As we come to a close in the second decade of the 21st century, 2019 was an incredible year for all genres of music. Plenty of new, young talent all had their moments to shine, many of which are still burning brightly. From the teen pop sensation, Billie Eilish, to two other artists who push the boundaries of what it means to be a black musician in the US, like Lil Nas X and Lizzo. In fact, these three alone are the top names nominated for Grammys in early 2020 and it can only make one hope that they each have a prosperous careers.
On the other hand, plenty of seasoned vets put out some of their best projects to date. Lana Del Rey released six albums in the 2010s, but finally knocked it out of the park with Norman Fucking Rockwell! Ariana Grande showed us no signs of stopping after sweetener and released an even better album seven months after it. And Tyler, the Creator has fully transformed into an intellectual rapper/singer where his conceptual albums work immensely in his favor.
I implemented a change this year in my ranking, in which I gave each individual song on each individual album a score out of 5 and averaged them out to get its final rating. This was done in order to avoid any bias (which I've been guilty of doing in the past). Each rating will be listed next to each album so you can see its respective score. I also didn't want there to be any ties, so in those few instances, I gave an extra 0.0001 to the album that I would personally choose to listen to through its entirety without any skips. I hope that makes sense.
2019 had astonishing moments in music where old records were broken and new ones were established. So without further ado, here are my 50 favorite albums (and 10 bonus ones!) of the year.
(Note: This list was finalized before Harry Style's Fine Line was released. Had it came out earlier, it'd easily be somewhere in the Top 10.)
Before I get into the Top 50, this year I thought I'd share albums 51 through 60 just to give them a little special shout out before the decade ends. (They're also too good to ignore.)
60. Charli, Charli XCX -- 3.2333
>>> Listen to: "Cross You Out"
59. Happiness Begins, Jonas Brothers -- 3.2500
>>> Listen to: "Every Single Time"
58. Hyperion, Gesaffelstein -- 3.3000
>>> Listen to: "Lost in the Fire"
57. 4REAL 4REAL, YG -- 3.3077
>>> Listen to: "I Was on the Block"
56. Fever, Megan Thee Stallion -- 3.3571
>>> Listen to: "Running Up Freestyle"
55. Hi, This is Flume, Flume - 3.3667
>>> Listen to: "High Beams"
53. OASIS, J Balvin & Bad Bunny -- 3.3750
>>> Listen to: "COMO UN BEBÈ"
53. Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, Logic -- 3.3751
>>> Listen to: "Homicide"
52. Weezer (Black Album), Weezer -- 3.3889
>>> Listen to: "Can't Knock The Hustle"
51. Baby on Baby, DaBaby -- 3.4231
>>> Listen to: "Suge"
50. 93PUNX, 93PUNX -- 3.4500
One of my favorite discoveries of 2019 is Mensa's experimental hip-hop/punk band, 93PUNX. The Kanye protégé has always had an obvious dark side to him, but he dives deeper with this project, where he gets some support from punk rock alums Good Charlotte and Travis Barker.
Listen to: "3 Years Sober"
49. African Giant, Burna Boy -- 3.5000
With music from Africa gaining popularity year after year (thank the Black Panther Soundtrack from 2018 and Kendrick Lamar, really), Burna Boy's fourth effort is a true standout. The Nigerian, Afro-fusion artist uses his platform to share his story of fighting oppression and the corruption that exists throughout his home continent.
Listen to: "Killin Dem"
48. When I Get Home, Solange -- 3.5001
Solange's sophomore album is anything but a slump. It's one-hundred percent an album for her hometown of Houston, Texas. She blends her contemporary R&B background with plenty of jazz and equal parts chopped and screwed. Her playful duet with Gucci Mane on "My Skin My Logo" stands out as the most fun I've ever heard the singer have on a track.
