2008: Albums of the Year

Whether it was the continuing state of affairs this past year, or the economic collapse that gripped the world in the last few months of the year, or simply my getting old, the last twelve months in music did very little to move me. There were very few breakthroughs that would go on to dominate the landscape of music; genres continued to mutate into new forms, with nothing unifying that could speak for the masses. In some ways this was very exciting. In others, it was a hassle. We are not yet glorifying the Death of Mainstream, but it doesn't seem far off.

In the constant race to find the hot new thing, there is no time for anything (new bands, albums, even songs) to really grip the imagination and become firmly established as the sound of the year. Gone is the age when the Strokes could dominate and influence artists like in 2001, when the White Stripes could become mainstream stars in 2003. In this age where anything and everything is at your fingertips, there are no lessons to be learned from the past. Trends are formed, given a soapbox, shoved aside, and forgotten. While webzines and critical publications splinter between championing different sounds, the mainstream becomes increasingly desolate and crass. The rate of pop-star-du-jour turnover is frighteningly fast; any artistic merit or contributions these kids might be hiding and saving is discarded like used prophylactics. And of course it never happens to the worthy: here is Miley Cyrus with hit songs, number one movies at the box office, and even Academy Award consideration. Here are the prepubescent scum of the Jonas Brothers, the next in a line of Backstreet Boys with guitars. Easy picking on the Disney channel? Here is Taylor Swift ruling the Billboard charts for months; there is Timbaland continuing his shit parade by dulling Madonna down to her worst album in a decade. Everyone is eager to sell out.

I apologize for the lateness of this usually untardy list. Freely admitting to my share of sensory overload, lack of time, and sometimes even plain lack of caring this past year - as Gang of Four said, "I'm so restless, I'm bored as a cat" - I present the top albums of my year. I decided to keep it to the albums that were closest to my heart: no more blind spraying around like the top 50 of 2004 which is two-thirds obsolete four years later. I heard many albums; I felt the strongest about these.

