Required Listening: The Best Albums of 2018

Two words: Cardi B.

Design by Travis McHenry

If you're having trouble figuring out what could possibly be "good" about 2018, reminder: Cardi B released her debut studio album, The Weeknd (unofficially) dedicated a six-track mini album to his exes Selena Gomez and Bella Hadid, and the world finally understands the musical genius of Kali Uchis. These artists, plus seven more, have already dominated the sound waves and we're not even halfway through the year (I see you, Kanye and Nicki). Here, the best albums released so far.

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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

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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

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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

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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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