Here are the albums that helped wear out the iPod battery of AP Music Writer Nekesa Mumbi Moody in 2005.
1. "The Emancipation of Mimi," Mariah Carey: It's time for all the critics who declared Carey's career all but dead to eat some humble pie — so give me the first helping. Carey — who's biggest successes in her post-"Glitter" career had been crooning out breathy hooks on rap records — produced perhaps the best album of her 16-year career with "Mimi," an uncompromising, classic R&B album. Though it had several high-profile cameos from the likes of Snoop Dogg and Nelly, the most riveting components of "Mimi" were its stellar songwriting and Carey's luscious voice.
2. "Late Registration," Kanye West: West's ego seems to have swollen even more this year, if such a thing could be possible. But when you're making albums of the quality of "Late Registration," how can you be humble? West's follow-up to "The College Dropout" is just as witty, ear-catching and compelling as his debut (the only exception being the subpar skits). West expertly mixes political, social commentary ("Crack Music," "Roses") with wildly hilarious rhymes ("Gold Digger"), making him one of the most necessary figures on the music scene today.
3. "Dreaming Wide Awake," Lizz Wright: Dreamy is the best way to describe this album, the follow-up to the husky-voiced singer's dazzling 2003 debut, "Salt." This time around, Wright abandoned the jazzy, soulful elements of her predecessor for more folky fare. But whether backed by an elaborate horn section or the simple arrangement of piano and acoustic guitar, Wright's understated, smoldering voice still manages to enthrall.
4. "Amos Lee," Amos Lee: Lee's debut could be the male counterpart to Wright's album; also an acoustic-driven album, the mood of Lee's disc recalls a laid-back summer afternoon filled with reverie. Though the album is relatively brief, the power of its soulful, folky ditties stays with the listener long afterward.
5. "Arular," M.I.A.: On paper, M.I.A. seems like another gimmicky rap act — a gorgeous Sri Lankan-born female rapper with a British edge. But pop in her colorful debut and she emerges as a deft rapper with an engaging patois backed up with frenetic club beats. "Arular" shows it's M.I.A.'s music — and not her background — that makes her noteworthy.
6. "Brazilian Girls," Brazilian Girls: This slick, funky quartet had some of the year's best chill-out grooves, though, with the seductive vocals from lead singer Sabina Sciubba, one can be excused feeling more excited than relaxed after listening to this enticing debut.
7. "Be," Common: West put his production stamp on "Be," but Common's erudite, sensual and social rhymes are the main reason the Chi-town rapper is once again relevant, rising above his crocheted-pants phase.
8. "Monkey Business," Black Eyed Peas: Clever is not the word that comes to mind for an album that pays tribute to a woman's "lovely lady lumps." Try cheesy. But cheesiness and entertainment go hand in hand, daggonit! And the Black Eyed Peas' "Monkey Business" is still one of the most enjoyable albums of the year (even if you're afraid to admit it).
9. "TP3 Reloaded," R. Kelly: Freaky sex and great music are the anchors for R. Kelly's latest. Though the lyrics to songs like "Sex in the Kitchen" and "Touchin'" border on the absurd, Kelly's brilliance musically cannot be denied. And sometimes, Kelly can work both lyrical and musical magic as evidenced on the serial cliffhanger song "Trapped in the Closet (Parts 1-5)," the most innovative single to be released in years.
10. "Fijacion Oral (Vol. 1)," Shakira: The Colombian diva shows good music needs no translation with her Spanish-language follow up to 2001's "Laundry Service." The album, which mixes bossa nova, retro-pop, reggaeton rhythms and pop rock, was even better than the English-language counterpart she released a few months later.
Honorable mentions:"In Between Dreams," Jack Johnson"The Way It Is," Keyshia Cole"State of Mind," Raul Midon"There's More Where That Came From," Lee Ann Womack"Mezmerize," System of a Down