It’s December, and that can only mean one thing: IT’S TIME FOR YEAR-END LISTS! It truly is the most wonderful time of the year. Throughout the month I’ll be revealing my “Best of…” lists, ranking the top movies, television shows, albums and more of 2018. First up, my favorite albums of the year.
Look, I’m not going to try and convince you that I’m some kind of music expert – I’m not. I know that, and I think it’s important that you do, too.
I’m not constantly listening to music. I don’t live with my headphones on, nor do I keep track of artists or song titles very well, but if I’m in the car I’ll have Spotify or Sirius on and I keep up with what’s popular.
So, with that being said, I’m not the most qualified person to rank and analyze the “best” albums of the year, but these are the albums and artists that I kept coming back to all throughout 2018.
Without further ado, I present my five favorite albums of 2018:
5. “Sweetener” – Ariana Grande
Is it possible to be the biggest pop star and the next big pop star simultaneously? Because if so, Grande is the one to accomplish it. After a traumatic two years, Ari still managed to deliver one of the year’s best projects. On top of all that, she then proceeded to bless us with “thank u, next” and the most iconic music video since “Thriller.” That may be a hot take, but I’m willing to stand by it.
Best Tracks: “God is a woman,” “breathin,” “no tears left to cry”
4. “A Star Is Born” Soundtrack – Lady Gaga, Bradley Cooper
For those of you who don’t know, “A Star Is Born” is one of the year’s best movies, in part due to its phenomenal soundtrack. The film’s songs will stick with you long after the credits roll, still capable of delivering that same emotional punch, time and time again. Gaga brings the house down, like always, and Cooper’s surprisingly beautiful voice has me begging for a spinoff Jackson Maine solo album.
Best Tracks: “Always Remember Us This Way,” “The Shallow,” “Maybe It’s Time”
3. “Swimming” – Mac Miller
As Miller’s career matured, he traded in the rowdy, rebellious anthems of his early days for a more easy-going, introspective flow, especially on his final album. By tackling extremely heavy topics like mental health and substance abuse, Miller proved he had long since graduated from his “frat rap” origin and cemented himself as one of the industry’s best, and most impactful, performers. Life goes on, days get brighter.
Best Tracks: “Self Care,” “2009,” “Dunno”
Bonus: Check out Mac’s posthumous Spotify Single for “Dunno” and “Nothing from Nothing”
2. “Magic” – Ben Rector
It’s no secret that Ben Rector is one of my favorite artists ever, so it was a given that his newest record would rank highly on this list. On “Magic,” Rector turned in his strongest overall performance since 2013’s “The Walking in Between,” combining a perfect blend of radio hits and soulful ballads. But Rector doesn’t just sound good in the studio – it’s just as awesome on stage, and boy, does he know how to captivate an audience. This year’s “Magic: The Tour” was by far the best of Rector’s three live concerts I’ve attended.
Best Tracks: “Kids,” “Drive,” “I Will Always Be Yours”
1. “Nation of Two” – Vance Joy
Surprisingly, Vance Joy’s sophomore album, “Nation of Two” was able to beat out Rector for the top spot on this year’s list. Released in February,” the Australian singer’s record kept me coming back all year long, and each time I’d find a new favorite track. There’s just something about the easy, beachy tunes that make listening to the album from start to finish just effortless. “Saturday Sun” may be the album’s most recognizable song, perfect for driving with the windows down and belting at the top of your lungs, but Joy’s deep dive into the highs and lows of love doesn’t deliver a single misstep.
Best Tracks: “We’re Going Home,” “One Of These Days,” “I’m With You,” all of them, tbh.
“Invasion of Privacy” – Cardi B
“EVERYTHING IS LOVE” – The Carters
“Good Thing” – Leon Bridges
“beerbongs & bentleys” – Post Malone
Zach Goins is a member of the North Carolina Film Critics Association based in Raleigh, N.C. Zach co-founded Inside The Film Room in 2018 and serves as Editor-in-Chief of the website and co-host of the podcast. Zach also serves as a film critic for CLTure.org.