1. Sam Smith : In The Lonely Hour
Many people know Sam Smith for his hit singles Stay With Me or I’m Not The Only One, but truly, In The Lonely Hour is an album worth listening to in all its glorious entirety. With a soulful voice to croon your woes away, Smith’s album is the perfect choice for a happily lonely Valentine’s Day. Or any other happily lonely day, for that matter. In The Lonely Hour successfully puts together a mix of mellow songs, like Leave Your Lover, with ones that are more upbeat, like Restart. The range works in the way only Sam Smith can, and each song works to build a story of unrequited love and heartbreak. With the amount of success that was met with this debut album, the whole music world is expecting greater things from Smith, who is currently on his world tour. Don’t know whether to pay the extra bucks for the deluxe album? I say it’s worth the money. The acoustic version of Latch, the doleful tunes of Make It To Me, and two additional tracks give you more Sam Smith, and the more Sam Smith there is in your life, the merrier (or bluesy-er?) it is. And there’s solid proof: In The Lonely Hour and Sam Smith has been nominated for the highly prestigious Grammy awards this year, and reaping a whopping four of the awards.
2. Nicki Minaj : Pinkprint
Nicki Minaj is well known from her…well, peculiar sense of fashion, her climax being in 2011. But there is definitely a sense of maturity brewing from the queen of rap, as her new album Pinkprint sheds light on the softer, more personal side of Minaj. It reaches a personal level of Minaj as it discusses her life pre and post fame: how it has affected not only her but her friends and family. Billboard has called it “her best album to date”, and I couldn’t agree more. With powerful collaborations with artists such as Beyoncé, Drake, Chris Brown, Lil Wayne, Ariana Grande, and Skylar Gray, you can just tell from this list how great and diverse this album is. This album tones down the arrogance notch for Minaj, and brings back the focus to securing her position within the rap world, as sort of an example for female rappers to come. She is authentic, she is successful, and she’s gained respect at a whole another level with this album.
3. Hozier : Hozier (pronounced Ho-zhur)
Hozier’s self-titled debut album set new records in the music world, especially with its highly popular single Take Me To Church, which according to Shazam, was its #1 Most Shazamed Song of 2014. Talk about taking it to church! The album gives off a deliciously bluesy vibe that makes it next to impossible for you to switch to another album once the tracks start playing. A few of the tracks show similar categories of interest, such as Take Me To Church, Angel of Small Death and the Codeine Scene, From Eden, and Foreigner’s God, which all show a religious allusion that’s a heavy topic in Hozier’s album. But its generally slightly melancholy vibe makes this album the perfect song to cozy up to for your study sessions or on rainy days.
4. Ed Sheeran : x
It was first +, and now it’s x. It’s unclear what it is about Ed Sheeran and mathematical signs, but its simplicity speaks volumes, and in no way deteriorates from the overall quality of the album. His lyrics are as deep as ever, making people doubt that a human of the 21st century was able to put those feelings into such words and into such music. Sheeran’s album lacks a heavy number of features by other artists, but it works favorably for his part. Sheeran is enough with just his voice, his guitars, and his lyrics, and it’s proven through songs like Thinking Out Loud and Afire Love. This is definitely one of the more mellower albums, and contains great songs to listen to if you’re seeking for inspiration or just for focus, and Ed Sheeran, as expected, won’t let you down. If you’ve listened to +, x is just the multiplied (ha, get it?), version of it in the way that it is better and shows a more sophisticated side of Ed Sheeran, even though it’s hard to believe that Sheeran could get any more sophisticated than he already is. Plus, it’s also nominated for a Grammy this year.
