Thursday, 29 December 2011

The Urbanite End of Year Awards (The Countdown) - R&B Album of the Year

The other week, we gave you The Urbanite's definitive list of the best music and artists of 2011.  With only days away until the end of the year, and after much deliberation and last minute changes, the list has finally been made.  We'll be revealing the winners on the 31st, but here is a look at the acts that just missed the cut and why: Up next, R&B Album of the Year.  

5. Beyonce - 4

2011 may be the year that Beyonce finished imprinting her name into the music industry's hall of fame; and not just because she has been impregnated by the most powerful man in the business.  No, 2011 was  mainly Beyonce's year because she managed to defy all expectations with a brilliant performance at Glastonbury of all places.  Whilst her fourth solo album was no 'I am Sasha Fierce', it was still a great record that had a number of major hits.  

One of them, obviously, being Run the World (Girls), which sounds like nothing else in the charts today and is a welcome break from the bland David Guetta inspired R&B that we have been saturated with for the past few years.  And that is the main strength of 4 as an album: much of it sounds completely different to what is out in the charts and for that to come from an artist who could still have sold credibly had she stuck to her same old formula, is highly commendable.  

Listen to Countdown, for example, or 1+1 and you can hear the types of tunes that future Rihanna's will be making down the line.  Even the soppy ballads, like the Frank Ocean written I Miss You, have a special flavour to them and shows that Beyonce's team are ahead of the game in spotting the brightest and freshest writers and producers.  

Track of the album is 'Best I Never Had' - an anthem for all to their exes.  It is with songs like this that she really shines and, maternity distractions aside, Beyonce will be looking to another successful year in 2012.  

Choons to Download: Run the World (Girls), 1+1, Countdown, Best I Never Had

4. Jessie J - Who Are You

In all honesty, The Urbanite has been a reluctant fan of Jessie J.  Sure, Do It Like A Dude was a great pop song, but it got very annoying, very quickly.  As did Price Tags.  Add to the equation the fact that she was another Brit School graduate that was being tipped for the top and all indicators pointed to Jessie J being either a one-hit wonder or another heavily manufactured British female artist.  

But it is on the less commercial songs on Who Are You that really make this album a solid piece of R&B.           Who's Laughing Now is a good shout out to all the haters out there and Nobody's Perfect is an attitude packed track that could have been written for Beyonce or Rihanna.  

This album only really got our attention, however, after Misha B sang the album's title track as her save me song on X-Factor.  Who Are You is a beautifully written song that will surely be used on TV dramas for years to come. It will also be sung endlessly by X-Factor hopefuls, which is a shame.  You can tell that the lyrics of the song are personal to the singer and the self-empowerment aspect of Jessie J's personality shines on this track.  

Choons to Download: Who Are You, Who's Laughing Now, Nobody's Perfect, Price Tags

3. Rihanna - Talk That Talk

Released towards the end of the year, Talk That Talk is Rihann's sixth studio album.  It seems like only yesterday that she dropped the successful Loud, and this follow-up is an even better release than 2010's multi-platinum selling album.  Riding on the wave of one of the year's most successful songs, the Calvin Harris produced We Found Love, this was an album that was highly anticipated - and for good reason. 

Obviously We Found Love is the song of the album.  An instant club-classic, the song confirms that when the Bajan singer gets in bed with Euro-techno producers like Harris and David Guetta.  The album's title track features Jay Z on fine form telling us, amongst other things, about Beyonce's peeing habits.  The album's opener, You The One, also has that loud Ibiza sound and will be played on beaches around the world next year.  

Of all her albums, the sexual innuendo on Talk That Talk comes out the strongest.  On Cockiness Rihanna tries to be subtle, singing "suck my cockiness, lick my persuasion".  On Birthday Cake she is just outright and upfront - "oohh I wanna fuck you right now" - even though it's not our birthday.  Seems like the chains and whips on S&M weren't enough for RiRi.  The Urbanite, for one, is not complaining.  

Choons to Download: Talk That Talk, We Found Love, Cockiness, You Da One

2. Adele - 21

In terms of record sales and all-round influence, 2011 is the year of Adele.  Her second album, 21, is now the biggest selling album of the century in the space of eight months, selling over 3.4million records.  In terms of achievement, this is massive.  It took Amy Whinehouse's Black to Black five years to reach that number, and that was a classic album whose numbers got boosted by her sad death in July.  

21, on the other hand, has not left the top ten in the UK since it was released and received six grammy nominations, including album of the year.  She is the biggest selling female artist on both sides of the Atlantic and has been remixed from everyone to The XX to Tyga.  

As an album, 21 begins and ends on an epic note.  As soon as the south-Londoner's voice kicks in on Rollin in the Deep we know that we are going to be taken on a journey through a girl's broken heart.  It is easily one of the songs of the year that brings a smile and a nod of the head whenever it comes on the radio.  The second song, Rumour Has It, literally picks up from where Rollin in the Deep finishes off, leaving the listener no time to take in the pleasure of the first song and chucks them into another sea of rhythm and attitude.  

One would think that with all the sad tales of cheating boyfriends and failed relationships this album would leave many people reaching for the razor.  But it is the way that Adele delivers her notes, and the wit in her lyrics, that makes this such a great album from start to finish.  The influence of legendary producer Rick Rubin ('99 Problems') is clearly evident, especially on the brilliant Don't You Remember.  

The album ends with Someone Like You, which became even more of a classic after her breathtaking performance of the song at the Brit Awards.  From the first line ("I heard that you, settled down") we know where we are going with this message to a former lover.  To say that it is emotional is an understatement.  By the time we get to the end of the song, we end up believing that she really will find 'someone like you' and that she really does 'wish the best for you', even though deep down we know it is probably not true.  It seems like Adele has been hurt a lot over her life.  Which is good for us, if it keeps inspiring music like this.  

Choons to Download: The whole album, otherwise Someone Like You, Turning Table

See all nominations here.  Winners will be revealed on 31st December

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