Without further ado or much hoopla, here’s Part 1 (of 5) of the AdemWithAnE.com Top 25 albums of 2012. Let’s have a wide-eyed gander at Numbers Twenty-five through to Twenty-one.
25. NICKI MINAJ – PFRR: TR-U
The confusion behind Nicki Minaj’s albums remains one of the year’s most puzzling events in pop music. “Pink Friday” was released as an album in 2010/2011. Then, in the first quarter of 2012, Minaj released another album, full of new songs and no older ones; yet she named the record “Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded.” Even though the label on the tin would suggest it’s just ‘more of the same’, this was an entirely new record.
Then, just a few short months ago, Minaj once more began riding on the coat tails of her, er, only album, by re-releasing it and tacking on an additional 8 tracks; “Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded – The Re-Up.”
The interesting thing about the records she’s released as albums this year is that, between them, there is actually ONE very good album buried deep amongst the two. Roman Reloaded in its original form threw a bunch of hip-hop Minaj with Radio-friendly Minaj; a song like “Starships” motioned her towards “Super Bass” territory commercially, whilst stuff like the psychotic “Roman Holiday”, “I Am Your Leader” and “Beez in The Trap” retained what was left of the ‘Old Nicki’. The fact that the album remains to be around 45-50% filler speaks volumes – but perhaps not as loudly as Minaj feeling obligated to re-release the same record with an additional eight new tracks (all of which range from Incredible to Decent) that really make the filler on the original Reloaded sound like some of the worst disposable trash you’ve heard in a while. Amongst the 31 songs (!!) that span over these two discs, there’s an incredibly solid 13-14 (hell, even 16) track album in here.
And it’s those 15 or so songs that make this album – in all its inceptions – one of the years best. The trick is that you just have to sit there and filter the good stuff out for yourself, because in 2012 it would appear that Minaj’s motto was to throw enough shit at a wall to ensure that something would stick. And a lot of it has; 2012 has been a very successful year for Nicki – this is an ideal approach if Minaj plans on replicating the careers of people like Rihanna, but if she’s looking for longevity and a legacy worth talking about in 10-15 years time then she’s going the absolute wrong way about it.
24. GOSSIP “A Joyful Noise”
It’s been three years between albums and a few solo ventures, but the launch of 2012 saw Gossip teaming up with Xenomania’s Brian Higgins and releasing one of the most exciting records of the year.
The fifth studio album from Gossip (and the first bunch of material from the band since front-woman Beth Ditto’s highly acclaimed solo E.P.) is a much more obvious slice of pop than any of their other long players. Between the massive success of Beth’s solo work with Simian Mobile Disco last year and 2009’s still brilliant (but at times heavily confused) “Music For Men” record which was, until A Joyful Noise, their most forward thinking pop moment to date, Gossip gathered up the necessary smarts and have delivered a proper, unadulterated pop record that is minus any filler. Clocking in at an impressive 11 tracks, lyrically the band are still as envelope-pushing as usual, particularly on the cut-throat “Get A Job” (which comes with the records second best middle-8).
But it’s floorfillers like “Move In The Right Direction” (AMAZINGLY GREAT RIFF ALERT and co-written by Dance Music God Fred Falke) – not only the best Gossip single since “Standing In The Way of Control” but quite possibly better than it – and the raverific throwback of “Get Lost”, which does more in under four minutes with the current wave of 1990’s influence than most have in all of 2012. The constant toying around with obvious Electronic Dance Music influences and the inclusion of Fred Falke – the bands greatest remixer – as a co-writer on this album hopefully shows signs of just exactly where the band (or Ditto as a solo star) are headed in the future.
23. TAYLOR SWIFT “Red”
It’s taken Taylor Squint just under six years and four albums to click with my listening habits. After living and loving through the infinitely better Pop/Country hybrid known as Shania Twain, Swift really had very little to offer that I was interested in, especially as she continued to release predictable tune after predictable tune. The whole drive behind Swift as an artist felt incredibly stale and, at times, embarrassingly forced. Up until “Red”, the music felt incredibly bland and as a pop star, she rarely gave good, engaging on-stage face. So many strikes against her name and yet with the birth of “Red”, Swift not only exceeded my expectations, she made me eat my words. And this is when I really enjoy being proven wrong because Swift came out guns-a-blazing for people like myself – those in the music market not in the slightest bit sold on this somewhat vanilla-seeming pop star – with the brilliance of “Red”, an album virtually full of possible hit singles. Teaming up with Max Martin was a clever trick to implement for this record too, with the Swede delivering by far and away some of Swift’s greatest moments to date.