15. Lil Wayne, Tha Carter III
Think back on recent albums that were the biggest sellers of their years: Come Away With Me; No Strings Attached; High School Musical; Noel. Now add Tha Carter III to the list, and you have absurdity Beckett would be proud of! Enough ink has been spilled about this album and Lil Wayne’s achievements in recent years could fill a dictionary, so we can leave this album to speak for itself: the jokes, the woozy production (so perfectly reflecting the mania of its MC) and the voice. Admittedly, Weezy has made much better songs with much better verses a hundred times over before this, but as a crossover full-length album of Pure Wayne designed for (and devoured by) the masses, this is quite okay. Oh wait, did I mention its eight Grammy nominations? Wow.
14. Coldplay, Viva La Vida or Death and All His Friends
X&Y was an extremely divisive album, and you could count me amongst the detractors. Following that overblown misstep, Coldplay took a step back and redefined themselves to the biggest extent they could. Brining in Brian Eno to guide their experiments, they have made a full Album, a complete work of art that I find is better to listen to straight through rather than as a collection of singles - a first for this band. Chris Martin relies on his falsetto less than ever (mercifully), he fixes the past awkwardness of his lyrics (though they are still not poetry) and there is room for the songs to breathe: if Coldplay wanna play MBV for a few minutes, I won’t argue. Add in their biggest hit to date (a slight song that is simply Martin emoting over keyboard synths), and they have regained their solid footing near the top of the rock world. Where they go from here is anyone's guess, but they have bought themselves some more time and credibility.
13. Opeth, Watershed
After dominating Sweden’s metal scene for nearly a decade, Opeth branched out in 2005 with an album that married the two extremes they explored three years before on two separate albums. Watershed continues in the same vein, but with its unexpected developments and tricky song compositions, it truly earns its title. Armed with a new drummer and guitarist, singer/mastermind Mikael Akerfeldt pushes the boundaries of the Opeth sound: it opens with an acoustic folk ballad, a duet with a female singer, before lurching into the relentless double-bass-kick attack of “Heir Apparent” which itself resolves into an organ-driven jam similar to Deep Purple. A fingerpicked acoustic coda dissolves as the guitar is detuned live in the studio. A thrashing metal epic is turned on its head when Akerfeldt sings harmonies instead of growling. A full minute of studio chatter akin to Dark Side of the Moon completes a song. Although it is recognizable as Opeth, it never seems derivative of previous work; it is clear that not only are they restless in the pursuit of perfection, they are not interested in slowing down or passing the torch.
12. Q-Tip, The Renaissance
Think back on hearing The Low End Theory for the first time: the smooth jazzy beats; Ron Carter’s live bass; and that inimitable voice, flowing as smooth as butter. How you replayed the album endlessly, and how it never got old, or too familiar, or played out. How you waited for that voice to release new material. And waited. The struggles with labels to release a too-abstract sophomore album that is still largely unheard. The years of meager collaborations with other artists, popping up here and there on a chorus or a short verse. Still waiting. Now fast forward nine years after his debut album. The Renaissance is released - for whatever magical reason, on Election Day. Upload it to your laptop (or even better, slide it on the turntable), plug in the headphones, sit back and savor. There it is: the smooth beats, and that inimitable voice, one constant in a rap world of turbulence, infused with energy and sounding like he had a blast making the album. Press repeat. “What good is your ear without a Q-Tip in it,” indeed!
11. Vampire Weekend, Vampire Weekend
Marrying a spiky post-punk ethos to world music sounds and a hyper-literate lyricism, what is most remarkable about this debut album is how it made you tap your toes rather than wince in derision, and it hasn’t aged since its release nearly a year ago. It has been bopping around the blogs for the better part of a couple of years, so the songs are already ingrained in the collective consciousness. It is a sparse and melodic album, one that has stood steady throughout the year, and remains one of the most purely enjoyable albums of the past few release cycles. Good on them for enjoying some well-earned popular success as well, they are a band to watch out for.
10. Robyn, Robyn
It’s perhaps less a statement about the year in music in general than a testament to its own staying power that here, again, is Sweden’s Robyn with an album that was released three years ago. I made a big mistake in placing it so low on that year’s list, and a top 10 position might seem like retrospective apologies, but the album itself merits it. Simply put, this album is a slow-burner that grows richer with revisiting, as unlikely as it sounds for a pop album. For its North American release, it was revamped, remixed, reorganized and given extra songs. In some cases unnecessary (the originally acoustic “Robotboy” is given a double-time electro beat to mixed effect), most of the revision helps: the collaboration with Kleerup turned “With Every Heartbeat” into a UK #1, and the “Cobrastyle” cover is simply bad-ass. With a re-release that turned minor mediocrities into stunning strengths, Robyn has (once again) made a convincing case for pop album of the decade.
9. Gang Gang Dance, Saint Dymphna
After criminally overlooking Yeasayer's stunning debut album last year, I was curious about the anything-goes musical genre they inhabit and Gang Gang Dance made an excellent example of: for lack of any better terms, we can call it 21st century psychedelia. It is an often messy but never less than exciting conglomeration of post-punk, dub, tribal drums, electronic noodling, avant-garde and even shoegaze, thrown together with what seems like haphazard randomness, but is a carefully cultivated attempt at pop structure through samples, textures and rhythms. To get a true kick out of this album, put it on at a party and gauge people's reactions. If there is that one person nodding his head in appreciation, you've made a new friend.
8. Flying Lotus, Los Angeles
J Dilla’s untimely passing nearly three years ago has ushered in an age of tributes and accolades. His influence looms large on multiple musical genres, and he is constantly referenced by producers and rappers and musicians alike. Flying Lotus is one of the producers who holds a Jay talisman, and his Los Angeles is a little like a spaced-out Dilla production, or what Prefuse 73 might have sounded like today had he not fallen off after One Word Extinguisher. The crackling sounds, barely-there melodies, disassembled sounds and seamless sequencing make it impossible to choose one outstanding track (though my pick would be the completely buggy “Beginners falafel”). This is an album that demands to be listened to in one sitting, where any level of intoxication reveals something new with each listen, a freaky next-level journey that hasn’t been heard since vintage Aphex Twin.
7. Hercules and Love Affair, Hercules and Love Affair
