December Centerfold: Schreiber Times’ picks for Albums of the year

December Centerfold: Schreiber Times’ picks for Albums of the year


If there is one industry that has thrived due to the effects of COVID-19 during the last year, music would arguably be it.  With so many new and unique artists emerging, as well as many of our favorites bringing back their old styles (or albums), the amount of music released in 2021 has been spectacular.  The Schreiber Times put together a list of our favorite albums of 2021 and as a staff voted for our favorites.  We are pleased to present The Schreiber Times’ “Top Ten Albums of The Year.” 


1) Red (Taylor’s Version) – Taylor Swift, Lucy Barr 


Red (Taylor’s Version) is Swift’s most current album and the talk of all Swifties.  The album is a re-recording of the original album Red, released in 2012.  Swift was inspired to re-record her first six albums in 2019 after a huge fallout with Scooter Braun, one of the executives of her former label.  Taylor felt tired of being controlled by the men in the industry, and re-recording her old albums is a way for her to regain control over her life; hence the “Taylor’s Version” in parenthesis after each of her re-recorded songs and albums.  

Red (Taylor’s Version) is rumored to be centered around Swift’s relationship with actor Jake Gyllenhaal, who dated Swift for a short period of time in 2010.  The song that fans believe is most directly related to him is “All Too Well,” which was originally released with a length of 5:29.  However, in “Taylor’s Version,” the ballad is an extensive length of 10:13, filled with Swift’s bottled up anger, sadness, and devastation.  

Swift also added eight songs “From the Vault” to the album.  The vault is her name for all of the songs she’s ever written, but has never released for various reasons.  She collaborated with her first female artist, Phoebe Bridgers, on one of these vault songs.  Bridgers is also a very successful singer and songwriter, and their song ‘Nothing New’ reached 11 on the US Hot Country Songs Billboard.  


2) Donda – Kanye West (Sam Kassan)

Kanye’s latest album, Donda, dedicated to his late mother, wasted no time in breaking countless records on its way to 300,000 first week sales.  After releasing a lackluster gospel album in 2019, many doubted if Kanye West would ever return to his rap career.  With the release of Donda, Kanye proved everyone wrong in the most Kanye way possible.  Over a year after initially announcing the album, Ye hosted several listening events for the album pre-release (starting in July 2021), selling out stadiums so fans could hear the early versions of the new songs.  Finally, fans woke up on Sunday, Aug. 29 to a treat: the album had been released, seemingly out of nowhere.  

The 24-song collection fills up almost two hours, giving listeners plenty of music to make up for lost time.  While the music is definitely reminiscent of prime Kanye, he did not fully abandon his newfound religious devotion.  However, the gospel pieces do not drag it down this time: songs like “24”, “Come to Life” and “God Breathed” are some of the fan favorites.  The album included a few highly anticipated leaks, such as “Hurricane” with The Weeknd and Lil Baby, as well as “No Child Left Behind” with vocals from Vory.  However, the majority of the album consists of new material, from the return of the Jay Z/Kanye duo on “Jail” to heavenly vocals from Don Toliver and Kid Cudi on “Moon” to memorable verses from Fivio Foreign and Baby Keem on “Off the Grid” and “Praise God.”  With its Avengers-level list of features, Donda deserves serious contention for album of the year.


3) Sour – Olivia Rodrigo  (Ili Pecullan)

Breakout artist Olivia Rodrigo debuted her first album, Sour, in May 2021.  Rodrigo rose to fame after the release of the album’s first single, “drivers license”, on Jan. 8, 2021.  The song topped the Billboard Hot 100, while her second single “Deja Vu” was number 3 and her third and final before the album’s release, “Good 4 U,” also reached number 1.  While Sour is mostly pop, it has rock, folk, and alternative elements as well.  Rodrigo’s goal was to explore the “sour” emotions that women are often shamed for, such as jealousy or anger, through her music.  The album also represents Rodrigo coming of age, as it was written when she was 17 and 18 years old.  All of the songs on the album are written by Rodrigo and her producer, Dan Nigro.  Her biggest influences while writing her music were Alanis Morissette, Taylor Swift, and Kacey Musgraves.  

 Sour recently won Album of the Year at the People’s Choice Awards and was nominated at the American Music Awards, where Rodrigo took home the award for Best New Artist.  The album received two nominations for the 2022 Grammy Awards, Album of the Year and Best Pop Vocal Album.  In Dec. 2021, Spotify released that Sour was the most streamed album globally on the platform.  What makes Rodrigo’s music stand out are her versatile lyrics that are both realistic and vulnerable.  Sour is just the start of Rodrigo’s music career and fans can’t wait to see what else she has in store.


