Years from now, when we look back at the music of 2019, it will be defined by the new stars that emerged. Billie Eilish, Lizzo, and Lil Nas X were the biggest success stories of the past twelve months, but odds are you didn’t know who most or all of them were in 2018.
The point is that the best music you’ve ever heard can come from anywhere, and this year, it came from just about everywhere. 2019 produced a ton of albums that will be remembered long after this year’s calendars have been taken off the wall. This year’s music is worth discussing at length, so below, check out our ranking of the best albums of 2019.
50. Juice Wrld — Death Race For Love
Building on the success of 2018’s Goodbye & Good Riddance, the 20-year-old Chicagoan crooner leans even more forcibly into raw, emo tunes that will resonate with the lovesick 14-year-old inside all of us with tracks like “Robbery,” “Hear Me Calling,” and “Fast.” And while such tracks may sound saccharine to more experienced, jaded ears, on back-end tracks like “10 Feet” and the Pharcyde-sampling “Make Believe,” he proves that he can generate some intergenerational sympathy with smart old-school references and the legit rhyme skills that propelled his viral hour-long freestyle session last year.–Aaron Williams
49. Danny Brown — U Know What I’m Sayin
Executive produced by Q-Tip and featuring Run The Jewels, Blood Orange, and Jpegmafia, Danny Brown’s first album in three years treads some broad artistic territory. From comedic trips to take care of some “Dirty Laundry” to soulful recollections of his “Best Life,” Brown puts his full arsenal on display. He’s become a much more well-rounded artist, but his battle-ready bite is still main draw after his manic-sounding bark of a voice.–A.W.
48. Yuna — Rouge
Now almost a decade into her career, Malaysian pop star — and Los Angeles fixture — Yuna is more confident than ever on her fourth full-length album, Rouge. Enlisting the likes of Tyler The Creator, G-Eazy, Little Simz, Kyle, and Masego for a playful, rap-centric update of her sensual R&B sound, Rouge catapults Yuna even farther into the spotlight.—Caitlin White
47. Charly Bliss — Young Enough
Charly Bliss made a huge leap in the two years between their (very good) bubblegum indie-pop debut Guppy and their sophomore LP. Young Enough finds the New York quartet taking risks, incorporating synths into the songs and ramping up the hooks to make them scientifically inescapable. It’s a record so wonderfully paced and curated that it’s hard to play A&R and find a song that it could do without.–Zac Gelfand
46. Carly Rae Jepsen — Dedicated
Carly Rae Jepsen proved she’s come a long way since her breakout single, “Call Me Maybe” with Dedicated. Jepsen leaves her lovelorn reputation behind in exchange for confident bops and dance-ready hits like “Want You In My Room”. The disco-tinged sound of Dedicated calls back to an early era of ‘80s pop while adding a modern twist with layered production and punchy deliveries, firmly establishing herself in her own pop lane.–Carolyn Droke
45. Ed Sheeran — No. 6 Collaborations Project
Most of Ed Sheeran’s success has come through solo means: He never had a big single with a featured artist on it… until this year, that is. He recruited a bunch of his peers for an album filled exclusively with collaborations (a sequel to his pre-superstar release, the No. 5 Collaborations Project EP) that proved Sheeran can gel with everybody from Justin Bieber to Travis Scott to Skrillex.–Derrick Rossignol
44. Kevin Abstract — Arizona Baby
Even the Brockhampton frontman seems conflicted about releasing his solo album when he did, amid a still-swirling controversy involving the band’s break with Ameer Vann. It was right on time, though — and timeless. As Kevin speaks to his troubled upbringing as a queer Black youth in “Corpus Christi” and “Mississippi,” his story is alternately heartbreaking and uplifting, as it’s a familiar story that rarely resolves as triumphantly as the singalong chorus of “Baby Boy.”–A.W.
