With the year quickly coming to a close, we here at the Jet Fuel Review Blog have been hard at work crafting some year round-up lists for both your enjoyment and contemplation! Just in these past few weeks, Jake and I updated the Jukebox playlist with our least favorite and most favorite tracks of 2016, and fellow music blogger Dan Fiorio has recently written a two-part series on his 25 favorite albums of the past year (Part 1; Part 2). Now, it’s time for Jake and I to reveal to you our respective top ten album lists.
Jake: 2016…honestly, such a bad year in terms of, well, everything. Actually, music was probably the only redeeming factor in what was otherwise a bleak year. Especially as an avid fan of pop music, 2016 delivered some of the most consistent works in nearly a decade. When it came down to narrowing over 20 albums to just ten, it felt wrong — but here I am. And with nine of the ten albums being from female artists, it seems that women just got pop music right this year. Also, keep in mind that this list has changed about five times within the past week, so this is an ever-changing list. But for the purposes of this post, this is my definitive top ten albums of 2016…as of December 16.
Michael: Whether it’s groundbreaking and experimental, simply a lot of fun, a music legend’s harrowing farewell, or a new artist’s welcoming debut, there were dozens of albums I genuinely loved from this year. Many of the albums I adored this year came from either first-time artists or those I’d never heard of before, making 2016 an exciting year of musical discovery for me. I went back and forth on many of these albums, but I feel good about the list I’ve ended up with. Let’s celebrate the music of 2016, because let’s be honest, there wasn’t much else this year to be excited about. (Also, shout-out to Jake for making that awesome header image at the top of this post!)
Before we present you with our actual lists, we will begin with a quick list honoring the albums that were oh-so close to breaking into the top tens. The lists will be in order from number ten to number one, beginning with Jake’s number ten, then my number ten, then Jake’s number nine, and so on and so forth.
The end of June is somehow already upon us. We’ve survived half of 2016. Congratulations, everyone! Have you been enjoying the year’s music releases as much as we have? Whether you’ve kept up with the music scene this year or not, Jake and I want to look back on the first half of this year and present to you the albums (5 from each of us) that you definitely should have been listening to, along with some honorable mentions and what we’re anticipating for the rest of the year. In case you missed it, make sure to also take a look at our top 30 songs from 2016, and maybe take a peek back at our favorite albums in 2015 as well.
Jake: 2016 has easily been one of the most exciting years in music this decade for a number of reasons. With my music taste being rooted in pop music, this year saw some of my favorite artists returning to release what could arguably be their best works. Not only that, but many artists across all genres are experimenting with their sounds and expanding what fans expect from them. With such an already incredible year, it’s hard to narrow it all down to my favorite 5 albums — I had difficulty even picking the honorable mentions! But here is where I have been musically for the past six months.
Michael: What I’ve loved so much about music this year is that almost every album I’ve really enjoyed has caught me off guard. My top 5, represented below, is composed entirely of albums from artists I had no prior knowledge of or interest in. Even my honorable mentions list only contains one record I was looking forward to (Kanye, of course), so this year has been great for discovering amazing talents in music, and that’s especially exciting.
“I was served lemons, but I made lemonade.” A statement made by Jay Z’s grandmother Hattie White at the end of “Freedom,” the 10th track off Beyoncé’s sixth album, Lemonade, proves to be a poignant theme for the superstar’s latest effort. After the astronomical success of her previous self-titled visual album, Beyoncé has followed up with an album that is far more cohesive and immersive than any of her previous efforts.
Lemonade is as somber as it is aggressive. The album tackles personal matters in a way never before seen on a Beyoncé record, dealing with themes such as heartbreak, infidelity, and empowerment. The opening track, “Pray You Catch Me,” sets the tone for the album. The song broods with heartache as Beyoncé copes with questions about her husband’s faithfulness. This begs the question — what exactly is Jay Z doing?
As a child, I loved many things — Gwen Stefani included. Gwen hasn’t released a solo album since my childhood, her last one being 2006’s hip-hop-infused The Sweet Escape.
Since then, Stefani has gone on to release multiple fragrances, a clothing line, and even a record with her band No Doubt. But there’s been no mention of a solo album. It wasn’t until nearly a decade after The Sweet Escape that Gwen dove back into the solo realm, releasing a string of singles that ultimately led to this year’s LP This Is What the Truth Feels Like, a surprisingly fresh and nostalgic take from one of pop’s most eclectic singers.
In 2014, rumblings of a comeback for the singer were prominent. After giving birth to her third son, Apollo, Stefani landed a coaching gig on NBC’s singing competition reality show The Voice.
I Like It When You Sleep, for You Are So Beautiful Yet So Unaware of It. The poignant, yet slightly pretentious title of The 1975’s sophomore album describes a love for something that can be seen as so ordinary, which may be the theme of the record. After releasing their eponymous début record in 2013, the band has returned bolder than ever, this time with a strong influence from 80s rock bands. While the album has dazzling moments, it also comes with some that don’t have as much glitz.
The album kicks off with a self-titled track, “The 1975,” an album intro that is almost identical to the opening track of the same name on their previous effort. The track allows for a continuation of sorts for the band, showing that they’re still going to flirt with their previous sound.
“Love Me,” the album’s first single, is next. The song is brash and funky, driven by a somewhat irritating guitar riff. It’s a great way to discuss the band’s rise to fame, as the song basically turns the idea of a celebrity on its head. The album progresses into a more updated take on nostalgic rock, with tracks “She’s American” and the grooving “This Must Be My Dream” showing that the band is able to infuse the alternative sensibilities of their previous record into the pop dwellings of I Like It When You Sleep.
It’s been a very long road getting here, but the destination has finally been reached — sort of. After years of teasing, Kanye West’s seventh album, The Life of Pablo,has finally been released for streaming only on Tidal (I know what you’re thinking, “who?”). After the release of singles “Only One” and “All Day” in 2015, West went silent about the status of the album. It wasn’t until January of 2016 that West remembered he had an album to make, and announced the album was coming soon.
The album was released to high anticipation, but it was also really messy. Pablo went through many changes, including former album titles So Help Me God, SWISH, and Waves — all eventually left behind due to a shift of mind by Kanye. After those 2015 singles failed to garner the success of previous releases, he went on a hiatus — similar to that of Rihanna with her newly released (and equally as messy) album ANTI — only to return with what is easily his most mixed and experimental album yet.
The Life of Pablo opens with the inspirational “Ultralight Beam,” an uplifting, choir-driven song that almost plays out as a gospel track, discussing West’s faith in God. The track even goes as far as featuring vocals by pastor Kirk Franklin, clearly setting the stage for the most interesting work of West’s career. The album progresses strongly, with highlight “Famous” featuring Rihanna and a questionable lyric about the status of Taylor Swift’s fame, which I will appropriately neglect.
“I got to do things my own way darling,” Rihanna sings on “Consideration,” the opening track to her highly anticipated eighth studio album, ANTI. Actually, to say the album was anticipated is understating just how exhausting the wait for the record really was. Plagued by constant setbacks and multiple shifts in sound, fans were left wondering if this album even existed, and if it would be worth the almost four-year wait.
Well, rejoice! The album does, in fact, exist, and has finally been released. ANTI is meant to be a turning point for Rihanna, pushing the star in a new artistic direction. Though whether said direction is the right one for her is what I’ll be talking about here.
Rihanna first began the album campaign over a year ago by releasing the Kanye West and Paul McCartney assisted track “FourFiveSeconds,” a folk number which proved to be a complete 180-degree career shift in terms of image and sound. After the single performed worse than expected, she followed-up with the controversially good “Bitch Better Have My Money,” a triumphant and aggressive statement that reminded the listener it was she who “called the shots.” She then released “American Oxygen,” a song that was practically dead on arrival. After the song’s release in March, Rihanna took a break. A long, nine month break.