While it’s been a pretty lacklustre year for media releases like movies and TV, musicians have more than picked up the slack. While being locked up with too much time to ourselves, we’ve found adding a banger to the queue has helped lift our spirits and transport us away to another world. If you’re overwhelmed by this year’s music releases, worry not, because we’ve curated the best albums of 2020. All albums were ranked by cultural significance, streams, record sales and for general playability, so don’t get your knickers in a twist if your favourite artist didn’t make it. Similarly, don’t get upset that Taylor Swift charted well, after all, it was a record-breaking year for the popstar.
With that being said, your next road trip, party, or shower is sorted, with the best songs and albums of an otherwise average year. So, let’s drop the needle and get listing.
Table of contents
- 1. Dua Lipa – Future Nostalgia
- 2. Taylor Swift – Folklore
- 3. Lime Cordiale – 14 Steps to a Better You
- 4. The Weeknd – After Hours
- 5. Glass Animals – Dreamland
- 6. DMA’S – The Glow
- 7. Tame Impala – The Slow Rush
- 8. Bad Bunny – YHLQMDLG
- 9. Post Malone – Hollywood’s Bleeding
- 10. Harry Styles – Fine Line
- 11. Violent Soho – Everything is A-Ok
- 12. Lil Baby – My Turn
- 13. Mac Miller – Circles
- 14. Ariana Grande – Positions
- 15. Fiona Apple – Fetch the Bolt Cutters
- 16. Megan Thee Stallion – Good News
- 17. Charli XCX – How I’m Feeling Now
- 18. Pop Smoke – Shoot For the Stars Aim For The Moon
- 19. The Chats – High Risk Behaviour
- 20. Haim – Women in Music Pt. III
- 21. Jay Electronica – A Written Testimony
- 22. Phoebe Bridgers – Punisher
- 23. Drake – Dark Lane Demo Tapes
- 24. Lil Uzi Vert – Eternal Atake
- 25. Miiesha – Nyaaringu
- 26. Justin Bieber – Changes
- 27. Run the Jewels – RTJ4
- 28. Halsey – Manic
- 29. Machine Gun Kelly – Tickets to My Downfall
- 30. Caribou – Suddenly
- General FAQ
1. Dua Lipa – Future Nostalgia
As the name on the box suggests, this album is a masterful fusion of music from all eras. Taking inspiration from the greats of the ‘70s, ‘80s, and ‘90s, and combining this with Dua Lipa’s witty lyrics and modern club influence, results in an album that’ll have you dancing no matter where you are. The lead single ‘Don’t Start Now’ is a great entry point if you’re new to Lipa’s sound.
Artist: Dua Lipa
Release date: 27 March 2020
Recorded: January 2018 – November 2019
Producers: Jeff Bhasker, Jason Evigan, Stephen Kozmeniuk, Ian Kirkpatrick, SG Lewis, Stuart Price, Andrew Watt
Genres: Disco, Pop music, Electro, Dance-pop
2. Taylor Swift – Folklore
It’s no secret that Taylor Swift can write a banger. Swift has written top of the charts pop songs you can belt out in celebration or in tears, but that’s not what this album is about. Recorded in quarantine, Folklore is an album free of the usual studio interference. This instead allows Swift to experiment with new tones and themes in her music. This album is a celebration of Swifts stellar songwriting skills, and if you don’t believe us, give ‘Mirrorball’ a spin.
Artist: Taylor Swift
Release date: 24 July 2020
Producer: Aaron Dessner; Jack Antonoff; Taylor Swift
Genres: Pop music, Folktronica, Alternative rock, Indie folk
3. Lime Cordiale – 14 Steps to a Better You
As a Sydney-sider, there’s a sense of pride that comes from talking about Lime Cordiale. The Leimbach brothers have blown up on the Australian scene, for their inventive and unique style. Their album, 14 Steps to a Better You refines their already brilliant sound, with 14 tracks to fill out that beachside, summertime playlist. If you’re new to the band, give their single ‘Robbery’ a play and don’t look back.
