A year of music

Why the chart topping albums of 2018 had people in their feelings

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Sweetener – Ariana Grande

This year was inarguably the best year yet for Ariana Grande’s career and the worst for her personal life. She’s endured the death of her ex-boyfriend Mac Miller and a failed engagement only a year after 22 people were killed during a bombing at her concert last year. Grande has become a role model to young people, especially young women, by continuing to carry herself with grace, embracing her vulnerability and persistence above all else.

With that said, I was skeptical of Sweetener’s quality when its second single “The Light is Coming” was released. At first, it sounded odd and out of place. However, the full release of the album puts “The Light is Coming” into perspective. As a whole, Sweetener is about pushing forward and finding light even in the darkest places, which makes the appropriately named single compliment the album. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still weird, but after listening to it a few times, it’s understood that that’s the point.

It would be a disservice to talk about Sweetener without mentioning “God is a Woman”  the single that shook 2018 and quickly became the anthem of young women. The empowering lyrics paired with a killer bass and Grande’s vocals create what is arguably the perfect modern pop single. The song itself is a masterpiece, but the “God is a Woman” music video is equal in its genius factor. The director of the video wanted to combine ancient Greek imagery and easily recognizable symbols of female power to create a video filled with beautiful scenes.

From its modern take on break up songs like “Better Off” and “Goodnight and Go” to the empowering anthems such as “No Tears Left To Cry” and “Successful”, Sweetener was the album that defined 2018.

Youngblood – 5 Seconds of Summer

After taking a nearly three-year hiatus, Five Seconds of Summer came back stronger than ever with their latest album. The first single from Youngblood was “Want You Back”. At the time of its release, the band acknowledged that it wasn’t exactly a happy song you want to get up and dance to. However, they felt that it encompassed the vibe of the album and their redefined sound. Upon first listening to the single, I could immediately tell that each of the four band members had matured as musicians, songwriters and people.

The song I believe to be the best from the album is “Talk Fast”. The track is fast paced with a solid and bubbly beat. The lyrics themselves speak of a whirlwind relationship that burned bright and short. While so many artists make these relationships into sad, longing tracks, 5 Seconds of Summer doesn’t take the meaning too seriously and created an upbeat hit to embrace it. The song holds a more hopeful outlook with the positive vibe and the lyrics “won’t last, I’m okay with that.”

While overall an amazing album, a few of the songs fell flat. Some like “Empty Wallets” and “Babylon” just blended together because of their lackluster originality. “Empty Wallets” is relatable for young people since it’s about having a good time despite having little money, but didn’t manage to stand out. “Babylon” is musically strong, however, it missed the mark and didn’t become the song fans put on repeat. Even so, it became evident to me after listening to them more than the two songs earned their place on the album just as much as the radio hits like “Youngblood” did. Overall, Youngblood has a tracklist that is easy to fall in love with. With a modern rock n’ roll twist on pop music, everyone is sure to find a song on the album for them.

Black Panther Soundtrack 

(Due to explicit language we can’t include the mentioned music video.)

This was not only a movie that impacted a generation, but also a film with a soundtrack that pushed boundaries. The music was nothing less than outstanding and bass filled. The movie itself was iconic in its own right, but the soundtrack complimented the masterpiece perfectly.

Co-produced by Kendrick Lamar, the album was beyond anticipated by long-standing hip-hop fans as well as casual listeners. A combination of hip-hop, rap and R&B royalty as well as new artists all come together to create the sounds of Wakanda through each of the 14 tracks.

Both Pray For Me and All The Stars played almost constantly on the radio this year, and for good reason. The Weeknd and Kendrick Lamar teamed up to create Pray For Me, a luxurious song with a bouncy beat. The track is very fluid and fits perfectly in the lavish casino as the audience anticipated a fight scene in the movie. All The Stars sung by Kendrick Lamar and SZA is a pop masterpiece, however, the music video stole the attention. Of course, the confusion and tension over real and imagined connectivity to Africa is central to the film’s conflict between T’Challa and Erik Killmonger.

In an editorial by The Atlantic writer Taylor Hosking, she said that the struggle between the two characters reflects the internal conflict many African Americans feel towards their “Africanness” — wether is it authentic or not. The movie clearly shows this struggle, but the music and the All The Stars video follow suit creating a well-executed audio and visual concept that isn’t too heavy too casually watch but has more meaning than the average superhero film.

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse Soundtrack

The movie itself is a modern take on the iconic story of Spiderman and the soundtrack embodies it perfectly. Through the tracklist bass and steady beats are definitely a trend. The primary hip-hop/R&B album felt like a playlist on a young and creative boy from Brooklyn’s phone, fitting the main character well. The soundtrack goes back and forth between hype music like Start a Riot by Duckworth and chill R&B songs like Invincible by Aminé.

The star of the album is without a doubt Sunflower by Post Malone and Swae Lee. The song’s mellow and uplifting hip-hop/R&B beat mixed with Malone and Lee’s vocals creates the ultimate universal song. It can be listened to while doing homework or sung along to in the car with friends.

As a whole, the modern soundtrack fits perfectly into the urban setting of the movie as well as the everyday life of young people.