Being a part of what I call #CentrumSilverTwitter (users that are 30 years old and older) means that from time to time, I have to tell #SimilacTwitter to get off my lawn. At the same time, one thing I try not to do is pretend that there is no more "good music" made. While a lot of my favorite music was recorded prior to 1998 (I am 36 years old; this means that my coming of age occurred in the 90s, which is 6th grade through college for me; thus, a lot of my favorite music was recorded in the 80s or 90s), every year I easily find at least 5 new albums that I enjoy. New music. There is always good music. And the truth is, every decade, era and genre of music always includes sublime, great, good, average, mediocre, bad and "never listen to this, ever" levels of music. Not all music that is "old" is good; not all music that is "new" is bad. Music tastes are subjective.
Anyway, below is a list of my top 9 favorite albums of 2015. This is music that moves me. That sounds good to me. That inspires me. That makes me laugh. That makes me cry. This is music that caused a reaction in me. Music that I have to play every week, and for some of these albums, almost everyday. Music that I think is spectacular.
1) Unbreakable - Janet Jackson: This album is great. It feels like the right album at the right time for Janet. This album is music to heal to and music to celebrate that healing to. Some songs are somber and reflective; others are exciting; others great for dancing. My favorite song on the album is "Lessons Learned." I would love a remix of this song with Stevie Nicks, one of my all-time favorite singers. I also saw her live this year, a lifetime dream come true. The Unbreakable World Tour concert was great. Anyway, this is how I order her discography: Rhythm Nation, Control, The Velvet Rope, Janet, Unbreakable, All For You, Dream Street, Damita Jo, Janet Jackson, 20 Y.O, and Discipline.
2) Black Liberation Theology - Jasiri X: This hip hop album is so incredible and is my favorite in the genre for the year. It is poetic; powerful; pleasurable. The voices of James Baldwin, Reverend Jeremiah Wright, Nikki Giovanni, Nina Simone, Marcus Garvey and more are included. Jasiri X is like a cold flame on this album; chilling expression of the reality of Black life in America with the warmth of love for Black people pulsing in every bar. I love how it starts with voices of our forerunners who have passed on and some elders and ends with verses including youth. I also like how he kinda softens up for the song "Heaven," although my overall favorite song on the album is "King James." Great album.
3) Blood - Lianne La Havas: I absolutely adore her voice. It is sultry but weightless. It has an effortless beauty to it that warms me and moves me. This album definitely feels like a story when listened to straight through. There is a boldness to certain songs and yet it ends so softly and beautifully with "Good Goodbye," which is also my favorite song on the album. Her music is really a treat to experience.
4) Reality Show - Jazmine Sullivan: This is a perfect R&B album. Perfection. Jazmine has incredible vocals and also created an album that truly feels like story to me. From insecurity to confidence, shakily in questionable love to standing strongly in self-love. It feels somewhat restless, and appropriately so, exploring the difficulties of romantic and self-love. My favorite song on the album is "Veins;" it perfectly conveys the glorious agony of love. Sometimes though, my favorite song is "Mona Lisa." It feels like what "***Flawless" is for Beyoncé's self-titled album, just as "Mascara" on Reality Show feels like what "Pretty Hurts" is for Beyoncé's self-titled album. I love this album.
5) Ardipithecus - Willow Smith: Kudos to this 15 year old, incredible Black girl. I love this album. It has expected youthful angst but also some reflection and presentation of her perspective on her own life journey as questions that really anyone of any age can think about. Her vocals are strong and unique. Her song "Why Don't You Cry" is my favorite; beautiful. I listen to it on repeat. I am HERE for carefree Black girls and Black children being truly free.
6) But You Caint Use My Phone - Erykah Badu: While I do enjoy Erykah's studio albums (especially Mama's Gun) more than this mixtape, I still adore this mixtape. It sounds like she was having a good time working on this project. Her vocals are beautiful, as usual. She mentioned in an interview that Toronto-style music influenced this project and I do like the sound. My favorite song on this mixtape is "Phone Down."
7) Standing Still - Ruby Amanfu: One of my Twitter followers introduced me to her music just this year. She had me at hello. Her voice is really beautiful and her songs have such substance and texture. She honestly makes me think of a Black Stevie Nicks, but still puts her own unique touch on her music. In my favorite song on the album, "Where You Going," she even sings "I've seen crystal visions, they don't make sense." This is classic Stevie Nicks; "crystal visions," circa 1977 in "Dreams."
