Wichita State’s top albums of 2018


This year, The Sunflower decided to reach out to readers via a Facebook poll to create our list of the year’s top albums. With no further ado, here are Wichita State’s favorite records of 2018.

  1. Travis Scott – ‘Astroworld’

Travis Scott’s kaleidoscopic approach to hip-hop first reared its head on his 2015 trapsterpiece, “Rodeo.” The complicated song structures and meticulously selected features on that record displayed Scott’s ambition to marry mainstream appeal to experimentation. With follow-up LP “Birds in the Trap” and the collaborative “Huncho Jack,” Scott’s wild edge seemed dulled, and it appeared less and less likely that he’d be able to match the heights of “Rodeo” during his career.

Thankfully for everyone, “Astroworld” is a return to form. Chock full of beat switches and unshakable hooks, “Astroworld” has dominated the radio this year while also offering a slew of excellent deep cuts for those who dig beyond “Sicko Mode.”

It’s a delightful listen that lives up to its fun-park concept in form and function. It’s no wonder that the WSU album of the year is a brilliant crossover record with a deep bench and a knack for innovation. – JD

  1. The 1975 – ‘A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships’

The 1975 took a rebellious approach to their latest release, “A Brief Inquiry into Online Relationships”. The group outdid themselves by addressing topics that are often considered taboo in pop music.

As such, “A Brief Inquiry” is a massive step away from the chain-smoking “Chocolate” era. On their latest record, The 1975 uses their platform to expose the darkest corners of society. “Love It If We Made It” simultaneously addresses police brutality, immigration, the opioid crisis, and the war in Palestine in a way that only The 1975 can: with a bouncy pop single. The catchy tune provides perspective on all the hypocrisy in the world and runs with it.

Similar to The 1975’s previous works, “A Brief Inquiry” follows the trend of alternating between energetic singles, instrumentally explorative transitions, and thoughtful ballads. “I Always Wanna Die (Sometimes)” closes out the album with melodies that are phonetically reminiscent of a song that would play during the closing credits of a romance film. Lyrically, however, it is one of the most emotional songs the band has ever released.

“A Brief Inquiry” vividly displays how much The 1975 has matured as a band. It’s a record that’s brave, vulnerable, and absolutely necessary in 2018. – PD

  1. Cardi B – ‘Invasion of Privacy’

Cardi B’s impact in the hip-hop community and the current landscape of popular culture is purely epic. She can snap between being a heavily opinionated badass, silly public persona, and harder-than-nails rap personality with effortless precision.

“Invasion of Privacy” puts all of her strong points on display without betraying an ounce of weakness. The album is a true gem of mainstream rap, featuring massive hits “Bodak Yellow,” “Be Careful,” “Bartier Cardi,” and song of the summer, “I Like It.” She has invaded the airwaves, so much so that you can’t go anywhere without hearing her music … and she did it all without a Drake feature!

Cardi B went from collecting internet fame from stripping and appearing on “Love & Hip Hop: New York,” to taking over every mainstream chart imaginable — including three number-one singles on the US Billboard Hot 100. Though Nicki Minaj is putting up a fight against her, Cardi B has the chance to be the most influential woman in hip-hop since Lauryn Hill. I personally haven’t felt anyone’s blow up this hard since I was in third grade, listening to 50 Cent.

While 50 shined brighter than most ever have, he was a bright star whose music relevancy burnt out fast. “Invasion of Privacy” hits hard and showcases Cardi’s gut-punching flows and endless aggression, but we’ll have to hold tight and see what career moves Cardi B makes next in order for her to hold her top slot. If “Invasion of Privacy” is any indication, odds are that she’ll be resting at the top for quite some time. – RC

  1. Ariana Grande – ‘Sweetener’

Ariana Grande’s “Sweetener” instantly sparked a wave of powerful feminine energy across the globe. At the time of its release, a little over a year had passed since the bombing that killed 22 of her fans at a Manchester show. She had just broken things off with long-time beau Mac Miller and was enthralled in a whirlwind romance with Pete Davidson. Today, just about three months after its release, Grande’s life looks remarkably different.

Even as a record grounded in an already-past moment, “Sweetener” continues to cement Grande’s place as queen of the pop music industry. The album single-handedly revived the stale genre with a new life. “Sweetener” has been shattering glass ceilings and Billboard records alike, as this is undoubtedly her most successful album to date.

An unapologetically girly dedication to her bubblegum-pink personality, “Sweetener” channels Grande’s inner goddess. She navigates each track with a remarkable confidence that girls today are emulating in her wake.

In a society that polices every aspect of a feminine identity, Grande is determined to celebrate womankind. “God is a woman” is sex-positive and liberating — it’s irrefutably a bop. Each track displays Grnde’s power in one way or another. “No tears left to cry” perfectly captures her desire to rise above misfortune. “successful” celebrates her accomplishments without coming off as arrogant or cocky. “Sweetener” consistently strikes this perfect balance.

With a crystal-clear voice accessorized by her signature “Yuh,” it’s clear to see Grande has found her niche. Grande has proven time and time again that she will not crumble under adversity. “Sweetener” is a testimony to her personal strength, her freedom, and her love. With this album, she has ignited a fire in girls and the guys that aren’t intimidated by a powerful woman. – PD

  1. Kacey Musgraves – ‘Golden Hour’

There are a lot of ways to trick someone into loving a pop song. Simple earworm melodies, hip production choices, or a driving beat, can hide mediocre parts of track. Years later, most pop songs have rightly disappeared back into the void they always belonged. Even nostalgia can’t make such once-popular tracks last.

Every blue moon, the pop music stars align and produce a miracle of a record. “Golden Hour” is one such miracle. Pop-country singer/songwriter Kacey Musgraves takes the brilliant songwriting she displayed on previous records “Pageant Material” and “Same Trailer Different Park” to another level on her 2018 record.

While normally stripping genre elements away from a singer’s sound would dull their songwriting, Musgraves’s transition from standard country instrumentation to atmospheric soft rock allows her work to glimmer and breathe. The reflective calm in Musgraves’s lyrics makes even its most ordinary lines feel vital. – JD