I have to say, the arse end of my Top 30 albums list was harder to get right than the all-important Top 10. There are so many splendid LPs and mini-albums that I’ve connected with this year – it wasn’t easy to objectively assess and rank which ones were “better”.
What makes an album worthy of the Feed Limmy Albums of the Year list is overall quality and how well the tracks play together as a collection. There are some artists that make great singles but absolutely flop at getting it together for an album. I’m not here for that.
2011 served some top-notch pop albums with dance/pop persuasions and that has in turn set the tone for my year’s soundtrack. Even though I went through months of “emoting” to break up ballads – see: Clare Maguire‘s ‘Bullet’ – there was always a fun party record or trashy pop album on rotation to keep me going.
As for the quality of the dance/pop releases – it’s hard to stand out in this pack when everyone’s cashing in on the movement. Our eardrums have been rattling to RedOne and David Guetta beats for years now, the hands-in-the-ayer dance urban fusion is quickly losing its summer sheen and we desperately need a revolution. We need dance/pop music with some major heart and soul, y’all.
Feed Limmy‘s Albums of 2011 (#30 – #21) features a number of uptempo pop albums that boast melodic extravagance, cohesion, and a good range of lyrical themes. There should technically be a song for every mood and occasion up in here.
Check out the honours list:
#30 Megalomania by Aqua
You can now join the choir and sing praises of Aqua‘s incredibly on-point comeback album Megalomania and be well supported by anyone who has ever heard it. This is exactly how a 2011 Aqua album should sound like.
The primary focus on boppy melodies and guilty pleasure lyrics are still present, albeit updated for a new generation exposed to Pitbull and various rap/sung collabos in pop music. Basically, Aqua were the frontrunners of any dance/pop track you hear these days with a male rapper and female vocalist. It’s completely fitting for them to come back and reclaim the throne with an album that dutifully slots them back into the game without necessarily pandering to nostalgia, like a lot of quick cash-grab comebacks tend to do.
Megalomania is the Danish pop supergroup’s first studio album since 2000′s Aquarius and it lays a solid foundation for a thriving – and relevant – future in the industry. You can pretty much take this album to kids who have never experienced the band’s back catalogue and it would still work. I know this because I did it with my 13-year old brother.
The album’s premiere single ‘How R U Doin?’ is positively feel-good and infectious in a way crowd-warming music should be. It’s the perfect way to embrace a new generation of listeners but on the whole, the album really is here to reconnect with fans that grew up with Aqua‘s music.
They’ve dropped the F-bomb on numeral tracks, crucially on the album’s most important song ‘Like A Robot’, which fundamentally demonstrates that they’re trying to appeal to party goers in their 20s rather than their primary school-aged cousins. Well played.
My friend Dan made a very astute observation that some tracks on Megalomania actually serve the vocal and melodic sensibilities of Katy Perry‘s Teenage Dream – and he is not wrong. Consider tracks like ‘Kill Myself’ and ‘Sucker For A Superstar’ when you’re letting this comparison marinade in your head.
Mandatory listening: ‘Like A Robot’, ‘How R U Doin?’ and ‘Sucker For A Superstar’.
#29 Prismophonic by Christophe Willem
I am so intrigued with French pop artiste Christophe Willem as a vocalist and fine authority on Europop – and y’all know I don’t normally listen to male artists, right?
Prismophonic is without question, faggotronica of the highest order – effortlessly surpassing the adequate 2011 attempts by Simon Curtis‘ R∆.
The soundscape here is unlikely to really date because it’s got this indistinct flavour of noughties electronica, which in itself is a pastiche of 80s electronica with some commercial pop sensibillities. You could play it in tandem with tracks from Pet Shop Boys‘ 2006 album Fundamental and it would work.
Highlights include the nouveau camp, intergalactic ‘Starlite’ – which rehashes Chaka Khan‘s ‘Ain’t Nobody’ for the discotheque, but really, Christophe turns out his best work when he’s flaunting them phenomenal soft vocal tones on lush tracks like ‘Si Mes Larmes Tombent’. Do yourselves a favour and inspect.
Mandatory listening: ‘Starlite’, ‘Si Mes Larmes Tombent’ and ‘Automatik’.
#28 The Sea by Melanie C
This has to be the Ray of Light of Melanie C‘s discography. I honestly feel like, although there’s a general lack of stand out smashes, the Old Spice has really upped her game with her fifth solo album.
The Sea is Melanie C‘s most mature and multidimensional body of work since Northern Star. Here she takes us through organic, orchestral-aided mid-tempos to stomping electronic pop numbers with a kind of fluidity already demonstrated throughout her career. Every single track on The Sea can be distinctly pegged with a style purveyed on her previous albums – for instance: ‘One by One’ has the pleasantries of a This Time album track, ‘Stupid Game’ has the angst of her Beautiful Intentions era, while ‘Think About It’ takes us back to the floor circa ‘I Turn To You’.
