(*yeah, that song isn’t actually included. It’ll be on Legit Bosses 2022 though! I’m just a bit slow with these things…)
So, only 121 this year, a marked decline on 2020’s 125. So was it a notably worse year? Absolutely chuffing not. Despite the 2.928% drop in numbers, the quality on show is outstanding. Never mind the weight, feel the quality. The top maybe twenty songs especially are on some next level shit, and you haven’t seen so many GOATs since you traumatically happened upon Weird Uncle Colin’s problematic porn collection back in 92. I also shaved a few songs last minute, mainly because they were from albums due to be released in 2022 and I decided to make them Next Year Alex’s problem. Also, one or two I realised… weren’t… actually… that… good… So that just means the 121 that made the cut are all of such spectacular quality that you may want to warn the people around you before you start reading this list, as the floor between your legs is about to get soaked.
No, no, hey, maybe it’s you that’s too gross, ever considered that??
Anyway, let the festivities begin, here are the playlists:
Released in December last year, don’t make me come at you.
Kid Cudi, if you don’t love him your opinion and emotions are wrong and you should be extraordinarily ashamed. He could very well be argued to be one of the absolute most important musical artists of the past twenty years, so maybe that could be a reason you don’t love him. You don’t like ‘modern music’, right? Because you’re a cantankerous old fool? Well, the way it sounds is very much Kid Cudi’s fault, so boohoo him all you want. You do realise that everyone who ever loved you is now dead and you’re likely to follow them off this mortal coil sometime very soon? Cool. Just making sure you were aware how grossly old you are and how you are now impossible to love.
I can actually do a pretty good Kid Cudi impression. No, wait, come back! I promise it’s not racist!! Well, not that racist… It might be a little racist, but not that much! I can basically write a fictitious Kid Cudi song, with all the ‘Mmmmmm‘s and all the ‘Woah-uh-woah’s and all the ‘Yes yes yes yes yes’ followed by ‘No!’, or potentially the other way around. It’s fucking uncanny. But I don’t know anyone who would appreciate it. Sigh, I can’t wait to start my TikTok, it’s gonna be freaking lit bruh!!
Don’t think aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah know?? Y’only tryna sa-ha-haave, yourself! Fuck, yes! I motherfucking love this shit! And I’m not only referring to the original songs on Sharon van Etten’s original 2010 album, her second release and one that indisputably catapulted her into that vaunted selection of artists you should perhaps, maybe, kinda care about. A lot.
While we’re here, can more artists do this please? I have a deeply psychological issue where I will only listen to records released in the same calendar year as when I’m encountering them, with the odd annual exception if you’ve died or if you’re, erm, Yeasayer. Or Prince. If you’re an artist that I’ve discovered in the past five years or so -when this strange affliction really started to take hold and become near dictatorial – then I’m just never going to have the chance to go back and appreciate your earlier stuff unless you rerelease it. Ideally encased with as many bells and whistles as possible, making it an official reissue and eligible for that year’s list. Like, Lupe Fiasco, I’ve fallen in love with you, but only since 2014, so can you rerelease your older stuff that people say is, actually, much better? Kid Cudi, you too, I only started appreciating your majesty as recently as 2016. Could you rerelease that terrible rock album you did, I am beyond curious. But not, like, curious enough to disobey the list.
Some people really rate ‘The Life of Pablo’. Not me, personally. I think it has cheeky splashes of genius amongst its giant conceptual mess, but if we were to compare it to an actual Picasso it would be a part way beautiful Les Demoiselles d’Avignon only with each of the women’s faces replaced by flaming poo emojis, some pencil sketchings still unfilled and a blank canvas for the unfinished bottom third. I did and do really rate ‘Ye’, which is a wonderfully concise and incisive record concerning West’s mental struggles and his first emotionally raw and conscious presentation of his bipolar disorder. But not everyone agrees. Few people agree. And it was largely ignored at the end of year back slapping events, with it still today scoffed at as a undercooked and uninspired minor addition to his canon. Everyone hated ‘Jesus is King’ because that was a fetid pile of donkey faeces. We all agree on that. It’ll soon be nine years since West released a largely agreed upon classic record. Apart from everyone loved 2018’s amazing ‘Kids See Ghosts’ album, but let’s ignore that or lay it 100% at the feet of Kid Cudi, because otherwise my snappy and incisive introductory paragraph doesn’t make sense.
