DAR Music: 8 Popular Albums From 2009

By @TrueGodImmortal

It has almost been 10 years since 2009. In essence, that is amazing. Looking back, it is pretty shocking that so much time has passed and that the year is not fondly remembered in some way as a year in music. 2009 was up and down for the most part, with some solid releases, some disappointing releases, and some albums that could fall under the classic realm possibly. With that, let's take a look back at 8 albums that made an impact in 2009.

*Maxwell- BLACKsummersnight 

-So, Maxwell is one of the essential Neo-Soul artists in music and before 2001, he was quite proficient in releasing music. With three studio albums and a MTV Unplugged release under his belt by 2001, many wondered when Maxwell would return for his fourth studio album. That question would be answered years down the line, over 8 years later to be exact. After such a long hiatus, Maxwell would return with the first of what was said to be a trilogy (10 years later almost and we don't have the third edition yet) and is one of his best albums period. This album doesn't sound like his previous work and while Maxwell's poise and musical charisma is still in tact, he does look to expand his sound a little bit here and there. One example of that is the resounding horns and upbeat vibe of "Bad Habits", which is different from the usual minimalist instrumentation displayed on some of his other albums. You have the ballad "Pretty Wings", which is more of a traditional Maxwell song, but even the cadence and the execution feel fresh. Other highlights include "Help Somebody" and "Stop The World", which remains one of my favorites personally. The album was nearly certified double platinum, making this another success for Maxwell and his fourth consecutive platinum album. If I had to pick the best album on this list from 2009, this would be the one by far.

*Rihanna- Rated R

-So, the truth is, Rihanna was on the top of her game during this time period musically and this was a turning point if you will for her career. After the incident with Chris Brown, the world was waiting to hear what she had to say in her music next and it seemed as if perhaps Rihanna was understandably in a dark place. Her music had begun to take a slightly darker twist with the Good Girl Gone Bad and GGGB Reloaded projects, and Rated R was the culmination of that twist if you will. While I'm personally not a big fan of her music, if I had to pick an album that stands out as her best work, this might be it. Tracks such as "Russian Roulette", "Rude Boy", "Hard", "Cold Case Love", and "Rockstar 101" are all catchy and have Rihanna at her best. A double platinum selling success, Rihanna recovered from the incident the only way most artists know how: with music.

*Alicia Keys- The Element Of Freedom

-So Alicia Keys was still one of the biggest artists in the game when this album released but it wasn't quite the same as the first few projects she would work on. Alicia was still talented, but after the drama that surrounded her situation with Swizz, along with the natural decline that seems to happen with most mainstream artists, she would experience a fall. Her vocals weren't exactly the same, or at least that was how it felt, but that didn't hinder fans from supporting her work. This album would sell over 5 million copies worldwide, largely in part to her singles such as "Put It In A Love Song" featuring Beyonce, "Doesn't Mean Anything", "Try Sleeping With A Broken Heart", and the most memorable song off the album, the Drake penned and 40 produced "Un-Thinkable (I'm Ready)". The Element Of Freedom is probably the third or fourth best album in her discography, but it has songs that you'll skip, and songs that will stay in rotation for some time. It isn't a great album, but it is enjoyable.

*Jay-Z- The Blueprint 3

-So, it felt like Jay had lost a step. He may not have, but its his style that hasn't been the same in years. Sure, American Gangster was a huge highlight for the latter Jay-Z years, but Jay resorted to something less successful on this album, which felt less like an edition of The Blueprint, and just an album made mostly out of a desire to see himself on the charts. I'll admit, Blueprint 3 had me hyped before I heard it and then reality set in quickly. So, Jay doesn't disappoint entirely, as he does show he is still lyrically capable on "Thank You", which is the best song on the album and he addresses all his detractors early on the album with "What We Talkin' Bout". He created a song that got people talking on "D.O.A. (Death Of Autotune)" and made two mega hit singles with Rihanna and Kanye on "Run This Town" and alongside Alicia Keys on "Empire State Of Mind", but at their core, neither song is anything special really. I guess that is the issue with the album. Nothing feels special about the music. Everything lacks a spark. There are features from Jeezy, J. Cole, Kid Cudi, and Drake, and even with newer life added into the songs, for the most part, they just don't work. A big part of that is the production, as there are some confusing choices beat wise, like on "Off That", "Reminder", "A Star Is Born", "Young Forever", and a few others. However, the end of the album does have a few enjoyable moments like the Kanye featured "Hate" and the Pharrell assisted "So Ambitious". Jay goes double platinum and has one of his most commercially successful albums as we've heard two of the singles from this album everywhere outside of hip hop. BP3 is not the worst Jay album, but it isn't that far off and it is without a doubt the worst of the Blueprint trilogy.

