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).
The Best Albums Of 2016
Beyonce and Solange both made the list, along with indie rock newcomers Car Seat Headrest and the powerhouse that is Mitski. The number one album of the year felt like a no-brainer to me, and no, it wasn’t Lemonade. Read the full break down here.
The Best Rap Albums Of 2016
The only list that we didn’t excise best album list honorees from, because we all know that rap is the most concerned of any genre with the measuring process. Our number one was the rapper we felt made the most strides in rap itself. Read about his big year here.
The Best Rock Albums Of 2016
Iggy Pop came back this year. So did American Football! And PJ Harvey. Tons of new bands in every iteration of punk, emo, fuzz and lush all emerged. To say rock is dead is to sound extremely foolish. Read and discover here.
The Best Country Albums Of 2016
Even if you think you don’t like country music, I can almost guarantee you that something in this list will pique your interest. Did you know there was a new John Prine album this year? Have you heard of Aubrie Sellers or Big Smoke? Learn something here.
The Best Pop Albums Of 2016
Pop had kind of a weird year, and leaving huge names like Beyonce and Frank Ocean off the list helps some outsiders get some shine. Listen to Terror Jr. if you haven’t yet, and give Gaga’s new one a chance. But the best pop album of the year came from a group who will no longer be with us in 2017. Read about them here.
The Best R&B Albums Of 2016
R&B had a f*cking fantastic year, so why didn’t it get more attention? I’m not sure, but it gets a lot of attention right here if you need to catch up. The number one R&B album of the year is an outstanding debut from a newcomer who has a long career ahead of her. Read here.
The Best Folk Albums Of 2016
It’s pretty clear to most people who follow my work that folk music holds a special place in my heart. So does the number one record in this genre, which admittedly, might not necessarily count as folk anymore. Well, it’s here anyway, because sometimes the spirit of an album matters more than the instrumentation. That’s sort of what folk music has come to accept as we head into the twenty-first century. Oh, also, there was a new Van Morrison record this year. You should really hear it. All this and more is right here.
The Best Electronic And Experimental Albums Of 2016
Admittedly, this is one of the genres where I’m still learning a lot — that makes listening and trying to explain fun. Except for albums like Nicolas Jaar’s, which seem impossible to describe in words. The number one electronic album of the year is all about speaking out though. Read here.
Steven Hyden’s 50 Favorite Albums Of 2016
Steven Hyden, Uproxx critic-at-large and author of Your Favorite Band Is Killing Me: What Pop Music Rivalries Reveal About The Meaning Of Life, ranks his 50 favorite albums of the year, with blurbs on the last ten that follow his own personal guidelines for what constitutes a “favorite” record. Read it here.