2008 was, in retrospect, a fabulous year for all things music. Madonna took a moment from rescuing babies to focus upon saving the world with her vagina in just under four minutes. Icons of the dance world including Grace Jones, Cyndi Lauper, and Donna Summer dusted off their aging vaginas to step out onto the floor again. And a certain vagina-bearing Princess of Pop went from being wheeled out on a gurney in January to being seated atop the music charts in December with a number one album in one final, glorious display of total domination.
Now that I think of it, this was the year of comebacks…Vagina style.
Now, in order to weed out the Best of the Best of 2008, I gave a scroll or two across my monthly playlists from the year with some considerable consideration. When all was said and done, I was left with a list of exactly fifty albums. Taking this as a sign from above (or below, depending on how you interpret this list), I then took the liberty of re-arranging the extensive set of albums (copy-pasting myself into oblivion) until I was in semi-agreement with the end result. Even now, I keep making switches, and I can’t say for sure what separates an album’s genius when we start considering a #36 best from a #42 best album, so let’s just pretend that this thing’s been carved with stone cold confidence, mmkay?
And now, I humbly present the fruits of my labor. In all honesty, there were too many albums that could have made a case for being placed in the Top Ten. It was a near impossible task!
50. Girl Talk – Feed The Animals
49. Khia – Nasti Muzik
48. Koda Kumi – Kingdom
47. Bitter:Sweet – Drama
46. BoA – The Face
45. Britta Persson – Kill Hollywood Me
44. Electrocute – On The Beat EP
43. Sonny J – Disastro
42. Ferry Corsten – Twice In A Blue Moon
41. Ayumi Hamasaki – GUILTY
40. Donna Summer – Crayons
39. t.A.T.u. – Happy Smiles
38. Alesha Dixon – The Alesha Show
37. Amanda Palmer – Who Killed Amanda Palmer?
36. Emiliana Torrini – Me & Armini
35. Rachael Yamagata – Elephants…Teeth Sinking Into Heart
34. Get Well Soon – Rest Now Weary Head, You Will Get Well Soon
33. Zeigeist – The Jade Motel
32. Ashlee Simpson – Bittersweet World
31. Empire of the Sun – Walking On A Dream
30. Janet Jackson – Discipline
29. Ami Suzuki – Supreme Show
28. MylÃ¨ne Farmer – Point De Suture
27. Utada Hikaru – Heart Station
26. Sneaky Sound System – 2
25. Oceanlab – Sirens of the Sea
24. Sigur RÃ³s – MeÃ° suÃ° Ã eyrum viÃ° spilum endalaust
23. Lykke Li – Youth Novels
22. Sia – Some People Have Real Problems
21. Hercules & Love Affair – Hercules & Love Affair
20. M83 – Saturdays=Youth
19. Michelle Williams – Unexpected
18. Cyndi Lauper – Bring Ya To The Brink
17. Kaskade – Strobelite Seduction
16. Danity Kane – Welcome To The Dollhouse
15. Will Young – Let It Go
14. Sam Sparro – Sam Sparro
13. Charlotte Sometimes – Waves & The Both Of Us
12. Alanis Morissette – Flavors of Entanglement
11. Grace Jones – Hurricane
10. Moby – Last Night
09. Lady Gaga – The Fame
08. Janelle MonÃ¡e – Metropolis: The Chase Suite
07. Goldfrapp – Seventh Tree
06. Santogold – Santogold
5. Madonna – Hard Candy
Frankly, the Queen is lucky to be hanging on to the Top 5. After crafting perhaps the definitive dance record of the decade, 2005’s Confessions on A Dancefloor, expectations for her follow-up release were at an understanble, impossible height. So, when Hard Candy finally hit the airwaves, devout Madonnaholics instantly began to fume with a nearly unanimous view: She’s trying too hard! Incorporating Justin Timberlake, Timbaland, and a slew of inappropriately childish lyrics (“Watch my booty get down, like uh!”), Her Madgesty seemed doubtful of her own relevance, the ultimate misstep for the Queen. As a result, instead of setting the standards of Pop in 2008, Madonna followed through the motions, producing an album that could have come from the post-2006 Nelly Furtado, Chris Brown, or any other Timba-concocted personality in the late ’00’s.
