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  • The 5 Best Albums of 2018


    Skinny Legend

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    If 2018's list of the best songs of the year shows us anything, it's that the ability to define pop music in the 21st century is becoming increasingly more difficult. Gone are the days when record label executives and radio DJ's defined the sound of the summer in highly organised meetings; nowadays, listeners are willing and able to seek out their own finds, creating intimate emotional bonds with their favourite discoveries that last long after their songs end. Our list of 2018's greatest albums reinforces that idea, bouncing between rock, hip-hop, R&B and dance effortlessly.

    What's somewhat more inexplicable is the list's focus on comebacks from female artists who haven't had hits in years. In 2018, each of these women managed to reinvent themselves for a generation that's impossible to pin down, and prove that life doesn't end for a singer once they leave the Forbes Hottest 30 Under 30 list or vanish from the cover of US Weekly. It just goes to show that while there's more choice and diversity than ever in pop music, a familiar face is sometimes all an audience wants to see in their Spotify library.

    Enjoy our picks for 2018's best albums down below, and for a walk down memory lane don't forget to check out our lists from 2017, 2016 and 2015!

    Lady Gaga & Bradley Cooper - A Star Is Born

    Lady Gaga & Bradley Cooper - A Star Is Born.jpg

    A Star Is Born was the cinematic event of 2018, and with it's Academy Award hype and meme-worthy publicity stunting it's also been the unexpected project that made one-time sensation Lady Gaga cool again. The film's soundtrack had a lot to do with that, hitting the refresh button on Gaga's career while making a would-be star out of Bradley Cooper: for as difficult as it is to believe, there was still some uncultured people who were unaware of Gaga's talent, and who needed her singing over some rock instrumentals to believe it. Let's leave that in 2018, shall we?

    The soundtrack's success is ironic given the fact that it's probably Gaga's least impressive project overall thanks to a collection of factors. Even when you take out the dialogue tracks, the album is an impressive nineteen tracks long, but sadly it feels as though around half of the songs were just thrown onto the album as gifts for her fans who had waited so long rather than for the impeccable quality we've come to expect from Gaga. 'Heal Me', 'Before I Cry' and 'Music To My Eyes' have some of the worst lyricism we've heard all year, while the electronic duo of 'Hair Body Face' and 'Why Did You Do That' - while bops in a semi-ironic fashion - only make sense in the context of the film and seem incredibly awkward on the country-tinged album. Despite that, there's enough truly great songs on here for an EP of classics, particularly Cooper's touching 'Maybe It's Time', the rock duets 'Shallow', 'Diggin' My Grave' and 'I Don't Know What Love Is' and the holy trinity of Gaga power ballads 'Always Remember Us This Way', 'Is That Alright' and 'I'll Never Love Again'. It may not entirely work on it's own, but in tandem with it's accompanying film the A Star Is Born soundtrack hits all the marks you'd want it to.

    Nicki Minaj - Queen

    Nicki Minaj - Queen.jpg

    Nicki Minaj had a false start - or three - in 2017 with her trio of singles 'Changed It', 'No Frauds' and 'Regret In Your Tears', but in 2018 she proved that she was ready for her official comeback. Queen plays out exactly like Nicki's three past albums have - with a section for hard-hitting hip-hop rhymes like 'Barbie Dreams' and 'Good Form', a section for potential crossover hits like 'Bed' with Ariana Grande and 'Thought I Knew You' with The Weeknd, a section for vulnerable slow-jams with 'Ganja Burn' and 'Run & Hide', and a whole lot of random filler thrown in for good measure.

    And even if her schizophrenic style of putting together albums may be losing it's charm, that's not to say that there aren't any masterpieces to be found among the rubble. Both 'Chun-Li' and 'Good Form' have a frenetic energy pulsing through their beats that's physically hard not to dance to, while the Labrinth and Eminem assisted 'Majesty' and 'LLC' are both aided by the kind of rapping we wish Nicki could bring us all the time. Like all of Minaj's albums, Queen has it's ups and downs, but that doesn't stop it from highlighting her unique talents. All she needs to do now is learn to direct those talents into a cohesive project for once.

