'Tis the season, and what a season it has been been. What 2016 lacked in normalcy, it definitely made up for in good music.
Through many months of analysis and lots of last-minute decisions, I have finally compiled a list of my top albums released in 2016:
9. Drake – Views
Drake's Views released at the end of April, and it was all I listened to during my last month of college. It's apparently the only thing everybody else listened to, too, because, last week, iTunes named Views the top-selling album of 2016. While everybody seems to have an opinion about Drake's 2016 release, I can't deny "Feel No Ways" had me feeling some type of way.
8. Bon Iver – 22, A Million
I clearly remember my first time listening to Bon Iver's 22, A Million. My girlfriend and I were driving through Cottonwood Pass in Colorado when a beautiful view of the Collegiate Peaks appeared before us. Playing in the background was "8 (circle)," and everything felt right. Since that first listen, 22, A Million has become the quintessential Colorado album for me.
7. Solange – A Seat at the Table
I'll be honest in saying, before this year, Solange wasn't someone I listened to other than the occasional feature on another artist's song. However, A Seat at the Table absolutely blew my mind and cemented Solange in my head as someone to continue listening to. She beautifully captures the struggle of the black experience with songs like "Don't Touch My Hair" and "Weary."
6. Francis & The Lights – Farewell, Starlite!
Listening to Chance the Rapper's Coloring Book this past spring, I was introduced to Francis & The Lights on their collaboration, "Summer Friends." Then, at a Chance concert I went to in September, Francis opened and performed his entire Farewell, Starlite! album. He didn't disappoint, and neither did the studio version of this album. It also doesn't hurt to be joined by artists like Kanye West and Bon Iver.
5. Jamila Woods – HEAVN
You might recognize Jamila Woods from the hooks on Chance the Rapper's "Sunday Candy" and "Blessings." But, on her solo debut HEAVN, she shows she has a voice of her own discussing topics like police brutality, pride in her blackness, and her hometown of Chicago. This album expresses anger while also providing hope, which oftentimes characterizes the black experience in America.
4. Frank Ocean – Blond
After experiencing Frank Ocean's debut album, Channel Orange, in 2012, fans, like myself, waited in anticipation for years for his next project. So much so, that it became frustrating with anger often expressed in the form of memes. Then, this year, before creeping back into the shadows, Frank delivered Blond, a complicated compilation of beautiful melodies and rapper-like bars.
3. Bruno Mars – 24K Magic
Over the past few years, Bruno Mars has grown on me, but I never let him get too close because I viewed him as a radio pop artist. I gave my heart away with "Uptown Funk" and then it became the most overplayed song in America. However, 24K Magic broke me open in a way I didn't expect it to. Applying teachings from James Brown and Babyface, Bruno captures the funk and 80's/90's R&B we've all been missing.
2. Kanye West – The Life of Pablo
This isn't the most popular confession to make right now, but I'm probably what you would call a Kanye West stan. Hung above my desk at work are cover art prints from Kanye's Graduation and MBDTF albums. I ran home from class to watch Kanye's Yeezy Season 3 fashion show where he debuted songs from The Life of Pablo, and I freaked out when I heard the drop on "Father Stretch My Hands, Pt. 1." From the outside looking in, it's not difficult to tell Kanye has a lot going on in his head, and he pours it all out on this album.
1. Chance the Rapper – Coloring Book
As a young black boy, Chance the Rapper's Coloring Book was super important to me. I grew up with my mom dragging me to black churches with gospel choirs like Chance features on this mixtape. My grandma had "How Great is our God" and Kirk Franklin playing in her car at all times. During middle school and high school, I became disillusioned with gospel music. Then, as I came to appreciate my blackness more, I also gained a greater appreciation for gospel music, because the two are intertwined. Coloring Book reminds me where I came from and gives me hope in where I'm going.
- Childish Gambino – Awaken, My Love!
- Anderson .Paak – Malibu
- Beyoncé – Lemonade
- Rihanna – ANTI
I'd love to hear what you picked for your top albums of 2016! Tweet us your picks!