Disco has made a slow comeback in recent years, and this year it blossomed on the DFA label thanks to craftsman Andrew Butler and his crew of androgynous singers. Their debut album is packed with the type of elegiac and underground disco that was never a mainstream success, and his roping of torch singer Antony Hegarty for half the songs on the album is the greatest musical coup of the year. It is an unlikely pairing, but works beautifully: from the get-go, “Time Will” announces anything but a straightforward “universal disco” album that the people who loved the Bee Gees in 1977 might recognize. It is an abstract opening song, with little in the way of a beat, built almost entirely around a multi-tracked Antony vocal and cascading synths. His turn on “Blind” turns a driving, horn-driven stomper into a bittersweet epic that can stand as a lament for the entire fallen disco movement, and his yearning chorus on “You Belong” plays off magically against Nomi’s sexy purr. It is an album long on promise, and the sky is the limit; I can only hope they haven’t already reached it.
6. The Bug, London Zoo
London in 2008 was a corrupt and crumbling place, at least based on the Bug’s monstrous London Zoo. From the album title down, this is music on fire, a scorched-earth policy of reggae, grime and dirty electronic, a pan-global epidemic of subtle melodies framed in subwoofer-destroying bass. Through a rotating cast of ragga and dancehall singers, Kevin Martin crafted the opposite of Burial’s sparse dubstep with a massive and confrontational album that, although brick-dense, is immaculately produced and never overwhelming. Of course, Martin possibly owes a great deal to the success of Burial: you could hardly imagine the exuberant critical and commercial response to this beast without Burial's paving of the path. The ideal way to hear this album is on the highway at full blast: you may get a speeding ticket, but at least you're alive. The best type of music serves as a time capsule, a melodic snapshot of its times: sorry for us we had to live through this album.
5. Erykah Badu, New Amerykah: Part One (4th World War)
To be perfectly honest, Erkyah Badu never completely appealed to me. Sure, I could find the uniqueness and originality of her voice (Baduizm is a great Billie Holliday homage), and admired from afar her brave Mama’s Gun. However, her latest release floored me: a multi-layered, cohesively scattershot social commentary in the veins of the very best types of these albums. Yes, I will drop them: There’s a Riot Goin’ On. Innervisions. What’s Going On. What this album requires – hell, even demands – is attention: attention to the music, and attention to the lyrics. As a skit furiously announces, it will not let us sit complacent in our living rooms and hide from the world. We cannot hide from drug abuse, from war, from social inequality as long as Badu is around making albums of this depth and magnitude. While we can lament that the social conditions which inspired the aforementioned 70s landmark albums are still around, at least we can complacently admire the works of art it still creates. Look for Part Two this February.
4. Elbow, The Seldom Seen Kid
Elbow is the perpetual underdog, the best British band working, constantly overshadowed on the charts and award shows by peers and flash-in-the-pan upstarts. With their fourth album, they (finally?) hit the big time, winning the Mercury Prize and enjoying successfully charting singles. They do not change much in their formula, a heady mix of masculine vulnerability and romanticism, though they go for the sweeping gestures much less often than for moments of shimmering hushed intimacy. Guy Garvey’s voice is one of the most recognizable in rock, and he puts it to great use here, especially on ballads like “Mirrorball” and “The Loneliness of a Tower Crane Driver”, while the rockers (hit single "Grounds for Divorce") are more dynamic than ever. They may never become as big as certain British bands, but for the fourth straight album, they have outclassed the competition.
3. TV on the Radio, Dear Science,
You have to wonder if the recent critical adoration from mainstream magazines (I’m specifically thinking of a certain rock-like form in its title) for this Brooklyn collective is merely playing catch-up for lost time. After all, TVOTR has been releasing gems since their inception, and they do it without making it overly exclusivist: you never feel uninvited to the party, and this time, they made the music even more immediately accessible while keeping their heady lyricism at full blast. Replacing Cookie Mountain's swirling swampiness with a razor sharp clarity, it is nearly a full-blown dance album. Released only two months before "the most important election of our lives" (and its dazzling outcome), Dear Science feels like the last gasp of the Bush era, a final rumination on the chaos, paranoia and fearmongering of the past decade. However, with the darkness of the lyrics comes the rays of sunshine in the music: when Tunde declares the coming of the "golden age" over blasting horns and chugging drums, you can only throw your hands in the air and smile. What is to come for this band in an Obama era?
2. Cut Copy, In Ghost Colours
Very few albums released this past decade have hit with the immediacy of Cut Copy’s sophomore album. The crazy sugar rush of hearing New Order’s glory days for the first time in person again was there every time this album was spinning, and it never got old through nine months of constant play. It references pop music’s greatest accomplishments through short interludes between the picture perfect pop songs, small setups that make you salivate in advance of what is to come. The songs here are guaranteed #1 hits in 1986, worthy of any that New Order made – “Hearts on Fire”, “Out There on the Ice”, “Lights & Music”, “Far Away”, the wistful “Strangers in the Wind” – all of them perfect in their structures. The best part about In Ghost Colours is its slow burning impact: we can only hope that Cut Copy blows up with this album and conquers the world with its magical pop synthesis.
1. Portishead, Third
This is how it gets done right. Ten years after vanishing from the pop culture scene, the definitive trip-hop band unleashed an album so resolutely fantastic that we could only marvel and wonder: why did it take so long? This is music to sweat to, a claustrophobic and dark and menacing beast that makes Dummy sound like a shiny Britney album: this is not hyperbole. Highlights can only be ticked off as they come at you; the double-time opener “Silence”, which takes two minutes to reintroduce Beth Gibbons’ inimitable warble, then dissolves into nothing at its boiling point. The placid “Hunter” lulling you into calm before a guitar tone flashes like a serrated knife in the distance. Stuttering drumrolls on "Plastic". The krautrock endlessness of "We Carry On". The mud monsters who interrupt the gentle pastoral "Deep Water". Merciless mercurial martial drums assault you while Gibbons sings her sweetest melody about absolute loneliness in “Machine Gun”. Even the most Dummy-like song here, the closing “Threads”, is far darker than any song on that album. Had this been released even half a decade ago, it would been contrasted with Mezzanine; released into the post-Air world of sanded-smooth adult-contemporary trip-hop, this startles and shocks and annihilates the competition, a Dummy V.2 for the nightmare of the 21st century. This is how to make a comeback in style.