First single “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together” threw Taylor directly into the pop sphere and finally showcased that the girl was not only exceptionally talented but actually very likeable, as does another Martin co-write on the record, the flawless “22.” Everything from that insanely good lyric about cooler Indie records, to the life-giving talky-bit over the middle-8, there’s something truly remarkably magical in the construction of the pop songs throughout this record, particularly that first single. “I Knew You Were Trouble” saw Swift take on the (much milder) pop-infested hybrid of the darned Dubstep genre and in turn supplied her with the second best song on the record. The record houses its finest moments within the stunning “Holy Ground”, which is the most accomplished thing I’ve heard this woman do and similar to what I want most of her next album to sound like, as is the hypnotic “State of Grace.” The ballads are nowhere near as unlistenable as her last few have been either; proof that as a songwriter, producer, artist and pop star, Taylor has finally come into her own.
22. BRUNO MARS “Unorthodox Jukebox”
Nobody is more surprised than I that a Bruno Mars album has landed itself in my records of the year list, but when you throw as many ideas as there are on Unorthodox Jukebox – and you can make all of these different ideas work in unison – that is more than enough to end up in this here list.
The genius of first single “Locked Out of Heaven” is a thick, Xerox machining of Sting & The Police’s Greatest Hits, which is a joy in itself when you realise nobody – including Sting and The Police – are making music like that anymore; this undeniable fusion of reggae with pop melodies and rock riffs. But there’s a lot more to Jukebox than just a great Police rip-off (although that being said, “Locked out of Heaven” remains its best track). A surprise production from Diplo on the ace, chaotic and – at times – Michael Jackson-esque “Money Make Her Smile” is hauntingly good, whilst second single “Young Girls” and the Mark Ronson produced “Moonshine” propel Mars into near-legendary status.
Nothing before this album really matters when it comes to assessing Mars as an artist, because on this well thought-out, 10 track long adventure, he does away with whatever misconceptions we’d had thanks to songs from his first album like “Grenade” and has given us the first glimmer in 2012 of real hope for Male-fronted solo pop music in the foreseeable future.
21. DRAGONETTE – Bodyparts
Canada’s Dragonette really came into their own with Bodyparts.
Their previous albums have – for the most part – delivered the listener with excellence but prior to 2012, the band had never managed to release a complete record free-of-flaw. Twelve tracks in length, the bands third long player packs strong punches and plays out as a record full of potential singles. The scenic “Run Run Run” opens the album beautifully; large synths, euphoric and triumphant drumlines with a killer chorus. The record is very current but still manages to have this Dragonette-only sheen over the top of it; the production levels within Body Parts are phenomenal; since their last album “Fixin To Thrill”, it seems the band have learnt a lot when it comes to pop production.
Stuff like “Let It Go” plays out like the kind of thing you’d hear on the next Katy Perry record, “Right Woman” is a club-ready monster-jam and “Untouchable” is this Caribbean-fuelled summer love song with enough perky peaks to make it a truly substantial listen. But the album really belongs to “Lay Low”, “Legs” and haunting album closer “Ghost” (complete with some very interesting and suspicious lyrics), all three of which really help propel the band into a higher league.
If they can’t make it as a global sensation off the back of this album, chances are they never will. Which is a shame because Dragonette happen to be one of the most exciting pop acts around – but hey, they can at least rest assured, should things not turn around for them, they’ve got an incredibly bright future writing for other pop stars. There are songs on this album that would be global #1 hit singles if they were fronted by an act with a bigger profile and unless they get the bug to keep releasing their own albums, it might be a wise investment for them to consider.
