Editor’s note: The views and opinions expressed in this review are solely those of Marlon Wallace and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of WBOC.
10. MARRY ME (ORIGINAL MOTION PICTURE SOUNDTRACK) by Jennifer Lopez & Maluma – For Valentine’s Day, the new film starring J.Lo hit theaters and Peacock. Nearly 2 years prior, J.Lo and Maluma, a Colombian pop star, released a song called “Pa Ti (For You)” that was to be the lead single for the film’s soundtrack. It was J.Lo’s first hit song in a long time. J.Lo and Maluma wrote a lot of the songs in 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic. The album infuses reggaeton, gospel-like pop and EDM.
9. THE JOSH RAMSAY SHOW by Josh Ramsay – Ramsay is a 37-year-old Canadian from Vancouver who started his own band called Marianas Trench when he was just a teenager, age 14. That band has released five albums over the past 20 years. His biggest break would be when he was nominated for Song of the Year at the 55th Grammy Awards for co-writing Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Call Me Maybe” almost 10 years ago. This is Ramsay’s first solo project.
8. DRAGON NEW WARM MOUNTAIN I BELIEVE IN YOU by Big Thief – This indie rock band has folk influences. They’re based in Brooklyn. Their third record was nominated for Best Alternative Album at the 62nd Grammy Awards. A track off their fourth record got nominated for Best Rock Song and Best Rock Performance at the 63rd Grammys. They recorded this album in five different studios across the country over the course of five months. They recorded 45 songs, which was cut down to 20 tracks for this double-album. According to Metacritic, several reviews have called it a “masterpiece.”
7. FLOATING ON A DREAM by Avi Kaplan – He was a member of an “a cappella” group called Pentatonix from 2011 to 2017. Mainly, the group did cover songs. The group won three Grammy Awards. They won Best Arrangement at the 57th and 58th Grammy Awards. They also won Best Country Duo/Group Performance at the 59th Grammys. This record is Kaplan’s debut studio album as a solo artist. It was produced by country musician, Shooter Jennings.
6. DREAMLAND by Amos Lee – He was born in Philadelphia. Graduated from the University of South Carolina. He worked as a schoolteacher and bartender. He signed with Blue Note Records and was invited to be the opening act for Norah Jones in the early 2000’s. He toured with Bob Dylan not that long after. He’s had a hit record. This is his eighth studio album, however.
5. IVORY by Omar Apollo – The 25-year-old is of Mexican heritage. He’s openly gay and this is his debut album with Warner Records. Alisdair Grice, writing for DIY magazine, says, “Conflating his electro-pop tendencies with the occasional stride of a campfire guitar, he [Omar Apollo] turns everything he touches to glistening radio gold.” Andy Kellman with AllMusic says that Apollo “launches into bristling pop-punk after the intro, and elsewhere offers honeyed hip-hop, convincing retro-soul, and a touching corrido, among other styles, refining his R&B-rooted bedroom pop throughout.”
4. FREEWHEELIN’ WOMAN by Jewel – She rose to fame in the early 90’s. She’s sold over 30 million albums worldwide. This is her 13th studio album. She reportedly recorded this one in Muscle Shoals, Alabama, a famous place where R&B and soul artists recorded.
3. IN REAL LIFE by Mandy Moore – The singer and actress made her mark in the late 90’s, early 2000’s. She started in the music world, emerging as a potential pop star to rival or be an alternative to Britney Spears or Christina Aguilera. However, she pivoted more into the acting arena, probably becoming more associated with the Disney musical Tangled (2010). Recently, she caught notice for her role in the hit NBC drama, This Is Us (2016). This album is her seventh, and it’s a bit far away from early pop sound. It’s instead more folk, more laid-back, more somber, but beautiful.
2. CANDYDRIP by Lucky Daye – The 36-year-old from New Orleans competed on Season 4 of American Idol back in 2005. He wrote songs for Boyz II Men and Mary J. Blige. His debut album was nominated for four prizes at the 62nd Grammy Awards, including Best R&B Album. He dropped an EP called Table for Two (2021), which was nominated in two categories at the 64th Grammy Awards. He even won at the ceremony earlier this year. He picked up the trophy for Best Progressive R&B Album. This record is his follow-up, and it shows his promise as an artist.
1. LET’S SAY FOR INSTANCE by Emeli Sandé – The Afro-Scottish singer really exploded onto the scene 10 years ago when she released her debut album. She even performed at the opening and closing ceremonies of the London Olympics in 2012. That debut album and her sophomore album, both made my lists for favorites for 2012 and 2016. She essentially came out as part of the LGBTQ community this year, as she revealed herself to be in a same-sex relationship. She’s probably more of a sensation in the UK, but I hope that she crosses over and is more recognized in the United States.
To see my full list, go to my personal blog.