4) The Off Season – J. Cole (Sam Rothenberg)


  1. Cole is a creative mastermind who consistently produces some of the most electrifying rap music in the industry, and The Off-Season is no different.  Adding artists like 21 Savage, Lil Baby, and Bas was a smart decision, as each artist compliments the others’ styles.  “Amari” and “Pride is the Devil” are among the better songs on the album as J. Cole’s flow and impeccable lyrics are on full display.  Every song has glanced at the top 40 charts at some point and for good reason: each song individually tells its own story and gives the listener a distinct message.  
  2. Cole talks about his childhood, growth, and success through crafty sequences of words and patterns.  Although the language can be vulgar and a little disturbing at times, that should be looked through in order to find a larger meaning.  Rap has become a collection of meaningless songs and curse words, but at least J. Cole makes an effort to inspire the teenagers and young adults who spend the time listening to his music.  Make no mistake, this album is as good as it gets and not listening to it is a mistake.  This music is for the outside of the box type thinkers and those people can appreciate this music for what it is.  


5) Fearless (Taylor’s Version) – Taylor Swift (Isabelle Kitay)


After a fallout with Big Machine Records, Taylor Swift gained access to re-record her first five albums in Nov. 2020.  She spent her time making her old hits sound fresh and updated, while even adding songs into Taylor’s Version that she had written at the time, but never released.  Fans all around the world became excited, as the songs which had made them smile many years ago would be able to have the same effect in current times.  Much anticipation led up to the first album, Fearless, released on April 9, 2021.  Hits like “Love Story” and “You Belong with Me” swept the music charts once again, over a decade later.  Fearless (Taylor’s Version) contains 26 songs, compared to 2008’s Fearless , which consisted of only thirteen.  

Taylor took the hardship surrounding her music, and not only embraced the change, but created something truly revolutionary for her image.  She made her songs more popular than they have ever been, and gained further support from fans.  There is a clear difference between Taylor’s voice at 31 compared to 19, and her sense of maturity is easily observed by a listener to Fearless (Taylor’s Version).  Taylor’s re-release of this iconic album has set precedent for her to release the remaining four re-recorded albums, and might even inspire other artists to follow in her footsteps.  


6) An Evening With Silk Sonic – Silk Sonic (Bruno Mars and Anderson .Paak), Lucas Milgrim

An Evening With Silk Sonic was the debut album of the duo of pop artist Bruno Mars and rapper Anderson .Paak.  The two first released “Leave The Door Open” as a single on March 5, and hit number one on the US Billboard Hot 100 almost immediately.  After performing the song at last year’s Grammys, anticipation built for the release of the full album, and it didn’t disappoint.  The album opens with “Silk Sonic Intro,” which features Bootsy Collins, who worked with James Brown during the 1970s.  Collins introduces Mars and .Paak as Silk Sonic after an upbeat intro. 

Next on the track list is “Leave The Door Open,” followed by “Fly As Me,” which heavily features .Paak’s rapping skills along with the jazzy chorus, sung by Mars.  Then, Collins is featured again along with bassist Thundercat in the opening to “After Last Night,” a pop ballad sung mainly by Mars.  “Smokin Out The Window” and “Put On A Smile” both carry the slower theme along, with .Paak showcasing his vocals, a rarity in his previous work.  “777’ returns to the jazz aspect of the album, with a prominent bass line starting the song and horn parts throughout the chorus.  After that is “Skate,” a fast-paced pop and R&B medley, before “Blast Off,” another slower pop song, closes out the album.  The combination of great lyrics, amazing instrumentation, and outstanding vocals makes An Evening With Silk Sonic one of 2021’s best albums.


7) Solar Power – Lorde, Asher Charno


After a five-year hiatus, Grammy award winner singer-songwriter Lorde returned to the world with her album Solar Power.  When the album was released in August, fans and critics alike were shocked to see how Lorde’s voice, persona, and music had completely changed from “Melodrama,” her 2017 album.  In Solar Power, Lorde departed from her angsty teenage self and took listeners on a poetic journey through growing up and exploring the realities of fame and the beauty of nature while creating an ethereal and happy sound.

