Tag Archives: Britney Spears

Top 11 Albums Of 2008

2008 leaps out as being a really poor year for albums, so much so I resorted to putting an album that wasn’t even technically released on here! Only the top five of this list really stand out; the rest are three (and a half) star albums at best that wouldn’t make the cut in any other year, with Jenny Lewis and John Legend even having better albums under their belt that didn’t make the charts in other years.

Still, enough with the cryptic clues. For better or worse, I present you with my Top 11 Albums Of 2008.

1.         Britney Spears – Circus
Not as good as Blackout, but then again, what is? Whilst Blackout was an unrelenting dance nirvana, Circus is more a collection of great songs, with a couple of stinkers thrown in for good measure. [How did the teeth-gnashingly awful My Baby, with its nauseating lyrics about smelling breath ever leave the demo stage? And Mmm Papi is so shudder-inducingly cringe-making, you’ll hang your head in shame at how annoyingly catchy it is.] The sirens of Womanizer signal that Britney is back with bells on; tracks like Kill The Lights (heralding the return of ‘Princess, now Queen of Pop, Miss Britney Spears’), the strangulated vowels of Shattered Glass and the winking thrust of If U Seek Amy may steal the limelight but the experimental stutters and squeals of Mannequin and hypnotic seduction of Unusual You reveal their lustre on later listens. Meanwhile, my two favourites are mere bonuses – the Lady Gaga-penned (listen out for her on backing vocals) jaw-droppingly lovely Quicksand, which feels like it just rains gooey gorgeousness at every listen and the retro butterscotch charms of Amnesia (I could write an essay on this song – stuttering on the word ‘stutters’, the way that ‘butterflies’ is fragmented into two lines, that the song is about how hot some guy is that Brit ‘gets amnesia’ and then he comes to her and tells her that he can’t ‘forget about her’… that’s clever pop for you, and it’s utterly blissful). Welcome back Britters!

2.         Lady Gaga – The Fame
At times, Lady Gaga really annoys me – ridiculous crotch-thrusting outfits, too much make-up, hair like straw, insisting that she’s 22 when she looks about 40. But then I remember how great her songs are. The Fame is a remarkable debut, with barely a duff track, and the seamy seedy edge added by lyrics detailing an obsession with fame or a predilection for rough sex complement the killer choruses (more than most artists manage in an entire career) perfectly. Suddenly, her ‘I’m outrageous, me!’ get-up just doesn’t matter anymore.

3.         Girls Aloud – Out Of Control
Tame by Girls Aloud’s standards, bloody brilliant by anyone else’s. Lacking the genre-pogoing bravery of Tangled Up, Out of Control still has its fair share of electrifyingly eclectic moments in Miss You Bow Wow (a seemingly endless segue of stunning choruses), Revolution In The Head and Live In The Country. The rest of the album may see the girls on more mellow mainstream form – yet on tracks as genuinely lovely as Rolling Back The Rivers, the magnificent melancholy of The Loving Kind and whirling ecstasy of Untouchable, who’s complaining?

4.         Same Difference – Pop
If you like your music to come with bigger smiles than a sales assistant on commission, then this is the album for you. This is pop in primary colours with hundreds and thousands sprinkled liberally on top, with surprisingly strong vocals from the siblings (so clean-cut that they make the Andrex puppy look a little sordid in comparison). Pop has had epic key changes thrown at it like confetti – the elongated one in Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now should be framed and hung up in a gallery, it’s that amazing. From the glorious cover art, to the perfectly-picked material, Pop practically wags its tail with pure unadulterated joy. It’s as if Steps never went away.

5.         Ladyhawke – Ladyhawke
Does the album get a bit samey after a while? Yes. Does Ladyhawke’s ‘couldn’t give a shit, might as well be singing about what I need to get from Tesco later’ vocal delivery diminish the songs’ brilliance? Yes. But is this still a pretty great, cohesive, synthy sumptuous banquet of electro-indie? Yes. And is Paris Is Burning a sleazy adrenaline rush like no other? Of course.

6.         Lemar – The Reason
I’ve said before and I’ll say it again: thank God for Lemar. The man is single-handedly keeping male British soul/r n’ b alive. His albums are always consistent, his voice is gorgeous and well, he seems a thoroughly nice chap. At ten tracks, The Reason never outstays its welcome and is a smoothly impressive record; in fact, Lemar out-sings, out-funks and out-does John Legend’s Evolver at every turn. Little Miss Heartbreaker is just crying out, in fact wailing loudly and bashing its fists against a wall, to become a massive hit and this album, like Catfights, deserves so much more success.

