Music has always been a passion of mine, and there has been so much great music released this year. It's so difficult to list definitively what is the "best" of the year, however, because each genre is so different. With that said, these are some of my favorite albums of the year.
"+" by Ed Sheeran
Few debut albums are as innovative and successfully executed as Ed Sheeran's "+". This album has everything, from the heartbreaking pop single of "The A Team" and "Small Bump" to amazing hip-hop-style beats in "You Need Me, I Don't Need You" to syrup-sweet love ballads, such as "Kiss Me." Add a voice that is as distinct as it is complementary, and set the album free.
"Little Broken Hearts" by Norah Jones
I had always seen Ms. Jones in her innocence, singing sweet love songs with her angelic voice. "Little Broken Hearts," by that standard, is where she surely earns her wings. The old Norah makes an appearance in "Good Morning," but three minutes in she channels Lily Allen in "Say Goodbye." Listen a little further and hear her travel to the dark side in "Miriam." Her voice singing that song is borderline creepy, but in such a good way.
"Overexposed" by Maroon 5
Adam Levine has one of the more recognizable voices in current music. And the singles off their latest album, "Payphone," "One More Night" and "Daylight" have certainly given him plenty of radio time. The beat of this album is probably the best part, specifically in the Wiz Kalifa-rapped bridge of "Payphone". It's as easy to dance to this song as it is to listen to it in the car, and the songs are good enough to play over and over without getting overly bored. Maroon 5 has spent enough years in the business, however, and they certainly have a formula for creating excellent music.
"Red" by Taylor Swift
I have never before heard Taylor Swift like I have in "Red." She burst on the scene running six years ago, and she hasn't even stopped for a breath. "We are Never Getting Back Together," a massive hit now, is likely the lightest pop number on the album. In addition to collaborations with Ed Sheeran and Gary Lightbody of Snow Patrol, Swift exercises her own vocal excellence in numbers such as "Treacherous" and "I Knew You Were Trouble."
"Shadow Days" by John Mayer
John Mayer seems to change genres with every album he releases. "Shadow Days" leans a little into country, though it's no less successful than any of his other work. Though he's not always leading the charts, I'll venture to say John Mayer is one of the most talented musicians we have, if for nothing else than his musicianship. There is nothing he can't do, and "Shadow Days" is proof of that.
"Unapologetic" by Rihanna
If you can get past the first song, you're in for a treat. Rihanna's voice is certainly in fine form in "Unapologetic," and the Rhi-Rhi we've all seen grow up since "Pon da Replay" is better than ever. "Diamonds" is certainly one of the best songs I've heard all year. She gives something for everyone, whether your taste is hard-core hip-hop, dance pop, or something in between.
"Unorthodox Jukebox" by Bruno Mars
I could listen to his voice all day. He broke on the scene with B.o.B. in "Beautiful Girls" and he has launched a career that keeps getting better with each single he releases. "Locked out of Heaven" is similar to "Just the Way You Are" in that it changes beat halfway through the song, giving the listener an unexpected breather and ensuring the longevity of the track. Whatever he's having, I'll have one too.