Every year I vote for my favorite music (songs and albums) in an annual music critics poll and this year I submitted my ballot for the Uproxx installment. You can view my ballot here. Since the ballot was shortened this year, I wanted to share an extended list of my favorite music this year.
View my accompanying Spotify playlist here, Tidal here, Apple Music playlist here.
Gabriel Luna / “Edge of Town”
The actor and product of Texas with a history of love for music dropped this gritty western track, a perfect prelude to his upcoming leading role in the film adaptation of Last Of Us, one of the best rated video games of all-time. It’s basically a perfect circle of my interests.
Peyton / “Let It Flow” featuring Brice Blanco
If you picked up the winter issue of Houstonia Magazine, you saw the glowing review I wrote for this song. When Peyton sings, it’s like you get to live in one of her daydreams for a few minutes. What a treat!
C.S. Armstrong / “Own Two” featuring Jay Rock
I’ve been a fan of C.S. Armstrong since the CharlieRED days, so to see him get not one but two verses from Jay Rock is absolutely amazing. Can’t help but root for this guy who sings soul with the soul of a bluesman.
Anusha / “Someone I Never Wanted”
What a beautiful, gut-wrenching ode to heartbreak; the terrible, exasperating realization you’ve been used. You weren’t asking for too much, Anusha, and fuck them, whoever they are.
Ari Lennox / “Pressure”
Tinashe / “Undo”
Common / “What Do You Say” featuring PJ & Damian Marley
PJ has had such a great past few years, doing songs with artists as wide ranging as Flo Milli and Damian Marley. Here we have the rare case where the remix far exceeds the original. Such an inviting beat and PJ, who has such a natural gift for songwriting, gives us a hook that is irresistible.
Lenora / “Red Flags”
Lenora dropped this song and album at the very top of the year and really was ahead of the curve of the red flag dialogue online. A song about drawing boundaries with people who are destructive forces in our lives? Yes please.
WILLOW / “t r a n s p a r e n t s o u l” featuring Travis Barker
Aaron Stephens / “Ready”
Aaron Stephens is one of the brightest songwriters coming out of Texas. This album was a step outside of his comfort zone, and I think his career will benefit from it. “Ready,” though, is vintage Stephens.
DJ Khaled / “WHERE YOU COME FROM” featuring Buju Banton, Capleton, Bounty Killer, Barrington Levy
Say what you will about Khaled, seeing all these dancehall legends in one place is quite simply special and a treasure. Shukran, Khaled.
Drake / “N 2 Deep” featuring Future
True story: I listened to CLB for the first time in Los Angeles with a friend from Houston, and the second we heard this Bun B “Get Throwed” sample, we collapsed on the floor and lost our shit. So yeah, easily one of my favorite songs of the year.
Joyce Wrice / “On One” (featuring Freddie Gibbs)
City Girls / “Twerkulator”
I’m a sucker for an 80s rap sample, sue me.
Azealia Banks / “Fuck Him All Night”
Lil Nas X / “Industry Baby” featuring Jack Harlow
This shit is so good. Lil Nas X is a star (and a great rapper
by the way!)
Rico Nasty / “Money” featuring Flo Milli
Once again, I am a sucker for an 80s rap sample.
Madison McFerrin / “Guilty”
A song that will be relevant for many years to come as old systems crumble. Anthems don’t have to be complicated, in fact simple is often better.
Lorde / “Solar Power”
It makes me happy to see Lorde happy, not a cell phone in sight, just enjoying the moment.
anees / “slip”
anees is another naturally gifted songwriter that seems to only exhale hits. I’m sure he’s written something bad at some point, I just haven’t heard it.
Propain / “H-Town” featuring Sauce Walka
I really hope people stop to appreciate this song if only for the simple fact that Propain got Sauce Walka to break character. Hearing him be this reserved, contemplative, even melancholic and lugubrious is stunning.
Arooj Aftab / “Mohabbat”
One of the most beautiful songs I’ve ever heard. And I listened to it about a dozen times before I even bothered to look up a translation of the Urdu lyrics, originally a hundred-year-old poem written by Hafeez Hoshiarpuri:
seeing how you have ample lovers around you,
i will not be one of them
this is sad, as i love you the most.
the sadness of this is equal to the sadness of all the world.
and were there not this one sadness, how much happiness would there be
in this world.
and even if i do somehow get to be one of your lovers,
the sadness of my time spent in separation from you will be all that consumes me
i will not be one of those lovers to you.
Fuck me up.
Lebra Jolie / “Now What”
I’m also a sucker for a horn sample, and even moreso a marching band sample. With introductions like this, Lebra is one of the most promising young rappers out of Houston.
