New Britneyology

My Album of the Year, 2015! Um……

Posted by: Karenannanina on: January 1, 2016

Sneaky sneaky! My Album of 2015 was made in 2011 and I bought it in a store where everything costs £1. It may not be new and it may not be expensive but I still stand over it as the best album I heard for the first time in 2015. Most of you are based in the US or Europe so you won’t know who I’m talking about, so here’s some background.

The X Factor may have failed in the US but it has been a pretty big event on UK television for many years. The winners rarely come to much, but many of those who have failed to win have had a lot of success – which shows that the personal popularity and excitement you can generate on a TV show have little relevance to subsequent sales. This year’s winner, and predicted as such from Week One, was a girl so good she makes Christina Aguilera sound like a pub singer. She has stated ambitions to be a world-beater, but talent alone won’t guarantee her success. She will need just as much A & R genius and marketing creativity as someone who can barely croak out a tune.

On the other hand, you have wonderful performers who don’t expect to win and don’t particularly care if they don’t, so long as the show benefits their careers in some way. One such was mum-of-two Liverpudlian singer-songwriter Rebecca Ferguson, runner-up in 2010 to Matt Cardle. The show gave her some media exposure and, best of all, a recording contract. But Rebecca didn’t rush-release an album of covers, as many talent-show graduates do. It took her a full year to release her debut album, Heaven. She wanted quality, even at the risk of passing the peak of public interest in her.

And here we have one of the finest, most soulfully expressive voices around today singing ten thoughtful, original, smart and hooky love songs, all co-written by herself. What does she sound like? Well, how about a cross between Aretha Franklin, Macy Gray, Amy Winehouse, Rumer and the young and unspoiled Billie Holiday? Always highly musical and tuneful, yet with great precision and a clean cutting edge. Tough but sweet, and no shouting or over-singing like some practitioners in the soul/blues/jazz genre. (Joss Stone, are you listening?!)

In the wake of The X Factor, I was waiting patiently for Heaven to come out, but somewhere in the long gestation period I lost track of it. However, I now find that it was “critically acclaimed”, charted at 3 in the UK, and has since been certified gold. This is a terrific album, with no fillers or lazy and generic material. And, even beyond that consistent level of excellence, there are stand-outs, like “Nothing’s real but love”, “Mr Bright Eyes” (co-written and produced by Xenomania’s Brian Higgins), and, best of all, “Shoulder to Shoulder” – probably the best song I’ve heard all year.

But saying that Rebecca has a great voice and these are excellent songs isn’t enough. There’s a certain magic about this album. What I have to try to convey is that the synergy between these songs and the way she expresses them creates moments of extraordinary timelessness, where the deepest, oldest wellsprings of pop/soul/r&b are tapped and Sehnsucht gnaws away at the unreachable corners of your brain. “Heaven” indeed.

If you haven’t heard of Rebecca Ferguson or you gave up waiting for her first album, do yourself a favour and invest a small sum of money. Maybe as little as £1. If you fall in love with Heaven, as I did, you’ll find that it wasn’t a one-off. Again the exception among talent-show stars, Rebecca has recorded consistently and has now released 3 albums, following up with the equally superb Freedom in 2013 and Lady Sings The Blues – an actual and stunning tribute to Billie Holiday – in 2015.

20 Responses to "My Album of the Year, 2015! Um……"

I checked out her music, her voice is special.
My favourite albums this year are Delirium, Revival, Change Colours, American B/American P.

Did you listen to the Carly Rae Jepsen album? It’s fabulous. The melodies, lyrics, and production are pure bubblegum-pop pleasure, but it’s a grown-up album, too, for adults who like their pop complex. I wonder what does Karen think about it?

I’m really enjoying the Ellie record, though I find it a bit faceless, like a lot of Max Martin-written songs thrown out there for Ellie to try on radio. Not much of an “Ellie” album, but she’s owning every track vocally. “Heal” is amazing.

i have listened to it, its delightfully dark but pop. Its very much that dark music but perky topics most of the time. I love Making The Most Of the Night, Emotion, Warm Blood, LA Hulluciantions. So good and so dark.
I love Ellies record for it being mostly perky and poppy and terndy and a bit bratty, but in a fun way. Sometimes I just love a album of fun pop songs and nothing more. Keep On Dancing, Devotion, Codes and Don’t Need Nobody are graet. I espeically love the single Somethiung In The Way You Move, I feel it’s extremely relatable.