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Artist: Lime Cordiale
Release date: 10 July 2020
Producer: Dave Hammer
Label: Chugg Music / London Cowboys
4. The Weeknd – After Hours
Breaking onto the scene with the pop-friendly ‘Can’t Feel My Face’, The Weeknd has worked hard to become a mainstay on the charts. The single ‘Blinding Lights’ from After Hours was huge on Tiktok, cementing The Weeknd in pop culture and the charts. The rest of the album is a mix between these pop hits and slow post-breakup songs that show off the artist’s R&B vocals.
Artist: The Weeknd
Release date: 20 March 2020
Genres: Dream pop, Rhythm and blues, New wave
5. Glass Animals – Dreamland
The Glass Animals are back, after a tragedy that almost ended the Oxford act. In 2018 drummer Joe Seaward was hit by a truck, breaking a leg, fracturing his skull, and suffering from severe brain damage. Re-learning to walk, talk, and drum, the band is back together, for one of their most personal albums yet. Writing from an autobiographical perspective, lead singer Dave Bayley recounts childhood memories of abusive relationships and a primary school friend who went on to become a school shooter. The pure emotion of these tracks makes them worth a listen.
Artist: Glass Animals
Release date: 7 August 2020
Producer: Dave Bayley; Paul Epworth;
6. DMA’S – The Glow
You may know DMA’S for their unbashful Britpop sound, but on this album, they’ve chosen to expand beyond that. While the truly mesmerising lead vocals remain, this new album leans towards upbeat dance instead of sunny afternoon chill-outs. This isn’t to say that the lyrics of these new tracks are forgettable, rinse and repeat dancefloor white noise, far from it. The DMA’S express vulnerability and positivity in the wake of such an abominable year. If you’re eager to listen to this new DMA’S sound, try title track ‘The Glow’.
Release date: 10 July 2020
Producer: Stuart Price
Label: Infectious Music
7. Tame Impala – The Slow Rush
Cementing his place in history as one of the best music producers to come from Australia, Kevin Parker knocks it out of the park again with Tame Impala’s The Slow Rush. Taking Parker five years to mix, the album blew up on release, debuting at number three on the Billboard 200. Fans were just as receptive to the album, itching for new Tame Impala content. If you listen to anything, try the single ‘Lost in Yesterday’. The song is a nostalgia-heavy banger that’ll have you toe-tapping and trying to match the heights of Parker’s voice.
Artist: Tame Impala
Release date: 14 February 2020
Producer: Kevin Parker
Genres: Disco, Soft rock, Psychedelic pop
8. Bad Bunny – YHLQMDLG
Only one of the three albums Bad Bunny released in 2020, YHLQMDLG is certainly the boldest. The title of the album is a shorter version for the Puerto Rican phrase “Yo Hago Lo Que Me Da La Gana”, which translates to “I do whatever I want”. This is clearly the case as you make your way down the track list, as Bad Bunny genre bends all over the shop from rock to reggae. Bad Bunny is showing no signs of slowing down, and if you want to see what all the fuss is about, have a listen ‘Safaera’.
Artist: Bad Bunny
Release date: 29 February 2020
Genre: Reggaeton; Latin trap; Alternative reggaeton; Hip hop
9. Post Malone – Hollywood’s Bleeding
Post Malone is another one of those music megastars who just can’t help but make hits. Every track on his second album Beerbongs and Bentleys made the charts in the US, as well as breaking streaming records and earning the artist a Grammy nomination. On his new album, Hollywood’s Bleeding, Malone continues to break genres and test his musical limits. With seemingly every musician in Hollywood invited in on the fun, you’ll find features from Ozzy Osborne to Future. Because there is such a range of genres in his music, it’s hard for us to recommend just one Post Malone song, but give ‘Circles’ a try for your new summer anthem.
Artist: Post Malone
Release date: 6 September 2019
Recorded: June 2018 – July 2019
Genres: Pop music, Hip hop music
10. Harry Styles – Fine Line
Long gone now are the days of One Direction, for now, we’re in the age of Harry Styles. You can’t go anywhere without seeing an article on the style icon, but is his music as renowned as his celebrity reputation? Thankfully, yes. Styles’ Fine Line album is filled with ‘70s inspired pop and rock that firmly holds place on charts around the world. Singles ‘Watermelon Sugar’ and ‘Adore You’ are clear highlights of the album, inspiring even the worst dancers to get up and give it a go.
