Highly anticipated albums, final albums and comeback albums, 2016 has served us some of the best music in recent history and as the new year rolls by Buro 24/7 Middle East presents the year's top album picks. Expect big hitters including Beyonce, Lady Gaga and Radiohead...
Lady Gaga – Joanne
Lady Gaga serves up a new album complete with new sounds and a new look, complete with a new signature pink hat. Departing from OTT to more American rock chick credentials, with a dash of country thrown into the mix, Joanne includes year-end hits including "Perfect Illusion" and the most recent "Million Reasons".
Beyonce – Lemonade
Queen Bey's sixth album must have been one the most anticipated albums of the year. Following months of teasers, Beyonce finally unveiled the single "Formation" on one of the biggest stages in the US: the 2016 Superbowl. In true Beyonce style, the album was released alongside a special HBO project that visualises the tracks and the album sees Bey up for nine nominations for the upcoming Grammy Awards.
Rihanna – Anti
At the tail end of 2015, Rihanna released a series of short diary clips in anticipation of her new album and in January, after all of the rooms had been unlocked, Anti was unveiled. The album spawned hit tracks including "Work" featuring Drake, which earned Rihanna the award for Favourite R&B/Soul song at the American Music Awards.
David Bowie – Blackstar
This was David Bowie's final musical bow following his passing, just three days after Blackstar was released. Though his 25th studio album was inspired by both Kendrick Lamar and D'Angelo, Bowie still manages to imprint his signature musical stylings, thanks also in part to the collaboration with a prominent jazz band that allows for the creation of unique sounds that Bowie is renowned for.
Red Hot Chili Peppers – The Getaway
Working with master producer Danger Mouse, American rock royalty Red Hot Chili Peppers released their 11th studio album in the summer. Titled The Getaway, the band experimented with a new musical direction, replacing the frenetic upbeat sounds of yesteryear for a more mellowed approach without losing their trademark melodies. Highlighting that new approach is the collaboration with English singing legend Elton John on the track "Sick Love".
Sia – This is Acting
It may be hard to recognise her face but Sia's voice is unmistakable. With tracks such as " The Greatest" and "Cheap Thrills" – the track that Rihanna rejected – Sia's vocal prowess is on full show along with her sublime writing talents in This is Acting.
Fifth Harmony – 7/27
While Camilo Cabelo has confirmed her exit from Fifth Harmony, the group can look back on a highly successful ophomore album that includes collaborations with industry bigwigs such as Missy Elliott. 7/27 also featured the hit song "Work from Home", which features Ty Dolla $ign and has won multiple awards including the MTV Video Music Award for Best Collaboration.
Bastille – Wild World
Following up 2013's debut album Bad Blood, British indie pop band Bastille served up Wild World this year. Mixing both rock and electronic dance music genres beautifully, the band has crafted a niche sound with a little stripped back soul thrown into the mix. Think tracks such as "Two Evils" where only instrument and voice take centrestage.
Kings of Leon – Walls
After the criticism of 2013's Mechanical Bull, Kings of Leon returned in 2016 with a fresh album that doesn't simply recycle old sounds. This is largely thanks to the recruitment of new producer Markus Dravs, resulting in a more varied sound that ranges from '80s inspired synthesisers and darker themes to their traditional garage rock.
DNCE – DNCE
DNCE may have gained early following due to frontman Joe Jonas' industry stature but the group has certainly come into their own. The band had been making the rounds for the past year but only released their debut self-titled album in November which includes the massive hit "Cake by the Ocean" as well as "Toothbrush".
Radiohead – A Moon Shaped Pool
Always broody yet incessantly melodic, Radiohead produced another masterclass in songwriting and music-making with A Moon Shaped Pool, their ninth studio album. Departing from the beat-filled The King of Limbs, Thom Yorke and company returned to their original musicality, offering a subdued yet rhythmic sense of sadness and loss.
Bruno Mars – 24K Magic
Always bringing funk to the game, Bruno Mars continues his retro musical influences in a new album that boasts collaborations with Babyface, T-Pain as well as a brief voice cameo by Hollywood actress Halle Berry. It's a smorgasbord of synthetic vocals, punchy backing vocals and electronic sounds as Mars showcases his future musical direction by taking inspiration from the past.
Solange – A Seat at the Table
Though big sister Beyonce dominated music headlines this year with Lemonade, Solange is grabbing her own share of the spotlight with her third album, the most critically acclaimed and most commercially successful yet. Roping in the musical talents of Andre 3000, Lil' Wayne and Kelly Rowland, Solange produced an almost self-healing album that speaks of sadness, empowerment as well as ancestral heritage.
Alicia Keys – Here
Alicia Keys have evolved from smooth balladeer to funky R&B singer and now to gritty messenger as she preaches about societal issues and values in her eighth studio album. From singing about parenting and community and spirit to equality and holy wars, Keys is serving up important messages in a rhythmic tone that would not be soon forgotten.
Ariana Grande – Dangerous Woman
She's only been in the music scene for several years but Ariana Grande has already served up her third album in 2016. Dangerous Woman featured collaborations with Nicki Minaj, Macy Gray and Future. While her unmistakable vocal prowess, in addition to her onstage persona, once again showcases her status as one of the new generations of divas.
The Weeknd – Starboy
Admittedly inspired by two recently departed music icons – Prince and David Bowie – The Weeknd's new album was even named in homage to Bowie's Starman. The album, which also features a host of contemporary music's finest including Daft Punk, Kendrick Lamar and Lana Del Rey, has already produced the massive title track which he performed most recently at the Victoria's Secret show in Paris earlier this month.
Kanye West – The Life of Pablo
After what seemed like endless chopping and changing, from the album name to the track listing, Kanye West finally dropped his new album in February. From Swish to Waves, West finally decided on the album name that has stirred debate as to whether he named it after the great artist Pablo Picasso, especially after singing "I feel like Pablo when I'm working on my shoes, I feel like Pablo when I see me on the news" in the track "No More Parties in L.A." The Life of Pablo provided the soundtrack to the Yeezy Season 3 show too.
Michael Buble – Nobody But Me
Whether it's mere experimentation or a reinvention, Michael Buble's new musical approach in his latest album Nobody But Me serves up more of his velvety smooth voice. This time, he also brought in Meghan Trainor to add in the pop flavour to his project. "I wanted to move out of my comfort zone," said Buble. "I was hungry for real change and to leave that comfort zone because I knew I needed it to grow."
Drake – Views
Chart topper and award winner, Drake's new album, featuring hits such as "One Dance", has been raking in rave reviews as well as awards including Favourite Hip-Hop/Rap album at the American Music Awards and a similar win at the MTV EMAs. The album is also in the running for Best Rap Album at the 2017 Grammy Awards.
Anohni – Hopelessness
The debut solo album by British-American artist Anohni featured heavy messages of war particularly in the track "Drone Bomb Me", which starred Naomi Campbell in the music video. Other issues brought up in this exceptional album include climate change as well as the eradication of privacy through digitisation. Dramatic sounds coupled with Anohni's distinctive voice make for a palatable protest album.