‘I don’t feel guilty about the music I love. If you feel guilty about something you dig, then you should stop feeling guilty about it’ – Corey Taylor
You all know I’m dead into my music, and this is one of those posts that’s been floating around in my drafts for years now, because other more interesting things have taken over. I’ve been reminiscing a lot recently about Christmas presents of yore, and how every year me and my brother would have a list a long as our arms of CDs we wanted. Buying albums is a bit of a lost art now thanks to screaming sites like Spotify; it’s so much easier now to just create a playlist of all your favourite tunes. So, for nostalgia purposes, I’ve put together a list of my all time top ten albums, all killer, no filler…
Madonna – True Blue (1986)
Everyone remembers the first album they ever had and for me it was True Blue by the Queen herself. So it’s handy really that it’s so an absolute corker of one. The bar was set high for me from an early age. It’s small but perfectly formed and one of those where I forget which songs were singles and which were album tracks because I love them all equally. Actually singles aside, which your common or garden Madonna fan will probably know, Live to Tell is a favourite of mine and my mums. In fact we sang it on karaoke on my hen night. Well, we wailed it really. And White Heat is just a brilliant pop song, in fact it wouldn’t sound out of place on a Little Mix album with a bit of remixing (ok, maybe a Girls Aloud album, Little Mix are pretty cool to be fair). It definitely wasn’t one of her biggest selling albums, or one that had her biggest hits, but it’s one of the last ones before she started getting her kit off all the time and smooching on with Vanilla Ice. Simpler times.
Phil Collins – But Seriously… (1989)
The one thing I always maintain I that I’m honest, I never maintained that I was cool. Whilst he certainly didn’t cover himself in glory in the 80s when his cheeky chappie persona slipped and he was revealed to actually be a bit of a nasty bastard , hey, I was 7 when this album came out, what did I care? So say what you want about Phil but he knows how to pen a good ballad. Do you Remember and Wish it Would Rain Down are constant faves of my mine for sitting on the metro looking longingly out the rainy window. And in case you were worried that he was a one trick pony Something Happened on the Way to Heaven is an absolute stomper. Get down with the trumpets.
De La Soul – 3ft High and Rising (1989)
When MTV actually just played music videos all day they had very few ‘shows’. One of the shows they did have though was Yo! MTV Raps. It was always on late at night but repeated an edited version at 7am on a Sunday morning which I would watch before Inspector Gadget. Bearing in mind I was still only 7 years old at the time, I’m not trying to make up I was some rap and hip hop prodigy, I’m not saying I was into KRS One or NWA – most of the show would be of very little interest to me. But one thing I was really drawn to was the happier, poppier, more positive rap like De La Soul. I loved the way they dressed (a precursor to geek chic if ever there was one) with their flat tops and brightly coloured shirts and music videos full of colour and silliness. The style of the songs were almost nursery rhyme like but with a way more positive message than just how much money they had or how many women they’d doinked. Me Myself and I, and The Magic Number aside, which everyone knows (and are stellar bangers for sure) this album is all. Killer. No. filler in it’s surest form. Say No Go is a particular stand out for me (sampling I Can’t Go for That by Hall and Oats – the BEST 80s song of all time ever) PLUS Q-Tip performs on Buddy, and he’s my favourite rapper of all time. The biggest travesty of this whole thing? The album isn’t available on Spotify, which means good old mp3 for me to get my De La Fix.
Michael Jackson – Dangerous (1991)
Say what you want about the guy, and most people will, but you can’t deny that musically MJ is the best pop performer to have ever lived. I was really torn between Dangerous and Bad as my favourite Jackson as both played an important part of my musical education. Musically, however, I prefer the more r’n’b edge that Dangerous brings, which is largely thanks to most of the album being produced by Teddy Riley of Blackstreet fame. It was single heavy with 9 of the 14 tracks being released, 7 of which hit the UK top ten but it will come as no surprise that my favourite song on the album is She Drives Me Wild – which wasn’t released as a single. I believe it’s such a strong album that it could be released by anyone today and still sound modern – a trust testament to how ahead of the game he was.
Alanis Morissette – Jagged Little Pill (1995)
The question isn’t why is this album in my top ten, it’s why isn’t it in everybody’s? Alanis came along just at the right time and acted as the meat in the Green Day/Backstreet Boys sandwich that was the mid-nineties. One look of her dragging the carcass of a boyfriend past through the desert like a banshee in the You Oughta Know video and I knew we were going to be lifelong friends. It’s another one of those albums where I forget which songs were released as singles because I know them all so well, the epitome of the phrase all killer, no filler. And although I was only 13 when the album was released so couldn’t exactly relate to her woman scorned attitude, it was an education into what dirtbags some men could potentially be and did more for girl power than the Spice Girls ever managed . In my humble opinion.
