Adult Contemporary- 21, ADELE. Though I am not a huge fan of Adele’s music (I’m just not personally fond of it) you can’t deny that the woman is extremely talented and that this was easily one of the most successful albums of our generation. I’ve never seen any single spend as long a time at #1 on the iTunes charts as “Rolling in the Deep,” and the album won more Grammys than you can shake a stick at. Critically acclaimed and beloved by people all over the world, my list would not be complete without this one.
Country- Blown Away, Carrie Underwood. I love this record. Virtually every song tells a story, especially “Two Black Cadillacs” and the title song. “See You Again” is an anthem of love and hope. Carrie’s performance of the title song snagged her a Grammy, and it was certainly well deserved. Her vocals are booming yet smooth, and the cover art is gorgeous. It’s one of my favorite country albums of recent years.
Pop- Teenage Dream, Katy Perry. I know I’m going to get flack for this one, but I think the legacy of this album gives it an edge over the stuff put out by Selena Gomez or Miley Cyrus. It spawned the most #1 singles for a female artist in history, started a self-esteem movement with “Firework,” created its own mascot in Kathy Beth Terry, defined an image for Katy as a dessert-loving California queen, and led to the filming of her 3D biopic. It now also has a deluxe edition entitled The Complete Confection. Though Katy’s taking a more “serious” tone with her latest album, Prism, the Teenage Dream era remains the most memorable, for better or for worse.
Double Genre (Country/Pop)- Red, Taylor Swift. This is one of those few albums of recent years where I don’t hate any song on it. Granted, I like some (“State of Grace” and “Everything Has Changed”) more than others (“All Too Well” and “Stay Stay Stay”) but none of them are un-listenable. Which I think says a lot about how Taylor has evolved as an artist. Nominated for several Grammys, the tracks still mostly center on romantic relationships, but their varied musical styles make it a good contender for my best album that straddles two genres.
Alternative- Ceremonials, Florence + the Machine. Florence Welch has one of the best voices in popular music right now. And she’s not afraid to show off those pipes on FloMa’s sophomore album, featuring great tunes like “No Light, No Light” and “Never Let Me Go.” But the most well-known track from it is “Shake It Out,” a blaring art song with both gospel and rock influences. I was disappointed that it didn’t win a Grammy for alternative music, but Florence is still laughing all the way to the bank with the success of this album, her Calvin Harris collabo “Sweet Nothing,” and her glorious contribution to The Great Gatsby, “Over the Love.”
Soundtrack- Frozen, Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez. Speaking of soundtracks, was there any doubt that I’d pick this record as the soundtrack to watch (or listen to) in the present day and even for the future? Disney’s Frozen was probably going to be a success, but no one expected it to be the global phenomenon it now is. It has been “the first time in forever” since a Disney soundtrack has remained in the Top 10 for as long as this one has, and Idina Menzel’s famous Broadway belt voice has helped to make the song “Let It Go” both a Best Original Song Oscar-winner and one of the most popular Disney tracks to date!
Rock- Mylo Xyloto, Coldplay. I had a lot of trouble picking the one for the rock genre because I am more familiar with rock n’ roll from the 70s and 80s (thanks, Mom). Ultimately, I settled on Coldplay’s Mylo Xyloto because it’s got some great songs on it and maintains the epic musical nature that Coldplay has become known for. My favorites on this album are “Paradise” (which for some reason brings to mind the Kingdom Hearts video game series) and “Every Teardrop is a Waterfall.” There’s even something for Rihanna fans here, a collaboration known as “Princess of China.”
Rap- The Heist, Macklemore. This has to be the Cinderella story of rap records. With no label behind him, Macklemore got this album played on the radio and snagged himself a Grammy award for Best New Artist. It employs several fun themes, from social commentary (“Same Love”) to club friendly jams (“Can’t Hold Us”) and crazy rap froth (“Thrift Shop”). The massive popularity of all three of these singles means that The Heist has produced more miracles for independent music than you can shake a stick at.