Listen to: "My Skin My Logo" / "Binz"
47. Ventura, Anderson .Paak -- 3.5455
Following 2018's Oxnard, .Paak finds his way up the coast and makes a stop in Ventura. Originally a part of a double album that was supposed to be packaged with Oxnard, it actually makes more sense for Ventura to have been released separately. Last year was strictly hip-hop, but this year, his focus was on R&B. The Smokey Robinson duet, "Make It Better," turned out to be one of the best songs in all of 2019.
Listen to: "Make It Better"
46. Fear Inoculum, Tool -- 3.5500
It's been 13 years since Tool's last album and they've still got it. At least that's what I've read. I personally wasn't big on the band when I was 16, and I know they've been around for a minute, but as I continue to expand and discover new sounds as I get older, their sound is something I can get on board with. It's complex layers and elongated dream-like soundscapes make for one grandiose project.
Listen to: "7empest"
45. Rap or Go to the League, 2 Chainz -- 3.5714
>>> Listen to: "Momma I Hit A Lick"
44. Angel's Pulse, Blood Orange -- 3.5769
>>> Listen to: "Benzo"
43. Diaspora, GoldLink -- 3.5770
>>> Listen to: "Maniac"
42. i,i, Bon Iver -- 3.5833
>>> Listen to: U (Man Like)
41. Free Spirit, Khalid -- 3.5882
>>> Listen to: "Talk"
40. No. 6 Collaborations Project, Ed Sheeran -- 3.6000
Twenty-two. That's the number of featured artists on this collaborative compilation. Sure, it has no theme or cohesiveness to it, but you have to admit that it's a pretty fun listen. When and where will you ever hear one single track that has Ed Sheeran and Meek Mill or Young Thug again? The answer: nowhere. Highlights include the groovy "I Don't Want Your Money" with H.E.R. and the rock 'n' roll anthem "BLOW" with Chris Stapleton and a face-melting guitar solo from Bruno Mars.
Listen to: "BLOW"
39. The Big Day, Chance the Rapper -- 3.6053
Say what you want. Call it "the worst album of the year." Hate me for putting this on the list. Whatever. I like this album. Yes, it's long. Yes, Chance obviously (very obviously) loves his wife, but I admire the effort and story behind the album. He just wanted to make a playlist of songs that he would've wanted to hear at his own wedding and so he did. Can he have some points for getting support for En Vogue, Death Cab For Cutie, and Randy Newman on one album? Thanks.
Listen to: "Hot Shower"
38. Cuz I Love You (Deluxe), Lizzo -- 3.6071
Lizzo deserves all the success she's gotten in 2019 and it's all because of one short scene in a Netflix movie called Someone Great starring Gina Rodriguez. Quite literally an overnight celebrity, the Minnesota native's "Truth Hurts" became every "bad bitches" anthem this year, even though it was released two years ago. Since her explosion, the flute-playing, tequila drinking queen has been billed as a headliner at multiple music festivals, was tapped to be the musical guest for SNL's prestigious Christmas episode and is the most nominated artist at the 2020 Grammys. You go, Lizzo!
Listen to: "Cuz I Love You"
37. Ignorance is Bliss, Skepta -- 3.6154
I really, really, really wish grime/UK rap was bigger in the United States. Skepta is currently one of the best out there and his talent should not go unnoticed. The follow-up to his excellent 2016 album, Konnichiwa, proves that he's a consistent emcee and he will be one of a handful of names responsible for bringing grime to America. He's also reportedly dating Adele. So he's got that going on for him.
Listen to: "Gangsta"
36. On The Line, Jenny Lewis -- 3.6364
Despite the controversy of Ryan Adams' involvement with this album (that Lewis claims she knew nothing about), the album still turned out pretty great. The former lead vocalist of Rilo Kiley has found major success in her solo career and nostalgiac sounds.
Listen to: "Little White Dove"
35. Dedicated, Carly Rae Jepsen -- 3.6667
>>> Listen to: "Feels Right"
34. Assume Form, James Blake -- 3.6923
>>> Listen to: "Where's The Catch?"
