Top albums of 2020: looking back at the year in music

Updated: Jan 25, 2021

by Sophia Palacios

Kid Cudi during a 2018 performance. (Getty Images.)

Many people can can that 2020 has definitely been a year full of chaos, surprises, and changes. Now that the year is coming to an end, I feel it is time to look back at some of the more positive things 2020 had to offer. I don't know about you, but music has been a complete outlet for me to escape the harsh reality of each and every situation thrown my way. Music has given me the opportunity to dance when I need to, cry when I need to, and vibe when I need to. To celebrate the end of 2020, here are my Top 10 albums that have dropped this year, that have never failed to put me in a better place as I am singing along.

10. The New Abnormal - The Strokes

For whatever reason, this album gave me the feeling of nostalgia. Listening to the entire piece made me feel as if I was 10 years old again, which was the age I started listening to The Strokes because of my older brother. With The New Abnormal, it feels as if this band is returning to some of their older work like Is This It and Room On Fire. Overall, this album gives me a warm feeling inside, all while being very catchy (and don't even get me started on the drums). Also: it does set the tone for 2020, where everything happening is the new abnormal.

9. Savage Mode II - 21 Savage

21 drops a sequel to his first album, Savage Mode (2016), working with producer Metro Boomin and actor Morgan Freeman. One thing I really did enjoy about this album were the transitions and how smooth each of them were, along with the narration of Morgan Freeman that was cleverly used. "RIP Luv" was definitely my favorite from the album; I sing along to that song every time (even though I am in a happy and healthy relationship. But that is besides the point). I do feel however the first Savage Mode was better, so if you don't like Savage Mode ll as much as I did, go back and listen to his first one!

8. Positions - Ariana Grande

For me, Positions was Ari´s best album so far. In this she starts a new chapter of her life from the previous album Thank You, Next. Ari has come such a long way with her music and sound. She has surpassed being the 'big popstar' and is starting to sound more versatile. The collabs featuring The Weeknd, Ty Dolla Sign, and Doja Cat were amazing, and the tone of all of her songs was soothing. This album shows so much growth from her, and every time I listen I feel so pretty inside.

7. Shoot For The Stars Aim For The Moon - Pop Smoke

Soon after the late rapper died, this album was set to release and had fans loving and celebrating what he had accomplished. All summer I was jamming to bangers like "Enjoy Yourself" or "Somethin Special." There were lots of features on the album that I personally did not find necessary for him; however, they did make me happy because it showed the world how far he had gotten in his career. As an upcoming artist, Pop Smoke had so much potential. This album shows how much versatility in one sound is super important; it sparks this very warm feeling whenever I listen to it, and will likely always remind me of the summertime.

6. Plastic Hearts - Miley Cyrus

As soon as I heard Miley Cyrus perform "Heart of Glass" at the Jingle Ball, I knew I needed to hear more. I loved how spunky and edgy her version the song was, and more so, how well it completely fit her voice. Suddenly Miley drops a whole album giving us just that. I thought this was some of her best work. I absolutely love this album; it is constantly in my mind and follows me everywhere I go. I love and appreciate this new rockstar Miley is turning into. Her ability to reinvent herself and create amazing music is untouched. If you are the person who likes 80s music, Glam Rock, and artists like Joan Jett and Stevie Nicks, I promise you will not be disappointed by this album.

5. After Hours - The Weeknd

The Weeknd never fails to amaze me. He has one of the best mainstream voices out right now. I have had this album on repeat for weeks! It does not fail to get you in your feelings every time, and further, it is cinematically pleasing to the eye. From music video visuals to lyrics, this work was perfect in all aspects. Every song has its own story that matches the relaxing and catchy instrumentals. The lyrics are very raw, authentic, and relatable, and The Weeknd's songs in general express emotions words fail to explain. This was a great year for The Weeknd, and after listening to this album, you are guaranteed to want more.

4. YHLQMDLG - Bad Bunny

Of course, my Puerto Rican self had to add one of the THREE albums Bad Bunny dropped this year. This album however was on repeat all throughout the summer. There were a variety of many different feelings in this album. One minute I was dancing my heart out, and the next having a complete breakdown in front of my mirror. The album is in Spanish, however I strongly encourage even if you do not speak or understand the language to give it a try. The sounds have an old school 2000´s feel and will definitely make you want to fast forward to some summer party dancing the night away with your friends.

3. The Slow Rush - Tame Impala

After hearing the snippet from the song "Borderline," I was ready for this album. And boy, was I not disappointed. It has been five years since Kevin Parker released any new albums, and this was one for the books. To put it simply, the album was well worth the wait AND the proper listen for its audience. If you are a fan of Tame Impala, it does give off some Currents (2015) vibes but is more mellow and not as psychedelic. It is still very much worth the listen; I recommend for this one you pop in your headphones, close your eyes, and just enjoy the sounds.

2. Chromatica - Lady Gaga

Out of all the albums I have listed, this was the one that has helped lift me up in times of most need during the pandemic, during 2020's many times of turmoil, and during my own personal struggles. This album takes the listener on a quest, a journey throughout different aspects of life. I have felt this album touch me physically, mentally, emotionally, psychologically, and spiritually. Every song has its own deep meaning in helping us realize different aspects and interpretations of ourselves. Not to mention, all of them are bops. Before this release, Gaga worked on projects such as A Star Is Born and Joanne, which were equally fantastic, however different from her usual "art pop" sound. This album has delivered and it will touch many hearts as it already has in these rough times.


Nectar - Joji

Circles - Mac Miller

Eternal Atake - Lil Uzi Vert

Alfredo - Freddie Gibbs


Finally, we reach the end of our list with Mr. Rager. I was WAITING for this album. For context, Cudi released both a Man On The Moon and Man On The Moon II, The Legend Of Mr Rager. It has been 10 YEARS since we have received another release of this ongoing story. Man On The Moon III is the perfect ending to the trilogy. This album looks at Kid Cudi after rehab and battling drug addiction. Feeling reborn for the first time, he realizes that his peace will not last forever. Like the other two MOTM albums, this one is divided into four acts. The first act is the "Return 2 Madness." We hear the iconic MOTM melody, featuring Cudi reflecting on some of the darker times in his past. Throughout this act, it's clear he's lost the peace he had felt before. He uses this act to look back at his past struggles and some of the ongoing inner battles he is fighting; Mr Rager is back, and he's returned back to his crazy party life filled with drugs. In the second act, "The Rager, The Menace," Cudi begins to get out of control. This lifestyle has taken its toll on him mentally. The four songs in this act gives us a look at Cudi glorifying this lifestyle. "Mr. Solo Dolo III," also a continuation of MOTM and MOTM II, ends this act and shows the come-down from the high he had felt early in the album. Even with the partying, Cudi feels as lonely as ever and feels drugs are his only friends. In the third act, "Heart of Rose Gold," Cudi tries to heal. He sees all his internal demons and the people that mattered in his life. He shouts out his mom, his girl, his daughter, and his fans. He realizes that he cannot go back to this depression and so he is learning to love himself. In the fourth and final act, "Powers," Cudi looks back on his quest, sees how far he has come and devoted this act to his fans. Cudi sees the power of his music and shows us that things will get better, and his journey has proven this. This album was the continuation of Cudi's life. It perfectly shows all the struggles and demons he has faced and leaves the message that we are not alone and things will get better. It is the perfect ending to one of the greatest trilogies of all time.