Last June seems as though it was a decade ago now. The world has come such a long way since then. While things are still far from what they used to be, there is a difference, even if slight.
The music world is springing back to life and with most major artists taking last year off – understandably so – one would think they would make their grand, gilded return this year. And yes, some have done that, but many still lay in wait for the perfect moment.
This has not been all bad, as new artists have taken the opportunity to rise and claim their place in the music realm, even if the some of the biggest names in music have made sure their names are still felt.
Join us below to find out which artists have made their presence known this year with the best albums of the year so far…
Dawn Richard – Second Line
It’s hard to believe that music veteran Dawn Richard has been in the music game now for nearly two decades. However, she has not slowed down and it shows in ‘Second Line.’ She takes all of her experience in music and her heritage and fuses them together with house and electronic music to create a project that is equal parts dance-worthy and heartfelt. Underneath the surface there is a feeling that there is something special here, something new, but then again, that’s Dawn Richard, forever the innovator and inventing the best album of her career to date.
J. Cole – The Off Season
J. Cole showed up and showed out on his sixth studio album, this time he brought along some friends. Departing from his typical no features formula, he opts for guests and a more playful flow across his lyrics. Featuring newcomers and some of his best bars, ‘The Off Season’ is the perfect record for old J. Cole fans and new ones alike. A truly strong showing from one of rap’s reigning titans.
Taylor Swift – Fearless (Taylor’s Version)
Looking back, it only seemed fitting that Taylor Swift began the undertaking of releasing her re-recorded albums with the one that made her a star in both the Country and Pop worlds. Where this record shines brightest is its lack of sleekness that most re-recorded albums suffer from, drowning out any character or presence the tracks may have previously had. Instead, the mix is tighter and sharper with Swift’s vocal deeper in the mix, allowing the lyrics – which has always been her strong suit – to shine. While the Country influence is still there, make no mistake, she was born to be a Pop star and ‘Fearless (Taylor’s Version)’ shows just how bright that star has become.
Jazmine Sullivan – Heaux Tales
Jazmine Sullivan becomes the embodiment of female empowerment on her first EP ‘Heaux Tales.’ Any scrub is checked at the door thanks to the soon-to-be classic ‘Pick Up Your Feelings.’ To solidify the message of empowerment, Sullivan even brings fellow R&B greats Ari Lennox and H.E.R. along, who become a true support system. But make no mistake, Jazmine Sullivan is the star of the show and ‘Heaux Tales’ is the perfect body of work for her to shine.
Olivia Rodrigo – Sour
Most artists take time to establish a name and build the foundations for their breakup album, not Olivia Rodrigo. Rather, she forges a path of her own and creates a Gen-Z Pop masterpiece in the meantime. Pop-punk ballads are fused with tear-jerking ballads to form not something new, but something that excels from mastering the lane that it is in. From the most vulnerable to the most cutting lyrics, her songwriting is front and center, as she quite literally rewrites history across not only the charts, but the music world as well. And what a glorious sight it is to see history being made before our very eyes.
Selena Gomez – Revelación
While this is not her first attempt at making Spanish music, it is by far her best. Among the reggaetón beats Gomez makes a home, a place where her voice and sound are as comfortable as ever. Thanks to the EP’s producer Tainy, Gomez is able to capture her heritage and merge it with her natural Pop sensibilities to create a body of work that stands among her strongest.
Brockhampton – Roadrunner: New Light, New Machine
Already having been dubbed a finale of sorts for the hip-hop boy band, Brockhampton began the process of leaving the spotlight with a bang. Taking a hard detour away from heavy-hitting beats, the band instead focuses more on melody-driven reflections. Covering everything from homophobia to racism, they tackle difficult topics to talk about, but also it helps them to deliver their most mature and introspective work of their career.
Demi Lovato – Dancing With The Devil, The Art Of Starting Over
Demi Lovato can be a polarizing figure to many – music and all – but rest assured, her seventh studio album by far swings more toward the positive end than the negative end. At its very core, the record is ambitious and revealing, carving away the gold that has plated celebrities for so long to reveal the true human beneath. Lovato is sassy and carefree across most tracks as she guides the listener on her journey of healing. While it is not her strongest work, it is a big step toward Pop redemption from the former Disney star, a step that could lead her to new heights going forward.
Rita Ora – Bang
Before the release of ‘Bang,’ it had been three years since Ora’s masterful ‘Phoenix’ album. While fans were starved for new music, Ora showed up with ‘Bang’ and made sure she fed them, and fed them well. ‘Bang’ is packed with sleek and flashy lyrics that are matched by even sleeker production. Ora deliver’s a project packed with non-stop bangers that explodes into one of the best projects of the year so far.
Rod Wave – SoulFly
Arriving a week into the Spring season, Rod Wave’s third studio album arrived as fresh as the first breezes after a long winter. Unlike most of the Hip-Hop projects released over the last year that glamorize the struggle of life, Wave was not afraid to shine a light on the true struggles that lay beneath the surface and weave them together with vulnerable tales of love, community, addictions, and pain, all the while deviating away from the romanticism of it all. This is Wave’s story and that will last generations.
Do you agree with our picks?