10. “Positions” — Ariana Grande
In Grande’s sixth studio album and third album released in the last two years, she shows an explicit side of herself and it pays off. Ethereal tracks like “positions” and “34+35” make the listener want to bite their bottom lip. The final track “pov” is so vulnerable and is the perfect ending to the album. However, I’m still waiting for Grande to experiment more with her sound in future projects.
9. “Ungodly Hour” — Chloe x Halle
I remember falling in love with this duo when I first heard “Forgive Me,” a single from Chloe x Halle’s second album. From their VMA performance, to the mixture of trap and pop, this album is simply beautiful and refreshing. Every track is heavenly in terms of their celestial lyrics and upbeat production. The title track “Ungodly Hour” sounds like what you would hear when you ascend to paradise. This album left me craving more from the sisters and I can’t wait for their next LP.
8. “Plastic Hearts” — Miley Cyrus
I never knew I needed a Miley Cyrus and Stevie Nicks collaboration until I heard this album. In her seventh project, Cyrus proves to us how versatile she can be by transitioning from country to pop, and now rock music. The “Heart of Glass” and “Zombie” covers transport the listener back to the ’80s for a joy ride that was unexpected from Cyrus. Her gritty voice seems to be made for rock music and I’m anxiously waiting for more music like this from Cyrus.
7. “folklore” — Taylor Swift
This folk album was the change Taylor Swift needed as she deviated from her overdone pop sound. I can only describe this album as a warm sweater on a cold fall morning. Everything about it whispers comfort and safety, but also makes the listener feel so vulnerable. The album imagery and every track is so beautiful, and this is replicated in her second 2020 release “evermore.”
6. “Sin Miedo (del Amor y Otros Demonios) ∞” — Kali Uchis
This follow up to “Isolation” places a bigger emphasis on Spanish lyrics, but Kali Uchis sounds dreamier than ever. By mixing several genres like pop and trap music, and inspired by the ’60s and ’80s, this album creates a divine experience for listeners. Uchis collaborates with Rico Nasty on “¡aquí yo mando!” to make a single that screams confidence and independence. Tracks like “de nadie” and “telepatía” are angelic and make me excited for future projects from the truly versatile artist.
5. “Good News” — Megan Thee Stallion
It has been great to watch Megan’s rise to popularity and see her become one of the best rappers in recent years. This playful album has the potential to make anyone feel like a baddie. Tracks like “Body” and “Do It on the Tip” invoke self-confidence with fun lyrics. The most experimental track, “Don’t Stop,” is the coolest blend of rap and hyperpop, an experimental form of pop that draws inspiration from EDM music that I need more of immediately. Most of all, it’s amazing to see a young Black woman unapologetically take complete ownership of her sexuality — something that has been suppressed and taboo for years.
4. “Chromatica” — Lady Gaga
After “Joanne” and the “A Star Is Born” soundtrack, Lady Gaga makes an explosive return to pop music with stunning imagery straight out of an “Alien” film. Gaga’s collaboration with Ariana Grande on “Rain On Me” was the perfect song to bring the girls and gays out of the quarantine slump. Gaga also reflects on her past and rise to stardom in the beautiful tracks “1000 Doves” and “Sine From Above.” This space odyssey of an album was the perfect follow-up to more subtle projects from Gaga.
3. “After Hours” — The Weeknd
Despite being snubbed by the Grammys with no nominations, The Weeknd’s fourth studio album performed really well, opening with 221,000 streams and 275,000 copies sold. The album’s single “Blinding Lights” was also named 2020’s most streamed song with 1.6 billions streams, according to The Daily Mail. In this album, The Weeknd gives us a drawn-out narrative surrounding romance and drugs with unique visuals. As repetitive as these topics may seem, The Weekend’s mixture of synth-pop and devastating lyrics creates a new experience.
2. “Future Nostalgia” — Dua Lipa
It’s such a shame this album was released during the pandemic because it was made for clubs. The perfect mix of modern pop with ’80s-inspired music was so refreshing and is what made me a new Dua Lipa fan. She perfects electronic pop with “Levitating” and “Hallucinate,” while serving heartbreaking tracks like “Love Again.” All the music videos and visuals are also so stunning and give me the futuristic aesthetic that I crave.
1. “how i’m feeling now” — Charli XCX
In an initial review, I talked about how this quarantine album was everything I needed in a pop record. Trendsetter Charli XCX launches what pop music can be into the future, an impressive feat considering it was entirely written and produced in a matter of weeks. Every track is full of texture and dreamy lyrics that set the bar for other artists. I think this album will become synonymous with quarantining and will be entertaining to revisit in the future.