My Favorite Albums of 2020 (so far)

Basically, at just past the halfway point, my 2020 in music can be described like this. In March I heard Dua Lipa’s new album and I thought that would be the best album I heard all year. Then I heard Hayley Williams’ solo album in May and I thought that was amazing. Then Lady Gaga put out her album of bangers in June and I was like, “Whoa.” And then came Jessie Ware’s seductive album later that month and I’m thinking it’s the best of the crop. Until I heard Niia’s new album a few days later.

Let’s discuss.

future nostalgiaDua Lipa Future Nostalgia. Plain and simple, this is a disco album. Not so plain and simple, it’s a GREAT disco album that’s generated universal acclaim. And not at all plain and simple, My Girl Dua has done something very much like her celebrated countrywoman Adele. As teenagers, they released strong debut albums that were good enough to win each of them two Grammys including Best New Artist. Then, like Adele, Dua did something even harder to do in the music business and by the business I mean the industry. She followed that up with an iconic album that stamps her with superstar status. No second album jinxes here.

Future Nostalgia is perfectly named. It’s a modern sounding disco throwback with one solid get-your-booty-on-the-dance-floor jam after another. And in true, old school fashion, its 11 songs clock in at a total of 37 minutes![1]

All that awaits is My Girl Dua’s Adele-like coronation at the Grammys next year.[2] In the meantime, here’s my jam. Excuse me while I turn it up to max volume and dance like a fool.

PetalsHayley Williams Petals for Armor. Pitchfork’s review is a great summation: “The Paramore singer’s debut solo album is emotionally vulnerable and musically ambitious, one that finds catharsis and enlightenment in the brambles of experimental pop production.”

Yes.

I’ll just add that this album is a revelation of the breadth of My Girl Hayley’s artistry. As a band, Paramore was skillfully pushing their sound further and further away from their pop-punk[3] beginnings. But nothing they had done could have prepared me for how brilliantly and delightfully different Hayley’s solo album is sonically and vocally, especially in the stark, contrasting light of the of the raw, confessional lyrics. Petals for Armor is a dazzling and intense artistic statement.

Lady Gaga Chromatica. Rolling Stone calls it “Triumphant” and “a love letter to disco and house music.” I call it an icon returning to her 2010 dance-pop roots with 2020 production. Much like Dua’s Future Nostalgia, Chromatica is one big – of course big, it’s Gaga – dance banger after another and clocks in at a timely 43 minutes. Can this be a trend?

Here’s my jam.

 

 

jessie wareJessie Ware What’s Your Pleasure? Four albums later, London’s Jessie still isn’t well-known in the U.S. which is a shame. I’ve seen her in concert twice and when she sings, “ready to lose it ALL” in Running from her 2012 debut album, I’d already ecstatically screamed at the song’s opening keyboard notes in anticipation of that slow, sultry seductive build to that “all” note when I do lose it all.

What’s Your Pleasure?, too, is a disco album.[4] But as compared to Dua and Gaga, this is the music playing in that not quite downtown club, late at night, with that in-the-know DJ playing that smooth, sexy, body-to-body, nobody goes home alone stuff.

And USA Today has it at #1 of their albums of the year so far.

Here’s one of my many jams.

 

niiaNiia II: La Bella Vita. Niia is an independent artist that whose influences range from Mariah Carey to Nina Simone to Ella Fitzgerald to Sarah Vaughn. Wikipedia calls her genre “sophisti-pop” which I didn’t know was a thing.[5] My Daughter Diandra turned me onto Niia through her 2017 song Nobody.[6] I think our texts are the best way to capture this album. I’m in green.

__________________________________________

[1] I have an old man’s get off my lawn complaint that today’s albums are too long – even the ones I love – so what My Girl Dua has done here pleases me greatly.

[2] Not a prediction but a reasonable possibility.

[3] Or is it punk-pop?

[4] I am so here for this disco movement.

[5] Per Wilkipedia: Sophisti-pop is a subgenre of pop music. The term has been applied retrospectively to music that emerged during the mid-1980 in the UK which incorporated elements of jazz, soul, and pop. Music so classified often made extensive use of electronic keyboards, synthesizers and polished arrangements, particularly horn sections.

[6] My daughters are SO good at knowing what I’ll like.

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