Best Albums of 2021: Rishi’s Top 10 Picks

by Rishi Mallela, Sports Editor

Amidst the many ups and downs of 2021, top artists continue to provide for their fans, releasing new albums from varying genres. From pop artists like Taylor Swift and Olivia Rodrigo to hip-hop artists like Kanye West and Don Toliver, the hype across their released music continues to be a growing culture for enthusiasts to compare, rate and “hype up” the likes of these tunes over this past year. So, let’s do the same with Rishi’s popular albums of 2021.


Providing his loyal listeners with a much-anticipated music experience of heartbreak and love, Toronto-native Drake’s album sits at No. 10. With his growing reputation as a lady’s man, the album presented itself to be a glaring reflection of relationships for young teenage boys, looking to take the charts by storm upon its release. However, most of the music in the album still has the same effect of listening to an album, like “Views,” made by Drake a few years ago. “Certified Lover Boyis a tracklist of songs with some lyrically-relatable pop and R&B mixes, but he couples that with some great rap tunes, like “Fair Trade and “No Friends in the Industry.” Even as the beats and lyricism are consistent with his past few albums, most of the album makes for some good, light-hearted listens. Some personal favorites include “Yebba’s Heartbreak,” “Champagne Poetry,” andIn the Bible.” Overall, this album starts off at the bottom of this list at No. 10.


At No.9 is “SOUR by Olivia Rodrigo. Olivia Rodrigo took the hearts of teenagers everywhere with her hit single “Drivers License charting only mere weeks after its release. Rodrigo’s album is reportedly about her ex-boyfriend and former “High School: The Musical: The Seriesco-star Joshua Bassett, and their fallout following the breakup. The album’s tone seems to start a bit conciliatory and melancholic, but quickly moves in-and-out of emotive and chaotic turns through the course of the album. Some personal favorites include “Good 4 U” and “enough for you.” Overall, taking a less than formulaic approach to the “break-up” and pop genre, “SOURprovides listeners with relatable lyrics and catchy tunes, and succeeds in providing a novelty to Olivia Rodrigo’s celebrated presence in the music industry.


At No.8, we have “Life of a DON” by rap artist Don Toliver. Following the tremendous success of his first studio album with Cactus Jack Records, “Heaven or Hell and many singles since its release, the excitement surrounding this album was unparalleled. His unique high-pitched rap/singing style built a loyal fan base from the album, and “Life of a DON” was hinted to be another great step for his career with some catchy tunes and upbeat melodies presented in his unique vocals. And it was exactly that. The album maintains the message of waiting for “the one,” trying to find the right woman, and it rarely ever strays away from it. The hooks are very catchy and move smoothly through every track. A personal favorite is “Way Bigger.” Using a variety of different melodies, his unique falsetto sound makes this album an exceptional listen, overshadowing the lyrical blandness that most of the album carries. So, overall this album was a melodic hit, just missing out on the lyrical aspect of the bunch.


Following “Life of a DON,” the next album on this list, at No.7, is Billie Eilish’s “Happier Than Ever.Billie Eilish took the quarantine period to move on from the dark and gloomy undertones of her previous album, showing off a new character in this new album. Through her tracks, she speaks to her listeners about the journey of fame and success and where this has put her mentally and emotionally. To do this, she begins to use a lot less trap and brash beats and takes over the album with a revamped jazz and synth style that works perfectly with her distinctly sharp and trill sound. Some personal favorites coming from this recognizable change from this album are “Everybody Diesand “NDA. Overall, this album holds a soft, very vocally enjoyable tracklist, making for an exceptional listen for pop/jazz lovers.


At No.6 is “Fearless (Taylor’s Version)by Taylor Swift. This album is a faithful re-recording of her album “Fearlessas a part of her campaign to take back full control of her music, following her binding contract with Scooter Braun, who controlled Taylor’s music releases and “edits” for most of her early career. Compared to the original, this recording of the album is more melancholic and vocally crisp, with regret no longer the tone, but relief and reflection upon Swift’s relationships and love life since the original release of the album. Overall, this album is a great refresh on an already exceptional Taylor Swift album, taking a deserved No. 6 on this list.


