People will remember 2020 for the unprecedented coronavirus pandemic, but music lovers will always cherish the albums that seemed to have dropped from the sky and into streaming services but helped get them through.
Billboard rounded up the biggest albums from the brightest stars that no one saw coming but everyone started listening to.
Childish Gambino, 3.15.20
A man by two names, Childish Gambino (real name Donald Glover) always keeps fans on their toes and keeps them waiting for his artistic genius to take form, whether it’s in the form of a new Gambino album or a new season of Glover’s FX series Atlanta. Well, we got one of them this year.
New music sprinkled in with 2018’s “Feels Like Summer” and 2019’s “Algorhythm” and previously unheard collaborations with fellow Coachella 2019 headliner Ariana Grande (“Time”) and 21 Savage (“12.38”) streamed exclusively from his website DonaldGloverPresents.com. Then it all disappeared within 24 hours. What was first packaged as Donald Glover Presents translated to 3.15.20, the day of Gambino’s peculiar (but idiosyncratic) activity, onto streaming services.
Drake, Dark Lane Demo Tapes
Time flies between Drake records, so when the self-proclaimed 6 God declared Dark Lane Demo Tapes would arrive at midnight on May 1 just hours after first announcing it, he figured there was no better time than demon time. “Toosie Slide,” the lead hit that danced all the way to the top of the Billboard Hot 100, ushered in his success a month prior, but no one knew what exactly he was leading up to. He even helped fellow rapper Playboi Carti score his first top 10 Hot 100 hit with “Pain 1993,” which peaked at No. 7.
Bad Bunny, Las Que No Iban a Salir
Don’t know if Bad Bunny had “dethrone myself on Billboard‘s Top Latin Albums chart” on his quarantine to-do list, but he sure checked that one off quick. On Mother’s Day (May 10), he dropped Las Que No Iban a Salir (The Ones That Were Not Coming Out) out of the blue. It came three months after he released YHLQMDLG, which made Billboard 200 history by scoring the highest-charting all-Spanish-language album ever at No. 2, the biggest streaming week ever for a Latin album, and the largest week for a Latin album.
If that wasn’t enough, Las Que No Iban a Salir took YHLQMDLG right off the top spot on the Top Latin Albums tally with its No. 1 debut, a regal move for the reggaeton maestro.
Future, High Off Life
Before the pandemic deemed life uncertain, Future affirmed “Life Is Good” with his Drake-assisted No. 2 hit. But that’s not what the ATL rapper ended up naming his album, as High Off Life from May 15 boasted the hip-hop heavyweight’s latest creative efforts and made his life sound like a movie. And he cast all-star MCs to join him, including Travis Scott, Young Thug, Lil Uzi Vert, and DaBaby and Lil Baby for the “Life Is Good” remix.
The LP scored Future his seventh No. 1 album on the Billboard 200.
Carly Rae Jepsen, Dedicated Side B
Quarantine had everyone scrambling to find a companion, and for Carly Rae Jepsen’s 2019 album Dedicated, it found comfort in its companion album Dedicated Side B, which the pop star released on May 21. The 12 outtakes from the original album pay sonic homage to the ’70s disco era and ’80s synth-pop era, a common musical trend in 2020 for artists such as Dua Lipa, The Weeknd and Lady Gaga.
Run the Jewels, RTJ4
2020 needed Run the Jewels more than ever in the midst of the resurgent Black Lives Matter movement, so the legendary hip-hop duo heeded the call earlier than expected and dropped its fourth album two days ahead of schedule on June 3, but under one condition: Donate to the National Lawyers Guild Mass Defense Fund, since El-P and Killer Mike released the album for free. The response? Fans gave more than $10,000 within the first 45 minutes of RTJ4‘s release, collecting up to $100,000 by that night.
“F— it, why wait? The world is invested with bullsh–t, so here’s something raw to listen to while you deal with it all,” the group wrote in a statement.
Taylor Swift, Folklore
Five months into the worldwide lockdown, Swifties found their favored antidote: Taylor Swift’s surprise eighth album Folklore that she released today (July 24) with a singular day’s heads up. But that’s all the time the internet needed to profusely freak out.
“In isolation my imagination has run wild and this album is the result. I’ve told these stories to the best of my ability with all the love, wonder, and whimsy they deserve. Now it’s up to you to pass them down,” Swift announced on Twitter. The 16 tracks, featuring one collaboration with Bon Iver, captures her wildest dreams with driving piano melodies, graceful guitar notes and her honeyed voice that coos of a young girl’s troubles, which feels all too relatable for those stuck quarantining in their childhood bedrooms.