Just Missed

Metallica, Death Magnetic
Autechre, Quaristice
M83, Saturdays=Youth
Goldfrapp, Seventh Tree
The Sword, Gods of the Earth

Disappointments of the Year

Sigur Ros, Med sud i eyrum vid spilum endalaust
Whenever a band releases a sophomore album as earth-shakingly amazing as Agaetis Byrjun, you can usually expect everything afterwards to fall short. Despite their laudable efforts to put some spring in their steps ("Gobbledigook" is fantastic as a pop song), this album mostly sticks to formula - a good formula, but with increasingly shrinking returns.
Hot Chip, Alone in the Dark
Perhaps a bigger letdown for its February release, allowing a full year of great releases to continually belittle it. I loved The Warning, and this album has great strengths, but it was too scattershot and uninvolving to last.
The Verve, Forth
Let’s face it: when you are taking over a decade between albums, there is going to be anticipation. When the album you are following is widely considered your artistic and commercial watershed, you are sweating. But on a personal note, when said album is following up one of my all-time favorites, there is a lot at stake.
Bet you were expecting Chinese Democracy.
No, the third band to release an album a decade in the making this year was England’s one-hit wonder (must face facts) The Verve. I can safely say that Urban Hymns is firmly entrenched in my all-time top 3, so expecting the same from Forth was folly I would not fall prey to. Aside from a freaky red herring of a first single, most of the songs here crawl by at too slow a pace, buried under too many layers of sonic tapestry with lyrics a bit weaker than usual. Of course, an album after 11 years is better than no album at all, especially from The Verve, but this was playing it much too safe. With all the attention to detail, I can only hope it will reveal its charms over time, but it did not happen before December 31. I definitely encourage you to check it out, but for the time being, it remains a disappointment.