At No. 5 is Lil Nas X’s second studio album “Montero.” The hit singles “Montero (Call Me by Your Name),” “Sun Goes Down,” “Industry Babyand the teased “That’s What I Want contributed to the artist’s hype upon the announcement of the album’s release. The album showcases very unique rhythms and catchy beats that grab the attention of the listeners throughout the entirety of the album. Most of all, Lil Nas X expressed his homosexual authenticity through the controversial videos, lyrics and promotions of the album, with a mix of punk, rap and pop through the tracklist playing a major role in the album’s success. From the glaring expression of confidence in songs like “Industry Babyand “Montero to the fight against his personal dissimulation on his body and close relationships in songs like “Sun Goes Downand “Tales of Dominica,” the album brings a new color to the rap and pop music space. Overall, the album utilizes Lil Nas X’s impressive utilization of his vocal range and beat production to make for more than exceptional No. 5 on this list.


At No.4 is“Red (Taylor’s Version)by Taylor Swift. Just like “Fearless (Taylor’s Version),” this is also a re-recording following her contractual split with Scooter Braun on her journey to present her music in the story she’s wanted to tell her audience since the conceptualization of the album. This remake of arguably one of her most popular albums has almost more than a dozen tracks added to the original tracklist, many being different recordings of one song, like “All to Well.” As noticeable by any avid “Redor Taylor Swift listener, “Red (Taylor’s Version)” captures a more developed, fuller sound of Taylor Swift and it provides listeners with the same experience with minor, but apparent melodic changes to some of the tracks in the original. Overall, “Red (Taylor’s Version)provides a revamped and excellent version of an already exceptional album and makes a statement on her journey to take full managerial control of her music.


And, as ironic as it is to put Taylor Swift next to Kanye West, at No.3 is “Dondaby Kanye West. “Dondawas revealed to many faithful “Ye” listeners at Donda listening parties, with others wondering when the album was going to be released. The album was originally due to release on Aug. 6, but ended up releasing nearly a month later on Sept. 3, being compared against the then-released Drake album, “Certified Lover Boy.” “Dondafeatures a tracklist of melancholic tunes — reminiscent of “808s” and “Heartbreak — unique gospel harmonies, and signature Kanye rap tracks. Some personal favorites include “Junyaand “Life of the Party(which is featured on the deluxe version of the album). Overall, “Donda’s adherence to genre isn’t very consistent, but the musicality and new “Yestyle that every track features provides for an engaging listen in every bite, taking a No. 3 spot in this list.


Following Donda, nearing the end of the list, is “An Evening with Silk Sonic” by Silk Sonic at No. 2. Two musically gifted artists, Bruno Mars and Anderson.Paak coming together to take over the R&B and soul music scene. It’s more than one can ask for, and the release of “Leave the Door Openstole the hearts of people worldwide, garnering tens of millions of views in a matter of weeks across all platforms. The release of the album had people excited to hear more of what’s to come from the duo. The eight-song tracklist coupling the motown, jazz, pop, R&B and soul genre couples sanguine and feel-good lyrics with the signature sensual, rap and jazzy styles of both artists to make for an aesthetically pleasing listen especially for fans of both artists.


And, at No.1, is “CALL ME IF YOU GET LOSTby Tyler, the Creator. Through the entirety of his career — being an independent studio artist —  Tyler, the Creator has had an unquestionably unique way of music production and vocals that gravitates new fans to him and brings his loyal fanbase to love him even more. From the brusque lyrics and beats in “Goblin” to the bright and jovial tone of “Flower Boy,” he hasn’t stuck to one tone or direction throughout his discography. Following the same pattern, he brings a new tone to “CALL ME IF YOU GET LOST,” with chaos, pleasance, and the general character of the trap genre meshing together beautifully across the duration of the album. DJ Drama takes a special presence in this album, providing a type of narration, usually seen at the beginning of every track in the album. Tyler’s unique flow and lyricism provide an avenue for him to not be overshadowed by the overwhelming number of features in this album. The album duly deserves to be at the top of this list, with Tyler always providing something new and fresh to music entirely, topping his craft upon the release of every album.


So, to recap, the list, as it stands, is “CALL ME IF YOU GET LOST,” “An Evening With Silk Sonic,” “Donda,” “Red (Taylor’s Version),” “Montero,” “Fearless (Taylor’s Version),” “Happier Than Ever,” “Life of a DON,” “SOUR,” and “Certified Lover Boy.” It’s been a beautiful year for music in the year 2021, and we can only wait to see what music fills our hearts with joy in 2022.