I am sure I am not the only one to be very excited that it is not 2020 anymore. Although due to the political unrest and the fact we are still in a global pandemic it does not seem like 2021 is starting any better than last year ended, it is a good thing that we are in a new year because 2020 was just so cursed. To be honest, it does not seem like very many good things happened in 2020 at all. When I think back about everything that happened last year, the negative thoughts completely outweigh the positive ones. One of the most positive things about 2020 was all of the great music that came out. I feel like as genres continue to blend and as artists start to get even more experimental, we are coming into an age of music that is super eclectic and unique. There are not many boundaries on what musicians can create when it comes to music right now, so some of the music that is coming out these days is so fun and different than anything we have ever heard. With all of that being said, here is my list of the Best Albums of 2020. Unlike my Best Songs lists, which were in chronological order, this one is actually in order from worst to best; i.e., the albums at the bottom of the list were my ultimate favorites of the year. Please let me know in the comments below if you agree with this list, and tell me about any other albums I should have included in your opinion down there as well.
i may b cute, but I’m dumb af – Eichlers
Eichlers is an artist that I feel embodies everything about being an up and coming musician in 2020. Eichlers is a DIY artist from Salt Lake City that has his own style and sound; there are not many people making music that is very similar to his. His album i may b cute, but I’m dumb af is an album that is unlike anything else on this list, and it is unlike pretty much any other musicians making music in 2020. On this record, Eichlers takes all of his favorite sounds and mashes them up in a way that is very cool and strange. This album combines Ska music, Emo Rock, Trap music, and EDM in a way that I have never heard from anyone else. Electronic Emo Trap can already get weird enough, but the Ska elements on this record make it stand out and pop interestingly. I implore everyone reading this to check out Eichlers i may b cute, but I’m dumb af, because it is unlike anything else you are listening to right now and this sound needs to be heard more.
Future Nostalgia – Dua Lipa
One of the most fun and light albums to come out in 2020 was Dua Lipa’s Future Nostalgia. I honestly really wish this record would have come out in any year other than 2020 because it will just make anyone want to party and dance; I could see almost every song on this album being played in a Dance Club. Future Nostalgia has that old school Pop music feeling that has become very popular over the last couple of years. Every song on this record sounds like it could have come out in the late 70s and early 80s. The music on Future Nostalgia is directly influenced by artists like Laura Branigan, Gloria Estefan, The Bee Gees, and Steve Winwood. Future Nostalgia is not the most sophisticated album you are going to hear, but it will undoubtedly put you in a good mood.
Limbo – Aminè
In a world of Hip Hop where it seems like every artist is trying to take what everyone else is doing and make it better, Aminè completely stands out and does his own this. There are so many Hip Hop artists that sound so similar to each other(to the point where they become unrecognizable), Aminè completely stands out from the pack. His 2020 album Limbo shows off how diverse his sound can be, and how he can pretty much excel at every facet of the genre. This record has as much of an old school feeling to it as it does a futuristic one. Aminè demonstrates a variety of flows over a variety of beats. Every song on this album stands out because none of them are similar to each other. If you did not listen to this album and want to hear something other than the kind of Trap music that is super popular these days, Limbo is a record you should check out.
Welcome To O’Block – King Von
As I stated in my second post about the best songs from 2020, King Von was easily one of my favorite rising stars in the Hip Hop game before he passed away. He was bringing the Chicago Drill music sound I listened to so much in high school back into the mainstream in a big way. King Von had such a vivid and descriptive way of storytelling that made his songs so interesting and deep. No matter who you are, his music could draw you in because he made you feel what he felt even if you have never had experiences that are like is in anyway. On Welcome To O’Block, King Von showed off his prowess as a rapper, making melodic Pop-Trap songs with just as much quality as his Hardcore Drill songs, proving that he was not a one trick pony. Welcome To O’Block is an excellent example of why King Von was so great and why his legacy needs to be remembered fondly.
