Black Panther: The Album by Kendrick Lamar
From one type of movie soundtrack at #22 to a completely different take here at #21. Black Panther was the highest grossing movie of 2018, and the Kendrick Lamar-produced soundtrack album of songs in and inspired by the movie holds up well to scrutiny. A movie soundtrack this good hasn’t come out since The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou came out in 2004.
This isn’t the first time that Lamar has been on the Top 31. His last album was #22 in 2017 and his seminal To Pimp a Butterfly was (erroneously) ranked all the way down at #29 in 2015. The man knows how to put the right people (producers, musicians, rappers) together to support his hard hitting, poignant lyrics, and this soundtrack is no different.
This being a Disney movie from the venerable Marvel Cinematic Universe, the album is most surprising in its apparent freedom from oversight. The album’s 14 songs are chock full of explicit lyrics and un-kid-friendly imagery. It’s an album that simply could not have been made five or ten years ago. Compare the Black Panther soundtrack to Prince’s Batman soundtrack from 1989 (incidentally, my first-ever CD purchase). This is Prince at his most-owned by his oppressive Warner Bros. contract, and the treacly, movie-sample laden songs, while massively popular when they were released, have not stood the test of time (have you tried to listen to it lately? It’s awful.)
But this Black Panther soundtrack, even though it includes some very similar movie samples within, is something different. This is a Kendrick Lamar album for an even larger audience than he’s already enjoyed, that just so happens to be tied to a movie. Full of interesting, cross-genre mashups (including SZA, 2 Chainz, The Weeknd and James Blake, just to name a few), the songs on this album radiate with energy. If you’ve not been a fan of Lamar’s work in the past, maybe this is your gateway into his genius. Give it at least one listen, if not more. You will not be disappointed.
22. Suspiria (Music for the Luca Guadagnino Film) by Thom Yorke
23. Merrie Land by The Good, the Bad & the Queen
24. Room 25 by Noname
25. WARM by Jeff Tweedy
26. God's Favorite Customer by Father John Misty
27. Vessel by Frankie Cosmos
28. For Ever by Jungle
29. Twerp Verse by Speedy Ortiz
30. Remain in Light by Angélique Kidjo
31. This One’s for the Dancer & This One’s for the Dancer’s Bouquet by Moonface