U2, No Line on the Horizon

Not as immediate as 2000's All That You Can't Leave Behind or 2004's How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb, this album didn't get the love that it should have gotten from fans. But with Bono and the boys in experimental mode, it expands their sonic horizons to include the kind of moody atmospherics that you might have expected more from Radiohead.

Florence + the Machine, Lungs

On her debut, London's Florence Welch alternately conjures up Kate Bush, Chrissie Hynde and Sinéad O'Connor, while displaying a flair for the macabre that can be both sinister ("Girl with One Eye") and sweet ("My Boy Builds Coffins").

Band of Skulls, Baby Darling Doll Face Honey

These scary-good indie rockers—with boy-girl lead vocals—proved to be the best new British band since Arctic Monkeys.

Rihanna, Rated R

After the Chris Brown drama, the 21-year-old diva emerged triumphant. Her gritty fourth album is her coming-of-age manifesto, her Control. It's deeper and darker, harder and heavier than anything you would have expected from the girl who gave us "Umbrella."

Mariah Carey, Memoirs of an Imperfect Angel

In addition to winning raves for her deglammed turn in Precious, MC, in full vocal flight, delivered one of the best start-to-finish discs of her career—right up there with 1995's Daydream and 2005's The Emancipation of Mimi.

Maxwell, BLACKsummers'night

Sorry, Whitney, but Maxwell, with his first CD since 2001, made the comeback of the year thanks to his long-running hit "Pretty Wings." With silky vocals (that lovely falsetto intact) and sumptuous arrangements (cue the horns), the neo-soul star shows that his sensual sounds had been sorely missed.

Green Day, 21st Century Breakdown

After 2004's rock opera American Idiot, these punks produce another socially conscious concept album, ambitiously setting out to make a record that will still be played in the 22nd century. And with anthemic tracks like the epic title tune and the Beatles-on-steroids ballad "21 Guns," they just may have succeeded.

Ida Maria, Fortress 'round My Heart

One of the baddest rock chicks to come around in a long time, this Norwegian newcomer is a quirky cross between Courtney Love, Karen O and Avril Lavigne, with a touch of Björk. She brings a grungy rawness and punk-pop hookiness to cuts like the killer single "I Like You So Much Better When You're Naked," while revealing her soft side on ballads like the wistful closer, "In the End."

Holly Williams, Here with Me

Her grandfather is Hank Williams and her dad is Hank Williams Jr. It's a family legacy that this singer-songwriter does mighty proud on the year's finest country album. On songs like the spare ballad "Three Days in Bed," she makes the ache hurt so good.

Kid Cudi, Man on the Moon: The End of Day

Singing and rapping over atmospheric electronica soundscapes, the cerebral Cudi makes one of the best hip-hop debuts since mentor Kanye West's The College Dropout. A fantastic voyage, indeed.

>"SINGLE LADIES (PUT A RING ON IT)"

Beyoncé Knowles

It's like what I said when I first met my wife: "I'm going to put a ring on her finger!"

—TOM HANKS

"POKER FACE"

LADY GAGA

Since I play poker. I couldn't escape it considering I was in Vegas for two months. It was like the anthem.

—NELLY

"I GOTTA FEELING"

THE BLACK EYED PEAS

It puts me in a good mood every time. I never get tired of it.

—MIRANDA COSGROVE

>IT WAS A MEMORABLE 2009 FOR THE SUPERSTAR SPOUSES, WHO HAD US CRAZY IN LOVE WITH THEM.

HER HIGHS

"SINGLE LADIES (PUT A RING ON IT)" started the year at No. 1 on the pop and R&B charts. She also scored Top 10 hits with "Halo" and "Sweet Dreams."

AT THE INAUGURATION she serenaded the Obamas with "At Last" during their Neighborhood Ball first dance.

HER I AM . . . WORLD TOUR kicked off in March, grossing $53 million through Oct. 1. Meanwhile, in April her thriller Obsessed opened at No. 1 at the box office.

UPON WINNING VIDEO OF THE YEAR for "Single Ladies" at the MTV VMAs in September, she graciously got Taylor Swift back out to have her post-Kanye moment.

SHE LED THE GRAMMY NOMINATIONS on Dec. 2 with 10 nods—enough for her and Sasha Fierce.

HIS HIGHS

HE TOPPED FORBES' LIST of Hip-Hop Cash Kings in July, raking in an estimated $35 million over 12 months.