Dedicated Side B – Carly Rae Jepsen
At this point, it does not seem like Carly Rae Jepsen can do much wrong. It seems like every time she releases anything, it is really good and exactly what it should be. Carly Rae does not push too many boundaries or step outside of her comfort zone, but she does not have to because she is just so good at what she does. At the beginning of 2020, she randomly dropped a “Side B” version for her critically acclaimed 2019 album Dedicated. In my opinion, the “Side B” version of this record is better. I feel like everything on this album is just a bit funkier and fresh than the music on the ‘Side A” version. I am not saying that Dedicated is necessarily vanilla compared to this version, but “Side B” definitely does have a bit more spice. If you are into retro-sounding Pop music that is super smooth and fun and easy to listen to, you need to check out Dedicated “Side B” is an album you need to listen to.
El Ùltimo Tour Del Mundo – Bad Bunny
There are not many artists that can have two different albums come out in the same year and have them both pop up on a best of the year list(his other album from 2020 will be included later in the article). Bad Bunny is the kind of artist that can do that, though. El Ùltimo Tour Del Mundo was the second album released by Bad Bunny in 2020. It was actually the first fully Spanish language album to go number one in the US. Compared to his previous work, this record was a bit more experimental. El Ùltimo Tour Del Mundo incorporated Rock, EDM, and Synth-Pop into his typical Reggaeton sound in ways that he had not previously tried to do. I really appreciated this. Obviously, he can make a perfect Latin Trap and Reggaeton album whenever he wants to, but the fact that he pushed the boundaries with this record shows that he wants to grow and keep progressing as an artist. El Ùltimo Tour Del Mundo is yet another example of why Bad Bunny is truly on top in the world right now.
Legends Never Die – Juice Wrld
It is so crazy that this is the second artist already on this list I had to write about who passed away before their 2020 album came out. The number of young rising stars in the Hip Hop game that have been passing away is so alarming and so unfortunate for the genre, and it is a trend that needs to stop very soon. Juice Wrld was thought of as one of the most innovative and important young superstars in Hip Hop. He was widely respected by everyone in the game, even the greats. He was able to mesh sounds and genres in ways that only some of the greatest in the genre(i.e. Kanye West, Lil Wayne, Outkast) have been able to do. He loved to blend the Emo-Rock and electronic music he grew up listening to with Hip Hop, and he did it in a way that was so fresh and unique that he almost created his own genre. Legends Never Die is a full album of experimentation with genres, and Juice Wrld kills it. If you are a fan of Juice Wrld’s signature Emo-Trap sound, there is a ton for you to love on this record. I appreciate the fact that he leaned more onto the Rock side on some songs instead of always falling back to the Hip Hop side because it shows how versatile he really is. Legends Never Die is an excellent example of everything that made Juice Wrld great as an artist, and I hope it is not the last thing he made that we get to hear.
Tickets To My Downfall – Machine Gun Kelly
Out of every artist that dropped new music in 2020, not many of them had as big of a year as Machine Gun Kelly did. Not many artists worked as hard as he did as well. Machine Gun Kelly started the year in his quarantine letting his creative side flourish in the best way. He released quite a few covers and remixes of songs that most people would not consider him to try to make. This venture was a massive success, with some of the videos making it into the top 5 on Youtube’s trending page. 2020 is also the year when Machine Gun Kelly decided to completely turn away from Hip Hop music; his new record, Tickets To My Downfall is a headfirst dive into Pop-Punk music, which is the genre that MGK grew up listening to and has always really loved. Honestly, as good as some of his Rap music is, I wish Machine Gun Kelly would have made this transition sooner, as I feel like he has found his calling. Tickets To My Downfall is such a fun record that brings the Pop Punk genre back to life in such a grand way. If you have not listened to this record yet and grew up loving artists like Blink 182 or Sum 41, you need to check out Tickets To My Downfall because you will love it.