Songs of the Year

15. MGMT - "Electric Feel (Justice Remix)
Sort of a chopped-n-screwed imitation for the indie-dance crowd.
14. Santogold - "L.E.S. Artistes"
Be not afraid to create, and be not afraid to crib from the hippest sources along the way.
13. Goldfrapp - "A&E"
Abandoning glitzy cyber-sex for a post-coital fragility, this pastoral yearner is a gem.
12. Janet Jackson - "Feedback"
Never has a guitar been used to express sexuality so well. Or has it? Just dirty, you go girl!
11. Q-Tip - "Gettin Up"
When an adored rapper has been missing from the game from so long, he needs to sound like this. Take notes, Marshall.
10. Death Cab for Cutie - "I Will Possess Your Heart"
Five minutes of that glorious bassline before Ben Gibbard works up the nerves to oh so adoringly stalk you.
9. Ladyhawke - "Paris Is Burning"
So many venereal disease jokes, so little time. The sort of electronic anthem that can flatten cities.
8. Lil Wayne - "A Milli"
Okay, so maybe Weezy has never sounded this insanely batshit crazy.
7. The Verve - "Love is Noise"
You've been away eleven years, and this is how you come back?? Crazy cut-up siren vocal samples and disco high-hats? Spot on!
6. MGMT - "Time to Pretend"
The iconic loop driving this song was supposedly inspired by the praying mantis' movements in the sack. The best ode to rock's sexual cannibalism yet!
5. Hercules and Love Affair - "Blind"
A stately disco song too sad to be a hit, its an elegy to the entire disco movement that was too bright to last.
4. M83 - "Kim & Jessie"
The album overall was a great 80s tribute, but it never soared as high as this song. Let's just say this is one of the most perfect pop songs in recent memory, amazing.
3. Britney Spears - "Blur"
A hazy, dazed recollection of the last few years of her public life, everything that went wrong to her is recollected as a single wasted night in this simple, simply great, album track.
2. M.I.A. - "Paper Planes"
It was already great as Kala's closer: after licensing deals, it became a ubiquitous cross-over hit. Let's just say nothing has suffered in the translation.
1. The Ting Tings - "Great DJ"
Destined to become of the great one-hit wonders of the decade. One of the couple of songs from the TTs eligible to rule the singles chart for me, this was all about the drums the drums the drums the drums the drums the drums the drums the drums the drums the.

Overrated of the Year
Fleet Foxes, Fleet Foxes
This album is a collection of decent modern folk sung by four shaggy dudes from Seattle with angelic voices. 39 minutes of no-frills, simple songs, nothing that hasn’t been done countless times in the past decade. Based on the critical orgasm, it was the second coming of Christ, a magical blend of CCR and the Byrds in an acid-fueled orgy with Dylan and the Moody Blues. Predominantly it was viewed as a recapturing of some gloriously innocent pre-war Americana past that the critics who loved this album weren’t even around to witness the first time around, a perfect blend of pastoral and indie rock. I let out a barely-stifled yawn, and re-discover its perfect use as a warm blanket for my ears while I take a nap. It is a good collection for its time, it garnered the Foxes some modicum of commercial success, but it cannot be mistaken for a perfect album, or (as so many publications and critics have agreed upon) as the album of the year.

