Tag Archives: Girls Aloud

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 Singles Of 2008

The Top 11 Singles Of 2008 is probably my least favourite list of them all. Despite the fact that the songs are all amazing (obviously – I chose ‘em!), something about it just doesn’t flow. And I overplayed my number one song to such an extent (something like on repeat 15 times a day for six months) that it’s only just returning from a two-year banishment, a move required for me to appreciate its majesty once more.

However, this is the list that has had the most extensive tinkering. Originally Madcon’s Beggin’ was on the list – before I went to see Jersey Boys and realised everything great about that song was the Four Seasons sample! An Alcazar single was on there (before I tightened my UK-release only rules), as was Rihanna’s Disturbia (good but generic). In their place went Alphabeat (a song I loved but which seemed so instantly familiar, I thought it was one of those tracks from aeons ago that had bypassed my radar), Miley Cyrus (excluded back in the days when I held Hannah Montana against her) and V V Brown (a limited release single I only found out about after the list was done and dusted). The three nearly but not quites are also all songs I didn’t appreciate at the time but which I couldn’t do without now, yet something about them jars with the overall list, hence them not making the cut.

But enough talking, time for listing! Here’s eleven slices of 2008’s finest…

1.         Hot N Cold – Katy Perry (4)
If you know me, you’ll know that I’m ever so slightly obsessed with Hot N Cold. The video holds a permanent place on my desktop and the song itself ain’t too shabby either. A Dr Luke/Max Martin chorus to end all others, and just when you might be getting bored of it, along comes the Jason Nevins Radio Edit, which made the impossible possible by making it even more epic on the scale of amazing than before.

2.            Spiralling – Keane (23)
Those thrilling beginning wooooos marked the return of Keane in an entirely different guise from slightly wet piano-playing cousins of Coldplay. Some mental lyrics about fashioning you from jewels and stones we can take or leave, but the hook that swirls, spirals and sucks you in is simply irresistible. Intoxicating, hypnotising, entrancing and just plain bloody brilliant.

3.         When I Grow Up – The Pussycat Dolls (3)
Dance breakdown? Check. Ridiculous lyrics? Check. Skanky outfits? Check. Nicole singing practically everything? Check. (Apparently, she even provides backing vocals… to herself). What a shame that the Pussycat Dolls follow-up album was absolute wank but at least we have this Darkchild slice of musical magnificence to remember them by.

4.         Just Dance – Lady Gaga (1)
Lady Gaga delivered a well-deserved shot up the arm to the music scene and the brilliance of Just Dance is so great that it somehow makes Akon’s presence in a song bearable. The title isn’t a suggestion, but a command and with music this marvellous, a very easy one to execute at that. And I have no idea who or what Colby O Dennis may be, but his section takes the song to a whole other level.

5.         The Promise – Girls Aloud (1)
I don’t know whether to be pleased or annoyed that it took Cheryl Cole being a judge on the X-Factor for the rest of Britain to realise that Girls Aloud are genius. The Promise, a delightful retro romp with finger-crossing dance routine and trademark nonsensical lyrics about walking primroses, may be their least exciting lead single to date – but that still makes it thousands of times better than just about anything else released in the year.

6.            Fascination – Alphabeat (6)
More cheerful than Mr Happy after popping some Es, Fascination sounds like someone let off fireworks in a factory stockpiling old 80s records. Somewhere between The B-52s, Wham and Footloose, it was a frenetic jive around everything wonderful you could possibly think of about pop music, by a group who aren’t afraid to do everything in Technicolour, even if they know their way round the skinny jean/long cardigan section of Topman too. And after being deprived of mixed-gender groups for so long, the charming boy-girl interplay of Alphabeat’s vocals sounds so utterly delicious. The word is on your lips – say the word!

7.         Run – Leona Lewis (1)
If artists insist on recording covers, could they please all be like Leona Lewis’ version of Run?! Saved from the clutches of Snow Patrol mediocrity, Run has it all. Lighters aloft, dry ice swirling, perfect vocals, choir appearing for the key change – this song is a thing of pure beauty. A future classic.

8.         See You Again – Miley Cyrus (11)
‘My best friend Lesley said, “Oh she’s just being Miley”,’ may go down in the record books as the most ridiculous/amazing cult pop lyric of all time. Oddly, its utter inanity somehow contributes to See You Again’s overall excellence. A mesmerising shimmy across the dancefloor, with sparkly accents, seductive vocals and an absolutely stellar chorus, it slams a knockout blow to Disney detractors once and for all.