Fake It Flowers – Beabadoobee
One thing that is very obvious about the music landscape in 2020 is that artists are drawing a lot of inspiration from the past few decades. It seems like so many musicians are drawing inspiration from the music they grew up listening to. Beabadoobee is no different in this regard. They are an Alternative Rock band that draws so much influence from early 90s and late 80s Alt-Rock and Punk Rock music. Beabadoobee has an ability to take these distorted and harsh Rock sounds and make them Pop. One time I saw someone say on twitter say that their music like Smashing Pumpkins combined with Michelle Branch or Hilary Duff, and I think this analysis is kind of perfect. Fake It Flowers is their first full-length studio album, and it is a beautiful dive into the mind of their lead singer, Bea Kristy. My favorite thing about this record is how deep and raw and sincere the lyricism is. Bea really lets you into her life on this album, and it makes her feel super relatable to her fans in a way that is not very common these days. if you are into retro Alternative Rock music or really like deep lyricism, Fake It Flowers is an album you should check out.
Chromatica – Lady Gaga
I feel like in the grand scheme of things, Lady Gaga probably picked a bad year to make her Electro-Pop music comeback. There is no way that she could have known when she started making this record about what was going to end up going on in 2020, but she got unlucky in regards to what ended up happening in the world. A pandemic and Social Justice movement are not the kinds of settings that mesh well with a futuristic and other-worldly themed EDM Pop record. With that being said, Lady Gaga’s Chromatica is still an excellent return to form to the kind of music that originally made her so popular. This record has a fun story you can follow if you listen to the whole album through but has enough stand-alone bangers that still end up standing the test of time because they are so good. If you somehow missed this record or forgot about it because of all the craziness that happened in 2020, you should go back and listen to Lady Gaga’s Chromatica because it is very quirky and fun.
Shoot For The Stars, Aim For The Moon – Pop Smoke
It sucks that I have to write about another artist that recently passed away. As I mentioned previously, it is becoming a way too common a trend for rising Hip Hop stars to pass away before they even reach their peak. Pop Smoke was yet another artist who is not with us anymore who was considered to be one of the most important and innovative rappers in the Hip Hop world at the time of his passing. He was known for popularizing the New York Drill sound, which is a bass-heavy and buzzy, and intense style of Trap music that has been taking the world by storm over the last couple of years or so. Because of his in your face rapping style and deep voice, one would think that Pop Smoke would not differentiate much from the sound he is known for. Fortunately, this is not the case at all on his record Aim For The Moon, Shoot For The Stars. On this project, Pop Smoke completely diversified his sound, including a lot of old school Hip Hop elements, typical Trap elements, and R&B elements to go along with his signature NY Drill music. The result is a very eclectic record that is unlike most other Rap albums that you will hear. Pop Smoke’s Aim For The Moon, Shoot For The Stars is an excellent Hip Hop artist that is not stale or one-sided in any way, and it shows off so many elements of Pop Smoke’s music repertoire that made him so great and different from everyone else.
YHLQMDLG – Bad Bunny
It is tough enough to drop one album that is considered one of the best overall records in a full calendar year of music. Besides for a couple of Hip Hop artists like Future and Drake, no one has been able to drop two excellent albums in a calendar year. This is an almost impossible feat, because not only does each album have to be diverse enough that music listeners do not get sick of the artist by the end of the second album, it also has to be full of high-quality music from front to back. YHLQMDLG was the first record that Bad Bunny released this year, and it is considered to be the better of the two. This record is the perfect Party Reggaeton Trap album. It is unfortunate that it ended up coming out at the beginning of a worldwide Pandemic because it is full of music that is so fun to party to and have a good time while listening to. This record flows so well and covers all elements of Latin Hip Hop and Reggaeton so perfectly. Even if you do not speak Spanish, there is something for everyone to enjoy on this record. It is easily one of the most fun pieces of music released in 2020.