8) Jay Z - B-Sides: Live From New York City (TIDAL) - Jay Z: Technically, this not an album; it was a live performance streamed on TIDAL and it was spectacular. I wish it were an album; I listen to the audio from the performance all of the time. His b-sides are like light years more amazing than most of his singles that charted well and are played on the radio. He really made my year when he performed "We Made It" with Jay Electronica. The latter also performed "Exhibit C," one of my favorite hip hop songs, ever. Jay Z performed 2 of his songs from what I call his holy trilogy: "Allure" and "Can I Live." All I needed was "Beach Chair" and 2015 would have been made, musically.
9) Lalah Hathway Live - Lalah Hathaway: Look, Lalah is just rude about her vocal range. Rude! Like, just let the vocal choppa spray, sis. I mean...I can't even. This live album is beautiful and rich. Her voice soothes me like church without the theism and drama. It is healing music. When I really want to hear someone who unapologetically can sing with every fibre of their being, she is one of these voices. My favorite song on the album is "This Is Your Life."
Other music that I definitely have to mention:
Black Messiah; it was released December 2014, so I did not list it above, but it is a beautiful, utterly perfect album to me and has been something emotional and powerful to listen to for all of 2015. "Yoga" by Janelle Monáe. It is not an entire album, but I really enjoyed this song as a follow up to her incredible album The Electric Lady in 2013.
Controversy, or whatever:
Now, there are some "popular" albums that are not listed here because again, this is a personally curated list of my favorite albums of 2015. I am not into Adele. After Kendrick Lamar's consistent statements shaped by the politics of respectability, I pulled away from listening to his music early in 2015. I like when Drake is in songs with Beyoncé or Nicki Minaj, for example, but I am not deeply into his music, in general. And Future? I do not really "get" him, though I still use his phrase "move that dope" metaphorically.
2015 was a great year of listening to good music. According to Spotify:
- The first song I played in 2015 was "Potpourri 70s" by Los Van Van.
- The top artist that I played was Hans Zimmer.
- The second top artist that I played was Janet Jackson.
- The top album that I played was Interstellar - Motion Picture Soundtrack (Deluxe Version).
- The second top album that I played was Original Soundtrack From Season 1 of Empire (Deluxe).
- The top genres of music that I played were film/game soundtracks, R&B and hip hop.
- The most played song was "Glory" from the film Selma; 23 times in a single day.
- I listened to 625 different artists on Spotify in 2015.
- I listened to 2,406 different songs on Spotify in 2015.
- I listed to 859 hours of music on Spotify in 2015.
My day to day music playlists:
I have a Spotify account; my user name is the same as it is on Twitter: thetrudz. Below are links to some of my favorite playlists that I have made. The numbers of songs listed are as of the date of this post; of course over time the numbers will increase. The first 2 are film-related playlists. As far as soundtracks released in 2015 go, I am enjoying John Williams' Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens. Film scores relax me, inspire me and is music that I work, think and sleep to. (For more of my film-related content, visit Cinemacked. For my writing on Black women's music, visit Gradient Lair; once a digital anthology is ready on this topic specifically, it will be posted in Publications.)
- Fave Film Scores - 426 songs
- Epic Salsa - 200 songs
- Hans Zimmer, Tha Gawd - 155 songs
- Hip Hop Faves - 135 songs
- Womanist Mixtape (my most popular Spotify playlist) - 120 songs
- Beautiful Struggle - 106 songs
- R&B Faves - 90 songs
- Jazz & Neo-Soul - 85 songs
- Pop & Eclectic - 84 songs
- Sounds of The World - 81 songs
- Rock Hard - 74 songs
- Electronic, Techno & Trance - 70 songs
- Classic Rock & Modern Folk - 52 songs
- Cello & Classical Expressions - 51 songs
- Cool Classic Soul - 46 songs
- Righteous Reggae - 41 songs
- The Blues - 21 songs
- Dancehall and Soca Chunes - 16 songs
- Gospel Greats - 14 songs
- ***Flawless Crown (Beyoncé and Jay Z duets) - 11 songs
I had a good year of listening to music and I look forward to good stuff in 2016!
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