A number of English language magazines have published lists of their favourite albums of 2018. With the exception of the odd Spanish or French language album, these lists focus mainly on English language music. Alternative country disc Golden Hour from Kacey Musgraves was named the year’s best album by Entertainment Weekly and Stereogum while Mitski‘s indie rock LP Be the Cowboy received the honours from Vulture and Consequence of Sound. Rap albums found their way to the top via Time Magazine which favoured Cardi B‘s Invasion of Privacy as well as Noisey which tipped its hat to Tierra Whack‘s Whack World. R&B singer Janelle Monae found herself on top of the list from NPR for album Dirty Computer. Historian, a singer-songwriter effort from Lucy Dacus, was number one with Paste Magazine. Isolation from Kali Uchis, a blend of pop, R&B, reggae, and so called Latin, was tops at Pop Matters. In the pop-rock list at Exclaim, In a Poem Unlimited from U.S. Girls was named the year’s best album. Alternative album Moon 2 from Ava Luna was the favourite at Newsweek.
All of these albums are from American artists and all but one (Ava Luna) are from women. Of these, the International Music Blog would consider Golden Hour as the best with the runner up being Isolation.
Internet personality Xiao Pan Pan scored the viral Mandopop novelty song of 2018, “Learn to Meow”. It is for all people who love things that are extra cute. The 26-year-old is from the Chinese Province of Zhejiang. Her real name is Pan, Wenfeng. The song features her counterpart Xiao Feng Feng (Xiao means “little” in Chinese). Xiao Pan Pan skyrocketed to superstardom with this one. We have embedded the MV below which has English subtitles.
Gunning for a comeback, United States’ male pop harmonizing group The Backstreet Boys will be releasing album DNA in January 2019, its first in six years. While first cut “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart” (#63 – U.S. Billboard Hot 100) did not really succeed in its attempt to become a smash comeback hit (though it was the group’s highest charting song since 2005), early indications are that new song “Chances” stands a better … chance. It is currently Top 5 at U.S. iTunes. In the words of Billboard Magazine, it is “a thumping love song that allows all five Backstreet Boys’ voices to shine on their own”. The track was composed by OneRepublic hitmaker Ryan Tedder and Canadian acoustic guitar pop sensation Shawn Mendes. The BSB will be embarking on a colossal world tour in support of the album. Check out the MV below.
Blackpink has become the first ever female K-Pop group to enter the UK’s Official Singles Chart Top 40. The collective did so by teaming up with British singer Dua Lipa on bilingual track “Kiss and Make Up”, debuting on the chart at #36. Blackpink’s previous highest charting song in Britain was “Ddu-Du Ddu-Du” which reached #78 in June this year making Jennie, Jisoo, Rosé and Lisa the first K-Pop female collective to break into the Top 100. The first K-Pop artist to make the UK Top 40 was Psy whose “Gangnam Style” hit #1 in 2012. Boy group BTS made it to #21 with “Idol” in August.
Swedish singer Robyn who performs mainly in English has released her 8th album, Honey, her first in eight years. It tops iTunes Sweden and is at or near the top of the charts in many countries around the world. The electronic pop specialist kneads into the dough some house, and even soul and urban flavours here and there. For those who love modern pop music, this should hit the spot standing as one of 2018’s finest releases.
One of the biggest and most recognizable acts of the 80s was British outfit Culture Club. Churning out smash hits like “Do You Really Wanna Hurt Me?”, “Time”, “I’ll Tumble 4 Ya”, “Church of the Poison Mind”, “Karma Chameleon”, “Miss Me Blind”, and many more, the group, with a fresh soul-pop sound and colourful music videos (a relatively new phenomenon in those days), presented a party atmosphere and made all things fun. Re-christening itself as Boy George & Culture Club to place emphasis on its flamboyant singer, who incidentally guest-starred in The A-Team alongside Mr. T and company, the band has released its first album in 20 years bearing the simple title Life. The album’s music and vocals will not sound terribly familiar to those who grew up with the group in its heyday. Notwithstanding, the album is a good one fusing together elements of adult contemporary, soul, pop, and even reggae.
“Head Above Water”, the new single from Canadian singer Avril Lavigne, has topped the iTunes Worldwide Chart with #1 placements in a number of countries. This is the singer songwriter’s first single in three years, the last offering being “Fly” dedicated to the Special Olympics.
Having battled Lyme disease, Lavigne has not been able to release a new album since her self-titled disc in 2013. That album spawned a number of hits including “Here’s to Never Growing Up” and “Let Me Go” featuring Nickelback frontman Chad Kroeger.
“Head Above Water” follows along the course of piano driven power ballads like “Let Me Go” and “Fly” and lyrically focuses on her determination to survive the brutal effects of Lyme.
For those who were longing for an Avril Lavigne comeback, all we can say is … boy, what a comeback!