Vocally, The Sea is also Melanie‘s strongest showing yet. I can’t pinpoint the exact moments where I noticed an improvement because the bitch has always been consistent anyway, but there is a general upgrade in vocal strength not demonstrated before.
Mandatory listening: ‘Burn’, ‘Think About It’ and ‘The Sea’.
#27 Miss Little Havana by Gloria Estefan
The party don’t start til’ Gloria walks in. Fact. Mami Estefun‘s genius collabo with Pharrell Williams on Miss Little Havana yielded the best marriage of Madonna‘s Hard Candy and Shakira‘s She Wolf imaginable.
It’s an unapologetic Latin dance pop album with fuck loads of rhythm, call-and-response type party tracks and frivolous melodies. As always, Pharrell‘s highly kinetic and innovative beats have a way of working its way into your hips but it’s only with subsequent listens that you actually get how wonderfully layered his work is.
The US dance/club play #1 smash ‘Wepa’ is probably the most festive moment on Miss Little Havana. It recalls the energy of Gloria‘s Miami Sound Machine era and perfectly sums up the queen’s contribution to Latin dance pop. Elsewhere, album highlights like ‘Hotel Nacional’ shimmies with a modern angle – marrying club synths with foot stomping jazz, like ‘We Speak No Americano’.
Even though this is a consistent and carefree party album, the listening experience wouldn’t be complete without sweet moments of storytelling in songs like ‘Miss Little Havana’ and ‘Time Is Ticking’.
Mandatory listening: ‘Wepa’, ‘Hotel Nacional’ and ‘Miss Little Havana’.
#26 When The Sun Goes Down by Selena Gomez & The Scene
Selena Gomez is a legitimate pop princess in an industry so asphyxiated with Disney young divas trying their hand in music. I can’t believe how long I held out on this ho. Did you know I didn’t actually experience Godmez‘s goodness until I heard ‘A Year Without Rain’ on Malaysian commercial radio in January this year? It was positively on high rotation over there.
My whole belated discovery actually coincided really well with the arrival of Selena‘s new album. She already had a captive audience in me by the time ‘Love You Like A Love Song’ swung around.
When The Sun Goes Down is very much mandatory listening for any lover of pop music. There are high value songs on here that effectively combine killer melodies with emotionally-relatable lyrics (see: ‘My Dilemma’ and ‘Who Says’).
There are also splendid displays of ice cold cool in ‘Bang Bang Bang’ (quote: “My new boy used to be a model, he looks way better than you. He looks way better than you!”) and the strutworthy ’Whiplash’, which was co-written by Britney Spears.
Mandatory listening: ‘Love You Like A Love Song’, ‘Bang Bang Bang’, ‘My Dilemma’ and ‘Who Says’.
#25 Parade by Parade
I started listening to Parade‘s debut album out of pity because no one was caring for them after their singles ‘Louder’ and ‘Perfume’ turned out to be non-events on the pop charts – now look where it’s placed on my “incredibly exclusive” albums of 2011 list.
I have really enjoyed the overall package more than I thought I would. Despite the general absence of smashes, Parade really grows on you once you allow its pleasant mid tempos do a few runs around your head. The girls’ vocals and harmonies here are well on-point particularly shining on key tracks like the great girly pop ‘Like You’ and sweet ‘Ticking On It’.
The ferocious Little Mix-esque ‘Stars’ (produced by Sandy Vee, hitmaker for Rihanna and David Guetta) is clear standout on Parade - I often lie awake at night wondering why they didn’t launch this as the band’s debut single instead.
Mandatory listening: ‘Like You’, ‘Stars’ and ‘Ticking On It’.
#24 As If! (EP) by Sky Ferreira
When is this bitch gonna upgrade our lives with a proper full-length album? Sky Ferreira‘s As If! EP is such a multifaceted display of top-shelf pop that it’s a real shame to have the whole experience over in just under 17 minutes.
The five-track collection takes us through Vanity-style 80s pop in ‘Sex Rules’ and some postmodern electronica with ‘Haters Anonymous’, but really the effortlessly cool production here betrays an A-list roll call of hitmakers involved in helping Sky achieve this underground chic sound. Greg Kurstin (producer for Lily Allen and Kylie), Bloodshy & Avant (Britney), Nicole Morier (hit songwriter for Wynter Gordon) and Neon Hitch have all contributed to this project.
She better bring it in 2012 because I want us to continue this discussion on her awesomeness this time next year.
