10. Dirty Computer, Janelle Monae
Coming out as pansexual under Trump’s America, Monae evolved into a resiliently beautiful, honestly political and unapologetically sexual, queer black woman. Monae doesn’t shy away from embracing feminine beauty and from shutting down hateful, political rhetoric, like in “Pynk,” and “Americans” respectively. A standout is “Django Jane,” a rap song that proclaims: “Let the vagina have a monologue/ Mansplaining, I fold em like origami/ What’s a wave, baby? This a tsunami/ For the culture, I kamikaze.” It’s a track that speaks for itself.
9. Vibras, J Balvin
Balvin’s latest album, Vibras has beats and melodies that will make anyone move and its rhythm is something that has been unmatched by anyone so far. The Columbian superstar has caused a wave of Latin pop and reggaeton on the charts worldwide. While the genre is male dominated and tends to be misogynistic, Balvin steers away from the usual tropes of his counterparts. He seduces and enthralls without being overbearing or cocky. Trap, dancehall and afrobeats are all employed to frame reggaeton into a wide range of musicality, making it a perfect party playlist.
8. K.T.S.E, Teyana Taylor
Teyana Taylor is undeniably sexy and soulful in this short 22-minute album. Working with Kanye West as part of his G.O.O.D Music label, Taylor works with soulful beats and samples of soul and blues records to create a solid R&B album. Although Taylor might not be a household name, this album clearly cements her as a vocal powerhouse with so much more to offer for an audience willing to listen.
7. Camila, Camila Cabello
In her debut solo album this year, she provided a deeply personal look into her feelings of lust, love, breakups, loneliness, anxiety and even playful fun. The highlight track would undeniably be “Havana,” which cemented her career as a successful solo artist. But it’s the softer, lowkey tracks like “Consequences,” “Real Friends” and “Something’s Gotta Give,” that bring out the vocal talent Cabello possesses and her ability to sing troubled situations effectively.
6. Swimming, Mac Miller
Mac Miller’s fifth studio album indulges in its own sadness without feeling too overwhelming. His imperfect vocals over funky beats and keyboard mixes, along with lyrics that deal with pain, addiction and isolation provide a key insight into what Miller was feeling in the last months of his short life. The 26-year-old rapper shed layers on this album, tackling head-on that he wasn’t living the mantra that many rappers portray; that sex, money and drugs can buy happiness.
5. Invasion of Privacy, Cardi B
Cardi B’s debut album showcases the rising MC’s creativity and hustle in ways that the public wasn’t expecting. Invasion of Privacy shows how she reclaimed that “rags to riches” story, shut down any misconceptions of what she might be and affirmed who she is. Her intimate and emotional tracks such as “Be Careful,” “Ring” and “Thru your Phone,” display her softer side while also maintaining her pride or plotting revenge. “Get Up 10,” “Bodak Yellow,” “Bickenhead” and “I Do,” stand out as the tracks that prove that she’s here to stay whether you like it or not.
4. Golden Hour, Kacey Musgraves
Kacey Musgraves came back to the country music scene stronger than ever with Golden Hour, a 45-minute album that shows a different side of her. Her previous two albums tried too hard to differentiate her from other country artists, but displayed the same formulaic songwriting and country sound. Golden Hour however, is mature, with simple and soothing sounds that highlight her soft vocals. In the album, she’s sometimes lost, sometimes in love, sometimes “Happy and Sad,” but always looking for a brighter tomorrow.
3. KOD, J Cole
Using the theme of addiction and its consequences, J Cole goes through the album seemingly lost in a world of vices and little virtue. While sometimes it’s hard to distinguish where he’s trying to go with this album, its main focus seems to be on how addiction can take place in various forms, and it is up to ourselves to either dismiss it or let it be our demise. Cole has never strayed from the personal or the political. “Brackets,” tackles gun violence, taxes and the status of the country’s democracy. Songs like “Photograph,” and “Kevin’s Heart,” deal with online dating and how easy it is to cheat on the one we love. From tackling drugs, his mother’s dependency on alcohol, to cheating, J Cole delivered an album that can make you contemplate your own addictions.
2. Ballads 1, Joji
While the transition from the ridiculous humor of Filthy Frank and his infamous Pink Guy persona to sad-pop sensation Joji seems out of place, it fits the 26-year-old George Miller quite well. The 12 track album masters self depreciation and the honest, raw emotions of being a twentysomething. The power ballad “SLOW DANCING IN THE DARK” is the emotional pinnacle with a heavy chorus: “Give me reasons we should be complete/ You should be with him I can’t compete/ You looked at me like I was someone else, oh well.” There are uplifting pop tracks as well such as “COME THRU” and “NO FUN,” which deliver the much needed pick me up.
1. A Star is Born Soundtrack, Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper
If Lady Gaga’s collaborative jazz album with Tony Bennett and the stripped down soft-rock of Joanne didn’t prove Gaga’s inumberale talents to the masses, the soundtrack to “A Star is Born” definitely does. Even without seeing the movie, one could see the progression of their relationship through the songs which explore love, heartbreak and all the gritty emotions that come in between. All songs in the movie were filmed live, showcasing Gaga’s natural powerhouse vocals, Cooper’s rugged demeanor and a chemistry so real that it’s hard to not feel invested in them.