It’s no secret that 2020 has been a dumpster fire. But as we look forward to 2021, we should look back on the good parts of the past year a.k.a. the best albums of 2020 that became the soundtrack of our lives when things were dark.
From K-pop albums by BTS and BLACKPINK to surprise releases by Taylor Swift and Ariana Grande, 2020 may have been a dumpster fire, but when it came to music, the year delivered, especially in powerhouse and heartbreaking lyrics by some of our favorite pop stars. As Swift explained in her Disney+ concert Folklore: The Long Pond Sessions, the COVID-19 pandemic allowed her to write more than she has ever done before, and with that came two albums. The same seems to be true for other artists who bared their souls in emotional albums and singles in the past year. On the flip side, though the clubs have been closed and the parties have been cancelled, many of our favorite pop acts also released boppable tunes we can’t wait to dance to once it’s safe.
In honor of the year that could’ve been, we looked back at the best albums of 2020 in our opinion. There was more music than we could write about, but ahead are some our favorites in no particular order. Now, let’s look forward to 2021.
BTS broke records with their November album, BE, and singles like “Dynamite” and “Life Goes On,” which became the bands first two number ones on the Billboard Hot 100. (“Dynamite” was also BTS’ first Grammy nomination.) However, that doesn’t mean that music lovers should sleep on BTS’ February album, Map of the Soul: 7. The album, which included 19 tracks, was a tour de force of music. Along with BTS’ singles “Boy With Luv” and “ON,” Map of the Soul: 7 closed out BTS’ map of the soul eras with various subunits and solos that showed off each individual member’s talents. The album also introduced us to “Black Swan,” which, in our humble opinion, is one of the best K-pop songs of 2020.
While Swift’s ninth album, Evermore, went on to follow Folklore in December, Swift’s first surprise album in July shouldn’t be forgotten. After a slew of pop releases, the album took listeners back to Swift’s singer-songwriter roots and country twang with tracks like “Betty,” “August” and “Cardigan.” The album is also up for Album of the Year at the 2021 Grammys. If it wins, that would make Swift’s third win in the category.
Grande broke the internet when she announced her engagement to Dalton Gomez in December. Two months before that, she released her sixth album, Positions, which showcased Grande’s usual diva vocals with tongue-in-cheek lyrics in songs like “Positions” and “34+35.” (Just add the numbers if you want to know how NSFW she gets on the album.) The LP also included Grande’s usual A-list roster of featured artists, including Doja Cat, The Weeknd and Ty Dolla Sign.
Lipa released Future Nostalgia at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Though she couldn’t do in-person performances, Lipa made it work with creative late-night performances on Zoom and via green screen, so that alone deserves a round of applause. Future Nostalgia also showed that Lipa was not going to be a victim of the Grammys Best New Artist curse (she won the award in 2019). After pre-releases like “Break My Heart” and “Don’t Start Now,” Future Nostalgia solidified Lipa’s pop power with heart-racing tracks like “Levitating” and “Physical.”
BLACKPINK released their long-awaited full-length album, The Album, in October. Though the album only features eight songs, each one is packed with K-pop foursome’s swoon-worthy vocals and hard-hitting raps. The band released the album’s first single, “How You Like That,” over the summer before following it with pop perfection “Ice Cream” with Selena Gomez. Their title track from The Album is “Lovesick Girls,” a nostalgic, mid-tempo single about love and heartbreak. The Album also includes the band’s usual killer raps in songs like “Pretty Savage” and “Bet You Wanna” with Cardi B.
In the words of Kamala Harris: I love Good News. Following the massive success of her TikTok famous song “Savage” in March, Megan Thee Stallion released her debut album, Good News, in November. The 17-track LP includes a remix of “Savage” featuring Beyoncé, as well as her killer single “Body.” With features with SZA, Big Sean, DaBaby and more, Good News proves that MTS is a force to be reckoned with.
In the past couple years, Gaga has taken a break from music to film and promote her 2018 film, A Star Is Born, and launch her beauty brand, Haus Laboratories. However, she returned to pop stardom in May with her sixth album, Chromatica. The album included two stellar features: “Rain on Me” with Ariana Grande and “Sour Candy” with BLACKPINK. Other highlights include the ascendant “911,” which has become a meme, and the exhilarating “Sine From Above” with Elton John.
Halsey released her third album, Manic, in January, a couple months before the COVID-19 pandemic. Though the album didn’t receive any Grammy nominations, Manic shouldn’t be forgotten. The LP featured Halsey’s usual heartbreaking vocals and lyrics in songs like “You Should Be Sad,” “Graveyard” and “Without Me.” The album also includes three interludes from rapper Dominic Fike, Alanis Morisette and BTS member Suga.
Gomez’s third album, Rare, also came before the COVID-19 pandemic. Lead by Gomez’s 2019 ballad “Lose You to Love Me,” which is about her toxic relationship with Justin Bieber, Rare features some of Gomez’s most heartbreaking lyrics yet. Standouts include the title track “Rare,” “Dance Again” and “Vulnerable,” all of which showcase Gomez not only as a pop star but also a expert songwriter.
In December, Little Mix member Jesy announced her exit from the band after nine years. Little Mix, formed on The X Factor in 2011, released their last album as foursome, Confetti, in November. The LP is one of the girl group’s best. Vocal heavy and packed with power, Confetti showcases Little Mix’s incredible harmonies in songs like “Sweet Melody” and “Break Up Song.”
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