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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

2009: The year in music

Published: January 22, 2010
Section: Arts, Etc.

2009 has brought us the end of the decade, and some pretty awesome tunes to boot. While you’re trying to remember that dates end in 2010 now, there’s still time to catch up on 2009’s best new music.

As far as pop goes, it was an interesting year, and while Lady Gaga continued her neo-Madonna schtick, “Bad Romance” proved to move past the electro-pop of her previous singles for sheer unbelievable enjoyment. Meanwhile, teen artists dominated the airwaves, including the Kanye-maligned Taylor Swift, who, unfortunately, did not have one of the best videos of all time. Nonetheless, it appears that at the ripe age of 21 I am officially too old to follow most of these trends, no matter how many times I hear “Party in the USA” in public.

Hip-hop did have a decent year. Though Jay-Z’s “The Blueprint 3” was mostly a disappointment, there were the possible exceptions of “Run This Town” and “Empire State of Mind.” Lil’ Wayne’s experiments with a rock album notwithstanding, 2009 did see Weezy return to form in mixtape capacity with the uneven but delightful “No Ceilings,” where Wayne turns at least two ringtone rap songs into his typical free-associative rambling, and it’s still as delightful as ever. And Mos Def’s “The Ecstatic” brought new respect to the underappreciated MC.

Rap also saw, finally, the release of two long-delayed albums, Clipse’s “Til The Casket Drops” and Raekwon’s “Only Built for Cuban Linx…Pt. 2,” and both managed to live up to most of their hype. While Clipse have slid from the sheer condensed lyricism of “Hell Hath No Fury” to lusher, cluttered tracks that outstrip the spare coke rap of earlier efforts, it’s nice to finally hear them have fun again. And a Kanye guest spot on “Kinda Like A Big Deal,” where he’s goofing off reminds all of us that Clipse did in fact once have a good time; this is the group that rapped on Justin Timberlake’s “Like I Love You,” after all, so the lightness is a welcome return.

As for Raekwon, there’s no doubt that this album was truly worth the wait. With Jay-Z slacking, T.I. and Lil’ Wayne both out of commission due to legal issues (and the same goes for Gucci Mane), the return to form of the Wu Tang lyricist was unbelievably rewarding. At the same time, though, “Cuban Linx” is a nostalgia album, not one that seeks to push hip-hop forward. And right now, it appears that Drake is 2010’s biggest player, which doesn’t speak well for future prospects.

In the indie arena, there were quite a few promising albums, many in the pop or electro vein. Grizzly Bear did deliver a transcendent album of rock, though, with his single “Two Weeks” proving to be one of the best of the year. Newcomer Girls threw together the best of Elvis Costello and the Beach Boys in an album (called “Album”) about dissatisfaction, boredom, girls and how sometimes you just “want to be friends forever.” Both were albums of delayed gratification, worth multiple listens and twisting out into new revelations each