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The Freedom of Music: 2010 in Music

January 2nd, 2011

freedom-of-music-header

One likes to believe in the freedom of music.
Rush – Spirit of Radio.

Another year has come to an end, and it seems a good time to have a quick peek backwards and see what the year past in music was like. So here’s the Billboard top 10 of 2010:

  • Taylor Swift
  • Susan Boyle
  • Glee: Soundtrack
  • Jackie Evancho
  • Michael Jackson
  • Jamie Foxx
  • Eminem
  • Nicki Minaj
  • Keyshia Cole
  • Rhianna

I was right, that was quick. Not much to see, or hear, here.

But wait. BestEverAlbums.com says Arcade Fire’s Suburbs was the top album of 2010. In fact, I’ve seen any number of lists, and Billboards is the first not to include the Canadian bands third album fairly well up the list. That’s not a bad choice, a decent album written as “ a letter from the suburbs.” Actually, something that we haven’t seen a lot of recently, a concept album.

Not a rock opera format mind you, not an album that must be played first to last. That idea just doesn’t work in the CD era, never mind MP3s. But certainly it’s an album in which each song is part of a greater theme. And while it’s not as good as their second album, Neon Bible, it’s a decent representation of the year in music.

Then there’s Billboards number 15, Kid Rock’s Born Free. I confess I hate that I like Kid Rock. He seems like such an unpleasant human being, yet he writes songs that delve into the spirit of the human condition with some dexterity. On 2010’s Billboard number 15 album, Kid Rock eschews the cheap rap songs with the potty lyrics and falls very comfortably into the country rock vein. Like I said, I hate that I like it, but I do, none the less.

Coming in the middle of both charts top 100 is the Kings of Leon Come Around Sundown, at 45 in Billboard and 53 on Best Ever Albums. Kings of Leon broke through a few years ago with their Only By the Night album, including the hit Sex on Fire. Once again, this years album doesn’t match the previous effort, but it’s still a good collection of songs.

At the end of the day, however, scouring the charts for quality music is to lose yourself in the misguided hope that the Billboard music chart would know good music in any guise. Finding quality new music in the Billboard charts is like finding quality writing on network TV: not in this decade. A chart of 200 albums that includes Thriller, because that’s not so 1984, a number of Glee’s and Mariah Carey’s 2nd Christmas collection somehow misses completely the best album of the last few years. Journey’s Greatest Hits circa 1988 – check: The Beatles, half of whom have been dead for ten and thirty years – check: Frank Sinatra Greatest Hits – yup. All these albums of completely different vintages make it, but the wonderfully hard rockin’ yet melodic Black Country Communion, released in the year of our lord 2010 is nowhere to be found.


Consisting of a rhythm section of Glenn Hughes, ex-of Deep Purple among others and Jason Bonham, Black Country Communion is so solid on the bottom end a monkey could play guitar and sound good. Instead, they chose Joe Bonamassa, more virtuoso than monkey and one of the finest blues/rock guitarists playing today. His guitar playing is some of the finest, the tastiest playing I’ve heard in years. Topped off with keyboardists Derek Sherinian of Kiss and Alice Cooper fame, BCC produced the best album of 2010, and possibly the best in the past couple of years.

The good news is, Black Country Communion is going back into the studio in January, so Billboard has a chance to get it right again in 2011. Not that I think they will, or care: as long as Black Country Communion keeps putting out music of the quality they did this year, Billboard can put Thriller in it’s top 200 for the 27th year. I know what album I’ll buy.

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