(*yeah, that song isn’t actually included. It’ll be on Legit Bosses 2022 though! I’m just a bit slow with these things…)
So, only 121 this year, a marked decline on 2020’s 125. So was it a notably worse year? Absolutely chuffing not. Despite the 2.928% drop in numbers, the quality on show is outstanding. Never mind the weight, feel the quality. The top maybe twenty songs especially are on some next level shit, and you haven’t seen so many GOATs since you traumatically happened upon Weird Uncle Colin’s problematic porn collection back in 92. I also shaved a few songs last minute, mainly because they were from albums due to be released in 2022 and I decided to make them Next Year Alex’s problem. Also, one or two I realised… weren’t… actually… that… good… So that just means the 121 that made the cut are all of such spectacular quality that you may want to warn the people around you before you start reading this list, as the floor between your legs is about to get soaked.
No, no, hey, maybe it’s you that’s too gross, ever considered that??
Anyway, let the festivities begin, here are the playlists:
What do you think your chances are of making it as notable musical artists? Pretty slim, right? What about if you’re not already born into financial success, if you socioeconomic status is closer to the lower 50% than the highest ten, if your Daddy doesn’t know someone else’s Daddy, if you weren’t already on the Disney cocking Channel? Honestly. next to zero. Like, right next to. Absolute zero. Sorry.
How about rap music though?? The supposed authentic ‘sound of the street’, where the idea of hustling your way out of economic barriers and the laughable inequalities into which you were born are valued especially high? A genre where being born into prosperity or privilege are looked upon with particular distrust? A music and a way of life that has long been appreciated as the one direction out of poverty for people desperate to find some sort of alternative? What kind of chance does that offer? I mean, seriously? It’s still pretty freaking low, right? It’s not like you’re the one person who had that idea, and many of your peers will be actually really good at what they do and still struggle to achieve the success that you so crave. It’s another longshot, sorry.
Hey hey hey! I manged to link #40, Kanye West, with #39, Caroline Shaw, now I’ve managed to link Shaw with Arlo Parks at #38! Will I continue to do this right down to the year’s best album? Absolutely! Until I forget to do it, which I will definitely do with the next one, because it’s going to be a struggle to think of a link between JPEGMAFIA and Arlo Parks. Oops. Spoiler, I guess…
‘Collapsed in Sunbeams’ was released at the end on January 2021, when the UK was coming up to a solid 12 months under on and off lockdown measures. It was a different time. Or, at least, different at time of writing. Much of the country had been cut off from the percentage of humanity that didn’t work for Deliveroo* and had just been forced to spend a Christmas away from their friends and family. Well, unless they were lucky enough to have specific ‘business meetings’ and they actually passed these laws so in a strange loophole they didn’t actually didn’t apply to them. God speed, moral superiors. The whole country was on edge, wondering exactly how many banana breads made and opinions on the USA George Floyd protests posted online per afternoon is diagnosed as mentally dangerous, and the disgustingly young Arlo Parks’s debut album was soon instilled as the nation’s official comfort blanket, winning Brit Awards and the Mercury Prize. Parks combined emotionally raw and painfully honest lyrics with soft and silky pop music, which all seemed to carry the message that, hey, everything gonna be a’right. Personally, I didn’t really need that much comforting regarding the lockdown – I was lucky enough to be in a job that was never in danger of being swept from under me, plus I’ve never been one for overly championing the company of other people. Other people are dumb and annoying. However, for me, it certainly offered timely comfort around the chaotic breakdown of my second marriage. Ah, bollocks, I’ve become one of those guys, haven’t I?
2021 #48 (Sō Percussion, Dawn Upshaw, and Gil Kalish)
Remember ‘Caroline Shaw: Narrow Sea‘ at #48? Yeah, I know, that was a bit of a while back now. Jesus, I spoil you ingrates with three posts in three days over the weekend and now you’re expecting daily updates?? I do have a job, you know?? Sure, it’s only a flat fee per month to suck Paul Scholes’s daughter’s toes whenever he’s too busy to satisfy her, but it’s an honest job God dammit! Anyway, remember that album? That was a bit of a bop, wasn’t it? But you know what it was missing that would make it that little bit better?