43. Better Oblivion Community Center — Better Oblivion Community Center
It’s no secret that we’re big fans of Phoebe Bridgers at Uproxx. And on Better Oblivion Community Center, like Boygenius before it, she proves to be as dialed in as a collaborator as she is running the show. Conor Oberst is revitalized in her presence while she crafts tunes that are more spirited and playful than anything she’s released as a solo artist. Oberst and Bridgers are essentially a dream team, bringing out the best in each other, while reminding their fans why they are great in the first place.–Philip Cosores
42. Nilüfer Yanya — Miss Universe
After building a ton of buzz — enough to earn an offer to join a Louis Tomlinson-helmed girl group, which she refused — Nilüfer Yanya arrived in 2019 with her debut album, Miss Universe. It’s an impressive debut that shows off the young artist’s ability to dominate in rock, pop, alternative, soul, and just about anything else in her extensive wheelhouse.–D.R.
41. Post Malone — Hollywood’s Bleeding
A year after Beerbongs & Bentleys, Post Malone doubled back with Hollywood’s Bleeding. One of the few rivaling Drake’s streaming numbers, Malone does everything not to box himself in the hip-hop genre. Malone says not to listen to hip-hop if you want to feel something, but Malone’s vision of hip-hop makes you feel regardless. Leaving his “White Iverson” gimmick behind, Malone successfully blends all of his musical interests together on Hollywood’s Bleeding tracks such as “Take What You Want” and “Circles.” Yes, this is Malone’s hip-hop, and the music world is evolving because of it.–Joshua Kellem
40. Vampire Weekend — Father Of The Bride
As one of the defining bands of indie-pop in the aughts and early ’10s, Vampire Weekend faced a genuine dilemma with Father Of The Bride, their first album in six years: How do we retain what people liked about us, while also moving forward? The solution was to spread out, embrace laid-back jams, and rely upon Ezra Koenig’s ability to write witty, novelistic songs about falling in love and starting a family in an era of apparent social collapse.–Steven Hyden
39. Solange — When I Get Home
When I Get Home is Solange’s classic way of bringing Houston culture to those who dare to take a moment to listen. Between spoken words, jazz sensations, and DJ Screw’s influence, Solo takes the H’s lifestyle and delivers it in a way that is outside of expectancy.–Cherise Johnson
38. Sharon Van Etten — Remind Me Tomorrow
As one of the most beloved singer-songwriters of the 2010s, Sharon Van Etten had established a well-honed persona, as a person who writes personal songs and sings them with the intimacy of a private conversation. But on Remind Me Tomorrow, she boldly explodes that paradigm, embracing new wave stylishness and arena-rock bluster on songs that manage to still hit the emotional bull’s eye while also rocking like never before.–S.H.
37. Anderson .Paak — Ventura
Anderson .Paak has been working his way through California with his albums, and after his Oxnard homecoming last year, in 2019, he arrived in Ventura. I’ve never been, but based on the sound of this album, what a place! .Paak is clearly having more fun than just about anybody in music, and he’s doing it with some of the funkiest and most soulful R&B in recent memory.–D.R.
36. FKA Twigs — Magdalene
On a fascinating, bittersweet second album, Magdalene, FKA Twigs muses on loves both alive and dead, weaving a tale of twisted hearts and miscommunication through her strangely mesmerizing trip-hop. Melodramatic and inflected with strange, subtle religious allusions, Twigs proves that she is an enigma who extends far beyond just her incredible skill as a dancer.—C.W.
35. Bruce Springsteen — Western Stars
At this point in his career, Bruce Springsteen is a universally adored icon and the rare boomer-era artist who continues to garner respect from millennials and Generation Z. But while his classic material remains a touchstone, his recent work has sometimes seemed a little forgettable. Not so with Western Stars, his best album in more than a decade, an evocative song cycle about broken men trying to reinvent themselves in the American West, set to luminous pocket symphonies.–S.H.
34. Mannequin Pussy — Patience
On their third studio album, Mannequin Pussy focused on song structure, resulting in a handful of the band’s longest tunes to date. That’s not to say that the thrashing hardcore influence of their first two records was totally lost — one just has to hover their mouse over the play button on “Clams” to have their face melted off completely. But Patience covers a lot of sonic ground, cementing Mannequin Pussy as a truly important in the punk rock canon.–Z.G.
