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The best albums of 2019, according to the Mic staff

2019 has been a remarkable, confounding, and sometimes scary year. Through all of it, some great music was released. Too much, even, to whittle down to a "best of" list, if you ask us. But there were albums that touched each of us at Mic, so we decided to compile each of our favorites.

Enjoy!

Ariana Grande - Thank U, Next

ArianaGrandeVevo on YouTube

In the aftermath of a questionable romance, Ariana elevates to a new echelon of self-awareness and vulnerability on Thank U, Next. Her trademark mischievous streak is on brilliant display (“Break Up With Your Girlfriend,” “Bad Idea”) but it’s the album’s quiet, unapologetic admissions that expose a new angle of the pop star. When she concedes “I’m a little messed up,” on “Needy,” it’s both an earnest confession and a shrug; there’s a peace with all of the broken bits and jagged edges. It’s that easy self-acceptance that permeates her fifth album and endears us even further to a pop star we’ve seen struggle, and emerge [ponytail] swinging. — Shanté Cosme, Executive Editor

Pink Sweat$ - Volume 2

Pink Sweats on YouTube

When it comes to the decadence of truly buttery vocal-laden R&B, sometimes five tracks are more than enough. In 2018, Philly-born singer Pink Sweat$ gave baby-making music new life on his debut, Volume 1. This year, his Volume 2 was nearly transcendental, retaining the foundational tenets of the genre while injecting it with youthful candor and unexpected yet immaculate falsettos. ‘Coke & Henny Pt. 2,’ in particular, is the perfect track to text someone with — a reminder that lyrical thirst traps are a love language of their very own. — Rajul Punjabi, Senior Wellbeing Editor

Julia Michaels - Inner Monologue Part I

JuliaMichaelsVEVO on YouTube

By the time Julia Michaels reaches “I just want to be fucking happy” on the third track of Inner Monologue Part I, after singing about anxiety-induced insomnia and dodging an ex you still kind of want to accidentally run into, it feels close to cathartic. An earnest expression for emotionally repressed listeners. The five-song EP is a tight encapsulation, running only a little over 18 minutes, as though you’ve bought a stamped ticket that provides you a look inside Michaels’ brain for just a short period of time before the next group comes through. But for those 18 minutes, it sometimes feels more like those roles are reversed. — Hanna Howard, Innovation Editor

Lana Del Rey - Norman Fucking Rockwell

LanaDelReyVEVO on YouTube

Everybody’s favorite moody songstress croons it herself on track number ten of her excellent fifth album, Norman Fucking Rockwell!

And we were so obsessed with writing the next best American record / That we gave all we had 'til the time we got to bed/ 'Cause we knew we could/ We were so obsessed with writing the next best American record/ 'Cause we were just that good/ It was just that good

Yeah, Lana Del Rey is just that good. In Pitchfork’s review of Norman Fucking Rockwell!, the publication known for unabashed music snobbery raved, “She is the next best American songwriter, period.” Personally, I’ve logged countless hours listening to Lana dismantle the American dream since the album debuted at the end of August. It’s been a really compelling, moody soundtrack for the end of the decade. - Kara Weisenstein, Contributing Writer

Freddie Gibbs and Madlib - Bandana

Freddie Gibbs on YouTube

This spring, when a friend sent me the YouTube link to “Giannis,” off Freddie Gibbs and Madlib’s second collab album Bandana, I was in the thick of some frustration at work. It was a perfect time for me to witness professionals at the top of their game. Gibbs’s slick raps drive Bandana forward, his trademark confidence and charm underpinned perfectly by Madlib’s intoxicating beats. Plus, as a politics editor by day, diehard NBA fan by night, I absolutely love that Gibbs namechecks Giannis Antetokounmpo, Dikembe Mutombo, and Allen Iverson as fluidly as he does Jeff Sessions and Barack Obama. - Kimberly Alters, Politics Editor

Burna Boy - African Giant

Burna Boy on YouTube

2019 was packed with releases from new artists who have recently exploded onto the scene like Lizzo, DaBaby, and Billie Eilish. But few albums have had the same lasting power (in my rotation, at least) as African Giant by Nigerian singer-songwriter Burna Boy, who is both far from new and yet still finding his footing in the various genres his music touches. His fourth album, African Giant makes Burna Boy’s previous three records sound like testing grounds for this moment — a perfectly executed blend of afrobeat, reggae, R&B, and hip-hop, all tied together by the singer’s unorthodox rasp and melodic prowess. The thematic consistency of African Giant makes this album much more than a collection of vibey hits, but rather a finely constructed roadmap to the history, culture, and musical influences that make Burna Boy who he is. - Ramy Zabarah, Director of Social

Muna - Saves The Day

MunaVEVO on YouTube

There is a moment in “Who,” one of the best songs from Cali pop trio MUNA’s sophomore album Saves The Day, that is my favorite kind of moment in a song. It follows the first verse, about someone presumed to not know about love, after lead songwriter Katie Gavin sings, “I thought you never let your feelings show.” It’s one word — the song’s title, in fact. “Who?” Who? Coming out of the tension of that first verse, the utterance acts as a release for the rest of the track’s synthy bittersweetness. The question, “Who are you singing about now?”encapsulates so much pain. Heartbreak, resentment, jealousy — all wrapped up in a voice. But it really sounds as though the act of singing those words gives Gavin some catharsis. In many ways, Saves The Day is about the healing power of pop music. - Leah Mandel, Contributor

Slauson Malone - A Quiet Farwell, 2016–2018

Grand Closing on YouTube

The musician Slauson Malone's debut, A Quiet Farewell 2016 - 2018, unravels heartbreak and the passage of time as if delivered by an entity unmoored from both. Malone, born Jasper Marsalis, concerns himself with the kind of self-knowledge that at once disarms and endures. A constellation of emotional shrapnel that, when held to the right light, illuminates everything. A founding member of the experimental jazz ensemble Standing on the Corner, Malone's solo work is imbued with a hypnotic sense of sampling, voice modulating, and repetition that takes the record's themes from the abstract to the guttural. Somehow, a thirty-second interlude titled "Treachery of Memories" was the only song that really hit me all year. - Jeff Ihaza, Culture Editor

DaBaby - KIRK

DaBaby on YouTube

Watching Dababy perform on Saturday Night Live confirmed what most already knew: He's a star. The album was packed full of fun songs — and the cadence of his voice has been driving people, especially women, wild. "BOP" is one of the best songs of the year, not only because he's brought the Jabawokeez back. But he didn’t just produce one great song; “Suge,” “Baby” and “Off The Rip,” was also on repeat since the release. Dababy brings precision, dedication, and joy to everything he’s done, and I couldn’t be more grateful. - Opheli Garcia Lawler, Contributing Writer