There is no denying that 2020 has been a hallmark year for way too many reasons to count. Luckily, one of the highlights has been some great music. Whether these albums have been long gestating works or spur of the moment quarantine projects, our favorite artists have graced us with new music to help get us through. Many of these albums line up perfectly with some of our favorite recent reads, so if your latest earworm has you itching for a good story, check out the recommendations below.
What to Read Based on Your Favorite 2020 Album So Far
1. Taylor Swift’s folklore — Today Tonight Tomorrow by Rachel Lynn Solomon
Leave it to Taylor Swift to help get us through this lockdown with a layered, lyrical, and storied new album. Taylor’s folklore let’s her explore her usual themes of love, heartbreak, and resilience like never before, diving into her country-folk roots to tell new stories, both personal and imagined. Rachel Lynn Solomon’s Today Tonight Tomorrow dives into her own folklore of enemies turned friends turned loves. It is a nostalgic and deeply affecting tale of teenage love that feel ready made to be a Taylor Swift tune.
2. Dua Lipa’s Future Nostalgia — Sky Without Stars by Jessica Brody and Joanne Rendell
Despite undeniable success on the charts, Dua Lipa continues to be underrated and undervalued for her contribution to modern pop. Her second album, Future Nostalgia, is a progressive and reminiscent soundscape in which you can both get lost and find yourself. It has one foot in the past, one in the future, beautifully echoing our present. What better blend of genres to pair with this than Jessica Brody and Joanne Rendell’s Sky Without Stars, a science fiction retelling of Les Misérables with all of the romance, action, and suspense you could hope for.
3. Perfume Genius’s Set My Heart on Fire Immediately — A Heart in a Body in the World by Deb Caletti
Indie darling Perfume Genius manages to keep improving upon himself with each successive work, and his 2020 album Set My Heart on Fire Immediately, is no exception. Here, his crooning, deeply expressive voice explores a new level of vulnerability, at once accented by the lighter accompaniments while contrasting with the bolder productions. Deb Caletti strikes one such emotional balance in her widely celebrated work A Heart in a Body in a World. This is a tough, conflicted, yet open hearted novel, and any fan of the emotionally complex songwriting of Perfume Genius will find this to be a rewarding read.
4. Lady Gaga’s Chromatica — Kings, Queens, and In-Betweens by Tanya Boteju
Welcome to the kingdom of Chromatic, a utopia of love, diversity, and celebration ruled by none other than the Mama Monster herself, Lady Gaga. In Kings, Queens, and In-Betweens, Nima stumbles into her own queer and ecstatic kingdom, one ruled by the like of Drag Kings, fabulous queens, new loves, and fast friends. A warm, undeniably queer story that bursts with love and energy, there’s no better fit for the tunes of Gaga.
5. Charlie XCX’s How I’m Feeling Now — Permanent Record by Mary H. K. Choi
Let’s face it, no one expected to be stuck in quarantine in 2020, including pop icon Charli XCX. But Charli, the tenacious, relentless pop diva she is, decided to take this moment to write and produce an entire album, remixing a new, grittier techno pop sound with her lockdown ruminations on fraught and flirtatious relationships. In Mary H. K. Choi’s Permanent Record, Pablo finds himself similarly stuck. That is, until pop superstar Leanna Smart shows up one early morning, kindling an unexpected and unconventional flirtation and kinship. Just like Charli’s quarantine album, Choi’s novel is complicated, raw, and utterly uncompromising.
6. Carly Rae Jepsen’s Dedicated Side B — P.S. I Still Love You by Jenny Han
Carly Rae Jepsen is the queen of pure, summery, bubble gum pop, and no one can argue with me on that. Her 2019 album Dedicated thrilled fans with its joyous, open, lovesick heart. A perfect album. But who would have thought we would get the other half to this heart in 2020’s Dedicated Side B? Similarly, Jenny Han’s sweet and tender valentine To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before is a perfect, warm summer romance. This earnest tale makes for the perfect companion to this summer romance album, two halves of a heart combined to tell one great love story.
(Because we also have the next novel Always and Forever, Lara Jean, does that mean we may get a Dedicated Side C? We can only hope).
7. The Chicks’ Gaslighter — Cursed by Thomas Wheeler and Frank Miller
It has been 14 years since we have had an album from this legendary trio. The leading single, “Gaslighter,” served as an anthem of us against the world, summoning inner strength and resilience into a battle cry. In the Arthurian retelling Cursed, Nimue, who would one day become the legendary Lady in the Lake, is an outcast in her world, feared by her village for her magical abilities. But destiny and tragedy call her for something greater. This empowering legend deserves a tenacious sound, and The Chicks make the perfect 2020 pairing.