5. M.I.A. “Matangi” (Interscope) M.I.A. brags a lot on “Matangi,” her full first name. And she earns it, not entirely for her lyrics — though she delivers some sociopolitical zingers in her defiant singsong — but for the dizzying cross-cultural barrage that surrounds them, mashing up geography and technologies. Her sounds are shinier than ever, her refrains are purposefully catchy and her attitude is newly cheerful, which just lets her pack more jolts into each song.
6. Janelle Monáe “The Electric Lady” (Wondaland Arts Society/Bad Boy) This installation of Janelle Monáe‘s continuing sci-fi epic — about a fugitive android, power, discrimination and rebellion — is actually a romantic prequel. That’s her opportunity to write love songs and invoke strong female role models — her mother included — as she continues to traverse pop history from hip-hop back to big bands, lingering at R&B and soul. Multiple agendas don’t hold back her exuberance.
7. David Bowie “The Next Day” (Columbia) After nearly a decade, David Bowie re-emerged bleak and brittle with “The Next Day,” an album that confronts mortality with bitter fury. The music looks back to his 1970s Berlin albums, with brusque drums and bristling guitars; as he sees time ravage youth, idealism, love and hope, the lush moments are disconsolate and the glimmers of pop are sardonic. “Just remember, duckies,” he sings. “Everybody gets got.”
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