Artwork by @FameKilled
Where would we be in 2020 without music? In a year plagued by so much loss and paralyzing, radical change, it was the gift of songs that kept so many of us moving forward. So we are choosing to focus on the positive now! We may have lost concerts, clubs and our sense of sanity, but there is SO much to be grateful for: innovative virtual concert experiences, an abundance of female collaborations we never deserved (“Savage,” “Rain On Me,” “WAP,” “Say So,” “Prisoner”), breakthrough moments for K-pop in western culture, an Adele-hosted SNL episode, the return of Lorde‘s onion ring review page, and not one but TWO surprise Taylor Swift albums!
Consider this our formal thank you to the artists who continued to inspire and entertain in the face of a global pandemic – we are eternally grateful! Continue reading below for our 40 favorite albums of the year that kept our spirits up through the pandemic.
40. ‘Birds of Prey’ OST (Various Artists)
Companion film soundtracks have become the go-to marketing strategy to promote Hollywood blockbusters, a trend so popular it began breeding many unnecessary and borderline pointless albums just for the sake of brand recognition. The ‘Birds of Prey’ soundtrack feels like the rare companion album that actually makes sense, though, thanks to its exclusive female lineup and a sonic cohesiveness to match the explosive energy of the film. “Boss Bitch” by Doja Cat is maybe her best song this entire year, while “Experiment On Me” by Halsey & “Joke’s On You” by Charlotte Lawrence succeed in capturing a playful, villainous energy. Other standout tracks include “Invisible Chains” by Lauren Jauregui and “Sway With Me” by Saweetie & GALXARA.
39. ‘THE S(EX) TAPES’ by FLETCHER
One of the fastest rising artists of last year with her radio smash, “Undrunk,” FLETCHER had big plans for 2020 that included a debut album and an opening spot on the Nice To Meet Ya tour with Niall Horan & Lewis Capaldi. Her new album, ‘The S(EX) TAPES’ is the result of a massive pivot, one that saw the singer move back in with her ex-girlfriend and relive the emotional struggles of separation all amid a pandemic. The songs here are all the better for it thanks to her vulnerability and all-too-real struggles depicted within, while the accompanying visuals take on new meaning upon the realization that her ex served as a creative director. Perhaps the most satisfying aspect of this project, though, is the sense that this album has likewise helped her fans navigate these traumatic months of 2020.
38. ‘Good News’ by Megan Thee Stallion
Three years after entering the scene with her EP, ‘Make It Hot,’ Megan Thee Stallion has completed her transition from internet sensation to mainstream star with her debut album, ‘Good News’ – a solid collection of club bangers and sex anthems that continues to set Megan apart from her rap contemporaries. The LP succeeds in the face of massive hype thanks to standout tracks like “Cry Baby,” another perfect pairing between Megan and DaBaby, as well as the groovy SZA collaboration “Freaky Girls” that captures a timeless R&B sound. Perhaps more impressive, however, is the way Megan refuses to mention her alleged assailant Tory Lanez beyond the first track, “Shots Fired,” proving that she’s ready to move past the drama and focus on her music.
37. ‘CUT SEASON’ by Gia Woods
Gia Woods‘ debut EP arrives five years after her very first single, “Only A Girl” – and the wait is totally worth it. A concept album that chronicles the fallout of a tough break up, ‘CUT SEASON’ turns heartbreak into glorious dance music with songs that explore rock, alt-pop, dark pop and even a tropical sound. This is one of the rare projects that makes you wonder how the hell it’s not on the radio yet, especially on tracks like “HUNGRY” and the breezy closing track “ALL I KNOW.” She sounds like a fully-realized pop star despite not being given her flowers yet, but we have a good feeling about her upcoming music knowing that songwriter Jesse Saint John (Lizzo, Kim Petras, Britney Spears, Dorian Electra) is closely involved.
36. ‘Petals for Armor’ by Hayley Williams
Hayley Williams’ first solo project outside of Paramore is a deeply introspective and oftentimes chilling piece of work. Created in collaboration with sole producer Taylor York of Paramore, ‘Petals for Amor’ puts Williams front and center with bare, almost cold alt-rock production highlighting her rockstar vocals. There isn’t much here that’s comparable to her work in Paramore, as the project almost feels like it was created in an alternate timeline – not extremely divergent, but rather, just different. For longtime fans of the singer, ‘Petals For Armor’ is a cathartic and overdue piece of work that sheds new light on her impressive career.