Matchbox 20 – Mad Season (2000)
Perhaps I’m just a secret rooter for the underdog but I do often tend to gravitate towards albums that are the least commercially successful in a band catalogue; Mad Season followed the brilliant Yourself or Someone Like You and was widely considered to be Matchbox 20’s ‘sophomore slump’ of an album. They’d clearly made a bit of dosh and spent it on some fancy, shiny orchestra instruments (for songs like Bed of Lies and Last Beautiful Girl) and this rubbed up the MOR Adult contemporary crowd the wrong way. I like it though, and again, song for song I think Mad Season has more consistently good songs than any other album they’ve released. Lyrically it’s the gift that keeps on giving too – which makes my lyric of the day on twitter so much easier!
Robyn – Don’t Stop the Music (2002)
Whereas my tastes do like to dabble in the lighter side of rock and rap, I’ll always be a pop girl at heart and Swedish pop starlet Robyn’s third album is the best pop album I’ve ever heard. It was only ever released in Sweden and Japan however thanks to modern technology is now widely downloadable almost everywhere. Her first album was Max Martin produced; full of tracks that had clearly been rejected by Britney Spears and her more recent electronica stuff is a bit too cool for school for me. This album sits perfectly in the middle though with catchy summery upbeat numbers and touching soft ballads. I would go as far as to say that Still Your Girl is one of, if not the best pop song ever written and Should Have Known was so good she put a reworked version on her fourth album too.
Backstreet Boys – Never Gone (2005)
Of course I couldn’t have a list without my boys however I feel like this may be a unpopular choice among fans. I say among fans because this album sold so poorly that I’d be amazed that the general CD buying public of 2005 were even aware of its existence. Picking your favourite album of your favourite band is difficult because you’re so familiar with their entire back catalogue you forgot what collection actually sat together. So I gave this one a lot of thought and came to the conclusion that track for track; Never Gone is my favourite Backstreet Boys album. Ok, so it doesn’t have any Swedish pop classics that they’re most known for and is widely seen as their ‘experimental’ phase where they tried actual instruments but I think the more acoustic sound really suits their voices and the blend between being adult contemporary and still pure pop works for them perfectly. Incomplete is Ang and mine’s karaoke song anyway so it had to appear!
Childish Gambino – Camp (2011)
The older I get the rarer it is that I discover new music however in recent years I’ve dipped in and out of pop playlists on Last.fm to add some variety into my musical diet. Childish Gambino was one of those artists and I have been a grade A superfan ever since. I’ve always been a big fan of pop/rap (see Del La Soul above) and in a sea of Eminem’s and Dr Dre’s Camp is a refreshing change. Camp is the perfect sun lounger album so you can really listen to the lyrics and absorb what’s being said; they’re witty, unapologetic and sometimes heart-breaking, and whereas I don’t claim to know much about the ins and out of rap culture, nor was raised in the ghettos of Atlanta, a lot of the words are highly relatable. Meaning he’s able to appeal to wide range of audiences with just the right amount of catchiness to have a dirty beat but still be able to hum along. Stand out tracks? Heartbeat, Kids and That Power
Sway – Deliverance (2015)
Me going on about Sway won’t come as a shock to you since I’ve reviewed his last two albums on the blog in great depth already. Typically a grime/garage artist, which I’ve never been a massive fan of, apart from the odd Dizzee Rascal song, but Deliverance leans heavily more into the 90s rap/hip hop sound that I’m so deeply in love with (you may have picked that up above!). There are some absolute bangers like Still Speeding, Reign Dance and of course, my all-time favourite Sway track Level Up. But also some really deep inspiring stuff like The Sea (where he talks about his lymphoma diagnosis) and Follow You were he talks about finding inner strength and helping yourself out of trouble. The important social commentary and clever articulate lyrics appeal to my natural love of words (I’ve always been a lyric over melody girl) and the fact he’s actually rapping about real things, not just ‘money, cash, hoes’ means even this chubby blonde white girl from Newcastle can get her rhythmless groove on to it!
Come on then leads, hit me with your best albums of all time in the comments below, no judgement I swear (I mean, one of my favourite albums is by Phil Collins, I don’t have any room to talk!)