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Top 10 CDs of 2004

Vanessa E. Jones' picks

1. Usher, ‘‘Confessions’’ (Arista)
One of R&B’s biggest egos finally delivers on his boasts by giving music lovers a CD stuffed with great songs from beginning to end. He confidently wraps his mellifluous voice around both club bangers and slow jams with ease.

2. Kanye West, ‘‘The College Dropout’’ (Roc-A-Fella)
Usher’s hip-hop counterpart in the ego department eschewed the usual celebrations of materialism and misogyny to explore education, racism, and religion.

3. Van Hunt, ‘‘Van Hunt’’ (Capitol) This newcomer wins the ‘‘best kept secret’’ award by creating a unique sound that’s not exactly R&B, soul, rock, pop, or hip-hop. Too bad he didn’t get much hype for his efforts.

4. Nas, ‘‘Street’s Disciple’’ (Sony Urban Music /Columbia)
It takes a lot of talent to sustain a double CD, but Nas does it with ease on this outing by linking insightful lyrics with banging beats.

5. U2, ‘‘How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb’’ (Interscope)
Even U2 thinks critics overly praised its previous CD. This time, the guys live up to the hype with a gorgeous (and consistent) album.

6. Bjork, ‘‘Medulla’’ (Elektra)
No more classical music accompaniments or wacky beats, as on the singer’s previous studio CD. This time she relies solely on vocals and creates a work that will inspire listeners to try beatboxing.

7. Amel Larrieux, ‘‘Bravebird’’ (Blisslife)
She may not have the warmth of the great female R&B singers, but her swooping, soaring vocals prove Larrieux definitely has the chops.

8. Beenie Man, ‘‘Back to Basics’’ (Virgin)
This year, critics skewered him for his homophobic lyrics. But you won’t .nd that controversial content on this hit-filled disc, just easy-to-like songs that continue dancehall’s incontrovertible march into the mainstream.

9. Green Day, ‘‘American Idiot’’ (Reprise)
Socially conscious punk rock that captures the numbness and alienation of the times? Sounds like the setup for a joke, but this CD achieves all that with shockingly accessible songs.

10. Brandy, ‘‘Afrodisiac’’ (Atlantic Records)
Baby mama drama drives this R&B singer’s most enjoyable album to date.

Vanessa E. Jones is a Globe staff writer.

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Usher 'Confessions'
Usher / "Confession"
"Bad girl"
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