Worst of the Year

Madonna, Hard Candy
I will not hide my (if not quite love then) respect for Madonna. Throughout two decades of pop chameleonity, she has countlessly dictated the trends of pop music, through her successes (the amazing techno of Ray of Light) and even her failures (the fashionable acoustic-guitars-and-dance-beats of the miserable American Life). She has always been ahead of the trends, working with less famous but more cutting edge producers (Nellee Hooper, William Orbit, Mirwais, Stuart Price) and following up the meticulously executed Confessions album was a hard task.
Who would follow Stuart Price as Madonna's latest producer sidekick? Yes, Timbaland was at the top of my list too! Also, Kanye Fucking West! As we saw last year on my list, when great artists collaborate with Timbaland, the result is a dumbed-down shadow of their immense talents. Remember Volta? M.I.A.'s "Come Around"? Hint, it's the last song on Kala. Those hip artists are one thing, but pairing Timbaland with the inestimable Madonna is like strapping both of them to Icarus's chest as he flies towards the sun. The wings melted, and both of them drowned in a pond of mud, creating an abhorrent mess of hip-hop meets Donna Summer in an 80s dance nightmare where Mr. West is your curator and Mummy runs around lost in the passivity of her deliverance. Pop music is usually disposable, but it has rarely been this much trash.
Nickelback, Dark Horse
Really, is there even a point anymore? Nickelback are the Play-Doh of rock music, the "sticks and stones" maxim personified into a rock band. I can throw whatever insult I care at them; they will just release another album of utterly unremarkable rock music polished to death, while the slobbering brain-dead masses of Middle America run to their Wal-Marts to buy it by the truckload and listen to it while pounding brewskis. What have we done to deserve this?
Pink, "So What"
Casual jackassness and brazen idiocy masquerading as brave post-breakup femininity. Germaine Greer is shedding a tear.
Kings of Leon, Only By the Night
Bad as these albums are, just imagine living in the UK right now. Their music scene is so devoid of any vital rock bands with guitars, they have turned back to worshipping at the altar of Oasis, and have made superstars of the Kings of Leon. That's right. Kings of Leon are certified chart-topping superstars in the UK. Just think about it: the lamest possible Strokes reincarnation is ruling the UK. I don't give two fucks about the UK, but its disheartening to hear that the masses of idiots have taken over on both sides of the pond. Granted, Leon have given up trying to be the Southern Strokes; they have turned their sights on being the Southern U2. An album full of lazy rehashed Southern rock posturing redressed in the Edge's epic guitar sound and the dude's best twangy Bono inflections - the only thing on fire here are my ears.
Jason Mraz, "I'm Yours"
A natural torchbearer for mentor Jack Johnson while he spends time surfing and hopefully drowning. The entire genre of wussy white dude with acoustic guitar playing a reggae-lite skank while emoting about sunsets and girls is seemingly indestructible, so I will just sling shit as long as I have breath in my body: GO TO HELL JASON MRAZ.
Flo Rida
I am not a violent man, but I hope Flo Rida falls down a very tall elevator shaft. And please take Timbaland with you.
AC/DC, Black Ice
I am ready for my tar and feathers. This album isn't terrible so much as it is repetitious and redundant and not a little lazy. AC/DC have been around ages, and this is their first album in eight years. Is it really too much to ask for a little more? I know it's an hour long, but you know, something a bit special? If anything, this album invites a rediscovery of their back catalogue: one great album, and a whole lot of good songs sandwich between album filler. Here, we get nothing but said filler. Six tracks have "Rock" in the title: fantastic! How about one of them that I can actually remember two months after its release? It's good to have them back for some live ass-kickery, but they could have cut this album in half and maybe made something worthy of their name.
Beyonce, I Am...Sasha Fierce
Bahahahahaha. Nice try Bizzle, stick to Jigga Man.
Kanye West, 808's and Heartbreak
Kanye West has reached a curious point in his career: after releasing three albums that people could not help slobbering all over, he believes anything he creates turns to gold. After a year of personal tragedy, he turned his creative attention to making the sort of confessional pop albums that became art in the 80s and 90s, only worse. Much worse. As bad a rapper as he is (best line: "how could you be so Dr. Evil". Somewhere, Mike Myers is taking solace for his contributions to pop culture), he is an even worse singer, and with the scourge that is AutoTune, he helped himself reach a new low in his output. Granted, when rappers use AutoTune in moderation (and by rappers, I mean Lil Wayne exclusively), it can be an effective tool: to craft an entire album around this weak device is sheer folly. Maybe I can congratulate Mr. West on his indomitable spirit and self-congratulatory audacity, but I’d prefer to discard his album in the trash and continue browbeating him for shoveling shit on music fans.