35. ‘Hey u x’ by BENEE
Following the success of her TikTok smash hit, “Supalonely,” BENEE native strikes gold again with her debut album ‘Hey u x’ – a colorful and buoyant LP that’s as abstract as its cover art. The New Zealand native sets the tone for the project with the gloomy alt-pop intro track, “Happen To Me,” where she tackles her fears of dying in a plane, getting kidnapped or perishing in a fire over an effortlessly breezy guitar riff. Elsewhere, BENEE writes about dating woes on the wonderfully sassy “Plain” and badass Grimes collaboration, “Sheesh.” BENEE is floating around without a care in the world, and she makes it all sound so easy (and fun).
34. ‘THE ALBUM’ by BLACKPINK
BLACKPINK take their music to the next level on the appropriately titled album, ‘THE ALBUM,’ a satisfying debut project that delivers on stadium-ready pop anthems and crossover collaborations for a western audience. Composed of Rosé, Jisoo, Lisa & Jennie, BLACKPINK effortlessly toes the line between sweet and sour across the LP’s eight tracks. Their vocals fit just as well on softer pop ballads (“You Never Know”) as they do on high-octane bangers (“How You Like That”). while A-list guests like Selena Gomez & Cardi B feel like genuine collaborators rather than an easy cash grab. ‘THE ALBUM’ is a pivotal project in the western K-pop movement, one that we hope will lay the groundwork for even more success to come.
33. ‘Three. Two. One.’ by Lennon Stella
You might already know Lennon Stella from her smash collaboration with The Chainsmokers, “Takeaway” and multiple streaming hits such as “La Di Da” & “Polaroid.” On her debut album, ‘Three. Two. One.’, the 21-year-old Canadian singer strikes the perfect balance of intimate songwriting and modern pop conventions. “Kissing Other People” is an effortlessly euphoric dance single, while tracks like “Jealous” and “Fear of Being Alone” transform growing pains into breezy pop. Her vocal arrangements are just plain lovely, too, as they exude a youthful and assured energy throughout the project. And like the title itself implies, Stella‘s debut album should be a strong jumping off point for her next career moves.
32. ‘Eternal Atake’ by Lil Uzi Vert
Lil Uzi Vert’s ‘Eternal Atake’ deserves a mention here at the very least for its culture-shaking arrival back in March. This bombastic, spaced-out trap LP – which sees Uzi inhabit three characters (Baby Pluto/Renji/Uzi) in three acts – was perhaps the most anticipated hip hop project of the year thanks to its multiple delays and incredible word-of-mouth among fans. The hype around this project was blinding, making it hard to fully digest in the moment. But with the dust finally settling on 2020, ‘Eternal Atake’ stands as a confident Uzi project with plenty to satisfy his day-one fans and new listeners. Perhaps the album would’ve earned more even acclaim if Uzi had the chance to properly promote it in a COVID-free world like a true rockstar.
31. Only Child by Sasha Sloan
Whether you’re familiar with the name Sasha Sloan or not, there’s a good chance you’ve already heard her work infiltrate the culture. After penning songs for stars like Camila Cabello (“Never Be The Same”), Katy Perry (“Cry About It Later”), Charli XCX (“Track 10”) and more, the singer-songwriter steps into her own as a solo artist with debut album ‘Only Child’ – a mix of pop, folk, Americana and more highlights Sloan‘s talent for crafting a heavenly pop hook. Something that really sticks out about this album is the way Sloan can tell a story through the subtle art of track listing. While the album largely explores feelings of anxiety, depression and more, Sloan bookmarks the LP with two songs that serve as beautiful self affirmations – “Matter To You” and “High School Me.” It’s a clever decision that gives new meaning to the album while serving as a gentle reminder that things will get better one day, even if it feels like the end of the world sometimes.
30. ‘Shoot For The Stars Aim For The Moon’ by Pop Smoke
It’s not an overstatement to say Pop Smoke was a legend in the making. One of the brightest new talents in hip-hop, the 20-year-old Brooklyn native catapulted himself into the center of UK drill rap with his electric vocal delivery that lends a cinematic, sinister energy to everything he touches. His first posthumous album, ‘Shoot for the Stars Aim for The Moon,’ succeeds in cementing his impact over a brief two-year career. In addition to being well known for popularizing UK drill beat, everything on Pop Smoke‘s new album hinges on his one-of-a-kind voice. Thunderous and assured, his presence on the mic is a truly captivating force. In this sense, Pop Smoke‘s legacy will always live on in the culture.
