2019 saw me opening up more to hip hop and Nigerian music. I deliberately decided to expand my music reach but I still wasn’t able to embrace rap (I really tried with NF’s The Search album) but as Dr. Paschal once said, Art is to be enjoyed and not endured.
2019 saw the return of veteran Boy bands – Backstreet boy and Westlife and well new age boy band – Jonas Brothers. Avril Lavigne also made a comeback with a decent album (Head above water).
I thought we were done with deluxe album versions? Beyonce used to be very good at releasing deluxe versions after we’ve all got the first release. Most times the deluxe version contains less than five new songs, which are usually underwhelming. 2019 saw this trend comeback. Culprits included David Archuleta, Maria Carey and John Legend on their Christmas albums. Also Lewis Capaldi, Tom Walker and Bastille (this band should have just saved the new material for a new album rather than extend the Dooms Day LP into a ridiculous 21 tracks).
Speaking of track number, I think the perfect track length is 10 tracks. 13 is fair but anything more than that, there is a high chance of losing your audience, besides with many tracks, the easier it is to lose track of the album theme.
I saw this recently on twitter –
This has always been something I look out for in albums. The songs should be arranged such that they flow and the album concept is not lost on the listener. Song arrangement has always been a major flaw on Ed Sheeran’s albums and his 2019 effort (No. 6 Collaborations) was no better.
Funny I am complaining about the track number, considering I struggle on whether to keep my blog posts short or long. Most times I don’t care about the readers, it’s more about me being satisfied. So yea, in a way I get the artists, best to create what your heart wills than let the listeners opinion make you lose your authenticity.
For me, the best albums are those with obvious themes/concept. You listen to the songs and you can tell where the artist is coming from, the inspiration behind the body of work. Albums for me, should have a concept not just a compilation of few hit songs and fillers.
What guides your judgement of a good album? Can one very good song, or say two good songs save an album? I remember someone tweeting years ago how the song ‘Ever since New York’ off of Harry Stlye’s self-titled album saved the album for him.
How many listens does it take before you decide on an album? I have since told myself never to review any album or make a decision on an album till after the third or fourth play. And yea, playing an album on first listen in shuffle mode should be a crime. I mean, are you a cultist?
There are some albums you fall in love with on first listen case in point – Fine Line by Harry Styles, and there are those that grow on you e.g – Omo Charlie Champagne Vol 1. by SImi. There are also those albums, after months of not playing them, you listen again and discover one or two hidden dope tracks that skipped your radar e.g ‘I love you’ by Billie Eilish (When we all fall asleep, where do we go album)
2019 was a good year in music, specifically a good albums year. I went through precisely 100 albums I downloaded last year (crazy number, right?). I was going to do a countdown of my 15 best albums of 2019 but I managed to settle for 20 best albums of 2019.
Here’s a rundown of the albums that saw me through 2019.
20. Spectrum – Westlife
Favourite Tracks – Hello my love, Better man, My blood, Without you, Another life
boys men still got it! Most persons would remember the band by their old songs and feel that’s where they peaked. I never stopped following their music. Their last efforts (Where we are – 2009 and Gravity -2010) before their hiatus were much darker in themes and you could hear their growth. This album shows they still have the magic touch as a group and the songs, still about love but this time, the songs breathe life and have an energetic spark.
19. SYML – Syml
Favourite Tracks – Wildfire, Where’s my love, Girl
This is one of my favourite alternative albums of 2019. I have been hooked on Where’s my love since 2016 when he first released the song. One song on the album that means a lot to me is Wildfire. I remember hearing the lyrics one dark period I was questioning my existence – when you release/when you let go/you can find yourself where you belong/you’re not the cause/you’re not too much/you’re needed here/you’re enough.
This song brought me back to life.
18. Free Spirit – Khalid
Favourite Tracks – Bad Luck, Better, Hundred, Free Spirit, Heaven, Saturday nights
One song that should have made this album from his Suncity Ep is Vertigo. While this sophomore album doesn’t measure up to his debut album – American teen (mostly in terms of cohesion, no thanks to the lengthy track number), Khalid once again stays true to songs with lyrical depth and focus on being his true self artistically. He once again chooses creative freedom over radio friendly hits. This album is deeper and darker than his previous, focusing on social anxiety, panic attacks, losing love, depression, shutting the world out to fix/find himself. Everything I dealt with in 2019.
