2017 sucked for a lot of reasons. It saw our first year of the Trump Presidency, the likely end to net neutrality, a near election of a pedophile to the US Senate, and yet another "worst mass shooting ever." However, 2017 was also an absolutely incredible year for music.
Kendrick Lamar, Jay-Z (more on him in a bit), Vince Staples, Tyler the Creator, and others cemented rap as the preeminent music genre of today's era with some stunning lyrical and artistic feats, while even Migos (Migos!) produced a legitimately good album. And, of course, there was "Bodak Yellow."
Other genres were not without hit albums of their own, of course. Lorde's Melodrama was an artistic feat which, by some people's thoughts, was unrivaled and, Katy Perry's disastrous Witness aside, pop as a genre had a good year.
The year was saturated with incredible, sometimes shocking albums from mainstream artists like Taylor Swift, Harry Styles, and the newly re-branded Kesha, while this year also saw out-of-nowhere breakout hits from artists like SZA and the aforementioned Cardi B, of "Bodak Yellow" fame.
Before I get into my rankings, I want to stress that this is a list of my favorite albums of 2017 and not a list purporting to declare and order the "best" music of the year. Besides the simple absurdity of attempting a "best of" list of something as intrinsically subjective and personal as music, frankly, I don't know all that much about music.
While I've listened to quite a lot of this year's music, I haven't made it through nearly all of it. I also know that my list will leave off consensus critic favorites like SZA's Ctrl. And I'm okay with calling it what it is: a list of my favorite albums. What I will promise is you is that that title does not mean I did not put a lot of thought about what to include and not include.
This brings me to my final prelude, which also happens to be the inspiration for my subtitle: Jay-Z sucks. I know that 4:44 was, like, supposedly incredible or whatever and that nearly every respectable list has it at least close to the top 10 and many even consider it their top album of the year.
But, frankly, I don't care. I didn't listen to it--or, at least, most of it. I listen to music on Spotify and did not care enough about this singular album to seek a Tidal or Apple Music subscription in order to feed the wallet and ego of a near billionaire. You should probably listen to it, though; it's apparently phenomenal.
Without further ado, my favorite albums of 2017:
10. Reputation, Taylor Swift
I really didn't quite want to put this album on my list because, well, it's Taylor Swift and though I have always greatly enjoyed her music I know that it is typically not regarded as critically acclaimed, Great Music. However, this album is simply so good. I could genuinely listen to it dozens of times in a row without tiring of it and, though that certainly says something about the state of my own sanity, it is also meant in the most complimentary of ways. When Taylor Swift's lovers lose, we all collectively win.
9. Harry Styles, Harry Styles
WOW. I was not expecting that. This is a rock album, through and through. I always really enjoyed One Direction music as a sort of guilty pleasure, but I will proudly proclaim my love for this album from their former front boy. Styles' beautiful voice shines through in this album and "A Sign of the Times" is one of my favorite songs of the year, for sure.
8. Flower Boy, Tyler the Creator
This is a shockingly great, introspective, emotionally evocative album from the artist who previously brought us such lyrics as "This the type of shit that make a Chris Brown want to kick a whore" and "I want to be the reasons why all lesbians hate dick." When my roommate and good friend of mine first suggested I listen to this album, I was more than a bit concerned about his (and my own) safety and well-being. However, I am glad that I finally heeded his advice and listened because Tyler the Creator has finally utilized his artistic gifts to tell stories in a way that's wholly palatable to people who don't self-identify as psychopathic megalomaniacs.
7. Big Fish Theory, Vince Staples
Vince Staples once tweeted "The national anthem don't even slap." That is a problem his breakthrough album certainly does not have. As one of the biggest Grammy snubs in recent memory, this album deserves far more respect than the Recording Academy has granted it. Honestly, I had never heard of Vince Staples before this summer, and then I listened to his album the day it came out. That's how good it was and how much I had been hearing about how good it was from friends who had listened. It has a very distinctive sound, for sure, but, if you enjoy rap in any capacity--and even if you generally don't--you should enjoy this album a great deal.
6. The Nashville Sound, Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit
How many other 2017 album lists feature a folk album in between Vince Staples and Kesha, huh? In all seriousness, though, I stumbled upon this album while reading through some "best of 2017" type lists and probably listened to it three times in a row my first time through. It's a short one--only 10 songs--but it packs an emotional, political, and storytelling punch all the while keeping with a deeply lovable and simple Americana sound. The ones you want are "If We Were Vampires" and "Something to Love."
5. Rainbow, Kesha
When "Praying" debuted as a single this summer, I listened to it literally hundreds of times before Kesha's next single, "Woman," dropped to which I listened far too many times awaiting "Hymn" and "Learn to Let Go." I sometimes just listened to those four songs on repeat counting down the days to the release of the full album. My friends hated how many times I suggested they listen to Kesha's new music. But it is just so good. Her album runs the genre gamut and features Kesha's unfiltered voice as it has never really been heard before, and it is beautiful.
4. A Crow Looked at Me, Mount Eerie
This album is so sad. I know that's probably not reading as much of a ringing endorsement, but that will probably be your immediate reaction to this album if you do yourself a favor and give it a listen. It sounds closer to spoken word poetry than it does to what one likely first thinks of when they hear "music," but it's that rawness--the artist sing-speaking with light guitar instrumental in the background which I think adds to its power. This album is utterly breathtaking and possibly the most moving music to which I've ever listened.
3. Antisocialites, Alvvays
This is another bit of a weird choice--a sort of alt-pop type album from a Canadian indie band which I stumbled upon while (again) reading some "best of 2017" type lists. I only encountered it a couple weeks ago and have already listened to it a couple dozen times which, for me, is a lot. It has a very interesting sound and can appeal, I think, to a wide variety of individual music tastes. It's also Canadian, which is sorta cool, I guess. I feel bad not having much to say about this album, because (clearly, based on its ranking) it is one of my favorite albums of the year. But it's very good. You should give it a listen.
2. Melodrama, Lorde
Hot damn, Lorde. What an incredible album. After DAMN. dropped, I figured that, at least for me, the album of the year conversation was likely over but then out of nowhere came the Kiwi who gave us "Royals" with an incredibly powerful and utterly listenable album. Lorde came dangerously close to first place on my list. As someone with essentially no background in music I feel like I cannot do justice to this album with my words so please listen to it for yourself, or, at least, read someone else's review.
1. DAMN., Kendrick Lamar
I think this album's title says it all. Damn. Kendrick here reaffirms his position as far and away the greatest rapper of this album and furthers his case as potentially the greatest rapper of all time. It's not quite as good as To Pimp a Butterfly, but the fact that it can even be uttered in the same breath is in itself incredible.