29. ‘DISCO’ by Kylie Minogue
Inspired by the glamour and magical energy of Studio 2054, Kylie Minogue’s ‘DISCO’ is an incredibly cohesive dance album that transcends this year’s 80s revival of “Blinding Lights,” “Say So,” “Don’t Start Now” and more. The project is a more adult affair that reflects Minogue’s appreciation for the musical era with its tight funky basslines, immaculate orchestration and her dreamlike vocals. It’s pure escapism in a world that could use some more of it. Fans seem to agree, as ‘DISCO’ debuted at #1 on the UK Official charts, making it her eighth album across five decades (80s, 90s, 00s, 10s, 20s) to top the chart.
28. ‘Rancho Catastrophe’ by Terror Jr.
Terror Jr. take their sound to the next level on new album, ‘Rancho Catastrophe,’ one of the most inspired pop projects to arrive this year. Comprised of David Benjamin Singer-Vine & Lisa Vitale, the pair are sonic chameleons capable of delivering rave-worthy dance music, soulful ballads, emo pop and hyper-pop all on one project – and it’s so cohesive! We’re unofficially coining the term “heart pop” to describe this wonderful project that touches on everything from politics and climate change to homophobia and social justice. Make sure to check out the official music video for “Immortality” which sees producer David step into the spotlight on a track that plays like the best bottle episode from your favorite TV show.
27. ‘MAP OF THE SOUL: 7’ by BTS
BTS kicked off their year of world domination with ‘MAP OF THE SOUL: 7,’ the group’s fourth Korean-language album and seventh LP overall. A mix of pop, R&B, hip-hop and more, ‘MOTS7’ cements the K-pop group’s influence on western culture with A-list collaborators that include Halsey (“Boy With Luv”), Ed Sheeran (“Make It Right”), Sia (“ON”) and Troye Sivan (“Louder Than Bombs”), among others. One of the most impressive aspects of this project is the group’s uncompromising commitment to singing in Korean. With so much crossover appeal, the Bangtan boys could’ve easily made some sacrifices with their sound – instead, they invite western artists into their world of culture-shaking K-pop music that’s already reshaped the global music industry and online fanbase culture.
26. ‘KIKI’ by Kiana Lede
Kiane Lede wears her heart on her sleeve on debut album, ‘KIKI,’ a pure R&B album that looks to propel her status within the genre’s newest wave of female stars. Featuring collaborations with Ari Lennox, 6LACK, Lucky Daye and more, ‘KIKI’ sees the 23-year-old singer reflect on dating, insecurities, growing up and more with production that feels nostalgic for her genre influences. Lede knows how to pick features, too, as collaborations like “Chocolate” with Lennox and “Labels” with Moneybagg Yo & BIA prove to be perfect fits vocally on the LP.
25. ‘What Could Possibly Go Wrong’ by Dominic Fike
Upon first listen, it’s immediately clear as to why record labels ended up in a bidding war over Dominic Fike. After making waves online with Soundcloud demos, earning a co-sign from BROCKHAMPTON and racking up millions of streams with “3 Nights,” Fike provides a strong case for commercial success with breezy earworm tracks on ‘What Could Possibly Go Wrong.’ His broad sonic appeal – a blend of hip-hop and pop-rock that’s been compared to the likes of Post Malone, Kevin Abstract, Jack Johnson & more – has unfortunately been used against him by critics who deem Fike an “industry plant.” We see things differently, though, as ‘What Could Possibly Go Wrong’ is a pleasantly confident LP that has us excited for what’s next.
24. ‘Legends Never Die’ by Juice WRLD
Juice WRLD’s first posthumous album, ‘Legends Never Die,’ is further proof of his super status and cultural impact with young listeners. His signature sound, which achieves a rare feat of successfully blending pop, emo, trap, hip-hop and more for a global audience, has helped pave the way for a new generation of stars despite his debut only being two years ago. Juice’s influence is undeniable, and ‘Legends Never Die’ succeeds above all in capturing his impact and effortless knack for melodies and earworms. Must-listen tracks at the moment include “Wishing Well,” “Life’s a Mess,” and “Righteous.”