*Eminem- Relapse

-So, I didn't dislike Relapse. I actually liked a good amount of the album.... near the end at least. Eminem's novelty hadn't wore off yet and after the disappointment of Encore, fans were clamoring for Em to go back to what worked before. The problem was, Em had gone through so much, including writer's block that it really affected him in every aspect. However, after a near 5 year hiatus, he tries to invoke his old Slim Shady energy for Relapse and while most fans and critics seemed to dismiss the album upon release originally, it is the best album he has released since Encore dropped in 2004. I think it was more lyrically sound than Recovery, all around better than MMLP 2, and the last two projects he released, though Kamikaze wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. While songs like "My Mom", "Bagpipes From Baghdad", and "Hello" could have been taken off, the horrorcore elements of tracks like "3 A.M." and "Insane" were welcome, along with the more personal styled tracks such as "Stay Wide Awake", "Beautiful", "Must Be The Ganja", "Underground", and my personal favorite "Deja Vu". When Em is great, he's great. When he's not, it can get really bad. He shows us both of those sides in this album.

*Trey Songz- Ready

-So, Trey actually was the man at one point. He hasn't been the same over the last few years, but once upon a time, Trey was one of the most popular singers in the world off the strength of this album. I don't personally believe this is his best album, but it is definitely his most infamous project as he would start to breakthrough in the mainstream. The album would become certified platinum plus, putting hit after hit on the Billboard charts and giving his fans a number of anthems to sing along to. For me, the highlights on this album were the intro ("Panty Droppa"), "Neighbors Know My Name", "I Invented Sex", "Does He Do It", and "Jupiter Love". Trey delivered the album that he needed to deliver to change his career and it worked.

*Rick Ross- Deeper Than Rap 

-So, I am of the belief that musically 50 won the beef with Ross, but Ross easily won the war in terms of relevance and improving his stature. All the overwhelming facts against Ross were overlooked and people chose to support him and his music with relative ease. Perhaps his best album, or at least a top 3-4 release in his catalog, Deeper Than Rap shows some improvement all around in Ross and how he makes his music. This is where his production choices got even better and with guest appearances from John Legend, Kanye, Nas, Wayne, and more, his guest list doesn't disappoint. The highlights on this album include "Magnificent", "Valley Of Death", "In Cold Blood", "Rich Off Cocaine", and "Usual Suspects". Personally, I think 50 released a better album this year, but Deeper Than Rap became more of a talking point in hip hop for fans that year, thus it is included here.

*Raekwon- Only Built For Cuban Linx....Pt. II

-It is very rare that a sequel is better than the original. That almost never happens. When following up one of the greatest albums ever, it is almost clear cut known that you will not be able to outdo yourself. 14 years after the release of the first classic, Raekwon tries to recapture the magic of the first album and he manages to mostly do that while also updating the sound to fit the current hip hop landscape to an extent. Production wise, Rae has nothing but amazing talent, as Dilla, RZA, Pete Rock, Scram Jones, Alchemist, Dr. Dre, and more supply the sound, but that is partially why this album could never outdo the first. Yes, this album is great and the use of multiple producers brings a variety of sounds, but what made the first album so special was the cohesion that came with just one producer mainly handling the sound. That aside, Rae delivers what I feel is the best hip hop album of 2009, which is supported by tracks like "Catalina", "Mean Streets", "Have Mercy", "New Wu", "Pyrex Vision", and more. Raekwon doesn't disappoint, he just doesn't compare to the first album, while still making a near classic. That's how good the first album was.



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