Some people really rate ‘The Life of Pablo’. Not me, personally. I think it has cheeky splashes of genius amongst its giant conceptual mess, but if we were to compare it to an actual Picasso it would be a part way beautiful Les Demoiselles d’Avignon only with each of the women’s faces replaced by flaming poo emojis, some pencil sketchings still unfilled and a blank canvas for the unfinished bottom third. I did and do really rate ‘Ye’, which is a wonderfully concise and incisive record concerning West’s mental struggles and his first emotionally raw and conscious presentation of his bipolar disorder. But not everyone agrees. Few people agree. And it was largely ignored at the end of year back slapping events, with it still today scoffed at as a undercooked and uninspired minor addition to his canon. Everyone hated ‘Jesus is King’ because that was a fetid pile of donkey faeces. We all agree on that. It’ll soon be nine years since West released a largely agreed upon classic record. Apart from everyone loved 2018’s amazing ‘Kids See Ghosts’ album, but let’s ignore that or lay it 100% at the feet of Kid Cudi, because otherwise my snappy and incisive introductory paragraph doesn’t make sense.
(these are all fan made versions of the ‘Donda’ album cover, by the way, because I thought you all deserved to see what a bit of fucking effort looked like)
Jesus Christ, people, Justin Blackburn, Justin fucking Blackburn.
Firstly, and perhaps most importantly, is ‘Blackburn’ even a surname in America?? It’s such a dour, cold & windy, shovelling-cow-shit-into-a-tractor-just-outside-Durham, depressingly prosaic English name that it really doesn’t fit the glitzy imperialism and Hollywood gunplay of the US. It’s like finding out Shawn Michaels’s real second name is Hickenbottom. Has he ever even been to Blackburn? What are his opinions on Alan Shearer?
Secondly, was there a more arresting, more intentionally obnoxious, more on the nose outraged in 2021 than ‘Unlearning White America’? In the last decade?? You should certainly be able to gauge the general thesis of the record by its splenetic title, but I’m telling you now, you have no fucking idea. It’s important to note that Justin Blackburn is a white American himself, so rather than angrily tearing down the racist power structure that prevents perceived outsiders like himself from even a fair chance, he is on the inside (even more angrily) rejecting the inbuilt privileges that the people who grew up around him receive, refuse to acknowledge and even turn to resentment against the USA’s non white inhabitants. Many of the rage is directed toward Justin’s (diegetic? genuine?) father. All the rage is directed towards white America’s assumptions, inattentiveness and, yes, racism. Justin is so centred on the ridiculous state of race relations in his country that he even goes as far as to manage to make ‘Jesus’ rhyme with ‘racist’.
I’m allowed to still have Kings of Leon, right? You people will still consent to this? This is still OK, yeah? Nobody’s feeling mistreated in any way? I don’t want this to be one of those things where I was almost sure you were OK to me playing with my gross old man testicles while you watched holding back tears.
Remember that Simply Red song Holding Back the Tears? Well that’s what it was about. Mick Hucknall was so ahead of his time. He was trying to teach us, why did we refuse to learn? What’s that? It was actually called Holding Back the Years?? Well, shucks… Ah well, I’ve written it now.
I’ve done well, haven’t I? I’ve, like, mostly irradiated all the bullshit white guy rock that was honestly the entirety of all music I consumed before the age of about 19. I like to think that my end of year lists, while being a no way near exhaustive list of new music, is at least a forward thinking and progressive exercise in highlighting new and exciting progressions in style and presentation and in many different (and often new) genres. What’s your favourite Turmeric Trancotone album of 2021? Gotta be #26, right?
The Manic Street Preachers are the greatest rock band ever. That’s not an opinion, it’s a conclusion that I’ve reached and am now saying it loudly and not listening to any dissenting voices, which in 2021 counts as a ‘fact’.
Their greatness is… complicated… and not easy to explain in a simple intro to a blog post… These 100 tracks aren’t necessarily the greatest songs ever. Even as a pathetically dedicated Manics stan*, even I would argue that they’ve only ever released one indisputable, stone cold classic record from front to back (see if you can guess which one after you read the list!). They may have supernatural control over melodies and how best to ensure a chorus hits just there, but at the end of the day they’re just a rock band. They have never really challenged the very boundaries of music, never pushed things forward or necessarily introduced anything new sonically. I would argue that only one of their albums is truly challenging and experimental, rather than just being a break from what the band usually produce (yeah, it’s the same album…). I mean, Jesus, they once shamelessly released a song including the lyric “The world is full of refugees/They’re just like you and just like me“. That’s unforgivably bad, isn’t it? They can’t come back from that, artistically.