Artist: Harry Styles
Release date: 13 December 2019
Genre: Pop rock
Producers: Jeff Bhasker, Kid Harpoon, Tyler Johnson, Greg Kurstin
11. Violent Soho – Everything is A-Ok
You’d easily be mistaken in thinking that this album was a quarantine project, made to put the world at ease during a year with more downs than ups. But no, Everything is A-Ok has been in the works at Violent Soho HQ for some time now. Swapping aggression for confidence, you’ll hear a range of instant classics on the album. Nowhere is this more evident than in the lead single ‘Vacation Forever’, a slower beat for the band.
Artist: Violent Soho
Release date: 3 April 2020
Label: I OH YOU
Producer: Greg Wales
12. Lil Baby – My Turn
Way back at the start of 2020, Lil Baby released his second album My Turn. This marked a huge improvement in the rapper’s lyrical abilities, his songs becoming anthems to audiences who found truth in his words. His surprisingly political track ‘The Bigger Picture’ became an anthem of the Black Lives Matter movement and cemented itself and Lil Baby into the history books. While it’s not a political album, we recommend listening to this track first, to see just how talented the rapper has become.
Artist: Lil Baby
Release date: 28 February 2020
Studio: First Class Sounds; Patchwerk; Quality Control (Atlanta)
Label: Quality Control/Motown Records
13. Mac Miller – Circles
Circles is the posthumous album by the late, great Mac Miller. On the album, Miller branches out from the rapping he’d become famous for, instead exploring melodic tracks that he’d been experimenting with on previous albums. It’s a shame we’ll never get to hear this new sound explored deeper by Miller, but this album displays the potential of what that album could’ve been. If you need a better understanding of the artist Miller was, give ‘Good News’ a listen.
Artist: Mac Miller
Release date: 17 January 2020
14. Ariana Grande – Positions
Fair warning, Positions isn’t one of those albums you can put on while on a country-side drive with the family. The album is littered with innuendos and intimate moments, such as in the track ‘34+35’ (nice). The lyrics do, however, go deeper than this. Grande is learning to love and accept herself again after years of heartbreak and sorrow. This acceptance of vulnerability makes the album all the more mature, but again we have to stress, not one to listen to with the family.
Artist: Ariana Grande
Release date: 30 October 2020
Label: Republic Records
Genres: Pop music, Trap music, Rhythm and blues, Contemporary R&B
15. Fiona Apple – Fetch the Bolt Cutters
Fiona Apple’s Fetch the Bolt Cutters is as much a piece of art as it is an album. Tracks are filled with unpolished background noise, and the barks of dogs are a regularly used instrument. All this culminates in Apple’s first album since 2012, a wild ride that won’t be shut up by anyone. The track ‘Ladies’ sees Apple seeking a friendship with her ex’s new partner, and ‘Shameika’ depicts a childhood compliment that encouraged her to start music.
Artist: Fiona Apple
Release date: 17 April 2020
Producer: Fiona Apple; Amy Aileen Wood; Sebastian Steinberg; Davíd Garza;
Recorded: July 2015 – March 2020
16. Megan Thee Stallion – Good News
We don’t have to tell you how great Megan Thee Stallion is, because she’s more than willing to tell you herself. Throughout her latest album Good News you’ll find lyrics of self-empowerment and flattery, as she takes down her haters along with a long list of injustices in the world. On this album alone she demands justice for Breonna Taylor and confronts misogynistic violence, all with the backing of serious hip-hop hits. If you want a full glass of badass, start with the track ‘Circles’.
Artist: Megan Thee Stallion
Release date: 20 November 2020
Label: 300 Entertainment
17. Charli XCX – How I’m Feeling Now
While locked up in isolation, many people read, did puzzles, baked bread. Charli XCX created a redefining album over the space of a few small weeks. How I’m Feeling Now is a departure from her usual party girl dance floor hits in favour of a more sentimental, reflective album. This isn’t to say those quirky musical hooks don’t still feature, its more that the lyrics are now eating cereal rather than ripping up the dance floor.
