Elysa Gardner’s top 5 albums of 2014

By Elysa Gardner

USA Today

December 2014

1. Pharrell Williams, G I R L

Joy was something many of us needed in 2014, and Williams, who had already made us Happy the previous year, stayed in that exuberant, groovy vein throughout this album. Reaffirming the gifts as a song craftsman, producer and singer that have made him one of the most enduring forces in contemporary pop, R&B and hip-hop, Williams also exalted female authority and dignity in particular — not prominent subjects in any of those genres of late, sadly. More generally, his goal was to get us on the dance floor and convince us that “happiness is the truth” — and he did, which is no mean feat in these times.

2. Betty Buckley, Ghostlight

Supported by T Bone Burnett’s stark production, the veteran singer and actress stripped standards down to their bare essence, approaching them with a mix of delicacy and conviction that was haunting.

3. Lee Ann Womack, The Way I’m Livin’

One of country music’s finest and most intuitive singers — a woman who can convey tenderness and ferocity in the same phrase — returned this year with a testament of experience, endurance and grace.

4. Paolo Nutini, Caustic Love

The Scottish singer/songwriter delivered his finest work to date with this soulful collection, fueled by muscular arrangements and vocals full of raw yearning.

5. Billy Porter, Billy’s Back on Broadway

The Tony Award-winning star of Kinky Boots brought his luscious style and buoyant spirit to a range of tunes, including showstoppers such as Don’t Rain on My Parade and But the World Goes ‘Round.