It’s hard to think of a time where music was made before the pandemic. While not every album released this year was made during the global health crisis, it couldn’t help but shape the listening experience.
There’s a common phrase in the music world: “Life sucked, but great records got us through.” While this could easily apply to individual years of our lives, it inevitably became the most true this year.
And though 2020 could easily be argued as the worst year in history, it brought out some of the best albums in recent times.
Joins us below to find out which albums are That Grape Juice‘s best of 2020…
Chloe x Halle – Ungodly Hour
In the lead-up to their sophomore album, ‘Ungodly Hour,’ sisters Chloe x Halle delivered one stunning performance after another. However, it is their album that is truly the showpiece. In a time when many Pop stars tend to share oversized and bloated albums with multiple tracks, the sisters kept theirs to a mere 13, with each song showing off a different, unique side of the duo. More than one specific era of R&B, ‘Ungodly Hour’ encompasses the best of several eras proving that there was no sophomore slump for this timeless masterpiece.
Dua Lipa – Future Nostalgia
Anchored by the sounds of the past, Dua Lipa‘s sophomore album is less than a memory and more of a masterclass in feeling. Half throwback sounds and half fresh, Lipa is able to fuse the two without having to resort to a by-the-book formula for success. “Baby, keep on dancing like you ain’t got a choice,” she demands on ‘Physical’ and as long as ‘Future Nostalgia’ plays on, we can’t imagine going back, we must dance on.
Lady Gaga – Chromatica
On the day of its release, the world had been craving an escape, a way to handle all of the chaos in that was going on. Well, Lady Gaga provided that escape by taking us to her home planet of ‘Chromatica.’ Running through the album exists a single thread comprised of struggle, resilience, and healing, which all culminated in Gaga’s most personal album to date. A true return to form from one of modern Pop music’s greatest.
Taylor Swift – Folklore & Evermore
A Pop star known for her all-out bombast that lined her most recent releases, Taylor Swift not only ventures into the woods, but into herself for an introspective journey of hand-spun tales, dairy entries, and observations that showed off her once-in-a-generation songwriting abilities. Regardless of your take on the correct genre of the album, ‘Folklore’ provided the catharsis and escape needed during these times. And just as many of the tracks will survive long into the years, so, inevitably, will Swift and the legacy of ‘Folklore.’
Released mere months after ‘Folklore,’ Taylor Swift delivered yet another career milestone album with ‘Evermore.’ More than a ‘Folklore’ part two, ‘Evermore’ is more freewheeling and ambitious as Swift ventures deeper into the woods and deeper into indie music. Each song is its own brilliant, devastating example of song craft and when put together they form the crown jewels on Swift’s legacy in the music industry. Like a sweet dance, ‘Evermore’ sweeps you away to a land where Pop’s smartest songwriter has finally found her home. A true masterpiece from start to finish.
The Weeknd – After Hours
Long gone are the days of the enigmatic magic of ‘House of Balloons’ now that The Weeknd has risen to superstardom. While he never needed to recreate the magic of his earlier work, he did, however, need to need to integrate those instincts into a modern music landscape. He tried on ‘Starboy’ to mixed results. But on ‘After Hours’ he has finally found his sweet spot. The perfect blend of his sound pre-and-post fame, ‘After Hours’ remains just as dark as his earlier work, but as radio accessible as some of his biggest hits. People have coined the phrase “no skip album,” but The Weeknd gave new meaning to it.
Teyana Taylor – The Album
‘The Album’ showcases the best aspects of a Teyana Taylor album: it is equal parts sensuous and self-assured. While not comprised of slow bedroom jams or all out dance parties, where ‘The Album’ stands out among this year’s top albums with its steady pace and incredible list of featured guests (Lauryn Hill and Erykah Badu among others). But don’t be mistaken, Taylor is always at the forefront, proving that this really is the album of 2020.
Miley Cyrus – Plastic Hearts
Ever the musical chameleon, Miley Cyrus has done it all from Pop, to Country, to Hip-Hop, and so on. However, her latest transformation is by far her finest. A welcome wave of throwback rock, Cyrus proves that she is more than capable of competing with many of the classics from yesteryear. A truly personal statement from one of music’s best bad*sses.
Freddie Gibbs & The Alchemist – Alfredo
Freddie Gibbs and Alchemist are true athletes when it comes to their work. They are always trying to strengthen and refine their craft from one project to the next. While not a grand departure from what either has done before, ‘Alfredo’ once again improves upon each of their individual strengths while bringing out the best in the other. Gibbs’ flow is unmatched as he effortlessly glides across ever beat Alchemist throws at him before he raises the stakes with double and triple time flows. Despite the ingredients being familiar, they are nonetheless potent and delicious than they are on ‘Alfredo.’
Rina Sawayama – SAWAYAMA
The best debut album of the year, Rina Sawayama’s first record is unafraid to present the many paradoxes that exist, not only in her life, but life in general. An album that masterfully blends early Britney Spears, Limp Bizkit, and stadium rock, in no way should this work on paper, but Sawayama pulls it off with masterful intent with her sharp, critical observations about femininity, her duel identity, and more. Not only does she challenge for her place among Pop divas, but she also makes the case for an early album of the decade contender.
Jhene Aiko – Chilombo
Listening to Jhene Aiko‘s third studio album, ‘Chilombo’ is truly another wordy experience. Acting as a spiritual guide, she takes the listener on a journey lined with healing properties that only she has the capability to give. Many of the songs act as their own personal therapy sessions (‘B.S.’ and ‘Magic Hour’), while others reveal the catharsis that comes from honesty like on ‘Triggered (Freestyle).’ Regardless of the year it has been, Aiko takes the listener on a full-circle journey that is just as magical as the artist she has truly become.
Do you agree with our picks?
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