7.         Sugababes – Catfights And Spotlights
I can’t pretend that the Sugababes abandonment of electropop didn’t disappoint – and without the Red Dresses, Holes in The Heads and Push the Buttons of the world, Catfights does suffer. The resulting energy drought will have you clinging as desperately onto the sole stomper (Hanging On A Star) as a bunny boiler to their ex – however, nothing but nothing will compel me to look on Girls with anything other than contempt. A gaping creative trench of a song, built solely around the strength of its sample and with little consideration for including a decent anything else, it’s a nadir in the Babes’ career. But Catfights does serve as a reminder that, once upon a time, the Sugababes (in whatever previous incarnation) were just as effective at ballads and midtempos as rave-ups. A quietly good album with some great vocals; Can We Call A Truce is heartbreaking pared-down beauty and Heidi has never sounded so heart-achingly gorgeous.

8.         Annie – Don’t Stop
Not technically released [it eventually saw the light of day in late 2009, a ridiculous 18 months after the Interwebz got their first taste of Don’t Stop], but it seems churlish not to award Norwegian pop sprite Annie her place in the top 11. Don’t Stop boasts songs lighter than spun sugar, a fair smattering of wit and depth that many of her contemporaries lack and the occasional utter leftfield spark (ice cream chimes in I Know Ur Girlfriend Hates Me). Annie’s feather-light delivery perhaps lacks the appropriate punch for power-pop like My Love Is Better but juxtaposes against the rocky duet I Can’t Let Go nicely and is the perfect fit for dreamy epics like Songs Remind Me Of You and Marie Cherie.

9.         Jenny Lewis – Acid Tongue
Lewis just has a voice that makes you melt – she just seems to sing with such simplicity and feeling that it delves into parts of your soul you weren’t sure existed. Not an album that will have you raving it up until poppers o’ clock but a master-class in breathtaking beauty all the same.

1o.         John Legend – Evolver
I’ve long said that Legend could read the dictionary over a backing track and I’d still be in thrall to that honeyed voice. But Legend’s attempts to become the next Marvin Gaye are wearing a little thin because he has not yet managed to match the majesty of 2005’s wondrous Get Lifted. Green Light, propelled by Andre 3000’s cheeky chutzpah (btw where is he?! I need another Outkast album!), offers a tantalising glimpse of what could happen if Legend veered in a slightly funkier direction. Sadly, nothing on Evolver, despite the progressive sounding title, comes close to even trying. His piano-led ballads are still beautiful (This Time = Evolver’s Ordinary People), but you hear me Legend, I want more!

11.         The Saturdays – Chasing Lights
The Saturdays are being touted as the great white hope of girl bands – the last bastion if the Sugababes and Girls Aloud should disappear. On the basis of Chasing Lights, I’m worried. Yes, there are some great tunes on here (I have a huge squidgy soft spot for the monumentally cheesy Why Me, Why Now) but they would be great tunes if my wall sung them to me – in fact, they might even be better. The Saturdays are in desperate need of personality and spark in order to elevate their slick yet serviceable pop to the next level. Up is still bloody good though.

Top 11 Albums Of 2007

The Top 11 Albums of 2007 is another of my favourite lists, with lots of underrated (and commercially unsuccessful) classics featuring.

Strangely enough, I’ve found the albums list more difficult to compile over the years, whilst the singles list has become easier. What makes a great album track doesn’t necessarily translate into what makes a great single (something I will bang on at length about in another list) and it seems I’ve become more appreciative of these long-form works of art, as opposed to a three minute burst for single glory. It’s made for a few leftfield entries in my albums charts that wouldn’t at first appear to tally with my very commercial pop tastes, leaving me with long shortlists of contenders!

The Top 11 Albums of 2007 mark many of these artists’ creative highpoints – Girls Aloud’s best album, Britney’s best album, Rihanna’s best album – whilst others seem to have been so traumatised by their (undeserved) lack of success, that we’ve not heard anything proper from them since (Sophie Ellis-Bextor, Chungking, Siobhan Donaghy, Roisin Murphy)! So here’s my reckoning on 2007’s finest moments…. enjoy!

1.         Girls Aloud – Tangled Up
Can these stroppy sexy strumpets put a foot wrong? Whilst the tabloids plotted their break-up, Girls Aloud quietly set about making the best album of their career. Xenomania’s lyrics may remain as nonsensical as ever, but there is no faulting their knack for sniffing out a great tune. Catchy cunning and crafty hooks abound on the adrenalin rush of Close To Love, the crazed ska of Control of the Knife and the soulful ambience of Can’t Speak French and Black Jacks. What’s more, there’s not a single ballad or cover in sight. Vive la Aloud!

2.            Siobhan Donaghy – Ghosts
Was Donaghy really ever in the Sugababes? Whilst their fifth album has seen them meander ever closer to the mainstream, Donaghy’s music is wonderfully weird and unapologetically uncommercial. Her feather-light vocals on complex epics like Ghosts and Medevac have the power to float you to a different dimension (one where Kate Bush is still revered) whilst the slightly more conventional Don’t Give It Up and So You Say are just as intoxicating. Gorgeous, haunting and surprisingly addictive stuff.

