It’s hard to believe it’s been over ten years since Rihanna first burst onto the mainstream music scene with “Pon de Replay,” a slick, punchy dance anthem that seemed to nestle itself into the set lists of every Top 40 radio station in America. “Pon de Replay” was generic, but harmless, and in the following decade, Rihanna managed to find her unique sound over the course of six more platinum-selling albums, asserting herself as music’s number one alpha female. It’s been a little over three years since Rihanna’s last album, and while that doesn’t seem like a huge amount of time, it’s important to keep in mind that the Barbadian pop star has never allowed more than two years to pass between releases. Anti, her seventh album, brings with it a lot of hype as a result. That Anti is Rihanna’s least-mainstream release yet may explain the lengthened time gap, but unfortunately, the quality does not: this is Rihanna’s weakest effort yet.
In the year 2015, I listened to 110 new releases total, a combination of LPs, EPs, and mixtapes. It was a great year for jazz and pop, in particular, and a bad year for moody nu-metal (what year isn’t, though?). Here are my ten favorite albums of 2015 (plus five honorable mentions).
Jupiter Ascending hit somewhat of a rocky road in the time leading up to its release. Originally scheduled to be released on July 25, 2014, it was pushed back a week to July 18, 2014, and later, February 6, 2015, supposedly to allow time for completion of several special effects shots. It becomes clear when watching Jupiter Ascending that special care was put into meticulously crafting its gorgeous, creative, and detailed aesthetic, as is standard practice for Hollywood auteurs Andy and Lana Wachowski. Unfortunately, it appears that the usual visual ambition of the visionaries behind The Matrix is once again matched with their usual lack of ambition when it comes to Jupiter Ascending’s clichéd and overstuffed screenplay.
I’m late to the party, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t post my twenty favorite films of 2014.
Last night, after countless weeks of putting it off, I finally sat down and watched The Babadook with my brother. Both of us were itching for a good horror film, and of the last two we watched, Rosemary’s Baby turned out to be more of a drama with some horror elements, and 13/13/13 was just flat-out hilarious (we sort of expected that with the latter). Generally, the modern horror movies that I enjoy the most are the ones that are darkly comedic, like You’re Next or the Final Destination films, which are more fun than outright scary. The ones that go the more straightforward route are often ugly, cheap, and lazily thrown together. Such is not the case with The Babadook. Within the first ten to fifteen minutes, my brother and I were simultaneously captivated and anxiety-ridden.
These aren’t necessarily my favorite songs of 2014. They’re my favorite singles. There’s a difference; you can look it up. Don’t argue with me.
I’m not going to claim to be someone who deeply understands music at its roots. I don’t play an instrument, and I know nothing of theory, but I love all different genres of music and I know how to talk about things I love, so this is just a natural progression of that. I managed to listen to eighty-five new albums from 2014, and now that the year is over, I want to reflect on the twenty that stuck out to me the most. Here are my twenty favorite albums of 2014.