With 2011 wrapping up, it’s time for The Lantern to take a look at the 10 best albums the year had to offer.
10. “Lasers” — Lupe Fiasco
It’s not Fiasco’s best album — he might even say his worst — but it’s definitely one of the best albums of 2011. While it is more commercial than his previous works, it still has that heavy the-world’s-on-my-shoulders type of attitude Fiasco carries around. “Lasers,” at times, is emotionally damaging, weirdly fun and pushes those political buttons. The quasi-suicidal note that is “Beautiful Lasers (2 Ways)” is the best song on this low-concept album.
9. “Cole World: The Sideline Story” — J. Cole
This self-produced work of rap art is not only insanely brilliant, but it’s probably the best debut of any new rapper in the last five years. The amount of confidence this man has is a bit unbelievable, knowing that he only has one album under his belt. “Mr. Nice Watch” is by far the best rap song of 2011 because of its minimalist beat, and the featured artists complement his flow instead of overshadowing him.
8. “Wounded Rhymes” — Lykke Li
It’s a shame more people don’t know about this eerie Swedish beauty. This is an album filled with heartbreaking love anthems, but it never strays into whining, juvenile clichés. This album calls to mind a much slower, darker and better-written version of Lady Gaga’s “The Fame,” and has an edge to it that makes her unique. Songs like “Youth Knows No Pain” and “Rich Kids Blues” would be No. 1 hits if Li was a more mainstream artist, but it’s perfectly OK that she’s not.
7. “Perfectionist” — Natalia Kills
The United Kingdom wins in the battle of better pop stars by sheer number and Natalia leads at the top of the pack. While she tends to be a little too contrived at times, her music speaks for itself. Electro-gothic pop is a strange combination of words, but accurately depicts this album. “Mirrors” and “Kill My Boyfriend” are pop perfection and should be heard in every dance club in America. It’s a shame she wasn’t born in the U.S., she’d give the Beyoncés, Lady Gagas and Katy Perrys of the world a bit of trouble.
6. “21” — Adele
In this age of music piracy, Adele snuck up on the U.S. market like a thief in the night, shutting down every pop star one by one. She fuses soul and pop together so well and every song is a tear-jerker. Her powerhouse vocals turn sometimes-basic lyrics into gospel hymns. The world has gone to the Church of Adele and it’s not coming out anytime soon. While it’s hard to pick a song that’s better than the others because they tend to sound the same, “Set Fire to the Rain” contains the best display of Adele’s vocal ability.
5. “4” — Beyoncé
Looking back, one wonders if King B knew she had a vision that she was pregnant while creating “4.” A much slower album than her previous one, this record is perhaps the greatest showcase of her voice yet. It’s the kind of music that appeals and applies to every human being on Earth. “I Was Here” and “End of Time” could be the two best Beyoncé songs ever, showing off the two sides to her that fans love so much.
4. “Born This Way” — Lady Gaga
This beautiful mess of an album is the mutant child of Bruce Springsteen, Whitney Houston, Queen and David Bowie. While not quite the “greatest album of this decade” as Gaga claimed it was, it certainly throws a wrench in the music industry machine. This is Gaga at her best and worst; an album meant to redefine pop music as we know it. When you have songs like “Bloody Mary” and “Heavy Metal Lover,” two genre-bending tracks on one album, it’s bound to be an unsafe and thrilling ride for everyone involved.
3. “Watch the Throne” — The Throne (Kanye West and Jay-Z)
Only rap giants Jay-Z and Kanye West can create something as gauche as “luxury rap” and still be endearing to the American public. It’s because they don’t take themselves too seriously. While Jay outshines his best friend on the lyrical side, Kanye shakes the foundations of hip-hop with his schizophrenic production. Fusing old and new with Otis Redding samples and dubstep-laced beats, this album is perfect in almost every way. “Murder to Excellence” and “No Church in the Wild” are the kind of songs that exemplify the direction hip-hop is heading.
2. “You & I” — The Pierces
Though they are easily the least-known artists on this list, they are the best that folk rock has to offer. Haunting voices and stupendous lyrics give this record a chilling effect that works better because of their anonymity. Each and every song is spell-binding, which makes sense because the sisters have alluded to Wiccan practices on past albums. This is the only record on the list where no song is skipped because of the genius intertwined in each track.
1. “Goblin” — Tyler, The Creator
We, as a society, have to come to terms with the fact that we allowed someone like Tyler Okonma to happen. His brutal, offensive and bone-chilling songs are enough to keep the faint-hearted awake at night. He is the driving force behind this death metal-esque rap music. Not only is he a sometimes-playful, homicidal-suicidal dork, but he produced everything on the album from scratch. His production uses no samples, only gritty, industrial and dark beats that came from his sociopathic mind. All any doubting critic needs to do is listen to “Golden,” a song so destructive it will bring you to tears.