It’s hard to name this ‘My Favourite Albums’ without it sounding really clichÃ©, cheesy and as if it was written by a 3 year old child who listed the works of Sleeping Beauty, Tumble Tots and the occasional listen to a bit o’ JLS.
But, as part of Wicid’s celebration of all things music related – since, you know, everyone from Katy to Britney to Gaga is going ‘Oh, go on then I’ll release an album before Christmas’ this year – let’s kick things off with this writer’s personal favourite albums.
Of course, it is completely ridiculous to pick just one favourite album – anyone who says otherwise is either a liar or they’ve only listened to one album – since, after all, music is nothing but an experience whereby you taste an eclectic mix of genres, viewpoints and tempos.
Here’s my favourite pop albums.
1. The Fame Monster – Lady Gaga
Well, of course Gaga was going to get on here wasn’t she? Obviously we all know that *technically* The Fame Monster is an EP and not a full album but even now with the beckoning arrival of ARTPOP it remains Gaga’s most coherent and effective piece of music. This is, quite clearly, helped along by Bad Romance – which could be called one of the greatest pieces of art the human race has ever created if you were going to go slightly OTT about it. It is a nice song, though.
Produced mainly by RedOne – whom, can we just say is the best producer for Gaga because he takes all her ‘art’ weirdness and crafts it into genuinely marketable pieces of pop – the album is a dark exploration of, you guessed it, fame. At her commercial and critical peak with the release of this album, 7 out of the 8 songs found on The Fame Monster are excellent. ‘So Happy I Could Die’ is only quite good, sorry Stefani. Even though Gaga got weirder with each release after this album – the ‘Telephone’ video really should have prepared us for that – while listening to this album you really do get the feeling Gaga and RedOne hit the nail on the metaphorical head.
Dark, euphoric and deeply listenable, The Fame Monster is a must-listen for any true fan of pop music.
2. Electra Heart – Marina and the Diamonds
When she first came to the public’s attention Welsh-Greek singer Marina Diamandis was the kind of alt-pop, new wave, MySpace kind of artist that all the ‘trendsetting’ establishments like NME and Rolling Stone raved about as the ‘Next Big Thing.’ But even with all the hype surrounding her, you could tell by the sound and feel of her best songs – ‘Hollywood, Oh No!’ – that Marina had popstar dreams.
With her debut album a sort-of success, Diamandis went away for a bit andâ€¦BOOM. She comes back, hair dyed bleach-blonde, singing a Dr. Luke (the man behind Katy Perry and Jessie J) song called ‘Primadonna’. Diamandis’ second album, Electra Heart, was touted by the singer as an exploration of America and the decay of the blonde bombshell icon. What she really means is ‘I want to be a popstar so I’m going to make it look like I’m making a very indie statementâ€¦as I sing pop songs.’
Electra Heart is an absolutely magnificent album filled with production with Dr. Luke and Diplo, Marina’s dark twist on the commercial pop sound has never been more effective. Reaching its peak on ‘Lies’, Diamandis showed that she could make a number one pop album with enviable depth, exploring the themes of love, loss, heartbreak and celebrity.
3. Ten – Girls Aloud
You may not be aware of this but Girls Aloud are the greatest group in the history of pop music, if not all of music ever. Never mind the fact that they carved out a decade-long career in pop music despite the fact that they were all formed on ‘Popstars: The Rivals‘. Never mind the fact that the group have a record-breaking twenty consecutive top ten singles; (actually remember that – it is important) let’s just all face the fact that the discography of Girls Aloud is more-or-less pop perfection.
In fact, it’s more than that. It re-defines pop music. Take songs like ‘Biology’ which discards the age-old ABBA verse-chorus-verse structure and mixes in a melting-pot of genres – blues, pop, jazz – into a song that re-creates itself every 30-odd seconds before the chorus plonks itself in 2 minutes into the song. Normally people find it hard to make it to the chorus that starts 30 seconds into a song, never mind 2 minutes.
Most of the songs included on the album are produced by ‘Xenomania’, a British production house that has basically over this past decade tried – and on many occasions succeeded – to re-define the modern pop song. Xenomania’s innovative approach to pop music and the fact that Girls Aloud all have members that ‘connect’ to each other and have gradually been given musical identities, their greatest hits remains an absolute triumph. The song that signalled the beginning of their (short-lived) comeback ‘Something New’ is amazing. Their best song, however, is ‘Call The Shots.’ This is fact that cannot be disputed. ‘Call The Shots’ is the best song of the decade. Sorry, ‘Bad Romance’.
4. Perfectionist – Natalia Kills
Natalia Kills is the most underrated pop star in the entire world. Her body of work – whilst sometimes un-clear and flawed – shows the potential of a possible superstar of the genre. Seriously. Whilst her (newer) second album Trouble is a much more daring, consistent and polished record, it’s Kills’ debut work, Perfectionist, with which I find myself drawn to.
There’s a lot of things wrong with this album, let’s just get this out of the way. Kills’ identity is swamped under with a barrage of ideas and themes – she’s trying to be an L.A. Noir dark-pop princess but barely manages to be a knock-off Lady Gaga at points – and the work of multiple producers dilutes the album significantly. But the content of the album is, really, exceptional. Lead single, ‘Mirrors’, is one of the greatest things I’ve ever heard. Stadium guitars, dark and bloody lyrics and a chorus so euphoric (and a little on the naughty side) it will stay in your head for years. It’s still there in my head two years on.
Kills has many different styles, tempos and ideas fighting to be heard on this record and this is what partly makes her such an attractive new artist; both her versatility and her passion for the subject she’s singing about. Whether it’s the twisted fairy-tale of modern life and love in ‘Wonderland’ or the singing-because-you’re-broke anthem ‘Free’, Kills worms her way into the listener’s ear and refuses to leave. While she may state that she is, in fact, a Perfectionist, this record is too polished, too plastic to be considered a genuine reflection of Kills herself – if you’re looking for personal insights and severe daddy issues go to her second album – it’s quite clear the label were trying too hard to make her something that she could never be: a dark-pop dance princess. But as a first stab at a mainstream music career, it’s exceptional. A real palette taste for what Kills improves upon later.
But, seriously. ‘Mirrors’ is amazing.
That was painless wasn’t it. Let’s hope we haven’t all been cheesed-out by some severe fangirling and have instead been fabulously informed and entertained by some *serious face* music journalism.
Hopefully this article marks the start of a Wicid Celebration of Music, so keep an eye peeled for other stuff revolving around this rather wide topic. And if you feel so strongly about the topic that you feel the compulsive need to comment; go ahead.
Seriously. I live for the banter.