Another year, another roundup of the best music! 2019 showed us some new talent, setting the stage for the new decade on the horizon, while some of our old favorites returned for another round. From Avril Lavigne’s comeback album to Taylor Swift singing about her lover, these are my picks for the 10 best albums of 2019.
Avril Lavigne, Head Above Water
On her first album in nearly 6 years, and in her highly anticipated return to the spotlight after a grueling battle with Lyme disease, Avril Lavigne channels these emotions and more into her comeback effort, Head Above Water, her most personal offering to date. But there’s also a new dose of signature fun-loving, forever-young, caution-to-the-wind Avril songs that we’ve missed so much since her last album. Full review here.
Best songs: “Head Above Water,” “Birdie,” “Tell Me It’s Over,” “Dumb Blonde,” “It Was in Me,” “Souvenir,” “Bigger Wow,” and “Warrior”
Betty Who, Betty
After parting ways with RCA (who released her first two albums Take Me When You Go and The Valley) and signing with indie label AWAL, Australian pop singer Betty Who returned with her eponymous third studio album: a picture-perfect pop album if there ever was one, and one of the year’s standout efforts. In the vein of Carly Rae Jepsen, Betty Who pays homage to pop sounds of the ‘80s and ‘90s while also keeping it current with refreshing, underrated synth-pop bops. If you are in the need for an emergency dance party, or just some perfect pop, put on Betty and let your spirit soar.
Best songs: “Old Me,” “Just Thought You Should Know,” “Marry Me,” “Ignore Me,” “Whisper,” “The One,” and “Stop Thinking About You”
(Photo: LÉON Recordings)
In what can only be described as the year’s most underrated album, Swedish singer LÉON took the indie pop world by storm with her self-titled debut album. After releasing a series of equally thrilling EPs through Columbia Records, LÉON has set out on her own with her first album—released by her own label, LÉON Recordings. With an intoxicatingly raspy voice that can only be described as Adele meets Lana Del Rey, LÉON emphasizes the power of feeling your feels and dancing your tears away.
Best songs: “Lost Time,” “Falling,” “Baby Don’t Talk,” and “You and I”
Ben Platt, Sing to Me Instead
Following his universally acclaimed run as the titular character in Broadway’s Dear Evan Hansen (preceded by film appearances in musical flicks like Pitch Perfect and Ricki and the Flash), Ben Platt signed with Atlantic Records and delivered his painfully emotional debut studio album this year, Sing to Me Instead. With an incredible voice and adult contemporary sound reminiscent of James Blunt, Platt showcases his talent: from his songwriting ability to his vocal range, Sing to Me Instead is nothing short of breathtaking.
Best songs: “Bad Habit,” “Ease My Mind,” “Temporary Love,” “Grow As We Go,” and “Older”
MARINA, Love + Fear
After taking a break from music for a few years and deciding to ditch “the Diamonds” from her stage name, Marina returned with her fourth studio album and quite possibly her magnum opus, Love + Fear. Described by the singer as two eight-track collections that form a set, the album’s name and concept comes from a psychological theory that states love and fear are the only two human emotions and that we cannot feel them both at the same time, because they are opposites. But Marina proves on Love + Fear that we do experience these emotions simultaneously, because that’s what it means to be human. Full review here.
Best songs: “Handmade Heaven,” “Orange Trees,” “Enjoy Your Life,” “Karma,” and “No More Suckers”
Olivia O’Brien, Was It Even Real?
Olivia O’Brien might be a pop singer, but she sings about things that others don’t: depression, anxiety, bad habits, and self-destruction—essentially the messiness and unpredictability of youth, among other things. There might be some sad songs that will get you in your feels, but there’s also some carefree bops about boy problems, too. Either way, if you are a fan of being sad one minute and happy the next (a.k.a. pretty much the entire human experience), as well as unique melodies, catchy lyrics, and amazing vocalists, don’t miss O’Brien’s masterpiece of a debut album, Was It Even Real? Full review here.
Best songs: “I Don’t Exist,” “Inhibition (omw),” “Just Friends,” “We Lied to Each Other,” “Care Less More,” “Just A Boy,” “Call Me!!!”, and “Love Myself”
Carly Rae Jepsen, Dedicated
It’s no E•MO•TION, but on her highly anticipated fourth studio album Dedicated, Carly Rae Jepsen expands upon the unapologetic nature of pop music that all artists in the genre should strive for, the same nature that has turned Jepsen into a cult favorite and an “indie darling” among pop fans over the last few years. Exploring influences everywhere from Motown to EDM, Dedicated is a joyous listening experience for everyone who loves pop and isn’t going to hide it. Full review here.
Best songs: “Julien,” “No Drug Like Me,” “Now That I Found You,” “Want You in My Room,” “Too Much,” “Automatically in Love,” “Feels Right,” “For Sure,” and “Party for One”
Taylor Swift, Lover
In an honest and forward attempt to put drama behind her (well, at least some of it), Taylor Swift returns to the singer we knew and loved in the pre-Reputation era: she returns to some of her country-pop roots and even collaborates with the Dixie Chicks, while also staying in the lane of her latest pop goals. And while the public scandals and unnecessary Internet bashings did start to give Swift’s music a newfound edge that I do happen to miss, Lover is a showcase and reminder of all the genuine things there are to like about Taylor Swift, and feels like a warm hug from an old friend. Full review here.
Best songs: “I Forgot That You Existed,” “Lover,” “The Man,” “The Archer,” “Miss Americana & the Heartbreak Prince,” “Death By a Thousand Cuts,” “You Need to Calm Down,” “Afterglow,” and “ME!”
Tegan and Sara, Hey, I’m Just Like You
In an interesting and compelling return to their roots, Tegan and Sara chose to relive their youth for their ninth studio album: Hey, I’m Just Like You is made up of songs that the duo had initially written and recorded in high school (the record accompanies a memoir written by the sisters called High School), most of which had never seen the light of day before. Remixed, reimagined, and rerecorded, the songs serve as a time capsule for a time in everyone’s life that we are quick to write off as overemotional and immature, but if we take the time for a look back, we realize that the growing pains and anxieties of youth are things that bind us all: no matter how old we get. Full review here.
Best songs: “Hold My Breath Until I Die,” “Hey, I’m Just Like You,” “I’ll Be Back Someday,” “I Don’t Owe You Anything,” “I Know I’m Not the Only One,” “Please Help Me,” and “All I Have to Give the World is Me”
Camila Cabello, Romance
On her second studio effort Romance, Camila Cabello wants to talk about love: she might have spent an extraordinary amount of time making headlines in tabloids this year for her publicity-stunt-turned-romance with Shawn Mendes, but the album is deeper than just a collection of songs about her latest love. Romance is about the dynamics of being in love, whether with another person or yourself, and all of the inevitable messiness and emotions therein. And perhaps we can all learn something from Cabello’s own journey with love, since once we’ve felt it we certainly know ourselves better because of it—just as she does. Full review here.
Best songs: “Shameless,” “Living Proof,” “Should’ve Said It,” “My Oh My,” “Liar,” “Easy,” “Dream of You,” “Cry for Me,” “This Love,” “Used to This,” and “First Man”
Which were your favorite albums from this year?