And now, the list you’ve all been waiting to endlessly discuss/bitch about!
2014 is finally over (thank god), and it’s time to take a look back at some of the best albums and EP’s to have graced 2014. From the Great Iggy Azalea Rap Debate to Taylor Swift’s inescapable Pop transition from YEE-HAW land, ovaries ruled the charts worldwide. And oh Mariah Carey released an album called ‘Me. I Am Mariah…The Elusive Chanteuse‘. ‘Nuff said.
The following list is a reflection of how 2014 was for me, and not the Billboard 200. As per usual, there’s a mix of everything from Country to Neo Soul to Pop to Rap and some Dance thrown it – it’s been a good year musically #IglooAustralia #TeamTaylor #PottyMouthAzealia
Personally, I couldn’t be happier the year’s over. Deaths in the family, a sprinkling of cheating, conniving coonts with blotched up mediocre upbringings, and the occasional jealous hater (the lemonade’s tasting bitter, love?) – such excitement! Of course, my position on the throne remains justified irrespective, because #zerofucksgiven. Also, #UnapologeticBitch. Thankfully, therapy arrived in the form of love, friends, travel and family – and that’s all that matters. Thanks to y’all – I stay #triumphant, while I get to witness Karma doing her thang as well! Hence –
So without further delay, here are my top 50 albums of 2014. The top 25 get a much needed shout-out. Check them out – and a festive 2015 to y’all!
50. The Golden Echo – Kimbra
49. Sucker – Charli XCX
48. Ultraviolence – Lana Del Rey
47. Fall For You – Leela James
46. Sheezus – Lily Allen
45. Heart On My Sleeve – Mary Lambert
44. Divergent (OST) – Various
43. Platinum – Miranda Lambert
42. Take Me When You Go – Betty Who
41. Chapter 1 – Ella Henderson
40. Sound Of A Woman – Kiesza
39. LP1 – FKA Twigs
38. Lights Out – Ingrid Michaelson
37. Pixie Lott – Pixie Lott
36. Only Human – Cheryl Cole
35. Welcome To The Jungle – Neon Jungle
34. Kiss Me Once – Kylie Minogue
33. Incomparable – Faith Evans
32. Everlasting – Martina McBride
31. Gypsy Heart – Colbie Caillat
30. Queen Of The Clouds – Tove Lo
29. AKA – Jennifer Lopez
28. Resurrection – Anastacia
27. In The Lonely Hour – Sam Smith
26. Trouble In Paradise – La Roux
And now, the coveted top 25!
25. Aretha Franklin Sings The Great Diva Classics – Aretha Franklin
At the ripe young age of 72, living legend and the Queen Mother of Soul Ms Franklin gets it just right with her first major label album in 13 years. From covering Adele to Alicia Keys, Aretha delightfully dabbles in everything from Pop to Dubstep, and proves that she’s still got what it takes to claim her rightful spot on the throne. Take a bow, Queen!
24. Prizefighter : Hit After Hit – Trisha Yearwood
Country’s most under-rated Platinum Blonde’s first project since 2007’s Grammy-nominated ‘Heaven, Heartache And The Power Of Love‘ – is technically a greatest hits collection. Except, it’s not. With 6 new tracks, and 10 of her greatest hits re-recorded, ‘Prizefighter‘ stands out as a testament of Yearwood’s stellar 25-year run ever since she arrived straight at # 1 with ‘She’s In Love With The Boy‘ way back in 1990 – and a solid reminder that the Country Goddess is not quite done ruling the charts yet!
23. Unrepentant Geraldines – Tori Amos
The 90’s Tori is back on ‘Unrepentant Geraldines‘ – a throwback to her interpretation of piano-laced Contemporary Pop that made her sprawling 1992 début effort ‘Little Earthquakes‘ and its equally robust 1994 follow-up ‘Under The Pink‘ crucial must-haves for every music addict like me. Give this album a listen if you’re a 90’s baybeh, nostalgia awaits you.
22. A Perfect Contradiction – Paloma Faith
Brit songstress Paloma Faith’s third studio effort ‘A Perfect Contradiction‘ becomes her most commercially successful effort yet – no surprise there given the eccentric chanteuse’s knack for cleverly crafted 60’s-centric Retro-Soul gems. With biggies like Pharrell (‘Can’t Rely On You‘ is easily one of the best singles to have graced the charts in 2014) and Raphael Saadiq on board, Faith may have finally arrived on her own as Adele’s competitor with this one.
