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The 19 “97” Albums of 2018

Staff | December 31, 2018

Deliberated on by our team of writers, we’ve ranked the top albums of 2018 that we loved. If you’re familiar with the way we review songs/albums, then you know that “97” is our top score. We love every album on this list, ranked them according to how much, and weighed in with a few thoughts about each. Please feel free to comment with your thoughts, as well! We’d love to hear from you and engage in any discussion. Now, without any further ado…

19. Joyride, Tinashe

To say this album was anticipated would be an understatement. After three years of teasing, false starts, shelved first singles and “coming soon” we finally received Tinashe’s Joyride. Mostly gone were the poppier elements teased with tracks like “Player” and “Flame,” in favor of a more alternative R&B sound. The 13 track set had some Tinashe’s greatest work, from the brazen first single “No Drama” (featuring Offset) to the sultry and moody “Salt” at the tail-end of the album. It’s when Tinashe lets loose that her greatness shines, “No Drama” still stands as one of the years best hype tracks and the summer anthem “Me So Bad” (featuring Ty Dolla $ign & French Montana) is reminiscent of the Fifth Harmony sound. Joyride goes a long way in showing Tinashe’s versatility, let’s just hope she can get the recognition she deserves. –Reece

Highlights: “No Drama,” “Salt,” “Ain’t Good For Ya”

18. beerbongs & bentleys, Post Malone

Becoming a pivotal year in his career with his now Platinum-certified sophomore album, beerbongs & bentleys clenched a total of three Top 5 hits on the Billboard Hot 100. Two of which peaked at number 1 and gave fellow collaborators their first number 1 hit singles too (2017’s “Rockstar” with 21 Savage, this year “Psycho” with Ty Dolla $ign). With four GRAMMY nominations, including the coveted Album and Record of the Year categories, it’s clear Post avoided the dreaded sophomore slump. –Keenan

17. Life After Love Pt. 1 & 2, Victoria Monét

You may not have heard of Victoria Monét but she actually has the #1 song in the U.S. right now. A frequent collaborator of Ariana Grande, Monet co-wrote “thank u, next” as well as a slew of other hits for Fifth Harmony, Travis Scott and Chris Brown. This year she released her two part EP Life After Love, chronicling her break up and rediscovery of love and self love. It’s a story we know all too well but Monét makes the material fresh. From the absolutely heartbreaking and brutal “Water Fall Out of Love” (“you should cry until you make a river deep enough to motherf*cking drown in”) to the masturbatory anthem “Ten New Friends,” Monét is as strong at the forefront as she is behind the scenes. Here’s hoping to more great music from her. –Reece

Highlights: “Freak,” “Love You Better,” “Ready”
Click here for Life After Love, Pt. 2.

16. Ella Mai,Ella Mai

With the success of her breakout hit single “Boo’d Up” transforming her into a star and becoming her first Billboard Hot 100 Top 5 hit, Ella Mai made it known that R&B is still a contender for the pop charts and radio.

On her debut self titled album, Ella Mai manages to create classic R&B records while remaining relevant, youthful and true to the genre’s core: being real, emotive and relatable. Cuts like “Good Bad” and “Sauce” help showcase fun modern vibes while Mai gets her grown and sexy classic R&B on with “Everything” alongside John Legend, and “Naked.” Altogether easily making the set one of the most solid debuts from an R&B act in quite some time. Ella was even nominated for two GRAMMY Awards! –Keenan

15. MIH-TY, Jeremih & Ty Dolla $ign

From Ty crooning the opening line (“let’s have sex…” on “The Light,” you know what you’re in for with MIH-TY. The Hitmaka produced collaborative album sees Ty & Jeremih trade off on some of the best baby-making anthems of the year. The year has been a controversial one for both stars but you couldn’t tell listening to MIH-TY. Vocally, Ty continues to showcase his pipes with riffs and runs that easily make him a contender for the King of R&B title lessers are so quick to claim. After the stellar Beach House 3 it’s great to see that Ty has no intention of slowing down his work output, especially if the material is this good. Together, both Ty & Jeremih create R&B magic and this project easily stands as a genre highlight. –Reece