(*I may occasionally use cool, groovy, young person lingo like ‘stan’ so you think I’m a hip young gunslinger. Not, y’know, old enough to be a Manics fan)
I’m not able to explain their magic here, but over the next one hundred (!) entries you’ll hopefully all have a better idea. It’s not as dominated by the 90’s as I was worried it might be, and every album is represented (apart from one. Because their tenth album is worse than Hitler). I’ve been wanting to find the time to do this for ages, partially inspired by the great What is Music podcast covering their entire discography and reminding me of how many big veiny stonkers this band had bulging out of their collective musical swimming trunks. They’re talking about Muse on that podcast now, a band for morons, so you only need to listen to the last season. My major blind spot is I don’t think they’ve done a decent b-side since 2001. Now, I’m sure I’m wrong, so please correct my ignorance in the comments. Tell me how wrong I am. Post your top tens. Your top hundreds. The Manic Street Preachers’ fan community is one of the greatest in the world, and no other band are as connected with their fanbase and feed off their adoration as much as The Manics. So let’s celebrate that by calling me a fat slut in the comments because I didn’t choose Little Baby Nothing.
‘Member 2020? Do you really?? I’m not 100% sure 2020 as a year actually took place in any official capacity. I accept that days were marked off and months were filed as ‘complete’ in admin, but it was all just a box ticking exercise to make sure that all the paperwork lined up and we weren’t caught out were the concept of the year twenty twenty be questioned in any future audit. Sure, it happened, just look at that tick of the Excel spreadsheet. Can we move on? Please?
While its existence is obviously a hotly debated issue, what’s undeniable is that we saw a shovel load of amazing songs in 2020. Thirteen more than in 2019, in fact, which means that, despite everything, 2020 was actually 14.56% a better year than 2019…? I know, it didn’t seem that way, but the maths doesn’t lie. In every previous year’s Legit Bosses countdown, I was fully confident what was going to finish top before I started writing it. In 2020, however, there were so many massively different but equally stonking songs that I had no idea where it was going to to land when I ranked them last night, the one that ended up on top really surprised me, and- fuck it- I may well change my mind again whie I write this. It’s my fucking list, piss off.
Some of you might remember me previously explaining that the Legit Bosses will be published a little later in the year because I had a big immigration law exam on the 25th February to study for. Well, despite studying like an appropriately legit boss myself, a week before the exam I was rushed to the hospital with ulcerative colitis, which was serious enough for me to be kept in the hospital for eight days, miss the exam and have to reschedule for May. I could have finished this dumb fucking list before New Year Day. Ah well, not to worry, just know that, no matter how fiendishly provocative and titillatingly obtuse my writing predictably, I resent everything about having to write this list and in all honesty despise you for reading it. More after the jump!!
2020 was a pretty incredible year for quality albums. We’ve sailed through ninety eight other examples of this fact in the past few weeks. Yeah, I know, did I do a top 100 this year? No, I did a top ninety nine because I’m freaking gangsta. Hmmm, imagine if I’d remembered to list Ariana Grande’s last album? It might have cleaned it up a bit. Ah well, no harm no foul. If you’re wondering, it would have finished arooooooouuuuuuuund… 74th. Despite the raised competition though, despite a high placing on 2020’s list being more difficult than in most recent years, there was still only ever really one record that I ever really imagined finishing top.
070 Shake is Danielle Balbuena, a 22 year old Brooklyn native of Dominican decent who has stealthily being climbing up the Necessary Evil chart in recent years. Her unmistakable, tranquil voice that seems to have been digitally uploaded from the uncanny valley and wears the scars of the distorted transition, had obviously been used recently to add certain sparkle to hip-hop tracks that nothing else was ever going to be likely to be able to do. She appeared on Pusha T’s Santeria,the 37th best album of 2018, offering a haunting and seemingly otherworldly Spanish language segment that the listener assumed would have taken all the talent of producer Kanye West to make sound quite so idiosyncratic and mystifying, not realising that was just what Shake’s voice sounded like. West was similarly enchanted by Shake as I was- as anyone would be, enough to have her guest on two tracks from his own (unfairly maligned, really freaking good) solo record that year, the twelfth best album of 2018, on album highlight Violent Crimes and of 2018 highlight Ghost Town(the 13th best song of the year).