Even with 2020 being bad, there was some great music consistently pumped out on a weekly basis. I was quite surprised and satisfied because we didn’t really know what the state of music would be since concerts and tours weren’t going to be a thing, and who knows when they’ll return.
With all that being said, it was incredibly hard to decide what the 10 best albums were, but I got the list narrowed down and there are quite a few honorable mentions with how good this year was for music. Let’s get into it!
A smooth, sexy, and overall fun album right here as Duckwrth continues to be one of the most underrated artists in music. This record is a combination of the best you can get out of the R&B and neo-soul genres at the moment with tracks like “Quick”, “Coming Closer” and the title track. I also love EARTHGANG’s feature on the track “Super Bounce.” This is just one of the most enjoyable listens of the year.
The trio kicked it up a notch from their 2019 outing with an incredible abrasive, experimental and haunting record that released in 2020. With nods to some horror movies like Scream and The Witch, it was the perfect album for a horror connoisseur like myself, who was lacking new horror movies this year. This project won’t be for everyone, but if you are open to some unique ideas and great flows, definitely give this one a try.
With how busy I was with school and not having much interest in listening to a post-punk or rock album, I couldn’t do a formal review of this album, but now I feel bad because this a damn good album. From the guitar work on songs like “The Adults Are Talking” and “Ode To The Mets” to enticing synths on “Brooklyn Bridge To Chorus” and “At The Door, this is one of the best rock albums I’ve heard in the last couple of years. Julian Casablancas’ vocals are also remarkable throughout the record. There’s never a time where this record feels outdated even with bridging the gap between classic and current sounds. I was thoroughly surprised the further and further I got into the record.
This self-titled record was a much-needed curation of silky smooth soul music. It’s so rare, nowadays, to come across quality soul music, but La Havas keeps the genre alive with just great tune after great tune, and she provides some of the best vocal performances of the year with “Bittersweet” and “Weird Fishes.” If you enjoy some mellow, easy-on-the-ear songs, this is the record for you.
Arguably the biggest release of the year, The Weeknd comes through with his best record to date with banger after banger. From wild nights in Vegas on “Blinding Lights” and “After Hours”, all too personal feelings after breakups on “Hardest To Love” and “Scared to Live” to vicious power trips on “Heartless” and “Repeat After Me”, this album certainly provided the chaos to sum up this year. Not only was the original album, but then we get one of my favorite songs of the year in the bonus track “Nothing Compares”, which is this grand ballad with these heavily-layered synths all over the song as The Weeknd sings his ass off.
Of course, one can’t talk about this album without songs that should go down as classics, “In Your Eyes” and “Save Your Tears.” These are easily two of the best songs in the entire discography for The Weeknd. The 1980s ode and the sax on “In Your Eyes” are just music magic, and “Save Your Tears” follows up with one of the catchiest hooks of the year.
There’s everything to love about this record, even with some of The Weeknd’s harshest critics.
I have officially turned to the dark side as Taylor Swift really blew me away with two quality records, both going over an hour in length. folklore and evermore are definitely the sounds Swift has been wanting to make on her records, but wasn’t allowed to because of her tumultuous relationship with Scooter Braun and her previous record label. While I do enjoy songs on folklore quite a bit, evermore hones in on the consistency missing from the former. Also, Swift drops her best song ever on the album with the incredibly fun crime story in “no body, no crime, which sees her return to her country roots.
One of the main reasons I ranked this album so high is because this is exactly what I needed to close out a year where I was at my lowest points mentally. I had a pretty abrupt ending to my relationship and never sought closure because of the combination of sadness and extreme anger I felt. I couldn’t face this person because of all the damage done. However, I got that closure and I could finally move on just listening to “happiness” and “evermore.” Both of these songs encapsulate what I was feeling during this time, but I know now that it will get better down the line and I’m definitely doing a lot better now.
Chris Stapleton has been one of my favorite vocalists for a few years now and my enjoyment of his music has reached new heights with this incredibly enjoyable record in Starting Over. It’s straight to the point, light-hearted, but also packs an emotional punch when needed. “Maggie’s Song” is about what a dog can mean for a family and the end is as gut-wrenching as it gets.
We also get the pains of heartbreak with powerful vocals on “Cold” and “Whiskey Sunrise”, the former being one of the best songs to come in 2020 thanks to the chord progression.
Stapleton is carrying country music on his back, ladies and gentlemen.
Without a doubt the best rap record of 2020, Freddie Gibbs and The Alchemist come together for 10 songs in a tight 35-minute window. There isn’t a second wasted as Gibbs continues to get in your face with his amazing flow and The Alchemist brings the heat with great production on every single track. The guitar on “1985”, elements of horrorcore on “Frank Lucas” and the Andrus Blackwood & co. sample on “Babies & Fools” is just pure bliss and heaven.
I can’t forget to mention some great features as well from Benny The Butcher, Conway the Machine and Tyler, the Creator. “Scottie Beam”, the best song on the album, sees Rick Ross drop his best verse…arguably ever.
I’m quite sad that this album didn’t get the recognition it deserved because Laura Marling comes through with some of the most sweet-sounding songs of the year. I adore the sentiment of the record in life lessons for a mother to teach her young daughter. Not to mention that the guitar work on here is phenomenal on every track.
While there are some songs that pack some emotional blows like “The End Of The Affair” and “Blow By Blow”, this is the album you listen to when you want to relax on a nice vacation. This record is so good, some of the best songwriting of the year. Don’t miss out on this one.
I had no problem naming my best album of the year because this is not only my favorite listen of 2020, but may soon compete with my favorite albums of all-time.
What’s Your Pleasure? is the perfect tribute to the best of the disco era, ’80s synthwave and even prime Janet Jackson in the 1990s. Jessie Ware perfectly revives the eras with providing great vocal performances and knowing exactly what made these genres great to begin with.
When an album starts with one of my favorite songs of the year and my favorite hook of the year in “Spotlight”, I knew this was going to be something special. Whether it be chasing your intimate desires on the title track and “Ooh La La” or falling dangerously in love on “In Your Eyes” and “The Kill”, this is the album that every artist should be striving for. The bar is set so high now because Ware didn’t just narrowly clear it, she jumped over it while standing straight up.
I can’t forget to mention the closing track “Remember Where You Are”, which is the epic finale of a Broadway musical in the hook, but then becomes an Earth, Wind & Fire song in the verses. It’s so clever and bold.
Do whatever you can to listen to the entirety of this album. You will be blown away.