Top 20 Albums of 2009: 10-9
This was the album no one knew they wanted from Rihanna. After a string of ridiculously successful mainstream smashes, she goes and does something closer to the Velvet Rope than All For You (to put it in Janet terms, as I tend to). Rated R is nowhere near as good as the Velvet Rope, but it is a huge step in terms of artistic integrity and reinvention. I imagine it hasn’t appealed to everyone. It’s almost relentlessly dark, but it’s also easily her most consistent work yet. And more importantly, it sounds like the work of a human being, not a production team.
9. Alcazar - Disco Defenders
Before 2009, I’d never listened to an Alcazar album. The band seemed too campy for me, too disco, almost (I know, is that even possible?). Their Melodifestivalen entry forced me to sit up and give them my attention, and I’m glad I did. This is one of the year’s best pop albums. The only reason it’s not higher is because there are a few clunkers in the tracklist that only prove my prior assumption of the group. But the highs are very high, and I can now safely count myself a fan. The opening trio of songs is just pop perfection. That album cover is still dire, though.