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Akini's Top 100 Albums of All-Time [2022 Edition: #1]

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  • JSparksFan
    replied
    Originally posted by vinnie65 View Post
    Great to see good albums from Rihanna, Britney Spears and Mariah Carey. Great countdown with fantastic albums
    Glad you appreciated to many along the way, vinnie. Thanks for following!

    Originally posted by crystalphoenix View Post
    And yet you don't care for the cum-dumpster implications of "Honey" either?
    Eh, I guess it's just not clever enough to grip me.

    Originally posted by crystalphoenix View Post
    Your passion for JSparks is beautiful to behold. If memory serves, I didn't adore her debut album to quite the same degree you did, so I just downloaded "Battlefield" off iTunes, but waited to pick up a used copy of the album Allow me to repent for my sins, though, because Battlefield absolutely has multiple worthwhile bops I should've checked out sooner (especially "S.O.S." and "Emergency"). You mentioned some of the bonus tracks, but let's not pay dust to US Deluxe Edition highlight "Papercut." Most importantly, of course: you didn't say anything negative about "Walking On Snow"! Not a single speck of shade! How far you've come.
    Ah, yes. I like "Walking on Snow" now! "Papercut" used to be a massive favourite of mine and I still like a lot to this day, but tracks like "No Parade" and "Watch You Go" eventually moved ahead of it for me.

    Originally posted by crystalphoenix View Post
    Blackout really was ahead of its time. The decision to go ballad-less (well, at least in the typical-Britney-ballad-sense) was bold, but definitely the right call. I'm too much of a homebody to have many concert stories, but I distinctly remember that watching her perform "Get Naked" at The Circus Starring Britney Spears in Oakland helped that song finally grow on me (after it had always languished toward the bottom of the album). Spitting out my coffee @ you rallying to replace "Radar," though! Unless you mean in order to specifically save it for Circus...?
    Oh, I don't think I remember you being a massive "Radar" fan! I guess its production is too...videogame-esque for me. How awesome that you've seen Britney live, though. I hope if she's ever in the mental headspace to return to live performing, I'll have that opportunity.

    Originally posted by crystalphoenix View Post
    Massive adoration for this legendary Top 2 (nothing against Amy, I just don't know her album well enough). I might've just missed this before, but it seems like new (and highly-fascinating) info that your favorite version of "Honey" is the Classic Mix! I definitely didn't know that Missy Misdemeanor was a "Babydoll" co-writer (not the type of song I associate with her at ALL. The versatility)! I've always had a soft spot for "Fourth Of July," because when I was first discovering this album as a tween, I loved getting lost in the fantasy of laying on a picnic blanket and watching fireworks with my dream bf. 100% agree that "Outside" is an upgraded "Looking In."
    I think years ago it was Matt (PosziMC2) who tried to get me into Mimi's remixes and they were massively slow burns for me.

    Glad we're in lockstep on the bolded bit!

    Originally posted by crystalphoenix View Post
    Many thanks for taking us on this musical journey with you, Akini - and Happy New Year!
    Thanks for following for the whole ride, Paul, and Happy New Year to you, too! <3

    Originally posted by Thriller View Post
    Blackout is legendary! It demands a follow up.
    I think 'Femme Fatale' is the closest to a follow-up we'll get!

    Leave a comment:


  • Thriller
    replied
    Blackout is legendary! It demands a follow up.

    Leave a comment:


  • crystalphoenix
    replied
    Originally posted by JSparksFan View Post
    Eh, I like my horniness more overt than that.
    And yet you don't care for the cum-dumpster implications of "Honey" either?
    • Your passion for JSparks is beautiful to behold. If memory serves, I didn't adore her debut album to quite the same degree you did, so I just downloaded "Battlefield" off iTunes, but waited to pick up a used copy of the album Allow me to repent for my sins, though, because Battlefield absolutely has multiple worthwhile bops I should've checked out sooner (especially "S.O.S." and "Emergency"). You mentioned some of the bonus tracks, but let's not pay dust to US Deluxe Edition highlight "Papercut." Most importantly, of course: you didn't say anything negative about "Walking On Snow"! Not a single speck of shade! How far you've come.
    • Blackout really was ahead of its time. The decision to go ballad-less (well, at least in the typical-Britney-ballad-sense) was bold, but definitely the right call. I'm too much of a homebody to have many concert stories, but I distinctly remember that watching her perform "Get Naked" at The Circus Starring Britney Spears in Oakland helped that song finally grow on me (after it had always languished toward the bottom of the album). Spitting out my coffee @ you rallying to replace "Radar," though! Unless you mean in order to specifically save it for Circus...?
    • Massive adoration for this legendary Top 2 (nothing against Amy, I just don't know her album well enough). I might've just missed this before, but it seems like new (and highly-fascinating) info that your favorite version of "Honey" is the Classic Mix! I definitely didn't know that Missy Misdemeanor was a "Babydoll" co-writer (not the type of song I associate with her at ALL. The versatility)! I've always had a soft spot for "Fourth Of July," because when I was first discovering this album as a tween, I loved getting lost in the fantasy of laying on a picnic blanket and watching fireworks with my dream bf. 100% agree that "Outside" is an upgraded "Looking In."
    Many thanks for taking us on this musical journey with you, Akini - and Happy New Year!

    Leave a comment:


  • vinnie65
    replied
    Great to see good albums from Rihanna, Britney Spears and Mariah Carey. Great countdown with fantastic albums

    Leave a comment:


  • JSparksFan
    replied
    001. Mariah Carey - Butterfly



    After landmark successes with predecessor releases 'Music Box' and 'Daydream', which would collectively shift more than 65 million worldwide, 'Butterfly' arrived off the back of conflict. Earlier in 1997, Mariah Carey and her then-husband Tommy Mottola would separate. It would seem that the 20-year age difference and imbalanced power dynamic would not grant the couple their happily ever after. There was dissonance between MC and her label over the sound she wished for 'Butterfly', and it was even reported that she and long-time collaborator Walter Afanasieff had a heated argument concerning the album's direction. She and Walter would never work together again, though his fingerprints are on most of the album's tracks. Enlisted for co-producer duties would be P. Diddy, Cory Rooney, and David Morales, among others. As for her image this era, well, I can only suspect that it gave label executives mini-heart attacks as she bares her midriff on the album cover and in the video for lead single "Honey" wore more provocative clothing than she'd ever worn before.

    I'm now the same age MC was when she released this album, so perhaps it makes sense how much 'Butterfly' has grown on me in the last seven years. I elected not to execute a track-by-track analysis for most of the albums on this countdown in the interest of brevity, but for my favourite album, it feels necessary. Lead single and album opener "Honey" was perhaps her most hip-hop influenced song at that point of her career, but its true magic is exposed in its classic dance mix. That version of the song has quickly become one of my all-time favourite songs over the last few years. I feel a lot of lambs consider the sexual double entendre on "Honey" to be especially brilliant, but I actually don't really care for that element of it. Title track "Butterfly" and "My All" both see MC in her oft-revered balladeer form - the former sees her with more mature lyrics than before and remains one of my favourite functional decoupling tracks, whereas the latter is MC's pen game in poetic flourish galore, rife with Shakespearean melodrama and stakes. "The Roof" is the album's most potent potion. It's MC's favourite song and was my favourite song for several years. She vividly captures all the pivotal plot points of a memorable romantic encounter and that lyric about throwing caution to the wind and listening to one's longing heart is one that resonated deeply with me, and one which I started to put into action (well, overaction, to be frank) in recent years. In truth, "Fourth of July" is my least favourite song on the album. Its production is an odd blend of excess and vacuous, but I do appreciate its lyrics and vocals. "Breakdown" is one of the most relatable songs for me, as I prefer to "wear my disguise" and break down in private (usually at home). The songwriting on "Breakdown" is also excellent. It details the unravelling of the relationship so perfectly and I've read so many folks' stories that parallel the one MC outlines in "Breakdown". "Babydoll", co-penned with Missy Elliott, is one of the most lush R&B moments on the album. It's one of the rare moments where I don't even care that much about the lyrics. It's all vocals and melody for me that one. "Close My Eyes" has that lyric about growing up too soon that immediately clicked with me; I often consider that in my pursuit of certain endpoints I was one-track-minded and didn't grant myself my full allotment of pre-adult years. For MC, personally, that lyric and the overall song speaks to being exposed to certain realities of life at an early age due to her difficult, unsheltered childhood. "Whenever I Call" is more flowery songwriting paired with even more sugary vocals; it's at this point of the album that I really feel that the reception to the album being so gravely different from its predecessors is a hyperbolic reaction. "The Beautiful Ones", the Prince cover, is my second-favourite on the album. In my view, it is the record's most impressive vocal performance. It's deeply soulful, organic, auspiciously arranged. In my view, it is the album's most underheralded jewel. Closing track "Outside" mirrors the closer on 'Daydream', "Looking In". I basically view "Outside" as the better-written, more R&B-leaning "Looking In", and it is another hugely relatable cut for me. "Without a sense of belonging to touch" - she really wrung out the feels on this album.

