Adele’s world, and welcome to it.

The British singer returned in late November and, like she did four years earlier with “21,” she pumped new life into a barely breathing music industry. Her third album, “25,” has sold a staggering 7 million copies since it was released on Nov. 20.

Put into perspective: Her biggest competition, Taylor Swift, reached the 5 million mark for “1989” last summer. Adele topped that and then some in just five weeks.

This is a major accomplishment in a world now dominated by streaming services and YouTube. Adele is an amazing success story, but she’s one of only a handful of artists who are getting the biggest slice of the pie. It’s harder than ever for new artists to be heard.

In 2015, it was all about One Direction (and Zayn Malik leaving) and 5 Seconds of Summer; about Swift continuing to charm the nation with her music videos and sold-out world tour; Drake dropping a free mixtape; “surprise” albums becoming the norm; Kendrick Lamar solidifying his fame and fortune, and more one-hit wonders popping up (can you say “Watch me whip, watch me nae nae”?).

Tragically, it was the year that terrorism came directly to music’s doorsteps, taking scores of victims during an Eagles of Death Metal concert in Paris.

And we lost many legends in 2015: B.B. King, Lemmy, Scott Weiland, Chris Squire, Errol Brown, Lesley Gore, Percy Sledge, Ben E. King, Andraé Crouch.

What’s in store for 2016 is anyone’s guess. At least we have music to get us through the bad and the good.

Here are 20 albums and 20 songs that stood out for … just one website’s opinion.


(In alphabetical order by artist)

“25,” Adele – “Hello,” and welcome back.

“Sound & Color,” Alabama Shakes – How soon before Brittany Howard becomes a solo star?

“Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit,” Courtney Barnett – This Australian’s debut album was so impressive, she’s up for the Best New Artist Grammy.

“Depression Cherry,” Beach House – The dream-pop band continues to evolve.

“Vulnicura,” Björk – There’s no one else like her.

“Every Open Eye,” Chvrches – More eye-opening music from the Scottish electronic trio.

“A Head Full of Dreams,” Coldplay – They stick to their tried-and-true formula.

“If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late,” Drake – Is it a mixtape or a studio album? Doesn’t matter.

“I Love You, Honeybear,” Father John Misty – I miss Fleet Foxes, but this will tide me over.

“E•MO•TION,” Carly Rae Jepsen – Don’t dismiss this pop princess.

“To Pimp a Butterfly,” Kendrick Lamar – Album of the Year? We will soon find out.

“Wildheart,” Miguel – On his third album, the R&B star connects in a big way.

“Divers,” Joanna Newsom – Clavichords, mellotrons, Marxophones and the City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra fill this beauty.

“No Cities to Love,” Sleater-Kinney – After a decade-long hiatus, the trio serves up brilliant post-punk anthems.

“SremmLife,” Rae Sremmurd – Hip-hop duo makes a splashy debut.

“Summertime ’06,” Vince Staples – And here’s another impressive debut.

“Carrie & Lowell,” Sufjan Stevens – A return to his indie folk roots, inspired by the 2012 death of his mother, Carrie, and the family trips they took to Oregon when he was a child.

“Currents,” Tame Impala – The psychedelic rock act nabbed the ARIA Best Rock Album and Album of the Year awards in its native Australia.

“The Epic,” Kamasi Washington – The jazz saxophonist’s debut is worthy of the rave reviews from critics.

“The Beauty Behind the Madness,” The Weeknd – The Canadian R&B/pop artist’s second album is his big breakthrough.


“At.Long.Last.A$AP,” A$AP Rocky

“Purpose,” Justin Bieber

“The Whip,” Blur

“Coming Home,” Leon Bridges

“I Don’t Like Shit, I Don’t Go Outside: An Album by Earl Sweatshirt,” Earl Sweatshirt

“DS2,” Future

“Unbreakable,” Janet Jackson

“Rebel Heart,” Madonna

“Drones,” Muse

“Made in the A.M.,” One Direction


(Listen to our Spotify playlist)

“Hello,” Adele

“Gimme All Your Love,” Alabama Shakes

“Pedestrian at Best,” Courtney Barnett

“What Do You Mean?,” Justin Bieber

“Smooth Sailin’,” Leon Bridges

“High By the Beach,” Lana Del Rey

“Hotline Bling,” Drake

“Kill V. Maim,” Grimes

“I Know There’s Gonna Be (Good Times),” Jamie xx feat. Young Thug & Popcaan

“I Really Like You,” Carly Rae Jepsen

“Alright,” Kendrick Lamar

“Then Came the Morning,” The Lone Bellow

“Lean On,” Major Lazer & DJ Snake feat. MØ

“A Beautiful Exit,” Miguel

“What a Feeling,” One Direction

“Surface Envy,” Sleater-Kinney

“Summertime,” Vince Staples

“Traveller,” Chris Stapleton

“Should Have Known Better,” Sufjan Stevens

“Can’t Feel My Face,” The Weeknd


“Lisa Sawyer,” Leon Bridges

“Here,” Alessia Cara

“Know Yourself,” Drake

“Chateau Lobby #4 (in C for Two Virgins),” Father John Misty

“March Madness,” Future

“Flesh Without Blood,” Grimes

“If It Takes a Lifetime,” Jason Isbell

“Loud Places,” Jamie xx feat. Romy

“I Didn’t Just Come Here to Dance,” Carly Rae Jepsen

“See You Again,” Wiz Khalifa feat. Charlie Puth

“King Kunta,” Kendrick Lamar

“Coffee,” Miguel

“Dime Store Cowgirl,” Kacey Musgraves

“Anecdotes,” Joanna Newsom

“This Could Be Us,” Rae Sremmurd

“Fourth of July,” Sufjan Stevens

“Let It Happen,” Tame Impala

“Fired Up,” Titus Andronicus

“The Rhythm Changes,” Kamasi Washington

“The Hills,” The Weeknd

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