If anybody says the music business is a man’s world, they would be lying. In 2014, we had Taylor Swift’s opus, 1989, rule the roost along with Beyoncé’s self-titled surprise (which was actually released in late 2013). In 2015, Adele, Janet Jackson, and Lana Del Rey released not only some of the best music of the year, but their latest work was some of the best music of their careers.
Let’s start with Adele’s 5-star album, 25. The first single,”Hello,” is one of those rare songs that hits you in the gut the very first time you listen to it. With her soulful voice, Adele makes us all remember our regrets for letting go of a past love (and maybe even a past friend). According to Billboard, the song has been No. 1 for seven weeks and could easily break the record for most weeks at No. 1.
The bouncy “Water Under The Bridge” is another highlight that covers the same theme as “Hello.” Perhaps the album’s best moment is “All I Ask,” which is like 2011’s “Someone Like You” on steroids. But really, all the songs on 25 tug at your heart. You know an artist has released a classic album when you have to pick out the amazing songs from those that are just simply fantastic.
Janet Jackson’s Unbreakable doesn’t hit the “Perfect” status that 25 does, but it comes close. It’s a shame that Janet Jackson’s management team chose such overboard marketing tactics to promote this album; it really puts a dark cloud over Jackson’s best musical effort since The Velvet Rope in 1997. In fact, Unbreakable could have easily been released in 1997. That’s not to say it sounds dated as that’s not the case at all.
Jackson may have a thin and airy voice, but that same voice exudes emotion that technically great singers such as Mariah Carey could only dream of conveying to their audience. When listening to Unbreakable, you know Janet really means what she sings. She is at her absolute best on “Well Traveled,” a country-flavored song in which she doesn’t seem to regret anything and claims the only place she misses is a place she hasn’t been to yet.
Besides the airy R&B first single, “No Sleeep,” another major highlight is the song, “Night;” a bouncy R&B dance track that Ms. Jackson uses to offer proof that Heaven really does exist. After several years of lacking musical confidence, Unbreakable is a fabulous return to form for Janet Jackson.
Lana Del Rey’s Honeymoon may sound completely different than Unbreakable, but it hits the same notes of excellence. The fact that the Grammys ignored Honeymoon should be considered a major crime, especially since most of the singers nominated could never exude the same confidence Del Rey does on her latest album.
The title track is the best song Lana has released so far. It exudes the same emotion as “Summertime Sadness,” but the singer ups the sadness to the maximum. Nobody can ever accuse Del Rey of having the best voice in the world, but she certainly is up there when it comes to vocal confidence.
The soundscape of “Terrance Loves You” draws you in Del Rey’s world and then spits you out. It shows what a versatile artist Lana really is. “God Knows I Tried” is one of those songs you can picture yourself listening to on a June summer night watching a sunset. In fact, the same thing can be said about the entire Honeymoon album.
Madonna, Drake, Kendrick Lamar, and even Justin Bieber also released great albums in 2015. But unlike Adele, Janet Jackson, and Lana Del Rey, their albums weren’t consistent. Let’s hope that 2016 offers albums that match the quality of Adele and company.
[Photo by Sascha Steinbach/Getty Images]