33. Goldlink — Diaspora
Goldlink’s At What Cost was a portrait of a rapidly changing “DMV area” that won the Virginia native a new plateau of fame. And from there, he vied to take a snapshot of the whole world on Diaspora, a gem of an album that exemplifies the universality of Black music. But the album, chockful of musicians from all over Africa, isn’t obnoxious in its ambition. Our diasporic ties have always been apparent in rap music, Goldlink was just proactive enough to celebrate it.–Andre Gee
32. Charli XCX — Charli
Icona Pop’s “I Love It” established Charli XCX as a pre-eminent pop songwriter, and since then, she has set out to prove herself as a bona fide pop star. On her self-titled new album, Charli shows off her versatility and her ability get the best out of her many collaborators while also firmly showcasing herself.–D.R.
31. Earthgang — Mirrorland
Highly anticipated and not at all disappointing, Earthgang’s long-awaited debut drew comparisons to their fellow ATLiens Outkast with its groundbreaking blend of modern sounds and throwback, Southern-fried soul. However, in reality, Mirrorland is its own unique thing, wildly creative and original, a sonic tour through Olu and Wowgr8’s fantasy land — a twisted version of the city they shares with Big Boi and Andre 3000. “Proud Of U” is the most obvious banger, but the punishing bounce of “Bank” and the murky crooning of “Stuck” are tourist traps no one should miss.–A.W.
30. King Princess — Cheap Queen
In a world full of genderfluid, queer stars who are just coming of age, Mikaela Straus reigns supreme. Bursting onto the scene with the dreamy reverie of “1950” and following it up with boundary-pushing cult hits like “Pussy Is God” and her album’s title track, “Cheap Queen,” King Princess pays homage to the elegant and campy queer icons of the past all while stepping firmly towards the future.–C.W.
29. Freddie Gibbs And Madlib — Bandana
In 2014, Freddie Gibbs and Madlib linked up to create one of the best albums of the 2010s with Cocaine Pinata. Then they did it again five years later. The MadGibbs pairing is one of hip-hop’s most trustworthy. In a climate where boundary-pushing and genre-blending are arbiters of rap genius, Gibbs makes a claim for the best rapper alive by simply ripping a suite of soulful Madlib beats to shreds. It’s classic. It’s refreshing. It’s one of the best albums of the year.–A.G.
28. Clairo — Immunity
Clairo’s cloudy grey melodies and stark percussion reclaim the vulnerable, airy space between indie songwriter and pop production that has all but disappeared in a world of blockbuster pop stars who are leaning all the way into the realm of hip-hop. Without a single feature or trap beat in tow, Immunity is a straightforward, starlit telling of one girl’s universe that’s resonant enough to make its way into the bedrooms, headphones, and record players of hundreds more.—C.W.
27. Boogie — Everythings For Sale
Even when letting his boss have a guest spot on the album centerpiece, “Rainy Days,” Boogie’s debut album is a fitting introduction for new fans and a smooth continuation of his established M.O. of pouring out his emotions with his pen. “Soho” tackles his newfound fame, while “Silent Ride” sees him once again sabotaging a romantic relationship with his wandering eye. The title may well be a misnomer — Boogie refuses to sell out his integrity or his artistic vision, no matter how much bigger his stage gets.–A.W.
26. 2 Chainz — Rap Or Go To The League
An underrated gem from the early part of the year, 2 Chainz’s latest examines the opposing paths that face so many Black, urban youth. But what may seem like a worn justification for his own illicit activities quickly becomes an indictment of the exploitative systems preying on young Black people throughout American society, from the “NCAA” to the tax time predation of good old Uncle “Sam.” In the end, it turns out that 2 Chainz isn’t crazy — life is.–A.W.
25. Taylor Swift — Lover
Taylor Swift’s Lover arrived after much speculation and a very public disagreement with her former record label, Big Machine Records. The 18-track album shed her edgy Reputation era to opt for sunny themes, bright synths, and uplifting ballads. Peppered with snapping beats and tastefully-arranged acoustic numbers, Lover calls back to Taylor’s early days as a musician with subtle country twang while adding a stylistic shift thanks to collaborator/producer Jack Antonoff. Swift pulls listeners in with revved-up pop anthems like “I Think He Knows” while tender and intimate narratives like “The Archer” reveal genuine emotion. Overall, Lover is a celebration of Taylor’s success as the centerpiece of modern pop.–C.D.
