Best albums of 2020

While 2020 has had its fair share of ups and downs (but mainly downs), there’s one aspect of this tumultuous year we can be grateful for: the release of several notable albums. Join as we share our selections for the best albums of 2020 that got us through the year… starting with these gifts from Taylor Swift. On July 24, Taylor surprised everyone with the release of her eighth studio album, “folklore,” which she recorded early in the coronavirus pandemic. It showed Taylor in a whole new light, blending folk with pop amid of love, loss and making the most of even the most transient moments. Thanks to production by The National’s Aaron Dessner on many tracks and a duet with Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon, the album also saw Taylor delving into unchartedmore indie-sounding territory. Absent the pressures of an album release schedule and big-budget music videos, “folklore” felt like the catharsis we all needed during these trying times. On Dec. 11, Taylor shocked and delighted fans all over again when she delivered her second quarantine album of 2020, the equally thoughtful sister project “evermore.” Keep reading for more great music that was released in 2020…

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Ariana Grande has established herself as the music industry’s reigning pop princess, so it only makes sense that her sixth studio album, “positions” — which was released on Oct. 30 — would reflect that title. The 27-year-old songstress did not disappoint — with features from Doja Cat, the Weeknd and Ty Dolla Sign, the R&B album, which includes the single, “34 + 35,” didn’t shy away from disclosing some of the sauciest details of Ari’s personal life.

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With the release of “Don’t Start Now” back in October 2019, it was clear that Dua Lipa’s second studio album would be one to remember — and it was. With the blending of nostalgic pop and disco sounds, “Future Nostalgia,” which was released on March 27, lived up to its name. Thanks to infectious tracks like “Physical,” “Cool” and “Break My Heart,” it’s no wonder the 25-year-old Brit earned a 2021 Grammy nomination for album of the year.

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One thing we weren’t expecting? That 2021 Grammy nominee Bad Bunny would release not one but two albums in 2020. The Puerto Rican rapper-singer’s sophomore reggaeton effort, “Yo Hago Lo Que Me Da La Gana,” which came out on Feb. 29, was packed with hits like “Ignorantes” and “La Difícil” and included guest appearances from “Daddy Yankee,” “Kendo Kaponi” and “Duki.” More impressively, “YHLQMDLG” was Spotify’s most streamed album globally of 2020 and the highest charting Spanish-language album of all time on the U.S. Billboard 200… at least until Bad Bunny bested his own record with his No. 1-charting third album, “El Último Tour Del Mundo,” following its release on Nov. 27.

Sure, she might only be 20, but British-Filipina singer-songwriter beabadoobee’s music sounds as if she’s lived through a lifetime of love and loss. Accompanied by the delicate, romantic sounds of her guitar, beabadoobee’s voice is what bedroom-pop dreams are made of. “Fake it Flowers,” which debuted on Oct. 16, fuses indie pop with the magic of ’90s grunge, making for a nostalgically delightful listen.

“Women in Music Pt. III,” which was released on June 26, sees the Los Angeles-based sisters of HAIM leaning into what they’ve always done best: putting an all-at-once innovative and nostalgic spin on pop-rock music. The album, which includes the infectiously upbeat “Summer Girl” and the emotionally charged “I Know Alone,” was the soundtrack to what summer should’ve been.

On March 20, The Weeknd dropped his fourth studio album, “After Hours,” which moodily explores self-loathing and indulgence in ways only the Canadian crooner can. With his synth-pop second single, “Blinding Lights,” the R&B hitmaker gave fans a taste of what they could look forward to with this album — tracks like “Hardest to Love” and “Scared to Live” merely reinforced The Weeknd as being among the most talented (and snubbed) forces in the industry.

Hayley Williams was already a force to be reckoned with when she broke onto the music scene as the teenaged frontwoman of the pop-rock band Paramore. Fast-forward to May 8, 2020, the day the 31-year-old vocalist delivered her debut solo album, “Petals for Armor” — and she’s event better. The title rife with juxtaposition, which Hayley has explained is a reference to the notion of vulnerability as her greatest form of protection, speaks to the theme of the album. Hayley’s bold vocals sparkle on tracks like “Simmer” and “Dead Horse,” and her natural-born knack for songwriting delightfully shines through.

We neither expected nor knew we needed this album from Machine Gun Kelly. Released on Sept. 25, “Tickets to My Downfall” served up some serious pop-punk nostalgia, which marked a major departure from MGK’s rap sound. With blink-182’s Travis Barker as one of its producers, the nostalgic, early ’00s pop-punk feel is felt on every track. While singles like “My Bloody Valentine” and “My Ex’s Best Friend” showcased strong artistry, it’s MGK’s duet with Halsey (who exhibits Hayley Williams-esque pipes) on “forget me too” that stands out above the rest.

