So many incredible albums came out in 2012. Many of which got the credit they deserved, and many of which flew under the radar. Some happened to be debut albums from some of the year’s brightest rookies, and some happened to be LP’s put out by veterans in the game. But what they all had in common was “quality.” Check out DOPEAvenue’s Top 10 Albums of 2012 below:
10. Rihanna | ‘Unapologetic’
Unapologetic is by far the best body of work Rihanna’s team has put together since Rated R. There weren’t a bunch of radio dance hits, there weren’t a bunch of potential single sounding songs, but there was a great mix of single-ready songs, and songs made strictly for the album. There were songs that catered to pop fans, and songs that catered to urban, hip hop fans. Rihanna even showed some artistic growth by including songs like “What Now,” “Stay,” and “Mother Mary” on the album. A super personal Rihanna is not one we’re used to hearing, especially not in her music, so I was shocked and pleasantly surprised when I heard her singing about the Chris Brown assault on “Love Without Tragedy.” It was, for me, a “who is this new person and what did she do with the old Rihanna” moment, and I loved it. On top of it all, on stage, Rihanna presence has drastically improved, so now she’s able to bring songs like “Diamonds” & “Stay” to life like she’s never been able to do before. Speaking of “Stay”….that’s one of her best songs ever. So yeah, Unapologetic deserves to get major shine. And hopefully and eighth album isn’t rushed out in 11 months.
9. Melanie Fiona | ‘The MF Life’
This album is so overlooked, it’s not even funny; which is probably why you’re shocked to see it in my top 10. But, as far as I’m concerned, aside from Miguel and Frank Ocean (and Elle Varner who would be #11 on my list), no R&B album came close to Melanie Fiona’s The MF Life in 2012. The album starts off with a bang in the hip hop/soul song “This Time” featuring J. Cole, and from that point, Melanie takes you on a journey of a girl who’s lost love and who’s trying to find it again. The Drake penned “I’ve Been That Girl,” the early morning ballad “4am,” the No I.D. produced “Break Down These Walls,” and the emotional climax in “Wrong Side Of A Love Song”…these songs prove why Melanie Fiona is a step above the rest in the R&B world. And those are just the first five songs on the CD. That’s not even including the genius song that is “Running” featuring Nas, the crossover hit that never was: “Change The Record” featuring B.o.B, and the ridiculously sexy “Bones.” The album had R&B bangers for days. And because her name isn’t Beyonce or Rihanna, people act like they can’t give her proper shine & respect. The quality of the music speaks for itself though. Amazing effort from the Canadian songstress.
8. Lana Del Rey | ‘Born To Die’
Whether you love her or hate her, you have to admit: Lana Del Rey’s Born To Die album was a great body of work. What Lana was able to achieve this year as far as success, with such a throwback, jazzy, 1960′s sound, was absolutely insane. The songs were very dreary, very dark, very unlike what the new generation of pop fans crave, but yet the album has gone triple platinum. On top of the album being so amazing, the videos for each and every song she released were masterpieces; from her debut video for “Born To Die” to the more recent mini-movie for “Ride” to the crowning jewel that was the “National Anthem” video. Everything she touched was like a piece of art. Granted, on stage, she might be a tad boring, but the music,and it’s quality, was far superior to the majority of the music we heard last year.
7. Ellie Goulding | ‘Halcyon’
Greatest pop album of the year? Hands down, that title goes to Ellie Goulding and her sophomore effort ‘Halcyon.’ The British songstress has just started to crack the US in the past few months with her songs “Lights” & “Anything Could Happen,” but she’s been a big deal in the UK for a few years now. And now with this new album, she’s blossomed into this huge, stadium filling, dark & tribal pop sound that’s so far superior to what we’re used to hearing on top 40 radio in 2012. It’s Kanye West “Lost In The Word” meets ’808s & Heartbreak’ meets dubstep meets pop music. It’s amazing. And Ellie’s voice is so angelic, so the contrast from the track & her voice is unreal, creating a unique niche pop sound. Notice how alot of the album on this list are from artists finding their niche. Halcyon definitely is Pop Album of the year.
