Lil Wayne
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The year in music

By Ann Powers, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

No. 10

Lil’ Wayne

Unlimited downloads (no label)

This year, Lil’ Wayne truly became rap’s ruling lyricist by leaving his mark on a bewildering number of mix tapes, freestyle rhymes and other artists’ hits -- most available for free online. The quality’s mixed, as you’d expect from nearly 100 notable appearances. But there’s no better symbol of the next phase in pop than Wayne’s inexhaustible talent and hunger to share. (John Bazemore / AP)
No. 9

Amy Winehouse

“Back to Black” (Island)

Before drug use and a volatile marriage pulled her completely off the rails, Winehouse had emerged as the year’s most distinctive young vocalist. Her second album spurred debates about who owns the rights to vintage soul, but Winehouse’s brilliant phrasing and inflection, along with Mark Ronson’s inventive production, made it more than a period piece. The album’s great because of her artistry, not her much-documented disorderliness. (Brian Kersey / AP)
No. 8

LCD Soundsystem

“Sound of Silver” (DFA)

James Murphy made his name as a producer before combining his beat-making skills with song craft in this one-man studio band. LCD Soundsystem songs are hilarious, but they resist the snicker of novelty; beneath Murphy’s witty banter is the moan of genuine emotion. With this self-assured second album, he cemented his role as leader of indie music’s surge onto the dance floor. His live shows prove he can shake the booty of the most serious music nerd. (Jake Walters)
No. 7

Rihanna

“Good Girl Gone Bad” (Def Jam)

Born in Barbados, this 21-year-old powerhouse ingénue is a force behind the current Caribbeanization of R&B, and the strongest young rival for Beyoncé's crown. Rihanna’s third album is mostly known for “Umbrella,” a wistful, sneakily affecting hit that ruled the charts all summer. But as her curtain-ripping turns at this year’s MTV Video Music Awards proved, there’s much more to this singer than one sexy hook. More hits are bound to extend this album’s shelf life. (Matt Hartman / Los Angeles Times)
No. 6

Feist

“The Reminder” (Arts & Crafts/Interscope)

Songwriter-chanteuse Leslie Feist first made waves in 2004 with the sweetly sleepy hit “Mushaboom.” That bit of punk bossa nova only hinted at the self-realization of this album. It’s the indie-cool equivalent to Carole King’s “Tapestry,” a crafty, subtle girl’s breakthrough into full womanhood. Now the video for the jaunty single “1234,” attached to an iPod commercial, is making Feist a sensation all over again. (EPA)
No. 5

Arcade Fire

“Neon Bible” (Merge)

Unfettered joy distinguishes these Canadian pomp-rockers from others who are using sweeping gestures to break open indie rock’s cage. Win Butler’s songs wallow in heartbreak and apocalypse on this second album, but the ruckus raised by his half-dozen bandmates catapults them aloft. Their live shows seal the deal, inspiring a passion in fans that makes you think they really could be the voice of a generation. (AFP/Getty Images)
No. 4

Bruce Springsteen

“Magic” (Columbia)

What could be more predictable than the Boss’ latest hookup with his stalwart E Street Band? Yet by infusing old song structures and themes with a newfound sense of ambiguity, Springsteen made this music relevant rather than nostalgic. The band’s reunion tour was a lock to be an extraordinary moneymaker; the new treasures of “Magic” make it a real event. (Peter Kramer / AP)
No. 3

M.I.A.

“Kala” (Interscope)

The geopolitical playground rhymes of Sri Lankan-British artiste Maya Arulpragasam captured the hearts of the au courant in 2005. Her second album proves she’s more than a passing fancy. Recorded all over the globe, it’s a big and bouncy blast of fun that communicates ideas as serious as a pocket bomb. You know an album’s great when the worst track is the one produced by Timbaland. (Jim Dyson / Getty Images)
No. 2

Kanye West

“Graduation” (Roc-A-Fella)

West is the consummate post-millennial music star. He’s hit-oriented but adventurous, rooted in hip-hop but compulsively eclectic, with an ego that makes him purposefully outrageous. His third album, flavored by electro beats and internationalist pop, got a boost from a manufactured feud with rapper 50 Cent. West treated the hype like a good joke, and came out swinging with a brain-infecting single, “Stronger.” (John Bazemore / AP)
No. 1

Radiohead

“In Rainbows” (no label)

These intelligent rockers released their long-anticipated new set as a pay-as-you-will download, inspiring shouts of “Revolution!” But they could get away with that dare only because “In Rainbows” pleases so many kinds of ears. Tuneful, deep, even groovy, it challenges without being off-putting, and proves that the weariest genre on the planet -- guitar-based rock -- can still accommodate a few new tricks. (AFP / Getty Images)
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