best albums 2021

Best of 2021: EUPHORIA.’S Favorite Albums

It took a lot to get us through 2021, and these albums were a huge part of it. Rather than compile a list of what we consider to be the best releases of the year, we put together our favorite albums that evoked emotions, provided comfort, and gave us something to dance to even when things were hard. Ahead, find all of the albums and EPs that came out in 2021 that have been spinning on repeat in the homes of EUPHORIA. staff.

If I Can’t Have Love, I Want Power by Halsey

If I Can’t Have Love, I Want Power is the perfect example of an artist combining a longtime passion project with a personal opus. This album, created with Nine Inch Nails’s Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, is such a departure from Halsey’s usual style, trading out the electro-pop elements for a hard guitar line and heavy drums while keeping a biting narrative style. A highlight is “You Asked For This,” an underappreciated gem that features 33 guitars and the hook, “Go on and be a big girl / you asked for this now / you better show them why you talk so loud.” The work is such a beautiful celebration of their humanity — Halsey mixes the person we grew up loving and the person they’ve grown into so beautifully. They also shows the intersection between sexuality and motherhood so poignantly — it’s emotions in all of its torn up rawness. — Isabella Vega

Blue Banisters by Lana Del Rey

In her seventh album, Lana Del Rey combines poetic lyricism with a dreamy ambience and her trademark syrupy vocals to create one of her most authentic pieces of work. Merging new tracks with some of her older, previously unreleased songs makes for a seamless fit that works to showcase her evocative songwriting abilities through the years. Blue Banisters acts as a testament to Del Rey’s expansive career — a perfect way to wrap up the year with two album releases! — Anissa Sanchez

Star-Crossed by Kacey Musgraves

Kacey Musgraves poured her bleeding heart into every lyric in Star-Crossed. At its core, this album is focused on the pain and heartbreak she faced over the past year, but each song is also veiled with a sense of hope and reflection that’s difficult to achieve when it feels like everything has fallen apart. Musgraves expertly illustrated the grieving process in a beautiful way without glossing over the struggle and pain experienced along the way to get to the other side. — Athena Sobhan

Ready Is Always Too Late by Sinéad Harnett

Sinéad Harnett’s sophomore album is honest, dreamy, and heartfelt. Its organic collaborations and her effortlessly stunning vocals are a reminder as to why Harnett is one of the golden girls from the UK who is on top of their game right now. Whether it’s the soothing “Take Me Away,” empowering “Last Love,” or the mid-tempo bop “Obvious,” Ready Is Always Too Late is one of the few albums released in 2021 that requires zero skips. If anyone deserves the Queen of R&B title for this year, it’s Harnett. — Fabio Magnocavallo

And Then Life Was Beautiful by Nao

Nao’s vocal and emotional range on her third studio album, And Then Life Was Beautiful, can only be described as sublime. The UK singer recorded the LP after welcoming her first child in 2020, which helped kick-start her creativity — and the inspiration certainly shows. She gorgeously synthesizes the complexities of love — as it brings forth blessings and hardships, pleasure and plain, highs, and lows — into a melodic journey. Common tropes about euphoria and heartbreak are revitalized by Nao’s soulful sonic idiosyncrasy; Her feelings are accessible with an air of connectivity yet deeply personal. Few albums this year rendered the empirical nature of life experiences as authentically as And Then Life Was Beautiful. It’s a spellbinding body of work from start to finish. — Brea Cubit

Trying Not to Think About It by JoJo

This is a cohesive album that touches on mental health. With the past year and the pandemic, I found it comforting and healing. There’s a song that everyone can relate to one way or another. She isn’t afraid to share her most vulnerable self with listeners. — Danielle Taylor

Rebels of the Neon God by Julian Lamadrid

It feels like a combination of various genres, musical eras, and a lot of influential artists (The 1975 etc., even Dolly Parton). the album has a whole is very cohesive, fluid in a sense as it flows seamlessly from one song to another — quite literally! The concept of the Neon God remains vague until the very end, instead, the album focuses on painting different scenes of life and diving into emotional self-diagnoses. Overall it’s a piece of work that easily grabs listeners’ attention and demands a listen from top to bottom, very immersive. — Gomi Zhou

