As the world continues to grapple with the coronavirus pandemic, there's at least one silver lining in the months of quarantine we've all endured — there's been no shortage of great new music. Join Wonderwall.com as we take a look at the best albums that have been released during the global health crisis… starting with the second studio album from this sister-duo. On June 12, 2020, Chloe x Halle released their second LP, "Ungodly Hour," which was critically praised as a powerful show of their maturity. With sultry, layered vocals and a lyricism that articulates their growth as young women, "Ungodly Hour" was regarded as a hauntingly beautiful effort from the R&B duo. The album, which includes singles "Do It" and "Forgive Me," debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 chart. Keep reading for more…
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Taylor Swift's "folklore"
If you were to ask Taylor Swift fans whether or not they were anticipating a surprise album during the pandemic, chances are they'd have said no. Taylor, on the other hand, had other plans. On July 24, 2020, the Grammy-winning singer-songwriter dropped her eighth studio album, "folklore." Lyrically, according to Taylor, the album serves as "a collection of songs and stories that flowed like a stream of consciousness" that also managed to evoke vivid imagery while venturing into indie-folk territory. Marking yet another musical shift in her already eclectic repertoire, "folklore" has been deemed a shining example of Taylor's ability to weave together a delicate, exquisite string of stories.
Dua Lipa's "Future Nostalgia"
March 27, 2020, marked the release of Dua Lipa's second studio album, "Future Nostalgia," which contained lead single "Don't Start Now." Infused with dance-pop and synth-pop elements, the album has received critical praise for its upbeat, funky effort to bring listeners back to the '70s and all of the decade's disco glory. The album, which features other great songs like "Pretty Please" and "Cool," is comprised of cohesively crafted tracks and sometimes silly lyricism, which has served as the perfect remedy to these trying times.
The Weeknd's "After Hours"
On March 20, 2020, The Weeknd released his fourth LP, "After Hours," which contains the singles "Heartless," "Blinding Lights" and "In Your Eyes" and has been regarded as his best to date. The album's promotional material was heavily inspired by films like 1994's "The Mask," 1998's "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas" and 2019's "Uncut Gems," in which he made a cameo. "'The Mask' was the first film I ever went to see in a theater — my mom took me when I was 4, and it blew me away," the Canadian singer told Variety. He marked a milestone birthday a month before his album came out by going to breakfast with none other than the star of "The Mask." "It was surreal. Jim Carrey was my first inspiration to be any kind of performer, and I went to breakfast with him on my first day of being 30," he said. The critically acclaimed "After Hours" is The Weeknd's fourth No. 1 album on the Billboard 200 chart.
HAIM's "Women in Music Pt. III"
Released on June 26, 2020, "Women in Music Pt. III" is HAIM's third LP, and it did not disappoint. The trio — which consists of sisters Danielle, Alana and Este Haim — has been praised by critics for having transcended their trademark, summery rock vibe — while "Women in Music Pt. III" maintained the musicians' spoken-word lyricism and nostalgic sound, it also marked a shift into uncharted but welcome territory. Tracks like "I Know Alone" highlight the album's upbeat yet vulnerable exploration of singlehood and the loneliness of being alone.
Lady Gaga's "Chromatica"
"Chromatica" marked Lady Gaga's triumphant return to her dance-pop, electro-pop roots. Released on May 29, 2020, Gaga's sixth studio effort flawlessly executed tracks that were reminiscent of her older hits — and with collaborators like Ariana Grande, Blackpink and Elton John, her pop sensibilities this time around feel stronger than ever. While "Chromatica" doesn't shy away from addressing themes of loneliness or depression, it does so in a way that feels upbeat and optimistic.
Nine Inch Nails' "Ghosts V: Together" and "Ghosts VI: Locusts"
A double release? You bet. On March 26, 2020, Trent Reznor's Nine Inch Nails released its 10th and 11th studio albums: "Ghosts V: Together" and "Ghosts VI: Locusts." The former was recognized for its subtle sense of optimism, while the latter presented a darker, harrowing sound. Following the unannounced release of both projects, the Nine Inch Nails website read, "As the news seems to turn ever more grim by the hour, we've found ourselves vacillating wildly between feeling like there may be hope at times to utter despair — often changing minute to minute. Although each of us define ourselves as antisocial-types who prefer being on our own, this situation has really made us appreciate the power and need for CONNECTION."
Fiona Apple's "Fetch the Bolt Cutters"
Among the most anticipated albums of the year? The latest from Fiona Apple, "Fetch the Bolt Cutters," which was released on April 17, 2020, and features a title inspired by a line in the television series "The Fall." The project, which was recorded over a span of five years, has been regarded as incredibly percussive and unbound by any specific genre. It received the utmost praise for its unmatched sound, unpredictable nature and honest, poetic lyricism. Real yet entirely unconventional, "Fetch the Bolt Cutters" was deemed an instant classic by some critics as well as Fiona's best album to date.