    Despite the label's fears, 'Butterfly' would achieve moderate commercial success. It debuted at no. 1 in the US and sent two singles to no. 1 on the Hot 100. It earned muliplatinum certifications in the US, Canada, and Australia, and actually has some of the strongest chart peaks among her albums catalogue. (By all metrics, it at least outperformed her sophomore release 'Emotions'). The album would be nominated for three Grammys ("Honey for Best R&B Song and Best Female R&B Vocal Performance, and "Butterfly" for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance), losing them all, though most critics did praise the album for its controlled vocals and strong songwriting. Mariah herself considers this her magnum opus, as do most fans, and the symbol of the butterfly has become her avatar since this album's release. The collaboration with hip/hop acts is also a part of the album and era's legacy, as MC was the first mainstream diva to do so and now, 25 years later, hip/hop collaborations with R&B and pop female acts are the norm. For me, 'Butterfly' is the R&B standard - an impossible standard, but one nonetheless.
    Code:
    Significance rating: 20/20
    No. 1s on my daily chart: The Roof (x12); Butterfly (x7); Honey (x5); Outside (x5); The Beautiful Ones (x2); My All (x1); Babydoll (x1)
    Best lyric: So I threw caution to the wind and started listening to my longing heart
    Best melody: The Roof
    Best video: The Roof
    Rank in 2010 countdown: NR
    Rank in 2011 countdown: NR
    Rank in 2012 countdown: 47

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  • JSparksFan
    replied
    002. Britney Spears - Blackout



    One of Britney Spears's career-defining moments was her 2003 VMA performance with Madonna (and Christina Aguilera/Missy Elliott), where she and the queen of pop locked lips in a move that sent shockwaves across the world of celebria. In hindsight, several fans have referred to the smooch as the kiss of death. She would have that infamous 55-hour annulled Vegas marriage to her childhood friend, injure her knee filming the music video for "Outrageous" (an injury from which I don't believe she ever fully recovered), she'd marry Kevin Federline and have two kids with him before filing for divorce, cope with said divorce with excess partying (and likely drug and alcohol consumption) with fellow celeb pals Paris Hilton and Lindsay Lohan, shave off her head and attack a member of the paparazzi with an umbrella, have a lukewarm reception to her VMA performance of "Gimme More", and ultimately lose physical custody of her sons the same month 'Blackout' dropped. The situation was so dire that the Associated Press allegedly had an obituary prepped in the case of her untimely demise. In the midst of the chaos and confusion, the dysfunction and bad press, the off-colour jokes and ridicule, I suspect some folks forgot just why Britney Spears was the biggest pop star on the planet, and though tabloid fodder initially overshadowed it, 'Blackout' was very much the pop princess permanently affixing on her head that crown.

    Due credit to Danja and Bloodshy & Avant for the ace, forward-thinking work they did as the lead producers on 'Blackout', but very much in the centre of the spectacle is Britney Spears, who masterfully commands each chuckle, moan, and half-rap on the record. It's very much an actress being given an award-winning script and role, and her elevating it to an even more unbelievable level. "Gimme More" is the iconic comeback anthem and album opener, featuring the best intro in music history, and serving as a memorable personal soundtrack to one of my most fun club experiences at the Stonewall Inn in NYC. "Break the Ice" is the even better 'returning' anthem, and though extenuating circumstances led to the label opting to release an animated video for it, little if any praise is given to that animated clip actually for actually being quite good. "Piece of Me", the centrepiece jewel on this magnum opus, is a smart, sharp retort to her detractors and "Why Should I Be Sad" the perfect closer on the high-octane, sexually-charged whirlwind of electro and techno-pop. It is in its own way digitised, but the lyrics are raw, vulnerable, and more honest and personal than anything else on the record. It's very much here abandoning the sex kitten script and giving us some glimpse into the thoughts and feelings of the person behind and beyond the persona. The album is without a stumble, though. From the relaxing "Heaven On Earth" (Britney's favourite track on the album) to the seductive "Get Naked (I Got A Plan)" to the aggressively-delivered "Hot As Ice" to the dubstep-influenced "Freakshow", the album's high energy just enthralls the listener. Britney even does a few R&B/pop hybrid gems like "Toy Solider", a track featuring a military drumroll, and "Ooh Ooh Baby", armed with a flamenco guitar, is jut pure sex as is the sensual "Perfect Lover". Bonus tracks "Everybody" (where Britney's rap bridge is as delightful as it was shocking and the Eurythmics sample dreamy and addictive) and "Get Back" (another saucy, club-ready, straight-edged banger) mirror the high-quality of the standard edition tracks and I'd even have advocated for "Get Back" replacing "Radar" and "Everybody" replacing "Perfect Lover" on the standard pressing of the LP.

    'Blackout' would debut at no. 2 in the US, becoming the first Britney Spears album not to peak at no. 1 in the US. I used to have really strong feelings about Billboard changing their sales tracking policy mid-week, but I'm over that now. Despite having so many forces working against it, 'Blackout' would eke out platinum certifications in most major markets - the US, the UK, Australia, and Canada, and in the new digital downloads era of music, Britney was achieving singles success well beyond what she'd had earlier in her career. 'Blackout' would win Best Album at the EMAs and "Piece of Me" would suspiciously take home Video of the Year (as well as Best Female Video and Best Pop Video) at the 2008 VMAs after she'd lost all 17 of her previous VMA nominations over the years. Most of the love 'Blackout' now has came in the post-mortem of that period as most critics were too distracted by what was going on in Britney's personal life to acknowledge the album being the innovative masterpiece they later heralded it as. Rolling Stone has it among their 500 greatest albums ever, though several hundred places too low for my liking. 'Blackout' is the standard of pop music for me. I judge pop albums on a scale of 1 to 'Blackout'.
    Code:
    Significance rating: 20/20
    No. 1s on my daily chart: Hot as Ice (x7); Piece of Me (x4); Get Back (x3); Gimme More (x2); Why Should I Be Sad (x2); Break the Ice (x1); Get Naked (I Got a Plan) (x1); Heaven on Earth (x1); Perfect Lover (x1)
    Best lyric: It's Britney, bitch!
    Best melody: Gimme More
    Best video: Piece of Me
    Rank in 2010 countdown: 14
    Rank in 2011 countdown: 3
    Rank in 2012 countdown: 1

    Leave a comment:


  • JSparksFan
    replied
    003. Amy Winehouse - Back to Black



    With a sound inspired by the dynamic soul music of 60s girl groups and the lyrics from a tumultuous relationship, 'Back to Black' was a big step forward from an already impressive debut. Always well beyond her years, it's an interesting point to consider that this album was released a month after Amy turned 23. The early-to-mid-20s are an interesting stage in folks' lives as it's the point in our lives where the gap between what is expected and what's there to meet that expectation is at its broadest. So in the context of Amy having lost her grandmother earlier in 2006, plus her boyfriend breaking up with her to reconnect with his ex, plus everything else that comes along with being a star at 23, events from that period can be reliably linked to some form of logic.