9.         Crying Blood – V V Brown (-)
The insane lovechild of a Nintendo theme tune and the Monster Mash, Crying Blood is an unhinged reworking of doo-wop for the noughties. Exploding out your speakers with all the addictiveness of a batch of EU-banned E-numbers, Crying Blood has enough energy and exuberance for twenty songs, bottled down and boiled into two and a half minutes of pop lunacy at its best.

10.            Womanizer – Britney Spears (3)
Fast, frenetic, fantastic and fierce, this indicated that Britney was back and with bells on. Deserves a place for the intro alone – and yes, those are sirens.

11.       Up – The Saturdays (5)
Who cares if they’re blander than Rachel Stevens buying magnolia wallpaper and vanilla ice cream when The Saturdays deliver infectious electropop as great as this?

Three nearly but not quites…
That’s Not My Name/Shut Up & Let Me Go – The Ting Tings, Dance Wiv Me – Calvin Harris & Dizzee Rascal, So What – Pink

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.

Top 11 Singles Of 2007

The Top 11 Singles of 2007 was the list that, for some reason, was missing from my collection. Compiling it retrospectively was actually pretty easy – there were lots of big, highly memorable number ones that year, plus a few personal favourites that have held a place in my head/heart/mp3 player ever since. Even more amazing – it includes the only time that Jessica Simpson has seemed even vaguely a decent proposition as a pop star.

So without any further ado, let’s count this mother down!

1.            Bleeding Love – Leona (1)
The song that sparked a thousand imitators (many by its own writer/producer, Ryan Tedder) but has yet to be bettered, Bleeding Love showed the world just what Lewis was capable of – namely, the best lovelorn warbling seen since Whitney Houston reckoned she would always love you. Rippling beats, throbbing rhythms and undulating vocals combine to create a true colossus in the temple of pop balladry. Is it too early to declare it timeless?!

2.            Potential Break-Up Song – Aly & AJ (22)
Dismiss the conveyor-belt of Disney dollies at your peril; Potential Break-Up Song shows just what sort of brilliance the Mouseketeers are capable of producing when your back’s turned for too long. Aly & AJ, previous minor gems in the Disney firmament, created this skittish electro blizzard, capturing the exact moment where lousy boyfriend is set to because lousy ex. The venomous lyrics (‘Now all I want is just my stuff back/Do you get that?/Let me repeat that/I want my stuff back!) are spun to the listener in feather-light form whilst staccato stutters run riot over a tango-infused sonic snowstorm. Pure perfect electropop.

3.         Sexy! No No No – Girls Aloud (5)
First listen? A mess. Second listen? A mess… with potential. Third listen? Xenomania are geniuses. A crashing, thrashing dancefloor opera, complete with overblown vocoder-ed intro, a snappy strident call and response section, deliciously d-d-dirty stutters and euphoric wailing, it’s a club-tinged experiment that saw Xenomania continue their bid to get the strangest song structures ever into the upper echelons of the UK Charts. Sexy! No No No announced that Girls Aloud were here to rave. Loudly. There may even be glowsticks involved. Inventive, ambitious, awesome.

4.         A Public Affair – Jessica Simpson (20)
If you’re going to rip off not one but two songs, you couldn’t choose much better than two Teflon-coated classics – Madonna’s Holiday and Marvin Gaye’s Ain’t No Mountain High Enough. A gloriously infectious summer smash in waiting, A Public Affair dared you to listen without breaking into a big grin and having a surreptitious boogie on the side.

5.            Umbrella – Rihanna (1)
If Bleeding Love was 2007’s contribution to making ballad history, than Umbrella was its lightning-bolt strike at an accessible highly-successful pop/R n B crossover. Turning an innocuous household object into a symbol of undying devotion and the most memorable hook in history, Umbrella takes towering clanging percussion, inescapable beats, a rap including the word ‘precipitation’ (aren’t you glad you took your Biology GCSE now?!) and Rihanna’s robotic tones to create a zeitgeist moment of the highest order. ELLA-ELLA-ELLA-EH-EH-EH.

6.         The Sweet Escape – Gwen Stefani (2)
Any song that turns professional irritant Akon into a first-class attribute is a winner in my book. A doo-wop saunter capitalising on Stefani’s poppier inclinations, The Sweet Escape has more bounce than a Jack-in-the-box on a pogo stick with springs in his heels. A shiny sun-kissed jaunt with a typically brilliant video to boot that sees a glossy Gwen let down her Rapunzel hair and escape from jail (Harajuku Girls in tow), The Sweet Escape wriggled its way into your head with ease, making it clear it had absolutely no intention of ever leaving again. Akon bits included.