(these are all fan made versions of the ‘Donda’ album cover, by the way, because I thought you all deserved to see what a bit of fucking effort looked like)
Yeah, you know how JPEGMAFIA’s album was just a collection of singles from the previous year? Well, Burial sees that effort and raises it by releasing a collection of singles and EPs from the better part of the last decade. Might have made sense to split the two albums up on the list. This list isn’t about aesthetics and sensible ordering though. It’s pure science. And if the science states that they should be placed next to each other, perhaps both fitted with a secret microchip so Bill Gates can track their movements, then who are we to argue?
Sigh… I’m going to have to start with an embarrassing confession. I know, many of you reading this already think all the things I write are shamefully embarrassing, but this is a distressing mark against my musical knowledge which, come on, up until now was unimpeached. In November of 2019, roughly a month before this collection came out, I wrote this:
You know what? I’ve got a funny feeling that this might not be my last chance to talk about him before this list is done, so I’m wary of squeezing out all my Kanye Juice before the real party starts. ‘Yandhi’ was the album that he was going to release as his follow up to last year’s ‘Ye‘ (I’m sorry, haterz/liberals, but ‘Ye’ was a pretty fine album, as were most of the eighty four records he released last year, let’s not let our reactions to his general behavior colour the history), but then it was delayed, then cancelled, then briefly revived with Ashton Kutcher playing the role of Kanye West, then delayed, then its name was changed to ‘Spunk Muffin and the Dudes With Attitude’, then it was cancelled again, then it was changed to ‘Jesus Is King’, then it was revealed that it wasn’t actually a name change but a completely separate record, then that record was delayed, then it was delayed again, until, finally, it was released, and Yandhi was cancelled, only briefly being released (seriously) as ringtones. Quite straightforward as Kanye West album launches go, really. I actually only sought out ‘Yandhi’ because I assumed it would contain intriguing scrappy demos of whatever tracks Kanye was working on for his next record (which at that point had been delayed so many times I assumed this would be the closest we’d get to a Kanye album this year), but it’s shocking to hear quite how complete a lot of songs on here are, and how realised many ideas are. New Body in particular sounds less than a tweak away from being a hit single, Nicki Minaj feature and all. Later, it was shocking how few of the songs and ideas on ‘Yandhi’ made it to ‘Jesus is King’. Like, pretty much none of it. Nicki Minaj? She’s gone. Hey, Kanye, maybe stay focused on one thing for more than three minutes? Might result in better albums? Perhaps I’ll get to debate this further later.
Guys, it’s absolutely fine to have a full album revolve around one song. Already on this list, we’ve had fantastic albums by Laurie Anderson and Kronos Collective (which basically centres around the strings kicking in on Nothing Left But Their Names) and Son Lux (so obviously centred around ensuring All Directions‘ impact is maximised) carefully and artfully centre their records around ensuring one particular genius song hits the listener just there.
This isn’t a slight on the albums. Just because a record centres its impact around one particular song it doesn’t mean the rest of the record isn’t utter genius. It doesn’t even have to necessarily be the best song on the record. ‘OK Computer’ is obviously designed to build up the euphoria when that guitar solo hits in Lucky, much like Best Record Of 2009™ ‘Tarot Sport‘ is constructed so that you lose your shit when Olympians kicks in almost exactly at the record’s middle, while Hotel California is obviously centred around Hotel California because it’s the first track and only song off the album that I or anyone else actually knows*, and ‘Bad Intentions’ by Dappy just wouldn’t be one of the most reverred albums of the 21st century were it not for the musical break in Yin Yangwhere Dappy recites the stages in the five step Razgar test and wryly questions what Roland Barthes would have said such constrictions on Appendix FM in the immigration law.