Last year, I finished off a great year in music with a feature called “My Year In Lists.” I am happy to report I have decided to bring it back this year, with more exciting content, culminating in my picks for the Top Albums of 2010, which will be released in mid-December.

2010 was one if the strongest years in recent memory for quality releases and great bands getting the recognition they deserve. However, there were also several trends in popular music that ranged from downright puzzling to proof that popular music needs a shot in the foot. Here are four of the most prominent trends that I noticed this year.

The Opposite of Braggadocio: The self has always been a topic of choice for rappers and hip-hop artists. Usually, their music is used as a means to stroke their egos to astronomical proportions, and audiences are quick to eat it up. However, over the last year, artists such as Kid Cudi, B.O.B, and a certain former Degrassi star have turned their gaze inwards. While still rapping about themselves, they tend to focus on their lives, lifestyles, or how gosh darn hard it is to be famous. Somehow this resonated with audiences enough to guarantee that you will hear “Airplanes” at least once an hour, and ensured that these (somewhat) self-loathing MC’s have a firm place in the popular conscience.

Auto-Tune Takes Over: While Auto-Tune is nothing new, it seemed to be EVERYWHERE this year. From Jason Derulo’s “Flying Solo” to the ubiquity of Antoine Dodson, there was no escaping machine-refined “singing.” While there were a few rare instances of it’s proper use (see Hot Chip’s “I Feel Better), the worst auto-tuned crime came in the form of Usher’s smash hit “OMG.” This was an example of pitch correction taking a once respectable artist to new lows. The one thing that Usher is renowned for, his voice, was forced to take a backseat to’s god-awfully embarrassing lyrics and his insistence that Usher sound like a detached robot. Oddly enough, the song hit number one, proving positive that Jock Jams chants and lines like “Honey got a booty like pow, pow, pow” are enough to move units nowadays.

Screw The Economy, Let’s Party!: There’s no denying that 2010 will be seen as one of the toughest years our country has faced financially in quite some time. The economy is still in the tank, St. Ed’s graduates are finding it tough to find a job, and big oil still expects us to fork over $2.70 a gallon for gas. However, you would never be able to guess it judging by some of pop music’s newest party brats, namely Ke$ha, Katy Perry, and the increasingly club friendly Miley Cyrus. With songs that encourage partying, getting black-out drunk, and dancing as if nothing’s wrong, someone unfamiliar with the US’ economic woes would be right in assuming that everything is fine and dandy, and that we just can’t stop partying.

Commercial Appeal: Five years ago, you’d be hard pressed to find anyone who would believe that an album by The Arcade Fire would debut at #1 on the US Billboard charts. However, in what can also represent the single overtaking the album as music buyers primary mode of consumption, several great independent bands cracked the Top 10 album charts this year, with Vampire Weekend and The Arcade Fire managing to debut on top. Another interesting phenomenon that finally came full circle this year was the increasing use of indie bands to add cool points to (insert product or service here). Whether it was Los Campesinos! being featured in a Budweiser ad or The Morning Benders pulling for Reese’s, it is both a blessing and a curse. On the one hand, these bands are finally getting wider exposure and making some well deserved dollars for their work. On the other hand, it hurts the music enthusiast’s soul when the average person is only able to recognize Sleigh Bells as that group on the Honda commerical.