Daddy Yankee, El Cartel: The Big Boss
In all of Billboard history, no artist has made gringos all over the United States feel the impacto of reggaetón music like Daddy Yankee. What stands out about El Cartel: The Big Boss is the lack of that patented reggaetón beat and the inclusion of the pop-hop flavor of Black Eyed Peas’ will.i.am, classic salsa and merengue ritmos, and hit-maker Fergie, making this album not only a step forward from the exasperatingly monotonous song “Gasolina,” but also a much-needed step in the evolution for reggaetón music.
Lupe Fiasco, Lupe Fiasco’s The Cool
Speeding past 50 Cent and Kanye West’s Escalades on nothing but a skateboard, Lupe Fiasco’s The Cool surpasses both of 2007’s biggest disappointments with lyrics that speak on more than the size of his [you fill in the blank] and musical growth that revels in the regressions of the aforementioned.
Alicia Keys, As I Am
Upon first listen to As I Am, Alicia Keys appears to have taken an overdose of Ritalin, performing with as much passion as Britney Spears at the MTV VMAs. Somehow, once you make it past yawning at the album, songs like “No One,” “Like You’ll Never See Me Again,” and “Superwoman” easily become anthems with their universal messages, tender delivery, and determined vocals.
Amy Winehouse, Back to Black
Even though Amy Winehouse may still be shouting “No, No, No” to rehab, subsequently giving sub-par performances, and slashing her convict husband in and out of jail, fans are still screaming “Yes, Yes, Yes” to her masterpiece Back to Black, the one piece of remaining evidence that testifies to Winehouse’s talent. “Me & Mr. Jones,” “Love Is A Losing Game,” and “He Can Only Hold Her” remarkably rehash the inimitable sound of 60s Motown, a feat that many artists entertain but never achieve.
Seemingly repetitive and nonsensical lyrics flow like blood through “Bird Flu” alongside deplorable vocals and an odd use of bird calls. Nonetheless, for this song as well as all others on M.I.A.’s Kala, this unusual combination works, creating 12 captivating songs with subliminal yet strong political statements and production that mirrors and elaborates on them.
Honorable Mention: Britney Spears, Blackout
While stars Mary-Kate Olsen and Lindsey Lohan allowed their drug/alcohol addictions to degrade their professional careers, fellow addict Britney Spears pulled herself together, just long enough to pay producers and writers to construct one of 2007’s best albums for her. No, Blackout does not contain anything politically riveting or musically mind-blowing, but due to the skill of producers like Danja, The Neptunes, and Bloodyshy & Avant, this album plays as if Spears might have a few brain cells intact.