NEW YORK (AP) — More than hit singles, albums are works of art that move you to think, reflect, dance and smile. Here are 10 albums that did that in 2015, according to Associated Press music editor Mesfin Fekadu.
1. “Blue Neighborhood,” Troye Sivan: Just as the battle for album of the year was going down between Kendrick Lamar and Adele, enter a multi-layered, experimental pop record by a newcomer from South Africa by way of Australia. Released on Dec. 4, Sivan’s “Blue Neighborhood” is remarkable from its opening number, the cool mid-tempo jam “WILD,” to the other 15 tracks best described as broody pop music. Though just 20 years old, Sivan’s voice is mature and striking, and it serves as the anchor for this collection of epic songs.
2. “To Pimp a Butterfly,” Kendrick Lamar: Lamar’s brave storytelling continues to push the envelope, and his sophomore album not only pushes him ahead of his rap peers, but his pop and rock ones, too.
3. “25,” Adele: I don’t need to explain this.
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4. “Purpose,” Justin Bieber: Now this I need to explain. Bieber’s new album is outstanding and though he’s been singing for years, with “Purpose” he’s finally actually saying something.
5. “Rebel Heart,” Madonna: Most icons dropping albums in 2015 are misses, but Madonna’s “Rebel Heart” is a contemporary classic that puts albums from other female artists half her age to shame. It’s unfortunate that Top 40 radio stations didn’t play the many hits this album could have provided, from “Bitch I’m Madonna” to “Joan of Arc.”
6. “Carrie & Lowell,” Sufjan Stevens: Stevens’ indie folk adventure dubbed “Carrie & Lowell” is a must-listen that is highlighted by his breathy vocals.
7. “Hamilton (Original Broadway Cast Recording),” Various artists: The Broadway play “Hamilton,” written by Lin-Manuel Miranda, tells the story of Founding Father Alexander Hamilton through rap songs, R&B jams and pop ballads. It’s pure heaven.
8. “Sound & Color,” Alabama Shakes: Frontwoman Brittany Howard is such a powerhouse, both with her voice and with the pen. Songs like “Don’t Wanna Fight” and the untouchable “Gimme All Your Love” are groundbreaking and enjoyable.
9. “Reality Show,” Jazmine Sullivan: In her first album in five years, Sullivan returns with a confident R&B effort that is just as strong as her previous releases, thanks to groovy tracks like “Mascara” and “Let It Burn.”
10. “Unbreakable,” Janet Jackson: Miss Jackson’s return to music included a killer tour and an album full of upbeat and touching songs that will make you dance and cry.