Album covers of Rihanna, Taylor Swift, The 1975, and SZA
A great way to end the year. Image: Kai Holub/Fulcrum
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Some of the best releases to end the year

Some of the biggest artists in pop, R&B, and hip-hop released highly anticipated tracks and albums in the past few weeks. Rihanna made a comeback after a six-year pause from music. Taylor Swift dropped Midnights, and SZA released the long-promoted “Shirt.” The 1975 came out with Being Funny In A Foreign Language in mid-October, and Drake and 21 Savage released a joint album, Her Loss last week.

Taylor Swift – Midnights

Taylor Swift released Midnights, another album capturing her classic storytelling and musical style. “Anti-Hero,” one of the most popular songs on the album, is introspective and honest. Relatable and witty, the chorus repeats “It’s me / Hi! / I’m the problem, it’s me,” reflecting how we all feel sometimes in our relationships, friendships, or professional lives. 

Midnights tells the story of someone who is exploring and trying to free themselves from expectations, anxieties, and ambivalent relationships. As always, Swift includes a feminist take in her album, especially in “Vigilante Shit,” which explicitly defies the notion that women dress or do things to please the rest of the world. Midnights is a classic Swift album, but uses new synths, differentiating it from her previous acoustic sound.  

Taylor Swift – Midnights (3am Edition)

Don’t forget to listen to the 3 a.m. edition of Midnights. Released just hours after Midnights (you guessed it —at 3 a.m.) it has seven tracks more than the standard album and extends the dreamy reverberations of Midnights with songs like “Paris” and “Glitch.” The last track on the 3 a.m. version ends in a sentimental message with “Dear Reader.” It tells listeners to free themselves from others, but points out the difficulties of finding your own direction when you’re suffering internally.   

Drake and 21 Savage – Her Loss

Drake and 21 Savage’s joint album Her Loss is an attestation to the musical compatibility between both artists. The production is clean and smooth, and every beat and rhythm on Her Loss highlights just how complementary each rapper is to each other’s flow. It’s reminiscent of older Drake albums, topped off with impressive and effortless wordplay by 21 Savage.  

One of the more popular tracks on the album is “Pussy & Millions” which features a typical auto-tuned verse from Travis Scott, giving the song the hype it needs. Other tracks on the album mix more relaxed rhythms and flows with energetic beats and instruments, making it feel like you’re listening to more than one track at a time.     

Rihanna – “Lift Me Up”

Common worries amongst R&B fans that Rihanna left music for good disappeared when she released “Lift Me Up” as part of the upcoming Black Panther movie soundtrack. Unlike her usual R&B style, she sings a slow ballad that fully exposes the robust tone and strength of her voice. This release adds to the excitement for her performance at the Super Bowl halftime show next year. Who knows? Maybe this recent release points to her continued interest in music and that we’ll see some more in the future — hopefully, anyway.

The 1975 – Being Funny In A Foreign Language 

The 1975’s October release has the same guitars and upbeat drums that characterize their typical retro sound. Straying from Matt Healy’s more political themes, it hails ballad-like lyricism on love. There are soft folk tunes and bouncy melodies, some more catchy than others. While some parts of the album are reminiscent of their “Girls” era, The 1975 contributes something new to their discography in this release.      

SZA – “Shirt” 

Highly anticipated “Shirt” was released last week by SZA. The track has a strong bass that ebbs and flows as the undercurrent to SZA’s smooth, rhythmic lyrics. It’s both choppy and flowy, indicative of her typical R&B style. The music video starring the singer with LaKeith Stanfield is puzzling, but uniquely designed as SZA switches outfits in multiple shooting scenes. At the end, she previews an unreleased song listeners can look forward to. 

This year is coming to an end with great releases from some of the biggest artists in the industry. Consistency is key in shaping those who will stay relevant in the music industry for a long time. That being said, hopefully we’ll see even better releases in the new year.


  • Grace is a second-year political science student joining the Fulcrum for the 2022-23 publishing year. She has experience in public service, and has volunteered in advocacy campaigns and grassroots initiatives uplifting youth and women. She is passionate about the arts, community organizing, and politics. When she’s not studying or working, you can find her reading or rewatching Seinfeld episodes.