2008, 2008, 2008! What can be said about another year that dealt hands of hope and despair equally in terms of music? Madonna lost the groove (but she still gets love from The Blend), Britney attempted to reacquire it, Usher was outclassed, Kanye West let his ego supercede his talent, and of course Beyoncé attempted to upstage everyone.
There were glimmers of promise where veteran acts continued to step their game up, and a few new surprises really made an impact than not expected. Here at The QH Blend while I acknowledge genre walls, it's quality that brings together the acts in this list. These artists embodied artistry because they stared down musical mediocrity without flinching. I present the 13 Records of 2008, QH Blend style.
#13. Common: Universal Mind Control
Even a cool, hip-hop monk such as Common has to have fun sometimes. Over a bubbly and kinetic production map, courtesy of the re-energized Neptunes, Common wants to chill, make-out, and pose a few socially conscious questions to the girl he was chatting up. The flows here aren't always brilliant, but they are always clever and executed efficiently.
#12. Jewel: Perfectly Clear
Jewel's vocal strength has been that she can wear a variety of vocal hats: girlishly soft or harsh and strained. The dusty, sensuous gleam of Perfectly Clear is grounded in the various country doused, guitar-laden settings. Brazen and flirtatious in equal measure, Jewel's presence is always one of curvaceous romanticism.
#11. Donna Summer: Crayons
Pop doesn’t sound this good, unless you're Donna Summer. The Queen herself returned with her first original LP in over a decade and didn't disappoint. With a voice that defied gravity and any sort of genre boxing, Summer touched on dance, bossa nova, and R&B, these being the tip of the iceberg when discussing Crayons' sonic contents.
#10. Alanis Morissette: Flavors of Entanglement
Not content with anger for anger's sake, Morissette has entered a new, amber-hued sphere of her alternative rock/pop sound. Courting a more uptempo sound in spots, bordering on trip-hop, Morissette's vocal exorcisms and affirmations brought a much needed human warmth to the proceedings.
#9. Estelle: Shine
Neneh Cherry is somewhere smiling in approval. The torch of the female emcee who can spit and croon in ample amounts has found a new owner: Estelle. Sonic summer in terms of its reggae bumps and grinds, Euro-disco one-off's, and British hip-hop swagger, all of these sounds hold Estelle's buoyancy effortlessly.
#8. Lenny Kravitz: It is Time for a Love Revolution
Kravitz always parties like the '60's and '70's never ended, depending on what album you catch him on. On Revolution, Kravitz has internalized his influences bringing enough of himself to his old school rock and soul tricks. Revolution also displayed Kravitz as an under appreciated male vocalist.
#7. Brandy: Human
If not certain before, with Human, Brandy now casts away any doubt at her vocal interpretation abilities when bringing her own story to a song. Paired again with Rodney "Darkchild" Jerkins, her musical partner, Brandy's maturity is sound tracked appropriately and updated perfectly.
#6. Janet Jackson: Discipline
Janet Jackson is matched only by Prince in producing a noticeable enough change to her sound to draw ears to each new record she releases. Discipline is a platter of Quiet Storm come-on's, post-coital slow jams, and polished urban dance music with emphasis on Jackson's quality over quantity position.
#5. Swing Out Sister: Beautiful Mess
Swing Out Sister wear their love of Mendes and Bacharach on their sleeves, as their ninth LP demonstrates this effectively. Corinne Drewery vamped and vocally pulled out every stop in partner Andy Connell's arrangements, which drew from the duos aforementioned inspirations. Over 21 years strong, British pop isn't nearly as divine as this.
#4. Q-Tip: The Renaissance
There is more to hip-hop than ego, and in a time when that seems to be the only requirement for this movement, Q-Tip arrived to walk the walk. A spacious, airy, groovy party record, with occasional thoughts to concerns of love and the world, Tip's cadenced rhymes don't lack for anything.
#3. k.d. lang: Watershed
k.d. lang is the manifestation of the chanteuse. Check out the smoky, moody, sensual stylings of her 10th and first self-produced LP. Her rich voice wrapped itself around sparse country twang, ‘60’s lounge, and contemporary adult pop fluff with a maximum of panache and a minimum of fuss.
#2. Solange: Sol-Angel and Hadley St. Dreams
Candy-coated gems that showcased Solange's impressive vocalizing litter Hadley St. Dreams. Whether dividing between the retro swing of "I Decided, Part 1" or organic soul flourishes like "T.O.N.Y" and "6 'O' Clock Blues," Solange assuredly released one of the better R&B records of 2008.
#1. Cyndi Lauper: Bring Ya to the Brink
Cyndi Lauper is still around and that she’s around making work as cutting edge and engaging as this album is not a real shocker. Taking her excellent songwriting skills to the dance music arena, Lauper managed a mean mix of introspection and escape. Vocally, she hasn’t lost any of her chutzpah, and that alone is worth the price of admission.-QH