    Mark Ronson is the producer that is oftentimes tied to the brilliance of this album, but the album's second producer, who produced five of the 11 standard edition tracks, is Salaam Remi. For years I wondered where the reggae undercurrents of 'Back to Black' could be traced and it's to him. Amy penned most of the album by her lonesome, so it's an interesting note that 95% of the album is really the collective efforts of just three contributors. At four seconds shy of 35 minutes, 'Back to Black' possesses no frills, just undiluted pain and melancholy. My second-favourite track "You Know I'm No Good" sees her shifting the blame for her own infidelity to her lover in a self-deprecating fashion. "Love is a Losing Game", Amy's personal favourite track from the project, speaks to the inevitability of the dissolution of love. In truth, it's a slightly pessimistic, ultimately practical perspective that I share with the track's protagonist. "Tears Dry on Their Own" is a track of a similar vein, where the protagonist initiates the affair with full knowledge that it will have limited mileage, but being more affected by its end than self-forecasted. Again, this makes sense to me as it's all fun and well to 'logic' your way into certain romantic situations, but the heart has a mind (of madness) all its own and oftentimes leads you down roads you would not have expected to traverse. "Wake Up Alone" is a peak of emotion in 'Back to Black'. She so skillfully captures the emptiness that remains at the break of a relationship, when someone that consumed so much of your world that you couldn't tell where your world separate from their existence started and the one with them ended, when that seemingly inextricable links snaps, the shock is almost paralysing and Amy snapshots that experience with perfect precision. Ultimately, though, there isn't anything that rivals the title track. I consider it one of the best written-songs ever and Amy's delivery shatters me. Both lyric and vocal are so affecting, my heart is broken as a nonpartisan observer to the scene. I hope to never feel this way in my lifetime.

    'Back to Black' was a massive commercial success, eventually going platinum 14 times over in the UK and ended 2007 as the best-selling album on the planet (it was no. 2 in the world for 2008). In the UK, it is the second best-selling album of the 21st century. At the Grammys, the album won Best Pop Vocal Album, with "Rehab", not even among the top six tracks on the record, taking home Song of the Year, Record of the Year, and Best Female Pop Vocal Performance. Because the Grammy committee neglected to acknowledge her existence pre-'Back to Black', she also won Best New Artist. At the 2007 BRIT Awards, Amy won the British Female Soloist gong after two prior nominations. Immortalised by her premature passing, 'Back to Black' is broadly considered one of the best albums of the 21st century (and of all-time).
    Code:
    Significance rating: 19/20
    No. 1s on my daily chart: Back to Black (x14); Wake Up Alone (x3); Love is a Losing Game (x2); You Know I'm No Good (x1)
    Best lyric: I tread a troubled track
    Best melody: Back to Black
    Best video: Back to Black
    Rank in 2010 countdown: NR
    Rank in 2011 countdown: NR
    Rank in 2012 countdown: 69

    Leave a comment:


  • JSparksFan
    replied
    004. Jordin Sparks - Battlefield



    The second album to have featured among the top five of every iteration of this countdown and a former no. 1, 'Battlefield' is the sophomore release from my near-namesake first music love. While her debut was fantastic enough and already one of the best out-of-the-gate releases in music history, 'Battlefield' was her ascension into the major leagues with better vocals, sharper production, and more mature lyrics. She checked every box and I was so excited for the world to hear all the exceptional music and be wowed the same way I was.

    If you're looking for a sub-par track on 'Battlefield', stop. There is none. Whether she's on the dancefloor warding off unwanted advances towards her boyfriend on "S.O.S. (Let the Music Play)" or expressing her last-straw frustrations with that same boyfriend on the exquisitely produced and expertly delivered "Emergency (911)", Jordin exhibits exemplary control over the entire showcase. Her sweet spot is the balladry and she dives heedlessly into the emotional abyss with "Let It Rain" with the emotion so tangible, the belts sound like they're laced with tears. Like the best singers do, she gently borrows another's song (Fefe Dobson's "Don't Let It Go to Your Head") and gives it a soulful upgrade that we didn't ask for, but our ears so deeply needed. To satiate the R&B lovers, she blesses listeners with the sleek and suggestive "Watch You Go" and the my-standards-aren't-six-feet-under "It Takes More". For those eclectic pop savants, she kicks the record off with "Walking on Snow", one of the most modern melodies in her catalogue. For no reason at all, there's the gorgeous "No Parade" and for bragging rights and ego, there's one of the best damn songs to have ever been recorded, title track "Battlefield". It's her best song and was an absolute delight for me as I felt like it was the song she was born to sing, highlighting all the best features of that incredible instrument she calls her voice and giving her a competent producer to make the affair the show-stopping, anthemic, epic moment it was. Her Idol performance of it saw her return more confident and comfortable and in true diva form. It felt like I was witnessing an evolutionary transformation as she took a step up in class. As for those extra tracks that are usually decorated filler, even if you zoom in on iTunes pre-order bop "Vertigo" or Japanese bonus track "Landmines", you'll find that the quality remains stubbornly high without exception.

    It's usually in this section that I speak to how well the album did on the charts and how favourably it was received by critics. None of that applies to 'Battlefield'. The critics gave the album mixed reviews and the LP was an absolute flop on the charts (as one of my close friends would frame it, the album wasn't even certified aluminum in most territories). I remember watching it fight in the UK midweeks, ultimately losing out on a top 10 debut by a few hundred copies. I actually joined the site searching for chart analysis data for this album and the idea of constructing a daily personal chart was in large part inspired by wanting to create a world, however small and insignificant, where this album could get the love I felt it deserved. It's a strange thing how success happens for some and not others, but there's a lot of pride I have for this album, that my first love was able to meet my own astronomical standards for her. And honestly, this wouldn't be the last time that a project, for which I had such undiluted passion and love, would tank, but this would be the time it hurt the most!
    Code:
    Significance rating: 18/20
    No. 1s on my daily chart: Battlefield (x30); Let It Rain (x2); No Parade (x2); S.O.S. (Let the Music Play) (x2); Vertigo (x1); Faith (x1)
    Best lyric: Dying of dance deprivation, emotional starvation, I need resuscitation
    Best melody: Battlefield 
    Best video: S.O.S. (Let the Music Play)
    Rank in 2010 countdown: 2
    Rank in 2011 countdown: 1
    Rank in 2012 countdown: 4

    Leave a comment:


  • JSparksFan
    replied
    Originally posted by crystalphoenix View Post
    Ha, fair, but I think of it more as a hornier/adult upgrade to "Dreamlover." Serving "If" vibes:

    "mmm, baby I'm so into you,
    darling, if you only knew
    all the things that flow through my mind..."
    Eh, I like my horniness more overt than that.

    Originally posted by crystalphoenix View Post
    "Say It" is cute enough for me, but I completely forgot about/blocked out "Lemme Get That."
    Exactly.

    Originally posted by crystalphoenix View Post
    Lemonade truly was a MOMENT. I've probably gushed about it at some point before, but it was so refreshing and powerful to experience a project from a star of her caliber that unpacks infidelity and forgiveness the way this does. So many layers and such rare nuance (compared to mainstream music's usual handling of cheating). Love that you kick off your dissertation with some "Sorry" praise (my personal fave, though I strongly prefer the album version to the demo)
    100% agreed. Cheating is usually met with a "Before He Cheats" kinda response, but I appreciate Beyoncé giving her response more breadth than the typical response we get.

    Originally posted by crystalphoenix View Post
    "Stupid In Love" was originally a Brandy track/demo? The more you know! Ri really tested the limits of my fan status by introducing this era with "Russian Roulette" and "Wait Your Turn," but I eventually grew past my initial sulkiness/entitlement about how I'd wanted the album that followed GGGB to sound. In addition to the raw, commendable personal significance of this project for her, there's just so much to enjoy about the songs themselves once I was willing to meet them where they were (though I still can't condone "Rockstar 101" getting full single status over options like "Fire Bomb" or "Photographs"). I didn't realize "Rude Boy" was responsible for bringing you back from a UKMIX hiatus! (Similar to ANTI and me in 2016)
    Yeah, that 2008-2012 period is the golden era of music for me. So many of my faves were at the peak of their powers during that time.



    Leave a comment:


  • crystalphoenix
    replied
    Originally posted by JSparksFan View Post
    Also, I might appreciate "Fantasy" more if it didn't feel like a retread of "Dreamlover".
    Ha, fair, but I think of it more as a hornier/adult upgrade to "Dreamlover." Serving "If" vibes:

    "mmm, baby I'm so into you,
    darling, if you only knew
    all the things that flow through my mind..."


