We all know 2017 has been rough. Rough doesn't begin to cover it. This year in politics felt like the minuscule sliver of hope in me that survived the hell of 2016 was chopped up, thrown into a food processor and pureed. It wasn't destroyed, but it was beat up, and it exists in some other form I'm now inherently suspicious of...god only knows what will happen to that hope in 2018.
But, in the spirit of finding the good and clinging to it for dear life in this hurricane!!!!!, I want to look back at some of the good from this year. Every week this month I'll be sharing a list of some of the things I loved about 2017.
Today, we begin with music!
If you know me at all you know I'm a pop music freak. So GTFO with your pretension or judgement!! Just because it's Top 40 doesn't mean it's not magic.
My 5 favorite albums of 2017
Ctrl is the best album of 2017. No way around it. SZA delivers a lush, bass-y, introspective, electrifying, delicious deep dive into a world of lust and fear, memory and daydreams, confidence and insecurity. Her production is rich, her voice is richer. The way that she stretches words to parallel melody blows my mind over and over again ("I could be your sup-er-mo-del if you be-lieve"). I was thrilled to see she was nominated this week for 5 Grammys for Ctrl (but Recording Academy, where's that Album of the Year nod????). From front to back, every track is killer. There are no skips. I looooooooooooooove this album.
Standout tracks: "Supermodel", "Drew Barrymore", "Prom", "The Weekend", "Go Gina", "Normal Girl"
The Valley, Betty Who
I am a rabid Betty Who fan. In the few years I've been familiar with her music I've managed to see her in concert four times, have vinyl copies of both of her full length albums, and sleep in a t-shirt with one of my favorite The Valley lyrics written on it in pink block letters ("I brought a bottle of moscato you'll be drunk until tomorrow"). I have been waiting for this woman to blow the pop scene open for years, and though I don't feel The Valley got the recognition and love it deserved, I ADORE this album. It's bright and sassy and synth-y and dance-y and romance-y and so 80s throwback-y you can't help but smile when it's on. Beyond being a great album, Betty's vocal range on this album is absolutely insane - I dare you to not be awed by the low note on the opening track.
Standout tracks: "You Can Cry Tomorrow", "Mama Say", "Human Touch", "Wanna Be", "Pretend You're Missing Me", "Beautiful"
About U, MUNA
MUNA's music hits me deep. Their song "Winterbreak" was my most played track of 2016, and remains one of my favorite songs to this day. About U is their first full album and they're already proving themselves to be masters of blending decades: the production feels like hazy-muddled-80s vibes, the slight grunginess feels like 1994, the whispered confessional lyrics remind me of 70s folk songs, the melodies feel decidedly modern. It all adds up to wistful, beautiful pop music. I was lucky enough to be at their album release show in San Francisco this spring and they blew me away.
Standout tracks: "Loudspeaker", "I Know A Place", "Winterbreak", "Around U", "End of Desire"
More Life, Drake
I'm one of the nerds who loved Drake from the get-go. In my defense, when So Far Gone came out in 2008 I hadn't heard anything like it, and his particular thin line of quiet desperation and brash over-confidence was #mood for me from 2008 to 2012. It just fit. I haven't loved a Drake album in many years but More Life totally surprised me. Sometimes it feels like a refreshing dunk in salt water. Sometimes it feels like a fast car and tall orange street lights. Sometimes, when it's best, it feels like both.
Standout tracks: "No Long Talk", "Passionfruit", "Get It Together", "Madiba Riddim", "4422", "Teenage Fever", "KMT"
Reputation, Taylor Swift
I didn't want to do it. I tried very hard to not include this album on this roundup. Taylor Swift is an incredible songwriter, and one of the most prominent pop music figures of my lifetime. (Her debut came out the year after I graduated high school....yikes!!!!!!) She is also, maybe, probably, the hardest pop culture icon to root for, ever? She has tangled herself into the most elaborate & racially charged pop culture battle of the age and all parties involved continue to act like fools about it. It's exhausting/embarrassing to watch. But that's not the point of this post, the point of this post is that except for 2 tracks I'd be happy to never hear again, Reputation is GOOD. It's darker, moodier, dirtier territory for Taylor, and I think it suits her to not pretend to be perfect. I love the flashes of her classic songwriting technique in the new setting (choice example: "we met a few weeks ago, now you try on calling me baby like trying on clothes"). I love it. I resign myself to the fact that I will love her music forever, even if she drives me bonkers.
Standout tracks: "Ready for It?", "Delicate", "Gorgeous", "Getaway Car", "King of My Heart", "Dancing with Our Hands Tied"
DAMN., Kendrick Lamar
Harry Styles, Harry Styles
What about you?! What was your favorite music from this year? What albums should I check out?? I'm all ears!