3.            Chungking – Stay Up Forever
This Brighton duo’s album has been criminally overlooked; if it were by Goldfrapp or even Kylie (whose X, by the way, is a big disappointment), it would be selling by the bucket load. Instead, this creamy dreamy platter of electropop has slipped under the radar, despite Jessie Banks’ sultry vocals and the involvement of producer supremo Richard X on the two best tracks – the hip-thrusting Itch & Scratch and the sexy shimmy of Slow It Down.

4.            Britney Spears – Blackout
Whilst Spears’ continues to teeter on the brink of sanity, it looks like she used up her last few salient moments on this stomper of a record. True, anyone could be singing it (and with that vocoder, anyone could be!) and the producers are probably more deserving of an appearance on the cover than Britters herself (that hideous cover, ye Gods my eyes!), but for delicious dance tracks, you can’t find better this year. The most exhilarating of the bunch are the insanely catchy Ooh Ooh Baby and Radar, the whirling staccato madness of Toy Solider and the loosely biographical snarl of Piece Of Me.

5.            Rihanna – Good Girl Gone Bad
Thank God, a Rihanna album that doesn’t feature Pon de Replay! Whilst the Barbados beauty has little difficulty finding a killer single (and the global domination of Umbrella is no exception), she never quite managed a whole album to the same standard. With the fierce Breakin’ Dishes and Lemme Get That, the effortless disco pulsations of Please Don’t Stop The Music and Push Up On Me, the full-throttle Shut Up And Drive and even a few decent mellow moments, Rihanna finally nailed it. Third time lucky and all that.

6.         Bat For Lashes – Fur and Gold
Gloriously bizarre, atmospheric and chilling in equal measure, Natasha Khan’s album was one of the more deserving nominees for this year’s Mercury Music Prize. This is more a piece of high drama than a pop record with lush orchestration, an almost epic feel and moody brooding lyrics – and somehow, you get swept along on the mystical but mesmerising journey. I defy you not to fall in love with tracks as complex but beautiful as What’s A Girl To Do or Horse and I, whilst the stark simplicity of Sad Eyes is just as powerful. Khan is clearly unafraid to take risks and, if these are the results, I hope such bravery continues.

7.         Sophie Ellis-Bextor – Trip The Light Fantastic
Best album title of the year and a disco-delicious comeback from Ellis-Bextor. Whilst perhaps lacking the depth and variety of her earlier efforts, Xenomania’s delectable pop confection If You Go is possibly the best thing she’s ever recorded, perfectly suiting that much-derided crystal-cut delivery. Other highlights include the more-summery-than-strawberries-and-ice-cream Me and My Imagination and Love Is Here, the poignant drama of Today The Sun’s On Us and the hypnotic beats of Only One and If I Can’t Dance, plus bonus track and biggest guilty pleasure ever, Supersonic.

8.         Roisin Murphy – Overpowered
The main problem with this album is that almost every song is about a minute too long. Murphy’s cat-like vocals remain as appetising as ever and there’s a certain lush ambience to affairs but the hint of over-indulgence stops things from becoming truly brilliant. That being said, the irresistible groove of Checkin’ On Me, the grown-up disco of Let Me Know and the ghostly funk of the title track mean Murphy is still a force to be reckoned with.

9.         The Bird and The Bee – The Bird and The Bee
At just over half an hour, this exquisite little album is the perfect party guest, never outstaying her welcome but bringing bags of sunshine in tow. A true breath of fresh air, Inara George’s butter-wouldn’t-melt vocals (especially hilarious when teamed with occasional bouts of swearing) and Greg Kurstin’s immaculate production are an unbeatable team. Subtle, simple and sweet, this was a perfect summer album.

10.            Dragonette – Galore
An album built to save pop and consequently, almost totally ignored by the general public. Filed in the pop injustices of the year category along with Chungking, Galore boasts songs that even Girls Aloud would be happy to have in their repertoire. Each synth-tastic track manages to be simultaneously smooth and spunky, with the silky purr of exotically-named Martina Sorbara carrying proceedings effortlessly, especially on the superlative Take It Like A Man and the luscious True Believer.

11.            Sugababes – Change
Lots of people were disappointed with this but if you ignore the fact that once, the Sugababes had perfect harmonies and vocal blending plus an edgy production and image, then it’s not so bad. About You Now is simply the most radio-friendly song ever recorded whilst My Love Is Pink shows the trio haven’t completely lost their ear for an energetic pop romp. There are far too many slow numbers but the really good Never Gonna Dance Again (no, not a cover of Guilty Whisper), Denial and Change make up for the more average offerings, equalling a solid, if not brilliant, little album.