1 Emeli Sande, "Our Version of Events": Sande's forceful, soulful voice is enough of a lure, but coupled with the most poetic, beautiful lyrics and melodies of the year, Sande's debut album was a brilliant work that was shamefully overlooked by the Recording Academy for Grammy contention in 2013. Don't make the same mistake if you haven't already listened - this one is a stunner.
2 Taylor Swift, "Red": Last time, we had John Mayer to thank. This time around, Jake Gyllenhaal is most likely the reason for Swift's ire in songs such as the wickedly vengeful "We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together," as well as poignant, heartbreaking songs like "I Almost Do" or "All Too Well." At 22, the former teen ing�nue also flirts with sensuality on songs such as "Treacherous" and "Everything Has Changed." She may still have a cutesy image, but Swift has grown up, and continues to mature into a singer-songwriter with musical gravitas.
3 Frank Ocean, "Channel Orange": Ocean's grand statement about his sexuality seemed to overshadow the real reason why he was one of music's most important figures - his impressive talent. "Thinkin' Bout You" gave just a taste of Ocean's allure: With the help of others, he crafted a collection of musically and lyrically daring songs that stand out starkly from the status quo of pop and R&B worlds.
4 Esperanza Spalding, "Radio Music Society": The 2011 Best New Artist winner delivered her most accessible album to date, melding her jazz roots with R&B for an enchanting album.
5 Alabama Shakes, "Boys & Girls": Brittany Howard's vocals slay on every track - although her voice has been described as Joplin-esque, she's quickly proving that she's a force all her own. From hard-rocking guitar-based tracks to slower grooves, "Boys & Girls" simply smolders.
6 Various artists, "The Hunger Games Soundtrack: Songs from District 12 and Beyond": From Taylor Swift and the Civil Wars to Miranda Lambert's Pistol Annies, this collection of songs made for the blockbuster film captured the bleakness of the novel better than the movie. In an album of highlight after highlight, the Secret Sisters' simple and beautiful "Tomorrow Will Be Kinder" was at the apex.
7 Killer Mike, "R.A.P. Music": Killer Mike has been under the radar in the rap world for years - and it's too bad this great didn't elevate his profile in the mainstream, because it's better than 82.4 percent of what's out there today (and yes, that's my scientific survey). He mixes rap braggadocio with biting, thought-provoking social commentary.
8 Elle Varner, "Perfectly Imperfect": Can we get a "Refill" of Varner for 2013? Besides her seductive hit, Varner's album showed she's one of music's bright new talents with songs that ranged sensuous bedroom workouts to dramatic love ballads.
9 The Robert Glasper Experiment, "Black Radio": They say you can't really criticize something if you don't have a solution to fix it. Well, with "Black Radio," the jazz pianist offered his take on how the often stagnant medium could be improved - and it was dreamy.
10 Nas, "Life Is Good": Actually, Mesfin, it's been a while since Nas released an album that lived up to his arguable title as rap's greatest MC. But he delivered this year with an album that was a throwback to the beats that dominated hip-hop when New York was king of the rap game, and of course, Nas' rhymes.