  Solar Power consists of twelve songs, beginning with “The Path” and ending with “Oceanic Feeling.” The first song introduces the ideas of turning away from fame to seek healing in nature.  The song is followed by the album’s headliner, “Solar Power,” in which Lorde tells listeners to “forget all of thе tears that you’ve cried…  It’s ovеr…  It’s a new state of mind.”  Nonetheless, it would not be a Lorde album without some form of satirical comedy; in “Mood Ring,” she juxtaposes her spiritual experience with that of influencers or Millenials who appropriate spiritual healing practices from other cultures.  She essentially mocks pseudo-spiritual practices like collecting crystals, playing tarot cards, reading horoscopes, and burning sage in this song.  

Other popular songs on the albums include “Stoned at the Nail Salon,” “Fallen Fruit,” and “California.”  Each song touches upon personal topics like self-growth and reflection; however, in “Fallen Fruit” Lorde speaks of the issues of climate change and how “it’s time for us to leave” the paradise of ignorance we will have regarding climate change. Although the album was heavily scrutinized by critics and was snubbed from this year’s Grammys, fans have been much more appreciative of Lorde’s return to the music scene.


8) 30 – Adele, Amber Kakkar

Adele’s fourth album, 30, released on Nov.  19, had the largest opening numbers of any blockbuster album in 2021 with 839,000 album-equivalent units, according to an announcement by Billboard.  Similarly, 30 registered 185 million on-demand streams during its first week.  Adele wrote 30 between 2018 and 2021 with producers including Greg Kurstin, Tobias Jesso, Jr., Max Martin and Shellback.  The album topped the charts in 22 territories including the United Kingdom and the United States.  It quickly became the highest-selling album in the United States, becoming Adele’s third consecutive album to achieve this accomplishment.

Adele claims this album is her most personal thus far.  She shares an unexpected perspective about love: what it means to inflict that pain on your family, to rebuild yourself after a breakup, and what it means to love again.  Following her marriage to Simon Konecki in 2018 and her divorce in 2019, Adele began writing this album.  She channeled her divorce, her estranged relationship with her father (that has been recently amended), her struggles with anxiety, and her relationship with her son to create this album.

Her most famous song on the album, “Easy on Me,” currently has 433,800,355 streams on Spotify.  The piece represents the first of many times on 30, Adele asks for Grace from herself, God, and her son, Angelo.

Adele demonstrates through a 58:15 album that life is messy and not always built for three-minute pop songs with perfect hooks.  She has always drowned emotionally in her music and 30 is another ideal example of this.

9) Certified Lover Boy – Drake, Mikey Capobianco

Drake’s long awaited sixth studio album, Certified Lover Boy, rose to the top of the charts immediately following its release in September, with the album debuting at Number One on the Billboard 200, and matching The Beatles’ record of owning the entire top five on the Billboard Hot 100 songs chart.  Throughout the year, the release date continued to be pushed back, as Drake dealt with an ACL injury and wanted to put the finishing touches on the album before releasing it.  In what has been a dominant career in hip-hop, Drake proved to the world that he wasn’t finished yet, and the album included many catchy hooks and hit songs, a specialty of Drake’s.

 The album begins with a song titled “Champagne Poetry,” in which Drake reflects about his life and sets up the rest of the album.  Following the opening song, Drake rotates between rapping and singing, as he delivers a catchy hook on “Girls Want Girls,” while displaying his rap skills on an energetic beat in a song titled, “Papi’s Home.”  Two of the album’s biggest hits occur in the middle, as “Fair Trade” featuring Travis Scott is Drake’s way of expressing his motivation for his career and his friends, while “Way 2 Sexy” featuring Future and Young Thug is a lighthearted, catchy song that has taken social media by storm.  

While Drake’s lyrics have been criticized throughout his career, he once again displayed his ability to make feel-good music that is impossible to turn off.  Lastly, the album also features the song, “Knife Talk,” featuring 21 Savage, in which Drake and 21 rap about their surroundings and relationships.  While the album has not received as much praise as other albums in 2021, Certified Lover Boy is a solid album and yet another successful project from one of hip-hop’s most successful artists ever.

10) Call Me If You Get Lost – Tyler, the Creator, Zack Siegel

The release of Tyler, the Creator’s sixth studio album, Call Me If You Get Lost, emphasized his role as the “Jack of All Styles” when it comes to the rap world.  Winning the BET Hip Hop Awards’ Best Album of 2021 and nominated for the Grammy Awards’ Best Rap Album, Tyler exceeded expectations and performance of any of his prior albums.  Fans of his have met the album’s release with almost nothing but praise, especially loving the mixed genres of hip hop and R&B.  While Tyler often remains in the background of today’s most popular hip hop artists, he has proven once again that he is able to create music that his fans love and critics admire.