Pop ruled 2008. From indie to hip-hop to dance to punk, no genre was immune to pop’s grasp. Even pop got poppier! In no particular order, here are my picks for the must-have albums for teen music collections in 2008.
Any additions or insight? Please add your thoughts in the comments.
Tha Carter III
After saturating the rap game with mixtapes and guest appearances, Lil Wayne (aka Weezy F. Baby)’s opus became the most anticipated album of 2008. This bizarre, disjointed joyride takes you from club bangers like “Lollipop” and “A Milli” to songs like “Phone Home,” in which Weezy raps through an alien voice filter. There will be no shortage of interest in this album for several years, at least, if Lil Wayne’s casual swagger is any indication.
Adele is a young London soul singer who drew musical comparisons to Amy Winehouse, both because of their chosen genre (soul) and because they both graduated from the same performing arts high school. Adele breaks from the Amy Winehouse mold with a plush, singer-songwriter element that enmeshes listeners in the dynamics of teenage heartbreak. This is a great album for any teen who, like Adele, seems “older than her years.”
With guest production by M.I.A. collaborators switch and Diplo, as well as a pan-continental flavor, it was easy to write off Santogold as 2008’s Kala. Over time, this album proved that it had a personality unto itself, with verses and hooks by Santi White that will catch the attention of “new millennium” teens looking for a fun, intelligent, and altogether interesting indie dance album.
Folie A Deux
Fall Out Boy
Though only released a couple of weeks ago, it won’t be long before long-time fans find and snatch this one up. While the album is a lot more on the melodic, powerpop side of spectrum than the crunchy, high-octane (yet unmistakably poppy) anthems they’re known for, it retains a lot of the self-conscious reflection by which Fall Out Boy has made a name for themselves. A lot of people have compared this album to developments in the career path of Elvis Costello, which wouldn’t be out of place, considering that Elvis Costello guest stars on the album.
Another Londonite, Estelle, showcases multiple talents on the fine R&B album Shine. Skillfully singing and rapping on tracks that run the gamut between reggae and glitzy pop, Estelle hit it big on the charts with the fun, flirty summer jam “American Boy” (featuring Kanye West). While the buzz quickly dried up, the album remained as a fine piece of pop R&B.
I Am… Sasha Fierce
A counterpoint to albums like T.I. vs. T.I.P. which explore what it means to be a pop star, Beyonce returns with a split-personality album that alternates between personal ballads on the “I Am…” side and infectious pop numbers like “Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)” from the Sasha Fierce persona. The ballads may feel a little sappy, but just about everything Sasha Fierce touches is as fierce as a dance floor can handle. If you like it, then you should have put a hold on it.
This album definitely wins comeback album of the year award, for singlehandedly resurrecting an entertainment career that was completely derailed by tabloid escapades. One MTV special and enormously fun, catchy single (yes, I’m talking about “Womanizer” later), Britney was once again part of the teen pop landscape. The rest of the album pumps with a hyperkinetic energy and is flanked by a couple of surprisingly heartfelt ballads. Britney forever!
New Amerykah: Part One (4th World War)
While Erykah Badu didn’t release an album that one might normally think of for teens, Erykah Badu re-emerged with the kind of album every teen could benefit from listening to. At once moving, intelligent, and bewildering, Badu lobs pronouncements about racism, crime, and the American government from in front of booming basslines and soulful melodies. This is a great album for any teen looking for an album in which style and substance are fearlessly soulmates.
One of the Boys
Not too many people realize that this pop sensation, who cloys about kissing a girl (and liking it), was once a Christian artist who wasn’t even allowed to listen to secular music. While you might debate the merits of sultry ballads like “UR So Gay” and sassy electro-rock club hits like “I Kissed a Girl,” they were nonetheless on the tongues of teens everywhere in 2008. The latest bouncy club hit, “Hot N Cold,” shows that Katy Perry may be divine after all.
Juno: Music from the Motion Picture
Juno’s quirky, smart, and youthful exuberance captured the attention of many teens, who clamored for the quirky, smart, and youthful soundtrack (which quickly rose to be a surprising chart-topper). The album predominantly features Kimya Dawson, formerly of the Moldy Peaches, whose rambling lyrical delivery and sweet guitar melodies make it a great companion for those awkward teen years.
Top 3 reasons to get the Twilight Sountrack:
1. It’s related to Twilight.
2. Did I mention Twilight?
3. Seriously, Twilight (oh, and Paramore).
A Little Bit Longer
The Jonas Brothers
The Jonas Brothers somehow managed to become even bigger tween-pop superstars in 2008, with the release of the successful movie Camp Rock and the follow-up album A Little Bit Longer. Featuring saccharine guitars, vocal harmonies, ballads, and the inevitable rocker, these hearthrobs have starred in an album that’s sure to get tweens swooning.
Miley Cyrus ditches the Hannah Montana moniker for another breakout album from this Radio Disney/Camp Rock star. Breakout is punchier, more guitar driven, and appealing to those tweens are are going through the same sort of growing pains in their lives as “Hannah Montana” is going through musically.
