Here we go again: The end of another year in music!
2010 may well be remembered as the Year of the Future (if not the Year of All Hearts—hint hint!): A year of fembots, androids, bionic women and time-traveling adventures deep into the 22nd century.
Space-age love stories and robo-dramatics colored a large portion of the year’s biggest releases in pop, no doubt a response to the reign of the machine on the pop charts as synth-pop productions continued to dominate the digital airwaves in 2010.
Below is the list of MuuMuse’s Top Albums of 2010, which was based on a variety of factors–from individual song and single goodness, to the complete album experience, to overall artistic integrity, to an album’s ability to ‘stick’ as the year progressed. Basically I’m trying to say that it’s a bit of a hot mess, but I tried my very best.
There’s also a rather controversial dishonorable mention prior to the Top 40 list that will likely blow my chances for that much coveted position as editor of Rolling Stone. DAMN IT.
Now…LET’S DO THIS.
BUT FIRST. The (dis)honorable mention:
And now, a brief but important word regarding an album released this year: Heidi Montag‘s Superficial.
First of all, let me clear the air: Heidi Montag has no soul or integrity as a human being. She is a silicone robot, mindlessly pre-programmed with a ceaseless appetite for fame and physical perfection as determined by only the most impossible, superficial societal standards set by beer-guzzling bros with a hankering for dim-witted bimbos with big blonde hair with even bigger boobs. She once remarked that she was deeply disappointed that her plastic surgeon could not increase her breasts to Size H, as she wanted them to be “Size H…for Heidi.”
She may, in fact, be the Antichrist.
That being said, her album is so good. It is so good, in the most purest and truest sense of a “guilty pleasure.” I’m sorry–actually, no. I’m not sorry. It just is. I realize that she is not actually “singing,” nor that her robot voice is even “good,” but these songs are just amazingly trashy and delicious. Much in the way that Paris Hilton‘s debut album is genius, Montag’s effort is genius because she blew a cool $2 million on some of the best songwriters, including Cathy Dennis, The Runners and Steve Morales.
So that my conscious remains clear, I am putting this out in the open: I listened to Heidi Montag’s Superficial about as much as I did the Top 3 albums of 2010. I know I mostly ripped her to pieces in my album review, but even then I admitted it was a “fun” album. Well, it’s still fun. Assess accordingly.
With all that being said, I cannot–in good mind–add her to this Top 40 list. I just can’t. Although I’ve yet to tire of this record, I cannot knowingly sandwich this woman anywhere near the actual Titans of Pop. I refuse to give it a number.
Therefore, I am officially honoring Heidi Montag’s Superficial with MuuMuse’s Official Best Worst Brilliantly Terrible Awfully Amazing Award for 2010.
Unfollow me, degrade me or banish me to Hell, but I SHALL BE SLUT-SHAMED NO LONGER.
AND NOW…THE LIST.
40. Nadine Coyle – Insatiable (Album Review)
39. Kat Deluna – Inside Out
38. Ciara – Basic Instinct
37. Uffie – Sex Dreams & Denim Jeans
36. Keri Hilson – No Boys Allowed
30. Selena Gomez & The Scene – A Year Without Rain
29. The Wanted – The Wanted
28. Joe McElderry – Wide Awake
27. I Blame Coco – The Constant
26. Shontelle – No Gravity (Album Review)
25. Wynter Gordon – The First Dance
24. The Saturdays – Headlines
23. Simon Curtis – 8-Bit Heart
22. Alesha Dixon – The Entertainer
21. Jessica Mauboy – Get ‘Em Girls
20. Goldfrapp – Head First
19. Diddy Dirty Money – Last Train To Paris
18. Diana Vickers – Songs from the Tainted Cherry Tree (Album Review)
17. JÃ³nsi – Go
16. BT – These Hopeful Machines
15. Janelle Monae – The ArchAndroid
14. M.I.A. – /\/\/\Y/\ (Album Review)
13. Marina + The Diamonds – The Family Jewels (Album Review)
12. Sade – Soldier Of Love (Album Review)
11. Christina Aguilera – Bionic (Album Review)
10. Sia – We Are Born
Sia’s fifth studio album found the incredibly talented artist in a much brighter and bubblier place than ever before, dancing atop Greg Kurstin‘s bright, hand clap-happy pop production on irresistibly catchy cuts such as “Clap Your Hands,” “Bring Night,” and the stunning cover of Madonna‘s classic, “Oh Father.”