23. ‘What’s Your Pleasure?’ by Jessie Ware
If Dua Lipa‘s ‘Future Nostalgia’ brought the 80s back to the radio and Kylie Minogue‘s ‘Disco’ perfected the Studio 2054 sound, Jessie Ware‘s ‘What’s Your Pleasure’ serves as the soulful and sexy counterpart in this holy trinity of nostalgia dance albums. Rather than aiming for modern pop conventions, though, the UK singer aims to create a smoky, intoxicating club atmosphere with songs that are comfortable stretching into 4 or 5 minutes. Her vocals often cut through like a mirage, pillowed by heavenly production that allows the mind to wander and fill in the blanks. The album’s greatest triumph might just be “Save A Kiss,” a rare dance song with a real soul at the center.
22. ‘how i’m feeling now’ by Charli XCX
Charli XCX dives head first into the hyperpop genre with her fourth studio album, ‘how I’m feeling now,’ an exhilarating quarantine project that capitalizes on modern pop conventions through the lens of a twisted fun house carnival mirror. Created in collaboration with pop pioneers A.G. Cook & BJ Burton, ‘how I’m feeling now’ is a direct product of COVID-19 that saw Charli creating the album in real time as she communicated with fans. The result is a forward-thinking album rollout that has yet to be replicated by someone of her stature, while the album itself will go down as a highlight in the ever-evolving genre that is hyperpop. The LP takes on new meaning in a time Charli can’t properly perform it in a live venue, casting a rather eerie shadow over the project. It’s reassuring to know that even in a pandemic, Charli is still pushing boundaries with her rave-worthy pop.
21. ‘Gaslighter’ by The Chicks
‘Gaslighter’ by The Chicks has all the makings of a perfect country album – dramatic storytelling, clever lyricism, satisfying character arcs & a soul at the center of it all. This is the ultimate divorce album! I’ve never even been married, but “Tights On My Boat” makes me want to dramatically throw a wedding ring off a cliffside. The Chicks were making music before I was born, but “Gaslighter” has me feverishly Googling their history in the music industry. I’ve never even met the man at the center of this tale, but I want so desperately to tell him off! ‘Gaslighter’ is further proof of why The Chicks are legends in the music industry, and even all these years later, their music continues to reach beyond just country audiences.
20. ‘positions’ by Ariana Grande
You get the sense with Ariana Grande‘s new album, ‘positions,’ that she wanted the music to speak for itself this time around. Unlike her past two album cycles, which were plagued by tabloid fodder and intense microscopic lens on her personal life, ‘positions’ arrived with fairly minimal marketing for a pop star of her stature – and it’s all the better for it. This is an album for the fans first and foremost, the ones who appreciate her doo-wop days on ‘Yours Truly,’ the silliness of ‘Christmas & Chill’ and the sexy sound of ‘Dangerous Woman.’ The title track is both a certified hit and impressive evolution in her sound, while ‘POV’ might be one of her most beautiful ballads to date.
19. ‘Jaguar’ by Victoria Monet
Victoria Monet found a new legion of online fans this year with the release of ‘Jaguar,’ one of the most pleasant surprises of 2020. After penning smash hits for Ariana Grande (“thank u, next,” “7 rings”) and releasing several projects, the singer-songwriter carves out her own lane with this EP of sexy, R&B tracks that feel incredibly specific to Monet’s throwback aesthetic. She sounds like a superstar here, simply put, and her confidence is infectious on tracks like “Dive,” “Experience” and “Big Boss” (interlude). If this is your first time listening to Monet, make sure to watch the beautiful “Moment” music video to see what all the fuss is about.
18. ‘Chromatica’ by Lady Gaga
Lady Gaga returns to her dance roots with a new bag of tricks on the BloodPop-produced ‘Chromatica,’ one of the most unpredictable album rollouts that took on new meaning among the Stan Twitter crowd with its delayed release, superstar collaborations, surprise Oreo endorsement, Chromatica-themed thongs and a tri-conic performance at the first virtual VMAs. And that doesn’t even include her First Lady-worthy speech at Joe Biden‘s campaign rally (he’s a good person!!!). But all jokes aside, ‘Chromatica’ is a thrilling collection of dance pop anthems that extends Gaga‘s reign as one of the most exciting entertainers of her generation. Now someone tell her to give us the damn “Sour Candy” music video!
