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Best beats of ’07

By |2008-01-17T09:00:00-05:00January 17th, 2008|Entertainment|
Hear Me Out

I have a headache. You see, from the umpteen CDs my ears have digested this year, I could only pick 10 that were super-duper sonic successes. T-E-N. That’s like selecting the top-10 best meals you ate this year (which would be easier if you were Nicole Richie). Alas, I sucked it up (mostly ’cause it’s my job), replaying even crapola – just for you! – until my eardrums begged for a vacay. From uber-big releases or under-the-radar records like my No. 1 selection, I traipsed through some real trash (Kelly Clarkson. Ugh!), but found some true masterpieces buried in between.

10. Amy Winehouse, ‘Back to Black’
She says “no, no, no” to AA, and I say “yes, yes, yes” to this boozy Brit’s stellar sophomore set, which oozes a retro vibe, recalling ’60s Motown girl groups. Not one to hide her much-publicized liquor habit, Winehouse made headlines equally for her fruitful music and her drinking shenanigans. But who’s complaining? Without it, we could forget getting the infectiously stubborn “Rehab.” And that’d be – as Winehouse would say – a bunch of fuckery.
iPod it: “Rehab,” “Tears Dry on Their Own,” “You Know I’m No Good”

9. Alicia Keys, ‘As I Am’
She calls herself a superwoman, and if that nickname entails super-musician, too, then she’s accurate. On soaring “No One” – one of the best singles of the year – Keys’ throaty, emotive voice sails over a hard-hitting drumbeat, punctuated by a sing-a-long “ooh” section. The lively “Teenage Love Affair” follows, along with an ultra-personal pair of goose bump-raising Hallmark moments on “Like You’ll Never See Me Again” and “Tell You Something (Nana’s Reprise).”
iPod it: “No One,” “Tell You Something (Nana’s Reprise),” “Superwoman”

8. Rihanna, ‘Good Girl Gone Bad’
Girl can’t sing like Beyonce. But – sure! – even on a sunny day, I’d stand under her “Umbrella,” a hella-catchy sing-along set to an electro beat, chanting ” ‘ella! ‘ella! ‘ella!” The ubiquitous single launches a trio of flavorful dance grooves, like the sensually-snappy jam “Don’t Stop the Music.” Pink-ish double-entendre-laced “Shut Up and Drive” rocks, and even the DNA of mid-tempos like Ne-Yo-paired “Hate That I Love You” bring beaming beats.
iPod it: “Umbrella,” “Don’t Stop the Music,” “Shut Up and Drive”

7. Various artists, ‘Hairspray’
Nothing’s impossible: That’s a bunch of BS. Try standing still while listening to “You Can’t Stop the Beat,” an all-star tolerance anthem. Or nearly any other peppy, sugar-heavy song from the movie soundtrack to “Hairspray,” a musical menagerie of rambunctious, rad dance ditties and slower, more soulful songs.
iPod it: “You Can’t Stop the Beat,” “Welcome to the ’60s,” “Good Morning Baltimore”

6. Tegan and Sara, ‘The Con’
Traces of Tegan and Sara Quin’s poppier predecessors pop up, but this queer Canadian duo wallows in more-cryptic, more-mature sonic sizzlers. “Nineteen” and “The Con” are wholly obsessive – the kind of angsty, hook-laced vent-alongs that kick ass, without selling out to mainstream girl-power rock. This is serious lesbian stuff: relationships, relationships, relationships. Just not the way umpteen other chicks have griped about them.
iPod it: “The Con,” “Nineteen,” “Call it Off”

5. The Arcade Fire, ‘Neon Bible’
Church never sounded so damn good. Not “Praise Jesus!”-kinda shtick, but a different sorta divine “Intervention” – a swirl of horns, guitar, drums and the church organ. The Canadian septet’s walloping, whimsical numbers are meditative pieces of spiritually – marked by a body-numbing intensity. It’s enough to bring anyone to their knees.
iPod it: “Windowsill,” “Intervention,” “No Cars Go”

