2006 was a year in which straightforward pop music, in all of its myriad colors, came charging back to the forefront. Here is the best of the best for the year in pop music albums.
2006 is the year Justin Timberlake, the pop idol, erased any doubts about his credibility as a significant pop artist. Working in a powerfully symbiotic relationship with producer Timbaland, JT created a pop masterpiece that simultaneously borrows extensively from the past while wrapping everything up in a package that points strongly to the future. It is also an album where even the transitions are solid - not a moment wasted on this disc.
Apparently, playing the role of Deena Jones in the movie version of the Broadway classic Dreamgirls was a rewarding but, ultimately, emotionally draining experience for Beyonce. Once shooting ended, she headed to the comfort of the recording studio and put together the album B'Day in record time. Reportedly, it says everything Beyonce wishes Deena could have said in the move. Fortunately for us, the result crackles with energy and emotional intensity putting the power of tracks like "Suga Mama" and "Freakum Dress" alongside the gorgeous melody of the smash hit "Irreplaceable."
Arctic Monkeys arrived in the UK with unprecedented hoopla. The reception was a bit more muted in the US, but that didn't hide the fact that this group of guys barely out of their teens were the real thing. Bathed in the influence of classic groups like the Clash and the Jam, Arctic Monkeys fashioned a distinctly blue-collar sound that brought the story of a new generation of outsiders to the attention of all of us.
We all expected My Chemical Romance had an album with this power in them, but not many of us really expected the form to be equal parts Queen, Pink Floyd's The Wall and Green Day. The Black Parade proves rock still has a fundamental role in the pop music universe.
Fergie's solo debut was better than almost anyone expected it to be. Humor, heart and personal style abound here. Not every tune is perfect, but the sheer audacity of tracks like the reggae tribute to "Mary Jane Shoes" will surely make you smile.
Who would have thought an album designed as a sequel to a classic album recorded 30 years ago would have turned out to be one of the best albums of Elton John's career? If you are an Elton John fan, or if you simply occasionally feel nostalgic for the pop music of the 70's, you owe it to yourself to listen to this album. The songwriting partnership of Elton John and Bernie Taupin has aged with tremendous grace.
Corinne Bailey Rae began 2006 unknown in the US, but as one of the key artists to watch for the year in the UK. Her single "Put Your Records On" soared to #1 in the UK and was enough to get her music noticed in the US. A mini-tour introduced her to more American music fans and ultimately resulted in Grammy Award nominations for Best New Artist and Record of the Year. Jazz-inflected neo-soul with rock solid pop hooks give Corinne Bailey Rae's music tremendous resonance.
This was the year Scissor Sisters hoped to finally have a major pop breakthrough here at home in the US. It was not to be, but Ta-Dah is an artistic triumph. The lead single "I Don't Feel Like Dancing" was a smash #1 in the UK and just gives a few indications of the pop candy delights to be found throughout the album.