21. Tough Love – Jessie Ware
Far, far away from a sophomore slump, Jessie Ware’s follow-up to her critically hailed début ‘Devotion‘ is a sophisticated aural orgasm that easily triumphs her introductory effort. The lush James Ford/Dave Okumu-produced ‘Cruel‘, the euphoric BenZel-produced ‘Champagne Kisses‘ and the blissfully intimate title track are just three of the best songs on one of the most fascinating albums of 2014.
20. Spark – Imogen Heap
The brilliance of Imogen Heap’s near-flawless fourth studio effort ‘Spark‘ lies in the coherence of the album. Dreamy, layered vocals with gorgeous, sweeping melodies blended intricately – it’s easy to paint a picture of Imogen’s journey from London through India, China, Bhutan, and eventually her tryst with motherhood. My fave track – the ethereal ‘Climb To Sakteng‘.
19. Broke With Expensive Taste – Azalea Banks
Well, she’s not just Ms Twitter-beef after all. The potty-mouthed grand maestra of Twitter-trolling finally surprised-dropped her eternally delayed début album ‘Broke With Expensive Taste‘ to stellar reviews, with many hailing the effort as the year’s boldest Rap album. Lyrically brash, the album is a thrilling assault of everything under the sun from 90’s House to Afro-Caribbean music lacing Banks’ fascinating verses, especially ‘Chasing Time‘, ‘Soda‘ and ‘Ice Princess‘. Of course, nothing comes close to the genius that is ‘212‘. Now if she could only get off Twitter and concentrate more on the music, she could give Iggy Azalea a run for her crown soon.
18. X – Ed Sheeran
Sheeran easily delivered one of the year’s biggest selling albums with his sophomore effort ‘X‘ (pronounced ‘Multiply‘ for those of you fungating under a rock) by infusing elements of Hip Hop/R’n’B with his usual brand of folk-ey balladry. Although he conquered the singles chart with the conventional Radio-friendly songs ‘Sing‘, ‘Don’t‘ and ‘Thinking Out Loud‘, it was his devastating ode to his late Alzheimer’s affected grandfather ‘Afire Love‘ that remains my favorite track off the album, as well as of 2014. The song chronicles Sheeran’s reaction to his grandfather’s condition as a child, all the way through to his funeral in 2013 – and is bound to get you teary-eyed. It got me howling. Bravo Mr Sheeran, bravo!
17. Me. I Am Mariah…The Elusive Chanteuse – Mariah Carey
Let’s get festive daaahlings! From one of the messiest campaigns in history, arrives an album that serves as a gentle reminder of an industry veteran’s iconic voice, as she guides us through her past two decades of uninterrupted dominance with songs drenched in nostalgia, classic feel-good R’n’B and the occasionally saccharine ballad. Living legend Mariah Carey doesn’t need to prove anything at all – she’s absolutely comfortable being her fabulous self on ‘Me. I Am Mariah…The Elusive Chanteuse‘ – her 14th studio album. ‘You’re Mine (Eternal)‘ is my favorite song of 2014 – I cannot. get. enough. of. it! The album title maybe insane, the album may have tanked, the lyrics maybe corny, but let’s talk about that when you’ve accumulated a total of 18 # 1 singles throughout a 25-year-old career with record sales of over 250 million units now, shall we?
16. Title (EP) – Meghan Trainor
There’s not a single dud on newbie Meghan Trainor’s 5-song début EP ‘Title‘. With the irresistibly infectious ‘All About That Bass‘ dominating the world this year – 8 weeks atop the Billboard Hot 100, 4 weeks atop the UK Top 40 and the Australian Singles Chart – along with Grammy noms for both Record and Song Of The Year, Meghan Trainor seems to have joined the ranks of Katy Perry, Taylor Swift and Rihanna as the next big savior of Pop music. If the success of her follow-up single ‘Lips Are Moving‘ is any indication, Meghan’s in for the long haul.
15. Friends And Lovers – Marsha Ambrosius
Ex Floetry Neo-Soul Goddess Marsha Ambrosius’s agenda is clear on her seductive sophomore album ‘Friends And Lovers‘. You pretty much get the vibe as she announces ‘I wanna do you right now‘ on the album opener ‘So Good‘ – a lust-filled baby-making extravaganza that I dare you to sit through without getting worked up. Add this one to your late night playlist and let the magic work through you and your special someone. It’s tried and tested!
