Saturday, March 2, 2019

The Best Albums of 2018

Every year, I compile the year-end music lists published by a variety of news, music, and entertainment blogs and magazines in order to determine a broad consensus of the best ranked albums of the year. I consult a variety of sources of try to capture the wide variety of styles covered by these publications.

I look at the ranking of each list and assign a number of points to each album based on its placement on the list. For placements within the top ten, each album gets the number of points inverse to its position; a number one spot gets ten points, number ten gets one point, and so on. Beyond the top ten, albums receive a fraction of a point, the value of which depends on the album's placement. I start at 0.5 points for spots 11 through 20, going down one-tenth of a point for each group of ten. Once I hit 0.1 points, any remaining albums on the list will receive that value.

Last year, I finally got around to adding the first tool to my belt to make tracking and calculating this a bit easier (though, clearly it didn't help me get this posted any faster). I created a database with tables for Artist, Album, Publication, and Publication List, as well as a linking table for Album to Publication List that included the album's placement on the list. Using a fairly simple query, I was then able set the of point gained for each album placement, then sum those up to get the scores.

Here is the top ten ranking for 2018 albums:

10. Arctic Monkeys - Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino: 35.1 points (7 list inclusions; 4 top ten appearances; 1 number one spot)
9. IDLES - Joy As an Act of Resistance: 35.9 points (8 list inclusions; 6 top ten appearances)
8. Pusha T - Daytona: 37.6 points (15 list inclusions; 7 top ten appearances)
7. Christina and the Queens - Chris: 40.5 points (13 list inclusions; 7 top ten appearances; 1 number one spot)
6. Ariana Grande - sweeetener: 43.5 points (12 list inclusions; 6 top ten appearances; 1 number one spot)
5. Robyn - Honey: 49.3 points (16 list inclusions; 8 top ten appearances)
4. Janelle Monáe - Dirty Computer: 56.8 points (17 list inclusions; 8 top ten appearances; 1 number one spot)
3. Cardi B - Invasion of Privacy: 58.4 points (15 list inclusions; 8 top ten appearances; 2 number one spots)
2. Kacey Musgraves - Golden Hour: 77.2 points (14 list inclusions; 10 top ten appearances; 2 number one spots)
1. Mitski - Be the Cowboy.: 79.9 points (17 list inclusions; 12 top ten appearances; 2 number one spots)

A few things stood out about this year's lists. The first was that this truly looked like the year of women. I first noticed the general dominance of female artists with NPR's list, of which the entire top ten were women. Of the final count, the top seven are women!

It was also a great year for acclaimed pop music. The top albums included both established artists like Robyn and newer pop darlings in Ariana Grande.

It was not, however, Kanye's year. In past years, when he released an album, it was the number one rated of the year. His 2018 album, ye, made it onto only one list, where it placed 34th. His collaborative album with Kid Cudi, Kids See Ghosts, fared slightly better. It made it onto four lists, but placed no higher than 15th. He does have a tangential victory in Pusha T; he produced the rapper's Daytona, which did make it into the overall top ten.

It wasn't a runaway year for anyone, though. Usually, there's a clear leader. Last year's was Kendrick Lamar, with Damn., which led the next closest album by 50 points and 4 top ten placements. Mitski only just edged out Kacey Musgraves this year.

A few more lists from last year's albums:

The Next Ten

20. Travis Scott - Astroworld: 19.7 points
19. Parquet Courts - Wide Awake!: 19.8 points
17. Rosalía - El Mal Querer: 21.3 points
16. Let's Eat Grandma - I'm All Ears: 22.1 points
15. Beach House - 7: 23.1 points
14. Snail Mail - Lush: 24.3 points
13. Kamasi Washington - Heaven and Earth: 29.1 points
12. The 1975 - A Brief Inquiry into Online Relationships: 33 points
11. Low - Double Negative: 33.8 points

Top Ten Albums By List Inclusions

8. (tie) Blood Orange - Negro Swan: 12 lists
8. (tie) Ariana Grande - sweetener: 12 lists
8. (tie) Noname - Room 25: 12 lists
7. Christine and The Queens - Chris: 13 lists
6. Kacey Musgraves - Golden Hour: 14 lists
4. (tie) Pusha T - Daytona: 15 lists
4. (tie) Cardi B - Invasion of Privacy: 15 lists
3. Robyn - Honey: 16 lists
1. (tie) Janelle Monáe - Dirty Computer: 17 lists
1. (tie) Mitski - Be the Cowboy: 17 lists

Top Ten Albums (with No Top Ten Spots)

10. Kids See Ghosts - Kids See Ghosts: 1.6 points
8. (tie) The Beths - Future Me Hates Me: 1.7 points
8. (tie) Daughters - You Won't Get What You Want: 1.7 points
7. Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks - Sparkle Hard: 1.8 points
6. The Internet - Hive Mind: 2.1 points
5. Elvis Costello - Look Now: 2.2 points
5. Vince Staples FM!: 2.5 points
1. (tie) Brockhampton - Iridescence: 3 points
1. (tie) Jon Hopkins - Singularity: 3 points
1. (tie) U.S. Girls - In a Poem Unlimited: 3 points

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