At this point in his relatively young career, Shawn Mendes has already established himself as a notable, Grammy-nominated name — and with the release of his fourth studio album, “Wonder,” on Dec. 4, the Canadian crooner dug in. No longer the 15-year-old kid who got his start recording covers on the now-defunct video sharing app Vine, Shawn on “Wonder” exuded a refreshing sense of maturity. Though it’s filled with love ballads that, at times, border on being just a tad too cliché, the album still remains a strong addition to the 22-year-old’s repertoire.

After five years, Selena Gomez finally released her third studio album, “Rare,” on Jan. 10. It’s undoubtedly one of the year’s best breakup albums as well as a stand-out album in Selena’s repertoire in a lyrical sense. It also boasted some of her most impressive collaborations yet: FINNEAS, Ian Kirkpatrick and Mike Dean are just three of a handful of noteworthy producers. Sel’s lead single, “Lose You to Love Me” — a breakup ballad that many speculated was her final goodbye to ex-boyfriend Justin Bieber — gave fans a taste of the playful, poppy and at times cathartic direction she was headed.

Since hitting the mainstream music scene, 25-year-old rapper Megan Thee Stallion has proven herself to be just as outspoken when it comes to advocating for social justice as she is with her music. We’ve all had her song “Savage” stuck in our heads since the moment we first listened to it, and since then, Megan has proven that hot-girl summer is all year round. Her debut studio album, “Good News” — which came out on Nov. 20 and notably featured “Savage (Remix)” with Beyonce — earned critical praise not only for its infectious tracks but for how it conveyed self-confidence.

On Nov. 20, K-pop sensations BTS released their ninth studio album, “BE,” which was inspired by feelings of isolation amidst the coronavirus pandemic. Incorporating a slew of genres — from pop to hip hop to disco — the album was a compelling exploration of the mundanity, grief and depression brought about by the past year.

Following the release of her 2017 debut solo studio album, “Stranger in the Alps,” Phoebe Bridgers remained busy, releasing a self-titled 2018 EP with her fellow “boygenius” members Julien Baker and Lucy Dacus. She followed that with 2019’s “Better Oblivion Community Center,” the debut studio album from her band of the same name with Conor Oberst. But fans wanted more solo Phoebe, and they got it in 2020 with “Punisher,” her second studio album, which came out on June 18. The album, which showcased her stunning capacity to write emotionally evocative songs, reinforced exactly why the indie singer-songwriter earned a 2021 Grammy nod for best new artist.

Little did the ladies of BLACKPINK know that their North American debut at Coachella in 2019 was just the beginning. Oct. 2 marked the release of BLACKPINK’s debut studio album simply titled “The Album.” Teaming up with two of music’s most famous women — Selena Gomez and Cardi B — on tracks “Ice Cream” and “Bet You Wanna,” the K-pop girl group set out to solidify their presence in the American market and successfully did just that.

On April 17, Grammy-winning singer-songwriter Fiona Apple released her highly anticipated fifth studio album, “Fetch the Bolt Cutters,” and it exceeded all expectations. The album — which featured just one single, “Shameika” — earned critical praise for its unconventional and largely experimental sounds that merely reinforced Fiona’s boundary-defying knack for alternative rock.

“Ungodly Hour” marks the sophomore effort of sister-duo Chloe x Halle. Released on June 12, the album, which was so beautifully inspired by ’90s R&B, sees the siblings at their most mature yet — songs like “Do It,” “Forgive Me” and the title track are comprised of delicate beats and their signature majestic harmonies.

Praised as her boldest musical effort yet, Halsey’s third studio album, “Manic,” which debuted on Jan. 17, showed the 26-year-old at her most vulnerable. Listening to it felt as if you’d snuck a peek at her most private diary entries as she disclosed her inner struggles and experimented with an eclectic array of sounds and incorporated various genres like rock, hip hop, country and K-pop.

Lady Gaga has long charmed us with her electro-pop hits, but what we love most about her 2020 album, “Chromatica,” is that it nostalgically recalls her “Just Dance” era. Gaga’s sixth studio album, which was released on May 29, features delightfully catchy tracks like “Stupid Love,” “911” and the Ariana Grande duet “Rain on Me.”

Though just 28, Miley Cyrus has gone through a slew of changes during her lengthy career. The former child star’s seventh studio album, “Plastic Hearts” — which debuted on Nov. 27 — is mere validation of that fact. “Plastic Hearts,” which features guest appearances from popular British singer Dua Lipa and veteran musicians like Billy Idol, Joan Jett and Stevie Nicks, is steeped heavily in synth-pop and glam-rock appeal, making it stand out in Miley’s discography.

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