After Hours – The Weeknd
It would be impossible for me to write this list and not refer to After Hours by The Weeknd. You could not be a music listener in 2020 and not have heard multiple songs from this record, as it was everywhere. This album had multiple singles from it go top ten throughout 2020, and it had multiple music videos released for it that were very popular throughout the year as well. This album has an 80s Synth-Pop sound, which has become very popular throughout Pop music over the last couple of years. The Weeknd kills this sound throughout this entire record, navigating between various retro-sounding instrumentals in a way that only someone as talented as him can do. The Weeknd’s After Hours is not the most innovative or boundary-pushing album you will ever hear, but it is excellent for what it is. After Hours is a Pop record that has a very compelling storyline that flows sonically as well as an album can, and it is full of bops that will be popular for years to come.
Circles – Mac Miller
There is not a lot I can say about this album without starting to get emotional, so this little piece will not be very long. Circles is considered to be the “Part Two” for his album Swimming, which was the last album released before Mac Miller died near the end of 2018. Mac Miller wrote and composed this whole record before he died, so it was released pretty much exactly the way that he would have wanted it to be(instead of a lot of the mixing and mastering being done after he died, which happens on a lot of other post-humous albums). This record is very eclectic in its sound, with elements of Funk, Rock, Indie, Folk, and Synth Pop all incorporated into this record. It is a very reflective record that is almost haunting in how self-aware its lyrics are; it is obvious that Mac Miller knew what was going to happen to him and it is honestly chilling. Mac Miller’s Circles is an excellent example of how great he was as an artist and a great and somber send-off for one of the most talented musicians of his generation.
RTJ4 – Run The Jewels
As I have mentioned many times in this list, a lot of the music that came out in 2020 did not resonate very well with the times that we are in. As good as so much of it is, a lot of the music that came out in 2020 is party music and feel-good music. Considering we have been trapped in a pandemic and simmering because of the social injustices that plague our country, Synth-Pop club music that makes you want to dance does not resonate with the climate of 2020 very well. RTJ4 is an album that fits the mood of 2020 extremely well. It is a political protest record that directly addresses all of the racism and social unrest that is going on today. El-P and Killer Mike draw the listeners in with killer flows and sophisticated lyricism that makes you think about going on. The production on this album is excellent as well. It is so diverse and fun and intense, and it draws the listener in just as much as the flows and lyricism do. RTJ4 is the perfect album for 2020 in so many ways, and it shows why Run The Jewels are considered to be some of the best artists doing it in underground and Hardcore Hip Hop.
Nightmare Vacation – Rico Nasty
Anyone who knows me knows that I enjoy Rico Nasty’s music so much. At this point, I talk about her so much and send her music to everyone. There is just no one at all like this woman; her style, energy, and the overall sound is so different from anyone else who is making music right now. In fact, she is already inspiring her own mini sub-genre within Trap music that is influenced by Heavy Metal which other artists are starting to copy. Rico Nasty’s debut studio album, Nightmare Vacation, takes everything that has made her great up until this point to the next level. Her super sugary and saturated auto-tuned sound is pushed to a level that almost turns it into futuristic Hyper-Pop, and her Heavy Metal Trap sound is as brash and intense as it has ever been on this record. Nightmare Vacation shows that Rico Nasty is continuing to get better at her signature sounds, and it proves that there is truly no one making music that is similar to her right now. Nightmare Vacation is one of the most interesting and best pieces of Hip Hop made in 2020, and I implore anyone who likes Rap music and has not heard it to check it out because it is so good.
Ho, Why Is You Here? – Flo Milli
The only other rising star in the Hip Hop game that I have been telling people about as much in the last couple of years as Rico Nasty is Flo Milli. There is so much about Flo Milli to love. She has an unwavering level of confidence that resonates through her music, she an infinite level of captivating flows that draws everyone who hears her in, and she has a sound to her music that treads the line between old school and new school so perfectly that any kind of Hip Hop listener can enjoy her music. Her debut mixtape, Ho, Why Is You Here? is full of examples that highlight these points. I love the fact that so many of the instrumentals on this album have a bit of an older Trap music feeling to them because it creates such a juxtaposition with the more modern and tough way of rapping that Flo Milli is known for. Flo Milli is one of the most interesting and fun rising stars in the Hip Hop game, and if you love rap and have not listened to this album yet, you need to check it out.
