In a year with so much tragedy, loss and hopelessness, music was truly the one constant which unified us and got us through another day. This year’s reputation may be at the depths of hell but no one can deny the fantastic output of music it created. This year has been living proof of how necessary music is in our lives whether we are making it or listening to it. It has been a constant reminder of how it touches our souls and taps into a greater feeling. With the end of the year upon us, it is time to look back at the best albums we’ve been blessed with.
DISCLAIMER: These are my opinions, they are not fact, every single album on this list has a solid reason why they sould be at the top. It all really came down to three factors; preference, replay value and the overall era the album represents meaning music videos and live performances.
15. Ariana Grande – Positions
(catchy but loses replay value since it’s not charting new territory)
14. BLACKPINK – The Album
(while it has a couple standouts, it fails to reach it’s full potential)
13. Shawn Mendes – Wonder
(cliche, uneven and sappy but oh so fun to listen to)
12. BTS – Map of the Soul: 7
(a lyrically cohesive record which loses my attention at times with it’s production)
11. BTS – BE
(another lyrically cohesive project which is an improvement despite a weaker second half)
10. Chloe x Halle – Ungodly Hour
An entrancing and empowering record with the bond of two sisters at the front. ‘Ungodly Hour’ makes it clear from it’s opening track that Chloe x Halle are at the top of the vocal game. Hearing them harmonize never gets old especially in a live performance. The VMA performance of the title track is still one of the best performances of the year, definitely the best in terms of vocals. One of the few instances where I prefer it over the original track. ‘Ungodly Hour’ also contains some of the most memorable melodies in an album I’ve heard all year. Truth be told I haven’t had an urge to revisit the album that often but despite that, the songs still worm their way to my brain.
Favourite Tracks: ‘Ungodly Hour’, ‘Overwhelmed’, ‘Wonder What She Thinks of Me’
9. Rina Sawayama – SAWAYAMA
This year has made me discover many new artists and Rina Sawayama may be the most exciting one of all. What a stunning debut album. Lyrically cohesive and exciting melodically, ‘Sawayama’ is a true delight from it’s explosive opening to it’s reflective closing track. It’s a shame this album is being left out of the conversation when it comes to pop albums. ‘Sawayama’ is a near-perfect pop record. It’s themes of generational trauma, cultural difference and familial love are a breath of fresh air in a genre dominated by romance. It’s refreshing in the sense that lyrically it’s quite critical towards the world, there is a lot of pent-up emotion in this record and I feel like this was immensely therapeutic for Sawayama. She has made a huge fan out of me and I am incredibly excited to see what her future career holds.
Favourite Tracks: ‘Comme des Garçons (Like The Boys)’, ‘Snakeskin’,
‘Tokyo Love Hotel’
8. The Weeknd – After Hours
One of the best examples of a pop era done right, ‘After Hours’ is an album which you could not escape from even if you tried. With the inescapable and Grammy-snubbed ‘Blinding Lights’ taking the world by storm, The Weeknd reintroduced himself to the world with one of the strongest concept albums in recent memory. The cinematic flair added by the production is only amplified with the brilliant visuals that accompany it. The music videos and the live performances were nothing short of stellar, this is an album destined to become a classic. The entire look, feel and sound of ‘After Hours’ was pulled off because of the immense care put into it. Lyrically, there is a sense of disconnect because of the toxic behaviour displayed, it’s really heartbreaking when you sit down to actually dissect the meaning of this album. Despite not feeling it on a personal level, it never detracts from the quality of the record. I cannot wait to see The Weeknd perform at the Superbowl next year, seeing him continuing to bring this album to life is genuinely exciting.
Favourite Tracks: ‘Alone Again’, ‘Heartless’, ‘In Your Eyes’
7. Halsey – Manic
Unlike the rest of the albums on this list, ‘Manic’ was an album I came to appreciate over a long period of time. While I enjoyed ‘Manic’ on my initial listen and had a couple standout tracks, it wasn’t till I rediscovered the album this past Autumn where I truly fell in love with it. This album is as personal and intimate as it can get, Halsey’s lyrics leave her completely vulnerable. She has a lot to say and she knows how to say it perfectly. Lyrically this is one of the best albums of the year, I love and adore it for that. This is an album where each lyric has a story of it’s own with how specific the emotion it evokes is. Musically, this album is one of the most entertanining albums I’ve ever heard. While the entire album sounds amazing there is a specific section which starts with ‘Forever … (is a long time)’ and ends with ‘Finally // beautiful stranger’ which I have had on repeat for a concerning amount. The way each tracks flows into the next brings an indescribable sense of satisfaction. Overall this is an album I will be revisiting with new perspectives as I grow older which will undoubtedly make it all the more special to me.
Favourite Tracks: ‘Forever … (is a long time)’, ‘I HATE EVERYBODY’,
‘Finally // beautiful stranger’
6. Taylor Swift – folklore
This year truly has been a whirlwind but what is maybe the most bizarre events of the year was clue mastermind Taylor Swift dropping a surprise album with only a twenty-four hour heads-up. ‘Folklore’ was the album that made this Summer feel somewhat memorable and actually worth remembering. This album came out when I was at a pretty low point so having an album as special as this, was really comforting. There hasn’t been a lot to say that hasn’t already been said about this album. It’s lyrically masterful and melodically beautiful. It has grown on me an insane amount since my initial listen, that being said, there are still a few weak spots particularly in the last third of the album which hold this album back from being perfect. Full Review.