Yet all’s not quite sunshine and lollipops: The album’s more brooding numbers, including “Cloud” and “I’m In Here,” (which may well be the best ballad she’s done since the iconic “Breathe Me”) proved that Sia’s still grappling with plenty of inner demons brewing beneath the surface.
With We Are Born, as well as the multiple tracks penned with Christina Aguilera, Sia proved herself responsible for some of the year’s best crafted songs.
9. Rihanna – LOUD
Stepping away from the darker imagery of her career-defining 2009 masterpiece Rated R, Princess RiRi eased her way back onto the pop radio charts in the latter half of 2010 with her gigantic club smash (“Only Girl (In The World)”) and a freshly revitalized, breezy new spirit.
LOUD is a concise collection of unapologetic, celebratory pop tunes inspired by the Barbadian beauty’s island roots, including “Cheers (Drink To That),” “Raining Men (feat. Nicki Minaj)” and the album’s impossibly infectious second single, “What’s My Name?,” featuring Drake.
While it’s mostly all fun and games here, it’s the album’s slower moments, such as “California King Bed” and “Love The Way You Lie (Part II),” the stunningly vulnerable response to her summer smash collaboration with Eminem, that provide enough versatility to hail LOUD as one of the year’s best offerings.
8. Scissor Sisters – Night Work
Night Work quickly became the essential soundtrack to a summer’s night out after it’s release in late June of 2010, as frontman Jake Shears, Ana Matronic, Del Marquis and Babydaddy grunt-and-strutted their way through a powerhouse set of sweat-soaked disco gems seemingly unearthed from the filth-ridden dance floors of Studio 54.
While cuts like the falsetto-heavy heaven of “Any Which Way” and the scandalous purr of “Skin This Cat” gave Night Work plenty of sizzle, it’s truly the album’s final 6-minute opus, “Invisible Light” (featuring an almighty monologue by Sir Ian McKellen) which catapulted the band to a whole new dimension of brilliance.
7. Ke$ha – Animal / Cannibal
It’s hard to believe that Ke$ha only officially debuted this year.
Kicking off 2010 with the release of her debut album Animal on January 1, the filthy princess greeted the New Year with a somewhat uneven collection of drunk-pop party anthems (“Tik Tok”), vomit-drenched club stormers (“Take It Off”) and unexpectedly sobering ballads (“Hungover”). The rest is chart history, as each month K$ continued her reign on top of the Billboard Hot 100 with single after single.
As the year drew to a close, Ke$ha wisely took a hint from Lady Gaga‘s winning Fame Monster 2009 re-release formula and complimented her debut with Cannibal, a near flawless 8-track EP filled with darker, harder pop cuts. From prowling for boy blood on the storming title track “Cannibal” to getting all out rude on top of the grinding, Bangaladesh-produced “Sleazy,” K$ offered up a glitter-drenched middle finger to any and all naysayers standing in the way of her trash-pop reign.
Love her, hate her, or if you just kind of want to vomit on her face–it’s impossible to dispute the fact that K$ knows how to write a hit. Just wait until she starts singing for real…she hasn’t even begun yet.
6. Hurts – Happiness
Brooding in black and white, the men of Hurts delighted us all in 2010 with their keen sense of sharp style and sophistication (and irony, as their album title would dictate.)