17. ORION – X Ambassadors
Favourite Tracks – RULE, HISTORY, RECOVER, HOLD YOU DOWN
The band’s debut album – VHS almost had me cancelling them when it comes to albums. This changed with their much more relatable and non-robotic sounding sophomore album – ORION (which thankfully didn’t have annoying interludes that made their first album a noisy mess). This was not the album that was originally planned for release as follow up to VHS. They cancelled their previously announced Joyful album stating the album didn’t represent where they were at. The one thing I don’t find amusing about ORION is how the song titles are all written in caps, gives me a headache every time.
16. What a time to be alive (Deluxe) – Tom Walker
Favourite Tracks – Just you and I, Leave a light on, Better half of me, How can you sleep at night?, Walk alone, All that matters (acoustic)
One of my favourite Indie artist of 2019. He reminds me of Rag ‘n’ Bone man with his amazing big vocals (unbelievable for a 27year old) he belts out so confidently. I heard leave a light on, the first single released in 2018, which got me anticipating the album. The album turned out to be one of those excellent debut album that’s so good you start hoping the curse of a first good album doesn’t plague him.
15. A place we knew – Dean Lewis
Favourite Tracks – Hold of me, Waves, Be alright, Chemicals, Half a man
Follow up to his excellent Same Kind of Different Ep released in 2017, this album (A place we knew) cements him as a talented song writer. This album has a theme focused on a broken relationship. I got stuck on ‘Be alright’ for an entire day. I was messed up trying to clear my head when my previous relationship hit the rocks and the song saw me through. I’m glad he didn’t fill up the album with songs off his 2017 EP, just two stand out tracks from the EP (Waves and Chemicals).
14. The Lion King: The Gift – Beyonce
Favourite Tracks – BIGGER, MOOD 4 EVA, BROWN SKIN GIRL, KEYS TO THE KINGDOM, OTHERSIDE, SPIRIT‘
This album made me feel so proud that I’m a Nigerian (a feeling that’s rare). The album is everything a soundtrack album should be in terms of using voice notes from the movie as interludes. I wrote a review of the album when it came out, you can read it here.
13. African Giant – Burna Boy
Favourite Tracks – Anybody, Dangote, Gum body, Kilin dem, Secret, Gbona, On the low
When this album was released I felt social media, specifically Twitter, was over hyping the album. I refused to get it till much later in the year after hearing Anybody performed live. I ended up playing the album back to back for two weeks. This album is top quality and proudly African even though foreign artists were featured. The album is so good, songs off it ended up in Jay Z, Barack Obama and Michelle Obama’s year end list of top songs, not mentioning the several publications that listed it on their top albums of 2019.
12. Lucid – Asa
Favourite Tracks – Torn, 365, 9 Lives, Don’t let me go
I always start playing this album from Track 2 – ‘The beginning’. It’s a perfect album opener. Asa really should have left it as the opening track as initially announced in a tweet. ‘My Dear’, the last track also serves as a perfect closing track. Lucid is another masterpiece from Asa. This is an album for those wronged by their partners in a relationship. The track, ‘Torn’ says all I once felt towards my ex. I think 2019 blessed me with albums to help me go through the motions and this album was one of them.
11. Lover – Taylor Swift
Favourite Tracks – Cruel Summer, Lover, Archer, Afterglow, Daylight
Being a huge fan of Country Taylor, my heart breaks every time I get her new album and find out its pop. This is not saying 1989 is not one of the best albums ever made, but bless be the day Taylor Swift goes back to country music. I guess my anger over her releasing yet another pop album made me dismiss the album on first listen. But after all said and done, this is an album filled with sunshine and rainbows. Taylor Swift as always, gifts us with great song writing. This is a happy album. One downside though, is the lengthy tracklist which if reduced would have been a powerful album.
10. Sing to me instead – Ben Platt
Favourite Tracks – Temporary love, Grow as you go, Honest man, Incase you don’t live forever, Older
Early one Saturday morning of April 2019, I decided to listen to the album I had download previous week. I fell in love with it on first listen before realizing the artist was the same Ben Platt whose comic character in Pitch Perfect amused me. This is one honest, intimate and vulnerable debut album, with each song boasting impressive lyrical depth.