    Originally posted by JSparksFan View Post
    I think 'Loud' is more consistent and concise than GGGB. Whilst the latter has "Say It" and "Lemme Get That", 'Loud' has no sub-8/10s for me.
    "Say It" is cute enough for me, but I completely forgot about/blocked out "Lemme Get That."
    • Lemonade truly was a MOMENT. I've probably gushed about it at some point before, but it was so refreshing and powerful to experience a project from a star of her caliber that unpacks infidelity and forgiveness the way this does. So many layers and such rare nuance (compared to mainstream music's usual handling of cheating). Love that you kick off your dissertation with some "Sorry" praise (my personal fave, though I strongly prefer the album version to the demo)
    • "Stupid In Love" was originally a Brandy track/demo? The more you know! Ri really tested the limits of my fan status by introducing this era with "Russian Roulette" and "Wait Your Turn," but I eventually grew past my initial sulkiness/entitlement about how I'd wanted the album that followed GGGB to sound. In addition to the raw, commendable personal significance of this project for her, there's just so much to enjoy about the songs themselves once I was willing to meet them where they were (though I still can't condone "Rockstar 101" getting full single status over options like "Fire Bomb" or "Photographs"). I didn't realize "Rude Boy" was responsible for bringing you back from a UKMIX hiatus! (Similar to ANTI and me in 2016)



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  • JSparksFan
    replied
    005. Rihanna - Rated R



    The fifth of the poll options to fall, and the first album on the list to have featured in the top five of each of the four iterations of this countdown, 'Rated R' is a brilliant effort from an act whose output had generated consternation from critics about her singles vs. albums act status. This album went a long way in drowning out doubts.

    Prior to the widely publicised Chris Brown domestic abuse incident of February 2009, Rihanna's career had largely enjoyed a controversy-free run. There were those inane whispers of her and Jay-Z having an affair early on in her career, which would later come out to be a planted story by a publicist to drum up interest in the young star, but the focus was largely centered on her racking up hits and to a lesser extent her romance with another prevalent hitmaker. The angle shifted swiftly and harshly thereafter and under the brutal lens of celebria, 'Rated R' was concocted as a project through which to process, heal, and respond. "Mad House" serves as an apt intro to the emotional turmoil of her world, where she offers a disclaimer to "those among (us) who are easily frightened." Opening track proper "Wait Your Turn" is a flex track, where she declares "The wait is over" after making us wait for as long as two years between LPs (those were the days). The lyrics are steeped in the hip/hop world of chest-banging, self-anointing bravado - making that grenade-pitch from verse one a curved one. This segues neatly into "Hard" with a fun hearkening back to the previous era's "Umbrella" with "That Rihanna reign just won't let up" and some useful fan mail figures. I do love how at this point of the album, it's a typical Rihanna record, just draped in darker melodies than before. And the album's uptempo highlights don't stop at "Hard". "G4L" doubles as a love letter to fans and a fantasy Thelma and Louise live-action story, "Rockstar 101" pairs RiRi's swagger with Slash's legendary guitar skills, and "Rude Boy", the LP's most outstanding track, a brilliant amalgamation of pop, R&B, reggae, and dancehall. It sees RiRi in flirty, raunchy and seductive, playful and catchy form, but with a more prominent West Indian flavour than any of her songs had had up to that point. "Rude Boy" was also the song that brought me back to the forum after a stressful high school period kept me away for an extended period in Q4 2009. As much as the bops were rife with sensuality and self-confidence bordering arrogance, the heart of 'Rated R' is within its ballads and the fact that RiRi opted with a ballad to lead off the 'Rated R' campaign suggests that she agrees with that assessment. Lead ballad in question "Russian Roulette" was one of the most-anticipated lead singles ever and somehow managed to sound like nothing anyone could've forecasted. It's melodrama dialed to the umpteenth level, high-stakes emotion in the equally high-stakes game of love, and Rihanna delivers it flawlessly. To this day, "Fire Bomb" remains one of her best-written songs and "Stupid in Love" is a midtempo, smooth, but conflict-heavy affair where the protagonist grapples with choosing between head and heart in considering the future of a rocky romance. Interestingly enough, it was actually originally recorded by Brandy and written two days before Grammy night 2009. The most direct song regarding the February 2009 attack is within the penultimate track "Cold Case Love". It's six minutes of Rihanna at her rawest lyrically and vocally. Finally, somewhere in a nondescript category is "Te Amo". If you'd asked me to outline all possible themes of discussion for 'Rated R' before it dropped, I think I'd have gone several thousand options deep before penciling in "homoeroticism", but it remains one of her most distinctive tracks to date as the only other Latin-inspired bop she's been on since is "Wild Thoughts".

    'Rated R' debuted at no. 4 in the US, becoming her fourth consecutive top 10 album there. Commercially, even with "Rude Boy" going no. 1 and becoming one of her biggest radio hits of her career, 'Rated R' would struggle to achieve one-third of the commercial success predecessor 'Good Girl Gone Bad' did. Oddly enough, the Grammys paid 'Rated R' dust with zero nominations, this despite 'Rated R' being her highest-rated LP on Metacritic. Still, I believe 'Rated R' fulfilled its manifesto. Whereas 'Good Girl Gone Bad' was a turning point for her commercially, 'Rated R' was a turning point for her critically, where everyone was forced to remeasure what they thought were her limitations, with the plot twist being she had none.
    Code:
    Significance rating: 18/20
    No. 1s on my daily chart: Rude Boy (x20); Te Amo (x7); Russian Roulette (x4); Wait Your Turn (x2); Fire Bomb (x2); Stupid in Love (x1); G4L (x1)
    Best lyric: I lick the gun when I'm done 'cause I know that revenge is sweet 
    Best melody: Rude Boy
    Best video: Rude Boy
    Rank in 2010 countdown: 4
    Rank in 2011 countdown: 5
    Rank in 2012 countdown: 2

    Leave a comment:


  • JSparksFan
    replied
    006. Beyoncé - Lemonade



    The fourth of the poll options to fall, my top-ranking album of the 2010s, and the most genre-expansive 11-track project in music history, 'Lemonade' is the magnum opus of one of music's greatest (and youngest) legends. It is also my favourite visual album.

    After her self-titled 'Beyoncé' LP, Beyoncé album releases have felt especially like pop culture events and 'Lemonade' was the biggest of them all. "Sorry" is an obvious highlight, with three quality versions: the demo, the 'Homecoming' live performance (that so brilliantly segued into "Me, Myself and I"), and the original mix. I love them all. There's so much pride in this song, and just the right serving of petty, too (pride and pettiness can co-exist!) but that final lyric is one for the ages. It created a witch-hunt and rekindled the long-time discussion of beauty standards that disadvantage minority women, particularly those with African roots. As the cultural champion for much of Black America, "Freedom" sees Beyoncé tapping into the pulse of the societal wave, enlisting notable race equality champion Kendrick Lamar for this particular statement track on race and gender equality. As a member of both minority groups, Beyoncé speaks from a place of truth as she roars through the chorus declaring her desire for "freedom, too". In a country where Black women are the most educated group, but are consistently the most underpaid and undervalued members in the workforce and throughout the society, "Freedom" is a reminder that the march towards egalitarianism has still got some ways to go. Released early on in Black History Month 2016, "Formation" is a big pride anthem for the R&B/pop legend on several fronts. She's proud to be Black, southern, proud of her work ethic and the success it's yielded. This felt very much like a 'for the culture' moment, what with its powerful music video, Big Freedia inclusion, and iconic live performances. "Love Drought" has some of my favourite verses on the entire album. That "Ten times out of nine I know you're lying" line is everything! There are obvious cracks in the relationship illustrated in "Love Drought", but there's enough commitment to tape them and keep on pushing. The whole song is lifted by this exquisite atmospheric production, but the barometric pressure reaches its maximum level at the point of the chorus, and I love the way Bey repeats "you" throughout each line in the chorus. She does add "and me" at the backends eventually, but that's a not-so-slight accusation that the onus for the cracks rests more with the other party than it does with the track's protagonist. It took a while for this to really click with me, but the conversational nuances, therapeutic melody, and understated but powerful vocal performance won me over in the end. My third-favourite track is "Don't Hurt Yourself", the first authentic rock song of Beyoncé's career, after having given some rock-esque live performances of some of her R&B/pop tracks throughout the years and having several bops with rock influences. The live Homecoming version of this is my favourite. The passion and anger really come alive best through that version (I really do believe that she's "the dragon breathing fire"), and I love the Malcolm X inclusion ("The most disrespected person in America is the Black woman. The most unprotected person in America is the Black woman. The most neglected person in America is the Black woman"). I'll never forget watching the visual for 'Lemonade' and thinking this was really her saying she was going to divorce Jay-Z (sweet summer child, there's still three-quarters of the album to go). My second-favourite track, "All Night", is the penultimate stunner that really brings the story full circle. The devotion and love expressed in "All Night" could only come from a relationship with mileage, one that's seen euphoric highs and debilitating lows. I mean, that lyric, "And my torturer became my remedy" - those are some powerful words (though I hope I never relate to this song). My absolute favourite 'Lemonade' hymn is "Daddy Lessons". With Houston, Texas as Queen B's roots, country music was more than likely a part of her upbringing, but Beyoncé had built such a legacy for herself as one of the biggest R&B/pop mega-stars of all-time that I don't think anyone seriously considered she would ever do an honest-to-goodness country song. Armed with an earthy, bluegrass, handclap country-western melody, amplified by some truly killer horns, Beyoncé does what I've long lauded country music for being the absolute best genre for - she tells a story. As much as Beyoncé had done a grade A job of keeping her private life in the peripheral view of the public eye, there were obvious clues of a bit of a rift between Bey and her infamous dad, who's credited with helping Bey (and the other DC girls) achieve success in a sexist and racist industry (and world in general)). Still, with news of Mathew Knowles's infidelity becoming tabloid fodder and through the lyrics of a good chunk of 'Lemonade' that alludes to Bey's own husband's, Jay's, infidelity, the chorus of this song carries a rather weighty meaning. She performed this song at the 2016 CMAs, alongside The Chicks, much to the chagrin of racist country music fans who took to social media to unleash some rather despicable vitriol against the star. Still, rather shockingly, to me, if no one else, Beyoncé crafted one of the decade's strongest country songs. I don't think this song ever gets the praise it deserves, but it really is special and on an LP that covers soul, R&B, pop, country, rock, hip/hop, gospel, and trap, I wouldn't have guessed the country song would be the one to top them all, but I'm here for pleasant surprises.