Favourite Tracks: ‘seven’, ‘invisible string’, ‘cardigan’
5. Lady Gaga – Chromatica
‘Chromatica’ is the album which got me through it all. This is the only album I have physically bought and it is most definitely the album I replayed the most. Just like ‘After Hours’ the entire ‘Chromatica’ era felt bigger than the album. ‘Chromatica’ feels like an escape from our worries and anxieties. The EDM-influenced pop record takes over the listener and truly takes them to another world. The cinematic interludes adds a sense of gravity and seriousness which isn’t usually associated with pop music. Gaga has once again shown us why she is a pop icon and why she is here to stay. ‘Chromatica’ is a perfect showcase of Gaga’s artistry and intellect. It is an album I have yet to stop coming back to, I have been playing it ever since it came out. Every music video, every live performance I must have rewatched to the point of memorization. The complexity of the lyrical content makes this album feel all the more like a journey. I really appreciated how the album started with the purpose of looking for a better place to ending on a self-celebratory anthem. I applaud Gaga for talking about mental health and infusing it into her music. Just talking about it makes me want to listen to it again. Full Review.
Favourite Tracks: ‘Alice’, ‘911’, ‘Replay’
4. Dua Lipa – Future Nostalgia
This album came out right after the pandemic had started, most of us were looking for distractions and escapism and this album did just that. As a major consumer of pop music, I can safely say that ‘Future Nostalgia’ is a perfect pop record. Considering nearly half of the album has been released as singles is a pretty good sign. It’s also an incredible sign if I am still listening to ‘Don’t Start Now’ a year after it’s release. This album has yet to get old to me, i honestly doubt it ever will. ‘Future Nostalgia’ provides that infectious bubblegum pop we have been craving for years now. The groovy production enters your brain like a parasite and forces you to move and interact with the beat. I genuinely think it’s impossible not to physically move while you listen to this album. It’s short, straight-to-the-point and oh so catchy. Full Review.
Favourite Tracks: ‘Don’t Start Now’, ‘Levitating’ ‘Pretty Please’
3. Taylor Swift – evermore
As a fan of English literature and great lyricism, getting two Taylor Swift albums in less than a year was truly overwhelming. While I love and adore ‘folklore’, there was an instant connection with ‘evermore’. Whereas that album ended on a weaker note, ‘evermore’ remained consistent in quality and was a much more exciting album overall. It didn’t feel monotone on my initial listen unlike it’s sister record. It’s honestly slightly terrifiyng how she made these two albums just for fun. Both records carry this timeless quality to them because ironically they don’t feel like a product of their time. The simplistic production feels timeless and when you match that with brilliant lyricism, you really do strike gold. Full Review.
Favourite Tracks: ‘gold rush’, ‘tolerate it’, ‘ivy’
2. Miley Cyrus – Plastic Hearts
When it comes to eighties nostalgia, most people bring up synth and disco but rarely do people mention rock. Miley Cyrus took this personally and gave us a revival of the rock genre. This is in every way a perfect record. ‘Plastic Hearts’ is everything I didn’t know I needed. A brutally honest, eargasmic concuction which shows Cyrus at her prime. Listening to her talk about this project, it really does feel like it was destined to be made. Her pain, her experiences in the music industry, her repuation all collide to bring us this heartbreaking yet empowering record. It’s the type of album where each track has the potential to be your favourite. Full Review.
Favourite Tracks: ‘Angels Like You’, ‘Gimme What I Want’, ‘Hate Me’
1. Conan Gray – Kid Krow
The loss of teenagehood is a transition not many people talk about. This year was supposed to be the most exciting year in my entire life. I had goals to achieve and shells to break. I wanted to be spontaneous and do stuff I had never done before, I wanted to live. Of course, I’m not saying that once you hit your twenties, life is just automatically boring but there is a sense of freedom that comes with teenagehood that not many people have the pleasure of getting once they’re older. Losing an entire year really took a toll on me mentally, as I’m sure it did you but the album that made me feel a fraction of what I was missing out on is ‘Kid Krow‘. Conan Gray has made an album equivalent to the complexity of teenagehood. Whether or not you’ve been in a relationship, grew up in a suburban American town or showed up to your ex with a shovel and a rose, there is a track guaranteed to have you relate. Gray’s talent as a songwriter really shines through with this album especially since I could feel the emotion he was conveying through his lyrics depsite never having been in a relationship. It’s a damn shame that I haven’t seen ‘Kid Krow’ in the awards conversation this year. It might not be the traditional album of the year type material but it still deserves the attention nonetheless. ‘Kid Krow’ has songs that are featured in the soundtrack of my life. In a few years, I’m going to look back at ‘Little League’ and it’s going to remind me of the adventures my friends and I will eventurally have and that is why to me, ‘Kid Krow’ is the album of the year.
Favourite Tracks: ‘Comfort Crowd’, ‘Heather’, ‘Little League’
Despite being arguably the hardest year we have ever experienced, it was a damn good year for music. Every record on this list is amazing and worth listening to. The ranking serves more as a gimick than having any actual importance. I love every single album on this list and they all have a million different reasons why they should be at the top. I really enjoyed getting a chance to delve into music more and listening to more albums. I have discovered many artists by covering music on here and I’m looking forward to doing it again next year!
What was your favourite album of 2020?
What was your favourite song of 2020?