The fourth quarter of the year has begun, and before we know it we'll be overwhelmed with year-end lists naming the best albums of the year. Among them will surely be one from the mercurial writers at Pitchfork, whose controversial reviews of some of pop's most buzzed about releases have been the subject of much debate for the past 26 years.
While we wait, let's take a look back at 10 albums released over the past nine months that have made the best—and worst—impressions on the wielders of the mighty 'fork. (Note: this list was determined by ranking studio albums categorized as "Pop/R&B" by Pitchfork. Compilations, EPs like Red Velvet's Queendom, and remix albums like Lady Gaga's Dawn of Chromatica were not included.)
5. Billie Eilish, Happier Than Ever (7.6)
Eilish sings with unsparing honesty about her rapid ascent to stardom and all its accompanying horrors. It's woozy, effortlessly melodic, and showcases her command over the pop landscape.
Our review of Billie Eilish’s Happier Than Ever https://t.co/v4A6aMcnEM— Pitchfork (@pitchfork) August 2, 2021
4. serpentwithfeet, DEACON (7.7)
By celebrating simplicity, [DEACON] enshrines the Black, queer love at its center as something blessedly uncomplicated and precious.
3. Tinashe, 333 (7.8)
Tinashe's second consecutive triumph, another gregarious rebuke of the notion that R&B has to be difficult or demanding to be transcendent.
2. Dawn Richard, Second Line: An Electro Revival (8.0)
The absence of Black faces and Black women in spaces that interest her has not stopped Richard from going in headfirst. Like other Black women who didn't plan on being pioneers, she's become part of the genesis out of a sheer need to not be boxed in.
1. Jazmine Sullivan, Heaux Tales (8.6)
Across eight songs connected by spoken-word interludes from different women, Heaux Tales unfurls a patchwork of origins, outcomes, thrills, and disasters of coital indulgence in [Sullivan's] most cohesive work to date.
[The Worst]The Worst
5. Nick Jonas, Spaceman (5.8)
It's hard to imagine anyone who wasn't already a Nick Jonas fan playing this album on repeat. His brand may sell, but this music is less desirable.
Nick Jonas tends to over-explain the themes on Spaceman— Pitchfork (@pitchfork) March 16, 2021
Using his liner notes to decode the album feels a bit like cheating on the Monday crossword https://t.co/aFrbzhoJwR
4. ZAYN, Nobody Is Listening (5.6)
Nobody Is Listening makes a painstaking attempt to disguise an endless supply of sweat and sex and cigarettes as a love story.
Zayn's falsetto is beautiful, but he’s never sounded like this much of an amateur https://t.co/rHHzCfBByU— Pitchfork (@pitchfork) January 20, 2021
3. Zara Larsson, Poster Girl (5.4)
Years into her solo career, Larsson is still just a disembodied voice floating over the beat. On her third album, she tries out some different sounds, but the result comes off like a Who's-Who of 2011 radio.
Years into her solo career, Zara Larsson is still just a disembodied voice floating over the beat https://t.co/ju48omxivv— Pitchfork (@pitchfork) March 17, 2021
2. LANY, gg bb xx (4.1)
This is the sound slumping across Spotify, playlist-friendly and palatable enough to put on shuffle; this is music that can never disappoint you, because you've been conditioned to expect nothing from it.
Have you ever quickly needed a band for something, doesn’t really matter what they sound like as long as they play music? Try LANY. https://t.co/BCmbPZApoo— Pitchfork (@pitchfork) September 9, 2021
1. Adrian Younge, The American Negro (4.0)
Younge is clearly writing from a place of real indignation, but his hamfisted diatribes are so lifeless and incoherent the record collapses under the inertia.
Adrian Younge: The American Negro Album Review | Pitchfork // 읽어 볼 가치가 있는 리뷰다. 오직 미국 내 흑인 당사자성으로만 가능한 앨범의 메세지 인식. https://t.co/PjoxuJuAVi— 리드머 훈성남지라 (@hoonsungnamzila) March 6, 2021
What have been your favorite releases of the year so far? Biggest disappointments?