9. Doom Days (This got out of hand Deluxe Edition) – Bastille
Favourite Tracks – The Waves, Million pieces, Dooms day, 4am, Another place, Those nights, Joy, Can’t fight this feeling
I have always had this issue with Bastille albums – noise (this is in no way dissing their debut album – Bad Blood which is still a masterpiece). Thankfully their characteristic ‘noise’ (or my little or no taste for EDM) was minimized on their third album. Doom Days impressed me and I was on a Bastille high for two weeks straight (well, intermixing it with X Ambassadors’ ORION). The album has 11 tracks which are built around a concept of a night out at a party, capturing human interactions and social ills. The LP felt straight to the point till well, Bastille did what they know how to do best; they released
an unnecessary a deluxe edition extending the album to 22 tracks. The track ‘Those nights’ is one of my favourite songs of 2019.
8. Divinely Uninspired to a Hellish Extent (Extended version) – Lewis Capaldi
Favourite Tracks – Grace, Hold me while you wait, Someone you loved, Forever, Fade, Before you go
Lewis Capaldi is my breakout star of 2019. I got to know about him from ‘music twitter’. His hit single – ‘Someone you loved’ didn’t catch fire on time in the US but eventually went on to top the Billboard Hot 100. The song gave me goose bumps on first listen. Every note hit me and gave me clarity, mostly as I was dealing with the pain of a failed relationship I once thought was going to last a lifetime. The lyrics “I guess I kinda liked the way you numbed all the pain/now the day bleeds into nightfall/and you’re not here to get me through it all/I let my guard down and then you pulled the rug/I was getting kinda used to being someone you loved” was everything I was feeling and dealing with. While ‘Someone you loved’ seems to be the most popular song off the album, my favourite is actually ‘Hold me while you wait’. This song broke me and made me shed tears.
7. You – Ali Gatie
Favourite Tracks – It’s you, Moonlight, Used to you, Sunshine, Lost my lover
Forgive me if it seems this list is made up of break up albums, but I really went through it for the better half of last year. You by Ali Gatie is my best concept album of 2019. I love how the album tells a story of losing love. At first he is in denial, refusing to let go, then he is begging her not to go before he he finally accepts it’s over. This album is perfection when it comes to track arrangement. It comprises of just nine tracks that tells a breakup story. Another artist I discovered in 2019 thanks to ‘music twitter’ still.The album closer ‘Lost my lover’ was the perfect ending to the story where he accepts the relationship is over – “Lost my lover, lost my friend/lost my start and lost my end/You’re my worst nightmare and favourite dream.”
6. Thank u, next – Ariana Grande
Favourite Tracks – Imagine, Bloodline, Ghostin, 7 rings, Thank u next
Thank u, next was released barely five months after her previous album – Sweetener was released. It felt like a clean slate to wipe off the mess Sweetener was. Thank u, next feels like that carefree album an artist decides to record after releasing an album (like Sweetener) their record label made them release. Another breakup album from 2019 with my best track being ‘ghostin’. Thank u, next is Ariana Grande being artistically free and well, an upgrade to whatever Sweetener was supposed to be. You can argue that with the album art which looks like an upgraded version of Sweetener album’s album art.
5. Hollywood’s Bleeding – Post Malone
Favourite Tracks – A thousand bad times, Die for me, Staring at the sun, Sunflower, Internet, Goodbyes
Post Malone is one versatile artist who can play well in any genre. He is one artist who barely has any bad song. On his third album he yet again shows how great a song writer he is and his ability to release an album full of hits. Hollywood Bleeding got me hooked on the catchy choruses and hooks, as well as superb production. The album also boasts my favourite song of 2019 – Sunflower. Hollywood is bleeding but we call it home…
4. YOU – James Arthur
Favourite Tracks – Marine Parade (2013), Quite miss home, Sad eyes, Fall, Falling like the stars, Empty Spaces, Naked
This third studio album from James Arthur would have been so much stronger if the 17 tracks were limited to 10 or 12 tracks. For me this album started from the third track – Marine Parade (2013), skip tracks four and five, and there you have a beautiful album where his honest vocals invokes this sense of vulnerability you want to drown in.
