Required Listening: The Best Albums of 2018

Two words: Cardi B.

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Design by Morgan McMullen

If you're having trouble figuring out what could have possibly been "good" about 2018, reminder: Cardi B released her debut studio album, The Weeknd (unofficially) dedicated a six-track mini album to his ex Selena Gomez and then-ex Bella Hadid, and the world finally understands the musical genius of Kali Uchis. These artists, plus 13 more, dominated the sound waves this year. Behold: the best albums of 2018.

Scorpion - Drake

After dropping "God's Plan" and "Diplomatic Immunity" earlier this year, Drake released his much-anticipated 25-track album, Scorpion. Fans continue to debate about whether it's his best, citing viral hits like "In My Feelings" and "Nice for What," but what they can agree on is that it's his most vulnerable yet: Alas, the resident good guy confirms he has a son and addresses his years-long struggle with his public perception.

Favorite song: "Sandra's Rose"


Sweetener - Ariana Grande

Without knowing it at the time, Sweetener became a raw representation of The Old Ariana Grande. Just two months after the album's release, Grande's ex Mac Miller passed away and she broke up with fiancé Pete Davidson, who has a song named after him on the album. Although Sweetener might not be a total reflection of Grande anymore, it still gave a home to some of the best pop songs of the year. The 25-year-old is slowly beginning to rediscover herself again, shown in her most recent single, "Thank U, Next." Heard of it?

Favorite song: "God Is a Woman"


Astroworld - Travis Scott

Travis Scott's third studio album, Astroworld, has the featured artists of dreams—including Drake, The Weeknd, Frank Ocean, and James Blake—but at the end of the day, Scott is the one to push his own artistic boundaries. The proof lies in songs like "SICKO MODE," where he and Drake brilliantly execute the mashup without sacrificing their individual styles.

Favorite song: "SICKO MODE"


Camila - Camila Cabello

After over a year in the making, Camila Cabello launched her debut studio album, Camila. It surpassed expectations following Cabello's exit from Fifth Harmony last year, and effortlessly combines her Latin roots in pop jams like "Never Be the Same" and "Havana." That's not all, though—her vocals truly shine in songs like "Consequences," a vulnerable reflection on the high's and low's of a previous relationship. Cabello recently told Marie Claire the album was a combination of both sides of her: "the introverted, shy one—and then there’s the sexy, overly confident one."

Favorite song: "Consequences"


High As Hope - Florence + The Machine

Keeping up with the theme of vulnerability, Florence + The Machine gave the world a stunning 10-song album "full of secrets she never thought she’d share" that discusses Welch's own personal fears, hopes, and dreams. She still holds on to the same humbleness she's had since her 2009 debut album, Lungs, and she makes the album feel incredibly relatable for anyone who listens. It's feel-it-in-your-soul good.

Favorite song: "Sky Full of Song"


Swimming - Mac Miller

Just a month before his death, Mac Miller released his fifth studio album, Swimming—an ode to the rapper's incredible evolution since his Blue Slide Park days, and a tragic reminder of how much beautiful art the world will now miss out on. Miller was never one to shy away from putting his struggles on display and continued to do so in songs like "Perfecto" ("I'm treading water I swear / That if I drown I don't care / They callin' for me from the shore, I need more") and "2009" ("And sometimes, sometimes I wish I took a simpler route / Instead of havin' demons that's as big as my house, mhmm").

Favorite song: "Self Care"


Invasion of Privacy - Cardi B

With her seamless mix of hip-hop and latin, Cardi B is almost unrecognizable—in the best way possible—on her debut album, Invasion of Privacy. It's the home of popular singles "Bodak Yellow" and "Bartier Cardi," and features a range of collaborators including SZA, 21 Savage, Migos, and Chance the Rapper.

