AP’s Top Albums of 2021: “Donda”, HER and Jazmine Sullivan of Philly | Music

Ten of the year’s best albums, selected by The Associated Press entertainment reporters.

OLIVIA RODRIGO, “SOUR”Olivia Rodrigo launches her debut album “SOUR” with the words “I want it to be, like, messy” and she continues to deliver just that. The 11 songs on the 18-year-old singer-songwriter’s breakout album are raw and angry, dreamy and mocking, playful and secular, with bursts of punk and princess pop. It’s an amazing human salute from the youngest solo artist to debut at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100. Taylor Swift is clearly a model – and even gets writing credit for a Swift tween in ” 1 step forward, 3 step back “- but there are also echoes of Alanis Morissette’s fury in” Jagged Little Pill “. This is indeed a messy and messy album was perfect for 2021. – Mark Kennedy

KANYE WEST, “DONDA”Kanye West took a step forward in his religious musical walk with his 10th studio album “Donda”. The highly anticipated album – named after her late mother Donda West – lived up to the hype with a healthy dose of Jay-Z talent on “Jail,” “Pure Souls” with Roddy Ricch and Lil Baby and The Weeknd on “Hurricane”. “Throughout the album, wise recorded lyrics were presented by her mother, who died in 2007 from complications from plastic surgery.

Ye’s latest project follows his gospel-themed album “Jesus is King”, which won a Grammy for Best Contemporary Christian Album. But with “Donda,” West set out to create a hip-hop gospel album – no easy task, especially with so many high-end features that he convinced to buy to create the 27 tracks filled with a range of gospel nuances. West opens up about his marital problems with ex-wife Kim Kardashian on “Lord I Need You.” Much like this song, he often speaks aloud in the hope that a higher being can help him answer his prayers. – Jonathan Landrum Jr.

YOLA, “TAKE ME”British singer-songwriter Yola sums up the freedom to finally feel alive after years of sacrificing yourself to the expectations of society. As a black singer whose artistry was often tucked away in tiny genre-specific boxes, her second album “Stand For Myself” is a glorious exploration of her musical breadth. Yola, the music therapist, tells you that she’s been in your shoes, barely struggling to get by, but she makes you dance in tears to a 70s disco beat. The Grammy Nominated Diamond Studded Shoes are a self-reflective protest anthem that recognizes that kids are not doing well and you have to fight. Yola’s impressive voice takes you on a rock-moving journey of discovery. – Kristin M. Hall

TYLER, THE CREATOR, “CALL ME IF YOU LOSE YOURSELF”While it was presumed that two of hip-hop’s biggest personalities, Ye (formerly Kanye West) and Drake, would fight for the top spot with their new albums, a clear winner emerged: Tyler, The Creator. Following his 2019 Grammy rap album of the year “Igor,” this record masterfully showed both MC’s chops and Tyler’s production expertise. Whether it was hard, punchy “LUMBERJACK” or “Backseat” by popular 90s R&B band H-town and turning it into “WUSYANAME,” Tyler has yet proven himself to no longer appeal to the crowd. listeners with the shocking rhymes he once spat as a rap rookie, but because his talent and creativity are limitless. – Gary Gérard Hamilton

LUCY DACUS, “HOME VIDEO”Lucy Dacus delivers a stunning portrayal of coming of age, exploring sexuality, morality and the impact of relationships through the lens of Christian youth culture. There is a sense of nostalgia throughout all 11 tracks as Dacus reconciles who she was with who she has become.

The images of “Home Video” are vivid, linking each song to a point and place in time. “We’re coming home / From a sermon about how bent and mean we are,” she sings over “Christine”.