    Her sixth consecutive US no. 1 album, 'Lemonade' was the best-selling album in the world in 2016 by an artist not named Adele. It boasts a Metacritic score of '92', higher than any other studio album in Beyoncé's career. 'Lemonade' was nominated for nine Grammy awards, winning only Best Urban Contemporary Album and Best Music Video for "Formation". "Formation" would also win the VMA for Video of the Year.
    Code:
    Significance rating: 18/20
    No. 1s on my daily chart: Daddy Lessons (x5); Freedom (x3); All Night (x2); Love Drought (x2); Formation (x2); Don't Hurt Yourself (x1); Sorry (x1); 6 Inch (x1)
    Best lyric: He only want me when I'm not there, he better call Becky with the good hair, he better call Becky with the good hair
    Best melody: Daddy Lessons
    Best video: Hold Up
    Rank in 2010 countdown: NR
    Rank in 2011 countdown: NR
    Rank in 2012 countdown: NR

    Leave a comment:


  • JSparksFan
    replied
    Originally posted by luckyONE View Post
    Lovely to see Bedtime Stories. I've always felt like this one is underappreciated. One of my fav Madonna albums. And I love your "best lyric" choice and "Love Tried To Welcome Me" is so beautiful.
    Glad we're on the same accord with 'Bedtime Stories' and "Love Tried to Welcome Me". I, too, think it's one of her underheralded albums. It was just more proof as to how broad she could take her pop music.

    Originally posted by luckyONE View Post
    "Funhouse" brings back many great memories. That was the first P!nk era I lived through as a fan. It's my favorite P!nk album. Her music videos that are are all fantastic.
    Yeah, 'Funhouse' was the first P!nk era I lived through as a chart analyst. It's crazy the numbers P!nk stacked up between 2008 and 2014.

    Originally posted by luckyONE View Post
    Whitney Houston's debut album includes my fav song by her: "All At Once". The album as a whole is nothing less than brilliant.
    "All at Once" is brilliant! Always warms my heart to read praise for that one.

    Originally posted by luckyONE View Post
    "Super Trouper" is another brilliant album. "Our Last Summer" is my favorite song (probably my favorite ABBA song!)
    Great to see ABBA appreciation.

    Originally posted by luckyONE View Post
    "21" is my favorite Adele album, probably my favorite album of the past decade, too.
    Yeah, she wrote some stunning ballads on that one. "Rolling in the Deep" will forever be one my top tracks of all-time.

    Originally posted by luckyONE View Post
    "NFR!" was a return to form for me. Amazing album.
    Same here! Didn't think she'd ever get close to her 'Born to Die' peak again, but NFR was a major mic drop.

    Originally posted by luckyONE View Post
    "My Love Is Your Love" is my favorite Whitney album. There is not one skip on that record. I can hardly choose my favorite: It's either "You'll Never Stand Alone", the title track or "Heartbreak Hotel".
    My fave Whitney album as well!

    Originally posted by luckyONE View Post
    I cannot believe "Unapologetic" turned 10 this year. I remember it like it was yesterday. Absolutely amazing album, my favorite by Rihanna.
    I remember the Unapologetic era as well - my sophomore year of college!

    Originally posted by luckyONE View Post
    "LOUD" is another great album by Rihanna. She was everywhere that era. And that red hair was so good on her.
    Yeah, I loved that look on her.

    Originally posted by luckyONE View Post
    also happy to see those:
    #098 folklore
    #096 Private Dancer
    #093 Doo-Wops & Hooligans
    #090 I'm Your Baby Tonight (i love love love All The Man That I Need)
    #087 Erotica
    #082 Here (although my least favorite AK album to date, still happy to see her making it to the Top 100 )
    #078 24K Magic
    #072 Lover
    #070 The Truth About Love
    #065 PRISM
    #064 Spirit
    #062 25
    #058 I'm Not Dead
    #052 Whitney
    #051 True Blue
    #045 Unorthodox Jukebox
    #040 All I Ever Wanted
    #031 Red
    #030 Teenage Dream
    #021 Breakaway
    #020 Pink Friday
    #019 Mariah Carey
    #016 Speak Now
    #014 1989
    #012 Fearless
    #011 Music Box
    #010 Future Nostalgia
    #008 Good Girl Gone Bad

    Looking forward to see the rest. Going through the countdown brought back so many great memories.
    Pleased to see you appreciate so many!

    Originally posted by crystalphoenix View Post
    If Rated R's an option, I'll probably go with that (largely because I'm so impressed by how much it genuinely grew on me after initially struggling to swallow the sound shift from GGGB. I can't think of many comparable examples where I went from that level of disappointment to that level of enjoyment).
    Gotcha. 'Rated R' is a sterling pick indeed...

    Originally posted by crystalphoenix View Post
    Success! The scene transitions are pretty cool, but her choreography really charmed me there.
    "Charming" is actually a perfect descriptor for her choreography, even on tour.

    Originally posted by crystalphoenix View Post
    Daydream's enjoyed QUITE the turnaround from its early-Countdown trajectory The brazen disrespect for "Fantasy" (not getting any acknowledgement beyond that album title tidbit) is too amusing to make me furious (at least right now). Maybe she should've just called it Chrysalis? Admittedly, I'm among those basic masses who don't give "I Am Free" much thought. When I was young, I really considered "When I Saw You" to be something special, but now I struggle to identify/recognize why I put it on such a pedestal back then (it's kiiind of similar to "Forever," so maybe my enthusiasm for that one just spilled over)? The lack of any Schitt's Creek mention around ABMB might be more blasphemous than your "Fantasy" neglect
    Whilst on YouTube looking at her singular "Looking In" live performance, I was reading through the top comments and this one really stood out:

    This is the last song on the Daydream album, and that's a reason for the album to end that way.
    The entire album is about love, fantasy, having fun, she was daydreaming . "Looking In" is the wake up part, where all the magic world she was dreaming about suddenly disapears, and she faces reality: The world and her life in 1995 were not exactly as she dreamed it would be. Even though the sucess was huge, her private life was a daily struggle.

    No happy ending on her daydream


    From that perspective, 'Daydream' is the perfect title.

    Also, I might appreciate "Fantasy" more if it didn't feel like a retread of "Dreamlover".

    Originally posted by crystalphoenix View Post
    GGGB really was Ri's megastar-making era, and so much fun to watch (and listen to it) unfold. You're absolutely right about that album being stacked like a Greatest Hits, radiating catchy commercial appeal across the board (and across several genres). It was especially satisfying to see "Don't Stop The Music" smash so hard as the 4th single, perfectly setting up the re-release to keep her new superstardom burning bright
    Yeah, that album really shifted her career trajectory to a more legendary course.

