Mainly Genius

Review of 2009: Part Two – Artists of 2009

Welcome to part two of our look back over 2009, continuing on from part one, the Albums of 2009.

These are what I consider to be the eight artists who’ve had the best year regardless of what music they released in 2009.  As before, the best are towards the top but there’s not really any strict order. Onward…

Bon Iver
Whilst some of you may not have heard of this man or his music, those of you that have will know just why he sits on the summit of this list. Had I compiled an ‘Albums of 2008’ list then there is no question that his debut For Emma, Forever Ago, would’ve be number one.

We may be in a folk revival at the moment, but Bon Iver would stand out regardless. It is rare to find an artist who is so successful but one that writes such beautiful, heart-wrenching and moving songs. Under normal circumstances, these types of artists garner a loyal following but are generally labeled with something like ‘depressing’ or ‘boring’. Yet it is a testament Justin Vernon, the man behind Bon Iver, that he has transgressed this type of pigeonholing.

2009 saw Bon Iver go from strength to strength. Building on sales of their debut album, they released the Blood Bank EP (which narrowly missed out in my Albums of the 2009) early in the year and subsequently saw their stock rise even further.

Combining heartfelt lyrics and melodies that could move grown men to tears, Bon Iver are also a brilliant live outfit and fully deserve the title of band of 2009.

Love or hate them, it’s difficult not to include them as one of the best and most successful bands of 2009 (and indeed the 21st century). After releasing the brilliant Viva La Vida or Death and All His Friends in 2008, a mammoth world tour followed culminating in two sold-out shows at Wembley Stadium, and a year ending, homecoming show at Exeter Castle.

Couple this with the unavoidable charity work (they recently raised over £250,000 for children’s charity KIDS by selling equipment and merchandise) and it’s clear that Coldplay are a band that fully deserves the lofty position they currently occupy.

Despite their many detractors, Coldplay have managed to achieve fame and popularity seemingly without annoying anybody. They’re a genuinely funny and very talented band that are getting better and better with age and 2010 could be even bigger.

Kings of Leon
Rewind a few years and Kings of Leon could have been classified as ‘reasonably successful indie band’. But those moderate levels of success will not have gotten them close to the popularity explosion they enjoyed upon the release of 4th album Only By The Night and it’s lead single Sex on Fire, both in 2008.

Both became an almost overnight sensation not only spawned other massive-selling singles Use Somebody and Revelry, but also maintained a huge level of popularity throughout 2009 and, as I write in mid-January 2010, Only By The Night is still situated at number fourteen on the iTunes download chart, sixteen months after it’s release.

Arguably one of the best family bands (three brothers and one cousin) of all time and comfortably one of the most successful, Kings of Leon produced an indie masterpiece and have been duly rewarded. Their next album will be one of the most anticipated of the decade so far but if it’s anything like it’s predecessor, they’ll have nothing to worry about.

Recently declared the most successful Hip-Hop artist ever, Jay-Z is modern master. 2009 saw Jay-Z add to his already excellent catalogue with the release of The Blueprint 3 which spawned one the biggest selling songs of the year in Empire State of Mind.
A simple rap about his New York hometown coupled with a killer chorus melody sung by Alicia Keys, thrust Jay-Z firmly back into the limelight (although I’m still not certain he ever left it).

Not content with his huge musical prowess, Jay-Z is also an extremely successful businessman and a lot of his wealth comes from other outlets that include clothing ranges, sports bars and even part-ownership of NBA team the New Jersey Nets.

The Blueprint 3 was Jay-Z’s 11th album to reach number 1 in the US beating the previous record held by Elvis. Couple this with a mammoth tour and a hugely successful support slot for Coldplay at Wembley Stadium, and it’s clear that once again, 2009 was another Jay-Z year. Make no mistake, this is an artist who has worked extremely hard for his success but, despite this, is showing no signs of letting up just yet and, even at this early stage of 2010, is an inevitable inclusion in next year’s list.

As the latest white man to steal ‘black music’, Eminem has always had to do a bit more than other rappers. But throughout the late 90s and early 00s he did more than enough. Producing hit after hit after hit has proved, to me at least, that Eminem just pips Jay-Z as the greatest rapper of the modern generation.

After a five-year hiatus, 2009 saw Eminem return with his 6th studio album Relapse and then subsequently confirm there will be a Relapse 2 later in 2010.
Relapse was a fantastic return to form and, as with all his albums, produced a string of excellent singles. From the satirical We Made You, the passionate and angry Underground and the excellent Beautiful, Eminem has not lost his edge or knack for a hook.

After sobering up and kicking an addiction to sleeping pills, Eminem has returned a grown man and it shows in his music. Occasionally we hear some of the old Slim Shady from the early 00s but but that only adds to the music, and doesn’t rule it.
Relapse is a fantastic return from an old master and shows what we’ve been missing. If the forthcoming follow-up is as good as this, expect to Eminem to be gracing next year’s artists of 2010 as well.

