MetalGF’s Top Twelve Albums of 2018
I think about 30-year-old MetalGF and I want to cry for her. I was so light and carefree, my hair was black and I was this cute enthusiast bopping around town. I truly thought the world bent in the favor of justice, that people were mostly good, that things made sense and worked out in a way I was slow to realize that they often do not. I am not unhappy or unlucky now, but in a real way I have joined you guys on the dark side and I am more MetalGF than I have ever been. Life is beautiful and life is painful and music helps so much with both. As this transformation within myself has taken place, I find my music taste has changed inversely with it. I used to love sad indie music, men and women slowly, melodically and quietly whining. Today I adore pop music more than I never thought I would. It lifts me up and makes me feel a part of something. When everyone tweets about Ariana Grande, I want to GET it so I listen to her until I feel it too. When Beyoncé sings at the Super Bowl, I want to scream with the girls on the couch. Pop music unites us. If I can blast Cardi in my ears as I ride the F train and feel truly good, inches from dancing in public, then that album has done more than its job. As I always tell Vince, it’s popular for a reason. So bear with me, as you always do, as I predictably list my favorites, and know it is genuine and that I love to share this labor of love with the MetalSucks community because we’re all in the shadows now, we’re all trying to make it. Please welcome me to the dark side. I think I actually like it.
12. Khalid — Suncity (Right Hand, Columbia)
At only 20 year of age, Khalid came out with a great album in 2017 (American Teen) and yet another in 2018. He has already done so much, having won and been nominated for so many awards, had his songs featured in movies and collaborated with several fellow young stars. Khalid is a soft, un-flashy force, growing on you with each listen. He has gotten some criticism for playing it too safe and in the process of straddling too many genres (R&B, pop, rap) has allegedly ended up somewhere in between and arguably unexciting. But I disagree with this assessment — I think this is just a sign that he is still growing and figuring things out. He is cautiously entering this adult world and doesn’t want to make the wrong move. Some people in their youth are reckless and wild but more and more, especially in this generation, the youth are instead careful and anxious. I work with 20 year-olds every day and this is what I see and sense more than anything. Perhaps this is why, even with his un-rowdy, easy sound, he still manages to be on the top of the charts each time. Khalid’s voice is so relaxed, so confidently subtle. When he sings live, he closes his eyes, going within himself as he emerges with such a special, genuine sound and tone. As the pop charts are filled with youthful bops and yelling DJs and autotune as effect, Khalid is a breath of fresh pop air, an old soul who ended up in the right place: at the top of the charts but making music that still feels very true to himself.
11. Ariana Grande — Sweetener (Republic)
This was the Year of Ariana. Everywhere I looked, there she was with her impossibly long ponytail, her over-sized sweatshirts, her tiny frame and of course her undeniable BDE. I think she made a lot of people more aware of Pete Davidson but I had sort of the reverse experience: as someone who follows comedy even closer than pop music, Davidson brought me Ariana. What a gift she is! There is something so composed and special about her, the combination of her talent and trauma, of being both effortless and hard-working. She has an honesty and a savvy, like when she sings her exes sweetly by name on “thank u, next” that works and makes it so fun and rewarding to be her fan. Ariana also has a preternatural instinct about how pop music works, having been in popular culture since age ten. She is the perfect pop star for the era we’re in and this album is a perfect pop album — boppy, fresh and fun with well-timed visits from hip hop legacies. Ariana is only 25 which is hard to believe given how much she has already seen and been through, and I am so curious to see how her career develops as she grows and matures. At this rate, 2019 (and beyond) might well be the Year of Ariana once again.
This is a fun one. Don’t be bitter when she sings what is true: “Yeah, it feels so good to be so young / And have this fun and be successful, yeah, I’m so successful, yeah.” Modesty (for women!) is dead, thank God (who is also a woman).
