An avid lover of music with a flair for writing. A core hip-hop fan with a thing for boom-bap beats and bars.
Music serves as a means of solace during hard times for me most times. The year 2020 was one year that qualifies to be categorized as a “hard year” for many of us. The Covid-19 pandemic, the prevalence of the #BlackLivesMatter movement, the horrendous scenes of police brutality which sparked the #EndSars movement in Nigeria and so many parts of Africa are events many of us would like to get rid of from our memories. Music helped me get through those hard times and kept me sane throughout the year. Several artists also took their time to release great albums despite the disadvantages involved for them to help their fans get through these tough times.
Here are my picks for my top 10 albums of the year 2020 spanning genres such as alternative, hip-hop, rock, R&B, pop, etc.
1. Taylor Swift - ''Folklore''
Taylor Swift’s 8th studio album, Folklore might be the best she has ever made in my opinion. Unlike her previous albums that are dance-pop filled, Taylor took a bold step on Folklore by experimenting with the indie genre, blending it perfectly with the alternative genre to create a body of work so intimate and compelling that it gives the listener an introspective outlook of what Taylor and her cowriters felt while penning down the lyrics to the album. Released as a surprise album, Taylor “poured out all of her whims, dreams, fears, and musings into” the project and wove it into a masterpiece of a project. Essential Tracks include “Cardigan”, “Betty”, and “Exile”. You can purchase Taylor Swift’s Folklore album here – Folklore
2. Taylor Swift - ''Evermore''
Two surprise albums in a year is an astounding feat, but two amazing albums in a year is mind-blowing. Just months after she released Folklore, Taylor Swift shocked the world again with Evermore, the writing of which she described as ‘’ it feels like we were standing on the edge of the folklorian woods and had a choice to turn and go back or to travel further into the forest of this music”. Evermore sounded like a continuation of Folklore to me and the tracks were filled with different scenarios and stories which had me engrossed throughout. Taylor made magic in 2020, she did. Essential Tracks include ‘’ ‘tis the damn season’’, ‘’champagne season’’, and ‘’no body, no crime’’. You can purchase the album from Amazon here - Evermore
3. The Strokes - ''The New Abnormal''
The 6th studio album made by the American rock band “The Strokes” takes the cake as my third favourite album of 2020. The band led by frontman, Julian Casablancas released their best album since their critically acclaimed Is This It was released in 2001 in my opinion. The cohesiveness and simplicity of the entire project made the album a weekly spin throughout the entire year. The maturity of the lyrics, the melodies, and the production by Rick Rubin got me endeared to the album. Hell, I could relate to most of the songs on the project and it was one album I do not think I will ever get tired of listening to. A simplistic work of art from the band, they sound refreshed after a decade of disarray and turmoil amongst their members. Essential Tracks include “Bad Decisions”, “The Adults Are Talking” and “Brooklyn Bridge to Chorus”. You can purchase the album from Amazon here – The New Abnormal
4. The Weeknd - ''After Hours''
Abel Tesfaye’s After Hours is one of the most critically acclaimed albums of 2020 and deservedly so. The R&B crooner put out his most conceptual and cohesive project in his career with worldwide hits such as “Blinding Lights” and “Hardest To Love” to back it up, so hell yeah it comes fourth on my top albums of the year list. Despite not being big on R&B, After Hours is one of the few albums that I listened to regularly in 2020. The melody on some of the tracks on the album gives me a feeling of being in dimly light clubs in the 90s, dancing light-heartedly with joy enough to go round 10 people. It comes off as quite of a surprise that After Hours and “Blinding Nights” were not nominated for a single Grammy award despite being one of the best things to happen to music in recent years. Essential Tracks include “Blinding Lights”, “After Hours” and “Save Your Tears”. You can purchase the album from Amazon here – After Hours
5. Juice Wrld - ''Legends Never Die''
Juice Wrld’s first posthumous album Legends Never Die is one project that I enjoyed listening to in 2020. With production so good enough to get even non-hip-hop fans hooked and deep messages that youths can resonate with easily, it is easy to see why the album sold almost 500,000 units in the United States in its first week of release. Legends Never Die is one album that sees Juice talk to his listener about how he felt before his death. Tracks such as “Stay High”, “Anxiety” and, “Fighting Demons” are good examples of where Juice bared his soul out for anyone that cared to listen. The tracks are not as intimate as you would expect from a Juice Wrld album but it is enjoyable enough to get you nodding your head from start to finish. A solid project to commemorate the passing of one of hip-hop’s most talented young legends. Essential Tracks include “Titanic”, “Come & Go”, “Man of the year” etc. You can purchase the album from Amazon here – Legends Never Die.