Artist: Charli XCX
Release date: 15 May 2020
Producer: Dylan Brady; BJ Burton; A. G. Cook; Dijon; Benjamin Keating; Danny L Harle
Label: Atlantic Records UK
18. Pop Smoke – Shoot For the Stars Aim For The Moon
The second posthumous album release on our list of the best albums of 2020, Pop Smoke’s Shoot For the Stars Aim For The Moon is another album that demonstrates the potential that could have been. The artist was relatively new to the commercial world of rap music, so you can sense Smoke’s still finding his feet a little. But certain lyrics and hooks across the album act as windows into what could have been if not for the rappers untimely passing. The track ‘44 Bulldog’ is the best example of this.
Artist: Pop Smoke
Release date: 3 July 2020
Genre: Hip hop; drill; trap; R&B;
Producers: 50 Cent, Pop Smoke, Steven Victor, Rico Beats
19. The Chats – High Risk Behaviour
The self-proclaimed greatest band in history, Australian rock act The Chats have been on the up and up since their ‘Smoko’ debut. This ARIA nominated album High Risk Behaviour is loaded with more of the fast paced, heavy rock tunes we’ve come to love from the boys, with so much cheek and character it’s hard not to smile while you rock out. Our personal favourite tracks from the album include ‘The Clap’ and ‘Dine N Dash’, each with a music video that’s just as entertaining.
Artist: The Chats
Release date: 27 March 2020
Label: Bargain Bin Records
20. Haim – Women in Music Pt. III
Haim has been major voices in the music scene for over a decade now. This is why it shouldn’t surprise you that their album Women in Music Pt. III is filled with more inventive, inspired bangers. Lyrically, their verses, choruses and everything in between are on fire, covering themes of depression, loss, and misogyny. This is done with a range of influence from musicians like Fleetwood Mac and Sheryl Crow. We recommend starting with the track ‘Hallelujah’ to understand where the sisters are at for this album.
Release date: 26 June 2020
Producer: Danielle Haim; Rostam Batmanglij; Ariel Rechtshaid
Genres: Indie pop, Soft rock
21. Jay Electronica – A Written Testimony
Fans have been waiting a long time for Jay Electronica’s debut album A Written Testimony. And thankfully, it’s been worth the wait. Teaming up with fellow rapper Jay-Z, the album is filled with metaphors describing Jay Elect’s life and experiences. We recommend starting with ‘Shiny Suit Theory’ if you’re new to Jay Electronica.
Artist: Jay Electronica
Release date: 13 March 2020
Producer: Jay Electronica; Swizz Beatz; Hit-Boy; The Alchemist; No I.D. Khruangbin
Recorded: December 26, 2019 – February 6, 2020
Language: English; Arabic
22. Phoebe Bridgers – Punisher
Indie artist Phoebe Bridgers doesn’t try and make up for her lack of experience with big noise and theatrics. On Punisher, the songwriting is what makes it one of the best albums of 2020. Her second full length album, Punisher is loaded with emotional, witty, and sharp lyrics, that’ll make you laugh and cry. Give ‘Garden Song’ a spin for a great example of this.
Artist: Phoebe Bridgers
Release date: 18 June 2020
Producer: Tony Berg; Ethan Gruska; Phoebe Bridgers
23. Drake – Dark Lane Demo Tapes
It wouldn’t be a top music list without an appearance from Drake. His latest album, Dark Lane Demo Tapes isn’t so much as album as a collection of ideas and remixes, made of tracks too good to go to waste. Certainly one of the rappers darker albums, heavy on reflection which is front and centre on the opening track ‘Deep Pockets’.
