Top 6 Albums of the Year (So Far)

We Asked Your Top Albums of 2020: Here Are Your Picks!

We know it’s only August, but the top albums downloaded and listened to makes it pretty clear what we’re craving in 2020. Here’s a look at the top six albums so far this year that you picked from our latest social media poll. These 2020 albums give us quite a variety of creative approaches and musical flavor.

1. Chromatica, Lady Gaga, Released on May 29, 2020.

Chromatica has faced some challenges through COVID-19, just like the rest of us. Lady Gaga’s sixth album was supposed to be released on April 10 but was delayed for over a month due to the pandemic. The topics covered in this album play to the tone of this year: mental health, depression, loneliness, and finding love through hardship. Despite some run-of-the-mill reviews (The Guardian gave it a 4 out of 5, and the A. V. Club a “B”), fans obviously love Lady Gaga’s tunes, and she will be performing at the MTV Video Music Awards this year.

2. Black Is King, Beyoncé, Released on July 31, 2020.

We’re particularly proud of this album since one of our own alumni worked on it, but it’s even more unique than you think. Black Is King was originally released as a “visual album” on Disney +, with positive reviews from critics. In The New York Times review roundup, one critic said, “Beauty is the reason this film exists.” 

At the end of the day, what we need to take a look at—or a listen to—is the music. The storyline of the visual album is very Lion King-esque. But the music, even without the visuals, is beautiful, compelling, and right with the times.

3. Folklore, Taylor Swift, Released on July 24, 2020.

Taylor Swift surprised the world with the release of her eighth album the last week of July. With absolutely zero pre-release promotion, Folklore shot to the top of the charts as fans clamored to hear what Swift called “a collection of songs and stories that flowed like a stream of consciousness” while isolated during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Folklore takes on a new sound for Taylor, with labels like indie folk, alternative rock, electro-folk, and chamber pop. It broke several records on its opening day, including a Guinness World Record for the most albums sold by a female artist on Spotify. Within a single week, two million copies were sold (1.3 million of those copies were sold on the first day). 

We’re not sure if it was the loyal fans or simply the surprise of a new album, but maybe Taylor is on to something here.

4. Fetch the Bolt Cutters, Fiona Apple, Released April 17, 2020. 

Fiona’s album took about five years to record, and, by all accounts, is difficult to put in a genre category. While struggling to figure it out, some have simply labeled it as “percussive.” All sorts of traditional instruments are played alongside non-musical objects, creating a fantastic contrast between traditional and experimental. 

Another music baby of the COVID-19 pandemic, the themes are pertinent to the day as Fiona explores confinement and complex personal issues, all with a layer of humor.

5. Petals for Armor, Hayley Williams, Released on May 8, 2020. 

Hayley Williams

Hayley said that the inspiration for her album was her belief that “the best way for me to protect myself is to be vulnerable.” It’s her first solo album and was immediately met with critical acclaim. 

The themes Hayley explores are, once again, pertinent to the wave of difficulties and introspection of 2020. She said: “It’s somewhat of a mantra to try and stay soft in a really, really hard world and feel pain and let all of it come to you and try and put out something that can redeem it all, even if it’s ugly at first.”

6. After Hours, The Weeknd, Released on March 20, 2020. 

The Weeknd

Released just after much of the United States entered lockdown, After Hours broke the record for the most global pre-adds in Apple Music, with over 1.02 million users. Critics seem to agree that it may just be The Weeknd’s best piece of work yet, and it debuted on the top of The Billboard 200

The best thing about this album, we think, is that it’s just a preview of all The Weeknd has to come.

These albums, all released in the middle of a global pandemic, come with their own messages and powerful moments. So, what do they say about the albums you picked on our Instagram poll? 

If we look at them as a group, it says you care about change. You care about introspection and discovering who you are. It says you are looking for healing and that healing is possible. Ultimately, it says 2020 has been an incredible year for music!