Starting with Harry Belafonte and “Calypso” in 1956, one of the criteria I have included for my list is the top selling album of every year. A select number of artists have even seen their album be #1 in sales for two years in a row. The music has evolved greatly since then, but it is still one of the best reflections of the taste and times of music in America. For 2022, I can only go with the best-selling album to date, and for good measure and completeness, I listened to the top TWO selling albums so far this year. The top-seller goes to Ed Sheeran, as he continues his dominant run on the charts and in streaming totals with his album “=”, which was released in late 2021, and the next highest seller is “Harry’s House” by another UK pop sensation, Harry Styles, who got his start singing in the boy-band One Direction.
There are a lot of similarities on these two records. Both artists are monster stars in today’s times, and they are major contributors to the songwriting as well as the vocal performances. Sheeran is three years older than Styles, and has a longer track record, and as such, his song themes tend to lean a bit more on the adult side, both in lyric and sound, but both of these records are immensely listenable pop records. There isn’t a song on either record that blows me away, but I do have several favorites on each.
On Sheeran’s album “=”, I like the hit single “Shivers”, the autobiographical “First Times”, “Overpass Graffiti” and “Visiting Hours”, which is reminiscent of “Supermarket Flowers”. He absolutely understands the art of writing a song that connects with emotions we all face, and love him or not, he is a gifted singer and performer.
If I had to choose, I would probably pick “Harry’s House” as my preference between the two records, but again, the concept and delivery are similar. Part of why I chose to listen to this record was the discovery that Monument Mike’s daughter was in the second row at Madison Square Garden watching Mr. Styles the same night we embraced Robert Plant and his legacy at Red Rocks. Generation to generation, music is a gift and a treasure, and one best enjoyed in a live setting.
My favorite track on “Harry’s House” is probably “Grapejuice”, which isn’t among the singles (yet) but is a highly catchy pop song. “Late Night Talking” is another wonderfully crafted pop single, and it is great to hear the gift of musical hooks continuing to live on. “As It Was” starts off in a similar vein to “Take On Me” by A-ha, and it is a cool and subtly delivered melody. I’ll add “Keep Driving” to the list, and the rest of the record is similarly crafted with catchy choruses and very smooth production.
Who knows what music will top the charts next year, ten years from now, or forty years from now? I hope I’m here to listen to it all, and if I have learned nothing else on this journey, one should never stop shutting off sounds of the present and future. We all know that person who says, “Today’s music is terrible, I only listen to…”. There are times in my life when I was that guy… hopefully, never again.
Only one album (or so) left to go… what a ride.