I really liked Grimes’s “Art Angels” and the influence of japanese music (in the way of singing and some of the songs) it was instilled with. I thought it made for an original and dynamic, with almost no bad songs. Tame Impala’s “Currents” album was quite gorgeous too, in its own way, always taking the time to settle the mood of the songs and embarking the listener in that well deserved psychedelic journey. It’s modern hippie music with a rock sound and very easy to get into, if you enjoy these genres of course.

PS/ I loved half of Carly’s album, especially the 90s inspired ballads , but I hated the lead single and a a few songs that I liked at first, but ended up cringing at the 2nd or 3rd times they came up on my I-Pod. A “Britney Jean” situation in reverse! Lmao

“Currents” is LUSH. So, so good. One of my favs this year.

I’m still pretty much stuck in the dark ages! I recently “discovered” Janelle Monae’s “Archandroid” – a work of extraordinary genius even if it IS all over the place! And also, Lana del Rey’s EP “Paradise”, which expresses her vision better than anything else and is also suffused with genius. If you want reviews of these, you only have to ask!

I’d love to read you reviewing Lana, I think she’s a very interesting vocalist!

I’ll be very happy to hear your thoughts on “Paradise”, though it’s my least favourite out of all she’s released (but to be fair, she raises the bar super high and has a rare sense of quality control)!
Did you listen to “Ultraviolence” yet?

Me too. Lana’s one of the most captivating vocalists around these days, a Karen review would be a joy to read.

Yep, I was hesitating who were the best newcomers of the past few years, in terms of females, and Lana & Marina have ultimately taken Gaga’s spot (though I liked half of “ARTPOP”)! By the way “FROOT” was also an highlight for me this year, and the ear-soothing title track haunted my I-Pod for months.

Marina and the Diamonds really stepped up her game with her last album. It’s a real pleasure to listen to and there’s no single bad song on it. I think Happy is one of the best pop ballads that have been released in years, and find I’m A Ruin a heartbreakingly beautiful song. Also, Solitaire, an underrated gem of peculiar beauty. Immortal is brilliant, too.

Gaga gets caught up in trying to fit a gap she just doesn’t fit. Artpop and The Fame fun pop with a little provocative discussion about the media and The Fame. At least she works hard, most people are just pretentious and then never deliver.

consider me a LANA stan. i Loooove Honeymoon. all of the tracks. She is so skillful and musically capable. I love Freak, 24, Swan Song, Music To Watch Boys To.

I also adore Ultraviolence, the more aggressive songs like Money Power Glory, My Way Up To The Top, Ultraviiolence and West Coast.

An album that you guys probably haven’t heard of, but which I love, is “Unguarded” by Rae Morris. She’s a very strong and characterful singer and songwriter, and there isn’t a bad track on her album. She was the featured vocalist on the famous Clean Bandit album, along with the highly fashionable Jess Glynne and others.

Thanks I’ll try to listen to it! Clean Bandits EP was one of my favourite in 2014.

I love Jess Glyne

I listened to it and I had a great time! Most of the songs were gorgeous and her voice is really pleasant, without any of the tyranical belting and oversinging many “talented” popgirls are guilty of. If I could sum up the album in two words, it would be poetic and vulnerable.

Talking about Rae Morris, here!

West Coast” is a stroke of genius. I also find “Black Beauty” to be mesmerizing!

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  • Karenannanina: I agree with you about the residency. It's the road to irrelevance for an artist. But a new album would be a golden blessing for her fans. Her albums
  • George: Spot on thoughts on the issue. Honestly, I don't... really care whether she does the residency or not? As long as there is new music, I'm fine. P.S: G
  • Sarah G: You should write an In-Depth of Glory or even Mood Ring (that's a groovy tune)