33. KIRK, DaBaby -- 3.6924
>>> Listen to: "REALLY"
32. Remind Me Tomorrow, Sharon Van Etten - 3.7000
>>> Listen to: "Seventeen"
31. Flamagra, Flying Lotus -- 3.7222
>>> Listen to: "Black Balloons Reprise"
30. Morbid Stuff, PUP -- 3.7273
Formerly known as Topanga, the rebranded Canadian punk quartet, PUP, released their third full-length LP. It is indeed riddled with "morbid stuff" (just look at the album cover), such as dealing with depression and not having a sense of direction, but it's earnest and ironically fun to listen to.
Listen to: "See You at Your Funeral"
29. The Lost Boy, YBN Cordae -- 3.7308
Out of all the talent presented in XXL's Freshman Class of 2019, YBN Cordae stands out as one of the best of the bunch. (Second to DaBaby.) (Also, second to all the females.) (So basically fifth, but that's still pretty good!) His debut album is strong, but it's the back-and-forth, braggadocio, Anderson .Paak-assisted track, "RNP," that sold me on Cordae. It's one of the best songs of the year and it proves that he can keep up and that he has a bright future ahead of him.
Listen to: "RNP"
28. Shea Butter Baby, Ari Lennox -- 3.7500
Ari Lennox is to J. Cole's Dreamville what SZA is to Kendrick Lamar's Top Dawg Entertainment. They're each the first ladies of their respective labels, but don't even think about getting them confused. Lennox's delivers a sultry-filled, neo-soul debut that is uniquely hers. She takes you on a spiritual journey, which you can comfortably enjoy from your own couch with a close friend or two. Blunt not included.
Listen to: "BMO"
27. CrasH Talk, ScHoolboy Q -- 3.7501
Q broke his streak of releasing an album every two years and instead waited three to drop CrasH Talk, but it was only to honor and respect one of his closest friends, the late Mac Miller. The wait was well worth it and got some of Q's hardest bars on the outstanding "Numb Numb Juice" and the perfect pairing on "CHopstix" with Travis Scott.
Listen to: "Numb Numb Juice"
26. Jesus is King, Kanye West -- 3.7727
Just one year after the bizarre poopy-di-scoop of "Lift Yourself" and claiming to be "a sick fuck" who likes to "quick fuck" on "I Love It," it seems that West has immediately let go of the hazardous whirlwind that was 2018. When 2019 rolled around, Kanye had a strong sense of faith and began to host Sunday Service all over the continent week after week. His goal was to spread love and positivity with Jesus is King and he somehow managed to do that with a Clipse reunion and zero profanities or crack talk from Pusha T.
Listen to: "Use This Gospel"
25. Titanic Rising, Weyes Blood -- 3.7778
>>> Listen to: "Andromeda"
24. Anger Management, Rico Nasty & Kenny Beats - 3.7857
>>> Listen to: "Big Titties"
23. GINGER, BROCKHAMPTON -- 3.7917
>>> Listen to: "ST. PERCY"
22. Hollywood's Bleeding, Post Malone -- 3.7941
>>> Listen to: "Take What You Want From Me"
21. GREY Area, Little Simz -- 3.8000
>>> Listen to: "Pressure"
20. All Mirrors, Angel Olsen -- 3.8182
Following up on her 2016 breakout, My Woman, Olsen's fourth studio album is arguably her best. She conveys a new sound and vulnerability, and has even self-described the album as "owning up to your darkest side, finding the capacity for new love, and trusting change even when you feel like a stranger."
Listen to: "Chance"
19. Young Enough, Charly Bliss -- 3.8183
The bubblegrunge Brooklyn-based band puts forth a record about real-life growth and also made a conscious effort to explore new sounds, heavy on the synthesizers. The upbeat pop sounds will have you dancing, but the dark lyrics will have you second-guessing why you're moving in the first place. Either way, lead vocalist, Eva Hendricks, wants listeners to feel "the opposite of broken."