Avril Lavigne has received 13 Vevo Certified Awards and sold an estimated 90 million records worldwide.
Egypt’s fabulous Amr Diab has made the Guinness Book of World Records as the best-selling Middle Eastern artist. He has been releasing albums since 1983 and is the founding father of modern so-called Mediterranean music. His latest disc, Kol Hayaty (All My Life), will be out October 3 and a few tracks have been released, including “Hadded” (Threatened). Have a listen to the official audio below.
Gloria Deng, operating under moniker G.E.M. (Get Everybody Moving) is cleaning up. Although the Shanghai born, Hong Kong raised singer has not released a full length studio album since 2015, she has been high in demand voicing songs for movie soundtracks and themes for TV shows.
In 2016, Gloria appeared in Forbes 30 Under 30 Music list along with stars like Selena Gomez, Nick Jonas, and Jason Derulo. She was the only Asian to make the grade.
Later that year, she released the Chinese theme song for the sci-fi film Passengers (starring Jennifer Lawrence) titled “Light Years Away”. The music video, currently at 138 million views, has far surpassed Vevo certification levels.
Deng was the voice of Sleeping Beauty in animated feature film Charming which also starred the dubs of Avril Lavigne, Ashley Tisdale, and Sia.
G.E.M. now has the top song at iTunes Taiwan called “Tik Tok”, and anticipation is running high for a new LP. Check out the MV below dripping with her syrupy yodel-inflected vocals.
While Psy cleaned up in the singles department a few year’s ago, it is Korea’s BTS who becomes the first K-pop act to strike number one on the U.S. Billboard 200 albums chart. The name of the album is Love Yourself: Tear. While the United States is only the third most populous nation in the world, it is the top music market. The album sold 100,000 copies there in its first week of release. BTS recently performed hit single from the album “Fake Love” at the Billboard Music Awards in Statue of Liberty land. When announcing nominees for Top Social artist, BTS garnered far more audience screams than Justin Bieber and Shawn Mendes. The group won the award for the second year in a row. Band member RM, who spoke when accepting the trophy, chose to do so with an African American accent which was odd. Accents aside, below is the dazzling MV for “Fake Love” which has surpassed 100 million views on YouTube.
Marie-Mai is a platinum recording artist from Canada, one of the biggest names in the country when it comes to Franco pop and has been able to sell out Montreal’s Bell Centre with back-to-back shows. She launched her career as a finalist of the first season of the reality show Star Académie. During the closing ceremony of the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympic Games, Marie-Mai performed “Emmène-moi”. Below is her latest music video, “Empire”. Enjoy.
Kacey Musgraves is a recording artist from the United States, and she has just released her third album, Golden Hour. Apparently, she is the only person in the world to have high-fived a British royal. Kacey mixes lyrical stories with pop and country, and embeds some progressive elements. Fans held high anticipation for this album worried that, like many stars, after two winners she had run out of steam. When they heard it, the wind was knocked out of them. Golden Hour has received a Metacritic score of 90/100 with five out of five stars awarded by The Guardian and many critics hailing it as the best album of 2018 so far. Golden Hour is absolutely beautiful: atmospheric, rich, lush, and hair-raising from start to finish. With dreamy, laid back, arrangements, and perky beats, the centerpiece is Kacey’s gorgeous voice. She has completely knocked it out of the park. Official audio for opener “Slow Burn” embedded below.
Denmark’s Michael Learns to Rock has released its 9th studio album, Still. The band is a special one, performing in English and seeing much of its popularity stem from eastern Asia. Their reworking of Jacky Cheung’s “Goodbye Kiss” as “Take Me to Your Heart” received 6 million paid downloads in the year 2006. MLTR has sold an estimated 11 million albums. In keeping with the band’s European tinged soft rock or pop rock style, the new album doesn’t disappoint. Below we have embedded an English language mini documentary on the making of the album which was recorded in Copenhagen and includes sound snippets from some of the album tracks.
It’s time to talk about V-Pop, and the V stands for Vietnamese. Female soloist My Tam released album Tam 9 (her 9th) at the end of 2017, and it has done superbly. The most popular track on the album thus far is the closer, “Nguoi Hay Quen Em DI” or “Please Forget Me” which has a pleasant acoustic guitar chillout vibe. The dancing children in the music video is a nice touch. Tam’s official debut was in 2001 and a couple years later, due to superstar success, was crowned as Queen of V-Pop. Find the aforementioned MV below, up to nearly 17 million views.
It’s Chinese New Year 2018 and the year of the dog. The annual CCTV gala, watched by 800 million people, shone from Beijing. One of the highlights was a duet performed by C-Pop superstars Wang Fei and Na Ying. These women are 48 and 50 respectively and still going strong and looking good. The former is originally from Beijing and rose to fame in Hong Kong. The latter is from Shenyang, Liaoning and is of Manzu ethnicity. Watch the duet below.