4. Miranda Lambert, ‘Crazy Ex-Girlfriend’
Something’s to be said of loony bitches: They’ve got some uber-good pipes. Enter Miranda Lambert, who shows-off a pair that can set fire to some already-incredibly-written rockers – like “Gunpowder & Lead” – on her sophomore disc (one of the best Music Row releases of the decade). Even when she’s not unloading a bullet into her abusive beau on the hard-hitting said track, the Southern siren reveals her vulnerable, less-venomous side in wonderful weepies like “More Like Her.”
iPod it: “Gunpowder & Lead,” “More Like Her,” “Easy from Now On”

3. Trisha Yearwood, ‘Heaven, Heartache and the Power of Love’
No matter what this country crooner wraps her cords around, she’s always creating more magic than David Copperfield. With the mellifluous cadence of first-person parable “Dreaming Fields,” easily one of the best tracks this year, and unrequited-love ballad “Let the Wind Chase You,” Yearwood’s mostly-tame tapestry paints beautiful, unheard-of colors.
iPod it: “Dreaming Fields,” “Heaven, Heartache and the Power of Love,” “Let the Wind Chase You”

2. Brandi Carlile, ‘The Story’
Two minutes and 52 seconds. That’s the point in this raspy, remarkably-gifted vocalist’s title-track that sends tingles from my head to my tiny toe. Carlile roars. And her voice cracks. An oopsy? Hell no. This is a beautiful mistake, catapulted into a rip-roaring rocker – the first of many. For more: see angsty fuck-off “My Song.” Like ’em quieter? Beaut “Downpour” bleeds string-laden nostalgia.
iPod it: “The Story,” “Josephine,” “My Song”

1. Patty Griffin, ‘Children Running Through’
So what if this folk miracle is such a tiny lady? She can wail with the best of ’em, as she clearly proves on her most vocally ambitious and genre-skipping disc to date, “Children Running Through.” Her size might belie her vocal abilities, but there’s no questioning its breathtaking beauty. It’s a magnetic force, brimming with soul, power and perfect pitch. What’s even more commendable is her ability to transition from a hushed whisper on songs like “Burgundy Shoes” (a departure from her typical downers) to an all-out-rocker like “Getting Ready.” Not to mention: Griffin’s life-changing lyrics – especially those of “Trapeze,” about a circus performer afraid to fall in love, and Martin Luther King Jr.-inspired “Up to the Mountain (MLK Song)” – are perfectly honed, grade-A goodness.
iPod it: “Trapeze,” “Heavenly Day,” “Up to the Mountain (MLK Song)”

Only 10? Screw that! Here’s those that almost made the cut: Melissa Etheridge, “The Awakening”; Tori Amos, “American Doll Posse”; Mary J. Blige, “Growing Pains” (see review on page ADD NUMBER); Robert Plant and Alison Krauss, “Raising Sand”; Junior Senior, “Hey Hey My My Yo Yo.”

A second opinion

Can’t stand country? Repulsed by R&B? If you’re like me, some of Chris Azzopardi’s best-album picks didn’t make it onto your iPod in ’07. Sure, some of the below alternatives won’t crack your “Top 25 Most Played” (Chris: “Maroon 5? Are you serious?”), but the three discs we didn’t bitch-fight over (the “lesbian music”!) should.

10. The Rocket Summer, “Do You Feel?”
9. Foo Fighters, “Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace”
8. Ben Lee, “Ripe”
7. Arcade Fire, “Neon Bible”
6. Queens of the Stone Age, “Era Vulgaris”
5. Brandi Carlile, “The Story”
4. Jimmy Eat World, “Chase This Light”
3. Tegan and Sara, “The Con”
2. Maroon 5, “It Won’t be Soon Before Long”
1. Motion City Soundtrack, “Even if it Kills Me”

– Jessica Carreras, Between The Lines staff writer

About the Author:

Chris Azzopardi
As editor of Q Syndicate, the international LGBTQ wire service, Chris Azzopardi has interviewed a multitude of superstars, including Cher, Meryl Streep, Mariah Carey and Beyoncé. His work has also appeared in GQ, Vanity Fair and Billboard. Reach him via Twitter @chrisazzopardi.