24. 21 Savage — I Am > I Was
I Am > I Was is an affirmation of evolution. On tracks like “All My Friends” and “Monster,” he gets vulnerable about his life, family, and career. He goes toe-to-toe with J. Cole on “A Lot,” showcasing his underrated lyricism over a gripping soul loop. He even delves into relationship woes on “Ball W/O You.” I Am > I Was was released in a no man’s land of December 2018, but it’s dynamism allowed it to shine all year.–A.G.
23. Brittany Howard — Jaime
On her solo album debut, the frontperson of the Alabama Shakes confidently steps outside of one of rock’s biggest bands. On her own, Howard whips up a heady mix of funk, blues, and psychedelia, retaining the overpowering thunder of her blues-rock vocals while venturing into dramatically more adventurous sonic terrain. While the Shakes are typically classified as Americana, Howard transcends any reductive labels on her own.–S.H.
22. Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds — Ghosteen
Though Nick Cave’s previous album (and instant classic), Skeleton Tree, was released immediately following the death of his son, it’s on Ghosteen that listeners really get a sense of how this tragedy has impacted one of the great songwriters of our time. Cave is his usual eloquent, graceful self, using space and ambiance in ways that underscore themes of grief and healing. Mostly, Ghosteen is a reminder of Cave’s role as a shepherd, and how listeners are in good hands when he’s guiding the flock, making the most complex of emotional circumstances feel manageable, and survivable.–P.C.
21. IDK — Is He Real?
DMV native IDK followed up 2017’s autobiographical IWasVeryBad with an even more deeply personal meditation on the nature of religion and faith. Throughout the album’s 14 tracks, IDK works through his spiritual beliefs and contrasts them with the lectures from the pulpit, trying to reconcile his observations of a broken world with promises of God’s love and understanding. The album closes with “Julia…” a heart-wrenching remembrance of his late mother and a poignant affirmation of his belief.–A.W.
20. The National — I Am Easy To Find
The National have always been more than the five dudes that appear in most press photos, and their latest album underscores the reach of the band. Using a host of outside vocalists, complete lyrical writes on select songs from Carin Besser and Mike Mills, and a short film accompanying the release, I Am Easy To Find functions as an testament to restlessness and creative longing. The National are determined to reach new heights, and are willing to allow others to help push them along.–P.C.
19. Summer Walker — Over It
Summer Walker’s Over It is so good that even if the rising R&B singer is a few hours late to a show or cuts the show short due to sound issues, nothing hits harder than the words she sings on the opening title track or Over It’s final number, “Playing Games.” Multi-platinum producer London On Da Track captivates with his contemporary rhythmic production and Summer seduces with the sound of her voice, making her one of the year’s biggest breakouts.–C.J.
18. DaBaby — Baby On Baby
DaBaby doubled up on album releases this year, but it’s his first project that made him one of hip-hop’s brightest new stars. Spurred by singles like “Suge,” the self-titled-ish debut is a compelling mesh of bravado, humorous quotables, and “don’t f*ck with me” that has made him one of the game’s brightest young stars.–A.G.
17. Maggie Rogers — Heard It In A Past Life
Maggie Rogers soared to fame with a viral video of Pharell’s reaction to a demo of “Alaska” but Heard It In A Past Life proves she’s a mainstay. With her folk background, Rogers fuses traditional influences with the energy of modern dance music. A strong bassline opens the album, entrancing listeners with her unwavering vocals. Much of the record opts for subtle, palpitating beats which propels Rogers’ therapeutic voice to the center of each track.–C.D.