Release date: 1 May 2020
Recorded: 2017 – 2019
Producers: Cardo, June James, Noel Cadastre, OZ, Pi’erre Bourne, Plain Pat, Sevn Thomas, Southside
24. Lil Uzi Vert – Eternal Atake
Lil Uzi Vert shoots for the stars in his latest album Eternal Atake, quite literally. The concept for the album is extra-terrestrial, meaning that every track has a unique sound to match the vast number of planets in our solar system. This makes for some truly unique and experimental songs, none of which we can fault. We particularly enjoyed ‘Homecoming’ and its throwbacks to late ‘80s hip hop.
Artist: Lil Uzi Vert
Release date: 6 March 2020
25. Miiesha – Nyaaringu
Nyaaringu is the debut album for Indigenous Australian artist Miiesha. The album is a personal and soulful expression of her Indigenous past. Tracks like ‘Black Privilege’ are blunt and truthful, while ‘Drowning’ uses samples from speeches of former Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott. Also filled with interludes from Miiesha’s grandmother, this album is a powerful reminder of the discrimination that goes on in Australia to this day.
Release date: 29 May 2020
Label: EMI Recorded Music Australia Pty Ltd
26. Justin Bieber – Changes
While ever present in the public eye, it’s been a while since we’ve heard new solo content from Justin Bieber. Changes hopes to… well, change that. The album is a collection of pop love songs much like the ones that put the artist on the charts in the first place. While some may argue that this isn’t one of the best albums of 2020, we had a good time with it. If you’re a fan of the Bieb’s, you’re going to love this album.
Artist: Justin Bieber
Release date: 14 February 2020
Recorded: April – October 2019
Studio: Henson Recording Studio; Blackstar Studios, Record Plant Recording Studios
Genres: Pop music, Contemporary R&B, Alternative R&B
27. Run the Jewels – RTJ4
If you think that Run the Jewels aren’t political, you probably also think fish need snorkels to breathe underwater. For their fourth studio album, the duo rallied their troops against the injustices being suffered against black African American’s across the country. Releasing just nine days after George Floyd’s death, tracks like ‘Walking in the Snow’ could be heard blasting from protests, giving this album some serious historical significance.
Artist: Run The Jewels
Release date: 3 June 2020
Label: BMG Rights Management (US) LLC
Producers: El-P, Josh Homme
28. Halsey – Manic
Halsey is no stranger to getting deep and personal through her music, and her latest album Manic is no exception. Using every genre and instrument at her disposal to share her story, Halsey jumps from country to hip hop and beyond. Her unwavering openness makes this one of the most emotional, and one of the best albums of 2020. ‘Graveyard’ seems to be one of the standout hits of the album, so we recommend you try that first.
Release date: 17 January 2020
Genres: Hip hop music, Alternative rock, Hip hop, Contemporary R&B, Pop rock, Synth-pop, Electropop
29. Machine Gun Kelly – Tickets to My Downfall
Machine Gun Kelly transitions here from his traditional rap sound to all out rock ‘n’ roll legend. Releasing at number one on the Billboard 200, the album is loaded with Blink-182 inspired tracks, as well as new rock of Kelly’s own creation. Turn your speaker up to eleven and then rip the dial off, because it’s about time rock made a comeback to the music scene.
Artist: Machine Gun Kelly
Release date: 25 September 2020
Genres: Alternative rock, Emo rap, Pop-punk
Producers: Keith Varon, Machine Gun Kelly, Nick Mira, Travis Barker
30. Caribou – Suddenly
Closing out our list of the best albums of 2020 is Suddenly by Caribou. Having some of the best dance tracks in a year where there were no clubs to go to, Caribou’s latest album the soundtrack of home workouts and Zoom call parties. The tracks of the album fluctuate from celebratory to melancholic, meaning there’s a song for every lockdown mood. Hit shuffle and see what comes up for you.
Artist: Dan Snaith
Release date: 28 February 2020
Label: City Slang
Genres: Pop music, Electronica
Rolling Stone awarded Taylor Swift's Folklore album the best album of 2020.
With an album that went straight to number 3 on the Billboard 100, Kevin Parker of Tame Impala was certainly the biggest Australian artist globally in 2020.
One of the albums producers, Jon Brion, completed the album based on conversations he had had with the late Mac Miller.
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