Listen to: "Under You"
18. The Lion King: The Gift, Various Artists -- 3.8214
Leave it to none other than the biggest female pop star on the planet to curate a soundtrack to one of the year's highest-grossing films, The Lion King. Beyoncé, much like what Kendrick Lamar did to Black Panther's soundtrack in 2018, gathered some of the best African and African-American talents she could find and compiled them all into one album. The result is a celebration of R&B, afrobeat, and hip-hop.
Listen to: "MOOD 4 EVA"
17. Father of the Bride, Vampire Weekend -- 3.8333
Six years after their previous effort, Vampire Weekend came back with a socially and environmentally conscious double album in 2019 (all that's missing is founding member Rostam Batmanglij, but it's all good; there's no bad blood between them!). The album title refers to the "ties that bind" and Ezra Koenig has also explained that this record is about life moving on. After all the death they sang about on Modern Vampires of The City, FOTB is a nice refreshing take.
Listen to: "Stranger"
16. While We Wait, Kehlani -- 3.8334
Technically a mixtape, I'm including WWW on this list because it's too good to ignore. The queen of teasing 30-second snippets and then waiting weeks or months before releasing the actual single, Kehlani gave us a nine-track compilation that just might be the most R&B thing I've heard all year. "Morning Glory" is the best track that TLC never released and is one of my favorite songs of the year.
Listen to: "Morning Glory"
15. Bandana, Freddie Gibbs & Madlib - 3.8571
>>> Listen to: "Palmolive"
14. PSYCHODRAMA, Dave -- 3.8636
>>> Listen to: "Location"
13. American Football (LP3), American Football -- 3.8750
>>> Listen to: "Uncomfortably Numb"
12. Heard It In A Past Life, Maggie Rogers -- 3.8751
>>> Listen to: "Give A Little" / "On + Off"
11. Beware of the Dogs, Stella Donnelly -- 3.8846
>>> Listen to: "Tricks"
10. WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP, WHERE DO WE GO?, Billie Eilish - 3.8847
At just 17 years old, Billie Eilish was the second most popular female artist of 2019 and is easily the biggest breakout star of the year. Her debut album shattered expectations, was the most pre-added album on Apple Music in 2019, and easily hit number 1 on the Billboard charts. The young phenom quickly became one of the most sought after artists and proved she could handle all of her success without once acting like someone she's not.
Listen to: "you should see me in a crown"
09. Reward, Cate Le Bon -- 3.9000
The Welsh singer-songwriter's fifth studio album portrays a life of aloneness and solitude, which works well for Le Bon. Especially since she took it upon herself during the album's process by attending architecture school and learning how to build chairs. The sounds are minimalistic, severely woozy, calming, and easy to get lost in. It's a daydream with sprinkles of nightmares here and there.
Listen to: "Daylight Matters"
08. Outer Peace, Toro y Moi - 3.9001
Chaz Bear is decades into the future with Outer Peace as he takes synthpop to the next level. It's obvious on this album that he's truly challenging himself to step out of his comfort zone and gain an immense amount of confidence. Taking influence from modern R&B, house music, and Daft Punk, Toro y Moi produced the funkiest album of 2019.
Listen to: "Freelance"
07. So Much Fun, Young Thug -- 3.9211
It's hard to comprehend, but So Much Fun is actually Thugger's debut album and it's, well, so much fun to listen to. And I like to think that's all he wanted to do here. I imagine that he got together with a bunch of friends in the studio and made whatever the hell they wanted, which in turn became an excellent compilation of mumble rap tracks. Jeffrey easily secures himself as a pioneer in 2010s hip-hop right at the tail end of the decade.
Listen to: "Sup Mate" / "Circle of Bosses"
06. ZUU, Denzel Curry -- 3.9500
To simply put it, ZUU is a tribute to Curry's hometown of Miami, Florida. "ZUU" also happens to be a nickname for the specific Miami city he grew up in, Carol City. And although his beats may be South Florida, his razor-sharp bars almost seem more Atlanta-esque, but that's what sets him apart from his local heroes, such as Rick Ross, Trick Daddy, Trina, and Plies. However, he easily proves that he can hold his own and be a maybe even be a part of the Miami Mount Rushmore one day.
