Best 2007 - Phoenix: Jordin Sparks's Idol Thoughts

As touted in this week's Backbeat, music editors from across the country asked luminaries from our respective towns to tell us what music they loved this year. Their picks appear below and on the subsequent pages.

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Arizona native Jordin Sparks has the distinction of being the youngest American Idol winner in the show's history. The 17-year-old Glendale resident — whose father, Phillippi Sparks, played for the New York Giants and Dallas Cowboys — was sent home after her initial L.A. audition, but bounced back to win a second audition in Arizona and end up at the Seattle tryouts, where she made the Hollywood cut with Celine Dion's "Because You Loved Me" before being crowned the show's sixth winner on May 23.

Since winning, the energetic and talkative teenager has been busy. First she traversed the States from July through September as part of the "American Idols Live!" tour, then headed straight into the studio to record songs for her eponymous debut, released November 20 on Jive Records. The album boasts creative input from the likes of Robbie Nevil, Chris Brown (who duets with Sparks on "No Air") and producers Eman (Backstreet Boys, Celine Dion) and Sam Watters (Jessica Simpson). Jordin Sparks runs the gamut from pop to rock to R&B, much like her iPod.

"If you see my iPod, it' s the craziest mix of stuff," she says. "I like post-­hardcore, country, rock, hip-hop, '80s music. I'm all over the place."

Sparks says she spent most of her summer listening to the songs she was recording, but still managed to quickly name some stuff she had in heavy rotation this year.

Rhianna

"I love her song 'I Hate that I Love You,' the one she does with Ne-Yo. The first time I heard that song, I knew it was going to be a hit. I have it on repeat on my iPod. It keeps growing on me and I never get tired of it. I like the way their voices blend together."

Chris Brown

"I haven't heard his new CD [Exclusive], but two years ago, when his first CD came out, all I wanted for Christmas and my birthday was his album. I'd love to tour with him. It would open me up to his R&B audience, and it would open him up to my pop audience. We're both somewhere in the middle."

Plain White T's

"I remember hearing 'Hey There Delilah,' and it was so simple — guitar, voice and strings. [It shows] you don't have to make a complicated song to have a hit single."

Kanye West, Graduation

"Yeah, I listen to hip-hop. I hope my mom doesn't kill me [laughs]. I like Kanye West and 50 Cent, and I didn't take a side in that whole battle. But, I did buy [West's] Graduation, so I guess I took a side. The album is in heavy rotation on my iPod. 'Stronger' — that song is genius."

Post-hardcore and screamo

I like Silverstein, and a local band called Greeley Estates that's doing really well. My favorite is a band called Dizmas. They're really good, and I love their music. They came and performed at my church [Calvary Community Church in Phoenix], and it was really funny, because people were like, 'Are they screaming?' But I like post-hardcore because it's really cool for when you're angry. Anybody who can scream like that and not blow their voice out is amazing. It takes a lot of skill and practice to be able to do that. I can't do it."

Alicia Keys

"I haven't heard all of her new album [As I Am] yet, but I like her new single ("No One"). Alicia Keys just amazes me. She plays piano like no other, she's got a great voice and she writes her own songs."

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