As June settles in, music fans anxiously wait for their favorite artists to drop new summer hits. But before you listen to the latest tunes, it’s time to take a look at the year’s best albums that have left their mark within the past six months.
Even though these four albums are each different in genre and taste, they continue to push the boundaries and challenge their listeners. From catchy, pop melodies to introspective lyrics, these artists know what it takes to produce a chart-topping album.
1. “WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP, WHERE DO WE GO?” by Billie Eilish
It’s impossible to have a 2019 music recap without mentioning Billie Eilish. As the youngest artist on this list of the year’s best albums, her soft, mesmerizing vocals clash perfectly with the dark themes of the majority of her songs.
With hit singles “bad guy” and “bury a friend,” Eilish quickly established herself when she dropped her debut album in March. Produced and co-written by her older brother, Finneas O’ Connell, the duo proved that Eilish isn’t your typical pop star.
Listening to the album straight through can easily make someone crawl up in a ball and cry in a corner … but in the best way possible. Eilish unleashes the angsty mentality that many teenagers and young adults can understand on songs like “you should see me in a crown,” “wish you were gay,” “listen before i go” and “when the party’s over.”
“Kids use my songs as a hug,” Eilish said in a Rolling Stone interview. “Songs about being depressed or suicidal or completely just against-yourself — some adults think that’s bad, but I feel that seeing that someone else feels just as horrible as you do is a comfort.”
Eilish’s album is a satisfying yet cryptic experience. Her anti-pop rebellion captivates fans’s ears as she fuses hip-hop, pop, alternative and indie sounds. The album takes listeners through an eclectic mix of heavy bass, airy synths and intriguing harmonies.
Love it or hate it, Eilish unapologetically adds the perfect contrast to the current music scene as one of the year’s best albums.
2. “thank u, next” by Ariana Grande
For most of her career, Grande has been compared to some of the greatest female vocalists to ever live. She is one of music’s most relevant artists, having delivered her fifth studio album, “thank u, next,” last February. Coming off the heels of “Sweetener,” Grande holds nothing back as she shows off her impressive vocal talent and surprisingly sentimental side.
If you base your opinion around singles like “thank u, next,” “7 rings” and “breakup with your girlfriend, i’m bored,” you’d probably think Grande is an arrogant diva who can get away with saying anything she wants. But beneath this seemingly superficial attitude, tracks like “imagine,” “fake smile” and “ghostin” define Grande’s most intimate album to date.
It’s no secret that 2018 brought a lot of adversity to the young star. During her Woman of the Year acceptance speech at Billboard Women in Music in December, she briefly mentioned the hardships she endured. “I find it interesting that this has been one of the best years of my career and the worst of my life,” Grande said.
In a span of roughly five months, Grande ended her relationship with rapper Mac Miller, who died shortly after, and then got engaged to comedian Pete Davidson, which resulted in a breakup. It’s clear throughout her latest work that she used much of her pain as a songwriting tool on one of the year’s best albums.
After a memorable Coachella headlining performance in April, Grande continues to embark on her Sweetener World Tour.
3. “IGOR” by Tyler, the Creator
The newest album on this list is none other than “IGOR” by hip hop’s most eccentric artist, Tyler, the Creator. His fifth LP came out on May 17, two years after dropping the widely acclaimed “Flower Boy.” Now more than ever, Tyler continues to crawl through the abstract rabbit hole that he’s been known to stumble down.
Tyler is the quintessential musical-scientist who is never afraid to experiment with his sound. Jams like “WHAT’S GOOD,” “NEW MAGIC WAND” and “IGOR’S THEME” stand out as powerful pieces to the intricate puzzle he has created. He’s faced a lot of hip-hop critics in his years, but he must be doing something right, becase his song “EARFQUAKE” earned him the No. 1 spot on Billboard’s Artist 100 Chart.
Tyler also inserts psychedelic and funky tracks like “I THINK,” “GONE, GONE/THANK YOU” and “I DON’T LOVE YOU ANYMORE” to switch gears and keep listeners on their toes.
In an interview with Beats 1 host Zane Lowe, Tyler explained how “IGOR” is different when compared to his other albums. “A lot of people were like, ‘Oh, the early stuff sounds so different from the new stuff,’ but I think it’s just balance,” Tyler said. “If it was like a breakfast platter with bacon and pancakes and eggs, and at first the plate I was giving people had a lot of eggs, but now this time it doesn’t have much, and it’s more pancakes and bacon or whatever.”
The producer, singer and songwriter furiously demands your attention with every nuance that he has carefully curated. If you have a great stereo system, you should play “IGOR” loudly. You won’t be sorry.
4. “Free Spirit” by Khalid
Avid fans of the “Location” singer excitedly welcomed Khalid’s latest edition to his short discography and consider his work one of the year’s best albums. His sophomore album, “Free Spirit,” dropped in April after he released his EP “Suncity” in 2018. Consisting of 17 songs, it’s definitely the most relaxing album on this list. Khalid’s laid-back tracks deal with lost relationships and discovering yourself.
“Free Spirit” debuted No.1 on Billboard 200 Albums Chart, which was the first time the 21-year-old artist amassed such an accomplishment. Some say that “Free Spirit” sounds similar to “American Dream,” Khalid’s debut album released in 2017, but “Free Spirit” brings a greater sense of maturity.
“The music I’m writing right now is very self-reflective,” Khalid said in an interview with Billboard. “I’m slowly but surely centering on myself and what I’m going through.”
One example of a seemingly autobiographical track is “Twenty One.” Khalid sings about the changes that follow when one turns the coveted age. The album’s hit singles, “Better” and “Talk,” also allow Khalid’s young audience to understand where he’s coming from as he tries to navigate the path through adulthood.
The album is filled with slow guitar riffs, hip-hop beats, heavy snare and, of course, Khalid’s distinguishably raspy voice. Each song fits cohesively with the next as the album smoothly maintains its serene mood.