From Little Simz to Kanye West, we round up our favourite projects from the year.
2021 has been quite the year. From the end of long-drawn out lockdowns to the return of the Y2K fashion era, it has been an eventful year for the culture and we couldn’t have done it without some tunes. With Adele making her grand return and putting us all in our feels and Drake taking centre stage with Certified Lover Boy, we’ve really been spoiled this year and it’s only right that we honour those who took it to another level.
From Sam Wise’s Free Game to Cleo Sol compelling sophomore album Mother, head below to check out Wonderland’s Part 2 Albums of the Year. and click here for part one.
Adele – 30
It would have almost been criminal to create this list and not include Adele’s soul-stirring return album 30. Three years in the making, Adele’s chart-topping return didn’t miss a beat as she took her sound to another level with cinematic instrumentation and bouts of versatility. Pulling back the layers of her divorce and how it not only affected her but her son too, the critically acclaimed singer took listeners on a warming yet tearful journey throughout the project and honed in on her own self-reflection and destruction. While the album is still in its infancy in terms of release, the artist’s recent body of work once again proved her status and presence in the scene with various records broken and milestones achieved.
Still Over It – Summer Walker
It had been two years since the release of Summer Walker’s debut album Over It, and we’ve certainly still had it on repeat. From her silky tag team with Bryson Tiller “Playing Games” to her sad girl anthem “I’ll Kill You”, the R&B singer had the TL rinsing and repeating her songs in hopes of filling the void. So you can imagine the excitement when the singer announced the release of her long-awaiting follow up. Taking us down a similar road of heartbreak and acceptance, the singer-songwriter took the time to unveil her tumultuous and highly publicised relationship with producer London on da Track, before, during and after her pregnancy. Written almost like an intricate and thoughtful diary, the singer once again pushed the boundaries of contemporary R&B and teamed this with layers of introspective lyricism and cohesiveness. Creating a song for almost every emotion felt after a crushing break-up, Walker served up a gripping album that we’ll sure have on repeat for years to come.
Play with the Changes – Rochelle Jordan
Now we often talk about artists pushing the boundaries on their sound and owning their own lane, but none have done quite like Rochelle Jordan, and her album Play with the Changes proved this. Through the moody Toronto-felt melodies to the loud unabashed R&B tones, the singer pays homage to the scene that influenced her, taking it and reworking the foundations. Deftly blending everything from electro-pop to UKG and contemporary R&B, the artist easily gets the endorphins going and instantly takes us beyond the dance floor.
DONDA – Kanye West
It would be hard to break down 2021 without mentioning Kanye West. Whether it be from his highly published divorce from Kim Kardashian or his shock reunion with fellow industry heavyweight Drake, the superstar consistently had our attention, but none pulled us in like his 10th studio album DONDA. While it did take a while to finally reach our streaming platforms, and granted even after the release the artist still made some changes, West took the music world by storm with his project and changed the game in terms of release and promotion. Arguably at his most broken and vulnerable, the artist gave us his most honest self-portrait yet, and for that, we had to include it on our albums of the year.
Sometime I Might Be Introvert – Little Simz
There are some albums that you listen to and instantly you already know it’s a classic, and that is exactly how we felt about Little Simz’s fourth studio album Sometimes I Might Be Introvert. Both tactical and theatrical, the artist delivers a rich project that easily cements her cultural significance. Overflowing with cinematic moments and vulnerability, the artist gives us everything from personal confessions to eye-opening societal diagnoses. 19-tracks long and easily her most thrilling and compelling work to date, Simz took just about everything to another level with her album and all we want is more.
Planet Her – Doja Cat
If there was ever an it-girl for 2021, it was without a doubt Doja Cat. From dominating TikTok to owning every stage she graces, the singer-songwriter has taken over the scene in the past year and her album Planet Her cemented her star status. Incorporating everything from afrobeats to dancehall and hyper pop-rap, the artist intricately takes us from themes of sex and relationship to divine femininity and estrangement. Almost splitting the album into two halves, Doja propels us into a string of raunchy yet funky melodies before seamlessly entering more smooth and lovesick lullabies. With each and every song showcasing her eclectic talent and enthralling personality, the album captured what it means to be a modern pop star and Doja Cat tentatively hit the mark.
Free Game – Sam Wise
When it comes to our own home-grown talent, many have come on to the scene and shifted the tone. But when it comes to treasured rapper Sam Wise, this wasn’t on the agenda. Instead it was all about creating his own lane and Wise wasted no time with his latest offering Free Game. Shapeshifting effortlessly been a lyrical poet and a trap beast, the artist arguably becomes of the Brit-rap’s most versatile and smoothest artists of the year. Showing off a different side of him, Wise teamed up with some of the most promising and watched talents in the scene, working with the likes of Grammy-nominated Venna ands lyrical genius Knucks. Filled with ear-worming productions and testaments to his undeniable lyrical skill, Wise rose to the top of the class this year and had received a well earned A* from us.
Young Thug – Punk
Breaking new ground this year with his impactful album was Young Thug with Punk. Occupying a new space that allowed him to fully divulge in trap and acoustic experimentation, the rapper lays it all down in his sophomore album and takes us through many divine and thought-provoking moments. Honing in on his rockstar aesthetic for some of the tracks, the artist gets down and dirty on some of bars before showcasing layers of vulnerability that make a detach from his signature vibe. More emotional and raw on the album, the artist gets candid on Mac Miller’s death and delivers a thought-provoking ode that signs off the project. Highly anticipated and a long time in the making, Thug delivered this year and proved that transcending the world of rap in style is very much possible.
We’re All Alone In This Together – Dave
When Dave first released Psychodrama, we pondered how it might be possible to trump an album as memorable and ruminative. But of course, Dave once again took it to another level with his sophomore album We’re All Alone in this Together. Once again serving up a testament to his multifaceted talent and sound, the UK rapper presented a diverse record that touched on gospel, electronica, drill and R&B. Through the mournful piano figures to the soul-stirring productions, the 23-year-old dolefully speaks to his own musical growth and pending intentions.
Mother – Cleo Sol
Already known to be one of the most avant-soul and mysterious figures in the scene, Cleo Sol gracefully re-entered our sound sphere this year with her sequel to her album Rose in the Dark. And while entrance was elegant and poised, the mark the artist left was heart-rending and electric. Shining a light on her transformative journey to becoming a mother, Sol carefully crafted a project that cut down on the difficult and sometimes lonely experience, telling her own tale with honeyed and fervent vocals. Honing in on her impassioned ability to tell honest stories, Sol captured the attention of just about everyone in the UK this year, and if you don’t already know we suggest you tune in now.