Exclaim!'s Top 20 Pop & Rock Albums, Part Two Best of 2016

4. Beyoncé  

Beyoncé's Lemonade inspired so much incredible black scholarship, feminist, arts and culture writing, and it was inspired by the same (the Lemonade syllabus is amazing). The driving narrator — a woman, a survivor, scorned, broken, a queen, a goddess made mortal (temporarily) by a mere man — contends with not just infidelity, but also gaslighting, subverting gender expectations, intergenerational trauma and pain, historical inequality and deeply entrenched racism. 
Lemonade's groundbreaking ambition is further supported by the album's genuinely expansive sonic sprawl. Every track is distinctive, powerful, complex and important. "Freedom" is a foot-stomping resistance anthem, while the electro-R&B groove of "Sorry" makes it the sexiest "middle fingers up" screw you of the 21st Century. "Don't Hurt Yourself" is a blistering psych-rock freakout, "Daddy Lessons" is fiery Southern country gospel, and there's even a heartbreaking piano ballad ("Sandcastles"). Lemonade is more than a remarkable work of art; it's dense, daring, bold perfection.
Andrea Warner