Eternal Atake – Lil Uzi Vert
Because of how much has gone on this year, it can be easy to forget some of the great music that came out at the beginning of 2020. So much craziness went on last year, it is easy to forget that the world was pretty normal for the first two and a half months. When Lil Uzi Vert’s Eternal Atake came out, I was so excited about it. Lil Uzi Vert had not released a full-length record in over 2 years at that point, and the whole world was itching to hear new music from him. Lil Uzi Vert always pushes the boundaries of what is acceptable in Emo-Trap music and Melodic Trap music. Eternal Atake is exactly as good as I expected it to be. It is weird and trippy and experimental and so fun. It flows so well when you are listening to the album as a whole, yet has so many stand-alone bangers that are going to be some of my favorite Hip Hop songs for a long time. If you are a fan of Lil Uzi Vert, Eternal Atake is everything that you would want it to be.
how i’m feeling now – Charli XCX
Charli XCX is another artist that I admit to constantly trying to get everyone I know to listen to. In fact, I probably suggest so much of her music to those I love that they are probably annoyed. It seems like anything she drops, I am sending to so many people. That is because she is just unlike everyone else making music today and she is so good. how i’m feeling now is an album that Charli XCX created entirely from within quarantine over the first two months of the pandemic. All of the album music, all of the music videos, and even all of the album and single artwork was completely created by Charli while she was sitting at home quarantining. Because of the fact she had to sit at home and could not get out and see any of her friends or have any fun, this record is lyrically a lot more melancholy and sonically at a lot more experimental than her previous work. This record incorporates Emo Rock, Industrial music, 90s Alternative, Euro Pop, and other kinds of Alternative and Punk music into her signature futuristic Hyper-Pop and Synth-Pop sounds in ways that are so cool and eclectic and unlike anything else you will hear. Charli XCX’s how i’m feeling now is probably not for casual Pop music listeners, but if you like weird experimental Pop and Electronic music that is really high quality, this is an album that you would love.
Sawayama – Rina Sawayama
Speaking of experimental Pop music, Rina Sawayama is a musician I have come to love over the last couple of years. Rina Sawayama is another artist that I am constantly telling everyone I know to check out. Her music is very all-encompassing and genre-bending; I feel like Rina has made something for everyone to like at this point. Sawayama is her debut studio record, and it the best piece of music she has released so far. Everything great about Rina’s sound and writing style is highlighted on this record. Sawayama combines so many genres in such an eclectic and unique way. On this album, there are elements of 80s Arena Rock, Alternative Rock, Punk Rock, Industrial music, Y2K Pop, and Synth Pop. The lyricism on this record is so deep and emotional as well; Rina lets the listener into her life on this record, and it gives the listener and her a connection that is not very common. If you have not heard this record yet, please check it out, because everything about Sawayama is so good.
Miss Anthropocene – Grimes
Out of every album that came out this year, there is nothing more I loved than Miss Anthropocene by Grimes. There are not a lot of artists out there who are like Grimes. Her music and everything about her image are so polarizing; Grimes is one of those people where you either love her or you hate her. Miss Anthropocene is a 90s Industrial and Rave inspired Alternative Synth-Pop music album that has a theme that covers the war between nature and technology. Miss Anthropocene can also be interpreted as Grimes’ journey through pregnancy and into motherhood; it covers the chaotic and wide range of emotions times like these can bring that is very honest and real. The energy of the way this album sounds is just as chaotic and weird as the lyricism is. Listening to Miss Anthropocene creates a feeling that you will not get from many other artists. It may not be for everyone, but to me, Miss Anthropocene is as good as it gets.