17. ‘The Room’ by Ricky Reed
After producing hits for Lizzo (“Truth Hurts”) Jason Derulo (“Talk Dirty”) and Halsey (“Bad at Love”), hitmaker Ricky Reed is finally putting himself front and center with debut album, ‘The Room’ – a surprisingly mellow affair that has zero interest in chasing a “hit” song. Reed hones in on his strengths as a producer by drawing out the very best in each and every one of his collaborators, including Leon Bridges, Alessia Cara, St. Panther and more. His personality and sonic sensibilities as a producer are front and center, even if every track makes you want to immediately hit the follow button on each featured artist’s Spotify page. By elevating his roster of singers with superstar-worthy production, Ricky Reed has made an extremely special project showing the power of collaboration.
16. ‘My Agenda’ by Dorian Electra
Discovering Dorian Electra’s newest album, ‘My Agenda,’ feels like you’ve just stumbled into a bizarre, uncensored corner of the internet that could crash your computer at any second. Who is this shadowy, elf-like figure wearing a fedora on the album cover? How did they manage to get a collaboration with Rebecca Black and The Village People, and why do they go so hard? There’s nothing inherently sinister about the music, and yet I feel like I’m supposed to clear my browser history! All these feelings and more make ‘My Agenda’ such a special experience sonically and visually, one that merges the sensibilities of flashy mainstream pop with the experimental sounds of hyper-pop, metal and dubstep under the umbrella of an inclusive LGBTQ+ fanbase. If this is your introduction to Dorian, we highly recommend checking out the Charli XCX-approved music video for “F The World” – a hilariously disturbing parody of the Christian Girl Autumn meme that will make you rethink the intro track.
15. ‘Plastic Hearts’ by Miley Cyrus
Miley Cyrus’ new album couldn’t have come sooner in a world that needed entertainment more than ever. Notorious for switching up her style every era, ‘Plastic Hearts’ sees Cyrus tackling the pop rock genre with ease as she delivers glorious stadium bangers (“Prisoner” & “Midnight Sky”), unapologetic breakup anthems (“WTF Do I Know,” “Never Be Me”) and collaborations with music legends Billy Idol & Joan Jett. It makes sense that Cyrus delayed the era amid the pandemic considering her talent for live performances, but rest assured that we’re still bopping to this wildly fun LP in quarantine with the hope of one day seeing it live.
14. ‘Sin Miedo’ (del Amor y Otros Demonios)’ by Kali Uchis
Kali Uchis delivers a worthy sophomore album following her excellent debut LP, ‘Isolation’ in 2018. On ‘Sin Miedo (del Amor y Otros Demonios),’ Uchis made a clear choice in releasing a bilingual latin album that’s fairly unpredictable track-to-track. The result is a sexy, cinematic project with lush production that matches Uchis’ airy vocals throughout. Her voice lends an ethereal quality to tracks like “fue mejor” and “angel sin cielo,” while “vaya con dios” and “que te pedi//” serve a intoxicating noir elements that make you feel like you’re living in a black & white portrait. Our favorite track is “//aguardiente y limon,” an icy slice of bedroom pop that brings the entire project together.
13. ‘Fetch the Bolt Cutters’ by Fiona Apple
Fiona Apple‘s first proper album in eight years marked a major music event for fans of the charismatic singer, and it certainly didn’t disappoint. With ‘Fetch The Bolt Cutters,’ Apple harnesses the rage, emotion and pain of past efforts to create what many are calling her all-time greatest LP. Make no mistake – this album is first and foremost for longtime listeners of Apple. Only someone like Apple can turn an exasperated dolphin wail into pure sonic euphoria on “I Want You To Love Me,” or hold the attention of listeners on a 5+ minute track without much of a chorus on “Ladies.” There’s a lot here for new fans as well, though, like the melancholic title track and the vengeful fourth cut, “Under The Table.” Let’s hope we don’t have to wait another decade to witness more musical brilliance from Apple.
