Compiling a list of my favorite albums of 2012 was a much easier task this year. We received major releases from some of the biggest artists in the game, welcomed back veterans, and were surprised by a flock of newcomers ready to change the game. While it may not have been a strong year for mainstream pop acts, we saw the rise of up-and-coming hit-makers ready for their moment to shine. Every single album featured on this list I recommend no matter what ranking it received. I love them all for different reasons. Check out my Top 50 list below and comment with your faves of the year below. Thank You.
50. KAZAKY – The Hills Chronicles
49. Adam Lambert – Trespassing
48. Garbage – Not Your Kind of People
47. Gossip – A Joyful Noise
46. Santigold – Master of My Make-Believe
45. Cheryl Cole – A Million Lights
44. Pet Shop Boys – Elysium
43. Leona Lewis – Glassheart
42. The Killers – Battle Born
41. deadmau5 – > album title goes here <
40. Haley Reinhart – Listen Up!
39. Rebecca Ferguson – Heaven
38. One Direction – Take Me Home
37. Justin Bieber – Believe
36. Brandy – Two Eleven
35. Usher – Looking 4 Myself
34. Emeli Sande – Our Version of Events
33. Morgan Page – In The Air
32. The xx – Coexist
31. Dragonette – Bodyparts
30. Conor Maynard – Contrast
29. P!nk – The Truth About Love
28. Christina Aguilera – Lotus
27. Scissor Sisters – Magic Hour
26. Taylor Swift – Red
25. Madonna – MDNA
24. Bruno Mars – Unorthodox Jukebox
23. Carrie Underwood – Blown Away
22. Adrian Lux – Adrian Lux
21. No Doubt – Push and Shove
20. Mumford & Sons – Babel
19. Calvin Harris – 18 Months
18. Maroon 5 – Overexposed
17. Carly Rae Jepsen – Kiss
16. Zedd – Clarity
15. Sam Sparro – Return to Paradise
14. Miike Snow – Happy to You
13. Agnes – Veritas
12. Ellie Goulding – Halcyon
11. Kendrick Lamar – Good Kid, M.A.A.D City
10. Ke$ha – Warrior: Ke$ha created a lot of anticipation after not releasing any new material since Cannibal hit the shelves in November of 2010, but rest assured – she delivered. Featuring production from Max Martin, Dr. Luke, Benny Blanco, Wayne Coyne of the Flaming Lips, Bonnie McKee and more, Warrior is one of the most fully-realized and cohesive pop albums this year. While its certainly a bit of an improvement on its predecessor, it didn’t necessarily deliver on the hype. Instead, K$ gave us pops fans exactly what we wanted, hit after hit and strong fun. It’s genuinely an exciting listen.
9. Miguel – Kaleidoscope Dream: After initially starting out as a songwriter penning songs for Asher Roth, Musiq and Usher; Miguel crafted his own debut, 2010′s All I Want Is You. Yet with his lead single (the album’s title track), the 27-year-old Los Angeles-based soul singer didn’t quite make a huge impact. Little more than a year later, Miguel returned with Kaleidoscope Dream and mastered the early versatility he displayed on All I Want Is You, showcasing a playful-yet-wise mix of pop, funk and soul that rocked my world. The production is free of flaws and Miguel‘s vocals are on-point. Kaleidoscope Dream is one of the most cohesive and listenable albums of 2012.
BUY Miguel’s sophomore album Kaleidoscope Dream on iTunes NOW!
8. Grimes – Visions: I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve slept on Grimes for sometime. On Visions, her third record as Grimes, the 24-year-old Canadian musical genius Claire Boucher meticulously created an entirely weird and magical experience in thirteen songs. Over crunching industrial beats, skittering drum patterns, and dreamy vocal looping offers up a new journey with every listen. Visions is easily one of 2012’s most unique and intriguing records. I’m still in awe of it all.
BUY Grimes’ third studio album Visions on iTunes NOW!
