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The 50 Best Albums of 2020

From Taylor’s folk surprise to Bob Dylan’s best album in 20 years to cathartic country, indie-rock and pop releases, these great albums helped us power through a lonely year.

The phrase “Life sucked, but great records got us through” could apply to any number of recent years. But, in 2020, music was hit especially hard, with clubs closed and tours canceled. Out of necessity, this became a year about turning inward, listening deep and looking for solace.

Our top album of the year, Taylor Swift’s Folklore, reflected that feeling in its stark, elegant intimacy. Other artists — from Run the Jewels to Lucinda Williams — came through with albums steeped in the year’s explosive political climate. At the same time, it was also fun to party vicariously with fantastic dance-pop albums by Dua LipaJessie Ware, house-music producer Kareem Ali, Bad Bunny‘s expansive reggaeton blowout, and rapper Lil Uzi Vert‘s spaced-out-yet-hard-hitting opus. Meanwhile, new artists like Kelly Lee Owens, Soccer Mommy, Beach Bunny, and Fontaines D.C. pointed the way toward a future that’s going to get better.

From Rolling Stone US


Bad Bunny, ‘YHLQMDLG’

Yo Hago Lo Que Me Da La Gana is both more varied and more focused than Bad Bunny’s excellent 2018 debut album, X 100pre, with reckless stylistic shifts — the many-songs-in-one “Safaera,” the hard-rock swerve on “Hablamos Mañana” — next to some of his sharpest, most insistent hits. “La Santa” merges a handsome, elegiac melody, Bad Bunny’s shout-at-the-heavens vocals, and a stern, clipped reggaeton beat to great effect, while the star coaxes the seldom-heard reggaeton veteran Yaviah into delivering a spine-stiffening verse on “Bichiyal.” Bad Bunny released two more albums in 2020, but neither outdid YHLQMDLG‘s relentless firepower. —E.L.


Fiona Apple, ‘Fetch the Bolt Cutters’

Fiona Apple has always thrived on defying expectations, from telling pop stans that the world was bullshit to taking years (and years) to perfect her alt-rock operettas. But no one could have expected the audacity of Fetch the Bolt Cutters, or the way Apple expresses her independent spirit over an orchestra of drums, percussion, barks, and meows. She leaps ahead of the “VIPs, PYTs, and wannabes” on the title track (“I’ve always been too smart for that”), seeks friendship with a woman dating her ex (“Ladies”), and reflects on how one person telling her she had potential was the spark she needed as a kid (“Shameika”). When she sings, “Kick me under the table all you want, I won’t shut up,” on “Under the Table,” she means it, because this is potential fulfilled. —K.G.


Taylor Swift, ‘Folklore’

It’s not a stretch to say that Taylor Swift’s Folklore may go down in history as the definitive quarantine album, and not just because of the record’s homespun, folksy presentation. Without the pressure of having to write radio hits or build up her usual prolonged album-release schedule — full of music videos, Easter eggs, and Good Morning America performances — Swift shed the über-pop trappings of her previous album, Lover, for a project that put her once-in-a-generation songwriting talent front and center. Regardless of what you think of the album’s “indie” cred, with contributions from the National’s Aaron Dessner and Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon, Folklore’s 16 tales of lost love, coming-of-age, and redemption provided us with solace and catharsis just when we needed it most. Songs like “August” and “Mirrorball” will persevere long after this pandemic is over — and so, evidently, will Taylor Swift. —C.S.