14. Anybody Wanna Buy A Heart? – K. Michelle
R’n’B chanteuse K. Michelle is this generation’s Faith Evans. Sans a few pieces of clothing. Her sophomore extravaganza ‘Anybody Wanna Buy A Heart‘ is an excellent example of the goodness that is classic 90’s R’n’B/Soul (‘Maybe I Should Call‘, ‘Going Under‘, ‘Love ‘Em All‘) that’s bound to increase her already admirable fan base – thanks to Love & Hip Hop Atlanta. Few can say ‘Fuck You Right Back’ as elegantly as Michelle (‘Pay me in tears/You owe me for all these years) – album opener ‘Judge Me‘ being a highlight. The album closes with an honest introspection by ‘the bitch with aggression’ – ‘God I Get It‘, one of my fave songs this year. With AWBAH debuting at # 1 on the Billboard R’n’B/Hip Hop Albums Chart, Michelle’s scored a winner with this one yet again.
13. Sweet Talker – Jessie J
It’s basically a scientifically proven fact that a Jessie J album ALWAYS finds a place in the top 20. Let’s just set aside the omnipresent slice of safe, glossy and infectious Pop that is ‘Bang Bang‘ with Ariana Grande and Nicki Minaj – a guaranteed winner that blew up globally – and focus on Jessie’s under-rated talent here. Anybody labeling Jessie a vocal under-achiever and Katy Perry’s poor British cousin just needs to give the lush ‘Get Away‘ a listen. Ms Perry would have an apnoea attack hitting those notes. From the robust album opener ‘Ain’t Been Done‘, to a throwback to 80’s Hip Hop with ‘Seal Me With A Kiss‘ featuring De La Soul, Jessie’s chameleonic maneuvers punctuated by her dynamic vocals contribute to create her strongest offering to date. Take a bow gurl!
12. Love, Marriage And Divorce – Toni Braxton And Babyface
This succinct collaboration between two essentially iconic R’n’B veterans has culminated in the highest charting album ever for Babyface, while earning Ms Braxton her highest chart position in almost a decade. ‘Love, Marriage & Divorce‘ is as dramatic as it is lush – ‘I hope she gives you a disease‘, Braxton snarls in ‘I Wish‘. ‘Roller Coaster‘, ‘Where Did We Go Wrong‘ and ‘Take It Back‘ are songs which will easily remind you why Toni Braxton is still a legend. If you’ve been through a break-up lately, or have been cheated on by your low-life lover – this album’s just the therapy you need!
11. Big Fat Lie – Nicole Scherzinger
I’m as surprised to find ‘Puakenikeni‘ chanteuse Nicole Scherzinger on our charts as you are – but the former Pussycat Doll literally shut her haters up with her latest Europe-only offering ‘Big Fat Lie‘. I admit, I scoffed at everything from the album title (‘Big Fat Lie‘!!) to her claims of channeling ‘The Velvet Rope‘ – era Janet Jackson on this album (religion, you see). And then I heard ‘God Of War‘, ‘Electric Blue‘, ‘Big Fat Lie‘ and ‘Run‘ – and decided to shut up. Scherzy wasn’t kidding about unleashing her inner Janet – ‘God Of War‘ uncannily sounds like the title track of Janet’s iconic ‘The Velvet Rope‘ album. Through soulful melodies, funky guitar riffs and an impressive set of pipes, Ms Nicole digs deep and bares her soul on her strongest and slickest set till date (‘Here’s some advise for the next one…run‘, she wails on the utterly devastating ‘Run‘). For the first time outside of the Pussycat Dolls, Nicole Scherzinger – the solo superstar – finally delivered!
10. 1989 – Taylor Swift
Fact – Taylor Swift OWNED 2014. The highest selling album of 2014, the glitzed-up Pop extravaganza ‘1989‘ was Taylor Swifts official declaration of independence from Country – and with 1.28 million units sold within the first week of the album’s release and two back-to-back #1 smashes (as of now) – the world seems to have accepted her radio-savvy, wildly enthusiastic new avatar without a complaint. Tay-tay’s naive, tear-stained guitar’s been replaced with lavish doses of 80’s Synth-Pop, arresting hooks and Electro-melancholy (‘This Love‘, ‘Out Of The Woods‘, ‘Blank Space‘ and ‘Style‘) – you’ve got to admit, Taylor has a gift!
9. My Everything – Ariana Grande
Mini-diva Ariana Grande’s sophomore extravaganza ‘My Everything‘ – her second consecutive # 1 album on the Billboard 200 – had a little something for everybody. From a nostalgic trip into 90’s R’n’B/Hip Hop/Soul to brazen EDM beats, Ms Grande’s evolution into a Pop force continued with a relentless onslaught of chart smashes including the Iggy Azalea-assisted ‘Problem‘ (my anthem and treadmill song for the year), Zedd-assisted ‘Break Free‘, The Weeknd-assisted ‘Love Me Harder‘ and the bonus girl-power anthem ‘Bang Bang‘ with Nicki Minaj and Jessie J – making her the only artist this year to score four consecutive top 10 smashes on the Billboard Hot 100. The melisma of the gorgeous album intro and the power-ballad ‘Why Try‘ were enough to get the album up here – but it was ‘Head in the clouds, got no weight on my shoulders. I should be wiser and realize that I’ve got one less problem without ya‘ that heralded the arrival of Ariana Grande, the undeniable superstar!
