updated 12/26/2005 AT 01:00 AM EST
•originally published 12/26/2005 AT 01:00 AM EST
It was the year of Coldplay, Kanye and Mariah
There is a moment on every great record at which you realize that you are in for something special. On X&Y, that moment comes at the bridge of Track 4, "Fix You," a glorious ballad that seems to have come straight from the heavens. Song for song, Coldplay achieves an anthemic grandeur that separates them from mere mortals.
The old-school conscious rapper fully realizes his gifts on this hip-hop instaclassic with beats and rhymes for the head, heart and soul.
Nineties alt-rock hipster Beck rediscovers his cool with a groovy sonic kaleidoscope swirling with hip-hop, funk, psychedelia, folk and blues.
This artfully sung collection of country standards connects the thoroughly modern McBride to Nashville's great traditions. Timeless indeed.
Remember when Neil Diamond was a soulful singer-songwriter who played acoustic guitar? Neither did we. But he reminds us brilliantly with this sparkling disc.
Ain't Nobody Worryin'
Evoking but never imitating such '70s greats as Bill Withers, Marvin Gaye and Stevie Wonder, the southern-fried soul man serves up the R&B album of the year.
I'm Wide Awake, It's Morning
The superior of two CDs this year from Bright Eyes brainchild Conor Oberst shines with an acoustic beauty and note-perfect songwriting.
•Nine Inch Nails
After six years away, Trent Reznor's virtual one-man band comes back with a vengeance, sinking its incisors into these industrial-strength rockers.
The Emancipation of Mimi
Carey gets her glitter back with what may go down as the best album of her career, a first-rate R&B-pop collection that succeeds—despite the alias introduced in the title—by letting Mariah be Mariah. Her No. 1 smash "We Belong Together" showed Beyoncé et al that this diva was far from done.
After last year's hit debut, The College Dropout, West graduates to another level with an ambitious disc that lives up to all his braggadocio. The rapper-producer, who also worked his studio magic on everyone from John Legend to Common, displays the midas touch on tracks like "Gold Digger."