Here is a playlist of about 55 tracks comprised of 100% Ace Pop that is – mostly – from 2012. Let’s have a look at some of the songs on this Very Good Playlist Even If I Do Say So Myself. If the above widget isn’t working (or is curiously not displaying 55 tracks) then point your browser hurr.
PURPLE CRUSH – Basic Bitch
Brooklyn duo Purple Crush are a big favourite of mine. Their 2011 EP “Welcome 2 The Underground” was one of my most played last year and, if I ever decide to finish my 2011 year round-up’s, a number of songs (including this one) feature throughout that end of year songs list. You should also take a gander at their excellent homage to Madonna’s “Reductive” moment from earlier in the year and also their GREAT cover of Fischerspooner’s “Emerge.” One of the brightest emerging acts (ho ho!) in Pop.
FLORRIE – Shot You Down / To The End / Every Inch
Florrie, as featured in my fun new banner next to Queen Madonna, has released what is by far-and-away the most exciting bunch of pop songs of her career. The frantic soundscapes of “Shot You Down”, to the no-prisoners rave-up of “Every Inch”, to the monumental “To The End” – her defining moment – Florrie is a properly amazing pop star and with each release she trumps herself greatly.
MADONNA – Gang Bang / I’m Addicted / Love Spent / I Don’t Give A
How different a campaign Madonna’s “MDNA” would have been with “I’m Addicted”, the superior dance moment, as its lead single. “I’m Addicted” is the best, freshest thing Benny Benassi’s produced since “Satisfaction” and could have given Madonna the club-pop crossover hit she deserved with this album. Even the Nicki Minaj feature “I Don’t Give A” would have made for a better, more striking first single than “Give Me All Your Luvin’”, which – all things considered – failed to do what it should have for Madonna on the charts because it was the wrong single. The singles should have played out with “I’m Addicted” as the first, “I Don’t Give A” as the second, “Gang Bang” as the controversial third and “Love Spent” as the albums final single. “Love Spent” is one of the most underrated Madonna songs in a very long time; the fact that it contains two completely different choruses has seemingly been lost on its critical detractors. It’s also the most lyrically vulnerable song on the album. And the thing that I love the most about “Gang Bang” is its obvious tribute to that iconic early 2000′s German Hard Trance sound. People teetered with German techno from the 90′s but nobody has really taken direct inspiration from that truly golden era of early millennium rave and that is something Madonna needs to be commended for. The song itself is a little like Madonna doing Neils Van Gough’s stadium-rave anthem “Pulverturm“, but with a lot more vitriol and anger. It’s also the most experimental and forward-thinking thing Madonna’s done since the American Life record and is said to be the final single from the MDNA era.
VAN GO LION – Glow
Portland duo Van Go Lion are another of my big favourites from 2011. This song in particular encapsulates everything brilliant about their pop songs and their “Body Moves” EP from last year is something worth chasing up. Big things coming for them in 2012.
VAN SHE – Sarah / Coconuts / Radio Waves I & II / We Move On
“Sarah” is Van She’s big Fleetwood Mac moment from their incredible sophomore album “Idea of Happiness.” Vocally Nick hasn’t sounded better and on a production front this is their grandest moment to date. A massive review of this excellent album is on the way, I just have to get it right y’know? There’s a lot to say about an album as good as this one, and the other four tracks amongst this playlist that are lifted from the record are a great sample of what to expect when you eventually invest and Buy The Album.
PET SHOP BOYS – A Certain “Je Ne Sais Quoi”
I’m not the biggest fan of PSB’s new single “Winner” but this B-Side is where the money is at. Non-apologetic classic Pet Shop Boys pop. How Very.
GOSSIP – Move In The Right Direction
After “Heavy Cross (Fred Falke Remix)”, this is the Gossip at their very best. A stomping pop song with Xenomania on production credits – not exactly a terrible fusion is it? And the album “A Joyful Noise” delivers exactly what it says it does on the tin.
ICONA POP – I Love It
Imagine if this had been the new Veronicas single instead of “Lolita”? Get this on Australian radio at once.