7.         About You Now – Sugababes (1)
A sterling pop song designed to survive world wars, zombie infestations or, even worse, indie takeovers, About You Now couldn’t have been more radio-friendly had it tried. Perfectly-constructed by some of pop’s finest engineers (Cathy Dennis, Dr Luke), About You Now explodes into a chorus like no other – instantly catchy, forever unforgettable. Resistance is futile; the sooner you get sucked into this veritable pop hurricane better. The acoustic version is rather lovely too.

8.         Rule The World – Take That (1)
In any other year, Rule The World would be talked-up as being a future classic. However, it had the misfortune of being released in the same year as Bleeding Love, making its star-studded majesty shine just a little dimmer in its wake. That doesn’t stop Rule The World from a being a heart-stoppingly beautiful love song, which will rightfully provide the soundtrack to first kisses and last dances across the universe.

9.         Grace Kelly – Mika (1)
Grace Kelly marked the moment when we honestly thought Mika could be a big-haired, falsetto-swooping Freddie Mercury for the noughties. In the end, it all went a bit pear-shaped but nothing can take away from the blast of fresh air he initially provided with this invigoratingly different tune. A sparkling glass of pink champagne fizzing over with pure unadulterated pleasure.

10.            Standing In The Way Of Control – Gossip (7)
The rave-up to end all rave-ups, Standing In The Way Of Control became the anthem for hedonists across the country when its thumping beats and strident synths scored the wild wasted house party advert for the first series of Skins. But I’m not going to hold that against it. Standing In The Way Of Control is a chunky beefed-up sweaty slice of party central and everyone’s invited.

11.       The Way I Are – Timbaland & Keri Hilson (1)
It’s only so low because of the glaring grammatical error in the title. A track guaranteed to make me get my funk on (not as naff as it sounds, promise), featuring a pulsating bassline set against souped-up electro beats, it’s a clean and cool three minute adrenaline ride. Timbaland’s grunting never sounded so good.

Three nearly but not quites…
Tony The Beat – The Sounds, Chelsea – Stefy, Back To Black – Amy Winehouse

Top 11 Albums of 2005

And so begins my obsession with making my ‘Top 11’.

Firstly, why eleven? A combination of a Spinal Tap joke, that eleven is obviously one better than ten, the need to be that little bit different and the fact that when you make top tens, you’re always plagued by that one you had to leave out! 11 is quite an aesthetically pleasing numeral as well, don’t you think? All long leggy streamlined strokes… (ok, obsessing too much now, please stop).

Secondly, this list required a lot of editing. When this was originally published, I included greatest hits collections, frankly because I hadn’t been bothered or inclined to listen to many other albums that year (the top seven on this list are still some of my favourite albums of all-time and completely hogged my CD player… yes, back in the days when we all still listened to CDs). I’d still love to include Basement Jaxx’s Singles Collection in the list as it’s a totally perfect record but it really doesn’t seem fair. Meanwhile, Natalie Imbruglia’s Counting Down The Days has always quietly been one of my all-time favourites without me ever having any conception of when it was released; also, with the benefit of hindsight, age and wisdom (ha!), two albums that actually made my ‘Worst’ list also reach the top eleven! So you can’t say I never admit to being wrong!

The Top 11 Albums of 2005 include the first great Girls Aloud album, the last great Sugababes album and the only great Rachel Stevens album. Enjoy!

1.            Girls Aloud Chemistry
Words cannot express the pure unadulterated joy and pleasure Chemistry brought me. In fact, it’s orgasmic stuff. Girls Aloud took every rule about pop music and stomped all over them in white stilettos, whilst rapping nonsense, slinging hooks like a heavyweight boxer, making train noises and generally looking rather beautiful. Vive la Aloud.

2.         John Legend Get Lifted
There has not been a more beautiful voice, or a more beautiful album, this year… FACT. Legend lives up to his name with this absolutely stunning debut, whilst that super-smooth voice slips down like errrr… a really lovely cough lozenge?! OK so the similes aren’t really working for me tonight…

3.         KT Tunstall Eye To The Telescope
People tried to say she was the new Dido, the new Melua or the new *insert boring female singer-songwriter here* but trust me, she’s much much better. The heartbreakingly beautiful Other Side of the World meant fans of afore-mentioned boring female singer-songwriters bought the album, only to be surprised by this surprisingly varied and accomplished debut. The real highlight – Tunstall’s gorgeously throaty voice and the amazingly infectious, potentially defined as folk but never mind Black Horse and The Cherry Tree. All together now… (it’s off the ads) woooooohoooooooo….