    Originally posted by crystalphoenix View Post
    I definitely still stand by LTWYL Part II >>> the original (granted, I guess it's not the most shocking take from a basic gay that I'd prefer the version with more Ri vocals and less Em). I initially balked a bit at Loud landing above GGGB, but it's a very consistent LP too (I even have a lot of love for random non-singles "Fading" and "Complicated"). Have you done any "S&M" karaoke to rival your "Love On Top" performance?
    I think 'Loud' is more consistent and concise than GGGB. Whilst the latter has "Say It" and "Lemme Get That", 'Loud' has no sub-8/10s for me.

    Leave a comment:


  • crystalphoenix
    replied
    Originally posted by JSparksFan View Post
    My wording was clumsy, but what I really meant to ask is if your fave from 'Rated R' to 'Unapologetic' (the years she released albums back-to-back-to-back-to-back) was 'Talk That Talk' largely fuelled by your love for "We Found Love". I think 'Talk That Talk' is a bit underrated actually.
    If Rated R's an option, I'll probably go with that (largely because I'm so impressed by how much it genuinely grew on me after initially struggling to swallow the sound shift from GGGB. I can't think of many comparable examples where I went from that level of disappointment to that level of enjoyment).

    Originally posted by JSparksFan View Post
    You were actually the one to get me to watch the "Break My Heart" video, which I adored!
    Success! The scene transitions are pretty cool, but her choreography really charmed me there.
    • Daydream's enjoyed QUITE the turnaround from its early-Countdown trajectory The brazen disrespect for "Fantasy" (not getting any acknowledgement beyond that album title tidbit) is too amusing to make me furious (at least right now). Maybe she should've just called it Chrysalis? Admittedly, I'm among those basic masses who don't give "I Am Free" much thought. When I was young, I really considered "When I Saw You" to be something special, but now I struggle to identify/recognize why I put it on such a pedestal back then (it's kiiind of similar to "Forever," so maybe my enthusiasm for that one just spilled over)? The lack of any Schitt's Creek mention around ABMB might be more blasphemous than your "Fantasy" neglect
    • GGGB really was Ri's megastar-making era, and so much fun to watch (and listen to it) unfold. You're absolutely right about that album being stacked like a Greatest Hits, radiating catchy commercial appeal across the board (and across several genres). It was especially satisfying to see "Don't Stop The Music" smash so hard as the 4th single, perfectly setting up the re-release to keep her new superstardom burning bright
    • I definitely still stand by LTWYL Part II >>> the original (granted, I guess it's not the most shocking take from a basic gay that I'd prefer the version with more Ri vocals and less Em). I initially balked a bit at Loud landing above GGGB, but it's a very consistent LP too (I even have a lot of love for random non-singles "Fading" and "Complicated"). Have you done any "S&M" karaoke to rival your "Love On Top" performance?

    Leave a comment:


  • luckyONE
    replied
    Lovely to see Bedtime Stories. I've always felt like this one is underappreciated. One of my fav Madonna albums. And I love your "best lyric" choice and "Love Tried To Welcome Me" is so beautiful.

    "Funhouse" brings back many great memories. That was the first P!nk era I lived through as a fan. It's my favorite P!nk album. Her music videos that are are all fantastic.

    Whitney Houston's debut album includes my fav song by her: "All At Once". The album as a whole is nothing less than brilliant.

    "Super Trouper" is another brilliant album. "Our Last Summer" is my favorite song (probably my favorite ABBA song!)

    "21" is my favorite Adele album, probably my favorite album of the past decade, too.

    "NFR!" was a return to form for me. Amazing album.

    "My Love Is Your Love" is my favorite Whitney album. There is not one skip on that record. I can hardly choose my favorite: It's either "You'll Never Stand Alone", the title track or "Heartbreak Hotel".

    I cannot believe "Unapologetic" turned 10 this year. I remember it like it was yesterday. Absolutely amazing album, my favorite by Rihanna.

    "LOUD" is another great album by Rihanna. She was everywhere that era. And that red hair was so good on her.



    also happy to see those:
    #098 folklore
    #096 Private Dancer
    #093 Doo-Wops & Hooligans
    #090 I'm Your Baby Tonight (i love love love All The Man That I Need)
    #087 Erotica
    #082 Here (although my least favorite AK album to date, still happy to see her making it to the Top 100 )
    #078 24K Magic
    #072 Lover
    #070 The Truth About Love
    #065 PRISM
    #064 Spirit
    #062 25
    #058 I'm Not Dead
    #052 Whitney
    #051 True Blue
    #045 Unorthodox Jukebox
    #040 All I Ever Wanted
    #031 Red
    #030 Teenage Dream
    #021 Breakaway
    #020 Pink Friday
    #019 Mariah Carey
    #016 Speak Now
    #014 1989
    #012 Fearless
    #011 Music Box
    #010 Future Nostalgia
    #008 Good Girl Gone Bad


    Looking forward to see the rest. Going through the countdown brought back so many great memories.

    Leave a comment:


  • JSparksFan
    replied
    007. Rihanna - Loud



    The album that we would have gotten after 'Good Girl Gone Bad' were it not for Chris Brown, 'Loud' is a big, bold, daring attempt at pop supremacy and it was orchestrated as such, too, with Michael Jackson's 'Thriller' as the standard. The era saw Rihanna reinventing her image once more, this time with shocking red hair.

    To discuss the outstanding moments on 'Loud' is to engage in a near-track-by-track analysis. One highlight, which showcased her vocal prowess and storytelling, is the sequel to the biggest global smash released in 2009, "Love the Way You Lie (Part II)". It featured more Rihanna and less Eminem, a make-up that Paul referred to as a "winning formula". Speaking of Paul, it's largely due to him that I got into this track as he championed it all those years back, even claiming it was superior to the original...a statement I didn't agree with when he made it, but I certainly agree with now. It's interesting that we got two songs from this particular pair, both on different ends of the domestic violence coin. This RiRi-led take is a lot more sombre and subdued that the Eminem-led original. There are some incredibly poetic lines spread across the verses, which are each so poignant and powerful (and clearly superior to the chorus). The hype for "What's My Name?" was so immense that it went to #1 in the US even before the lead 'Loud' single "Only Girl" did. The track opens with a catchy hook, then segues into a great verse from Drake - one of his best, in my opinion. The chorus is catchy and the song one of RiRi's classics already. There are little words tossed here and there where you really hear RiRi's Bajan accent come to the fore, which is always a big plus for me in her music. I love her look in the video; she looks divinely gorgeous. Speaking of "Only Girl", for me it remains the biggest dance-pop club-banger of her career. The massive production that's pumped into its chorus was so overwhelming that "Only Girl" ended 2010 as my no. 1 song that year. Fusing her typical pop/R&B sound with rich reggae elements, "Man Down" has production and lyrics that celebrate the sound of the Caribbean. The first two-thirds of the song are lovely, but that bridge where Rihanna launches into full-out Bajan patois is glorious. It touches my West Indian soul in a way none of the music from the other pop divas manage to. Oh, and the video - excellence through and through, absolutely RiRi's finest video of her storied career. My favourite song on the record is "S&M". The fact that RiRi took a track with the lyrics, "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but chains and whips excite me," no. 1 in the US still blows my mind. Of course, this song is coated in such electro-pop bubblegum goodness that the raunchiness might've missed most listeners' ears. When Rihanna enlisted the assistance of Britney Spears to help take this song to #1, it was my wildest dream come true - my two favourite artists ever, at that point in time, were joining forces on an already epic track. To this day, I love Britney's verse. I'll take all the -ney's, Nasalney included. Their Billboard Music Awards performance felt iconic, but over the years, I grew to prefer the original version. "Cheers" is a not-oft-cited highlight, but it's another instance where RiRi's accent comes to the fore, which makes for some pretty iconic verses that take it beyond your typical Friday happy hour anthem. It would've been nice to have "Cheers" flourish, but the label was too giddy about We Found Love's prospects and pulled Cheers's plug prematurely.

