12/25/2006 at 01:00 AM EST
The former boy-bander didn't just bring sexy back, he brought the R&B-pop blockbuster back, turning out the 2006 model of Thriller.
ARCTIC MONKEYS, WHATEVER PEOPLE SAY I AM, THAT'S WHAT I'M NOT
There is plenty to go ape about on the wildly energetic and entertaining debut from this British indie-rock band.
CORINNE BAILEY RAE, CORINNE BAILEY RAE
All cool elegance, this enchanting Brit comes on like the new Sade with the makeout record of the year.
RED HOT CHILI PEPPERS, STADIUM ARCADIUM
A bold and bountiful double disc that showcases these stadium rockers in red-hot form.
THE KILLERS, SAM'S TOWN
Although some critics panned this album—which, with its nods to Springsteen, might be better titled Bruce's Town—we think it is totally killer.
Pumping out one fierce track after another on her second solo outing, this Dreamgirl
makes one reality perfectly clear: Other pop divas may come and go, but Miss B is irreplaceable.
PEARL JAM, PEARL JAM
Making the comeback of the year, Eddie Vedder and crew roar back to life with a hard-rocking gem that is their best work since their grunge glory days.
ROSANNE CASH, BLACK CADILLAC
On this moving meditation on death and grief, Johnny's daughter copes with the loss of her father, mother and stepmother. A good mourning indeed.
DAMIEN RICE, 9
James Blunt and John Mayer may have sold more CDs, but this Irish alt-folkie set the artistic standard for male singer-songwriters in 2006 with his second album. Stirring the soul with its transcendent beauty and cathartic emotion, 9 is a perfect 10.
VAN HUNT, ON THE JUNGLE FLOOR
While another neo-soul man (John Legend) got all the love, Hunt really floored us with a genre-defying disc that takes us back to old-school Prince.