Arts

Best Entertainment of 2018: Music

While Kacey Musgraves' Golden Hour is named for a particular time of day, don’t be fooled: This album can be played at any time of day during any time of year to successfully soothe you with its warm instrumentals and sincere vocal performances.

Image By: Image courtesy of Scott Kowalchyk/CBS

1. KIDS SEE GHOSTS — Kid Cudi and Kanye West

There’s no doubt that 2018 was an uneasy yet exciting year for Kanye West fans. A lot went down, but let’s focus on an obvious high point: KIDS SEE GHOSTS. Kid Cudi and Kanye West have been a favorite duo for hip-hop-loving millennials, so expectations for this project were high. However, it’s hard to know what to expect with those two. KSG lived up to the iconic statuses of both Cudi and West while exploring new creative territories. Many artists in 2018 have been sticking to the short album trend, and at only 23 minutes long, KSG is no exception. Despite being comprised of only seven precise tracks, the album thematically spans years of volatile controversies and mental health challenges for both artists. The album is an awakening, a fresh start for Cudi and West. Artistically and emotionally in sync at this stage in their careers, the two try to heal their mental health and perhaps a once-fragmented friendship. On the standout track “Freeee,” West and Cudi yell with liberation: “I don’t feel pain anymore/ Guess what baby, I feel free.” The album has a lot of themes involving criticism and self-control, which is played-out through the album with music that feels chaotic at some points and incredibly meticulous at others. -Molly Carmichael

2. DAYTONA — Pusha T

Pusha T has been around awhile, although he has never made a project more reflective of his life and ethos than DAYTONA. This album is cold and straight to the point — partly thanks to Kanye West’s production. The beats are just as striking and quick as Pusha’s vivid accounts of drugs or this year’s political turmoil. Pusha tells detailed stories that give listeners exciting insight into the world of a teenage dealer. In “If You Know You Know,” Pusha raps “One stop like a Walmart/ We got the tennis balls for the wrong sport,” referring to putting drugs in hollow tennis balls. With only two features from Rick Ross and Kanye, the album is completely Pusha’s as he declares himself a force that is still to be reckoned with. Pusha asserts his agenda and authority in every track, not bothering to make listeners sit around and wonder what he means. In the final track “Infrared,” Pusha snaps at longtime foe, Drake, for not writing his own songs. This, of course, started a back-and-forth between the two, which Pusha undoubtedly won and reminded us all he is one of the best. -Molly Carmichael

3. Dirty Computer — Janelle Monae

Janelle Monae capitalized on a stellar 2017 in film — with appearances in “Moonlight” and “Hidden Figures” — by making equally stellar music. Monae, who has identified as both bisexual and pansexual, interweaves a sexual energy throughout the entirety of Dirty Computer, offering a wide range of tunes both empowering and vulnerable, with seamless transitions between tracks. Most impressively, Monae’s album creates a lasting happiness while singing about a stark political setting and her journey through it, such as the loose groove “Pynk,” where she sings “Cause boy it’s cool if you got blue/ but we got the pink.” Later, she channels her inner Prince in lead single “Make Me Feel,” whom she says helped out with the entire album. Dirty Computer is her most accessible album yet, but she has not compromised her musical versatility in the name of a shorter runtime and simpler song structures. -Carl Zabat

4. FM! — Vince Staples

One of hip-hop’s cleverest voices continues a relentless run to the top of the genre through FM!, a fiery and concise 22 minutes of hard beats and double-edged lyrics. Framed around Los Angeles radio show “Big Boy’s Neighborhood,” FM! is a full-formed project despite having only eight full-length tracks. Every minute is brimming to the top with energy and pep, with lead single “FUN!” being a highlight as he raps “My black is beautiful but I still shoot at you” against a bouncy up-tempo beat. Even the interludes, from Earl Sweatshirt to Tyga — who have very different backgrounds — blend right into Staples’ commercial aesthetic as they each spit for less than 30 seconds. While the entire project can be listened to as party music and without much thought, the words underneath tell more complex and vivid stories. One such example as the skit featuring the titular Big Boy, who brings onto his black music-focused show a resident of a Los Angeles County neighborhood with an extremely small black population. -Carl Zabat

5. God’s Favorite Customer — Father John Misty

In the past, people loved to typecast Father John Misty (a.k.a. Joshua Tillman) as a pretentious and arrogant artist who thinks he knows everything. In June, he invalidated these labels with God’s Favorite Customer. He has a voice that is vulnerable and sincere, yet light enough at times that it feels like the music is floating above your head. He doesn’t shy away from loved topics like religion, love, mental health and ego but explores the topics in a raw human manner. Several of the tracks explore a short span of time when Tillman isolated himself to a hotel room for two months, while experiencing depression and trying to deal with it through writing. This is where inspiration for “Mr. Tillman” comes into play, when he describes himself from the perspective of a hotel employee. In the song “Please Don’t Die,” he sings from the perspective of his wife, Emma, begging him not to die and leave her alone. It’s a devastatingly honest song about death and relationships that enters a level of depth not too often. The album is a candid exploration of Tillman himself that he takes listeners along for. -Molly Carmichael

Honorable Mention: Golden Hour — Kacey Musgraves

Music is rarely as unabashedly sweet and well-executed as Golden Hour. Musgraves finds the right tempo and the right amount of shiny country-pop gloss to complete every track. “Darling you take the high horse and I’ll take the high road,” from “High Horse” and “Go out with you in powder blue and tease my hair up high” from “Velvet Elvis” are two standout lyrics from two of the album’s best songs, exemplifying Musgraves’ balancing act of popular references without sounding like cheap melodies. While Golden Hour is named for a particular time of day, don’t be fooled: This album can be played at any time of day during any time of year to successfully soothe you with its warm instrumentals and sincere vocal performances. -Carl Zabat

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