3. Laughter, Tears & Goosebumps – Fireboy DML
Favourite Tracks –Need you, Jealous, Energy, Like I do, King, What if I say
This is arguably the most complete album from a Nigerian artist in 2019. Everything about the album screams excellence; from the honest song writing, track arrangement & length to the album’s minimal production. It’s impressive to note that this 5* debut album from Fireboy DML has no feature. No big names in the Nigerian industry was featured, yet it was one of the most critically acclaimed album released in the Nigerian music space in 2019.
2. Fine Line – Harry Styles
Favourite Tracks – Watermelon sugar, Adore you, Cherry, Falling, Fine line
This album carries a spark and has you grooving to retro vibes. If you are looking for a feel good, pleasant album to bless your day, then Fine Line is that album. Harry is solidifying his stance of going the other way when most artists these days are tendering towards the more commercial sound.
1. Where the shadow ends – Banners
Favourite Tracks – Got it in you, No one knows us, Where the shadow ends, Light up, Safe, Too soon, Head and tails
This album saved my life, literally. I was lucky to have discovered this album during a period last year when I felt lost and purposeless. It brought light back to my world and helped me pick myself up. A ray of sunshine, a beacon of hope that tells you that you can do this thing called life. That you can go through it and still come out whole. Also, the album tells you that you don’t have to do it alone, the lyrics of most of the songs silently preaching the importance of having someone to go through life with. The album is of alternative genre and my best album of 2019.
On ‘Heads and tails’ he sings – I got you/so darling I’m staying here/…..all you hear is emptiness and noise hanging on the fall of a coin/I’m here/whatever you choose/I’m here…
On ‘Got it in you’, these lyrics gave me strength – I know you think your fire is burning out/but I still see you shining through/you got it in you.
WORTHY MENTIONS OF 2019
- Romance – Camila Cabello
- Norman Fucking Rockwell! – Lana Del Rey
- Once upon a mind – James Blunt
- Soul Searching (mixtape) – Bazzi
- Cause & Effect – Keane
- Parachute – Parachute
- Spiderman Into the Verse OST – Various Artists
FAVOURITE EPS OF 2019
- Brent – Jeremy Zucker & Chelsea Cutler – This EP broke me and put me back together several times.
- Love & Light – Joeboy – This EP is everything. Always leaves me wanting more when it ends abruptly.
- Anxiety & Mixed Emotions – Chance Pena – My go to EP whenever I need to shut the world out and focus on me.
- Free time – Ruel – Its time Ruel blessed us with a complete album. This is his second EP and I think he is ready.
- Glorious – Ella Henderson – Her vocals are out of this world.
- Oh my messy mind – James Bay – Just four tracks on the EP but yet they outshine his last full length album (Electric light)
- World war joy…call you mine – The Chainsmokers – I’m just gonna call it, the EP is way stronger than the full length album. They should have added Takeaway to the EP, would have been perfection!
UNDERWHELMING ALBUMS OF 2019
- Game of Thrones OST – Various Artists – after seeing the trailer for the album, I almost could not contain my excitement. I actually tweeted the album will go straight to number one. Sadly, it turned out to be a gathering of A list bands and artists coming to create an OST album just as disappointing as the season finale of the show.
- Velvet Side A (EP) – Adam Lambert – Adam doesn’t know where he is best suited. Dude wants to be a rock and roll star by all means, but his talent lies hidden in ballads. After releasing songs like New eyes and Feel Something, there was a high anticipation of an album where Adam dives into new territory, fresh new sound but nah, what did we get? Hopefully Side B will be the redemption.
- This Summer (EP) – Alessia Cara – She started well with her debut album (Know it all) but seems it’s been downhill since then. This EP broke my heart. Where is the Alessia Cara we all fell in love with?
- Sunsets & Full Moons – The Script – I get they want to do songs that are more socially conscious, but the songs sadly come off as cheap, cliché writings. I mean, these are same guys who had songs like The man who can’t be moved, Breakeven, For the first time…the song writing on this album and the penultimate one are so mediocre.