2008 In Review: Top 5 Albums

I originally was not planning on doing this, but my dear friend Kristina forced was very enthusiastic towards the idea, so here we are.

The top 5 albums of 2008 according to me are as follows:

heart_station#1. Utada Hikaru – Heart Station

1. Fight the Blues
2. Heart Station
3. Beautiful World
4. Flavor of Life – Ballad Version –
5. Stay Gold
6. Kiss & Cry
7. Gentle Beast Interlude
8. Celebrate
9. Prisoner of Love
10. テイク 5 (Take 5)
11. ぼくはくま (Boku wa Kuma)
12. 虹色バス (
Niji-iro Bus
13. Flavor of Life [Bonus Track]

Utada Hikaru has proven herself to be one of Japan’s most enduring and successful artists. Her albums and singles, almost without fail, continue to top the charts in Japan, and her fifth album is no exception. Commercial tie-ins for this album include Beautiful World as the ending theme to Evangelion 1.0: You Are (Not) Alone and Flavor of Life – Ballad Version – as an insert song for the popular television drama Hana Yori Dango 2. Interesting new tracks include Celebrate and テイク 5.

808nheartbreakcover#2. Kanye West – 808s & Heartbreak

1. Say You Will
2. Welcome to Heartbeak feat. Kid Cudi
3. Heartless
4. Amazing feat. Young Jeezy
5. Love Lockdown
6. Paranoid feat. Mr. Hudson
7. RoboCop
8. Street Lights
9. Bad News
10. See You In My Nightmare feat. Lil Wayne
11. Coldest Winter
12. Pinocchio Story [Live Bonus Track]

It’s been a tough year for Kanye West. After the death of his mother and split with his former fiancée, it’s not surprising that the material on this album is decidedly darker than his first three efforts. In addition to being West’s first studio album not bearing the Parental Advisory sticker, it’s also the first time he’s made prominent use of the Auto-Tune vocal tuner device. Themes of loneliness, despair, longing for companionship and, of course, heartbreak take center stage on tracks such as the bass-heavy kickoff single Love Lockdown, Welcome to Heartbreak and the aptly-named RoboCop.

mirotic#3. TVXQ – MIROTIC – The Fourth Album –

2. Wrong Number
3. 노을.. 바라보다(Afterglow)
5. HEY! (Don’t Bring Me Down)
6. 넌 나의 노래 (You’re My Melody)
7. 무지개 (RAINBOW)
8. 낙원 (PARADISE)
9. 악녀 (Are You A Good Girl?)
Flower Lady
11. 잊혀진 계절 (Forgotten Season)
12. Love in the Ice

Ah, I couldn’t resist. Korean supergroup TVXQ are absolutely huge in Asia right now, and I too have fallen victim to their charms. Thumping R&B beats and sleek synths are not in short supply on tracks such as 주문 – MIROTIC, HEY! (Don’t Bring Me Down) and Wrong Number. Sentimental ballads like 노을.. 바라보다(Afterglow) put the boys’ incredible vocal talent on display. If you’re thinking about getting into K-Pop, TVXQ is a great start.

lady_gaga_the_fame-1#4. Lady GaGa – The Fame

1. Just Dance feat. Colby O’Donis and Akon
2. Lovegame
3. Paparazzi
4. Beautiful, Dirty, Rich
5. Eh, Eh (Nothing Else I Can Say)
6. Poker Face
7. The Fame
8. Money Honey
9. Again Again
10. Boys, Boys, Boys
11. Brown Eyes
12. Summerboy

Since the release of her now-ubiquitous debut single, Just Dance, Lady GaGa has seen a massive boost in public recognition and airplay. Full of candy-coated dance beats and a collaboration with one of hip-hop’s most annoying popular artists, Akon, the song has everything it needs to be a massive commercial hit. GaGa’s debut album, The Fame, is chock full of similarly themed dance floor anthems, such as the uber-catchy second single Poker Face and the extremely provocative Lovegame (listeners around the world ponder the term “disco stick”). Fans of electronic music or just plain pop should not miss this promising debut release.

GUILTY_CD+DVD#5. Ayumi Hamasaki – GUILTY

1. Mirror
2. (don’t) Leave me alone
3. talkin’ 2 myself
4. decision
5. Guilty
6. fated
7. Together When…
8. Marionette – prelude –
9. Marionette
10. The Judgement Day
11. My All
12. reBiRTH
13. untitled ~for her~

Another artist that’s had a real hell of a year (loss of hearing in one ear, split with fiancée, death of a close friend, first album not to reach #1 on Oricon), Ayumi Hamasaki brings us her ninth full-length studio album, GUILTY. A true lyrical downer, themes of sorrow, guilt, and self doubt permeate virtually every track, including songs like Guilty, fated and decision. Ayumi also does what she does best on touching ballads such as Together When… and the heartbreaking untitled ~for her~. The unique opener Mirror, an experimental track with chimes, heavy strings and thrashing guitars, was made into a full-length song on the recut single Mirrorcle World. Perhaps the darkest part of Hamasaki’s personal life so far, it seems like there’s nowhere to go but up for this powerhouse in Japan’s music industry.

And there you have it. I’ll try to do music reviews whenever there’s a new album or single by an artist that interests me, so look out for future posts under that category. 2008 was a fairly good year in music, and here’s to hoping that 2009 will be even better.


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