12. ‘Miss Anthropocene’ by Grimes
Heavy in tone and fantastical in its imagery, ‘Miss Anthropocene’ plays like the evil twin step sister to Grimes’ 2015 album ‘Art Angels’ that sees her experiment in the realm of dark industrial pop. The LP is inspired by a lot of things like climate change, fantasies of a god-controlled simulation, the video game ‘Shadow of Colossus’ and more, but Grimes is focused on creating an immersive sonic experience more than anything. This is a rare album that fires on all the senses, so masterful in its IMAX-level production that it invites the listener to built their own worlds within layered melodies and thunderous, cascading beats. And for all its earth-shaking moments, Grimes is just as skilled in scaling her vision back on intimate tracks like “Delete Forever” and glorious “IDORU.”
11. ‘Punisher’ by Phoebe Bridgers
2020 may be Phoebe Bridgers‘ breakout year, but the alt-rock star had already built an impressive reputation for herself in the years leading up to this moment. Breaking onto the scene in 2017 with her critically-acclaimed debut album, ‘The Alps,’ Bridgers earned name recognition with her delicate, chilling vocal delivery and collaborations alongside music titans like The 1975, Fiona Apple and The National. It would appear that she’s now officially cemented herself as a poster child for the emo-folk scene with sophomore album, ‘Punisher.’ Her voice grounds the entire project with its haunting, airy quality that’s only strengthened by heavenly production, while tracks like “I Know The End” and “Kyoto” have helped expand her audience beyond just the rock scene.
10. ‘Women in Music Pt. III’ by HAIM
It’s about time the Stan Twitter community stopped sleeping on HAIM, the girls who INVENTED walking and perfected their sound of soulful, sunny soft-rock pop with their third studio album, ‘Women in Music, Pt. III.’ For real, though, this album is like a direct hit of Vitamin D that makes you want to dance, cry and chain smoke cigarettes as you strut down a Los Angeles alleyway. Better yet, it’s the kind of album that you can play just about anywhere with ANY crowd thanks to its upbeat vibes and timeless hooks. Our favorite songs at the moment have to be “The Steps,” “Summer Girl,” “All That Ever Mattered” and “Gasoline.”
9. ‘Circles’ by Mac Miller
Mac Miller‘s posthumous album, ‘Circles,’ could’ve been an easy cash grab by the late-rapper’s label following his passing in September, 2018. Having just put out his critically-acclaimed LP, ‘Swimming,’ Miller‘s latest project is said to have already been a work-in-progress before his death that was later completed by collaborator Jon Brion. The commitment to Miller‘s artistic vision is key here, as ‘Circles’ works as a bittersweet farewell to the rapper that’s as sonically diverse, challenging and outside the box as his discography. If this is the last album we hear from Miller, the effort from his team and family will certainly not be in vain.
8. ‘YHLQMDLG’ by Bad Bunny
Bad Bunny emerged as the brightest star in Latin pop this year with ‘YHLQMDLG,’ the first of three albums he released in 2020 alone. Currently the most-streamed album of the year on Spotify, ‘YHLQMDLG’ (abbreviated in Spanish for ‘I Do Whatever I Want’) sees Bad Bunny forging his own path to world domination with an experimental blend of trap beats, dance music, rap and more across 20 tracks that puts the reggaeton genre front and center. True to its title, Bad Bunny is doing his own thing on what feels like his definitive project right now.
7. ‘Manic’ by Halsey
Halsey‘s third studio album, ‘Manic,’ is perhaps the most pleasantly surprising album of 2020. Drawing inspiration from alt-rock, pop, country, hip-hop and more, ‘Manic’ is the sound of a global pop star flexing her range with gorgeous live instrumentation, soulful storytelling and a group of collaborators you’d never expect to see on one album (SUGA of BTS, Dominic Fike & Alanis Morrissette). The lead single, “Without Me,” stands as one of the biggest hits of the decade on Billboard’s Hot 100 that’s truly deserving of its success, while “3am” and “you should be sad” are convincing departures into the genres of punk and country. One of the most underrated tracks at the moment has to be “killing boys,” a chilling pop song that BEGS for an official music video in the vein of “Jennifer’s Body.”
