By Kevin Ju
By Kevin Ju

Music Madness

Bracketing the best albums of the 2023-2024 school year

From artists like PinkPantheress releasing their long-awaited debut album, to veterans of the game like Drake releasing yet another (somewhat disappointing) album, this school year has brought a slew of new albums for the listening pleasure of NVOT students. In honor of the March Madness tournament, we here at The Lance have ranked the (arguably) eight biggest albums of the school year in a March Madness style bracket. Choosing which albums to include came down to the following:

  • Release Date
  • Artist popularity
  • Musical genre (We want diversity) 
  • What type of music I listen to (I’m biased, what can I say?)

The preliminary bracket is as follows:

Let the games begin!

Match 1: GUTS (Olivia Rodrigo) vs. Bewitched (Laufey)

Starting off our bracket is GUTS by Olivia Rodrigo and Bewitched by Laufey. We’ll start off the matchup by first looking at GUTS. Olivia Rodrigo is no stranger to big album releases. Her freshman album SOUR released in 2021 and gained a lot of attention for her storytelling ability and highly popular songs “driver’s license” and “good for u.” She comes from a lineage of Disney actors turned pop stars, and I am a big fan of her pop-rock songs which she is effortlessly able to carry over to her album GUTS. Some of my personal favorite songs on the project include “All-American B****,” “bad idea, right?,” “vampire,” and “love is embarrassing.” Overall, I think Rodrigo did a great job at honing her skills from her first album, however I did find myself getting a bit bored of listening to it around the mid-way through the album.

Courtesy of the New Yorker

Going against GUTS is Laufey’s sophomore album Bewitched. Laufey (pronounced loy-vay), is an Icelandic singer and songwriter who rose to prominence in 2023 for her songs “From the Start” and “Falling Behind,” that blew up on TikTok. In contrast to Rodrigo’s pop-rock aesthetic, Laufey makes jazz pop or bossa-nova music. Without a doubt, Laufey is a highly talented singer and some of my favorite songs from her album are “From the Start,” “Promise,” and “Lovesick.” In my opinion, the highlights of the album are Laufey’s vocals as well as the instrumentation. However, I think the biggest downside of the album is the fact that “From the Start” sticks out like a sore thumb. I like that song the most and the rest of the songs kind of just blend together. Overall, definitely not a bad album from Laufey, but certainly not the greatest.

Courtesy of Spotify

My pick: While I enjoyed both albums, I am going to have to pick GUTS. Neither album comes from a genre I generally listen to, but I found myself returning to Olivia Rodrigo’s music just a bit more than Laufey’s. 

Match 2: For All the Dogs (Drake) vs. A Great Chaos (Ken Carson)

To start off match 2, we have the one and only Drake. Probably the most well known artist in the world outside of Taylor Swift, Drake has been on a roll, releasing an album every year for the past three years. However, despite his constant rolling out of albums, I find myself kind of getting bored of his music. He seems to prioritize releasing quantity over quality and while I am all about him getting that bag, I would like him to spread out his albums at least a little to really spend some time making some good music. Nevertheless, For All the Dogs does have a few notable tracks I really enjoy, such as: “Virginia Beach,” “First Person Shooter,” “IDGAF (feat. Yeat),” and “Rich Baby Daddy (feat. Sexyy Red & Sza)”. “Virginia Beach” is by far my favorite song, I really enjoy his Frank Ocean sample and hope he can produce more tracks like that in the future. Overall, not bad, but a little disappointed that he doesn’t use the time to work on an album that uses his full potential. 

Courtesy of the New Yorker

Going against Drake is Ken Carson with his album A Great Chaos. I didn’t really enjoy his previous album X, and generally don’t listen to his style of rap, but A Great Chaos is definitely not bad. By far the best tracks are “Fighting my Demons” and “Jennifer’s Body.” You can barely understand half of what he says, but for Ken Carson, it’s all about the vibes. I don’t really have any notes other than that. Those two songs are great but other than that I really have nothing else to say. 

Courtesy of Wikipedia

My pick: As you can probably tell based on how much I wrote, I enjoyed Drake’s For All the Dogs a lot more than A Great Chaos. Drake may not try that hard with his albums anymore but the man can make some good music. 

Match 3: 1989 (Taylor’s Version) (Taylor Swift) vs. Heaven Knows (PinkPantheress) 

Starting off match #3 is without a doubt the most popular artist in the world: Travis Kelce’s girlfriend. 1989 is not a new album. It was originally released in 2014, but as part of her effort to “own” her songs (something I had to ask one of my friends about while writing), re-released it in October with a few songs that were cut from the original album. I wouldn’t describe myself as a “Swiftie” necessarily, I like all of her big hits and recognize her songwriting and singing ability, but I am no Dave Portnoy. However, after giving it a listen, I may or may not be a bigger fan of hers now. My personal favorites on the album are  “Style” and “Wildest Dreams.” Definitely a couple other great songs on the album but since it’s basically an eight-year-old album, you probably know them by now. 

