Ranking the best albums of the year is a tedious exercise. Taking everyone’s opinions into consideration, and determining what kind of critical statements you want to make as a site are part of the process, but I’ve always been of the mind that choosing only ten or twenty albums to define a year doesn’t make much sense. Besides, how can you really compare a Kacey Musgraves record straight across with an album from Kendrick Lamar? The goals and purposes, sounds and crews for these two records are entirely different.
So, a better way to measure how records impacted the year is to stack them up agains their peers within their own world. Or maybe that’s just my excuse to highlight 20 records in every genre, so Beyonce and Rihanna aren’t the only pop albums that end up getting some shine as we close out the year. In that spirit of discovery and more direct comparison within genre, we’ve broken out our year end coverage into several genres — rap, country, pop, R&B and folk.
Links to those respective lists are below, along with our own stab at a 20 best albums list, and the personal list of our critic at large, Steven Hyden. In the spirit of tackling more, diverse records, if an album appears on the overall best albums list, it wasn’t included again at the top of the respective genre list (Excepting the rap list, where this kind of measuring is pivotal to how the genre measures itself).