Happiness is an incredibly rewarding dark pop experience and an incredible debut effort, rich with heartbreaking lyricism and big, moody synth-pop tunes that often recall the best of Depeche Mode and New Order. The album is largely dominated by deathly serious numbers and gorgeous, hymn-like devotionals including “Illuminated” and “Stay.” Best of all is the aching “Devotion (feat. Kylie Minogue),” which wonderfully recalls one of the greatest songs of the disco diva’s career, “Confide In Me.”
Moody, sophisticated…it’s the complete package. What more could a boy ever ask for?
5. Kanye West – My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy
Like Rihanna’s Rated R from last year, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy found hip-hop’s leading innovator in a very, very dark place.
Along with self-aggrandizing brag attacks including “POWER” and the stomping growl of “Monster” (which arguably features the greatest verse of Nicki Minaj’s career), the album shines brightest when West turns inward, as demonstrated in the tender defeat of “Blame Game (feat. John Legend)” and the disillusioned world-weariness of “Lost In The World (feat. Bon Iver).” Best of all though is the album’s star-studded collaboration featuring eleven vocalists (!) “All of the Lights,” a perfect rallying call that comes roaring into the airwaves, horns blaring.
With some of the most gorgeous melodies and unique samples (Gil Scott-Heron‘s “Comment No. 1,” for instance), as well as a lengthy list of both heavyweight collaborators (Jay-Z, Kid Cudi) and surprise contributors (Elton John? Chris Rock?), the world’s biggest ego has truly crafted one of the most intriguing, controversial and powerful releases of his career.
He may be a douchebag, but Kanye West’s album is about as close to perfection as they come.
4. Ellie Goulding – Lights/Bright Lights
As the hotly tipped, much hyped artist at the top of the BBC’s Sound of 2010 list last year, Ellie Goulding had a lot to prove in 2010. Luckily, she did–and then some.
After forging a friendship with up-and-coming electro-pop producer Starsmith, the electro-pop chanteuse carved out a truly knock-out debut in Lights, an effort that perfectly marries the singer’s fragile vocals with bright, bubbling electronica and hazy synth-pop. Along with lead single “Under The Sheets” and the truly magical “Starry Eyed” (which rightfully earned her a spot at the top of the BBC’s list last year), more introspective numbers such as “This Love (Will Be Your Downfall),” “Your Biggest Mistake” and the utterly chilling “Wish I Stayed” demonstrated Goulding’s supreme penchant for songcraft.
Later in the year, Bright Lights was released–the re-release of Lights. Along with fan favorite “Lights” (produced by Richard Stannard‘s genius pop writing troupe, Biffco), the re-release boasted six additional tracks that sparkled with brand new instrumentation and more complex construction, including the Fred Falke-produced “Home” and Goulding’s stunning take on Elton John‘s classic, “Your Song.”
Packaged together, Lights and Bright Lights burn bright as one sublime, ethereal pop experience.
3. Kylie Minogue – Aphrodite
With 21st century pop mastermind Stuart Price at the helm of the project, Kylie Minogue has divined the perfect pop record within Aphrodite, her most cohesive effort since 2002’s Fever.
Along with lush, electro-pop club anthems (“All The Lovers”), surging trance cuts straight out of the Stuart Price playbook (“Closer,” “Cupid Boy”) and gorgeously cooed, angelic waves of electronica (“Everything Is Beautiful”), Miss Minogue’s invoked a whole new brand of sass on this record, including the stomping, gritty ‘tude of title track, “Aphrodite” and the year’s greatest kiss-off track, “Get Outta My Way.”
Along with signature celebratory anthems, including the Starsmith-produced “Put Your Hands Up (If You Feel Love)” and the sparkling album closer “Can’t Beat The Feeling,” Aphrodite continues to inspire an electric euphoria that can only be described as heaven-sent.
2. Kelis – Flesh Tone
Never one to shy away from reinvention, the ever-innovative Kelis came roaring back after an extended hiatus with Flesh Tone, a truly astounding body of work.
