Best Of 2009: Disappointments Of The Year


The title of Rihanna’s last single perfectly summons up the impression 2009 has left on us: “Hard” is the word that best describes it and we begin its review remembering those who made it a bit harder by failing to deliver on the high expectations surrounding them. Examples are aplenty; in fact the majority of 2009’s releases feel like a disappointment in bulk. However, in a year when the sad death of Michael Jackson was its sociological phenomenon; David Guetta was king among producers; Black Eyed Peas were the biggest band in the planet and that mature lady from Scotland is on her way to become the best selling album with a collection of standards pushed to collective (in)conscience via the emotional manipulation of Talent TV shows, is hard not to be forgiving with those who had at least the intention to produce something decent but failed in the attempt.

C’mon guys! We know you can do better.

10-RIHANNA “Rated R”

After the enviable – and eminently danceable – string of hits generated by her last album placed the Bajan star on top of the pop world; she must have been really ill-advised, or terribly affected by the dramatic events in her personal life, to produce an album filled with ballads, leaving totally in the dry millions of fans eagerly awaiting for another club banger like “Umbrella”, “Shut Up And Drive”, or at least another “Pon de replay”. Her limited vocal range does not really allow her much room to compete with the Mariahs of the world, either; so the route of the “human interest” talk show seemed to be the only way to promote this turkey.

9-FRANZ FERDINAND “Tonight”

Everybody’s favorite Scottish post-rock band tried to expand their sonic ways and leave the trap of an aged post-rock sound well past its expiry date, after being one of the most defining trends during the first half of the decade. They failed to bring new memorable songs. But it was a noble failure, anyway.

8-MASTER PIECES ™

If you’ve read any best of list in mainstream press; you would probably believe 2009 has been a vintage year for music. Papers need to be sold and they often recur to do so by plugging the works of all-time veterans, granting them with the habitual odes. If you bought any of those albums seduced by their reviews, you may have already changed your opinion. This brand of untouchable suspects, whose contracts seem to establish they can only be tagged as masterpiece generators, in 2009 felt particularly flat. Trying to push the rather flawed latest opuses by Springsteen; U2 or Neil Young with the perpetual treatment of exception was pushing people’s intelligence too far. Some even tried to validate Prince’s triple package horror or Bob Dylan’s scary foray into Christmas songs, months after Mr. Masterpiece himself had delivered that blessing for sleep-deprivation that was “Together through Life”.

7- THOSE TROUBLED DEBUTS…

Kid Cudi; Kid Sister; Music Go Music!; Little Boots; BLK JKS….Promises! Promises!

6-…AND THOSE DIFFICULT FOLLOW-UPS

Peter, Bjorn & John; The Field; Gossip; Simian Mobile Disco; Dodos ;Vivian Girls; etc. were among the most notorious cases of artists finding it difficult to match the former success, in some cases, or the hype in others, that made them popular in the first place. Better luck next time!!

5-KINGS OF 90s ELECTRONICA

Maybe it was coincidence; or maybe the revival of the nineties that’s been happening in continental Europe reached our shores; but it seems that an outrageous number of artists whose careers peaked with the boom of electronic music in the nineties have planned their return for this year; all of them to dismal results. The worst were probably French Air, whose bland “Love 2” killed any hope for the duo’s potential recovery; The Prodigy turned into monsters of rock by feeding on their own clichés; Basement Jaxx toyed with a healthy dose of experimentation but this time it didn’t produce the club bangers; even Moby was back again this time in acoustic mode. Mon Dieu!

4-DIZZEE RASCAL “Tongue ‘N Cheek” & UK GRIME

From the sound of the underground to the sound of the shopping mall, British Grime has left behind its street roots in order to become a fixture in the charts. Dizzee Rascal, one of the genre’s main shapers, finally enjoyed a well-deserved success, repeating the formula of his collaboration with DJ Calvin Harris and delivering an album full of rather cheesy dance-hop anthems. Shame one of the most talented rappers of the last 10 years had to make it this way. Thank God we still got Dubstep. We’ll make sure we take the most of it before the genre’s most enigmatic DJs decide to form a boyband.

3-JAY-Z “The Blueprint 3”

Jay-Z’s high profile Glastonbury headline finally earned him the same A-list status in Europe that he’s been enjoying in the States since his beginnings. Like Dizzee Rascal, shame European success knocked on his door before the release of one of the worst records of his career. The third installment of his landmark “Blueprint” appeared desperate for public recognition. Few months after its release it has already generated four big hits, from the controversial message of “Death of Autotune” to the mediocre “Run this town” next to Rihanna and KanYe; reaching truly execrable levels with his appropriation of Alphaville’s euro-dance eighties ballad “Forever Young” in the dubious company of British soft-rocker Mr. Hudson. Only his anthemic duet with Alicia Keys dedicated to their hometown NY could be saved from the rubble.

2- N.A.S.A “The Spirit Of Apollo”

With a guest list that could be used to check on everyone who’s cool in today’s indie; hip-hop and rock worlds. (M.I.A; Karen O; John Frusciante; KanYe West; Santigold; Tom Waits; Chuck D; David Byrne; Lykke Li; Members Of Wu-Tang Clan; etc) and helped by an impressive array of audiovisual work; this DJ couple formed by Spike Jonze’s brother Squeak-E Clean and DJ Zegon launched their debut “The Spirit Of Apollo” to universal embarrassment. How could anyone counting with the backing of so much prime talent produce something so average was the question on everybody’s lips. What a wasted opportunity!

1-TIMBALAND- “Shock Value II”

We can trace the moment when it all went wrong for the producer of the decade to his star studded debut album “Shock Value”. In 2007 the man with the Midas touch, driven by his impressive success record, decided to expand and cover the whole spectrum of current mainstream chart music with a critically panned, but best-selling, record. “Shock Value” was responsible for such horrors as the discovery of AOR bland ballad mongers OneRepublic; or Timbo’s own adventures in guitar land with nasty collaborations with The Hives or Fall Out Boy that must have convinced him hard rock was easy peasy, going shortly afterwards to produce Chris Cornell’s disastrous latest solo opus, “Scream”. Since then it has all been downhill in the quality of his output, losing quite a lot of the inventive magic that boosted the careers of such protégées as Missy Elliott; Justin Timberlake or Nelly Furtado. The second installment of “Shock Value” was even more shocking in his choice of collaborators (from teen princess Miley Cyrus to AOR master Nickelback’s Chad Kroeger) and brought further misery to those who have devotedly followed Timbaland’s astonishing career to date.

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