All this being said however, the album is still, for all intents and purposes, quite good. It’s failings merely lie in the fact that it is a Madonna album. If we peel away the expectations that come with the superstar, the songs within the candy-coated album become plenty sweet for the rest of us. “Candy Shop” remains one of my tiny delights, along with “She’s Not Me,” and “Give It 2 Me,” the brief Dance Dance Revolution exercise in synth-inspired mindlessness. The real saving grace lies in the album’s ballads, including the epic “Miles Away” (which is denied the title of perfection as a result of that inexcusable human beat-boxing from Timbaland in the background), and “Devil Wouldn’t Recognize You,” a mature crafting of contemplative, brooding dark pop.
4. Annie – Don’t Stop
I know. Stop me–This isn’t an actual album. Several weeks before the album’s original release date of October 12, Don’t Stop leaked onto the net, resulting in Island Records’ decision to push the release back all the way until April 2009 in search of fresh promotional tactics. Annie is now trying to push her brilliant cover of Stacey Q‘s “Two of Hearts” as a single, while the future of Don’t Stop remains entirely dubious. If the album does manage to see the light of day next year, it may very well end up topping the Top 10 charts for that year as well. If not, it will surely become one of the greater Pop Injustices of the decade.
Don’t Stop is a delicious merger of just-below-the-radar, indie-rock influence and sugary sweet, bubble pop confection. Including the much adored, relentlessly catchy lead single “I Know UR Girlfriend Hates Me,” every track is a potential hit for the Norway songstress, including the frenetic brag fest “My Love Is Better” and the warm sensual surges of “Take You Home.” Then there’s “Song’s Remind Me Of You,” a work in progress that has topped the wishlists of Pop Enthusiasts everywhere over the past few years as the highly anticipated, highly mysterious Richard X-produced single proclaimed as perfection by PopJustice. The anticipation was far too great for the song to perform to those expectations, though it does remain one of the best tracks of the year…Hands down.
3. Sugababes – Catfights And Spotlights
If this list were to be judged solely on cohesiveness, the Babes would take all. Sadly it is not, and I cannot in good mind place their release any higher. S&C is an astonishingly understated album, performing only moderately well on the charts before slipping fast into the depths.
The title may have been the first to throw the critics. To this day, Catfights And Spotlights still does nothing in relationship to the content of the album. It’s a title better saved for a future Aloud album, I’d say. The second misleading choice was the lead single, “Girls,” a horn-happy looper of a track that, when experienced on its own, grows irritating after only three or four listens.
Yet by and large, those still willing to give the Babes a chance found themselves delightfully suprised by the outcome: A powerhouse of swinging ’60’s sound, heartbreaking melodies, and clever lyricism, the album not only trumps anything the Babes have ever released in the past five years, but a vast majority of this year’s releases. To this day, it remains a vital installation within my playlists. Congratulations Amelle, you’ve done something quite right for the Sugababes.
2. Girls Aloud – Out Of Control
I’ll admit, the ordering of the top three was a bit daunting, but I’m going to stick to my guns here. Out Of Control, like every release from the Aloud since What Would The Neighbours Say?, is an unstoppable hits-friendly collection of up-tempo club bangers and tongue-in-cheek, chic stilleto pop. The Girls continue to provide as much glamour and glitz as possible within their fifth release, while managing to inject some versatility (stronger solos for Nicola and Kimba, farm sounds, and country music!), as well as the powerhouse production that remains purely Aloud. With “Untouchable” alone, Girls Aloud have now raised their own bar of quality for 2009.
1. Britney Spears – Circus
My feelings for Circus have been expressed best in my review, and remain entirely unchanged. As a result, there’s very little left to say: Circus is packed with insatiably addictive dance numbers, silly up-tempo sing-a-longs, and borderline cheese ballads that the singer continues to command throughout her entire career. If we cam take nothing else from the album, the title track’s perfection alone merits its position atop the Top 10.
This is a true Britney Spears album, recorded by the biggest name in Pop of our time. It is with this release that Spears returns to her prime, her glory, or whatever you’d like to call it. And while the album cannot be considered purely perfection, the statement it makes can: Pop is back, and Britney Spears is here to stay.