Favorite song: "Thru Your Phone"


Ruins - First Aid Kit

They may not be as recognizable as Cardi B, but don't dismiss the Swedish sister-duo Klara and Johanna Söderberg just because you don't read about them on websites like, well, this one, every day. The women got their start covering songs on YouTube about a decade ago, and have since produced four albums. Their most recent 10 track-album, Ruins, can be best described as a mix of folk and old soul. I felt like I was in a dreamland listening to them at Coachella, laying in the grass.

Favorite song: "Fireworks"


Beerbongs and Bentley’s - Post Malone

Post Malone: a classic case of "Can you hate the artist but still enjoy the art?" His intentions are frequently questionable (he told Rolling Stone that guns are "fun, practical, and bad shit happens...If you hurt me, I'm gonna hurt you back"). But both of his albums are undeniably really good, and his latest, Beerbongs and Bentley's, broke Spotify records when it was released in April. I had to ask someone if I was actually listening to Post Malone when I heard "Stay"—a slower, emotional track that stands out in the wide array of pop-rap hits.

Favorite song: "Ball for Me"


Dirty Computer - Janelle Monáe

Call Dirty Computer Janelle Monáe's coming out album—a reflection of her newfound freedom since revealing she identifies as pansexual. The 32-year-old triple threat (yes, she can sing, act, and dance) lets her authenticity shine in a sexy, raw, 14-track neo soul (soul music incorporated with jazz, hip-hop, electronic, pop, etc.) record. She notes that Prince worked on her album with her before he passed away, which is reason enough to download it.

Favorite song: "Make Me Feel"


KOD - J. Cole

A friend I won't @ once referred to this album as "elevator music," but if you know J. Cole, you know his tracks are as therapeutic in their creation as they are in their consumption. In his fifth studio album, J. Cole creates a genius follow-up to his 2016 4 Your Eyez Only, referencing his trouble with alcohol, the internet, and women. However, he says he wants fans to interpret the album in their own way.

Favorite song: "KOD"


Culture II - Migos

There isn't an artist featured on this 24-track (!) hip-hop/trap album that you don't know. The epic group includes 21 Savage, Drake, Gucci Mane, Travis Scott, Ty Dolla Sign, Big Sean, Nicki Minaj, Cardi B, Post Malone, and 2 Chainz. Culture II is a sequel to Migos' 2017 album, Culture, and offers up all of the bangers you could possibly want from trio Quavo, Offset, and Takeoff.

Favorite song: "Walk It Talk It"


My Dear Melancholy - The Weeknd

Selena Gomez and The Weeknd broke up last October, and The Weeknd somehow whipped up a six-track mini album titled My Dear Melancholy by March. In one song, "Call Out My Name," he proclaims, "I said I didn't feel nothing baby, but I lied / I almost cut a piece of myself for your life" seemingly referencing Gomez's kidney transplant. It doesn't match his 2016 album Starboy in any way, but it's still a top album, er, EP.

Favorite song: "Wasted Times"


Isolation - Kali Uchis

The 24-year-old Colombian-American singer is finally getting the recognition she deserves with her debut album, Isolation. The introspective songs are a mix of reggaeton, bossa nova (a genre of Brazilian music), and neo soul. Come for the soulful energy, stay for the Kali x Tyler the Creator collaboration that was made into an even better music video.

Favorite song: "After the Storm"


Golden Hour - Kacey Musgraves

Country singer Kacey Musgraves continues to rise in popularity with her country pop album, Golden Hour. She lets her softness and sincerity shine through her powerful vocals on this 13-track album and continues to break country music taboos by delving into topics like smoking weed and taking down the patriarchy.

Favorite song: "Slow Burn"


Good Thing - Leon Bridges

You may know him from his sultry single "River," but Leon Bridges proves he's an ever-expanding R&B/soul master in his second album, Good Thing. Rolling Stone describes the Texan singer as "a uniquely modern vision of classic soul," and the characterization couldn't be more accurate.

Favorite song: "Bet Ain't Worth the Hand"

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