Listen to: "RICKY"
05. uknowwhatimsayin¿, Danny Brown -- 3.9545
One of the most distinct voices in hip-hop came into 2019 with his most ambitious effort yet. Tapping Q-Tip to executive produce his album, you know Brown meant serious business with uknowwhatimsayin¿. At least in a logistical sense. The 38-year-old Detroit native still made time to have fun and create gems like "Dirty Laundry," which is his version of standup comedy in the form of rap ("Fuck a stripper for change, actual change / Dime, penny, nickels, actual change"). True comedy.
Listen to: "Dirty Laundry"
04. Legacy! Legacy!, Jamila Woods -- 4.0000
Frequent Chance the Rapper collaborator, Jamila Woods' neo-soul sounds are front and center and better than ever on Legacy! Legacy! It's her time to shine, but at the same time, she also pays homage to historical black figures as each track is named after a different one ("EARTHA," "MILES," "BASQUIAT"). Ones who have left legacies. The album is expertly composed and combined with warm and inviting lyrics. It's just a matter of time before we see a track entitled "JAMILA" later down the road.
Listen to: "SONIA" / "BETTY (For Boogie)"
03. Norman Fucking Rockwell!, Lana Del Rey -- 4.0357
Lana Del Rey has released six full-length albums in the 2010s but nailed it this year with Norman Fucking Rockwell!, her best to date. The baroque pop star partnered with new collaborator and ultra-hit maker, fun.'s Jack Antonoff, and explored sounds inspired by the Red Hot Chilli Peppers and Laruel Canyon, according to Del Rey. The product is a close-to-perfect arrangement of well-written songs where we finally get the best version of Del Rey.
Listen to: "Venice Bitch"
02. thank u, next, Ariana Grande -- 4.0417
Ariana Grande has had an unbelievable few years filled with major tragedy (the Manchester arena bombing, the loss of Mac Miller, breaking off her engagement to Pete Davidson), but there were also incredible successes (broke the record for most singles sold by any female artist ever in a calendar year, became the youngest artist to ever headline Coachella, etc.). Teased during the latter half of 2018, thank u, next's title track and the second single released earlier this year, "7 rings," were Genius' most searched songs in the respective years they were released. A site that's typically used to look up rap lyrics was dominated by a 26-year-old pop star. Go figure.
It also seemed that no one expected an album that was set to release just shy of seven months after it's predecessor (sweetener), to end up being her best one yet. What makes it even more impressive is that this is Grande's first time co-writing each song on an album and she didn't even need to rely on features. It's weird to say, but we are definitely grateful for Ari's exes, too.
Listen to: "7 rings" / "NASA"
01. IGOR, Tyler, The Creator -- 4.3636
IGOR takes the crown as 2019's album of the year. It's a conceptual album that quite literally plays in an endless loop if you keep it on repeat. This only makes things hurt more but in a good way, at least for the listener. This is Tyler at his most vulnerable state and he finally opens up to give us a personal tour to that side of him. We get to watch him fall in love, spawn an unhealthy obsession, watch his world eventually crumble, and then root for him as he attempts to remain friends with his former love interest. Then the cycle begins again.
The album contains no songs less than a 4 out of 5, which no other album on my list achieved. Tyler has every right to be donned the king (or queen; whichever he prefers) of the year, but don't even get me started on his snub for an Album of the Year Grammy nomination in 2020. In the end, and in some cases, Grammys don't matter. Let's just all give a round of applause to Tyler Okonma for executing an album all on his very own.
Listen to: "EARFQUAKE" / "I THINK"
Do you agree or disagree with my ranking? What did I miss? Shoot me an email or tag me on Twitter or Instagram (@justinrecio). I'm always up for debate.