I agreed with Billboard that The London Sessions was Mary J. Blige‘s best work since The Breakthrough. Every true fan needs it, and if you’re not, still don’t miss on this fantastic album. Blige had travelled to London for both a personal and musical retreat, and her mission of collaborating with English artists and producers delivered such majestic results, it feels like a blessing Blige made that trip overseas. Beautiful tracks that you’ll have on repeat will be the Emeli Sande assisted and tormented “Whole Damn Year”. It’s so true to the progress of getting over heartbreak, it nearly stings but you’ve been there, so you keep listening. You’re guaranteed a church session with that one. Another unforeseen characteristic of Sessions is how ’90s club house it is, as the Queen of Hip-Soul worked with skilled dance producers like Disclosure (“Right Now”) and Naughty Boy (“Pick Me Up”) for some of her most thrilling songs in years. The tracks are definitely for us that sorely missed out on the Club Kids era of New York City. Who knew Blige had in her to be a Donna Summer? The London Sessions is a wonderful mix of Doo-Wop, Soul, and Dance, and her voice is so clear and assured, this album is both an American and English treasure. If only Amy Winehouse was still with us as Blige was a fan and would’ve certainly been featured (imagine!)
A wunderkind of sorts, for having self-published and promoted three mixtapes prior to her major label debut Aquarius, Tinashe‘s creates music sometimes more mature than artists her junior. The album came nearly ten months after she blew up with the bubbly hip-hop production of DJ Mustard‘s “2On” which then became the anomaly since for Aquarius she mainly retreated back to the aura of her ProTools days with aquatic-like or muffled bombast beats. Viewed as a star on the rise in contemporary R&B, the tracks I couldn’t get enough of were the determined “Bet” and vampy “All Hands On Deck”. There was also the very touching “Pretend” with its all-too familiar blow-by-blow account of knowing when it’s about that time to call it quits on a relationship.
Gosh. It seems like the world was such a different place the last time D’Angelo was on the scene. Though honored already within the BET and Soul Train world, the big time came with his excellent second album Voodoo and its memorable video for “Untiled (How Does It Feel)”. Yet, the golden scribe of ardent R&B became a recluse of his own talent and fame. After sporadic performance and false release dates, finally came Black Messiah. And D’Angelo pulled a Bruce Springsteen and Prince in that he arrived with a band. He’s now D’Angelo and The Vanguard. Black Messiah is unapologetically funk and its songs feel like a tribute to the true artistry of R&B from the ’60s and ’70s. He made no efforts or even inclinations whatsover to cater to the what can sometimes be a superfluous platter of sound effects and features most heard in music today. D’Angelo kept to it true to what still inspires him and because of that, Black Messiah may had been 2014’s most musically authentic release. I loved “1000 Deaths”, “The Charade”, “Sugah Daddy” and “Really Love”, which all just happened to play back to back.
Ahhh… Charli XCX‘s Sucker. A wild influx of electro-punk-pop and new wave that the teenager in me that missed the 80s (as she did) really enjoyed. All I wanted to do while listening to it was get a pair of fresh Doc Martens and take a road trip as there seemed to be a kind of you only live one motif that captured me. Her album was an unexpected stand out because of her age (22) and success in singing the hook of Iggy Azalea‘s major pop hit “Fancy”. Her throaty, rock star voice as super awesome and distinctive to listen to, she very much commands your attention, which is all the more guaranteed with Sucker as a how to guide to celebrating being young and reckless. I made note of tracks like “Body Of My Own” and “Caught In The Middle”. Her predecessors like Pat Benatar would be proud. (OMG, she should maybe do a remake of Benatar’s “Love Is A Battlefield“!!)
Oh, Lykke Li. Here poetic takes on love found and lost are so tortured, you want to send homegirl some cupcakes. Yet her the dark romanticism of I Never Learn is beautifully layered with emotions and paeans to why is it that even when we know better, we still continue to hold hope that not doing so will give us what we want. Though I hate to see a sad Lykke Li, when she has happier days ahead, and whenever we get to hear that expressed in future releases, she can find comfort in that some of the most heartfelt music of her already great catalog (who else is till jamming to “I Follow Rivers”, one of the greatest songs of the last decade) are on this album with tracks like “Silver Line” and “No Rest for the Wicked”.
HONORABLE MENTIONS: VII by Teyana Taylor, The New Classic by Iggy Azalea, 1989 by Taylor Swift, My Everything by Ariana Grande, Goddess by Banks, Forest Hills Drive 2014 by J. Cole, Love, Marriage and Divorce by Babyface and Toni Braxton, St. Vincent by St. Vincent, Me. I Am Mariah…The Elusive Chanteuse by Mariah Carey, My Krazy Life by YG, Run the Jewels 2 by Run the Jewels
MY FAVORITE 13 SINGLES! NO PARTICULAR ORDER PAST AND ONLY BEING LANA DEL REY’S “WEST COAST” WHICH IS AT NUMBER ONE:
1. “West Coast” by Lana Del Rey
2. “The Worst” by Jhene Aiko
3. “I’m Not The Only One” by Sam Smith
4. “Black Widow” by Iggy Azalea featuring Rita Ora
5. Bang Bang” by Jessie J featuring Ariana Grande and Nicki Minaj
6. “Baby Don’t Lie” by Gwen Stefani
7. “Love Me Harder” by Ariana Grande featuring The Weeknd
8. “7/11” by Beyonce
9. “Collide” by Justine Skye
10. “Chandelier” by Sia
11. “i” by Kendrick Lamar
12. “Smoke, Drink, Break Up” by Mila J
13. “Living for Love” by Madonna