As the end of 2019 approaches, it’s getting to that point in the year when we must reflect on the media we’ve consumed. While the bulk of the year’s greatest movies have (hopefully) yet to hit theaters, it’s safe to say that the year in music is all but solidified.
On that note, my top 10 albums of 2019 are as follows. If you are upset that they are all by female, pop artists, to that I say “good!”
My relationship with Charli XCX is one of the most chaotic relationships currently active in my life. While her early discography didn’t do much for me, the one-two punch of Number One Angel and Pop 2 piqued my interest. While Charli certainly doesn’t live up to its predecessors, it still contains enough of the XCX formula to satisfy. Highlights include the banging opener, “Next Level Charli,” as well as some genius collaborations with HAIM, Christine and the Queens, and Sky Fereira.
To say I was anti-Clairo prior to the release of her debut album would be an understatement. The sounds of “Pretty Girl” and “Flaming Hot Cheetos” were bothersome to me, though beneath the Garage Band-sounding tracks, I knew there was an artist with potential. On Immunity, Clairo’s sound is polished and fresh, a testament to her abilities as an up-and-coming singer/songwriter. On songs like “Sinking” and “I Wouldn’t Ask You,” she’s brutally vulnerable, while moments like “Softly” and “Sofia” possess a similar feeling of anxiety masked by an upbeat track.
8. SHE IS COMING
Post-Disney, Miley Cyrus has been something of a walking identity crisis. For every “We Can’t Stop,” she turns out a “Malibu.” On SHE IS COMING, the first EP in a planned set of three, Cyrus is the most honest with herself she’s ever been, a self-reflection that leads to some of her best music to date. She fits right in over the pop/hip-hop hybrid production that makes up for most of the six-track EP, and aside from a out-of-place RuPaul feature that should have been left on the cutting room floor (“Cattitude”), it’s a hopeful sign that Cyrus has finally found a sound that works for her.
7. WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP, WHERE DO WE GO?
In the span of a year, 17-year-old Billie Eilish has gone from an experimental teenager that made sense to primarily angsty teenagers to pop superstardom. While she certainly has room to grow (as all teenagers making music do), her debut album is a new take on pop that was more than welcomed. When she turns things up, it sticks (see: “Bad Guy”), though when she pumps the brakes, it has the power to resonate with even the staunchest of critics (see: “When The Party’s Over,” easily the highlight of the album).
After a near-perfect stretch of introductory singles, German-born Kim Petras had a lot to live up to on her debut album. While nothing tops the effervescent “Hillside Boys” or the undeniably catchy “Heart to Break,” Clarity has its moments. Full of tongue-in-cheek quips (“I’m the b*tch with the sauce, apparently”) and a handful of audaciously-pop tracks; “Icy,” stands out, as well as the breakdown in “Do Me,” a moment that practically begs to be played at top volume.
5. Cuz I Love You
On Lizzo’s debut album, she starts at a 10 and keeps it there, never giving you less than a 10 for the majority of the 11-track trip. This past year has been the year of Lizzo, and on Cuz I Love You, she proves why. From instantly-classic lyrics (“The old me used to love a gemini / Like a threesome f*cking with him every night”) to songs made to be lip-synced to on “Drag Race,” and of course, THE Miss Sasha Flute makes an appearance for the ages.
4. thank u, next
Unlike most of her previous albums, Ariana Grande had a heavy hand in writing most of thank u, next, finally providing her powerhouse vocals a channel to really resonate. Moments of brutal honesty are scattered throughout (“Don’t want you in my bloodline / Just trying to have a good time”), while reflection on the past makes up for a good chunk (“Ghostin” and “In My Head” stand out as particularly personal moments).
More and more, Carly Rae Jepsen feels like an inside joke amongst gay men and the women who get it. Dedicated easily captures the feeling that garnered Emotion (and Jepsen) something of a cult-following, even when it leans into Target-commercial territory (“Now That I Found You,” which was literally featured in a Target commercial). Aside from that, some instant classics are added to the Jepsen-catalog: “Want You In My Room,” “Happy Not Knowing” and “For Sure” come to mind.
2. Sucker Punch
When a friend played me “Strangers” for the first time, I made fun of him for listening to a song that sounded like it was made solely to be played in American Eagles nationwide. Of course, being a hypocrite, the more I listened to the song, the more I liked it. Which lead to me listening to only Sucker Punch for two weeks straight, which lead to me, alone, at Sigrid’s first New York show two weeks ago. Her energy is infectious; not necessarily a risk taker, each track on this joyous record still manages to feel fresh and considerably modern. A self-proclaimed lover of big choruses, Sucker Punch has no shortage of them; from the rollercoaster-ride feel of “Mine Right Now” to the bass heavy “Never Mine.”
I hesitated making Lover number one on this list, but above all else, I am not a liar, and putting it at any other position besides number one would be lying to myself. Sure, “Me!” and “You Need To Calm Down” were… choices, but to make up for those few lows are plenty of highs. For extensive gushing, refer to my previously-published review. For now, I will leave you with this: “Cruel Summer.”