5. Shawn Mendes : The Shawn Mendes EP/Handwritten
It would be unsurprising if you have never heard of the god of Vine singers, Shawn Mendes. Having gained his fame from the same platform as the likes of Nash Grier, Jerome Jarre, and Cameron Dallas, Shawn Mendes became an overnight sensation with his standard 6-second Vine cover of As Long As You Love Me by Justin Bieber. As he began to post more and more 6-second covers, or sometimes his original works, Mendes came close to being in his own headlining tour as part of the Magcon Tour, a tour of viners comprised of well known, popular male viners such as Nash Grier, Cameron Dallas, and Jack and Jack. But Mendes’s fame skyrocketed after he signed with the Island record label, and he soon released his first EP The Shawn Mendes EP, comprised of four songs that really bring it down to how he all started in the first place — his voice and his guitar, as proven through tracks like Life of the Party and The Weight. Mendes’s raw talented that’s hard to find in this day and age is clearly shown through these four tracks, and although he may be underrated now, his rapid rise to fame makes him and his upcoming album Handwritten (April 29, 2015) definitely two things on your radar.
6. The 1975 : The 1975
With their debut album officially released in 2013, then their deluxe album in 2014, the hype about The 1975 still hasn’t quite disappeared yet. In fact, the band had Seoul as a part of their Asian leg of their first world tour a few months ago. Their lead singer Matt Healy holds the grunge hearts of millions of teenage girls, with his luscious hair and bad boy vibes that radiate not just from photos of him but from the lyrics that he sings. The 1975’s song spectrum is definitely in polar opposites, with songs like Chocolate lifting the overall vibe of the album, while tracks like Settle Down slow down the pace. If you haven’t already, settle down, listen to this album track by track, and let Matt Healy’s beautiful voice take you someplace far away.
7. Rixton : Me And My Broken Heart EP
Yet another boy-band, Rixton is a group of 4 boys who debuted in March of 2014. Not too long after, their single Me And My Broken Heart became well known, and thus they because escalated into fame, having released one more single since then. Although the band is a little too underrated for the level of their talent, with the recognition they have received thus far, they have been compared to the likes of the internationally renowned band Maroon 5. The EP is only four tracks long, but worth every penny, and once you’ve had enough of that, take some time to listen to Wait On Me, and maybe even watch some of their music videos. (I recommend Hotel Ceiling.)
8. Ariana Grande : My Everything
Ariana Grande’s latest collaboration filled album has everyone from Big Sean to Zedd, while her amazing vocal range and the classic, mainstream pop tunes make this album an instant favorite. Although, to be frank, some collaborations like Hands On Me featuring A$AP Ferg simply seem to be lacking certain elements, for the most part, Grande nails her tracks with her killer notes and honey sweet voice. These are tunes made by and made for true pop divas, and are perfect for Friday night dance sessions, getting ready in the morning, or pre-game warm ups before practice begins.
9. Tinashe : Aquarius
New on the R&B/rap scene, Tinashe caught the attention of millions with her hit single 2 On, which is featured in her debut album. Frequently compared to the likes of R&B queens Jhené Aiko and BANKS, Tinashe is definitely the latest thread to look out for. With songs like 2 On that are definitely mood boosting to space-y tracks like Aquarius, what makes this R&B album even better are its collaborations, which include an impressive list of A$AP Rocky, Schoolboy Q, and Future, all of whom are big names in the rapping industry. Tinashe’s sweet vocals are definitely the perfect accompaniment to the rap portions, which are weaved in and relevant to the song, a feat that seems to be hard to achieve for other songs nowadays. There is one thing for sure, however — Aquarius is the perfect start for Tinashe’s skyrocketing career.
10. Childish Gambino : Because The Internet
If you think this face looks familiar, it might be because you saw him as Troy Barnes on Yahoo original series Community. But Childish Gambino, also known as Donald Glover, left the show to fully pursue his budding rapping career, and Because The Internet is solid proof of the work he’s done, as well as the potential he shows for the future. If you’re up for listening to some good rap music, Gambino is the way to go. Must listen to tracks include V. 3005, III. Telegraph Ave. (“Oakland” by Lloyd), and IV. Sweatpants. Familiar names such as Jhené Aiko, Azealia Banks, and Chance the Rapper also feature in this album, making it a powerful track by track to listen to. The way Gambino raps is effortless, and from his lyrics to the mood variations of this soundtrack, Because the Internet is worth every last cent you paid to get it.
– Faith Choi (’16)
Header: Capitol Records, Island Records, Young Money, Cash Money Records