4.            Rachel Stevens – Come And Get It
The British public didn’t really go and get it but more fool them. For sheer pop, it’s hard to better Rachel’s sophomore effort, which sees her spin an electro tour-de-force with the might of pop’s best producers behind her. Ignore the personality vacuum that is Rachel herself, quietly sucking away all charisma with Dyson-esque efficiency, and instead concentrate on pop gems that sparkle even more brightly than Queen Madge’s disco-ball.

5.            Madonna – Confessions On A Dancefloor
With Confessions, the Queen of Pop returned, polished crown and lyrca leotard in tow, to create her best album in years. Disco taken to new levels of sleek and shiny glamour, this was an album that really worked well as one (ultra-toned) body of work, proving the 47 year-old still has what it takes. Dancefloor euphoria, plus it has an Abba sample… awesome.

6.            Sugababes – Taller In More Ways
Missing Mutya already (actually scrap that, because Amelle is my new favourite girl-group member since the halcyon days of Ginger Spice and whichever member of Girls Aloud I’m into this week), Taller In More Ways marked a triumphant comeback for Britain’s coolest girl group. Showcasing a perfect blend of vocal harmonies, the Sugababes dish up plate after plate of daily specials, proving why they’re still the best in the business. Pulsating electro, cool r n b, lush balladry and pure pop storms are all served with consummate ease – and not a dance routine in sight.

7.            Kelly Clarkson – Breakaway
Worth a place just for the anthemic Since U Been Gone and Behind These Hazel Eyes, Miss Clarkson’s album is perfect for anyone whose love life makes the comings and goings at Hollyoaks seem pedestrian. Or just anyone who appreciates the best pop-rawk you’ll find this decade. Full of throaty gutsy angst, backed by tunes strong enough to blast your ex back to the hole from which he crawled, Breakaway is the album Avril Lavigne should have made… if she was actually any good.

8.            Natalie Imbruglia – Counting Down The Days
An album far more delicately beautiful than you’d expect with a Neighbours alumni at the helm, Counting Down The Days made no bones about its main asset – glorious, ethereal loveliness seeping from its every pore. In fact, it just about makes up for the days when Natalie and her artfully floppy hair was never off our screens during the Torn-era.

9.            Kaiser Chiefs – Employment
Jollier than Santa after a dozen brandies, the enjoyable thing about the Kaisers is that they take themselves far less seriously than the likes of other supposed indie bands, instead making songs that just holler to be pogo-ed along to on a Saturday night out. ‘Ooooooooooo… watching the people get lairy’ is possibly one of my favourite opening lyrics… ever.

10.            Pussycat Dolls – PCD
Sexy, skanky, slutty – but hey, they have great dance routines! Less an album and more a smorgasbord of hit after hit, if you can ignore the fact that the PCD have less soul than they do revealing clothing, this was a great party album.

11.            Goldfrapp – Supernature
Black Cherry will forever be my favourite Goldfrapp album, but Supernature does a decent job of diluting Black Cherry’s dark sparkle to a more mainstream audience. From the irresistibly sexy Ooh La La to the swoonsome slink of Number 1, this glacial glide through electro couldn’t be more cohesive unless it was held together with Superglue.

21 Best Singles Of 2005

Believe it or not, back in the heady days of 2005, I wasn’t Teentoday’s only writer. Consequently, I wasn’t the one who got to write the Best Singles Of 2005 list – a crying shame, as it was a stellar year for pop music. Obviously, I couldn’t let this pass and cobbled up my own list retrospectively instead.

Looking back, I was amazed how many amazing songs there were that didn’t ever make number one (the UK chart peak is listed in brackets). Oh well, they have the last laugh – who’s singing The Crazy Frog now?!

1.            Biology – Girls Aloud (4)
Not content with making one stellar pop song, Xenomania decided to make three instead, then squish them all into the same record – just because they can. Countless hooks jostle for breathing space amongst ridiculous dance routines and even more ridiculous lyrics. Best pop song of the noughties? I think we have a winner.

2.            Ordinary People – John Legend (27)
Beauty, class and feeling encapsulated into four minutes and forty-one seconds that goes by all too quickly. Subtle but soaring.

3.         Since U Been Gone – Kelly Clarkson (5)
Best break-up song, evah?! Slinging drippy-eyed ballads to the wayside, Clarkson sings, shouts and stomps her way to post-Idol brilliance. All together now – ‘I’m so moving on, YEAH YEAAAAAAAAH!’ How was this not number one?!

4.         Feel Good Inc – Gorillaz (2)
Despite beginning with a sinister cackle, babbling on about windmills for most of the rest of the song and then sneaking up on you with a brilliant rap section, Feel Good Inc is the very definition of effortless cool. The sound of summer… and autumn… and winter.