10. Janelle Monae — Dirty Computer (Bad Boy Records)
Janelle Monae seems almost otherworldly in her aesthetic, her level of creativity, her flawless appearance and pan-sexuality. She is modern and seemingly OF the future. For me personally, I don’t know much about Janelle as a “celebrity” and this adds to her appeal and mystery as an artist. In most cases with recording artists, the less we know about them the better. I love watching this video and listening to this song without knowing who she is dating or where she normally goes to dinner. Let this queer queen live, or as she says, let her be a “free-ass motherfucker.” She is liberated, and through listening her liberation becomes contagious and you, too, are free.
9. Vance Joy — Nation of Two (Atlantic Records)
Vance has blessed us with another great album, a revelation of a sophomore effort that proves he is not a flash in the pan nor a one hit wonder. His albums flow so well, are so purely listenable. Vance is both joyful and melancholy, imaginative and realistic. He sounds like a man who has fallen in love. I so enjoy how on “Alone with Me” he sings so suddenly and sweetly, “Here I am, saying things to you I never thought I’d say outside my head. Oh, and here we are, I’m doing things I thought I’d never do. I’m seeing into you.” What a true romantic, an open bleeding heart. His talent and his soul overlap for this pureness of 13 songs and its authenticity is undeniable. I am here to listen, Vance, here for your love, loss, heartbreak and healing and of course, your Australian indie charm.
8. Robyn — Honey (Universal Island Records)
Let’s be honest here, I live with Vince and I have for a long time. I couldn’t avoid Robyn if I wanted to, but luckily I don’t want to. Do people actively dislike Robyn? Who are these people? I find her universally loved and universally respected. I actually have clear memories of hearing her on MTV and the radio when I was 14 with her hit “Show Me Love” and I enjoyed her then too! Vince was only 13 at that time and who knows what he was doing! Obviously he missed her Z100 hits of the ’90s. But here she is again, twenty years later and still giving the people what they want. On Honey, she’s still at the top of her game. Robyn is aging like a fine wine, having been through some darkness and heartbreak but coming back stronger. Her music is so different than other pop and you can jam out happily in your living room ALL DAY to this shit — and why shouldn’t you! Some things in life aren’t controversial or ambiguous, they are just purely GOOD and I would put Robyn firmly in that category.
8. Kacey Musgraves — Golden Hour (Mercury Records)
Fellow hallucinogenic aficionado country singer Kacey Musgraves has done it yet again. I know I have said this many times before but she is truly the modern, liberal country singer the world was lacking. She is a beautiful weedhound and a southern bell who loves her mom in one single breath. I adore her and this album is another work of art. It has a sadness and a seriousness that the others didn’t because Kacey is growing up too. With each excellent album she releases, Kacey comes closer to being a mainstay of American country like a more secular Loretta Lynn for today. Here’s one of my faves, “Lonely Weekend:”
6. Tayana Taylor — KTSE
KTSE or Keep that Same Energy is what Tayana does throughout this v solid, cool but still high energy album. Tayana’s voice is smooth butter over great beats and interesting lyrics. Teyana reminds me a lot of Laureyn Hill, who I have been revisiting A LOT LATELY. This album is deliberate and professional— it’s tight, if you will. Tayana has a work ethic you can feel. You can hear it in her voice, see it in her body and most of all, see it in her many, many titles— dancer, model, mother, singer, actor. She strikes me strongly as a perfectionist and this comes across in all her art forms. She is working hard and it is paying off.
and if you’ve never seen this video, it’s worth your time to see her unreal dancing abilities
5. The Carters — EVERYTHING IS LOVE (Roc Nation)
This somehow relaxing yet energizing album surprised us all with its release just as the summer began to heat up. It was an out of the blue, romantic gift from America’s King and Queen. While Jay can be a slow, smooth rapper and Beyonce can be a force of nature that drives many people to a joyful insanity (myself included), combining them makes the two meet in the middle. Some tracks, like SUMMER are relaxing, highlighting Jay’s effortless smooth brand of cool while others, like APESHIT are more like a song to psyche us up, bringing Bey’s classic brand of confident enthusiasm. But, you can feel them both on all the tracks. I love to see them collaborate. This album feels like a reflection of their marriage: they have met each other halfway in something high quality and beautiful, but also knowing their extraordinary strength as individuals is it’s own entity, not to be fucked with under any conditions. This video is INSANE, enjoy.