Highlights: FYT, These Days, Perfect Timing

14. Palo Santo, Years and Years

There’s something about Years & Years: musically, they know how to hit all the right spots. Their mix of synth-pop, disco, electronic, and soul is impeccable. On songs like “Sanctify” they talk about sex- with closeted men, while others tackle deteriorating relationships and love. It’s a solid record end to end. –Andrew

13. Love Yourself: Answer, BTS

In 2018, K-Pop officially infiltrated American pop culture via the domination of BTS and their latest album, Love Yourself: Answer. The culmination of a three part series, Answer follows two EPs (Tear and Her) and combines songs from those sets with more new music. Debuting at #1 on the Billboard 200, BTS became the first K-Pop act to achieve such a feat twice in 2018 with Tear and Answer. Meanwhile, Answer has become the first K-Pop album to be certified Gold by the RIAA. Success aside, BTS is a stellar act with catchy, quality K-Pop jams. It’s only a matter of time before they (or at least Rap Monster) attempt domination fully in English with a K-Pop sound. Look out. –-Vincent

Highlights: “Airplanes, Pt. 2,” “Singularity,” “Fake Love”

12. Scorpion, Drake

A relentless Drake returned to form with Scorpion, his first true album in 2 years after a series of mixtapes and side projects (that were full blown albums nonetheless). The samples are the shining points of this album, from Mariah Carey to Lauryn Hill to Aaliyah and even a posthumous Michael Jackson collaboration, but as always the tracks wouldn’t be the same without Aubrey’s smooth flow and the lyrics that set him apart. —Mario

Highlights: “Emotionless,” “That’s How You Feel,” “After Dark”

11. Voicenotes, Charlie Puth

For some reason, Charlie Puth is not getting the respect he deserves on most lists. His sophomore LP Voicenotes is exceptional, to say the least. Song after song, his perfect pitch allows him to craft these tracks that are catchy and clever. His album goes from soft-rock anthems written with Hall & Oates, to gorgeous synth-pop, all the way to strange yet brilliant deviations like an acapella track with Boyz-II-Men and a call for change with James Taylor. —Andrew

10. A Star is Born, Lady Gaga & Bradley Cooper

Lady Gaga took 2018 as the year when she would prove ALL of her haters wrong. She put her heart and soul into her first acting performance, but she also delivered some of her best work on the soundtrack. The epic ballads are the true gems of this album, something that Gaga had not exactly focused on early in her career. As well, Bradley Cooper’s performance as a singer is truly an unexpected, but very pleasant, surprise. —Mario

Highlights: “Shallow,” “Heal Me,” “Always Remember Us This Way”

9. Golden, Kylie Minogue

30 years into her music career, Kylie Minogue is still embarking on new ground. On her latest, Golden, she gives you pop, with a country twist. While it’s a far cry from “Can’t Get You Out Of My Head”, there’s something about this musical deviation that works. Her voice suits the records, and still sounds magnificent as she crosses beyond 50. –Andrew

8. Sex & Cigarettes, Toni Braxton

A bit disappointing that she only gave us eight new songs, but the album is tight and nice. Toni’s voice has held up amazingly over the years and it still retain the buttery sultriness we fell in love with in the early 90s. Toni definitely knows how to give us that sexy yearning, but also the scorned woman emotions. Definitely one of the best R&B releases of the year. —Mario

Highlights: “Deadwood,” “Long As I Live,” “Sorry”

7. KOD, J. Cole

KOD will always hold a special place in my heart because of having been one of the first 500 people to hear it at Cole’s surprise release event in New York City, but regardless of that, it is a phenomenal album. Thought-provoking and hard-hitting at the same time, KOD only further cements J. Cole’s status as a hip-hop legend in the making who makes his own rules. Indifferent to having hits or doing big numbers, Cole is more concerned with making music that can affect his listeners. Dealing with the themes of vices, addiction and mental health, KOD is an album for life, not for a moment. –Vincent

Highlights: “KOD,” “Photograph,” “BRACKETS”

6. Phoenix, Rita Ora

Like a true Phoenix, Rita Ora rose from the ashes of drama to release a beautiful Pop album filled with passion, hard work and catchy tunes. The songs range from the typical 2018 Pop productions to some experiments with retro vibes and harder EDM, focusing on Rita’s vocal ability which can’t and shouldn’t be overlooked. —Mario

Highlights: “Only Want You,” “Cashmere,” “Anywhere”