8. The Pinkprint – Nicki Minaj
As we collectively picked our jaws off the floor after witnessing the ass-travaganza that was Nicki Minaj’s ‘Anaconda‘ visual, the last thing we expected from ‘The Pinkprint‘ was for the album to be a raw-boned introspective magnum opus dealing with abortion, drug abuse and death. Boom! Minaj bares her soul as she unleashes her most ambitious, explicit and personal effort till date – with a little help from guests Jessie Ware, Ariana Grande, Beyonce, Drake, Chris Brown, Lil Wayne, Skylar Grey, Meek Mill among others. Minaj is the real deal on the gut-wrenching ‘All Things Go‘, ‘I Lied‘ and ‘Pills’n’Potions‘, while her vulnerability is replaced by some of her slickest and zaniest Rap verses of her career on ‘Anaconda‘, ‘Only‘ and ‘Get On Your Knees‘. 2014 was the year of the femcee – but it’s Minaj who wears the crown that Lil’ Kim and Missy Elliott passed on.
7. The New Classic/Reclassified – Iggy Azalea
No other artist in 2014 had a global impact as massive as Australian Femcee Iggy Azalia. From matching a Beatles record to trailblazing new ones – the charts were packed with I.G.G.Y swagger for months, as ‘Fancy‘ (feat Charli XCX), ‘Black Widow‘ (feat. Rita Ora) and ‘Problem‘ (with Ariana Grande) went on to become three of the biggest hits of the year (a special shout-out to the top 20 smash ‘Booty‘ with J.Lo as well). The Great Iggy Azalea Rap battle raged on – while Iggy remained unbothered unleashed an updated and savvier version of her début album ‘The New Classic‘, now titled ‘Reclassified‘. With classic cuts like the MO assisted ‘Beg For It‘, Ellie Goulding assisted ‘Heavy Crown‘, Jennifer Hudson assisted ‘Trouble‘ and the stellar album opener ‘We In This Bitch‘ – ‘The New Classic/Reclassified‘ indeed proves to be a solid first step towards an incredible career to come.
6. The Hunger Games : Mockingjay Part 1 (OST) – Various
Lord(e) help us! The Grammy-winning 18-year-old New Zealand Pop curated the soundtrack for ‘The Hunger Games : Mockingjay Pt 1‘ – selecting, among others, Haim, Grace Jones, Kanye West, Charli XCX, Q Tip, Tove Lo, Ariana Grande, Major Lazer, Tinashe, Chvrches, Miguel, Stromae – and most importantly, Lorde herself. What is not to love about this thrilling posse of eclectic superstars? Lorde’s enchanting vision of protagonist Katniss Everdeen, ‘Yellow Flicker Beat‘ is a raging dynamite of a track that effortlessly captures Everdeen’s primal aggression – ‘I’m a princess cut from marble, smoother than a storm/And the scars that mark my body, they’re silver and gold‘. If there’s one song that would define me in 2014, then it’s ‘Yellow Flicker Beat‘. Easily one of the finest original soundtracks that I’ve come across in over a decade!
5. 1000 Forms Of Fear – Sia
After penning some of the biggest hits in recent years for everybody from Rihanna to David Guetta to Celine Dion, reclusive Australian powerhouse chanteuse Sia Furler finally unleashed her feverishly awaited 6th studio album ‘1000 Forms Of Fear‘ – a spectacular set of her signature swelling choruses, thunderous productions and phenomenal melodies heralding the triumphant arrival of Sia, the vocal Pop superstar. Debuting at # 1 on the Billboard 200 Albums chart, the set produced on of the biggest hits of the year, ‘Chandelier‘. The world is yet to witness the album’s true potential – the magnificence of cuts like ‘Big Girls Cry‘, ‘Hostage‘, ‘Eye Of The Needle‘ and ‘Dressed In Black‘ need to be explored by being released as official singles. Easily the most compelling effort by one of the most sensational and sough-after songwriters of the decade – we are only just getting comfortable with her genius!
