Top 5 Pop Albums of 2020 That Made Me Forget About the State of the...
National Music Reviews
It’s been a year, to say the least. Amid global pandemics, social justice uprisings, election mayhem and a bottomless well of other turmoil, the always-steady stream of essential new music felt like a consistent hand to hold. But the swathe of new releases wasn’t just an escapist salve during 2020—it also served as a uniting factor, an artistic space for magnifying voices and echoing collective grief. So whether the sounds presented here soothe, incite, empathize or excise, we hope that our picks for the best albums of 2020 provide you with some sonic friends that heal your soul in one way or another.
Nial Horan – Heartbreak Weather
Lauv – ~how i’m feeling~
Halsey – Manic
Taylor Swift – Folklore
Dua Lipa – Future Nostalgia
Halsey = Julia Michaels + Zara Larsson + Lorde
Way back in January, when Halsey released her third studio album, Manic, my first thought was, “this is a radical album.” It’s a whirlwind, 16-song chase after a feeling of catharsis, or more simply, trying to figure out who exactly you are and how you fit into this world. In retrospect—after what can be astutely described as a manic year—this album is much more than that. For Halsey, these sounds might remain the same: a collection of songs that embrace who she is, and how she’s still figuring that out, one day at a time.
But for listeners, Manic is a reminder that nothing is set in stone. As 2020 has so cruelly reminded us, the world is constantly changing. The message behind Manic hits differently now. It’s not just a diary of Halsey’s—it’s a cautionary tale that, even within the worst of times, there are good moments. 2020 is a wild combination of the jeering, alarm-raising, in-your-face energy of “3am” and the soft-spoken, slowed-down words of “929.”
The fact of the matter is that there’s a lesson to apply to 2020 from every song on Manic. It’s one of my favorite albums of the year not just because I’m a big fan of Halsey, but because she was able to open up about herself in a way that is so true and real. Every once in a while, artists will make albums that are completely themselves—every chord, every lyric, every sonic choice screams them; that they are laying their souls bare in this collection of songs.
And when this happens, it’s really something. Manic is exactly that: a beautiful collection of who Halsey really is, beyond the headlines. But it’s also a reminder that who you are isn’t a finite thing—it’s constantly evolving, just as it should be. –Palak Jayswal