Stories From New York by BAYLI

This debut EP from BAYLI perfectly showcases her range. Every song fits well with the next, creating a record that is engaging and infectious from top to bottom. I really don’t think a day has gone by since this EP dropped in August where I haven’t listened to it all the way through. It’s a must add to any R&B and pop fans libraries. — Sophia Myers

The Turning Wheel by Spellling

An utterly unique album that showcases what Spellling can do best: dark synth pop, but also with plenty of experimentation. There are elements of musical theater in here, as well as a lot of homage paid to Kate Bush, but it all sounds completely like Spellling. Part fairy tale, part avant garde music hall piece, this album promises to be unlike anything else you’ve heard in 2021. — Rosie Solomon

Montero by Lil Nas X

A breakthrough and probably one of the most important albums in the history of queer music. Lil Nas X is hearbtreakingly honest and vulnerable about his experience growing up as a queer kid of color. Not only is the album beautiful and filled with bangers but it is also totally fearless and badass! — Amanda Lang

It Won’t Always Be Like This by Inhaler

It’s great to see indie rock return to the top of the charts. This album really brought back that gritty, upbeat, and passionate style of music that wants you to rock out at a live concert. In times like these where we have so little opportunity to experience an actual live set, it’s wonderful they managed to capture that same liberating spirit in a studio album. — Saskia Postema

To Hell With It by PinkPantheress

The British songstress and producer crashed into the bubblegum pop scene, and it’s impossible to not get her catchy, viral TikTok tunes in your head. Although the 10-track album seems like it could last forever, the nearly 20-minute album has listeners like myself yearning for more. — Noella Williams

Far From Here by Emmit Fenn

This album feels like a new era in Emmit Fenn’s music — combining his singer-songwriter talents with his electronic production style. It’s one of those albums you have to listen to from beginning to end each time, as each track really blends into the next one seamlessly. His production throughout the album’s entirety is simple, yet intentional — it’s an easy one to listen to while you get lost in your thoughts. — Kristen Cusumano

The Band CAMINO by The Band CAMINO

The Band CAMINO find a way to harp on the first-world problems that we all face while lending an ear to those who feel misunderstood in this crazy Instagram world. Brandishing hard-hitting singles like “Know It All,” a pop breakup track that finds space for a seamless arena rock chorus, the album is a terrific expose of the group’s versatility. — Luke Wells

This Is What It Feels Like by Gracie Abrams

Gracie Abrams has consistently proven her musical prowess since making her initial waves in the industry just three years ago. In 2021, Abrams hit a benchmark in her success story with the 12-track EP, This Is What It Feels Like. Not only is the project a vulnerable ode to everything we adore (and hate) about falling in love, but it’s a true showcase of her fast-growing songwriting mastery. If anything, the EP puts her on the map as a critical artist to watch in 2022. — Jordyn Halpern

Fifth Chance by Jaalid

Jaalid effortlessly blends vocalized harmonies and gritty bars, reminiscent of classic Drake. The rapper’s style has a mixture of atmospheric and ambient sounds. His lyricism is straightforward and calculated with a playful confidence. — Hayley Tharp

Overgrown by Joyce Wrice

The debut album from the always-impressive R&B talent Joyce Wrice, Overgrown is everything and more. With odes to the ’90s and early 2000s in its sound, sick features and interludes, and top-notch songwriting, this album is a gem from top to bottom. — Alana Myers

Skin by Joy Crookes

Joy Crookes’s debut album Skin painted a vivid image of her coming-of-age as she transitioned into young adulthood. Each song on the album paid tribute to the experiences that shaped her and saluted her Bangladeshi and Irish roots in a beautiful way. Crookes’s debut album cemented herself as a musical force, who’s passionate about her art and unafraid to speak her truth. — Athena Sobhan

SOUR by Olivia Rodrigo

Olivia Rodrigo’s album was such a pleasant surprise for 2021. It’s the kind of album that reels you in with the first song and continues to build on itself so you have no choice but to keep listening with rapt attention. What really blew me away about SOUR is how much it takes me back to the music I listened to in high school. It bridges generations in such a cool way, and I can’t wait to hear more from her. — Hedy Phillips