I will never pretend to be the complete music connoisseur that others on this site are. I like certain styles of music and will continue to buy those styles all year round. I’m the guy who bought LL Cool J’s latest album even though I expected it to be trash (and it was). I will give new artists a chance only if they are suggested to me by people I know and trust. You can say I’m in my own musical bubble. Thus, my top 10 albums are very much in the pop/R&B/hip hop genres and even in those genres, you won’t find any surprises. With that kind of introduction, how can you not want to read this list?

10. Day26 – Day26

Diddy’s new New Edition was probably a bit overrated coming out because their musical debut was marketed through the television show Making The Band, but I think they have a chance to succeed as long as Diddy sticks with him. Diddy has shown that he’s willing to drop members of the group like he did in Danity Kane. But I think these guys have the right chemistry necessary in today’s fickle music world. Not to say that they’ll become legendary, but I think they have a chance to make a few more albums. On their debut, they show definite promise. Give me more Co Star, Got Me Going, and Exclusive and I think I’ll continue buying their records.

9. Kanye West – 808s & Heartbreak

It’s really a crime that I have to score Kanye’s latest album so low. It’s creative, inventive, emotional, introspective, and he should get credit for stretching his boundaries. But the singing is terrible. The song writing is good in spots though terrible in others. The production is top notch and you won’t catch everything unless you listen closely and with headphones. But I can’t get over the overuse of Auto-tune and simple bad singing.

8. Brandy – Human

Though I think she’s naked without the likes of Wanya and Mase around her, I do still like Brandy. With this album she opens up a lot about relationships of yesteryear and there’s a lot that I can relate to, including the song Long Distance. Having been in a long distance relationship myself, she taps into all the emotions you go through when you love someone who doesn’t live close to you. Right Here (Departed) and The Definition are also really good songs.

7. John Legend – Evolver

This is one of the few albums that I liked far more when I heard it the first few times than I do now. There’s something about Legend with this third album that slightly bothers me. His last album was near perfect and I guess I expected too much from him. Green Light was a fun single with Andre 3000, but It’s Over with Kanye West was a miss. There is definitely good stuff on this album including Everybody Knows, Cross The Line, and I Love, You Love, but what’s missing from this album is the non-skippability his last album had. I found myself skipping through the album a lot more than most albums on this list. I kept telling myself, “But this is John Legend.” But it didn’t work. I still skipped.

6. Q-Tip – The Renaissance

Being a huge fan of A Tribe Called Quest, this album was right up my alley. There’s just something about Tribe. Q-Tip has always been an original kind of MC and you can’t paint him into any corner. Many former hip hop fans came out of the woodwork and just loved this album. And the reason for that? This album is fun. I want you to find a more fun song this year than Move.

5. Raphael Saadiq – The Way I See It

When this album came out, Money Mike said that the reason he likes it is because he’s supposed to like it. I feel somewhat the same way. However, it can’t be the only reason I like it. While this album has the old Motown feel all over it, it’s not only for that reason either. I guess I just like the throwback vibe to the simpleness of music. I’m a sucker and a half for a nice slow jam and Oh Girl does it for me.

“I promise I won’t let you down
I’m gonna make you so proud
I’ll keep you here next to mine
And I’ll be everything you need
Believe me girl”

Usher's album - Here I Stand

Usher's album - Here I Stand

4. Usher – Here I Stand

I spent much of 2008 telling Mike how disappointed I was with Usher’s new album and here it sits at number four on my list. And then I got it. The gaudy dance singles are missing. He’s still on the freaky tip a bit too much for my taste. But what you see is individual growth. You can hear it in Moving Mountains and even in the interlude to his son, Prayer For You Interlude. I think the gem is the hidden track Will Work For Love.

“Excuse me you two, got love to spare?
Search my whole heart, ain’t none in there
Pardon me sister, I’m on my last
Don’t have no love, that’s OK, God bless”

3. Robin Thicke – Something Else

Robin Thicke came out of the box strong with Magic and stayed strong with The Sweetest Love. In a perfect world, Dreamworld would blow up and be a strong single for 2009, but somehow I don’t see that happening. What this album suffers from is too much of the same. You hear the same Thicke for much of the album, which is fine for those who can sit there in the zone with him. Thankfully, I can.

2. The Roots – Rising Down

This isn’t anything new. I think the last three Roots albums that were released were either my first or second favorite hip hop album of the year. They are definitely the most consistent hip hop act going and you could argue that they are the most consistent performer in all of music when it comes to quality. Though they missed with Birthday Girl (I still liked it), they hit huge with Rising Up which is probably one of my five favorite songs of the year.

1. Ne-Yo – Year Of The Gentleman

I’m sold. I always wondered if he was going to be the type of recording star that he could become or if the fact that he writes a lot of material for others would cause him to never have that one great album. Well, in only his third try, he’s found that great album. It’s one of the best relationship albums I’ve ever heard. He hits on a bunch of different angles in love and loss and love again. There are even two bangers in Closer and the Michael Jackson-esque Nobody to fit around all the love and heartbreak. I keep coming back to this album when I get tired of new music and I imagine it will be in heavy rotation come 2009 as well. In The Way has a special tug on my heart.

Baby the world keeps getting in the way
With you is where I wanna be, but it just won’t let me
Cause it keeps getting in the way