Recently I saw a list from a website which hadn’t placed Lemonade by Beyoncé anywhere on their top 20 albums for 2016. Considering the cultural impact of the work, it seemed more than a little odd.
It got me thinking about how a lot of women artists, particularly in pop, get left out in the cold when it comes to the yearly wrap-ups. It’s slowly changing, but the dull idea remains that pop is somehow less credible, and it’s common knowledge that women are continually shafted in terms of musical accolades. Inspired by the dearth of female artists on some End Of Year lists, this is a compilation of ten of the best albums released by women in 2016.
Lemonade - Beyonce
With the release of Formation in February, people were anticipating something huge, and Beyoncé delivered something iconic. While many focused on the infidelity narrative and trying to unmask ‘Becky with the good hair’, Beyoncé’s visual album was about much more than that. It’s a glorious and cinematic ode to black womanhood, vividly delivered.
My Woman - Angel Olsen
Olsen’s third album is coloured by the influence of artists like Fleetwood Mac and Dolly Parton. Previously pigeonholed in the melancholy pop category, this time around her music has an urgent exuberance, exemplified by the track Shut Up, Kiss Me. Her forthcoming Dublin show in May is already one of the most anticipated of 2017.
Chaleur Humaine - Christine And The Queens
Although this album was released in her native France in 2014, Heloise Letissier’s record was reworked with new beats and English vocals, with guest appearances from Perfume Genius and Tunji Ige. Her charming, androgynous stage presence and the hit single Tilted won her legions of new fans, and rightly so.
A Seat At The Table - Solange
This album tells a personal tale of Solange Knowles’ own life, and the struggles that African-Americans face every day. She explores her roots and heritage with both of her parents featuring on the record. The sumptuous harmonies and restrained beauty of her voice contrast with the political subject matter, make this album a vital cultural document.
Puberty 2 - Mitski
Loneliness, identity and attempting to untangle the complicated, desolate feelings of your twenties are the themes of Mitski Miyawaki’s jaggedly graceful fourth album. The intricate production reveals itself with multiple listens, and Your American Girl is our contender for Song Of 2016.
Dangerous Woman - Ariana Grande
A delicious and impeccably produced third album from Grande is easily one of the highlights of the musical year. Lead single Into You has all the markings of an instant classic and the guest roster includes Future, Macy Gray and Lil Wayne. This album is like eating a huge bag of pick-n-mix and not feeling an ounce of regret.
Take Her Up To Monto - Roisin Murphy
Murphy has been a pop innovator for years now, and her follow-up to 2015’s Hairless Toys is an eccentric delight. Never one to pander to radio-friendliness, Murphy has carved out a singular path for herself and her remarkable work.
Hopelessness - Anohni
Best known as the former lead singer of Antony and The Johnsons, Anohni’s debut album is strident in its message. Tackling subjects as varied as torture, war and the destruction of the environment, she is at simultaneously disillusioned and passionate.
Anti - Rihanna
Rihanna’s least commercial album sounds like she’s grabbed the reins and just done whatever the hell she wants, and it paid off. From the icy confidence of opening track Consideration to the classic 80's guitar on Kiss It Better, the album flits from genre to genre while still remaining a singular piece of work.
At Swim - Lisa Hannigan
Hannigan’s most introspective and sombre album is a much starker collection of songs than any of her previous musical pursuits. Chronicling her sense of isolation following a move to London, this is an austere and impactful album.