16. Megan Thee Stallion — Fever
Megan Thee Stallion is one of 2019’s breakout hip-hop stars. The Houston hottie had the world driving the boat and in a frenzy over her mixtape Fever this summer, which contains her platinum-selling hit “Cash Shit” featuring DaBaby. On each track, Meg’s vigorous raps take the lead in how to walk, talk and breath with confidence while dealing with men who want to do nothing but waste time.–C.J.
15. Purple Mountains — Purple Mountains
It will be a long time before the final album from David Berman can be appreciated outside of the context of his tragic death by suicide in August of 2019. Lyrically, the album is often a bleak and unsparing portrait of a difficult man beset by loneliness. And yet Purple Mountains also is frequently hilarious and bounces along with some of the most winning melodies that Berman ever wrote. It’s a wrenching listen, but also deeply rewarding and, even now, incredibly engaging.–S.H.
14. Denzel Curry — Zuu
A paean to the South Florida native’s hometown of Carol City, Zuu showcases Curry’s wordplay at its most blunt, painting stark images of a rough upbringing that nevertheless taught just enough of life’s hard lessons to make him a star. “Birdz” reflects the rags-to-riches tale of two generations thanks to a stellar appearance from Rick Ross, while “Wish” invokes a sunny, seaside drive through the city, a shot of brightness among the dark, bruising beats. “Speedboat” is as clear a bridge between the two as the ones that crisscross Miami’s waterways.–A.W.
13. Mark Ronson — Late Night Feelings
Whether as a writer, producer, or collaborator, the pop world is strewn with great songs from Mark Ronson. But few expected him to drop an all-timer of an album this year, taking his own heartbreak and presenting it through the voices of Angel Olsen, Lykke Li, Miley Cyrus, and many others. The resulting record didn’t set the charts on fire, but gave the world an artistic high point from a musician known for bringing out the best in others.–P.C.
12. Tyler The Creator — Igor
Earlier this year, Tyler The Creator called his 2011 Goblin album “trash.” The statement exemplified a musical evolution that’s pleasantly apparent on IGOR, his Grammy-nominated opus. Tyler crafted a soundscape that fuses hip-hop with R&B, electronic music, and other genres. He offsets his boundary-pushing sonics with lyrics that reflect on everyday qualms such as heartbreak, outgrowing one’s past, and staying afloat during life’s trials.–A.G.
11. Angel Olsen — All Mirrors
Angel Olsen didn’t need to build to this. Dating back to her more spare early work, including the underappreciated Half Way Home, Olsen’s inimitable voice and penchant for tapping into traditions ranging from girl groups to busted-radio country have been enough to earn her spot among the great songwriters of her generation. But as Olsen wraps a decade on the musical map, it will be the restlessness to keep pushing herself, as she has on this gorgeously ambitious effort, that her legacy can rest on. Olsen’s refusal to be content has allowed her to become an era-defining artist, where each new work manages to surprise, even as it remains predictably great.–P.C.
10. YBN Cordae — The Lost Boy
An album that surprised all but a few of the YBN clique’s sharpest observers, Cordae harnessed the strength of his old soul and youthful energy to craft a crystal-clear, nostalgic window into his family, influences, and early life. At times heartbreaking, confessional, and vulnerable, as on tracks like “Bad Idea” and “Thanksgiving,” The Lost Boy can also be rowdy, confrontational, and keenly self-aware on “RNP,” “Broke As F*ck,” and “We Gon Make It.” Cordae think he’s lost, but he knows exactly who he is and where he’s been. Wherever he’s going, he’ll be great when he gets there.–A.W.
9. Rapsody — Eve
Rapsody’s Eve is a cohesive hip-hop masterpiece celebrating the lives of Black women who have been tremendously influential throughout the years. Rapsody carefully and accurately portrays the sound of each song to the persona of each woman it’s named after. “Aaliyah” sounds like the late R&B singer and “Cleo” sounds just as rambunctious as Queen Latifah, and the North Carolina MC makes it work in a collection that somehow holds a candle to legendary subjects it evokes.–C.J.
