My beautiful music lovers: We have (almost) reached the end of 2017!
This year has been a true test to the human psychique with the mess that is our current Presidential reality – but, luckily, in the midst of life’s many expected ups and downs this year, there was (thankfully) a ton of music to help distract, heal and lift us up.
First up, I’m counting down my Top 50 Albums of the Year! As per usual, this list is usually my favorite because its much easier to rank my love for an album based on if I can get through the whole thing from start to finish without banging my head against a wall (repeatedly). WITH THAT SAID: That doesn’t necessarily mean I find album #29 any more or less tolerable than the ones before or after it so please save your trolling for someone who actually cares. I love music. You love music. We love music!
K, without further ado, here’s the list:
50. Terror Jr – Bop City 2: TerroRising
49. Oliver – Full Circle
48. Erik Hassle – Innocence Lost
47. Nelly Furtado – The Ride
46. Hey Violet – From the Outside
45. Betty Who – The Valley
44. Loreen – Ride
43. Paloma Faith – The Architect
42. Shakira – El Dorado
41. Snoh Aalegra – Feels
40. Perfrume Genius – No Shape
39. Michelle Branch – Hopeless Romantic
38. N.E.R.D – NO ONE EVER REALLY DIES
37. Lights – Skin&Earth
36. Paramore – After Laughter
35. Miley Cyrus – Younger Now
34. Niia – I
33. Bleachers – Gone Now
32. Haim – Something to Tell You
31. Katy Perry – Witness
30. Tyler, the Creator – Flower Boy
29. Superfruit – Future Friends
28. Zara Larsson – So Good
27. Cashmere Cat – 9
26. Kelly Clarkson – Meaning of Life
25. P!nk – Beautiful Trauma
24. St. Vincent – Masseduction
23. The xx – I See You
22. Jhené Aiko – Trip
21. Halsey – hopeless fountain kingdom
20. Taylor Swift – Reputation
19. Demi Lovato – Tell Me You Love Me
18. MUNA – About U
17. Calvin Harris – Funk Wav Bounces Vol. 1
16. Majid Jordan – The Space Between
15. Kesha – Rainbow
14. Drake – More Life
13. Tove Lo – BLUE LIPS (Lady Wood Phase II)
12. Khalid – American Teen
11. Allie X – CollXtion II
10. Kehlani – SweetSexySavage: After years years of dropping mixtapes and collaborations, Kehlani finally properly broke out in 2017 with her full-length major label debut LP, SweetSexySavage – an appropriately direct nod to TLC‘s CrazySexyCool. It’s a sleek, self-assured, and polished body of work from an artist that took her time to perfect her sound and get it just right. Though she proudly wears her influences — Aaliyah, Brandy, and any number of Y2K era of R&B belters — on her sleeve she never once sounds like an imitator or cliché. Kehlani‘s many strengths as a songwriter and singer outweigh any possible charges of imitation, and her willingness to apply subtlety, make unapologetic choices, and simply have fun is what makes her a true star. For an album released at the very top of the year, it’s had undeniable longevity, both in the R&B and Pop world. The crossover queen we deserve in 2017. Highlights: “Keep On,” “Distraction,” “CRZY,” “Advice,” “Get Like,” “In My Feelings,” and “I Wanna Be.”
9. Lana Del Rey – Lust for Life: Five albums deep, Lana Del Rey is very aware of the fact that her signature sleepy sound isn’t necessarily everyone’s cup of tea, but that doesn’t mean she’s going to stop making the music her loyal fanbase has grown to love. Compared to her other albums, especially its drowsy 2015 predecessor Honeymoon, Lust for Life is positively sunny in tone, and certainly more upbeat in tempo. Lana may sing about a “Summer Bummer” and being “In My Feelings” but the songs aren’t inline with hazy unforgotten daydreams; they shimmer, offering a confident bit of seduction for chill nights in with your bae. Lana keeps this delicate balance throughout the lengthy Lust for Life (at 71 minutes, this is an album as much as it’s a playlist, designed to be played on loop as “vibe” music), never quite committing to either distress or euphoria but rather finding an effortless place somewhere in-between the two. That said, Lana does lean slightly more towards ecstasy on Lust for Life, bathing comfortably in her slow rhythms and luxurious surfaces. She manages to sustain this mood over the course of Lust for Life‘s 16 songs, every one of which is a genuine variation of her adored signature sound. Highlights: “Love,” “Lust for Life” (feat. The Weeknd), “Cherry,” “Groupie Love” (feat. A$AP Rocky), and “Get Free.”
