Top 5 Albums of 2006–Emale Gray

By Emale Gray

Beyoncé, B’Day

Rather than making more radio-friendly hits such as “Baby Boy” and “Me, Myself, & I,” Beyoncé became even crazier in love, creating the short yet powerful B’Day. Beyoncé screams, yells, growls, and does everything in between on every track, pouring her heart and soul into her lyrics. Standout tracks include “Suga Mama” where the Hillbillies meet Beyoncé as she sings at full force over a funky Jake Wade sample; “Ring the Alarm,” where she openly goes axe-murderer on Jay, proclaiming, “I’ll be damned if I see another chick on your arm”; and the single and radio hit “Irreplaceable,” in which all of Jay-Z’s stuff is put in the box “to the left.”

Nelly Furtado, Loose

Speaking of radio hits, producer Timbaland’s heavy drums and voice could be heard in at least half of the songs on the radio this past year. He even took the time to give diva Nelly Furtado a drastic makeover. With Loose, Furtado retained her cultural appreciation and captivating lyrics, but added a heap of Timbaland to create an album that has multiple tracks currently playing on radio and television stations worldwide.

Justin Timberlake, Future Sex/Love Sounds

Nelly Furtado wasn’t the only artist to realize Timbo’s talents. After the success of Justified Justin Timberlake found a musical partner in Timabaland, allowing him to produce the whole of his latest work Future Sex/Love Sounds. Timberlake beat-boxes, sings, and raps with ease over the creative and imaginative worlds created by Timbaland. In “Love Stoned/ I Think She Knows,” a casual stroll turns into a journey through space guided by alternative rock group Interpol, while soothing guitars, a symphony, Timbaland’s drumming, and a bevy of other effects highlight many of the other tracks.

Robin Thicke, The Evolution of Robin Thicke

And while we’re on the topic of little white boys with soul, Robin Thicke has arrived as the second coming of Prince. Using his affluent falsetto and thoughtful lyricism skills, Thicke took his time to fashion 16 moving tracks such as the endearing “Lost Without U” and the racy “Teach U a Lesson.” Pharrell dropped a hit beat in “Wanna Love U Girl,” and Thicke constructs his own salsa party in “Everything I Can’t Have.” One of the album’s highlights is “2 the Sky,” a powerful ballad that exudes a sense of surrender through insistent guitars and Thicke’s searing vocals.

Lupe Fiasco, Food & Liquor

“Kick, Push” came out of nowhere, with its positive, light-hearted lyrics about skateboarding and the deeper meaning of kicking, pushing, and coasting through life. In an era full of rappers constantly making death threats and having some “beef” with someone else, it’s a pleasure to listen to a rapper who isn’t talking about women, cars, and money. On Food & Liquor, Jay-Z, The Neptunes, Kanye West, Linkin Park’s Mike Shinoda, and so many more bless tracks such as “I Gotcha,” “The Cool,” and “The Instrumental.” With an assist from the prolific musical brilliance of these guest artists, Lupe delivers an album that shines much brighter than the idle raps and monotonous sounds of most current hip-hop artists.