    'Loud' consolidated Rihanna's hold on Europe, as evidenced by its highest certification, seven-times platinum, being achieved in the UK. It is her second-most successful era of her career and during this era she even snagged a Grammy for Best Dance Recording, her first time winning in that category after being nominated twice before (for "Don't Stop the Music" and "Disturbia"). 'Loud' is also the only album to ever have as many as two tracks with 20+ days at no. 1 on my daily chart.
    Code:
    Significance rating: 17/20
    No. 1s on my daily chart: S&M (x23); Only Girl (In the World) (x23); Man Down (x7); What's My Name? (x5); Raining Men (x2); Cheers (Drink to That) (x1); Fading (x1); Complicated (x1)
    Best lyric: Sticks and stones may break my bones, but chains and whips excite me 
    Best melody: Only Girl (In the World)
    Best video: Man Down
    Rank in 2010 countdown: NR
    Rank in 2011 countdown: 9
    Rank in 2012 countdown: 26

    Leave a comment:


  • JSparksFan
    replied
    Originally posted by vinnie65 View Post
    Good albums from Rihanna, Mariah Carey and Dua Lipa. I like especially Future Nostalgia, Physical, Break My Heart and Don´t Start Now are fantastic!!
    Glad you appreciate them!

    Leave a comment:


  • vinnie65
    replied
    Good albums from Rihanna, Mariah Carey and Dua Lipa. I like especially Future Nostalgia, Physical, Break My Heart and Don´t Start Now are fantastic!!

    Leave a comment:


  • JSparksFan
    replied
    008. Rihanna - Good Girl Gone Bad



    While 'Music of the Sun' and 'A Girl Like Me' signalled promise, 'Good Girl Gone Bad', Rihanna's third studio album in as many years, fulfilled said promise and immediately catapulted Rihanna to the major leagues, where she would reside for the balance of her music recording tenure. She cut her hair to go for what is now one of her signature looks - the classic bob cut - and through the album artwork and title conveyed a more edgy, mature sound and image. With better-produced music, 'Good Girl Gone Bad' would be an era for the ages and still Rihanna's most successful era of her storied pre-Fenty career.

    12 years ago, I ranked this LP my favourite album of all-time and that was largely influenced by the fact that this record is packed with bops galore. Look left and you've got the firing-squad-esque infidelity retort of "Breakin' Dishes". To your right is the summer-ready, lust-heavy "Sell Me Candy" with its insistent hook. To your rear is the velvety smooth R&B title track cut "Good Girl Gone Bad" and to your fore is the disco-tinged, synth-pop dancefloor stunner "Push Up on Me". And not one of these was a single! It's truly an embarrassment of riches how many singles deep Rihanna could've gone, even before any reloaded editions. As for the selected singles, lead "Umbrella" is arguably still to this day her signature song. Originally intended to serve as a possible comeback song for another popular hitmaker, Britney Spears, Rihanna tracked down "Umbrella" to secure it as her own after Spears's team rejected it. Jay-Z's terrific rap intro serves as the perfect opening act for Rihanna's convincing vocals to take centre-stage which led way into the addictive and now-iconic chorus. I'm sure many of her British fans best remember the song for bringing 10 weeks of excessive rainy weather to the nation while the song reigned at #1 for two and a half months; the rain inexplicably vanished when the song vacated the top spot on the UK charts. "Don't Stop the Music" sampled an MJ hit to tremendous effect - to this day, I think it's one of the best club songs of all-time. "Shut Up and Drive" features some cute sexual innuendos, but there's no confusion about its storming chorus. Then the reloaded cuts - "Take a Bow", with its handclap-driven beat and RiRi's inimitable icy delivery and "Disturbia", with its PG-13-esque horror influences and electropop magnetism - are just flexes. Though balladry isn't generally considered Rihanna's 'thing', "Cry" sees her produce her most convincing emotive performance up to that point.

    'Good Girl Gone Bad' was a runaway success for Rihanna. To put that into context comparing it to her other albums, it is bigger than its surrounding albums combined (predecessors 'Music of the Sun' and 'A Girl Like Me', as well as follow-up 'Rated R'). It is certified six-times platinum in the US, seven-times platinum in the UK, five-times platinum in Canada, and four-times platinum in Australia. She won her first-ever Grammy during this era for Best Rap/Sung Collaboration for "Umbrella" and at the VMAs "Umbrella" took home the coveted Video of the Year gong. "Umbrella" would also end 2007 as the biggest global hit that year. I like to think that the "Umbrella" lyrics were prophetic. Before this album, many might've expected her to fizzle out before the end of the decade, but when she sang, "I'll be here forever," she meant it (up to 2016).
    Code:
    Significance rating: 17/20
    No. 1s on my daily chart: Umbrella (x15); Don't Stop the Music (x3); Take a Bow (x1); Disturbia (x1); Good Girl Gone Bad (x1)
    Best lyric: In anticipation for precipitation, stack chips for the rainy day, Jay—Rain Man is back, with Little Miss Sunshine, Rihanna, where you at?
    Best melody: Umbrella 
    Best video: Umbrella
    Rank in 2010 countdown: 1
    Rank in 2011 countdown: 2
    Rank in 2012 countdown: 22

    Leave a comment:


  • JSparksFan
    replied
    009. Mariah Carey - Daydream



    After the might of 'Music Box' came a more mature, R&B-leaning follow-up in 'Daydream' (I am thankful to all existing higher powers that MC and the label didn't go with 'Fantasy' as the title). 'Daydream' has been credited with building the bridge between pop/R&B and hip/hop in mainstream music. It is also her penultimate stage of evolution before her fully formed musical self.

    'Daydream' marked the first time Mariah worked with Jermaine Dupri, who was at the time a burgeoning producer in the inudstry. The two would have an extended professional relationship as all MC albums since 'Daydream', save for 'Glitter' and 'Memoirs of an Imperfect Angel', feature Dupri fingerprints (for better or worse). Dupri is a contributing entity on my top 'Daydream' tune, "Always Be My Baby". A mid-tempo summer anthem to end all others, "Always Be My Baby" features a truly brilliant 'Do do doop do doop da dum' hook. Its flourishes are light and organic, and even as a lifetime pledge of love, it feels delightfully warm and breezy. I don't think there's a better track that captures youthful love. "Forever" is another top highlight and the longest-reigning Daydream no. 1 on my daily charts. It's classic Mariah balladry - pretty poetry garnished with those multi-octave belts that flex her at-the-time effortless range. "Melt Away", a massive grower over the years, is a sensual gem that features some of her best songwriting on the album. I also love that it showcases her lower range more than most of the other tracks. Record-breaking "One Sweet Day" is a song that's deeply impacting for most people who've experienced the tragedy of loss among loved ones and it honestly sounds just as good today as it did in the 90s. The not-oft-cited jewel "I Am Free" stands out to me as a coming-of-age theme. So much of becoming ourselves involves unlearning all of the elements that people may have directly or indirectly told us are unacceptable, ugly, inappropriate, or too much, and "I Am Free" signals a release from the shackles of those burdens and anxieties. The traditional gospel influences augment my appreciation for the track and gave it a powerful soulful layer. The final track "Looking In" is one of MC's most personal tracks and spoke to her sense of being an elusive chanteuse nearly 20 years before that would actualise itself as an album title. It's poignant how the first and final verses are bookended by the lines "You'll never know the real me" vs. "They'll never know the real me", which gives me the sense that she's talking to a close contact in the first verse, a controlling husband perhaps, and the general public in the final verse. For me, "Looking In" has long been one of her most relatable songs.

    'Daydream' was another commercial blockbuster album for MC. With total sales upwards of 32 million, it is one of the best-selling albums of all-time. Single "One Sweet Day" ended the decade as the most successful Billboard hit of the 90s and the album scored three no. 1s on the Hot 100. At the Grammys, there was that huge snubbing fiasco, where MC lost all six nominations after being the prohibitive favourite to sweep. She wouldn't perform at the Grammys for another decade, when I'm sure she had it stipulated in a contract that she had to win at least two awards to make it worth the effort.
    Code:
    Significance rating: 16/20
    No. 1s on my daily chart: Forever (x6); Always Be My Baby (x2); When I Saw You (x2); Melt Away (x1); I Am Free (x1); Looking In (x1)
    Best lyric: You gave me a breath of life, unclouded my eyes with sweet serenity, lighting a ray of hope for me, and now I am free
    Best melody: Melt Away 
    Best video: Always Be My Baby
    Rank in 2010 countdown: 60
    Rank in 2011 countdown: 79
    Rank in 2012 countdown: 98

    Leave a comment:


  • JSparksFan
    replied
    Originally posted by crystalphoenix View Post
    Not sure if that was just your way of poking fun at my enthusiasm for "We Found Love" but if you meant Loud through Unapologetic, my answer would still be Talk That Talk. I do like Loud too, but I think Talk That Talk was the most pleasant surprise/had the most additional gems to offer beyond a lead single I adored ("Where Have You Been," "Do Ya Thang," "Watch 'N Learn," "Farewell," and I even unironically love "You Da One").
    My wording was clumsy, but what I really meant to ask is if your fave from 'Rated R' to 'Unapologetic' (the years she released albums back-to-back-to-back-to-back) was 'Talk That Talk' largely fuelled by your love for "We Found Love". I think 'Talk That Talk' is a bit underrated actually.