4. Phoebe Bridgers — Stranger in the Alps (Dead Oceans)
Stranger in the Alps is Bridgers’ debut album, released under Ryan Adams’ label. She is a young Californian who is, may I say, very up and coming. This album would probably be considered “indie folk” and that obviously is right up my alley. As is tradition in this genre, Conor Oberst appears on one track, “Would you Rather.” It’s like this guy just waits for alternative female bands to request his voice on one song? Anyway, this album is great for hanging out, listening to sadly on the train or as you look out the window on a rainy day or you’re cooking up a vegetarian pasta dish. It fits easily into life and is pleasant and enjoyable but not without depth. She reminds me of Liz Phair and First Aid Kit and so many women singers I have loved before but she’s also her own. Highly recommend! Here’s her hit:
3. Lady Gaga — A Star is Born Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
I woke up October 5, 2018 and I was a regular person. I took our son to school and picked up some groceries. Then, innocently, I met my friend for a noon-time showing of A Star is Born. The sky was blue, the air crisp, everything seemed normal. Two hours later, I emerged another person. Suddenly and without warning, I was the world’s biggest Bradley Cooper fan, a hopeless romantic, once again fully committed to Lady Gaga, and I listened to this fucking soundtrack NON STOP FOR THE NEXT FOUR WEEKS. All I could do was talk about this movie! My three-year-old requested “Lady Gaga” because it was all he knew anymore. The “Shallow” video was on loop on both my computer and in my mind. The song “Look What I Found” became my anthem for fun and dancing. Every week, every day, I’d have a new favorite. Sometimes I would be in situation where I hadn’t listened to the soundtrack in a few hours and I’d have to rush home to blast it in our living room. It’s just great! Love the movie, love the music, love my new ASIB lifestyle. Looking forward to reliving these songs throughout award season and beyond. Gaga absolutely forever. Watch this 50 times a day like me:
2. Kanye — Ye (Def Jam Records)
You know what? Fuck everything. I’m just going to say how I feel deep inside. I love Kanye. You know this and yet you want me to change! But when you love an artist with the fibers of your being, change is hard. When you hear their music, your rational brain is not in charge. Kanye the person is one thing and that debate is exhausted. But Kanye the recording artist has my heart forever. I have tried everything to remove him but I must face who I am and I am Kanye’s biggest fan, loyal even when I wish I wasn’t. I love this album so so much. I cried the first few times I heard it, truly touched by his words again and again from, “I don’t feel like she’s mine enough” to “I put my hand on the stove to see if I still bleed, yeah, And nothing hurts anymore, I feel kind of free.” I think Kanye suffers a lot. I think he struggles with his mental illness and he lost his mother in a tragic way, too soon and his level of fame alone could drive anyone crazy. But when his music comes on, whether it be College Dropout or Life of Pablo or Ye, that all floats away for me and I am with him wherever he is. His music speaks to me deeply and this isn’t something I can change and I’ve stopped trying. The heart wants what it wants. This album is beautiful, it’s real and emotional and raw and it’s Pure Kanye. The one and only.
1. Cardi B — Invasion of Privacy (Atlantic/KSR)
This is a love letter. Cardi, I love you. I love your voice, your sense of humor, your beautiful face, your sense of style, your ACTUAL VIBE, and Cardi, I just love the way you ARE in the world!
I am TEAM CARDI ALL DAY. This album came out and my life was irrevocably changed. No album has spoken to be like this in YEARS. Everything about it — the lyrics, the beats, the samples — feel truly fresh and modern. So many vagina references on the album and I am here for ALL of them. I lose my mind, blasting it in my ears on the subway when she tells you all the places to pop your pussy on “Bickenhead.” I tear up when I can feel her hurt through her fragility on “Be Careful” and I am in utter awe that she wrote and sang an angry but deeply romantic ballad about going through your cheating boyfriend’s phone on “Thru Your Phone.” It’s a new era and Cardi is our leader now. This is just the beginning of an unreal, unpredictable career that will span media and decades. I truly can not wait to follow every moment of this! We are so blessed to have you, Cardi!! This is my jam for life: