ah, roma-roma-ma, ga-ga-oh-la-la” is the only thing we’ll remember about Lady Gaga, we’ll still look back fondly while overlooking some of her more dubious wardrobe choices. But The Fame Monster boasts more than just the notorious song: “Dance in the Dark” and “Monster” are also among the signature Gaga entendres, club-ready and unapologetically catchy.
09. Meisa Kuroki: hellcat
If I had to pick one successor to Namie Amuro, Meisa Kuroki would be it, and since Amuro has shown herself to be forging new territory with PAST < FUTURE, it looks like Kuroki is the likeliest competition. hellcat doesn’t have the intensity or acumen behind albums like Queen of Hip-Hop or PLAY, but it’s one of the most fun debut albums I’ve heard in a while and shows great promise, a promise Kuroki is looking to fulfill if the first single off her upcoming album is any indication.
08. Big Bang: BIGBANG [ read full review ]
Korean pop bands are taking over the world. This is not the first time I’ve said it, and I’m sort of hoping it will be the last, as we can now move forward with this knowledge intact and focus on individual artists. Big Bang finally made a break in Korea with “Lies” but it’s their dominance of the Japanese market that finally put them on the map. As a testament to the members’ individual talent, G-Dragon also released the award-winning Heartbreaker which topped Korean charts and showed the band had the potential to be indestructible. With their 2010 album already in the works, one can only hope they continue to prove themselves as adept and proficient as BIGBANG.
07. Mr Hudson: Straight No Chaser
Mr Hudson’s Straight No Chaser is more than just a rap record: it’s a rap record that doesn’t resort to petty clichés, revels in pop appreciation, and isn’t afraid to show its vulnerability as much as it does its ire. More than a bid for authenticity, Mr Hudson never lets on that he has something to prove, instead teaming up with artists like Kanye West and Kid Cudi to craft clever rhymes and confessions, a sort of mea culpa that at the last moment, decides it wasn’t in the wrong after all. At its core, it’s just another break-up record (the track listing is almost unbearably linear: boy tells lies, boy loses the girl, boy begins to reminisce, boy learns to live without love, boy cries, boy gets angry, boy comes to terms), but it’s rendered in such brilliant music, it becomes more than just another entry in Kanye’s blog.
06. BoA: BoA [ read full review ]
BoA is everything a pop fan could wish for. Far more commercial than anything she had yet released, best-selling Korean artist BoA portrays an incredible bevy of talent: deft grasp of the English language, stunning dance skills, and a knack for mainstream sound. Made all the more brilliant in comparison to Hikaru Utada’s own second English language album released the same week, which fared poorly with both critics and fans, a lot of credit must go to the writers and producers who assembled songs very of the moment, nurtured BoA’s strengths, and kept the electropop tone consistent.
05. Lights: The Listening [ read full review ]
A synth-heavy record, Lights’ The Listening is a very mature record that tackles very adolescent issues, centering around the clichéd angst of growing up. The album might be too unrealistic for some listeners, reveling in fairy tale notions of attraction and nostalgia for childhood (and the early 90s that accompanied it), but it’s still a stunning full-length debut record that explores just how hard it is to define adulthood.
04. Nadia Ali: Embers
Trance albums rarely make my year-end lists (Oceanlab was the first last year), though this has more to do with the fact that trance is a very single-based genre with mostly big-name artists releasing full-length albums. I guess Nadia Ali is further exceptional considering her music is not traditional trance, but more of a typical dance style with heavy elements of euro. In glowing tribute to a broken relationship that refuses to release its spark, Embers is steeped in accusations (“Point the Finger”), longing (“Ride with Me”), regret (“Be Mine”), and finally, self-preservation (“Fine Print”). It’s dance music you can’t dance to, stoking and re-stoking what’s left in the ashes of loss.
03. Donkeyboy: Caught in a Life
I’ll admit I’m hypocritical when it comes to the 80s synthfluence of the 00s; on one hand, it’s becoming redundant, on the other, it’s still inspiring some pretty amazing music. Donkeyboy may not have the brash sex appeal of a Gwen Stefani or the Pitchfork-endorsed review of a Neon Indian, but they have the gifted ability to work within the confines of Scandinavia’s celebrated track record to produce some of the most fundamental pop music of the decade. The cheerful melodies set against gloomy lyrics are a testament to the quintessential pandering of youth, meandering its way through real world infancy; Caught in a Life is dreamy and escapist without being immune to the harshest glare of life’s headlights.
02. Florence + the Machine: Lungs [ read full review ]
Lungs is not a perfect album – a few tracks still disrupt the musical narrative, tending to stick out like sore-thumb intervals – but in spite of its flaws, it remains a grand, sweeping album that asks more questions than it answers, provides more enigma than understanding, and never lacks for want of a desperate, sometimes frantic search – for passion, for comfort, for spiritual enlightenment. Florence Welch’s voice cuts through tempos and soars somewhere in the highest realms, lingering far above the already massive melodies, wallowing in the heady first days of romance, the agony of losing love, and finally finding it again in the least expected place.
