Moving into the 20s with a diverse assortment of entries and probably the only place where R. Kelly and Taylor Swift need to be hanging out.
I like all their albums, but I still hear that sense of becoming on this one. From my initial year-end write-up:
On the debut full-length from the best of the current batch of New York rock bands, Nick Zinner's attention-deficit-disorder guitar spars with Karen O's Tourette's syndrome vocals in a race to finish each song — before someone cuts off the electricity or the world ends, whichever comes first — while drummer Brian Chase tries (successfully) to keep it all from flying apart. The result is a sad, sexy, desperate, open-hearted insta-classic and also the rare CD-age album that picks up momentum as it goes — becoming more confident, more expansive, and more vulnerable as spontaneous noise-tunes evolve into full-fledged songs.
Song Sample: "Y Control"
Single: "Fifteen" — Taylor Swift (2009)
The best song about being a teenager written by an actual teenager. Official video here.
From my 2007 year-end:
A big fan of Miranda Lambert's 2005 debut, I was initially underwhelmed by its follow-up because the songwriting seemed more formulaic, less personal — a common second-album pitfall. But repeated listens revealed what a formal triumph Crazy Ex-Girlfriend's early, spitfire singles are and, more crucially, how much better, more seemingly modest stuff is hidden later. The clinchers are late-album sureshots "Guilty in Here" and "More Like Her" — both piercingly ambivalent about the emotional downside of walking on the wild side.
Song Sample: Guilty in Here
Single: "Happy People" — R. Kelly (2004)
Not the first creep to make beautiful music.
From my 2008 year-end:
Lil Wayne is rap's Al Green — an idiosyncratic vocal genius who combines cutesy with carnal while deploying a wide range of verbal registers and tics. This commercial tour de force is his best album because it's the first time he's reined in his logorrhea and put it at the service of so many conceptually focused songs. And while this 16-song, nearly 80-minute opus drags a little down the stretch — and would have been better as a tidy, 10-song banger climaxing with the Kanye West-produced "Let the Beat Build" — the reason it gets better over time is that Wayne's dense, voracious, stream-of-consciousness rhymes constantly yield new surprises.
Song Sample: "Mr. Carter"
Single: "Don't Let Me Get Me" — Pink (2001)
Teen pop grows up, gets introspective, names names.