Voting for the 2018 PHF Rewind Awards has now opened! Let your shady little voice be heard and make sure to submit your entries before the 30th of January.
By Skinny Legend
With more music at our fingertips than ever before, one of the biggest challenges an artist can have is to truly build intrigue around their new project. It's a challenge that's made even more difficult the longer this hype has to be sustained for - which, depending on record label scheming or personal dramas, can range anywhere from weeks to years.
And the consequences that can occur for an album when that hype isn't sustained can be severe. Take Rita Ora's second album Phoenix, which landed at #2 on our Best Albums of 2018 list, but stalled at a measly #11 on the UK charts and only #79 on the US equivalent. Ora had a UK hit with the Ed Sheeran-penned 'Your Song', which hit #7 on the UK charts back when it was released in May 2017; but it took another five months for second single 'Anywhere' to be released. By the time 'Girls' came around seven months after that, fans had all but forgotten about Rita's second album, and the lukewarm reception towards that song didn't help them remember. When the album was finally released six months later, interest was at an all-time low, and even the world's greatest album would have been a flop.
In this list, we'll be looking at five different albums that have managed to sustain interest, in many cases over several years. At this point, all but one of these albums has been confirmed for release in 2019: although we all know how transient Twitter confirmations can be. After all, two of the albums we were looking forward to in 2018 have still yet to be released.
5. Charli XCX - TBA
The journey to Charli XCX's third album has been a long one. Immediately after her second album Sucker was released, Charli revealed she had a punk album ready to go, but this has remained unreleased. In 2017, she further revealed that she'd recorded a whole album over a 24 hour period with A.G. Cook, but this has also failed to manifest. 'After the Afterparty' and 'Boys' were both billed as singles for an upcoming album, but this seems to have been bypassed in order for Charli to focus on her mixtapes, Number #1 Angel and #Pop2. '5 in the Morning', 'Focus', 'No Angel' and 'Girls Night Out' were all released last year as stand-alone singles, but Charli confirmed that they weren't intended for any particular album.
And then towards the end of 2018 Charli released Troye Sivan collab '1999', which seemed like yet another start to the era. Charli even stated that if the song hit top ten in the UK that she would confirm an album release for 2019, but she ended up with egg on her face when the song only peaked at #13. Regardless of whether we do get a full length album from Charli or not in 2019, we're sure that we'll hear from her either through official releases or leaks, and as pop's most interesting star we're sure she'll have something interesting to say.
4. Sky Ferreira - Masochism
Sky Ferreira first confirmed the title of her second album in a Tweet back in 2015, and ever since then it's been a constant on lists of the most anticipated albums of the year. Sadly, it seems as though we're no closer to hearing the album now than we were four years ago. Sky takes to social media once every six months ago to give her fans a half-hearted mysterious update on the album - the latest Instagram post, released in June of last year, said that the album was "FINALLY happening" - but other than that, we've had no concrete confirmation of a release date or tracklisting.
In truth, all that fans have been able to glean about the album is from assorted social media posts that they've jigsawed together into a rough estimate of what it will sound like. Ferreira has described the album as "A little heavier", saying "It's not going to be an electronic album completely - it's going to be a blend of everything." She's also confirmed at least ten songs for the album, including 'Guardian' which she debuted live and a cover of Morissey's 'Last of the Famous International Playboys'.
But if Ferreira's track record is anything to go by, we wouldn't be at all surprised if all of these posts were just more red herrings. Her first album, Night Time, My Time, was fronted by at least five debut singles ranging from pop to electro to rock, and ultimately only one of them ended up on the finished product. Maybe all we can do as fans is sit back, trust the process, and wait for Sky to work her magic.
3. Lana Del Rey - Norman Fucking Rockwell
Even though we already have three official singles from Lana Del Rey's sixth studio album - 'Mariner's Apartment Complex', 'Venice Bitch' and the aptly titled 'hope is a dangerous thing for a woman like me to have - but i have it' - that doesn't change the fact that the era is still shrouded in mystery. Lana first announced the title of her upcoming album during an interview with Zane Lowe, where she also confirmed that it would feature 11 tracks and a surf-rock sound. With that said, Lana is known to change her mind about album directions at the drop of a hat, and given that she's been teasing newly written songs on Instagram frequently we wouldn't be surprised if the album had completely morphed at this point.
Either way, we may not have long to find out - Lana recently liked a tweet saying that the album would be out March 29th, and we'll almost definitely hear at least one more single before that.
2. Lady Gaga - TBA
It seems like Lady Gaga has been in the studio every week since she released Joanne, but that doesn't necessarily mean we're any closer to getting her next album. After recording the A Star Is Born soundtrack, Gaga has possibly chosen to focus on recording her second collaborative album with Tony Bennett next, which may mean we'll have an even longer wait for her upcoming album.
With that said, there has been some very slow progression towards hopefully getting a body of work together. Over the past two years, Gaga has been in the studio with electronic producers such as Boys Noize, Sophie and Umru, none of whom collaborated on ASIB and who definitely wouldn't be working on a Tony Bennett album. Given how frequently Gaga scraps songs, we wouldn't be surprised if none of these made the final album, but we can at least maintain the hope for a return to dance-pop music from the queen herself.
1. Rihanna - TBA
Over the past few years, it seems as though Rihanna has been doing anything but make music. Between appearing in Ocean's 8, releasing a popular makeup line and launching a well received collaboration with Puma, Rih's had little time to head into the studio and give her fans what they really want.
But that all seems set to change this year, with Rih confirming that 2019 is the year when she makes her official return to the music scene. In July of last year, we heard from multiple sources that Rih was focused on making a dancehall-inspired album as homage to her home country Barbados, along with a seperate pop album; but since then we've also heard from DJ Alesso that she's planning on taking over the dance charts with some well-timed collaborations. We wouldn't be at all surprised if all this things are true: a pop-dance record with dancehall influences sounds just like Rihanna's style, and if she plays her cards right it could be the album of the year.
By Skinny Legend
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
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 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
Following 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'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
It'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!