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RN1814

This is only a big deal to me. That said, it IS a big deal to me, so I appreciate any indulgence.

I've been putting together year-end favorite albums lists for years. The first one that was published was in 1985. (My pick that year, for the historians, was REM's "Fables of the Reconstruction.")

I've gone back through the years and made a handful of adjustments in the lists. (The full versions - minus three "missing" years - are all available at a separate blog  I set up more for my own easy access than anything else.) But I've always noted the changes, and I've adjusted my thinking on how to handle albums I don't get to until after I've already completed my year-end review. (Right now, my policy is to add those albums in a list at the end of each given year, with text that says something along the lines of "If I'd heard this last year, it would have made my list.")

(Again, I know this is only a big deal to me. But it's something I think about, probably more than I ought to.)

There's been once since 1985 that I chose to not name an album of the year. In 1990 (reflecting albums released in 1989), I didn't list a No. 1 album - I listed a tie for No. 2.

I have no idea why, in retrospect. It seemed at the time like such a bold statement for me to make. "Nothing is great enough for me to christen as MY album of the year, so I will withhold this honor."

Imagine the disappointment of the artists who released albums that year.

I also suspect I stole the idea. Trouser Press magazine, my mainline into the music I loved in the late 1970s and early 1980s, one year declined to name a No. 1 album. I thought that was cool.

Still not sure why.

I've been going through old albums recently, and pulled out Janet Jackson's "Rhythm Nation 1814." It's an album I always liked. When I was putting together my list of best albums of 1989, however, I didn't feel right putting "Rhythm Nation 1814" at No. 1.

Still not sure why.

So I left my No. 1 spot empty, and shared the No. 2 position between "Rhythm Nation 1814" and Faith No More's "The Real Thing."

No longer.

I am now changing "Rhythm Nation 1814" to the No. 1 spot from the year.

I'm making myself feel better about it by saying I'm not really replacing anything, I'm just finally making a decision - a quarter-century too late.

"Rhythm Nation 1814" is an audacious effort. It's socially relevant, a bold artistic statement from a woman who could have been viewed as a pawn of producers Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis. She had no business attempting something so bold, and no one had any business expecting her to be anything more than a lightweight dance music queen.

Kind of the same thing I thought about Madonna when her career started.

I realized as I listened to "Rhythm Nation 1814" again how great and diverse it is musically. There's dance, pop, ballads and some kickass rock. In fact, I'm able to find in "Rhythm Nation 1814" what so many find in her brother Michael's "Thriller" album. For me, "Rhythm Nation 1814" is a solid collection of songs that additionally builds to a greater whole.

So that decision has been made. I have another project coming up which will feature an albums list that includes "Rhythm Nation 1814" but not "Thriller." I'll be able to refer people back to this post at that point.

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Audience Engagement Editor

Audience engagement editor of the Herald & Review

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