5. EVERYTHING IS LOVE, The Carters

On The Run II reignited rumors (did they ever really die) of a joint Beyoncé and Jay-Z album. Although what we got was short, it was still a nice addition to each’s discography. “APESHIT” is a perfect example of the power of The Carters. Though quintessentially a Migos track, the energy brought to the track by both Bey & Jay elevate it to that superstar level, the implied double entendre of “can’t believe we made it” and Bey’s rapid fire flow during the song’s middle 8 are sure to make it a staple on fans’ hype playlists. The album is more interesting on the introspective tracks like “Friends,” where the pair seem more subdued yet as fascinating as ever. Finally, let us not forget Beyoncé dragging Jay on “LOVEHAPPY” by “keeping it real with these people.” —Reece

Highlights: “LOVEHAPPY,” “Summer,” “APESHIT”

4. Boy in Jeans, Ryan Beatty

After years in limbo and developing himself and his sound, Ryan Beatty unleashed one of the best albums of the year in the form of Boy In Jeans. A far cry from the Cali surf-pop and Bieber-esque image he emerged with as a teen, Ryan Beatty in his twenties is someone with a clear sense of his musical aspirations. With hooks like “god is real, he was sleeping in my bed last night, we were naked with the radio on, I played him my favorite song”, he’s hitting his stride. —Andrew

3. Dirty Computer, Janelle Monáe

Janelle Monáe has been in the game for over ten years, but in 2018 she finally got her due shine. Before even garnering the coveted Album of the Year GRAMMY nomination, Dirty Computer changed the game for Janelle. In the five years since her last album Electric Lady, Monáe furthered her brand by acting in Academy Award nominated films, Moonlight and Hidden Figures. This steady rise in notoriety gave a lot of attention to Dirty Computer and its “Emotion Picture”. More blatantly personal than any of her previous work, on Computer Janelle Monáe celebrates her Blackness, her sexuality, and her womanhood. Whether on the “highly melanated” rap track “Django Jane,” the sexual and suggestive “Pynk” or the defiant “Americans,” Dirty Computer is the album that American needed in 2018. —Vincent

Highlight: “Americans,” “Make Me Feel,” “Django Jane”

2. Invasion of Privacy, Cardi B

It’s the story no one expected from the most unlikely of circumstances. From stripper, to social media star, to reality television star, to worldwide superstar… who else could we be talking about but Cardi B? And, she did it all on the basis good music, indifferent to scandals and publicity ploys. We’ve heard many a story from an upcoming female rapper that labels have tried to pit them against Nicki Minaj. Although a beef with Minaj would eventually become a part of the narrative, Invasion of Privacy stands on its own two feet as the best rap album of 2018.

Braggado, sensitivity and enough mainstream appeal without seeming like it’s pandering allowed Privacy to flourish on the charts, housing two Billboard Hot 100 #1 singles with “Bodak Yellow” and “I Like It” (not everybody has that). The mixing of trap, R&B and Latin music create Cardi’s own brand of musical magic that allow her to experiment without stretching herself too thin. Invasion of Privacy showcases her versatility and potential for longevity in this business. Not only is Cardi smart and savvy, but she’s actually likable too. In an age where a flash in the pan is literally a viral moment for a week, it’s great to see Cardi and her music still flourishing almost a year after being released. –Reece & Vincent

Highlights: “Get Up 10,” “I Like It,” “Be Careful”

1. Caution, Mariah Carey

THE album of 2018. No one except for Mariah can make this kind of fresh and sleek album 28 years into her career with such nonchalance. Truly effortless. –Mario

The ten track all-killer-no-filler affair may have been one of the last releases of the year but it’s still one of the strongest. Mariah doesn’t sound like she’s chasing a modern sound, nor does she sound dated. Caution stands as the perfect blend of Mariah Carey and 2018; beautifully crafted R&B where there is more than meets the eye. –Reece

It’s almost as if the warning that we must heed with Caution is that Mariah Carey will no longer accept being underrated and disrespected; she has returned to claim the notoriety and respect that she had been denied for so long. She has done so by releasing an album that will stand the test of time as one of her best albums because it is both timely and timeless. Mariah has long held a reputation of being fashionably late, in “Diva” fashion, but Caution proves she is just in time, and ever present. —Vincent

Highlights: “Caution,” “Giving Me Life,” “8th Grade,” “The Distance”

Written by Staff

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