8. Kendirck Lamar – DAMN.: On DAMN. Kendrick Lamar proved you can actually take a more “mainstream” approach while maintaining your musical excellence. Although its definitely sonically less cohesive than to his predecessors (To Pimp a Butterfly and good kid, m.A.A.d city); the lyrics are just as strong and impactful and the music is just as vibrant and exciting. In fact, Kendrick‘s reached a whole new level of self-awareness on DAMN., he’s better than ever. In my honest opinion, Kendrick‘s been on a non-stop winning streak, and his closest competitors are still miles away. This album is just more proof of his genius. Highlights: “HUMBLE.,” “DNA.,” “LOYALTY.” (feat. Rihanna) and “LOVE.” (feat. Zacari).
7. Miguel – War & Leisure: Every year, there’s one artist drops an absolutely incredible album at the tail end of the year that makes music writers everywhere wish they would’ve waited on publishing their year-end lists. This year, that artist is Miguel. 2012’s Kaleidoscope Dream and 2015’s Wildheart, saw this R&B crooner master the early versatility he displayed on his debut All I Want Is You, showcasing a playful-yet-wise mix of pop, funk and soul that certified him a true star. War & Leisure is a more ambitious, bold and confident move: a non-stop joy ride that doubles as a master class in futurist hypersexual R&B. He never fails to impress and expand within himself. Highlights: “Sky Walker” (feat. Travis Scott), “Banana Clip,” “Told You So,” “Caramelo Duro” (feat. Kali Uchis), “Come Through and Chill” and “Now.”
6. Jessie Ware – Glasshouse: Like most of Jessie‘s stellar back catalog, her third studio LP Glasshouse revolves around her signature lyrical themes: Sadness, isolation, lust and most importantly, love. But Glasshouse strives as a much bigger and mature deal than anything she’s done before, catering mostly to her husband, Sam Burrows, and the arrival of their first child. Jessie‘s has always had the effortless ability to wrap powerful emotions in irresistible melodies but here she channels that skill into soaring new heights. And with additional production credits from the likes of Kid Harpoon, Starsmith, Happy Perez, Benny Blanco, Cashmere Cat, Julia Michaels and Ed Sheeran, there was already little doubt that Jessie would come through strong. But, make no mistake: It was Jessie‘s very own signature sensual stylings that made this record a win from start to finish. Forever my queen. Highlights: “Midnight,” “Stay Awake, Wait For Me,” “Alone,” “Selfish Love,” “Hearts” and “Sam.”
5. Mura Masa – Mura Masa: In a year when mainstream radio became increasingly defined by island-like musical trends, the first full-length by Guernsey-born DJ-producer Mura Masa (aka Alex Crossan) was refreshing for the way it leaned proudly outward, bringing slinky disco, shimmering electro-pop, garage house, Hip-hop and throwback R&B together in the name of finding musical transcendence. Mura Masa‘s unlimited playfulness and genre-bending production skills — not to mention the help from Bonzai, A$AP Rocky, Charli XCX, Desiigner, Nao, Tom Tripp and Christine and the Queens — show that there’s still uncharted territory left in the land of UK dance-pop, and that thankfully someone like the young and talented Mura Masa is more than willing to put in all his time in order to find it. Highlights: “Love$ick” (feat. A$AP Rocky), “1 Night” (feat. Charli XCX), “What If I Go?,” “Firefly” (feat. Nao) and “Second 2 None” (feat. Christine and the Queens).