6. ‘After Hours’ by The Weeknd
‘After Hours’ isn’t just a great album – it’s a tour-de-force in musical world building that sees The Weeknd leaning into his love for cinema and the concept of a fully-realized “era.” This is maybe the most flawlessly executed era of the year! As a self-professed cinephile, Abel convincingly channels the aesthetics of classic 80s noir and gangster films through the lens of his psychedelic, forward-thinking R&B, while his masterful rollout scheme calls to mind the work of legends like Michael Jackson and Prince. What makes this album even more impressive, though, is his ability to capture the mainstream audience without sacrificing his singular vision. And it’s not even over yet – despite being unfairly shut out from the 2021 The Grammys, The Weeknd still has a chance to close out this era the right way with his headlining Super Bowl performance that’s sure to cement this era as a new classic.
5. ‘Ungodly Hour’ by Chloe x Halle
Anointed by Queen Beyoncé herself, the rising sister duo Chloe X Halle found new fans this year with the release of their third studio album, ‘Ungodly Hour.’ The LP offers a slick collection of woozy R&B tracks that taps into a timeless sound across all 13 tracks, showcasing the girls’ angelic harmonies and sultry lyrics. Chloe X Halle earned their first Hot 100 entry this year with “Do It” as well as respect from major industry artists, all the while crafting innovative quarantine performances that kept fans eager for their next booking.
4. ‘The Slow Rush’ by Tame Impala
Arriving half-a-decade after his masterpiece, ‘Currents,’ Tame Impala‘s new album is a testament to producer Kevin Parker‘s incredible eye for detail. Colorful, fantastical and psychedelic, ‘The Slow Rush’ acts like one giant production flex. More so than anything, it’s just damn inspiring with grounded pop hooks that go beyond the alt-rock genre into the world of hip-hop, house music and mainstream sensibilities. Parker put Tame Impala on the map these past few year with co-signs from Kanye West, Rihanna & Travis Scott, and on his new LP, he sounds more like a rockstar than ever.
3. ‘Future Nostalgia’ by Dua Lipa
Navigating your sophomore album can be risky business for musicians, and Dua Lipa is no exception. In addition to finding a fresh but familiar sound for her sophomore album, Lipa‘s new era faced high expectations following her “Best New Artist” Grammy win and an underlying sense of doubt among US listeners of her lasting commercial viability. But Lipa proves she’s here to stay with ‘Future Nostalgia,’ a career-defining dance record that set the tone for an 80s revival on the radio in 2020 while earning the singer respect from legends like Madonna, Missy Elliott, Mark Ronson and more. It’s crazy to think Lipa pulled off such a fully realized era with music videos, an extensive promotional tour, a remix companion album, multiple standalone singles and six Grammy nominations all in the face of a global pandemic – but that’s just what you do when you’re a new main pop girl!
2. ‘folklore’ & ‘evermore’ by Taylor Swift
It’s a good thing we waited until the end of December to publish this list, huh? After delivering the defining album of quarantine with ‘folklore,’ Swift dropped one of biggest surprises of 2020 with a sister companion album ‘evermore’ on December 11th – a worthy sequel that transports listeners right back into the world of inspired storytelling and escapism just when they thought they’d wrapped your head around the original LP. Considering her legendary status in the industry, it’s easy to scoff at Swift’s claims that she was taking a “risk” with these indie folk projects – but her statements are true. In a year plagued by so much sadness, Swift leaned into her feelings and brought us all along for a cathartic, healing ride that united fans across the wide spectrum of Stan Twitter. It’s so much more than an album – it’s a folklore cinematic universe!
1. ‘SAWAYAMA’ by Rina Sawayama
Rina Sawayama considers herself a member of stan culture, so it only makes sense our new pop queen ranks at #1 on Pop Crave’s best albums of 2020 with ‘SAWAYAMA.’ This wildly imaginative debut album, which draws inspiration from nostalgic 90s pop, metal, hyperpop, alt-rock and more, is a fever dream of inspiration that sees Rina playing with all the tools in her sonic sandbox. The UK native dips in and out of genres across 13 tracks with shocking ease like a supermodel shopping for a new wardrobe, but in the end, the LP comes together to form a cohesive whole despite its wide palette. To put it simply, we want MORE MORE MORE MORE of Rina! Consider this our formal thank you letter to Rina for making us feel like a rockstar on “Who’s Gonna Save U Now,” opening her heart to the LGBTQ+ community on “Chosen Family” and hitting us with the realization that maybe we actually do like metal music (“STFU!”). Long live SAWAYAMA!
What are YOUR favorite albums of 2020? Share your thoughts with us on Twitter and Instagram at @PopCrave!