6. Maverick Sabre | ‘Lonely Are The Brave’
I’m sure most of you don’t know who Maverick Sabre is, but you should. You definitely should. He’s a UK singer who is keeping the legacy of Amy Winehouse alive, while adding a unique reggae vibe to soul music. He also mixes in a little hip hop to make his music completely different from what we’re used to hearing today. His music isn’t all about club hopping & bottle popping, but about societal issues and REAL life; taking inspiration from people like Bob Marley & The Beatles. ‘Lonely Are The Brave’ is an amazing album that completely of flew under the radar. I definitely suggest you take a listen to it soon.
5. Frank Ocean | ‘Channel Orange’
To me, ‘Channel ORANGE is a highly overrated album. It got the hype it got because everybody in the industry hyped it up, which in turn made the casual listener hype self-consciously…then there was the infamous letter. I’m not saying the album isn’t great (I do have it at #5), but it isn’t as great as people made it out to be. For me, nostalgia Ultra was a much better project with much stronger songs that still resonate with me (personally) more than the majorty of Channel ORANGE. BUT, like I said, the album did still have it’s gems. Records like “Pyramids” & “Bad Religion” & “Sweet Life” show why Frank Ocean is one of the best in the game at the moment. His lyrical ability is so much higher than the majority of the industry. But for me, some of those interludes and 2:00 songs could have been traded for better material.
4. Nas | ‘Life Is Good’
In a world of club smashes and records about smoking/drinking/popping molly/fuckin bitches/strippers, Nas delivered a classic hip hop album this summer in ‘Life Is Good.’ He showed the young and the old that you don’t have to conform to make one of the best records of the year. He did what he’s known for, what’s made him a legend, and he delivered some of the hungriest records I’ve heard in years. He got very personal on records like “Bye Baby” and “Daughters,” he delivered emotion charged records like “World’s An Addiction” feat. Anthony Hamilton, and he painted vivid pictures on records like “”A Queen’s Story.” After nearly 20 years in the game, Nas hasn’t lost a single touch, and in 2012, he delivered not only one of his best albums in years, but one of the year’s best albums overall.
3. Jessie Ware | ‘Devotion’
This name is most likely another “WTF, I’ve never heard of her and she’s higher than Frank Ocean? You’re nuts” moment, but hear me out. Jessie Ware did something Lana Del Rey did, but Jessie did it even better: she created her own lane, and completely owned it thanks to her beyond amazing vocal ability. ‘Devotion’ is very 80′s throwback, very soulful, yet very contemporary. Her Sade/Mariah Carey vocals make songs like “Running” and “110%” absolute smashes. If you haven’t heard of Jessie Ware, or checked out her album, I’d definitely recommend you take a listen as soon as you finish with reading this post.
2. Kendrick Lamar | ‘good kid m.A.A.d city’
It’s been a while since a rap rookie delivered an album as great as Kendrick did this past October. Not J.Cole, not B.o.B., not even Drake delivered a debut album as strong as Kendrick’s. It’s exactly what the people who say “Hip Hop Is Dead” needed to hear from the new generation: something with substance, something that’s very 90′s reminiscent but still with a modern swag. Storytelling galore mixed in with radio smashes and incredible flows. Then there’s everyone’s favorite new phrase: Ya Bish. The absolute banger in “Backseat Freestyle.” The incredible mood maker “Bitch, Don’t Kill My Vibe.” The Janet Jackson sampled “Poetic Justice.” Then there’s the stories of gangbanging and Compton life interlaced throughout the whole LP. All around, it’s one of the best rap albums to be released in years.
1. Miguel | ‘Kaleidoscope Dream’
#1 had to go to this man. Kaleidoscope Dream was as close to perfect as albums got this year. To start an album with the soon-to-be-classic “Adorn,” have incredible album cuts like the rock tinged “Use Me” and the bold “Pussy Is Mine,” then close with a lyrically genius record like “Candles In The Sun”…you have to be a genius to pull that kind of feat off. And that’s exactly what Miguel did. He mixed R&B with rock & hip hop, and with trippy drug-induced alternative beats, and he created his own niche in the R&B world. There’s not even an obvious single to choose from besides “How Many Drinks,” yet the album is still being touted as one of the best of the year, which is crazy because most mainstream albums are laced with potential singles nowadays. Miguel connected with his audience early on with Art Deal Chic EP’s, built his core fanbase by touring, garnered a #1 hit on the way, and solidified himself as an R&B heavyweight with this one. Definitely the best album of 2012.