4. Souled Out – Jhene Aiko
Feather-voiced Nu Soul chanteuse Jhene Aiko’s songs are like musical therapy for the troubled soul. Her mellow, honey-laced vocals gently soothe you into an intimate conversation with her – while her unbelievably sharp lyricism and masterful word play could slaughter any man daring to play games with her. ‘Mr Serial Lover/ I wish your mother loved you like I could’ve. That way you would’ve known how to love a woman.‘ – she purrs on ‘Lyin’ King‘ (the story of my life y’all). Much like her hugely acclaimed début EP ‘Sail Out‘, her début full-length ‘Souled Out‘ is a fascinatingly tranquil yet gritty blend of Neo-Soul/Alt-Pop/R’n’B – something Aaliyah would be proud of. The dreamy and ambient ‘Wading‘ is the stand-out track on the album. ‘Picture me rolling out in the open with some other man I know. Thought you would notice, and you were hoping feelings wouldn’t start to grow‘ – Aiko subtly hints at walking away from her guy, who obviously wasn’t man enough to stand up for her. Take a bow, Ms Aiko!
3. Goddess – Banks
Think Fiona Apple-meets-Aaliyah-meets-Kate Bush-meets-Tori Amos. And you have a beguiling, coherent slice of delectable, gloomy and ethereal Electro-Alt-R’n’B that happens to be ‘Goddess‘ – Jillian Banks’ accomplished début album. The sultry and minimal ‘Stick‘ and the album opener ‘Alibi‘ are the album’s best moments, as Banks successfully rides the new wave of Alt-R’n’B singers making it big including FKA Twigs, Jhene Aiko and Solange. ‘Stooped down and out, you got me beggin’ for thread/ To sew this hole up that you ripped in my head’ - she snarls on ‘Beggin’ For Thread‘, another standout track on the album. ‘Goddess‘ strikes a major emotional chord and stands out as a sparse, otherworldly work of art.
2. The London Sessions – Mary J Blige
The Queen Of Hip Hop/Soul and living legend Mary J Blige’s chameleonic career moves have always led her to stay one step ahead as a titan of R’n’B. Jumping across the pond, though, has been her most ambitious career-reinvigorating move of the past 23 years of her rule. ‘The London Sessions‘ – her 13th studio album – is classic, classic Mary. Irrespective of the unexpected pairings with British megastars Sam Smith, Emeli Sande and Disclosure (which work wonders) – Mary remains as keenly relate-able as ever, shelling out everything from instant club-worthy Deep House smashes like ‘Right Now‘ to heart-wrenching Soul ballads like ‘Not Loving You‘ (A special shout-out to Mary’s single ‘Suitcase‘ here, the lead single from the OST of ‘Think Like A Man Too‘ that she curated – it’s her best song in ages, although it isn’t a part of ‘Sessions‘). Mary J Blige knows heartbreak only too well, and few can vocally wring out emotions like she can. ‘See winter took most of my heart, and Spring punched right in the stomach. Summer came looking for blood, and by Autumn, I was left with nothing‘ – she croons on ‘Whole Damn Year‘. While on ‘Suitcase‘, she gets rid of a douche-bag of a lover as she snarls ‘Got a one way ticket, here’s your goodbye song. And while you’re trying to explain, I’ll be zipping up my suitcase‘. Hence, listening to a Mary J Blige album literally works as musical therapy. Mary’s never failed to get my tears flowing, teaching me how to feel, deal and then heal. She’s done it before with her classics ‘My Life‘, ‘What’s The 411‘, ‘No More Drama‘, ‘Share My World‘, ‘Mary‘ and ‘The Breakthrough‘. ‘The London Sessions‘ was musical medicine for me in 2014, providing me with solace when I needed it the most. Mary invariably kisses the pain away!
1. Aquarius – Tinashe
As experimental, eclectic R’n’B gradually takes over our musical landscape, rising songbird Tinashe’s self-assured and savvy full-length début effort ‘Aquarius‘ takes the crown as the most promising album of the year. ‘Aquarius‘ is an homage done right to Janet Jackson – the interludes, the breathy vocal deliveries, the baby-making slow jams, as well as a Janet sample (‘Funny How Time Flies‘ from 1986’s iconic ‘Control‘) on the track ‘How Many Times‘ – it’s an incredibly cohesive aural aphrodisiac of an album. The album’s lead single ‘2 On‘ (feat. Schoolboy Q) made it big on the charts – although I admit I was expecting another generic Electro-R’n’B album if ‘2 On‘ was the best song off ‘Aquarius‘. Thankfully, I was wrong. From the slow-burning quite storm of an intro with the album opener and title track ‘Aquarius‘, to the Dev Hynes-assisted ‘Bet‘ to the Brandy-esque ‘Far Side Of The Moon‘ as well as my fave song off the album, the exhilarating bonus track ‘Watch Me Work‘- Tinashe’s unquestionably primed for super-stardom.