MARINA & THE DIAMONDS – Lonely Hearts Club / Teen Idle / Valley Of The Dolls / Fear & Loathing
Marina’s “Electra Heart” is one of 2012′s best records and these four songs are a great slab of the cream of the crop to be lifted from it. “Lonely Hearts Club” sounds like it’s been ripped right out of a 1980′s Molly Ringwald movie, “Teen Idle” is pretty much the most incredible thing Marina has ever penned, “Valley Of The Dolls” is eerie with its end-of-the-world talk and Illuminati undertones therefor making it one of the most interesting and captivating pop creations of the year, and then there’s “Fear & Loathing” which, funnily enough, seems to follow similar themes. A full (and completely schizophrenic – you’ll understand what I mean when it goes online), rather lengthy piece reviewing this complexly wonderful album is on the way.
LADY GAGA – Scheiße
Shoulda been a single, my god. The best moment during Gaga’s epic Born This Way Ball.
NO DOUBT – Settle Down
I am here for this song and comeback, yes I am. This is 6 minutes of bliss.
WILLAM BELLI & FRIENDS – Let’s Have A KaiKai / Love You Like A Big Schlong / Chow Down / The Vagina Song
The break-out controversial star from RuPaul’s Drag Race and literally every TV show ever created is also one of the best pop stars to come from the series. Willam’s update on the Scissor Sisters song “Let’s Have A KiKi” manages to outdo the original, her stunning tribute to Selena Gomez and Enormous Cocks is truly touching, her collaboration with Vicky Vox & Detox, a take off-of Wilson Phillips’ “Hold On” that lyrically pays tribute to Chick-Fil-A Chicken, is Current, and of course “The Vagina Song” which really speaks for itself. I am a proud Willam Belli Stan and I will not Rupologise for it.
CASSIE – Queen Of Hearts
How has this not been the biggest Urban single of 2012?
LANA DEL REY – Off To The Races / Blue Jeans (Kris Menace Mix) / This Is What Makes Us Girls / Radio
I had the honour of seeing Lana live a couple of weeks ago and then the extended pleasure of meeting her afterwards (Full review with photos incoming) and I can’t get her out of my mind. “Born To Die” is obviously the album of the year and the tracks I’ve picked from the record for this playlist don’t even do the majesty of the whole record justice. If you haven’t yet, then you should. Lana is EVERYTHING.
ROGUE TRADERS – Girl In Gold
This flawless tribute to Deborah Harry is a truly lost gem from the Rogue Traders incredible final album “Night Of The Living Drums.” Second only to “In Love Again” as the bands finest creation.
SANTIGOLD – Pirate In The Water / Fame
Santi’s new album “Master of my Make-Believe” is a revelation, but these two tracks in particular are the records biggest slabs of self-assured Jamaican-tinged punk-pop. “Pirate In The Water” is the lighter pop moment but “Fame” is the lyrical clencher.
THE PRESETS – Youth In Trouble (Green Velvet Remix)
This incredible remix of an already bonza dance song from Australia’s very own is hopefully a nice example of the kind of anti-radio dance music the band started out creating. In its original form, “Youth In Trouble” is this acid-house rave explosion that is exactly the kind of rave I want to be hearing in 2012 and exactly the kind of rave Australian radio weren’t expecting from the boys. An inspired club-cut.
SNEAKY SOUND SYSTEM – Really Want To See You Again
Connie & Angus bat it completely out of the park once again. Lifted from my favourite Album of 2011.
SANDRA BERNHARD – Perfection
I’m not entirely sure what this electro-infused Chicks On Speed-esque dance bomb is all about but it came on at the end of Sandra’s excellent stand-up album “Everything Bad & Beautiful” and I just had to share it.
KATHY GRIFFIN – I’ll Say It
The theme-song from Kathy’s new talk show is all kinds of fun and literally makes Carrie Underwood completely redundant. Bitch bye! There’s a MIAMI MIX (!!!!!!) on its way too which you can hear in this video of Kathy & Gloria Estefan singing it together on stage. Amazing.
The playlist also features songs by Muscles, Azealia Banks, The Saturdays, Garbage, iamamiwhoami, Justin Bieber, Queen of Hearts, Loreen, Ricki-Lee, Nicki Minaj, Kylie Minogue, RuPaul and Jessica 6. Each month (or so) I’ll attempt to create a new playlist to share with you on the blog; let me know what you think!