6. Logic - ''No Pressure''
Logic’s No Pressure was a befitting farewell to the rap scene. Retiring at the age of 30, which came as a shock to his fans, Logic capped off an outstanding career by releasing No Pressure as a final album to appease his fans and give them a sense of closure. Serving as a sequel to his first studio album Under Pressure, No Pressure sees Logic go back to his roots and pick certain elements from his earlier projects that he dropped in recent years. The album saw logic do what he enjoyed doing best, rapping without caring about the critics and haters. The album title, No Pressure signifies that. This project has a great amount of replay value which is why it is included on this list and it is one of the best albums he ever made. An outstanding encore to the rap game. Essential Tracks include ‘’GP4’’, ‘’Soul Food II’’, ‘’Celebration’’ etc. You can purchase the album from Amazon here – No Pressure
7. Wizkid - ''Made In Lagos''
Wizkid’s fourth studio album Made In Lagos is arguably the best project he has ever put out in my opinion. With a well thought out concept and Wizkid sounding as confident and laid back as ever, Made In Lagos gets to be the only Nigerian album to cut this list. Meshing several genres such as reggae, dancehall, Afro-pop, and Afro beats, Made In Lagos succeeds in combining African and Caribbean sounds into a perfectly enjoyable album to satisfy his ever-growing listeners. The album serves as a world of escapism for me as the album was a feel-good album for the most part as the title track of the single ‘’No Stress’’ would indicate. Essential Tracks from the album include ‘’Essence’’, ‘’Blessed’’ and ‘’Reckless’’. You can purchase the album from Amazon here – Made In Lagos.
8. Big Sean - ''Detroit 2''
Big Sean’s fifth studio album, Detroit 2 is also one album that got me hyped throughout 2020. Although delayed due to the prevalence of the Covid-19 pandemic, Detroit 2 is an album that covers all grounds for me. The production quality, the bars, the flow and execution, and even the features were all top-notch. Big Sean sounded passionate and ready to give more to the rap game, almost a decade after he made his debut in the rap game. With razor-sharp bars, impressive flows, and delivery, Big Sean’s growth as an artist is evident as he maintains a balance between lyrical rap and the new wave of trap. Big Sean is showing no sign of slowing down and it is impressive to see. A totally enjoyable project. Essential Tracks from the album include ‘’Don Life’’, ‘’Harder Than My Demons’’ and “Lithuania’’. You can purchase the album from Amazon here – Detroit 2.
9. Eminem - ''Music To Be Murdered By''
Eminem’s eleventh studio album, Music To Be Murdered By is a long-awaited return to form by the Detroit Rap Legend. Coming off projects such as Revival and the diss-filled Kamikaze album, Eminem sounds confident and more enjoyable on his latest project Music To Be Murdered By. With a concept aimed at lyrically eviscerating beats, Eminem accomplished his aim by ripping beats to shreds with razor-sharp bars that we have always come to expect from the Rap God. He covers several themes such as racism, police brutality, his critics,etc. on this album. He is completely in his element, rapping circles while appearing to enjoy perfecting his craft. His penmanship on this album is so good that there are enough bars to get you rewinding to catch the full meaning of what he is saying. Although he seems to pay much attention to what the critics say about him, Music To Be Murdered By is a completely enjoyable project and one of the most solid works he has put out in years. Essential Tracks include ‘’Unaccomodating’’, ‘’You Gon’ Learn’’, ‘’Darkness’’ and ‘’Godzilla’’. You can purchase the album from Amazon here – Music To Be Murdered By
10. Nas - ''King's Disease''
The hip-hop legend released his 13th studio album King’s Disease just two years after he released Nasir and it is a very solid project, hell, in my opinion, one of his best in a while. One major thing I loved about the album was his ability to adapt to the times especially in terms of the production and the features. For a rapper who made his debut over two decades ago, he adapted well to the new climate of rap. The production was topnotch which might be because Hitboy produced the album executively. The artists featured such as Big Sean, Lil Durk, Anderson .Paak and others succeeded in matching Nas’s energy and their sound made the album quite enjoyable. Nas’s maturity is also to be commended as he addressed issues affecting society such as racism which was a major issue in 2020. Essential Tracks from the album include ‘’Replace Me’’, ‘’Blue Benz’’, and ‘’Spicy”.
While the projects above are my picks for the best albums of 2020. There are some other projects such as Drake’s mixtape, Dark Lane Demo Tapes, The Killer’s, Imploding the Mirage, Mac Miller's Circles and many others that got me through the year. All are great projects that demand to be appreciated and talked about. I can only hope 2021 comes with a lot more flurry of great albums as 2020 did.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2021 Fawaz Akintunde
Fawaz Akintunde (author) from Lagos, Nigeria on January 30, 2021:
Thanks a lot for your feedback Umesh, i am glad you enjoyed the piece.
Umesh Chandra Bhatt from Kharghar, Navi Mumbai, India on January 29, 2021: