Best of 2016: ‘Lemonade,’ ‘Joanne,’ ‘Blonde,’ and Our Favorite Albums of the Year

Our 'Joanne' Review
Lady Gaga takes big risks and delivers the best album of her career (so far).

In so many ways, 2016 sucked. David Bowie died. Prince died. Leonard Cohen died. Alan Rickman died. Sharon Jones died. Florence Henderson died. Donald Trump was elected President of the United States despite losing the popular vote by a massive margin, so, depending on the way you look at it, democracy kind of died. One area in which 2016 did not suck, however: new albums!

Below, you will find a list of albums our staff chose as the very best of 2016. From Beyoncé‘s highly-acclaimed Lemonade to Lady Gaga’s divisive Joanne to projects from Savages, Mitski, Anderson .Paak, James Blake, Rihanna, and more, these are the albums our staff couldn’t stop listening to (or raving about) in 2016. (The following list is presented in no particular order.)

MitskiPuberty 2

Mitski’s fourth album, Puberty 2, swerves from loud to quiet, vulnerable to empowered, sweet to caustic, and while doing so it never loses track of its powerful emotional through-lines or sense of control. – Matt, Managing Editor

SolangeA Seat at the Table

2016 has been the year of the Knowles sisters. Following the release of Beyoncé’s Lemonade, Solange came out of left field with her third album, A Seat of the Table, eight years after the release of her sophomore album, and the result was poetry. The rich lyricism builds a palpable connection to the artist’s spirit in all of its moments of anger, joy, frustration, and pride in being a black woman. Not to mention, the visual elements for “Cranes in the Sky” and “Don’t Touch My Hair” that were directed by Solange’s husband Alan Ferguson and her supplemental digital book of poetry are masterpieces in themselves.  – Mia, Multimedia Content Producer

Frank OceanBlonde

Blonde is nothing if not beautiful. Blonde is an album to luxuriate in. It was subtler than its predecessor, but no less powerful. Frank Ocean made Blonde to last. – Michael, Editor-in-Chief

Modern BaseballHoly Ghost

While Holy Ghost is not the most cohesive of albums — after all, it was written separately by bandmates Jake Ewald and Brendan Lukens — it is one that hits you in the gut with all the feels. Dealing with loss, depression, and Lukens’ suicide attempt prior to the record’s release, it’s like an emo Speakerboxxx/The Love Below. The two distinct sounds are there, but they all come together to form one good record. – Gabi, Senior Editor

Mac MillerThe Divine Feminine

I’ll be honest, I began listening to the album only truly interested in Mac’s collab with new girlfriend Ariana Grande but kept listening because it’s got everything: the perfect combination of hip-hop, jazz, r&b. Mac Miller just gained a new fan. - Jelani, Editor

James BlakeThe Colour in Anything

Loaded with outlandish textures and loops, this bluesy album is a testament to saying a lot with very little. Like a good book, The Colour in Anything takes you on a journey with an expert guide helping forge through deeply atmosphere tracks pondering all those big nagging questions. - Scott, Editor

Lady GagaJoanne

Joanne puts Lady Gaga’s voice and songwriting skills front-and-center for a diverse set of songs that touch on pop, disco, country, electronic, glam, and other genres. It’s a highly personal record, but it’s also, somehow, her most theatrical and daring. – Matt, Managing Editor

Bruno Mars24K Magic

Bruno Mars’s 24K Magic is a welcome reprieve from the dark events that this year has brought into our reality. Upon my first listen through the album, I texted to a friend, “I feel like I am at a roller disco inside of a bubble gum machine!!!” Several spins later, I still feel the same, but less sticky. It’s a great pop album that will get you through any cardio workout, plus, it features a guest appearance from Halle Berry.  – Mia, Multimedia Content Producer

SavagesAdore Life

Adore Life is less abrasive and severe than their debut, but no less punk. This was less a record of anger and bile, and more one of artfully controlled defiance and grace. No longer hiding behind noise, Savages were celebrating love, life, loss and what it is to be human.  – Michael, Editor-in-Chief

BeyoncéLemonade

Lemonade
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Amazon

Beyoncé finally found the perfect vehicle for her unmatched ambition in the form of Lemonade, a potent and concise collection of songs (and a film) that manages to be simultaneously her most personal project ever and a timely political statement. – Matt, Managing Editor

Again, do I really have to explain why Beyoncé’s Lemonade is good? It’s the perfectly complex and rich. It’s Beyoncé at her most vulnerable and bold. This one will go down in the history books as one of Bey’s best. - Gabi, Senior Editor

RihannaANTI

I was an ANTI skeptic when I first listened to Rihanna’s eighth album, but it slowly grew on me over time. The radio hits (“Work,” “Needed Me”) worked their way into my subconscious and, from there, my appreciation for “Consideration” and “Love On The Brain” pulled the whole album into a big embrace. It’s not the “club hits Rihanna” that we’re used to hearing, but like any great artist, new sounds and new vibes mean exciting growth to come in the future. – Mia, Multimedia Content Producer

PJ HarveyThe Hope Six Demolition Project

Nearly thirty years into her career, PJ Harvey is still pushing her songwriting and compositions to strange, exciting places. For Hope Six, she turned a two-year tour of Kosovo, Afghanistan, and Washington D.C., into a brutal, scathing, and fairly challenging set about war, greed, and, ultimately, humanity. – Matt, Managing Editor

BanksThe Altar

This year, I discovered Banks after everyone else had already found her. I do not regret my late arrival to her music because it haunts me and makes me want to move at the same time. The Altar takes you on a new exploration into the woods of Banks’ sound: enter at your own risk. – Mia, Multimedia Content Producer

DrakeViews

As the Torontonian of the Celebuzz staff, I feel is it my duty to put Drake’s Views on this list. Sure, everything Drake every does is a thinly veiled shoutout to T.O., but the Degrassi alum has really stepped up his game for this record. Though it’s not a perfect album per se, it still has enough smashes to make him Spotify’s most-streamed artist of the year. Like, you seriously cannot get an Uber these days without hearing “One Dance” on the radio. – Gabi, Senior Editor

Sleigh BellsJessica Rabbit

For Sleigh Bells’ fourth album, vocalist Alexis Krauss finally steps forward and claims her voice. The loud, crunchy instrumentals and beats are still there (and more disorienting than ever), but Krauss’ voice and lyrics are now front and center on Jessica Rabbit in a way they weren’t before. And that’s a very, very good thing. – Matt, Managing Editor

Anderson .PaakMalibu

Granted, I live in Southern California but you don’t have to have to live nearby to appreciate Anderson .Paak’s love letter to one of this state’s most scenic and beloved beaches. This eclectic sophomore release is loaded with ambitious experiments that run the gambit from Daft Punk-inspired dance floor anthems to melodious diversions to addictive hip-hop gems. – Scott, Editor

RadioheadA Moon Shaped Pool

A new Radiohead album is always cause for celebration. A gorgeous, mercurial Radiohead album that also includes the studio version of the beloved “True Love Waits” makes A Moon Shaped Pool especially worthy of that celebration. – Matt, Managing Editor

Kanye WestThe Life of Pablo

Kanye West may have caused the biggest feud of 2016 with his song “Famous,” but The Life of Pablo was one of his most personal, introspective albums in recent years . With tracks like “Waves,” “Ultralight Beam,” and “No More Parties in L.A.,” the album is 100% Kanye — just the way fans like it. – Natasha, Editor

Ariana GrandeDangerous Woman

Ariana Grande still has a lot of growing to do, but I am thoroughly enjoying her journey to the top. Her third studio album Dangerous Woman is full of the pop songs and soulful ballads we’ve grown to love from Grande. – Jelani, Editor

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