A Pocketful of Sunshine
If you take a wayback machine to January of 2008, you might remember this little under the radar pop gem. Full of sweet, upbeat numbers like “Put Your Arms around Me” and the titular “A Pocketful of Sunshine” (as well as reggae-tinged songs like “Love Like This”) this album lent teens a solid offering of sunshine during the last dreary winter.
Apparently, the new hard rock that was attracting teens in 2008 didn’t go away, it just got darker and angrier. Enter Indestructible, Disturbed’s fourth studio album. Indestructible takes the pounding riffs from The Sickness and pairs then with the dynamics of Ten Thousands Fists to create what fans are lauding as their best album yet.
While performing 1,000 hours of community service related to federal weapons charges, T.I. spent a lot of time in America’s schools, talking to teens about the importance of education and civic participation. This “back to school” theme resonated with T.I.’s latest chart topper, Paper Trail, which holds a title that refers more to a creative process (literally writing lyrics on paper, which hadn’t been done since 2001’s I’m Serious) than to tracing criminal activity. With a refreshing frankness, T.I. returned to top form with the Rihanna-backed song “Live Your Life” and packed the rest of the album with a thoughtful assessment of life, hip-hop, and life in hip-hop–in addition to fun party jams like “Swing Ya Rag” and the epic guest-filled monster “Swagger Like Us,” which features Jay Z, Lil Wayne, and Kanye West.
Year of the Gentleman
In addition to producing and writing hit songs for such performers as Plies, The Pussycat Dolls, and Rihanna, Ne-Yo struck gold with the album Year of the Gentleman. With each song expressing heartfelt, gentle affection (from the R&B/house fusion single “Closer” to the upbeat, stacco synth-fueled “Miss Independent”), the album more than lives up to its name.
Mail on Sunday
The party rap album of the year was Flo Rida’s Mail on Sunday. From the T-Pain assisted “Low” to the Timbaland collaboration “Elevator,” Flo Rida featured several strong club hits. Mix it with the absolutely infectious “In the Ayer” (which I still hear kids singing to themselves on the bus), and you have an album that may not last long but is sure to be a fun ride.
Here I Stand
Usher returns with a 5th studio album full of piano-sprinkled, synth-laden R&B ballads. While it’s been derided as “married man’s music,” losing the hip-hop energy that got teens excited about 2004’s Confessions, Usher is still a household name–and how can anybody deny the magic of the single “Love in This Club”?
Fight with Tools
A little bit of jazz, a dash of funk, a sprinkle of soul, and a teaspoon of hip-hop, blended with some crushed hard rock, round out the album Fight with Tools, from the Flobots. One of the few bands gracing the alternative stations that actually had a record in 2008, Flobots have crafted a hopeful, politically uplifting album for any eclectic, change-oriented teen.
Young Jeezy returns with another album of gritty down south beats, guttural vocals, and a stark, street realism style that’s been Jeezy’s trademark since Let’s Get It: Thug Motivation 101. But with songs like “Put On,” “Crazy World,” and “My President Is Black,” Young Jeezy is also beginning to show how even thugs are getting motivated to help build a new America.
With every song sounding like the “one hit” from a one hit wonder, P!nk’s Funhouse is a raucous pop affair led by P!nk’s “divorce song,” “So What.” Love it or hate it, it’s hard to deny that Funhouse is unfailingly spunky for such a personal pop album. Through it, P!nk shows she can still get the party started.
Cute Is What We Aim For
Cute Is What We Aim For aim and hit with a style-conscious emo-pop album that adds some polish (in addition to some synth and horn flourishes) to their 2006 offering The Same Old Blood Rush with a New Touch. If songs like “Practice Makes Perfect” aren’t reminiscent of those joyful, yet excruciatingly painful moments of youthful desire, then I don’t know what is.
Fast Times at Barrington High
The Academy Is…
After showcasing a darker direction with their last record, Shanti, The Academy Is… dip back into their palette of glossy emo pop to deliver a concept album from the perspective of an 18 year old letting go of old loves and embracing the changes of a new life to come. Equally mournful yet joyous, as well as big yet claustrophobic (perfectly exemplified in the song “Winter Passing”), Fast Times at Barrington High will make a lasting impression.
Lost in the Sound of Separation
Frenetic and often atmospheric, the openly Christian Underoath have unleashed one of the most pummeling (yet inexplicably accessible) metalcore albums of 2008. From the first breakdown in “Breathing in a New Mentality” to the moment “The Only Survivor Was Miraculously Unharmed” fires up its jet engines and explodes, Underoath have offered teens an awesomely brutal album that will have even the most secular moshing.
Skip School, Start Fights
Hit the Lights
In 2008, Hit The Lights put the popular in pop-punk, releasing their sophomore album Skip School, Start Fights, the first after former vocalist Colin Ross left the band. With a slightly more distinct identity under the band’s bouncy singalongs, Hit The Lights will probably “start fights” as to whether fans like the new direction. But it’s a good position to be in when fans care that much.
Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh – Teen