DMX / “Hood Blues” featuring Westside Gunn, Benny The Butcher, and Conway The Machine.
Once again, I am done in by a sample. The first time I heard the “Shady Blues” sample was on Jay Electronica’s “Googly Eyes,” and I thought it was just perfect, but allow me to correct myself. The juxtaposition of DMX’s snarl and Westside Gunn’s adlibs over that flute is actually more perfect. I need it in my veins. RIP DMX, I still get sad thinking about how he’s no longer here in the physical.
Drakeo The Ruler / “Talk To Me” featuring Drake
Rest in peace to Drakeo, man. I didn’t think I was gonna have to have to type that and I’m sad that I do. The catchiest hook of the year, easily, and Drakeo gave us enough fresh slang and cadence to last a few lifetimes.
The Muslims / “Fuck These Fuckin Fascists”
I quote this quote all the time but when Nina Simone an artist’s duty was to reflect the times, this was exactly the kind of song she was talking about. The song we need for the moment we’re living through. This generation’s “Nazi Punks Fuck Off.”
Monaleo / “Beating Down Yo Block”
The kind of opening statement every artist dreams of making, Monaleo nailed it. The song, the sample, the video, the energy, it’s all there. I’m rooting for Leo so hard, and hoping she becomes a household name.
And you already know I’ve got all these songs in a playlist, stream it here:
zack fox / shut the fuck up talking to me
zack can rap, really well in fact. the critics giving this album bad reviews are only telling on themselves. imagine being caught out of touch, couldn’t be me.
Pink Siifu / Gumbo’
Le$ / E30
This one was released after the end-of-november deadline for the Uproxx poll, but it’s so good I have to include it in my list. Expect to see it on my 2022 ballot — unless of course Le$ releases something better…. which, wild as it sounds, is likely to happen.
Mach-Hommy / Pray For Haiti
Lorde / Solar Power
Once again, we should all be happy that Lorde is happy. If she wants to be stoned at the nail salon, we support that as well.
Joyce Wrice / Overgrown
FINALLY, a full length album from Joyce Wrice. And boy did she absolutely crush it. The Aaliyah influence is apparent and very welcome here from the album art to the music itself.
Maxo Kream / Weight of the World
His best and most cohesive body of work, with a Tyler the Creator feature for emphasis.
Kari Faux / Lowkey Superstar (Deluxe)
Both the remixes and new tracks here absolutely do improve her already stellar 2020 album, Lowkey Superstar. And the features????? Jazz Cartier, Smino, Baby Tate??? Come on now. Too good. Kari is truly one of the most talented artists of this generation because her creativity knows no bounds, I can’t wait to hear what she cooks up next — I’m hoping you’ll be tuned in too.
Charley Crockett / Music City USA
It seems like Charley can do no wrong. 2018’s Lonesome As A Shadow remains my favorite album of his, but, once again, Charley delivered.
Parquet Courts / Sympathy For Life
The dudes Parquet are only getting better and more experimental with age, and it’s a pleasure to witness their evolution. This might be my most favorite album they’ve ever made.
Arooj Aftab / Vulture Prince
An absolutely jaw-droppingly incredible album. At some point, superlatives aren’t enough. You just have to hit play and listen.
Tyler, The Creator / Call Me If You Get Lost
We can only hope that our favorite artists will the kind of character progression that Tyler has gone through. He went from an artist I hated to an artist I loved, and that’s rare. Shoutout to maturity.
SAULT / NINE
It’s hard for me to pick a favorite SAULT album, but this might be the one. Listen to it now while you can, because this link will surely get taken down and it will no longer exist on the internet any more.
Little Simz / Sometimes I Might Be Introvert
From her first songs and videos some eight years ago, the talent and potential Little Simz possessed was apparent. She won us over with her charm and incredible on-stage energy, but her previous albums, as good as they were, seemed to not live up to her own potential. This one, though, is it. Sometimes I Might Be Introvert is such a massive artistic statement, it’s impossible to not be impressed by it. We all knew she was capable of greatness of this magnitude, it just took until now for her to finally deliver.
Valerie June / The Moon And Stars: Prescriptions For Dreamers
In a year where several of my favorite artists put out career-defining albums (see: Little Simz, Tyler, and Maxo above), Valerie June’s album was the strongest combination of long-time-coming and pure sonic greatness. I’ve been a fan of Valerie’s for many years and have regarded her as one of the best living songwriters, so I always felt she was capable of creating an album of this magnitude, and it’s finally here. The Moon and Stars is a cosmic masterpiece and the perfect medicine for the weariness that life in a pandemic has heaved onto us all. I highly recommend playing this album in its entirety and not just picking random songs, but, if you have to, start with “Call Me A Fool.”