A Year in Review: Music of 2017
The coming of a new year sparks celebration around the world. It's important to look back on everything the year has given us when the festivities die down. Instead of trying to cover all of 2017 (and boy is there a lot), I'm going to stick to my favorite, music! Here are some of the best albums released in 2017.
DAMN. by Kendrick Lamar
Lamar went in a completely different direction for his fourth studio album following his jazz inflected album To Pimp a Butterfly. The sounds of DAMN. are stripped down, in your face and pure hip-hop. The beats on some of the songs will have your car speakers rattling. Lamar’s unparalleled flows and complex rhymes will have you both nodding and scratching your head while trying to keep up with the various references, double entendres and images that he conjures up over the album’s 55 minute runtime. While not as groundbreaking as his earlier works, it still earns a spot as one of the best rap albums of the year.
Key Tracks: DNA, ELEMENT, LOVE feat. ZACARI
4:44 by Jay-Z
It’s hard to believe that even this far into his career, Shawn Carter can still drop an album that shakes the music world. Jay-Z bares his soul on 4:44, rapping about topics such as infidelity, being a black man in modern day America and wealth. Dee Lockett from Vulture believes that the album contains his “most confessional body of work to date.” The production is both soulful and minimal, with samples of old R&B being looped around Carter’s verses about his family. You may have heard Jay-Z at his most boastful, but you haven’t heard him at his most vulnerable.
Key Tracks: The Story of O.J., Smile feat. Gloria Carter, 4:44
Culture by Migos
This project’s lead single “Bad and Boujee,” was hard to escape from early 2017. Being played on every radio station and at every party, the song became a cultural phenomenon. The music video and the memes that were born online propelled Migos to mainstream stardom. While being popular in underground rap circles for many years due to their unique flows, catchy hooks and fun ad-libs, it was this album that finally gave them the spotlight they deserved. The modern trap rap production and the chemistry between the three group members Quavo, Offset and Takeoff make this album a fun listen whether you’re going to class or getting ready to go out.
Key Tracks: Get Right Witcha, What the Price, Slippery feat. Gucci Mane
Divide by Ed Sheeran
Known for both his slower love songs and his upbeat folk pop sound, Sheeran is one of the biggest songwriters in the world. His lyrics are both sweet and clever, and his fast paced delivery over folk instrumentation recalls hip-hop while also creating a fresh sound. There is a song for every mood on this album.
Key Tracks: Shape of You, Perfect, Galway Girl
Melodrama by Lorde
Lorde took four years off in between her debut album Pure Heroine and her newest release. Her patience and hard work may have paid off, as she is the only female artist to secure an Album of the Year nomination at the upcoming Grammy Awards. Her introspective, transparent lyrics about adolescence makes you relate to her music, while the muted production of her debut explodes into color on the follow up with all sorts of instrumentation. According to a Rolling Stone article that talked about the best albums of the year, “guitars and bass were laced through synthetic beats and dub effects”. This sort of creativity is unmatched in pop music and makes for an exhilarating listen.
Key Tracks: Liability, Perfect Places
Reputation by Taylor Swift
Another reinvention by the one of the biggest voices in music today, Swift challenged both herself and her listeners with a change in lyrical content and the sound of her music. Long gone is country Swift, with the production on the new album mirroring EDM influenced pop. Her lyrics are darker and much more sensual this time around. This change of pace from her usual cute and upbeat songs is a breath of fresh air and is compelling from start to finish.
Key Tracks: End Game feat. Ed Sheeran & Future, Gorgeous
Freudian by Daniel Caesar
Caesar is an up and coming artist out of Toronto who uses modern R&B production to back his gospel influenced vocals. You can practically feel the emotion from his voice pour out of your speaker as he tackles abstract ideas and topics such as religion and love. The sound of the album is very consistent, and the instrumentation brings about a sad but hopeful tone throughout. Endings of certain songs blend into the beginning of others and it pulls you into one long, immersive listening experience.
Key Tracks: Get You feat. Kali Uchis, Loose, Take Me Away
Ctrl by SZA
The long awaited debut album from TDE label signee SZA did not disappoint. The samples and beats are indebted to both modern trap and 90s style R&B. The lyrics are honest, blunt and match the minimal production. The album is straight to the point and it makes you feel her emotion. The album can be played while you’re sitting alone in the dark or driving around with your friends.
Love Galore feat. Travis Scott, The Weekend, Broken Clocks
American Teen by Khalid
Khalid’s young age of 19 is definitely an asset to his music. His lyrics are poignant and current, dealing with issues that many millennials face. He sings about how technology can be both a benefit and a hazard to relationships in the modern age. The production ranges from 80s style pop to cutting edge R&B, backing his lyrics with many diverse sounds.
Key Tracks: Location, Young, Dumb and Broke, Cold Blooded
These are just a few of the best music selections that the year has to offer in my opinion. If none of the songs on the list are your cup of tea, that’s okay. There is plenty more music out there to discover for yourself.