7. Marina & The Diamonds – Electra Heart: On the follow-up to her fantastic 2010 debut, The Family Jewels, Marina and the Diamonds transformed herself into a constructed persona — the titular Electra — a young woman with hopes to live the American Dream as she prances through Hollywood with images of fame, success, flattery and control. Electra Heart is a concept album combining the thrilling work of hitmakers like Dr. Luke, Rick Nowels, Greg Kurstinm and Diplo with Marina‘s super witty brand of songwriting. The Welsh diva poured out some of pop’s most exciting productions this year. Electra Heart is pop with substance.
BUY Marina and the Diamonds sophomore album Electra Heart on iTunes NOW!
6. Rihanna – Unapologetic: Only a year after the release of her sixth studio album Talk That Talk, Rihanna came roaring with more on the controversial Unapologetic. The 24-year-old pop star’s seventh studio album is her most cohesive and unexpected record yet. While it may live on as one of her more under-appreciated, Rihanna truly understands the concept of an era (as short as they are), and she delivered a different sound with Unapologetic. Its moody, explicit, daring, and sonically exciting. I LOVE LOVE Unapologetic. A lot of people hate it and I’m totally at peace with that. #PhuckYoThoughts
BUY Rihanna’s seventh studio album Unapologetic on iTunes NOW!
5. Jessie Ware – Devotion: After gaining some attention from her backing vocals on last year’s self-titled album from dubstep producer SBTRKT, a lot was weighing down on Jessie Ware. Luckily, Devotion, the anticipated debut album from the London-based R&B singer turned out to be a stunner. Like Amy Winehouse, Adele and Duffy before her, Jessie may very well be praised as the smooth voice angel contributing to the rise of a dying genre. Devotion is the sort of classy and sophisticated, soulful pop record that comes along all too rarely. It’s simply lovely.
4. Loreen – Heal: Sadly Scandinavian sensation Loreen is still a name many are unfamiliar with. Earlier this year, the Swedish singer-songwriter snatched wigs with her explosive single “Euphoria” and was crowned the winner of the 2012 Eurovision Song Contest. In October, Loreen released Heal, a glorious set of heartbreaking dance anthems packed with passion, powerhouse vocals, and phenomenal pop production. From “My Heart is Refusing Me” to “Crying Out Your Name” to “Sober,” Heal is an emotional ride that will have you crying on the dancefloor from start to finish.
BUY Loreen’s hit single “Euphoria” on iTunes NOW!
3. The Weeknd – Trilogy: It was only a matter of time before the forward-thinking creators from a under-appreciated genre of popular music, took control, and redefined its soul. This year, a bold new breed of R&B characters have broken tradition and become critically acclaimed artists. In 2011, The Weeknd came out of nowhere with three FREE self-released mixtapes that were better than most albums released last year. Though his debut Trilogy is hardly anything new – House of Balloons, Thursday and Echoes of Silence still sounds fresher than ever. Abel Tesfaye‘s style of vocal crooning can be tiresome at times but combined with 3 new songs, Trilogy is still a staggering, near-perfect record.
BUY The Weeknd’s debut album Trilogy on iTunes NOW!
2. Frank Ocean – Channel Orange: Too frequently the hype around a rising artist is damaging. For 25-year-old singer-songwriter Frank Ocean, his astonishing success is one of music’s most heartening stories in years. Channel Orange, his debut album, met a chorus of universal acclaim this year with its masterful and dynamic vision. Frank thrills and transports the listener with ease on every song and his musical craft has totally bended the rules of his genre. It would be foolish to disagree that he benefited from revealing his sexuality before its release but the music speaks for itself. Channel Orange is a fully-realized vision and the best part of it all, is that it appears completely effortless.
BUY Frank Ocean’s debut album Channel Orange on iTunes NOW!
1. Lana Del Rey – Born To Die: Lana Del Rey was without a doubt the artist on everyone’s mind at some point in 2012. The 25-year-old singer-songwriter’s debut album Born To Die is one of the most talked about debut albums in recent memory and just about everyone had something to say about it. But when you forget about all the criticism and Lana‘s questionable persona, you’re left with an album that stands firmly as one the year’s greatest offerings. Born To Die carries a style and sound that sonically didn’t particularly exist before and remains beautifully cohesive. Gritty, poetic, cinematic, romantic, and plainly observational. Born To Die made its mark and the 8-track addition of Paradise certifies the record as the stunning and unforgettable masterpiece of 2012.