Essentially the equivalent of Madonna’s Confessions On A Dance Floor for the new decade, Flesh Tone found Kelis taking a step off the streets from 2006’s Kelis Was Here and into the discotheque with the help of such 2010 dance production legends as Benny Benassi and David Guetta, as well as executive producer/Black Eyed Peas mastermind, Jean-Baptiste.
Aside from its flawless production value, Flesh Tone‘s quality lies in its transcendence of typical dance floor lyrical cliches, utilizing deeply personal memoirs (“Song For The Baby”), existential ponderings (“22nd Century”) and a healthy helping of rallying empowerment cries including “Scream,” “Emancipate,” and the defining life anthem “Brave” to create one of the strongest, most cohesive collections of the year.
1. Robyn – Body Talk
After almost a five year wait since her last studio album, her 2005 Swedish self-titled masterpiece, Robyn completed her triumphant return to the global pop forefront in 2010 with Body Talk, the year’s most forward-thinking, relentlessly hard-hitting collection of heartbreak disco-pop gems, bossy hip-hop taunts and super slick futuristic interludes beamed in straight from 20 years into the future.
To be fair, it’s hard to spotlight Body Talk in its own right: Robyn actually released three mini-albums over the course of a year–Body Talk Pt. 1, Pt. 2, and Pt. 3–with Body Talk being a culmination of all three released in November. As it stands, Body Talk is a mostly perfect ‘greatest hits’ representation of all three releases, with only a few missed opportunities (the most glaring of which being the exclusion of Body Talk Pt. 2 sassy sleaze track, “Criminal Intent.”)
In some cases, Robyn flexes her bossy ‘tude, bragging ’round town on tracks like the reggae-infused, Diplo-produced “Dancehall Queen,” “U Should Know Better (feat. Snoop Dogg),” and the brooding, braggy “None of Dem (feat. RÃ¶yksopp).” Elsewhere, she exposes doubts, fears and frustrations in cautionary tales including the throbbing cautionary tale “Love Kills,” “Get Myself Together,” and the Max Martin-produced “Time Machine” (her first collaboration with the pop production titan in over a decade), all the while providing some of the most danceable rhythms and relatable lyrics of the year.
Yet if anything remains true of Robyn as an artist, it is her ability to make music that resonates on a profoundly emotional level. Devoid of pretentious higher meaning or lyrical cliches, Robyn simply emotes, and the results are nothing less than completely relatable.
The album’s true highlights come in the form of three major singles, all of which acted as lead tracks for each Body Talk installment: From the chilly, rapid-fire devastation of “Dancing On My Own,” to the sugary sweet “Hang With Me,” to the all-or-nothing, head-over-heels recklessness of “Indestructible,” the Swedish chanteuse’s finest offerings mesh heartfelt love notes with pulsating, space-age rhythms, resulting in the greatest sad disco numbers since her 2007 global smash with Kleerup, “With Every Heartbeat.” When all’s said and done, each song is enough to render any unsuspecting listener into a quivering mess of glitter and goo at the discotheque.
While Robyn would never see the sales, radio or chart success that most of the aforementioned artists enjoyed throughout the year (the year’s greatest pop injustice for sure), it’s her ceaseless ability to deliver innovative, forward-thinking pop that ultimately places Robyn’s Body Talk series as the clear front-runner amongst the albums of 2010.
Quite simply, Body Talk is the embodiment of pop in its purest form.
AND THERE YOU HAVE IT.
Now for some real fun.
Because I’m such a physical freak (in so, so many senses of the word), I now present a RATHER EXCITING CONTEST:
MuuMuse is proud to be giving away ONE BUNDLE of ALL TEN of MuuMuse’s Top 10 Albums of 2010!
To enter to win, send me an e-mail with the subject line “MUU10” telling me your TOP 10 SINGLES OF 2010.
This contest IS global. Rejoice, Muusers all over the world!
A winner will be selected and notified on January 2, 2011. Good luck!