2016 was an interesting year for music. Trop house continued its rise, EDM somehow still lives on in the pop realm. Jojo finally released an album after 10 years of label issues. Delta Goodrem released the most accessible album of her career. Lil’ Kim is yet to make a comeback. Mariah tried to make a splash on TV instead of on the charts (due to her failure to do so the past few years). Maren Morris was crowned the new princess of country. In the midst of all this, there was plenty of good music released. Some went unnoticed, some went on to become overplayed scum.
I could make a list of a slew of albums I liked; however, I wanted to make a list of albums I loved. I thought about the perfect number. Normally these lists include ten or more. I chose three. Why three? The bible told me it’s the perfect number, and my mom always reminds me that I went to Catholic school and got a great education I should use (look ma, here you go)!
In no particular order…
FOXES – ALL I NEED
Louisa Rose Allen (aka Foxes) produced one of the dishearteningly unnoticed albums of 2016. Frankly, I personally believe it was because she released Body Talk (UK No. 25) as the first single, as opposed to Amazing (UK No.112). Aside from that minor misstep (Body Talk was nothing short of amazing either way), the whole album is a genuinely fulfilling listen. The key tracks are Cruel (the third single) and Scar. Cruel (UK No. 123) should’ve been a massive hit as it was current, fresh and engaging without being contrived. Why it charted so poorly, we’ll never know. Scar is a smoldering track with a soaring chorus and a rousing vocal treatment, it really is a standout. Foxes performed some sounds acoustically, Scars being on of them. Listen to the album, buy the album, do something to raise this album up from the dead.
UK Charts: Peak No. 12 / US Charts: Top HeatSeekers No. 8
Beyoncé – Lemonade
Beyoncé did something I never thought she could do: make an album I could listen to from start to finish. Full transparency, I have never been a fan of her albums. I have been a fan of Beyoncé singles, however, Lemonade is a solid listen from start to finish. Does Lemonade turn me into a Beyoncé obsessed gay? No. Does Lemonade allow me to appreciate her artistry beyond the serviceable singles shes produced over the years (ie: Crazy In Love, Deja Vu, Irreplaceable, Single Ladies, Halo, Love On Top)? Yes. The many facets of her being and experience make this an intriguing listen. Beyoncé made Lemonade a multi-platform experience (HBO film, “Boy bye” memes). Songs like the majestic All Night and Freedom bring it all together for me, a new true fan. It’s clear to see why this is the best selling album by a female this year. Well done.
US Peak: No 1, 1.5+ sales / UK Peak: No. 1, 300,000+ sales
Emeli Sandé – Long Live The Angels
Emili produced my favorite album this year. It was hard work, but I finally understood the passion and intensity of this album after several listens. Is it going to be everyone’s cup of tea? No. Should it be? No. Should everyone listen to this album to fully understand its greatness, and the artistry of a true musical visionary? Yes. Emili had her hands full; her debut album, Our Version of Events, sold over a million copies in England alone. She opened and closed the Olympics held in the UK. She was everywhere. The first single, the nervous and abrasive track Hurts was a reintroduction to the masses. She had something to say after her divorce, and this album was going to be story. The second single, the soaring Breathing Underwater, is a magical and uplifting listen. Something Sia would be proud to produce herself. Scattered throughout the album are low key gems that push her musical boundaries into different scopes. I’d Rather Not, Lonely, Sweet Architect take you as a listener, to another world. Emili truly breaks feelings down to a science. She dissects moments of insecurity and lays them bare. She adds a low key arrangement, stirs up a string section, adds a choir and takes you to church. This isn’t the most upbeat album of the year, but it takes you on a spiritual and emotional journey. It tells a story beginning with the pensive Selah (my favorite track of the year), ending with the celebratory Babe. Emili, you are so vital. Thank you.
UK Peak: No. 2, currently 150,000+ in sales.