Weezer, Weezer
It’s easy to hate on Weezer. They make it so easy for us. After creating two great guitar-pop albums in the 90’s, they have squandered any goodwill with a run of three (which is now four) albums that plumb new depths of crassness to the point that I am starting to retroactively hate the first two albums. It has become so bad, that should "Buddy Holly" or "Say It Ain't So" come on the radio, I instinctively turn the channel away. It has become a nervous twitch of mine to tune out classic Weezer songs!! Fuck you Weezer! I can't blame Pinkerton for inadvertently birthing emo, but you deserve a kick in the balls for that too.

The band has long ago started to become the very embodiment of what they rebelled against, and what replaced them in the five years between Pinkerton and the crumbling Green Album: fly-by-night bands employing songwriting that insults the intelligence, with paint-by-numbers dynamics and utter soullessness. Here it continues as Rivers Cuomo (what the fuck is with that moustache, doode??) writes some more cookie-cutter pop songs with crunchy guitars, and even surrenders the mic for everyone in the band to have a go at faceless modern rock mediocrity. His sarcastic comment about Timbaland is merited, but really: these guys used to be above that, a long long time ago. I guess we can expect nothing less now.

Katy Perry, One of the Boys
It has happened: after eight years of close calls, of Avrils and 3 Doors Downs and Girlicious, the Aughties has reached its nadir. Corporations have been building pop stars for maximum public consumption before, but rarely has it been this blatant and toxic. After her attempt at a Christian music career failed, Katy Hudson decided to change her name and reinvent herself as a pop tart. This career also stalled in 2004, and with her third chance (seriously? this type of pop criminalism should have been executed after the second offense!), Perry made a grasp at stardom with such a hybrid mess that you get nausea listening to the album; it is the desperate pandering fitting a fading burlesque diva in some off-Broadway histrionics.

The music is glossed to a blinding, anonymous sheen by Bigshots like Glen Ballard (bring in some Alanis whine), Max Martin (shiny Backstreet beats), Dave Stewart of Eurythmics (perverse Eurodisco), and Butch Walker (LOTS OF GRUNGY ATTITUDE! WITH GUITARS!), but it is her vapid, soulless, utterly empty personality that ties it all together in a steamy shit sandwich. She gay-baits her emo boyfriend (and name drops H&M in the process, cue tie-in ads!), makes out with a girl, vomits, curses, and trades “favors” for industry cred. All this posturing is done without the slightest ounce of conviction, merely as a means of gathering attention for "edgy" and "daring" gender-bending and badassness, but ending up as a depraved and crass demographic-grabbing. She could also do with some vocal training - her fish-out-of-water gasping in "Hot n' Cold" is the worst vocal performance of the decade. It's all in the diaphragm, sweetie!

Granted, this sort of lazy trashiness might work with a loose, trashy musical approach, but the huge list of producers end up burying everything under a tidal wave of Kraft cheese and Pro Tools perfection, turning this exercise in pop machinations into a execrable mess. What made it worse is that people actually bought into it; shame on you morons.

Email: leftsun7@hotmail.com