If 2014 could be summed up in one simple phrase, it would be: Shake it off. There’s always next year.
Other than the “Frozen” soundtrack, we didn’t have a platinum-selling album all year until Taylor Swift’s total pop pleasure “1989” was released in late October. The haters can hate all they want, but she’s the new Queen of Pop.
Technically, U2’s “Songs of Innocence” was the biggest album release of all-time, but that’s only because it was added automatically to the music libraries of 500 million iTunes customers in September. Bono later apologized, saying “I had this beautiful idea and we got carried away with ourselves.”
The past year was “All About That Bass,” Iggy Azalea, a battle of booties, ice-bucket challenges, Robin Thicke’s quick fall from grace and “Weird Al” Yankovic’s mandatory fun in July (releasing parody music videos for eight straight days). Garth Brooks put out his first album in 13 years; Daft Punk cleaned up at the Grammys, and Pink Floyd said farewell with “The Endless River.”
It was an odd year, but don’t worry, be happy, like Pharrell Williams — at least we had the music.
Now on to the countdown of the Top 10 albums … not the best albums, just personal favorites. If you don’t agree, I’ll just shake it off:
(Listed alphabetically by artist name.)
“Morning Phase,” Beck — His 12th album was a companion piece to 2002’s “Sea Change,” full of beautiful melancholy and soaring harmonies.
“Love, Marriage & Divorce,” Toni Braxton & Babyface — One of the greatest R&B pairings in recent memory, these two created a lush ode to the ups and downs of a relationship. When Braxton coos “I love you but I hate you, don’t want but I want to” in “Roller Coaster,” you believe it.
“Sucker,” Charli XCX — They call this hip-pop. Her second album is chockful of glossy electropop and myriad influences, from ABBA to Weezer (heck, Rivers Cuomo even produces the track “Hanging Around”).
“Black Messiah,” D’Angelo and The Vanguard — He unleashed this pleasant surprise in mid-December, his first album since 2000’s “Voodoo.” The politically and socially charged lyrics and mindful beats could be the soundtrack to the nation’s uneasy racial atmosphere.
“Emma Jean,” Lee Fields & The Expressions — There’s retro soul and then there’s the real deal: this 63-year-old singer from North Carolina, whose voice only gets better with age. Listen to “Magnolia,” the best song you never heard all year.
“Platinum,” Miranda Lambert — Swift dumped country, so now Lambert pretty much has Nashville all to herself. She has plenty of girl power, ballads and gumption to go around.
“Supernova,” Ray LaMontagne — Black Keys member and producer Dan Auerbach’s psychedelic touch is all over LaMontagne’s fifth album. It has a genuine ‘60s vibe, with slices of folk.
“Atlas,” Real Estate — The Brooklyn-based indie rockers have landed on many year-end critics’ list for a reason. There’s something sublime about their third album.
“1000 Forms of Fear,” Sia — The 39-year-old Australian has done it all over a long career: trip-hop, jazz, pop, songwriting. But “Chandelier” turned her into a true star, and with longtime collaborator Greg Kurstin, she has created an essential album.
“In the Lonely Hour,” Sam Smith — Iggy and Ariana Grande dominated the airwaves with their debut albums and duets, but look who’s about to win the Grammy for Best New Artist? This pouty singer from Britain.
“1989,” Taylor Swift — Goodbye Nashville, hello NYC. Swift completed her transformation from country cutie to pop diva and wielded her power along the way, taking her music off Spotify. Shake it off, indeed.
“Run the Jewels 2,” Run the Jewels
“My Everything,” Ariana Grande
“LP1,” FKA twigs
“ART OFFICIAL AGE,” Prince
“They Want My Soul,” Spoon
“Hypnotic Eye,” Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers
“The Outsiders,” Eric Church
“The Voyager,” Jenny Lewis
“Sonic Highways,” Foo Fighters
“Ultraviolence,” Lana Del Rey
“Turn Blue,” The Black Keys
“St. Vincent,” St. Vincent
Cue up these great tunes:
“Gimme Something Good,” Ryan Adams
“Blue Moon,” Beck
“Waking Light,” Beck
“Roller Coaster,” Toni Braxton & Babyface
“Boom Clap,” Charli XCX
“Shades of Cool,” Lana Del Rey
“Cool Kids,” Echosmith
“Magnolia,” Lee Fields & The Expressions
“My Silver Lining,” First Aid Kit
“Two Weeks,” FKA twigs
“Seasons (Waiting On You),” Future Islands
“Love Never Felt So Good,” Michael Jackson
“Lavender,” Ray LaMontagne
“She’s Not Me,” Jenny Lewis
“Sweetlove Butterfly,” Ian Roberts
“Do It Again,” Röyksopp & Robyn
“Big Girls Cry,” Sia
“I’m Not the Only One,” Sam Smith
“Stay With Me,” Sam Smith
“Blank Space,” Taylor Swift
“Shake It Off,” Taylor Swift
“All About That Bass,” Meghan Trainor
“Word Crimes,” “Weird Al” Yankovic
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