Dacus was not afraid of the person she was and influential structures like the Holiday Bible School had on her (“In the summer of 07 / I was sure I would go to Heaven / I covered my bets on VBS “). There is also a subtlety in how she describes the impact of relationships which is very relevant. It’s not always a scathing remark that leaves an impression, but a partner who calls you “cerebral”: “Would it have killed you to call me pretty instead?” “

Overall, “Home Video” is a touching memory from his youth – and it’s a shame it was overlooked by the Recording Academy. – Ragan Clark

JAZMINE SULLIVAN, “TALES OF HEAUX”Jazmine Sullivan’s “Heaux Tales” could easily be the best album of the year. A moving singer always recognized for her powerful voice but never fully appreciated for her artistic brilliance, her latest project tackled femininity, relationships and black women who shamelessly owned their sexuality. R&B was never dead, but it needed revitalization and like many things black women – Sullivan, HER and many of their contemporaries – came to save it. – Gary Gérard Hamilton

BILLIE EILISH, “HAPPIER THAN EVER”Billie Eilish faced a potential sophomore meltdown and blown her away with “Happier Than Ever,” a fascinating look at the complicated life of a pop star. As diaristic as Taylor Swift but more self-critical and emotionally candid, Eilish’s expressive and lush voice explored stardom and its dark sides, like exposing unequal power structures or paparazzi. “Happier Than Ever” is fuller and more grandiose than its debut, the songs are stronger in their construction, sharper. There are great kiss songs (“I Didn’t Change My Number”, “Lost Cause” and the slow “Happier Than Ever”) and Eilish and her producer brother Finneas even play bossa nova. But Eilish is better in the shadows, exploring our messiest impulses and this album sparkles in the dark. – Mark Kennedy

SHE, “BACK OF MY SPIRIT”It’s hard to believe that HER’s first solo studio album came out this year, especially with all of her commercial success and the fact that she has already won four Grammys and an Oscar from her self-titled album and songs like ‘I Can’ t Breathe “and” Better than I imagined. With all the accolades, HER showed why she won these awards with “Back of My Mind” which is brilliant work. The 21 track album is filled with several gems including the radio-friendly “Damage”, the smooth single “Come Through” with Chris Brown, his masterful duet with Ty Dolla $ ign on “Back of My Mind” and the upbeat “Find a Way” with Lil Baby . – Jonathan Landrum Jr.

LITTLE SIMZ, “I CAN SOMETIMES BE INTROVERTED”With her fourth LP, Anglo-Nigerian rapper Little Simz brings the heat.

“Sometimes I Might Be Introvert” is a captivating album, both personal and universal. From candid lines on her “daddy issues” in “I love you, I hate you” to her discussion of empowering women in “Woman,” Little Simz covers a lot of ground in her massive 19 track record.

Perhaps the most powerful song on the album (though it’s hard to pick just one) is “Little Q, Pt. II” where she describes in first person the heartbreaking experience her young cousin had. lived after being stabbed in the chest. The amount of compassion shown towards her abuser is shocking: “But the boy who stabbed me is just as damaged as me … The broken houses where we come from, but who is to blame when / You receive the same cards from the system in which you are enslaved? “

To quote Little Simz to herself: “Woman to woman, I just want to see you shine. Her talent is undeniable and with “Sometime I Might Be Introvert” she has created a masterpiece. – Ragan Clark

SNAIL COURIER, “VALENTIN”2021 brought a lot of really great breakup albums, from Rodrigo to Adele, and if you still need more cathartic emotional outings to sob and scream, Snail Mail’s “Valentine” is a great one. Lindsey Jordan, who performs as Snail Mail, analyzes the post-relationship wreckage, as well as the rehab. The album’s very sensitive lyrics, whispered falsetto vocals and fuzzy guitars from Jordan combine for a great second show from the young indie rock powerhouse. The “Ben Franklin” synth, accompanied by a heavy bassline, is both sarcastic and self-deprecating as an ex-lover aware of his jealousy and trying to process the anger of broken promises. “Valentine” feels like rummaging through a diary filled with visceral, raw confessions. – Kristin M. Hall


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