In the world of music, 2010 seemed to be the year of the underdog. There was Arcade Fire, which hit Billboard No. 1 on an indie label. Taylor Swift bested seasoned vets to become the only artist this year to sell more than a million albums in one week. Even Kanye West probably felt like David, facing a Goliath-sized amount of bad press. All of those come-from-behind tales made for a rewarding year.
“My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy”
by Kanye West
After self-imposed exile in Hawaii and a much-needed ego check, West surfaced with an unapologetic, overwhelming and star-studded opus. “Fantasy” pushes limits and could convert any hater into Yeezy’s biggest fan. Tracks to download: “Monster,” “Dark Fantasy”
by Arcade Fire
No band better captures the delights and uncertainties of youth than Arcade Fire. On “The Suburbs,” the indie rockers look both forward and back, revisiting the places where they grew up and contemplating the world their kids will inhabit. Tracks to download: “We Used to Wait,” “Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)”
“Thank Me Later”
Hip-hop newcomer Drake boasts with the best of them on his debut disc, “Thank Me Later.” Materialism never sounded so smooth. Track to download: “Fireworks,” feat. Alicia Keys; “Miss Me,” feat. Lil Wayne
by Girl Talk
The DJ idolized by dance-party obsessed 20-somethings released his latest album with no warning and no price tag. It’s more of his mash-up genius, whose particularly inspired segments include a combo of “Get Low” and Simon and Garfunkel, and the interpolation of Radiohead’s “Creep” into “Shimmy Shimmy Ya.” Tracks to download: Why pick and choose? It’s free.
“Sir Luscious Leftfoot … The Son of Chico Dusty”
by Big Boi
The Atlanta rapper emerged from years of record-label limbo with a forward-thinking, infectious solo LP that reminds us that Andre 3000 wasn’t the only one pulling the strings in OutKast. Tracks to download: “Shutterbug,” “Shine blockas”
by Janelle Monae
No artist in 2010 performed with as much unbridled joy and charisma as futuristic neo-soul vixen Monae. Her debut, a 70-minute concept album about her messianic android alter ego, seems high-minded at first, but its themes of love and identity ring universal. Tracks to download: “Tightrope,” “Cold war”
Singles We Loved
“F*** You” by Cee-Lo Green
Despite its unprintable name and broken-heart tale, the jazzy “F*** You” always makes us smile. We’d love you even if you were more of an Atari than an Xbox, Cee-Lo.
“Mine” by Taylor Swift
In her catchy ballad, Swift shows us through “a careless man’s careful daughter” how we can learn from our parents’ relationship mistakes and not repeat them.
Most Annoying Artist: Justin Bieber
The first time we heard him sing, we thought, “Hey, that girl has a nice voice.” The hype, the hair, and the Biebs-brand nail polish simply baffle us.