Rihanna – LOUD: Rihanna ditched the darkness of Rated R and headed into the light with a fun, dance/pop driven new set. RiRi serves herself up in many way on the album: sweet, flirty, bad-ass, even down-right naughty, and you can’t help but love it all. Little Miss Sunshine is back and LOUDer than ever.
Kanye West – My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy: Kanye isn’t as fond of spazzing as he once was, but even if the year didn’t welcome a softer Kanye, he wouldn’t need to spazz over the reviews of his fifth album. His dark and twisted, yet undeniably beautiful musical adventure is one of the year’s most critically adored, and for good reason. Ye did things other artists are too afraid to do. He let big names outshine him on his own records, gave little-knowns a chance to shine, said eff you to the standard 3-4 minute song length (the album version of “Runaway” is nine minutes long!) and tapped into every genre imaginable to make their near-masterpiece.
Katy Perry – Teenage Dream: The sophomore album is a tricky little monster. Many fall victim to trying to outdo their first album and end up sounding like they’ve tried too hard. Others switch gears, try a new sound, and end up alienating the fans they gained the first time out. Katy Perry did neither. She refused to take herself too seriously and stuck to what she knows best — great pop hooks, hard to forget melodies — and made herself an Album of the Year Grammy-nominated album.