Black Eyed Peas
To me, the Black Eyed Peas always seemed like they’d eventually fade away. A few hit singles but nothing we hadn’t seen before. But they haven’t and what’s more, when we look back over some of those hits, they’ve become some of the best pop songs of the decade.

2009 was a huge year for the band and most importantly, was one of growth. After previous singles had marked them out as a kind of straight-forward dance-pop type group, their 5th studio album The E.N.D (The Energy Never Dies) saw them branch out into new territory. Critically lauded as more anthemic and inspirational than previous works, it produced three consecutive number singles in Boom Boom Pow, I Gotta Feeling and Meet Me Halfway and has sold well over 4.5 million copies worldwide. I Gotta Feeling in particular stood out as mature, anthemic and a great example of the growth the band have had. It’s been the Black Eyed Peas most successful single to date, selling well over 4 million downloads and staying at number one for 14 consecutive weeks in the US.

Maybe they’re not the most original band in this list, and they’re probably not the most popular but for my money, they’re one of the most deserving. Together for almost eight years before breaking into the mainstream, the Black Eyed Peas are one of the few bands in the pop charts that have earned their place and have the genuine talent to back up their success. Long may they reign.

Florence and the Machine
Whilst the album may not have quite fulfilled it’s potential (just missing out on my Albums of the 2009), there’s no denying 2009 was a good year for Florence and the Machine. Debut album Lungs only missed out on the number one slot due the passing of a certain world-famous pop star but has remained there for over 27 weeks since, and even returned to number two early on in 2010.

There’s no denying the talent in frontwoman Florence Welch. She’s created an indie-pop style that is very difficult to dislike and, whether you like the music or not, it’s difficult to dislike her. Singles Rabbit Heart (Raise It Up) and Dog Days Are Over both charted well but it was fifth single You Got The Love that finally showed what Florence and the Machine were really capable of. As with most of her songs, You Got The Love produced a profound “why didn’t I think of that” moment when listened to and it was an inspired choice of cover. Simple, straightforward and, most of all, hugely catchy, it charted at number five in the UK and has since gone on to be the band’s signature song.

They may have only been around for a short while but Florence and the Machine have produced a style of pop that is catchy, simple and very comfortable with itself. It may not be groundbreaking but it’s certainly enjoyable and song-wise, extremely good. Florence is a very talented woman and clearly the Machine compliment her perfectly. Expect to see much more of her both with and without the Machine.

Mumford & Sons
As the latest band to rise out of London’s folk scene, it would’ve been easy to dismiss Mumford & Sons. But to do so would have been a grave injustice to their music. All members of the band have been around in various forms playing for various people, so it’s no surprise that they sound so complete and confident in their own style.

Musically speaking, debut album Sigh No More wasn’t so groundbreaking. It was good but not groundbreaking. Similar to the Fleet Foxes but with added banjo and bigger drums; it’s frontman Marcus Mumford who makes the difference. His heartfelt lyrics and huge melodies bring the songs to life and his passion is conveyed to the listener effortlessly.

Instantly likeable and fully deserving of their success, 2009 was a great year for Mumford & Sons and debut album Sigh No More. It saw them finish in multiple album of the year lists (including my Albums of 2009) and for me, showed them to be the best to come out of the new Folk scene (just beating Noah and the Whale). They effortlessly combine the best of Folk, Indie and occasionally throw in some full-blown Rock for good measure. Mumford & Sons are all that is right with the British music scene at the moment and I, for one, am very proud.

As a final note I would like to mention Michael Jackson. He wasn’t included in the Artists of 2009 for obvious reasons, but there’s no doubting genius the music world has lost. Generation spanning, genre breaking and musically brilliant, he should be remembered for creating some of the best pop music the world will ever hear and nothing else. Forget the rumors and the tabloid stories, he will be missed.

So there we are, part two is complete and we have eight more of the best from 2009. If you agree with all, part or none of this list then don’t hesitate to let me know your deepest thoughts and feelings. Leave a comment on here, message me on Facebook or ‘@’ me on Twitter.

Next up is the Songs of 2009…


4 Comments so far
Leave a comment

Eminem was awful in 2009 i reckon. he has lost his flare and started writing terrible lyrics. He has imatured as a rapper and musician in my opinion. You should have covered Rain Machine! he won best album of 2009 in a few different major polls.

Comment by Thomas Merrigan

Fair enough, but I thought Relapse was great. Classic Eminem. I’ve yet to check out Rain Machine but I will.

Comment by mainlygenius

yea great blog!! a lot of useful infos thanks and keep up the good work!! PS: take a look at my blog

Comment by oklin

[…] most notable bands to come from this new trend include the excellent Mumford & Sons (featured here), Laura Marling, Noah and the Whale and today’s focus Bon Iver (pronounced “Bon-ee-veir”, […]

Pingback by Lyrics of the Week #4: Bon Iver – Re: Stacks « Mainly Genius

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