Mandatory listening: ’99 Tears’ and ‘Traces’.
#23 From Here to Anywhere by Sneaky Sound System
Australia’s premiere purveyor of quality dance/pop really hit the mark with From Here to Anywhere. Its colourful production rendered with soulful vocals immediately speaks to the more sophisticated pop music consumer, which is really my shady way of saying all you basic bitches that read this album to filth really weren’t worthy of it. Everything about this is world class pop – please try to understand.
The two main singles ‘We Love’ and ‘Big’ bookmarks From Here to Anywhere‘s most immediate moments but on the whole, this album really needs to be consumed in its entirety for you to get a proper grasp of the Sneaky’s brilliance.
There are big melodies and quality lyrics about attachment in ‘Friends’ and the new single ’Really Wanna See You Again’ that glisten with every listen. Elsewhere, the irresistibly stylish disco rompings of ‘The Colours’ and ’1984′ is probably the best definition the album’s overall feel.
I could write a whole thesis on why Connie’s vocals are just the fucking bomb but I’ll leave it to my mate and A-grade pop music critic Adem With An E to break it down.
Mandatory listening: ‘Big’, ‘Really Want To See You Again’ and ’1984′.
#22 Love? by Jennifer Lopez
I have a great deal of admiration for J.Lo and how much she has invested to make Love? as valuable as it is. The album caters to a broad spectrum of Jennifer Lopez music lovers with an unexpectedly satisfying mix of high energy dance pop and personal R&B balladry that feels authentic to the Bronx boss’s style.
Seriously, who isn’t gagging for the outrageously infectious dance numbers ‘On The Floor’, ‘Papi’ and ‘Invading My Mind’? Even though I had prayed and nagged for this comeback album to be a proper tour de force of uptempos, upon inspection you quickly realise that Love? is nothing without its significant ballads: ‘(What Is) Love?’, ‘One Love’ and ‘Starting Over’.
The title track is a career-defining classic and I’ve been in love with it ever since it leaked in demo form years ago. Major snaps to my gurl Wynter Gordon for penning the most relatable and universal “semi-biographical” song about love and all the questions we have about it.
‘One Love’ – which is essentially part two of ‘(What Is) Love?’ – expands on this concept of happily ever after and asks if there is such a thing as just one love. Jennifer and top notch songwriting duo A Plus hemmed an amazingly on-point flick through of the singer’s high profile past relationships. Case in action: “Took a shot with the bad boy from the block” (P. Diddy) and “now round two… we danced until we said ‘I do’” (marriage to dancer Cris Judd).
Sonically, Love? is as complex and flavoursome as the topic it seeks to address and it would’ve been a great disservice to her listeners if J.Lo had simply gone for a pure dance album and presented these themes in a singular fashion.
Mandatory listening: ‘(What Is) Love?’, ‘Papi’, ‘On The Floor’ and ‘One Love’.
#21 Sticks + Stones by Cher Lloyd
Oh my Lloyd, this bitch absolutely snatched wigs with her debut pop album. You should really approach Sticks + Stones like you would a mixed bag of lollies – expect the sweet, expect the sour and expect to reach in and pull out something you weren’t expecting.
If you think about it, Cher Lloyd‘s album really is revolutionary with its feisty combination of teen pop and hip hop that comes for both British and American audiences. The girl is pure fire when she’s rubbing shoulders with other rappers on tracks like ‘Grow Up’ (with Busta Rhymes) and ‘Dub On The Track’ (with underground British hip hop figures Mic Righteous, Dot Rotten and Ghetts) but she’s just as untouchable when she’s holding down a song on her own.
The ferocity is utterly devastating on key tracks like ‘Swagger Jagger’ and ‘Playa Boi’, especially when you consider the latter’s quotable lines: “You like my kicks, lemme kick ya! Like a Twilight fan, I’mma bite ya. Turn around lemme Cee-Lo ‘Forget Ya’!”
Cher‘s way with rhymes and melodies – not to mention that petulant swag – is what’s upgrading this listening experience to be unlike anything you’ve ever tried. Having said that, these tracks are not necessarily trying to reinvent the wheel at every turn. There are significant pop moments on here that you can instantly latch onto even if you’re not convinced that our Lloyd and Saviour is really for you. For non-believers, I would prescribe ‘Want U Back’ (a modern day B*Witched-style corker) and the summery single ‘With Ur Love’ (featuring Mike Posner).
Mandatory listening: ‘Want U Back’, ‘With Ur Love’ and ‘Playa Boi’.
Feed Limmy’s Top 30 Songs of 2011: #20 – #11 will be revealed on Wednesday 21 December. The Albums of 2011: #20 – #11 will be posted on Saturday 24 December.
What are your albums of the year?