    Originally posted by crystalphoenix View Post
    Very happy to see that Music Box has grown on you with each successive Top Albums Countdown! Like you mention with "Hero," Lambs seem particularly cold toward MB for being driven by (Tommy's thirst for) more dollar signs and just sounding VERY "90's" all around (ofc my 90's kid ears aren't nearly as bothered by the latter). Even beyond Mariah fans, I've noticed that cheesy melodramatic ballads from the 80's and 90's are viewed as intolerably-cringey relics now, but sometimes I just wanna hear a big beautiful voice belt out some poetic words, and there's very few voices that can do that like Mariah's (while also penning those pretty words with their own talented hand)
    Agreed. I think 'pretty' pop music certainly has its place, but I think dark, moody music has long been the sound of 'cool' so maybe that influences people's ears.

    Originally posted by crystalphoenix View Post
    Really getting that Dua stan card stamped, eh? You make a great point (that hadn't crossed my mind before) about how Dua delivered one of the biggest pop blockbuster eras in recent years without any help from usual suspects Max or Luke (or Tay's dear Jack). Although I suspect the US music-consuming masses wouldn't have done "Physical" justice, I'm still miffed that her label never even gave it a chance here (also annoyed that they never made "If It Ain't Me" a single by dropping the Normani version as a "new remix." Maybe if it hadn't leaked so early)? Sounds like I'll need to attend a Dua show someday in order for "Don't Start Now" to finally fully click with me. A round of applause for "Break My Heart" earning "Best Video" (that played a big role in making it my FN fave)
    You were actually the one to get me to watch the "Break My Heart" video, which I adored!

    Leave a comment:


  • crystalphoenix
    replied
    Originally posted by JSparksFan View Post
    Which RiRi album from that era stood out the most to you? 'Talk That Talk' through "We Found Love"?
    Not sure if that was just your way of poking fun at my enthusiasm for "We Found Love" but if you meant Loud through Unapologetic, my answer would still be Talk That Talk. I do like Loud too, but I think Talk That Talk was the most pleasant surprise/had the most additional gems to offer beyond a lead single I adored ("Where Have You Been," "Do Ya Thang," "Watch 'N Learn," "Farewell," and I even unironically love "You Da One").
    • Very happy to see that Music Box has grown on you with each successive Top Albums Countdown! Like you mention with "Hero," Lambs seem particularly cold toward MB for being driven by (Tommy's thirst for) more dollar signs and just sounding VERY "90's" all around (ofc my 90's kid ears aren't nearly as bothered by the latter). Even beyond Mariah fans, I've noticed that cheesy melodramatic ballads from the 80's and 90's are viewed as intolerably-cringey relics now, but sometimes I just wanna hear a big beautiful voice belt out some poetic words, and there's very few voices that can do that like Mariah's (while also penning those pretty words with their own talented hand)
    • Really getting that Dua stan card stamped, eh? You make a great point (that hadn't crossed my mind before) about how Dua delivered one of the biggest pop blockbuster eras in recent years without any help from usual suspects Max or Luke (or Tay's dear Jack). Although I suspect the US music-consuming masses wouldn't have done "Physical" justice, I'm still miffed that her label never even gave it a chance here (also annoyed that they never made "If It Ain't Me" a single by dropping the Normani version as a "new remix." Maybe if it hadn't leaked so early)? Sounds like I'll need to attend a Dua show someday in order for "Don't Start Now" to finally fully click with me. A round of applause for "Break My Heart" earning "Best Video" (that played a big role in making it my FN fave)

    Leave a comment:


  • JSparksFan
    replied
    010. Dua Lipa - Future Nostalgia



    At the onset of the pandemic, with the world instructed to shut down and distance from each other, 'Future Nostalgia' dropped and added some much-needed disco cheer and pop euphoria to the bleak and unprecedented circumstances. Her self-titled debut album suggested much promise and this sophomore follow-up proved she was ready to mix it up with the established divas of pop.

    Frankly, I didn't think pop music would ever be this good again and one of the elements that stands out to me on 'Future Nostalgia' is just how fresh and crisp the production on each track is and beyond that, it doesn't come via the two big industry names I usually see on the producers' billing - Max Martin and Dr. Luke. Instead, there are names like Jeff Bhasker, who worked on Kanye's '808s & Heartbreak'; Koz, who previously produced almost half of 'Dua Lipa'; and Ian Kirkpatrick, who produced my pre-'Future Nostalgia' fave from Dua "New Rules". Those three, along with Dua's gorgeous alto husk, make it so that there is nary a filler track in earshot of this incredible album, though I do have specific highlights. My two unpopular picks are "Good in Bed" and "Boys Will Be Boys". The former is this smooth, widely accessible, well-fleshed-out bop and the latter one of the catchiest indictments of societal double standards for men and women I've ever heard. My other three picks are the more cool options. "Break My Heart" is delivered with an enviable, natural kind of ease and comes armed with one of the sharpest productions on the record. "Levitating", my initial 'Future Nostalgia' favourite, is a supreme dancefloor stomper of a bouncy pop bop. I love how Dua switches her cadence within the verses and that chorus is such euphoric fun. I remember dancing in my living room to this the very first time I heard this. It made me so happy and was a Godsend at the front end of the pandemic. My prevailing 'Future Nostalgia' favourite, though, is "Physical", which is quality pop music done expertly, excellently, and executed flawlessly. Lyrically? Sound! Sonically? Rich! Vocally? Passionate! It is the perfect kind of fist-pumping, high-octane power pop that I adore. This song has some obvious pulsating peaks, but there's also this eerie kind of synth that introduces the song that we hear at select parts throughout. It's really random, but adds a layer of mystique to the sheen. Dua was concerned that the song would be too much as its production and arrangement makes it relentless, but the plot twist is that was just what the music scene needed in early 2020. I should also give a shout-out to "Don't Start Now", which grew so much on me since I heard it in late 2019. Getting to see the crowd reaction to it on her Future Nostalgia Tour was a memory I'll forever cherish. Live moments like that change your perception of songs forever and it was clear just how much the lyrics resonated with everyone.

    Though 'Future Nostalgia' is still about two million copies behind its predecessor's sales total, it did achieve far better peaks in major music markets becoming Dua's first UK no. 1 album after a tight no. 2 debut. 'Future Nostalgia' also peaked at no. 3 in the US. Despite 'only' peaking at no. 2 in the US (and on my daily chart), "Levitating" finished no. 1 on Billboard's 2021 year-end chart. At the Grammys, 'Future Nostalgia' won Best Pop Vocal Album, though I did cry foul when 'Folklore' beat it for Album of the Year. My love for Taylor Swift and "August" is immense, but 'Future Nostalgia' was a no-brainer pick. Finally, to circle back to my Future Nostalgia Tour experience, I did leave the concert feeling that Dua Lipa is indeed the future of pop music and the future is in capable hands.
    Code:
    Significance rating: 16/20
    No. 1s on my daily chart: Physical (x11); Don't Start Now (x4); Boys Will Be Boys (x1)
    Best lyric: You got me feeling diamond-rich, nothing on this planet compares to it, don't you agree? Don't you agree?
    Best melody: Physical 
    Best video: Break My Heart
    Rank in 2010 countdown: NR
    Rank in 2011 countdown: NR
    Rank in 2012 countdown: NR

    Leave a comment:


  • JSparksFan
    replied
    Originally posted by Benny View Post
    'Music Box' is a lovely album, 'Hero' is the stand-out track for me.
    "Hero" is my standout track, too!

    Leave a comment:


  • Benny
    replied
    'Music Box' is a lovely album, 'Hero' is the stand-out track for me.

    Leave a comment:

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