Teyana Taylor's "The Album"
In 2018, Teyana Taylor released her acclaimed Kanye West-produced second LP, "K.T.S.E." Fast-forward nearly two years to the day and she was dropping her third studio album. "The Album," which debuted on June 19, contains an impressive 23 tracks that include collaborations with some of the biggest names in the industry (Lauryn Hill, Erykah Badu and Missy Elliott, to name just a few). "The Album" has been praised as a clear indication that the rapper-singer-dancer-choreographer has successfully honed her public persona and been dubbed a strong odyssey from one of music's fiercest artists.
Hayley Williams' "Petals for Armor"
While she's risen to fame as Paramore's powerhouse frontwoman, Hayley Williams has since released her debut solo album, "Petals for Armor." The inspiration for the project, which came out on Feb. 6, 2020, came from the idea that vulnerability can be a means of protection. "I think, for me, it's somewhat of a mantra to try and stay soft in a really, really hard world and feel pain and let all of it come to you and try and put out something that can redeem it all, even if it's ugly at first," she told NME. "The lyric is 'wrap yourself in petals for armor' 'cause I kept feeling like the way for me to protect myself best is to be vulnerable and be OK with having a lot of pain at certain times and also feeling a lot of joy at certain times." Featuring singles "Simmer" and "Dead Horse," the album debuted at No. 18 on the Billboard 200 chart.
Sam Hunt's "Southside"
"Southside" — the follow up to his successful debut album — is country singer-songwriter Sam Hunt's sophomore effort. The album released on April 3, 2020, was recognized by critics as a charming, purposeful collection of tracks. Singles include "Downtown's Dead," "Kinfolks," "Hard to Forget" and the 2017 megahit "Body Like a Back Road."
Kiana Ledé's "KIKI"
After releasing four EPs — "Soulfood Sessions," "Christmas by Ledé," "Selfless" and "Myself" — R&B singer-songwriter Kiana Ledé finally gave fans her highly anticipated debut studio album in 2020. "KIKI" was released on April 3 and, according to the actress-turned-R&B sensation, the idea of having to dig deeper was an initially daunting task. "It was definitely a little harder because I had more songs for this album," she told Billboard. "I could get a little deeper, and that extra layer of depth is what really freaks me out. So it was a little hard to write the songs and be transparent and truthful this time, just 'cause I had to get deeper, but I'm really glad I did it." The album was also heavily inspired by Kiana's love of music from the '90s and '00s. "It kind of reminds me of that carefree feeling. That's what I get every time I listen to early 2000s songs," she said. "I just feel so carefree. It just reminds me of such a good time, and I live in nostalgia."
Jojo's "Good to Know"
"Good to Know," which came out on May 1, 2020, is a big album for singer-songwriter Jojo in more ways than one. In addition to being her fourth album, it's also her first release since parting ways with Atlantic Records and launching Clover Music, her own record label imprint with Warner Records. The project, which features singles like "Man" and "Lonely Hearts," has been commended for showcasing Jojo's maturity and growth into a self-assured artist. Its raw lyricism combined with Jojo's signature melodic runs make "Good to Know" a clear, credible celebration of the kind of artist this former teen pop star has finally become.
Thundercat's "It Is What It Is"
Thundercat's latest studio LP, "It Is What It Is," received widespread acclaim for its lyricism in particular following its release on April 3, 2020. Critics have noted the vulnerability and honest articulation of his highs and lows, which were influenced by the death of his close friend, rapper Mac Miller, to whom the album is dedicated. Praised for its delicate exploration of a multitude of contrasting emotions, the album's seen as a funky, funny and reflective look at the complexities (and uncertainties) of life.
Kehlani's "It Was Good Until It Wasn't"
"It Was Good Until It Wasn't" is Kehlani's sophomore album and followed her debut LP, "SweetSexySavage," which came out in 2017. Praised by some critics as being Kehlani's most impressive musical effort to date (she's also previously released mixtapes "Cloud 19," "You Should Be Here" and "While We Wait"), the album — which came out on May 8, 2020 — is infused with her trademark buttery vocals and throwback R&B slow-jam vibe. Its only single, "Can I," peaked at No. 50 on the Billboard Hot 100.
Future's "High Off Life"
"High Off Life" is the latest album to be released by rapper Future and his seventh consecutive effort to top the Billboard 200 chart. The project, which came out on May 15, 2020, and includes singles "100 Shooters," "Last Name," "Life Is Good," "Tycoon" and "Trillionaire," has been praised by critics as the most hopeful album of Future's career. "High Off Life" made Billboard, Complex and Rolling Stone's best albums of 2020 lists.
The Strokes' "The New Abnormal"
Released on April 10, 2020, "The New Abnormal" — a fitting title for the times we're in — is the sixth studio album from rock band the Strokes and their first release since the 2016 EP "Future Present Past." Frontman Julian Casablancas, who's received praise for his more mature lyricism this time around, considers it his "fourth favorite record" to have been a part of. As for the actual meaning behind the album's name? "'The new abnormal' was something [then-California governor Jerry Brown] said during the Malibu fires [in 2018], and there's a parallel between global warming and the coronavirus. A similar kind of threat to your reality," Julian told the Los Angeles Times.