Friday, January 18, 2008

2007: in review, + a few late-breakers

So firstly, here's my Idolator Pop Critics Poll ballot.

ALBUMS (descending points, please, 15 through 5)
1. Jay-Z, American Gangster (Roc-A-Fella)
2. Jermaine Dupri, Y’All Know What This Is... The Hits (Island Urban)
3. Lil Wayne, Da Drought 3 (mixtape)
4. Kanye West, Graduation (Roc-A-Fella)
5. Freemasons, Shakedown (Loaded UK)
6. Kanye West, Can’t Tell Me Nothing (The Official Mixtape Mixed by Plain Pat) (mixtape)
7. Marcus Intalex, Fabriclive.35 (Fabric UK)
8. nine inch nails, With Teeth (Nothing)
9. Reba McEntire, Reba Duets (MCA Nashville)
10. Robert Plant & Alison Krauss, Raising Sand (Rounder)

TRACKS (you mean "Singles"? I'm a formalist, sorry)
1. Rich Boy featuring Polow Da Don, “Throw Some D’s” (Zone 4/Interscope)
2. Kanye West, “Stronger” (Roc-A-Fella)
3. R. Kelly featuring T.I. and T-Pain, “I’m A Flirt Remix” (Jive)
4. UGK featuring OutKast, “International Players Anthem (I Choose You)” (Jive)
5. Beyoncé & Shakira, “Beautiful Liar” (Music World/Sony Urban)
6. Keyshia Cole featuring Missy Elliott and Lil’ Kim, “Let It Go” (Imani/Geffen)
7. Snoop Dogg, “Sensual Seduction” (Doggystyle/Geffen)
8. CRS, “Us Placers” (no label)
9. De Souza featuring Shena, “Guilty” (Ultra)
10. Beyoncé featuring Jay-Z, “Upgrade U” (Music World/Sony Urban)

REISSUES (i.e. Greatest Hits, kinda)
1. Defected Presents Best of Def Mix (Defected UK)
2. Forever Freestyle (Razor & Tie)
3. Bob Dylan, Dylan (3-CD version) (Columbia/Legacy)
4. The Kay-Gees, Master Plan: The Complete Recordings 1974-78 (Castle/Sanctuary)
5. Led Zeppelin, Mothership (Atlantic)

1. Lil' Wayne
2. Beyoncé
3. Radiohead
4. Kanye West
5. Carrie Underwood

My ballot for the Nashville Scene Country Music Critics Poll was due two weeks later; I don't have it handy, but can tell you that during that interim I got hit by an album that topped both the Reba and Plant/Krauss on my album list - damn you, Soto - and that's Miranda Lambert's Crazy Ex-Girlfriend.

She sings better than you think she does, she writes better than she's got any right to, and she's got attitude for days - but not in a one-note, ahem, redneck woman way. (Gretchen, what went wrong?) Just as adept with tender love songs as with threatening manifestos like opener "Gunpowder & Lead," Lambert sounds like the real deal. I'd avoided her for a while; to be honest, the fact that so many of my rockcrit compatriots who don't typically care for country music were drinking her kool-aid made me skittish. But damn if she doesn't have the talent and the guts to go as far as she wants (except into hitsville? Will country radio ever give her a top 10 single?).

Other late-breakers (if I spend time blurbing all of 'em it'll be another damn week before I post this):
-Radiohead's In Rainbows: surprisingly rich, textured rock from Thom and co. Nigel Goodrich again proves himself fairly invaluable to Britain's best band.
-Music from the Motion Picture I'm Not There: even the people I typically can't stand (Cat Power, come on down!) deliver great Dylan covers.

Had Keith Urban's Greatest Hits: 18 Kids been old enough, it would've made my reissues ballot. Garth Brooks' The Ultimate Hits should've shown up somewhere. Keyshia Cole's Just Like You, a/k/a the last album I reviewed for Stylus, came thisclose to my top 10 (and is the R&B album of the year). Kelly Clarkson's "Never Again" almost made my singles list, as did DJ Khaled's ridiculously great ghetto anthem "I'm So Hood" (his album We The Best should be no rights be anywhere near as good-to-great as it is, either).

Here's the rest of what I sent Idolator:

Basic demo info:
Name: Thomas Inskeep
Age: 37
Sex: M
Queer as Folk
Location: Los Angeles
Spent most of '07 writing for Stylus (RIP) and my personal blogs (notably and

COMMENTS ON 2007 (Ed. Note: incomplete, but at least it's something.)
Go figure - another sub-par year for hip hop (what happened to T.I.? Was it just hubris?), yet you wouldn't necessarily know it looking at my lists. 5 of my top 6 albums are hip hop, and 6 of my top 8 singles (including the mostly-rapped "I'm A Flirt" and the mostly-sung "Sensual Seduction"), plus Missy rapping on Keyshia's single and Jigga on B's. The thing is, when it's ON (and, proverbially, poppin'), nothing's more capable of getting me off musically, of setting all my pleasure centers alight. I was born in 1970, so I've grown up with hip hop; Public Enemy winning '88's *ahem* other poll was a BIG deal for me, akin to some kind of takeover. (And don't misunderstand, Daydream Nation is also in my all-time top 10. But Nation of Millions means more.) And when it comes down to getting me off, nothing hit my G-spot like "Thrown Some D's" this year. I first heard it in January, probably on BET's 106th & Park (which has kinda become must-see for new urban music) and pretty immediately went nuts for it - I even bought Rich Boy's mediocre album (essential not only for "D's" but for, um, the remix of "D's," featuring Jim Jones, Murphy Lee, Nelly, the Game, and the first of series of killer verses this year from Andre 3000 - who's also a significant key to the greatness of UGK's "International Player's Anthem" [Pimp C RIP], though credit also has to go to Three 6 Mafia's superb production job on it). Polow da Don, who runs hot and cold for me but more often hot (cf. Ciara's "Promise," my #2 single of '06), flips a Switch sample like the pro he's become, drops it onto a clattery percussion track, and adds some unzipping synth squiggles, all to support what's likely the greatest rap Rich Boy will ever write.

Kanye's Daft Punk-jacking is genius, taking Busta's "Touch It" to its logical extreme. And it was just the tip of Graduation's iceberg, an album that sounds better with almost each listen. I'd originally dismissed "Barry Bonds" as a throwaway but find that I can't get "Here's another hit, Barry Bonds" outta my head. Like ever. I'm even willing to overlook one of Lil' Wayne's weaker verses of '07 (more on him in a minute). "Good Life" almost made my list, too - what a perfect celebration (and perfect use of T-Pain's talents - it's my favorite single of his this year, with DJ Khaled's "I'm So Hood" a very close second). As for Lil' Wayne? Man of the Year, no question. Almost every verse he dropped this year was off the chain, especially a handful of his freestyles on Da Drought 3. He can't stop recording, 'cause he won't stop, and thank God for that. He hasn't made a great studio album yet, but I've still got hope. And if he doesn't, there's always mixtapes.

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