Rob Sheffield's Top 20 Albums of 2016

Beyoncé, 'Blackstar' and other favorites from a trying year

Beyoncé, 'Lemonade'
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1. Beyoncé, 'Lemonade'

Nobody else could have dropped an album two days after Prince died – but when Beyonce released Lemonade, it sounded like no less than a passing of the purple torch, especially since Lemonade is full of songs about how the beautiful ones will hurt you every time. And that includes America, the lover who always finds new ways to sell you out. Beyonce ruled this year – Lemonade was the queen's boldest personal statement, but also her picture of where the country's bad brain is at. She claims every corner of American music, from country ("Daddy Lessons") to muscle-car blues-metal ("Don't Hurt Yourself"), from New Orleans bounce ("Formation") to wherever Vegas meets the Lower East Side ("Hold Up"). But it's a land where you never know when love will turn to betrayal. And in a year that needed music as desperately as 2016 did, nothing less than Lemonade would do – a levee-breaking, lemon-squeezing, fire-breathing rage suite. This is hardcore.