Last week, we successfully brought you the VH1 staff’s favorite songs of 2011 without any bloodshed, and we’re happy to report that no one’s brain exploded while trying to narrow down the amazing albums of 2012 into a concise list. Again, what VH1 staffers enjoyed in 2012 was a rich and vibrant tapestry of genres, created both by newcomers and veterans.
As far as consensus is concerned, there were 23 LPs that appeared on multiple ballots, but only 6 that appeared on four or more lists: Miguel‘s Kaleidoscope Dream (7 ballots), Emeli Sandé‘s Our Version Of Events and Frank Ocean‘s channel ORANGE (6 ballots apiece), Kendrick Lamar‘s good kid, m.A.A.d. city (5 ballots), Taylor Swift‘s RED and Macklemore & Ryan Lewis‘ The Heist (each with 4 ballots).
Contrary to popular belief, the music most celebrated on the charts isn’t always the best. Okay, that was sarcasm. But even artists with hits on the charts have a slew of singles that fall by the wayside. Not every album is a Katy Perry string of #1s. Thus, here is a list of artists whose albums were certainly recognized, but had singles that didn’t quite get the attention they deserved.
Rye Rye’s delayed and delayed album Go! Pop! Bang! finally came out in May of this year–and is really fantastic. An upbeat, eletro-pop banger that not only samples the Vengaboys‘ “Boom, Boom, Boom, Boom”, but also elevates Rye Rye’s signature sound. Unfortunately, it didn’t do so well on the charts, only hitting #9 on Dance Songs.
Michael Kiwanuka swung by the Late Show with David Letterman last night to share with the late night audience the indelible talent that we were so lucky to have experienced live last week. Armed with an acoustic guitar and a soft-playing backing band, the British singer performed the doleful “I’m Getting Ready.” With a voice soft and soulful beyond its 24-years, watching this made us wish that Kiwanuka would sing us to sleep everynight.
And we suspect we are not alone in that longing. For one, John Mayer – surely a man in the singing song/writing business worth wooing – was impressed. Or, rather, he was “dumbfounded.” “What a voice. What a song. What a vibe. What a soul. What a message,” he wrote breathlessly (or as breathlessly as one can write) on his Tumblr, thusly deeming Kiwanuka “a revelation.” Who are we to disagree?
Have you ever discovered a song that you’re certain you’ve never heard before but, at the same, feels like something that you have loved as long as you can remember? 24-year-old British troubadour Michael Kiwanuka‘s debut album, Home Again, is chock full of gems like this, numbers that are best defined by the word “timeless.” His sound lies somewhere between the mellow soulfulness of Bill Withers and the plaintive, slightly melancholic sound of Nick Drake, and he turned up at Manhattan’s Highline Ballroom for a sold-out show last night, just days removed from a successful appearance at Bonnaroo.
As anyone who has ever attended a concert in the Big Apple will attest, New York City audiences can sometimes be rather standoffish and easily distracted, filled with people standing with their arms crossed and “impress me” expressions on their faces. However, from the very moment that the opening chords of “Always Waiting” played through the sound system last night, the Adele-approved Michael Kiwanuka — he opened for her on tour in the U.K. last year — held the audience’s rapt attention. His music never quite veers into a groove that one would describe as uptempo, but don’t misconstrue the lack of a high BPM for something that’s boring. His voice is the kind that envelops you in a warm embrace, and his skilled backing band often extended songs that hover between three and four minutes on wax into six to eight minute epics, replete with jazzy, jammy sonic flourishes. And to that the richness of his lyrical content, a great deal of which involves pleas directed simultaneously towards both himself and a higher power (“Lord, I need loving” on “Tell Me A Tale”, “Oh Lord, I’m getting ready to believe” on “I’m Getting Ready”), and you have yourself all the ingredients for a mesmerizing and memorable evening.
Michael Kiwanuka may indeed be a brand new artist, but if last night’s moving performance was any indication, his career has a strong chance at being as timeless as his sound.