8. Lizzo — Cuz I Love You
First an artist is ignored, running on empty and vying for a break. Then, they become loved, ubiquitous, and triumphant. And finally, they’re hated — deemed too popular or the wrong person to occupy the lofty realm of superstar. So, it’s a testament to Lizzo’s unstoppable force that the back half of this year saw her fighting off greedy former collaborators and mean-spirited snipes from critics, peers, and foes alike. Cuz I Love You rises above all this, telling the heartfelt story of a star-in-the-making, a fat, Black diva with a voice that won’t quit and enough self-love for the fans, the fakes, and yes, even the haters. Never before has a DNA test had such an impact on the pop charts.—C.W.
7. Bon Iver — i,i
Few legacy acts in indie rock have ventured as far into the wilds of esoteric experimentation — while also retaining a huge following — than Bon Iver. But on the group’s fourth album, Justin Vernon found a happy middle ground between the electro-rock freakouts of 2016’s 22, A Million and the more approachable anthems of his earlier work, coming up with one of the most satisfying works of the group’s excellent catalogue–S.H.
6. Big Thief — U.F.O.F.
Perhaps no up-and-coming indie band was talked about more in 2019 than Big Thief, who not only released the staggeringly good U.F.O.F. in May, but followed it up just a few months later with a second LP called Two Hands. Now freshly nominated for a Grammy, U.F.O.F. shows a band at the peak of their powers and refusing to slow down their creative process. –Z.G.
5. Billie Eilish — When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?
The 2020 Grammy nominations proved that young artists are the future, except the future is now. Leading that charge is 17-year-old Billie Eilish, who at her young age has become both one of the most vital and alternative voices in pop, largely thanks to “Bad Guy,” perhaps the year’s biggest non-“Old Town Road” single.–D.R.
4. Weyes Blood — Titanic Rising
On her stunning fourth album, Natalie Mering strikes a seemingly incongruous posture, writing beautiful melodies reminiscent of 1970s soft rock set to lyrics that comment with acidic wit about extremely 21st century calamities like climate change and Tinder-related romantic dysfunction. Then again, did listening to The Carpenters make any more sense during the height of the Vietnam War? Each generation needs its own barbed lullabies.–S.H.
3. Young Thug — So Much Fun
An album that lives up to its title, Young Thug’s first-ever Billboard No. 1 is a showcases the Atlanta trap surrealist’s scintillating way with words over a scaled-back musical palette that lets his voice take center stage. It also shows off just how influential Thug has been to the modern generation of warbling wordsmiths with features from Lil Baby, Gunna, Lil Keed, and Lil Uzi Vert, with yet another one of J. Cole’s standout 2019 guest verses thrown in for good measure. Thug’s career accomplishments are far too long to list here, but we can add “best hip-hop album of 2019” to his impressive resume.–A.W.
2. Ariana Grande — Thank U, Next
Even though it’s only been out for the span of a few months, it’s already hard to imagine modern pop music without Thank U, Next. Born out of tempestuous personal circumstances and spiked with a heady dose of hip-hop, this succinct, emotional song cycle bounces between lust, grief, self-love, and female friendship with equal grace. Cementing Ariana as one of the foremost divas of our time, Thank U, Next is a distillation of feminine desire, heartache, and rap swagger that’s nearly perfect and universally appealing.—C.W.
1. Lana Del Rey — Norman F*cking Rockwell
Unamused but never fully disengaged, Lana Del Rey stormed into the middle of 2019 with a softly raging album that took the world by surprise. While plenty of fans have insisted since “Video Games” that Lana had a masterpiece in her, subsequent releases have been good, and even great, but never had the year-defining force that Norman F*cking Rockwell does. A self-assured, introverted beach philosopher with a heart of gold, and the go-to crooner for soundtracking marquee movies, Lana has so often been fascinated by singing stories of the past. On Rockwell though, she belts and sighs about the state of union, Kanye West, and the ever-present ache of falling for a man child. While we all live in a world ruled by those, Lana’s sharp observations offer a welcome balm. “F*ck It, I Love You” is the most worthy antidote for despair, and happiness has delicate wings, but no matter how strange and slippery hope is, with Lana, we have it.—C.W.
Some artists mentioned are Warner Music artists. Uproxx is an independent subsidiary of Warner Music.