Courtesy of Wikipedia

Having the tall-task of going against one of Taylor Swift’s best-selling albums is PinkPantheress and her debut album Heaven Knows. PinkPantheress, similar to Laufey, grew popular from TikTok, and I’m actually a really big fan of PinkPantheress, some of my favorite songs from her include “Pain,” “Picture in my mind,” and “Boys a Liar.” Maybe I didn’t give it a fair listen (I was in class when I was listening to it), but a lot of the songs kind of just blended together. Some of the few that stood out to me were “True romance,” “Nice to meet you (feat. Central Cee),” and “Boys a Liar pt.2”. Overall, I thought the album was just okay, but if you look at reviewers like Anthony Fantano, you’d find that many actually really enjoy the album. So, I will definitely have to give it a re-listen sometime. 

Courtesy of Wikipedia

My Pick: Trying to match up against Taylor Swift is a Herculean task as it is, but PinkPantheress tried and I commend them for that. Nevertheless, Taylor Swift moves on to the Final Four.

Match 4: Vultures 1 (Kanye West and Ty Dolla $ign) vs. We Don’t Trust You (Metro Boomin & Future)  

Coming off a highly controversial past two years, Kanye West (now Ye but I’m too lazy to correct his name) had something to prove with his latest album Vultures 1, which was made in collaboration with Ty Dolla $ign. As much as I hate the things Kanye has said and done the last few years, I guess he is one of those extreme cases of “separating the artist from the art,” because damn can that man make some damn good music. From the stadium level atmosphere of “CARNIVAL,” to the laid back vibes of “BURN,” (almost) every song on the album is a banger that I have had on repeat since its release. Some personal favorites include “PAID,” “BACK TO ME,” “DO IT,” “BURN,” “F** SUMN,” and “CARNIVAL.” 

Courtesy of Wikipedia

In a battle of duos, Metro Boomin and Future teamed up to make We Don’t Trust You which was released just the other week. Metro Boomin is one of the best producers out right now and while I like the album, it definitely isn’t his best. By far the best song is “Like That” which features Kendrick Lamar. Lamar put on his A-game for the feature, attacking artists Drake and J. Cole. Other than that, I also liked “Type ****” but every other song started to blend together after some time. 

Courtesy of Spotify

My Pick: Metro Boomin and Future tried, but it’s pretty hard to top Kanye West and Ty Dolla $ign. The superduo move on to the Final Four

With Round 1 over, the bracket now looks like this: 

From here on out the rounds will be a lot shorter seeing as I basically summarized each album already. 

Match 5: GUTS (Olivia Rodrigo) vs. 1989 (Taylor’s Version) (Taylor Swift)

There’s a reason people compared Olivia Rodrigo to Taylor Swift when she first started to come into fame. The two are very similar and Rodrigo even recognized this, crediting her song “Deja-Vu” to Taylor Swift . In this matchup between the apprentice versus the master, the latter takes the cake. Taylor Swift is just an immovable force in the music industry and while it’s cheap to have an eight-year-old re-release make it to the finals, it’s just that good. 

Courtesy of Page Six

Match 6: For All the Dogs (Drake) vs. Vultures 1 (¥$)

On the other side of the bracket are the two titans of hip-hop/rap: Drake and Kanye West (and Ty Dolla $ign too, I guess). Kanye and Drake have had beef in the past but seemed to have made up back in 2021. However, for the sake of the bracket, they are both vying for the coveted finals spot in our bracket. If you’ve read my summaries of each album, you can probably tell which album is making it to the finals. Ye and Dolla $ign sweep the competition, as the album just has too many songs that are just THAT good. 

Courtesy of LEVEL – Medium

With the Final Four over, the bracket now looks like this: 

FINAL: 1989 (Taylor’s Version) (Taylor Swift) vs. Vultures 1 (¥$) 

If you remember back at the 2009 VMAs, Kanye West drunkenly stumbled onto the stage as Taylor Swift was giving her acceptance award for music video of the year and said, “I’m really happy for you…but Beyonce had one of the best videos of all time.” Then, in his 2016 album The Life of Pablo, Kanye stated in one of his songs, “I made that b**** famous.” So, can you believe that the two are now competing for the most coveted title of all!? “The Lance’s choice of best album of the 2023-2024 school year.” Yeah, neither can I. But that’s besides the point. For me, the winner is clear. Kanye West and Ty Dolla $ign take the cake. And before Dave Portnoy and the Swfities come after me, I must say I really did like the album! (But, the album is also technically eight- years- old [other than her new tracks] so it probably shouldn’t win the bracket because that’s just not fair) Also, it’s all personal preference. I just tend to like rap more than pop music. 

Courtesy of Us Weekly

Overall, I think it’s safe to say that this school year has been home to a plethora of great albums. However, after reviewing all of the albums, Kanye West and Ty Dolla $ign stand on top.  I think in a hypothetical world where Kanye West would give an acceptance speech for such a prestigious award as The Lance’s March Madness album bracket, he would remind us of what he said at the Grammy’s: “everyone want to know what I would do if I didn’t win. I guess we’ll never know.”


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