5.         Cool – Gwen Stefani (11)
Am I being swayed by the gorgeously-shot Sophie Muller video? Oh, who cares! Cool is a marvellous misty-eyed cruise through getting closure, courtesy of some stunning New-Wave synths. Lush.

6.         I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor – The Arctic Monkeys (1)
The Arctic Monkeys basically played the best trick in the book – took a top-quality pop choon, added guitars and Northern accents, and suddenly even lemon-sucking NME editors were hailing their greatness. Obviously, I’d be listing the even more poptastic Sugababes cover if I could.

7.         Time To Grow – Lemar (9)
Where would the MOBOs be without him?! Time To Grow is a silky-smooth ballad that could sell the idea of moving on to even the most bitter-faced bunny-boiling harpie. Just gorgeous.

8.         Push The Button – Sugababes (1)
Minimalist Dallas-Austin produced electropop, sold with trademark sulky swagger by the Britain’s coolest girl group. Hypnotisingly good.

9.         I Said Never Again (But Here We Are) – Rachel Stevens (12)
Rachel Stevens gets guitars! And drums! And some semblance of a personality! The prospect of letting someone in through your back door never sounded so appealing.

10.            Dakota – Stereophonics (1)
Any song that mitigates Kelly Jones’ insufferable smugness must indeed be a thing of greatness. Dakota grows in magnitude with each listen, until you’re forced to admit it simply is one of the finest rock anthems of the decade. Even if you still want to slap Kelly Jones round the face.

11.       Hung Up – Madonna (1)
Take one Abba sample, add a fluorescent pink leotard and mix in a dance routine so hardcore that most lithe-limbed teenagers would bust a muscle even attempting it. Hung Up is a delicious slice of disco, the kind of which you thought died out with Studio 54. Euphoric.

12.            Rebellion (Lies) – Arcade Fire (19)
Astonishingly different and wonderful all at once. If being featured on every soundtrack/advert/epic moment can’t ruin Arcade Fire’s majesty, then you know you’re onto a good thing. [Wake Up is similarly magnificent.]

13.       I Predict A Riot – The Kaiser Chiefs (9)
Making our chart courtesy of a sneaky re-release, I Predict A Riot is a little bit cheeky, a little bit naughty and a whole lot of fun. If there was ever a track that made us consider risking our blow-dry for a spot of high-energy moshing, this was it. *Makes unconvincing rawwwwk hand gesture*

14.       All About You – McFly (1)
Arguably McFly’s last great moment, this awfully pretty love song straddles the fine line between sweet and saccharine. For the most part, it delivers the perfect amount of ‘awwww’, courtesy of touching lyrics and a stirring orchestral section… until the bizarre mention of kitchen tiles, of course.

15.       Switch It On – Will Young (5)
Sounding like early George Michael crossed with a guilty pleasure from an 80s film soundtrack, Switch It On marked young Willard’s first foray into the uptempo. With pounding beats, tap-tastic rhythms and impassioned vocals, we deem it an all-round success. More please.

16.       Do You Want To – Franz Ferdinand (4)
We’re confused. We thought we liked pure pop. But suddenly there’s all these indie bands making what, by any other name, we thought were pure pop choons. Except floppy-haired indie types seem to be enjoying them too. This witty hook-laden track is the perfect example and it’s guaranteed to have you playing air guitar within seconds, even on public transport. Madness.

17. Gold Digger – Kanye West (2)
We don’t really like rap music round these parts. Sounds like talking to us. But even we have to admit that, courtesy of a platinum-plated sample from one of the best (Ray Charles), Kanye created a hand-clapping, hip-grinding, booty-shaking hip-hop classic. WE WANT PRE-NUP!

18.       Fix You – Coldplay (4)
It’s not cool to like Coldplay, but when they create songs this stunning, who cares? Tear-sheddingly beautiful.

19.       Hard To Beat – Hard-Fi (9)
A love song cunningly disguised as a hipster tune. Clever stuff.

20.       Crazy Chick – Charlotte Church (2)
Half barnstorming country record, half unhinged Love Machine rip-off, with vocals set to belt from Wales’ favourite fallen angel.

21.       Oh My Gosh – Basement Jaxx (8)
Quirky, quality dance music, delivered with charm to spare. Enough to make us consider having a mini rave-up at two in the afternoon and we’ve not even had our first rum n’ coke yet. ‘Forget about sugar, have a spoonful of me!’

Three nearly but not quites…
Ooh La La – Goldfrapp, Ticket Outta Loserville – Son Of Dork, Other Side Of The World – K T Tunstall