4. Dua Lipa – Dua Lipa: Pop music needed some serious saving in 2017. Weighted down by tired-less, island-lite radio trends, EDM beat drops (thanks a lot, The Chainsmokers) and One Direction members going solo, the pop music landscape was missing a dose of originality. Enter Dua Lipa, aka Jesus Christ. Kicking off her rise with a slew of anthem-ready singles “Be The One,” “Hotter Than Hell” and “Blow Your Mind (Mwah),” the young and versatile beauty reminded us all that, pop at its finest, all comes down to melody. While it took a lot more time than it should’ve, Dua finally blessed us with her highly anticipated self-titled debut in 2017. And the record was worth the wait: Each song bursts with huge choruses, from the truly stunning opener “Genesis” to the unstoppable force that is “New Rules,” which is finally giving her the visibility she deserves. As with Adele, Ellie Goulding, Charli XCX, Marina And The Diamonds, and so many English queens before her, Dua‘s got the undeniable gift. Dua for President! Highlights: “Genesis,” “Lost In Your Light” (feat. Miguel), “Hotter Than Hell,” “Be The One,” “IDGAF,” “Blow Your Mind (Mwah),” “New Rules” and “Homesick.”
3. Kelela – Take Me Apart: Where 2017 mostly failed in delivering huge pop records, it made up in supplying us with stellar R&B. When Kelela arrived on the scene in 2015 with her unique brand of futuristic-yet-nostoglic-R&B-electronica, we already knew her debut record would be something special. And that it most certainly is: Take Me Apart‘s title track is R&B at its most cosmic and forward-thinking, “Better” is post-breakup relatable gold, and the nostalgic Aaliyah-sounding greatness that is “LMK” is the stuff of legend status. While she might not have made the biggest noise this year, she did deliver artistry at its finest. Kelela‘s got plenty of talent up her slick sleeve and this here is just the beginning of a long career. Take notice! Highlights: “Frontline,” “Take Me Apart,” “Better,” “LMK,” “Blue Light” and “Turn To Dust.”
2. Lorde – Melodrama: Lorde delivered one the best records of the year in 2013 with her debut Pure Heroine. In the time since, she’s become a true superstar all while going through her very first real breakup. Her long-awaited sophomore album Melodrama documents the time spent between her stardom and breakup: It is a honest, sometimes dark and extremely liberating body of work, in which Lorde delivers some of her strongest, tightest and certainly most teary-eyed music to date. In the few years since her debut, Lorde‘s improved substantially upon her melody-making, resulting in massive heartbreak and youth anthems like “Sober,” “Homemade Dynamite” “Perfect Places” and “Green Light,” which is absolutely the year’s most overlooked single. Haunting, lonely and utterly empowering the whole way through. Highlights: “Green Light,” “Sober,” “Homemade Dynamite,” “Liability,” “Supercut” and “Perfect Places.”
1. SZA – CTRL: No other album quite did it for me other than the long-delayed debut from Solána Imani Rowe. SZA‘s CTRL is a straight-up, cohesive masterpiece from beginning to end about a girl navigating life in her “20 Something”‘s (see what I did there?) — dating, falling in love, dealing with fuck boys, self-doubt, anxiety, self-acceptance, growing up and much more. Her full-bodied voice floats over each intricate production effortlessly as she spits her unapologetically honest and relatable lyrics. “The Weekend” is pure genius; “Love Galore” is just as addictive; and “Drew Barrymore,” “Prom” and “20 Something” prove that SZA is not one of those alternative R&B artists with just one or two tricks up her sleeve. To put it simply, SZA is the voice of a generation. GIVE HER ALL THE AWARDS! Highlights: ALL OF IT.
Honorable Mentions: Niall Horan – Flicker, Shania Twain – NOW, Fergie – Double Dutchess, Fifth Harmony – Fifth Harmony, Galantis – The Aviary, Kelsea Ballerini – Unapologetically, The Killers – Wonderful Wonderful, Marc E. Bassy – Gossip Columns, Maroon 5 – Red Pill Blues, Harry Styles – Harry Styles, Beth Ditto – Fake Sugar and Sam Smith – The Thrill Of It All.