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In a discussion with Fresh Air's Terry Gross, pop music critic Ken Tucker lists his picks for the year's best albums and tracks -- and responds to Fresh Air listeners who strongly reacted to his reviews of new albums by Katy Perry, Lady Gaga and Taylor Swift.
"There still seems to be this very strong feeling that glossy, commercial pop music isn't quite authentic enough [and] isn't worthy enough," he says. "People get offended if they... think you're not addressing the most serious music of the day. I think a lot of people listen to Fresh Air and expect to hear music that's not in the Top 10 -- that they can't hear anywhere else -- but I think it's important to talk about music that's very, very popular."
Tucker says 2010 was a great year for glossy pop music -- almost a throwback to the days of '70s singer-songwriter numbers. Here are his picks for the best albums of 2010, as well as some songs he thinks are worth hearing.
Ken Tucker's Top 10 Albums of 2010
1. Tracey Thorn, Love and Its Opposite
2. Arcade Fire, The Suburbs
3. Hot Chip, One Life Stand
4. Peter Wolf, Midnight Serenades
5. Joanna Newsom, Have One on Me
6. Elizabeth Cook, Welder
7. Drive-By Truckers, The Big To-Do
8. Kanye West, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy
9. Marty Stuart, Ghost Train
10. Robyn, Body Talk
The Best Album Ken Tucker Never Got Around To Reviewing: Robyn's Body Talk: "She's a huge hit over in Europe -- a dance-club favorite over here. She actually released three albums called Body Talk, but early in the year, she put out the first one and I thought, 'Oh, that's terrific. I want to review that.' And then I heard she was going to put out a second album and I thought, 'Well, I'll wait until the middle of the year.' And then she announced she was going to complete the trilogy at the end of the year. So this final disc of Body Talk collects five songs from the first album, five songs from the second album and five new songs. I just think it's a terrific example of up-to-the-minute dance music."
The Most Innovative Music Released This Year: Kanye West's My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy: "It's really interesting in the sense that it's beautifully produced -- it's very, very knotty and complex, both in the rhymes that Kanye West raps and the production is just gorgeous. It's a very, very ambitious album."
Arcade Fire's The Suburbs: "That is just a big, booming rock album. It's an old-fashioned album that's meant to be listened to as an album. The people in the band thought of it not as a collection of singles or individual songs, but a tour through the suburbs -- what it's like to live in the suburbs. It's a kind of panoramic view in music."
The Best Commercial Jingle: Wynn Stewart's honky-tonk classic, "Another Day, Another Dollar," which topped out at No. 27 on the country charts in 1962, in a commercial for the Volkswagon Jetta. Tucker says he appreciates "the oddness and wonderfulness of hearing Bakersfield honky-tonk as the soundtrack to a big-city-set commercial."
Artist We'll Miss The Most: Canadian folk icon Kate McGarrigle died in January of cancer at her home in Montreal. She was 63. Tucker says he loved her music because it was so "spare and beautiful and tough-minded, yet gentle and romantic at its heart." "She was just a wonderful woman. I don't do many interviews, but I did interview Kate and Anna McGarrigle a couple of times, and Kate had this really wonderful, quiet sarcasm. [She was a] tough character. I think all of those winters up in Quebec helped harden those women, and Kate McGarrigle in particular. I really mourn her death."
Ken Tucker is the pop music critic for Fresh Air with Terry Gross. He also serves as the editor-at-large at Entertainment Weekly, where he's received two National Magazine Awards for his pop-culture coverage.