This year was one for surprises and plenty of hype. From hip-hop mix tapes to a new R&B superstar, 2015 showed no shortage of new artists or a classic favorite’s revival.
Whether you’re into clever, bubble gum pop or want to ease into electronic music, there are plenty of underrated albums that debuted in 2015 to get into.
“What a Time to Be Alive” by Drake and Future
Unlike other popular rap and hip-hop on the radio, “What a Time to Be Alive” lacks EDM influences or an obvious dance track, and that’s why it works. Drake and Future are succinct as they exchange lines and play off each other’s rap styles. It’s different than what usually happens when two rappers share a track or album because they don’t try to highlight each other’s differences. Instead, they play off of how their musical styles are similar, leaving the rest of us all ears.
“Beauty Behind the Madness” by The Weeknd
For many, The Weeknd’s voice brings back tinges of Michael Jackson’s R&B golden era, but this well-produced album pushes the sound forward. With winding electric guitar solos and bass-heavy songs, it strikes a balance between being a hit-machine and an exploration in the R&B genre. It’s not often an album can take so much artistic liberty and still make it in the pop world, and for that it deserves praise.
“Carrie & Lowell” by Sufjan Stevens
Sufjan Stevens is known for melancholy lyrics layered over his trademark airy, indie sound. “Carrie & Lowell,” his latest album about his estranged mother’s death, surpasses expectations. It’s his most cohesive album to date. He opens by forgiving his mother in the song “Death with Dignity,” but he admits he doesn’t know exactly how to start grieving. Stevens weaves in and out of each track with haunting piano melodies, singing so softly he almost whispers. It’s heartbreakingly honest, and Stevens shows through song that there aren’t always answers when it comes to death.
“Emotion” by Carly Rae Jepsen
Carly Rae Jepsen doesn’t need you to call her maybe anymore. She’s already answered, and her new sound is better than ever. Packed with playful lyrics and an ’80s synth-pop sound, Jepsen’s album is the burst of life the pop world needs. It’s feel-good music that’s more than surface level, from meta lyrics about girlfriends complaining about their boyfriends in “Boy Problems” to the best blend of autotune and synth-pop beats, she hits the nail on the head. “Emotion” might be the best hidden gem of the year.
“In Colour” by Jamie xx
Famed London-based producer Jamie xx finally released a solo project so masterfully crafted, it left listeners wondering why he wasn’t branching out on his own from the start. His electronic album “In Colour” merged hip-hop, trance and pop sounds, but most importantly, the album makes electronic music digestible with his impeccable timing. Jamie xx plays with different melodies and sounds, opting to build on each one instead of layering too many. He may have married three genres to make “In Colour,” but it’s a union worth celebrating.