THE BLUEPRINT 3, released in September, became his 11th No. 1 album, passing Elvis Presley for the most ever by a solo artist.

ON SEPT. 11, the eighth anniversary of the terrorist attacks, the Brooklyn native held a concert at Madison Square Garden raising money for the New York Police & Fire Widows' & Children's Benefit Fund.

HE PERFORMED "EMPIRE STATE OF MIND" with Alicia Keys before Game 2 of the World Series at the home of his beloved Yankees in October. The anthem went on to hit No. 1 in November.

TURNING 40 on Dec. 4, he celebrated with a star-studded bash in the Dominican Republic thrown by Beyoncé, natch.

>MILEY CYRUS, "THE CLIMB"

It made her a legit artist. When I first heard it, I had goose bumps.

CAGE THE ELEPHANT, "AIN'T NO REST FOR THE WICKED"

I haven't been that excited about a new band since Coldplay. There's definitely some Stones in there.

JAY SEAN FEATURING LIL WAYNE, "DOWN"

That song is really hooky. He's the real deal.

SHAKIRA, "SHE WOLF"

I don't want to think of her as a wolf, but I've got to admit I love it.

TAYLOR SWIFT, "FIFTEEN"

She writes so honestly. Endearing.

JOHN MAYER, "WHO SAYS"

The guy's brilliant!

>"SINGLE LADIES (PUT A RING ON IT)"

Beyoncé Knowles

It's like what I said when I first met my wife: "I'm going to put a ring on her finger!"

—TOM HANKS

"POKER FACE"

LADY GAGA

Since I play poker. I couldn't escape it considering I was in Vegas for two months. It was like the anthem.

—NELLY

"I GOTTA FEELING"

THE BLACK EYED PEAS

It puts me in a good mood every time. I never get tired of it.

—MIRANDA COSGROVE

>IT WAS A MEMORABLE 2009 FOR THE SUPERSTAR SPOUSES, WHO HAD US CRAZY IN LOVE WITH THEM.

HER HIGHS

"SINGLE LADIES (PUT A RING ON IT)" started the year at No. 1 on the pop and R&B charts. She also scored Top 10 hits with "Halo" and "Sweet Dreams."

AT THE INAUGURATION she serenaded the Obamas with "At Last" during their Neighborhood Ball first dance.

HER I AM . . . WORLD TOUR kicked off in March, grossing $53 million through Oct. 1. Meanwhile, in April her thriller Obsessed opened at No. 1 at the box office.

UPON WINNING VIDEO OF THE YEAR for "Single Ladies" at the MTV VMAs in September, she graciously got Taylor Swift back out to have her post-Kanye moment.

SHE LED THE GRAMMY NOMINATIONS on Dec. 2 with 10 nods—enough for her and Sasha Fierce.

HIS HIGHS

HE TOPPED FORBES' LIST of Hip-Hop Cash Kings in July, raking in an estimated $35 million over 12 months.

THE BLUEPRINT 3, released in September, became his 11th No. 1 album, passing Elvis Presley for the most ever by a solo artist.

ON SEPT. 11, the eighth anniversary of the terrorist attacks, the Brooklyn native held a concert at Madison Square Garden raising money for the New York Police & Fire Widows' & Children's Benefit Fund.

HE PERFORMED "EMPIRE STATE OF MIND" with Alicia Keys before Game 2 of the World Series at the home of his beloved Yankees in October. The anthem went on to hit No. 1 in November.

TURNING 40 on Dec. 4, he celebrated with a star-studded bash in the Dominican Republic thrown by Beyoncé, natch.

BIGGER AND BOLDER, GREEN DAY IS NOW IN THE BUSINESS OF MAKING EVENT RECORDS

>MILEY CYRUS, "THE CLIMB"

It made her a legit artist. When I first heard it, I had goose bumps.

CAGE THE ELEPHANT, "AIN'T NO REST FOR THE WICKED"

I haven't been that excited about a new band since Coldplay. There's definitely some Stones in there.

JAY SEAN FEATURING LIL WAYNE, "DOWN"

That song is really hooky. He's the real deal.

SHAKIRA, "SHE WOLF"

I don't want to think of her as a wolf, but I've got to admit I love it.

TAYLOR SWIFT, "FIFTEEN"

She writes so honestly. Endearing.

JOHN MAYER, "WHO SAYS"

The guy's brilliant!