2016 was a great year for music and it brought on excitement for what 2017 would have in store, and this year did not disappoint. However, what was interesting about 2017 is that a large number of well-established popular artists released albums this year, such as Ed Sheeran, Drake, and Taylor Swift, but newcomers and underdogs seemed to have favoured the opinions of critics and captured the attention of listeners. This was a great year to have your music career kick off, as many of the best albums of the year are debut albums.
2017 was a great year for music. pic.twitter.com/kINW9j2Gbh
— FREDDY (@FreddyAmazin) December 24, 2017
There is one particular music genre that took over this year: trap music. This mass takeover could have been predicted last year, but when Donald Glover proclaimed Migos’ “Bad and Boujee” as “the best song ever,” they were cemented as being the most relevant artists of 2017.
Here are my top 10 albums of 2017, in no particular order.
1. DAMN. – Kendrick Lamar
Okay, so I said in no particular order, but if I were to pick my favourite album of the year, this would have to be it. Kendrick’s widely acclaimed fourth studio album was fourteen consecutive tracks of fire. “HUMBLE.” can easily be described as the anthem of 2017, and other gems like “DNA.,” “LOVE.,” and “LOYALTY.” also became popular with the masses. There was even a U2 feature which, surprisingly, does not feel out-of-place. Although there’s still a debate on whether his 2015 effort, To Pimp a Butterfly, was a superior album, there is no doubt that DAMN. is a masterpiece.
2. Harry Styles – Harry Styles
This was the most surprising album of 2017 in terms of expectations. The One Directioner’s debut solo album took an approach that differed so much from the boy band’s pop sound that listeners were used to, that one would be forgiven for not recognizing this is the same Harry Styles that Simon Cowell discovered. The sound of this album also differed from the solo efforts that his fellow band members are putting out, in that Styles’s album gravitates away from pop and more towards rock, as evident in the songs “Kiwi” and “Only Angel,” for example. This album proves that Styles is able to thrive outside of One Direction, and we can only hope that he continues to surprise us in the future.
3. American Teen – Khalid
Khalid’s debut album sounds like it could have been produced well before his time, with the 1980’s synth pop sound being used throughout the album. However, the lyrics speak directly to the experiences of modern-day youth while his voice carries a magnitude of maturity that let’s us know that this teen has felt real pain, and music is his best way of expressing it. Just the title of “Young, Dumb & Broke” speaks to every teen and twenty-something millennial.
4. Flower Boy – Tyler, the Creator
Tyler, the Creator has yet to disappoint, and Flower Boy, or its more fitting full title, Scum Fuck Flower Boy, might be a little more toned down than his prior albums, but just as powerful. Tyler uses Flower Boy as a means to demonstrate more vulnerability (“I can’t even lie, I’ve been lonely as fuck), but at the same time, the album is uplifting and provides a sense of hope to the listener.
5. Ctrl -SZA
SZA seemed to have come out of nowhere this year to take the R&B industry by storm. What’s interesting about this album is how transparent the lyrics are. Dealing with the raw reality of love and how the circumstances are not always right, SZA does not romanticize the complicated notion of love in contemporary dating culture. The album openly deals with the idea of sex through infidelity and polygamy from numerous perspectives, and listeners obviously loved it.
YO YALL TOOK A SONG THT WASNT A FUCKING SINGLE AND MADE IT PLATINUM!!!??AHH I LOVE U MORE THAN CHEESE!THANK U 4 THE BEST BDAY GIFT EVER 🙏🏾💕💗 https://t.co/9ruKzuu05c
— SZA (@sza) November 9, 2017
6. Freudian – Daniel Caesar
This Daniel Caesar debut album deserves the title of the best romance album of the year. Beginning with the idealistic lead single “Get You,” the gospel-inspired R&B sound guides the narrative of the album, having Caesar grapple with all the positive and negative aspects of love in each subsequent track. The songs featuring collaborations with female artists are especially potent in inciting a sense of romantic conflict within the listener.
7. Culture – Migos
Trap music might be polarizing, but there is no doubt that the genre found its place in mainstream music this year. A group that had a everything to do with this surge of trap music was Migos. Although the trio have been around for a while, and their debut single, “Versace,” went viral in 2013, it is their second studio album, Culture, that established Migos as a force to be reckoned with in mainstream music. There is no way you went to a club this year and left without hearing, “Bad and Boujee,” “T-shirt,” or “Slippery” played at least once. With features by other well-known trap artists such as 2 Chainz, Gucci Mane, and Travis Scott, as well as an inspiring introduction by DJ Khaled on the eponymous first track, Culture was the soundtrack of 2017.
8. War & Leisure – Miguel
Miguel may not be the most popular artist right now, but he is one of the most talented, and his fourth album, War and Leisure, perfectly showcases that talent. With vocals and beats reminiscent of Prince, especially in tracks such as “Pineapple Skies” and “Told You So,” this whole album feels like an homage to the late artist and Miguel is proving himself to be one of the most creative individuals in music.
9. Slowdive – Slowdive
This is the English rock band’s first album since 1995, and the self-titled album does sounds like it was recorded back then. Despite this aspect, however, the album does not sound outdated. In fact, the sound of the album does not feel at all out-of-place in 2017, which makes the band seem timeless. Slowdive did the impossible: successfully picked up from where they left off decades ago.
10. 4:44 – Jay-Z
This short album is the ultimate confession. Jay-Z says exactly what needs to be said, nothing more and nothing less. He wastes no time beating around the bush, with the opening track titled “Kill Jay Z” letting the listener know exactly what this album is about. Not only does 4:44 contain a whole track apologizing to Beyoncé, but Jay-Z still found time to address Black America throughout the album. A standout of 2017, for sure.
Honorable mention: Luv Is Rage 2 – Lil Uzi Vert
I could not bring myself to add another trap album to the list, but Lil Uzi Vert’s debut album is different from any other trap album this year, and deserves to be mentioned. Although the beats are catchy, they are not especially unique. Instead, what makes this album stand out is the darker subject matter that its lyrics deal with, proving Uzi’s maturity and understanding of the world, which challenges the simplistic qualities that trap music is known for.