01. Kent: Röd [ read full review ]
Kent is relentless; releasing masterpiece after masterpiece is one way to show you have enough talent to start throwing it away on B-sides, but the other is simply to keep doing what they do: releasing intricate, carefully crafted albums that build upon previous work without showing any sign of strain to which so many bands two decades old succumb. Any weaknesses the band has never appears on the record, a heady cocktail of fear, aggression, anxiety, and coping with a sort of self-inflicted isolation. Kent is nowhere near where it started in 1990, but Röd is an incredible place to land and probably more than even the most enthusiastic fans could have dreamed.
Top Twenty Western Pop/Rock Songs
01. Jonas Brothers: Much Better
02. Cobra Starship: Good Girls Go Bad
03. Natalia Lafourcade: Ella Es Bonita
04. Miley Cyrus: When I Look at You
05. Elliott Yamin: Know Better
06. Pussycat Dolls: Jai Ho (You Are My Destiny)
07. Pet Shop Boys: Love, etc.
08. Cascada: Why You Had to Leave
09. The Used: Kissing You Goodbye
10. Shakira: She Wolf
11. Booty Luv: Say It
12. Depeche Mode: Wrong
13. Rihanna: Rude Boy
14. Sean Kingston: Fire Burning
15. Leighton Meester: Somebody to Love
16. Heidi Montag: Look How I’m Doing
17. Melanie Fiona: Give it to Me Right
18. Kelly Clarkson: Already Gone
19. David Guetta ft. Akon: Sexy Chick
20. Pitbull: I Know You Want Me (Calle Ocho)
Top Twenty Western Indie Songs
01. Ellie Goulding: Under the Sheets
02. Tesla Boy: Neon Love
03. Regina Spektor: Hero
04. Dragonette: Pick Up the Phone
05. The Bird and the Bee: My Love
06. Lady Sovereign: I Got You Dancing
07. Yeah Yeah Yeahs: Heads Will Roll
08. Franz Ferdinand: Twilight Omens
09. The Big Pink: Dominos
10. dredg: Lightswitch
11. Late Night Alumni: You Can Be the One
12. Saint Etienne: Method of Modern Love
13. Superbus: Key Hole
14. Lily Allen: 22
15. Space Cowboy: Talking in Your Sleep
16. Neon Indian: Deadbeat Summer
17. White Lies: E.S.T.
18. The Sounds: Beatbox
19. Sahara Hotnights: Japanese Boy
20. Athlete: Superhuman Touch
Top Twenty Eastern Pop/Rock Songs
01. Maki Goto: Fly away
02. Whale & Jo Kwon: Dunk Shoot
03. BoA: Eien
04. Namie Amuro: WILD
05. Lee Jung Hyun: Vogue Girl
06. Sukhwinder Singh & Sunidhi Chauhan: Maarjani
07. G-Dragon: Heartbreaker
08. 2NE1: Fire
09. Jolin Tsai: Ying Wu Zhe
10. alan: Kuon na Kawa
11. 80kidz: She
12. RDB & Nindy Kaur: Om Mangalam
13. Ayumi Hamasaki: NEXT LEVEL
14. KAT-TUN: RESCUE
15. Clazziquai Project: The Road
16. Mika Nakashima: No Answer
17. f(x): Chu~♡
18. NIRGILIS: Kiseki
19. Koda Kumi: Driving
20. JUJU: Ashita ga Kurunara
Top Twenty Trance Songs
01. Mike Mikhjian: The Reaper (Vocal Mix)
02. Roderick Santh: You Can Have Me (Radio)
03. Akira Kayosa & Firestorm: Reflections (Heartstrings Remix)
04. Mike Emvee: That Little Something (Original Mix)
05. Adam K & Soha: Long Distance (TyDi Remix)
06. Paul Van Dyk ft. Johnny Mcdaid: Home (Kaskade Radio Mix)
07. Cosmic Gate ft. Kyler England: Flatline
08. TyDi: Closer Than My Breath
09. Ferry Corsten: We Belong (Radio Edit)
10. Haley: This is How it Goes (Kaskade’s Grand Club Edit)
11. Schumann & Kloss: Shabuka (Cressida Radio Edit)
12. Karactair: Copyrighted (Original Mix)
13. Armin van Buuren ft. Jaren: Unforgivable (Extended Mix)
14. Soulcry ft. Guido Staps: Dying to Live (Acoustic Version)
15. Motion Blur: CSR (Heartstrings Remix)
16. Calvin Harris: I’m Not Alone
17. Michael Cassette: Summer (Vocal Mix)
18. Jaco: Unreachable (Original Mix)
19. Dash Berlin: Man on the Run (Radio Edit)
20. Terry Ferminal: A Thousand Miles (Radio Edit)
I will have to check that Jo Kwon song out, I never knew it existed!
The only disagreement I have with your song list is f(x), but I’ve kind of gotten used to the fact that everyone is in love with them now
I heard “Bad Romance” for the first time today on the radio, and so help me God, I liked it. Also, you have totally sold me on Florence and the Machine. Was playing the album non stop a few days ago.
That Meisa Kuroki song sounds like Michael Jackson’s Smooth Criminal in the chorus… a lot… and I see no credit on that chorus… do you hear it at all? I’m not a rabid MJ fan in any way, but it sounds very similar…
I honestly never noticed that before, thanks for pointing it out. I suppose it wouldn’t be too far-fetched for the song to be heavily influenced by the mother of all criminal anthems, but I really don’t hear it. But then, in an era where pop songs all sound so much alike, it’s fairly easy to pick out the predecessors.