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AVALON’S PICKS: BEST ALBUMS OF 2020

What a crazy year it’s been. From all the craziness courtesy of our soon-to-be evicted 45th president, to Miss Rona, to call 2020 one hell of a rollercoaster ride would be a bit of an understatement.

Nevertheless, some good did come out of this year, and that would be lots of really good music to keep us comfortable throughout this pandemic. Some of my pics are from artists you may be familiar with. Some are artists that a part of the queer community.

So without further ado, check out the list of albums that came out this year that I can’t stop listening to below…

Dua Lipa – Future Nostalgia

Future Nostalgia was the album that came out at the height of the pandemic that ushered in the current disco revival, and even though Dua wasn’t even born during Disco’s heyday, she definitely had me clutching my pearls with her excellent sophomore album.

I will admit I wasn’t a big fan of hers when she first came on the scene, but past collaborations with some of the industry’s hottest DJs, the hit singles from Future Nostalgia and her much-improved stage presence proved to her naysayers that she’s here for the long haul.

Bad Bunny – YHLQMDLG

Bad Bunny released three albums this year under quarantine, and YHLQMDLG (an acronym for Yo Hago Lo Que Me Da La Gana, or “I do whatever I want”) is by far my favorite. From La Dificil to Yo Perreo Sola (and the accompanying video where the rapper dresses in drag), Bad Bunny shows not only can he churn out the hits, and pay homage to Reggaeton’s past and future, but he can also write empowering songs putting himself in the shoes of a woman. He’s also one of the rare Reggaeton artist that’s become quite the outspoken ally for the LGBT+ community.

Brandy – B7

After an eight year hiatus, the vocal bible emerged this year with one of the most personal R&B albums of her career. While at times Brandy seems disconnected from the songs from a lyrical standpoint (Bye Bipolar immediately comes to mind), the albums production and Brandy’s signature vocal layering is it’s saving grace.

I’ve had songs Borderline, Baby Mama, and Say Something on repeat the moment I got to listen to the record. Brandy may have taken a long time to put out new music, but with B7 it was worth the wait.

Cakes da Killa x Proper Villains – MUVALAND

One of my favorite Out rappers Cakes Da Killa joined forces with producers Proper Villains to release MUVALAND, which saw the fierce rapper returning to his hip-house roots. Consisting of six tracks, from In The House, Don Dada, and even the titled track, there’s not a filler track in sight.

My only issue with the EP is that it’s too short. I did hit Cakes up recently on Twitter, and he said there’s more music to come in 2021. If the songs are as memorable as what we’ve consumed from MUVALAND, color me excited.

Kylie Minogue – Disco

After going country with Golden, international pop princess Kylie Minogue went back to her roots with her 15th album Disco. Channeling the likes of Donna Summer, the Bee Gees, Olivia Newton John and Grace Jones, Disco definitely has it’s standout moments. However, I just wish there was more disco on Disco. Nevertheless, it’s still a fun album to listen to. I just expected more.

Jessie Ware – What’s Your Pleasure

While Kylie doesn’t fully deliver on the full disco experience, What’s Your Pleasure definitely serves a full plate of disco and then some. I will admit, I wasn’t a listener of Jessie’s music before this album, but when I heard she stepped into a musical realm I am a big fan of (and a few DJ friends of mine told me to check WYO out), I decided to give it a listen. And boy am I glad I did.

As I listened to the album, I could hear her inspirations in her vocal delivery and production (Moroder-era Donna Summer, Goldfrapp,) but don’t call Jessie a copycat. She takes those disco inspirations and makes it her own. She sounds extremely confident on this album, and what I hope is that Jessie will continue to release more dance music in the future.

Keiynan Lonsdale – Rainbow Boy

The nonbinary actor, best known for his roles in The Flash and Love, Simon went on to release one of the fiercest debut albums. I love Rainbow Boy because it’s the rare album that celebrates queer black identity full stop. Keiynan doesn’t apologize for who they are, pushing against gender stereotypes, and toxic masculinity.

“I spent a lot of time trying to break out of boxes, whether they were placed on me or ones I put myself in, and rebelling against false ideas of what it means to be a man, what I’m allowed to sing about,” he told HuffPost. “I want to uplift and empower people who, like me, haven’t heard songs like this and need to. This is a new level in terms of my own story.”

After you take a listen to this album, you won’t apologize for who you are either.

Zebra Katz – LESS IS MOOR

Eight years after serving the kids with his electro-hip house track Ima Read, Out rapper Zebra Katz emerges with his razor sharp debut album Less Is Moor

The album features high-energy club gems and sawtoothed, twisted electronic interludes, allowing Zebra to experiment with free rein. At times he reminded me of a male Missy Elliott in regards to his versatile flow, and although there were moments where the songs could become a bit repetitive, by the time I got to the end of Less Is More I wanted more.

Toni Braxton – Spell My Name

Brandy wasn’t the only R&B icon to release an album this hear. Toni Michelle Braxton also released an album this year, and it’s definitely one to be praised. Less than two years after releasing Sex & Cigarettes, the R&B legend released Spell My name, which found her sticking to her R&B strengths that she’s solidified throughout the 90s, and even dabbles in dance on the hit single Dance. Gotta Move On is the breakup song I didn’t know I needed, which also features backup vocals from H.E.R., and O.V.E.Rr tells the story of two lovers who can’t seem to quit each other.

Toni may have had a Rocky 20+ year career, but one thing you can’t deny is that her voice, style, and swagger has been set in stone as a R&B force to be reckoned with.

Tove Lo – Sunshine Kitty (Pawprints Edition)

Tove’s fourth album Sunshine Kitty was technically released in 2019, but the Pawprints Edition, which was released this year saw the sexually liberated Swedish pop star dig even further into her pop bag of tricks.

Armed with singles Sadder Badder Cooler and Bikini Porn, the extended edition, which features the 14 original tracks, plus eight more songs give us more pop sweets to suck on. She even covers Swedish singer Veronica Maggio’s hit single I’m Coming, which, for obvious reasons is one of my favorite tracks off the album. It’s to be expected that Tove will give us the electro-pop/club hits, but it’s also good to see her show her vulnerable side on tracks such as Glad He’s Gone, Bad As The Boys, and Sadder Badder Cooler.

It also features a duet from pop icon Kylie Minogue (I Really Don’t Like You). Sunshine Kitty may have your emotions running high, but like another Swede that will have you dancing on your own, Tove will definitely keep you on the dance floor.

Honorable Mentions

Róisín Murphy

Róisín Murphy – Róisín Machine

Melanie C – Melanie C

Little Mix – Confetti

Disclosure – Energy

Carly Rae Jepsen – Dedicated Side B

Annie – Dark Hearts

JoJo – Good To Know

Storry – Interlude-19

Chloe x Halle – Ungodly Hour

Lady Gaga – Chromatica

The Weeknd – After Hours

Fiona Apple – Fetch The Bolt Cutters

Rina Sawayama – SAWAYAMA

Astrid S – Leave It Beautiful

Erasure – The Neon

Sam Smith – Love Goes

Selena Gomez – Rare

Charli XCX – How I’m Feeling Now

Medino Green – GRN 1 & 2

Saucy Santana – Pretty Little Gangsta

Miz Korona – The Virus

Jhene Aiko – Chilombo

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