    Christina Aguilera - Liberation

    Christina Aguilera - Liberation.jpgFollowing the commercial failure of Bionic and the generic blandness of Lotus, Christina Aguilera fans would be forgiven for thinking that the 90s queen would never release another great album again. Thankfully, she managed to prove them wrong with this year's Liberation, which successfully propelled XTincta into the mainstream even while not quite matching the brilliance of some of her past reinventions.

    He may have had his ups and downs in recent years, but Kanye West has to at least be given some credit for his production roles in the album's two best songs: the fiesty, kinetic lead single 'Accelerate' and the album's true opener 'Maria'. A further shoutout has to go to Demi Lovato who lends her vocals to second single 'Fall In Line'; although XTina seems perfectly capable of holding her own on classic power ballad 'Twice'. The rest of the album seems to be built around these four pillars, with high-octane danceable tracks blending with softcore R&B and retro flashbacks in a fashion that's distinctively XTina. This is the album's biggest drawback: it's four standouts are outweighed by some very interchangeable filler, when it could really use one or more two surefire hits (why is no one calling Bonnie McKee nowadays?). Even so, Liberation makes for a great listen for any XTina fan and a promising return to form for her career.

    Rita Ora - Phoenix

    Rita Ora - Phoenix.jpgRita Ora's second album Phoenix may have been a long time in the making, but she's never been one to disappoint. Following the release of her impressive debut ORA back in 2012, Rita embarked on a Homeric odyssey for her second album, with the project undergoing at least three different variations before it's ultimate release. One version was recorded with 'I Will Never Let You Down' as the lead single under the guidance of her boyfriend Calvin Harris, but scrapped when they broke up; another was recorded with 'Poison' as the lead single, but scrapped when she left Roc Nation; and the third was recorded throughout one month in 2017 and released in November to little hype.

    The songs themselves reflect that odyssey, transversing Rita's current EDM bops like the song of 2016 'Anywhere' and the annoyingly catchy 'Let You Love Me', as well as collaborations with the late Avicii on 'Lonely Together', Liam Payne on Fifty Shades Freed soundtrack cut 'For You' and Rudimental on surefire hit 'Summer Love'. Like her first album, Phoenix also has a few outliers: lead single 'Your Song' is a little more poppy, controversial track 'Girls' is pure bubblegum and 'First Time High' was a misstep that should have been kept on someone's external hard drive. But even with these outliers, Phoenix has enough excellent tracks to appeal to any pop music lover, backed up by Ora's commendable vocals and winning personality. Ora has all the elements of a superstar: all she needs is for the world outside of Europe to realise it.

    Mariah Carey - Caution

    Mariah Carey - Caution Cover.jpgIt's safe to say that Caution was one of the world's least hyped albums in 2018. Following her disastrous New Year's Eve performance back in 2016, an ill-advised reality show and the false start that was 'I Don't', even Mariah's most diehard fans were wary to see what she had up her sleeve for her fifteenth studio album. Luckily, Mariah seemed quick to snap to her senses and managed to release an album that made the world fall in love with her again.

    From start to finish, Caution manages to simultaneously encapsulate the 90s image of Mariah that is well known and well loved, while still sounding fresh and current. Take our first taste of the album 'GTFO', which by all accounts should have been a tryhard mess that wouldn't be astray on Me. I Am Mariah...The Elusive Chanteuse. But don't let the title fool you; 'GTFO' is a down-tempo, moody heartbreak song, which is only slightly offset by it's alternatively angsty or comedic chorus. 'GTFO' wasn't a hit for Mariah, but it did reach meme status, which is a step up for her in 2018; and we wouldn't be surprised if future hit 'A No No' managed to to the same. Even if she doesn't quite achieve that, Mariah has still gifted her fans with a handful of her famed heartbreak ballads to enjoy: from stirring lead single 'With You' to the intensely vulnerable 'Portrait'. Caution may not have been a smash album, but if nothing else it did what might have once been considered impossible: it changed the public's perception of one of the most misunderstood singers in music history, and set her up for future wins. Let's hope it doesn't take another four years for Mariah to bask in them.

    What was your favourite album of 2018? Let us know in the comments down below!



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    I totally agree with Queen and Phoenix. Boy, these bitches snapped so damn hard! I love those albums. Phoenix might have been my favourite from the whole year.

    As for the others, I didn't give a listen to them, not even A Star Is Born. I honestly don't know why. Maybe I would, but I didn't care as much since it got a lot of hype when, months prior, Gaga was barely talked about. Maybe that made me think it was just a momentaneous attention caller. Not calling it bad at all, I know there are some great pieces there. As for Caution and Liberation... I don't like Mariah, and Liberation kind of disappointed me. Some tracks are good, but most are forgettable. I thought Christina would come back with amazing tracks, but she just didn't. Maybe for the next era. If.

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    6 hours ago, Moonchild said:

    I totally agree with Queen and Phoenix. Boy, these bitches snapped so damn hard! I love those albums. Phoenix might have been my favourite from the whole year.

    As for the others, I didn't give a listen to them, not even A Star Is Born. I honestly don't know why. Maybe I would, but I didn't care as much since it got a lot of hype when, months prior, Gaga was barely talked about. Maybe that made me think it was just a momentaneous attention caller. Not calling it bad at all, I know there are some great pieces there. As for Caution and Liberation... I don't like Mariah, and Liberation kind of disappointed me. Some tracks are good, but most are forgettable. I thought Christina would come back with amazing tracks, but she just didn't. Maybe for the next era. If.

    I was really considering making Phoenix my #1 as well! I actually listen to it way more than Caution, but I do have to say Caution is much better constructed as an album and at least we hadn't already heard half the songs. :stretcher:ASIB is a good soundtrack but I'd only recommend it after you've watched the film or else some of the songs really won't make any sense. I'm sure you'll like it once you check it out! ;)

    @TweenerMale artists? :idkher:

    @nanapop99 Golden shower? :idkher:

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    7 hours ago, Skinny Legend said:

    I was really considering making Phoenix my #1 as well! I actually listen to it way more than Caution, but I do have to say Caution is much better constructed as an album and at least we hadn't already heard half the songs. :stretcher:ASIB is a good soundtrack but I'd only recommend it after you've watched the film or else some of the songs really won't make any sense. I'm sure you'll like it once you check it out! ;)

    @TweenerMale artists? :idkher:

    @nanapop99 Golden shower? :idkher:

    It's the best gay group ever, so Stan them! They are literally amazing and big in Europe. 

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    Stan Liberation! I haven't checked the ASIB soundtrack but i really like all the albums in the top 4. I thought Phoenix was a bore at first listen but it grew on me so much! I'm really obsessed about "Summer Love" and hope that Rudimental will use it as a single this year. Caution is amazing too, a triumphal album! Giving Me Life is brilliant and i have chills when i hear it. Queen was also great, it's a shame that Nicki was such a hot mess last year though!

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    8 hours ago, liberation said:

    Stan Liberation! I haven't checked the ASIB soundtrack but i really like all the albums in the top 4. I thought Phoenix was a bore at first listen but it grew on me so much! I'm really obsessed about "Summer Love" and hope that Rudimental will use it as a single this year. Caution is amazing too, a triumphal album! Giving Me Life is brilliant and i have chills when i hear it. Queen was also great, it's a shame that Nicki was such a hot mess last year though!

    Honestly I'd be really surprised if Rudimental doesn't use it! I feel like they're just waiting for the right season to release it so it will really be that smash. ;) I'm glad you like our top four! <3

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    On 1/18/2019 at 10:02 PM, diamondfulmind said:

    I really enjoyed Caution. best comeback album to end the year! I also really liked Joyride by Tinashe & Amala by Doja Cat.

    Omg Amala! Such a strong debut. Instant stan. 

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    Guest Alex Mercer

    Posted

    Pop music  is fabulous. It’s okay to create bops that get stuck in people’s heads. It’s completely fine to have backup dancers dressed in sequins. It’s acceptable to love acoustic music, but make a career out of autotune. mostly without a single spoiler in there. Now go and see A Star Is Born, and learn ten of your own lessons. And don’t forget to cry. It feels good.

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      Jessie J had success with writing on Miley Cyrus's 'Party In The U.S.A.', and it didn't take long before she tried to replicate the hit when she wrote 'Do It Like A Dude' for Rihanna. Jessie had Rihanna on the mind at the time due to the prominence of 'Rude Boy' on the radio, and she thought that the "tongue-in-cheek" and "empowering" nature of 'Dude' would be perfect for Rih to embody. After her completion of the song, Jessie sent it to both Rih's management and her own record label Island Records; and while she received no response from the former, an enthusiastic review from the latter encouraged her to release the song as her first single. Although Rih would have undoubtedly improved the song just by her very presence, we're kind of glad she didn't lend her vocals to this one; I'm pretty sure even Rihanna couldn't have saved this tryhard mess of a song.
      16. Ariana Grande - Dangerous Woman
      'Dangerous Woman' is a favourite among not only Ariana Grande fans, but also the popstar herself, who liked the track so much that she ended up scrapping her original lead single 'Focus' in it's favour and reworking her entire album to fit it's theme. Despite this, writers Johan Carlsson and Ross Golan had a very different artist in mind when they penned the song. Initially, the song was written with the intention of sending it to Carrie Underwood, who passed; and following this, it was also sent to Alicia Keys. Rihanna was third on the list of artists who were sent the song, and it was only after she rejected it that Grande got sloppy...fourths? While it would have been cool to hear Rih do her thing on this thumping mid-tempo, we're honestly more interested to hear what Carrie Underwood could have done with the song. She's never headed in such an R&B direction before, and it could definitely be an interesting change of pace for the country singer.
      17. Major Lazer & DJ Snake - Lean On (Feat. MØ)
      'Lean On' was one of the biggest songs of 2015, and one of the largest hits of the streaming era. Despite only peaking at #4 on the Billboard Hot 100, the song reached #1 in nine other countries, and went on to become the most streamed song of all time, as well as selling over 13 million copies worldwide. Surprisingly though, the track was offered to multiple artists who turned it down before it became the smash we know it as today. Major Lazer and MØ wrote the track together as a slower reggae song, pitching it to Nicki Minaj who turned it down. Later, they reworked the track into a more upbeat version with the help of DJ Snake, and went on to pitch this version to Rihanna. "I played her 'Lean On,'" Diplo would later recount. "She was like, 'I don't do house music.' I face-palmed so hard on that one." Weirdly enough though, despite the song's tropical influences, we think MØ is way more suited for the track than Rihanna would ever be. Ultimately, this track went to just the singer who needed it most.
      18. Pitbull - Timber (Feat. Ke$ha)
      Out of all of the songs that Rihanna turned down, this has to be the one we're most happy to see her let go of. Although Pitbull was always (unfortunately) intended to rap over the 'Timber' beat, he had initially wanted Rihanna to sing the chorus later made famous by Kesha. Fortunately, due to Rihanna's focus on her Shakira duet 'Can't Remember To Forget You', she was unable to find time to record vocals for the song. This was a positive thing for two reasons: one, because Rih didn't have to besmirch her good name by working with a rent-a-rapper like Pitbull; and two, because Kesha's southern roots and party girl image were perfect for the chorus of 'Timber', which gave her a greatly-needed hit at the perfect moment in time. We just wish she'd been given the chance to rap the verses herself.
      Which of these songs would you most like to hear Rihanna's vocals on? Let us know in the comments down below!

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