As the new year approaches ever closer and the state of the world gets progressively worse, we could use a little positivity. And what could be a better way to do that than to share all the things I truly loved this year? As awful as 2017 was, it was filled with excellent media (music, television, movies, and books). Kicking off my week of best lists is my top five albums of 2017 (plus one honorable mention)! In order to qualify for this list, it simply had to come out this year and I had to have listened to it (so a few critics’ picks will be missing). But enough lollygagging. Let’s get this celebration of greatness started:
- About U by MUNA (Released February 3):
This band became a fast favorite with their wonderful debut album. It’s a soft sort of dark pop, a heady cross between HAIM and The 1975 with a heavy dose of gayness. That’s right. All three members of this band identify as some form of queer. These ladies prove how unafraid they are to speak their truth between being openly queer and their vulnerable yet strong lyrics. They tackle difficult topics on this powerful record, from sexual assault on “Loudspeaker” to abusive relationships on “Crying on the Bathroom Floor” to the shooting at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida on “I Know a Place.” Katie Gavin’s quirky vocals add an extra layer of uniqueness to this band’s sound, a lilting and full sound. Naomi McPherson and Josette Maskin supply the cool, haunting guitars, the music highlighting the dark or tough themes. This album is exactly what I was waiting for in terms of music and in terms of queer artists. It has many brilliant moments, including the aforementioned songs, as well as “Winterbreak” and “End of Desire.” It’s the quintessential 2017 album, devastated yet hopeful. If this is what the band has to offer on their debut effort, I can’t wait to see what they’ll do in the future. It’s a fantastic album.
2. Hopeless Fountain Kingdom by Halsey (Released June 2):
This one is perhaps a controversial pick, but I don’t care. I love Halsey and thought this record was great. It’s alternative pop fused with hip hop. Halsey tackles some new themes on this album, including toxic relationships and mental illness. A lot of albums this year focused on mental health, but this one resonated the most with me. It doesn’t beat around the bush with relatable vagaries, choosing instead to provide excruciating detail and painfully familiar emotions. I use these negative terms because I’ve been there and I get it. It truly is that awful. Though I wasn’t a fan of the Romeo & Juliet motif and really don’t think this album works as a concept album, it’s still a great body of work nonetheless. Among my favorites are “Strangers,” “Alone,” and the tragically short “Walls Could Talk.” I already exhausted most of my views on this album and Halsey’s cupcake voice in my review earlier this year, so I’ll just wrap this up by saying the only bad thing about this album is the title. Everything else is superb.
3. Melodrama by Lorde (Released June 16):
This album was a long time coming, Lorde’s first since 2013. And, man, was it worth the wait! Lorde uses the album to chronicle her first major heartbreak and entrance into adult life. The songs range from soaring anthems to deeply personal ballads, but every song is tinged with a sort of hopeful cynicism. Things may be bad, but they’re not necessarily supposed to be good either. It’s just life. This is so thematically relevant in 2017, a year where everyone struggled to cope with reality. Lorde’s deep, rich vocals sound exquisite paired with some of Jack Antonoff’s best production of the year. Though this album is more pop than her previous record, it still stands tall with great tracks like “The Louvre,” “Writer in the Dark,” and “Perfect Places.” Admittedly I was nervous after hearing “Green Light,” but I wound up adoring this album (as you can tell by my review). If you haven’t given this masterpiece a listen yet, who even are you?
4. Tell Me You Love Me by Demi Lovato (Released September 29):
I acknowledge that I have a bit of a bias when it comes to Demi, but I am always glad to admit when she hasn’t done her best work (see DEMI). This, however, is unequivocally her best album to date. Her voice sounds better than ever, right at home with the pop/R&B sound of the record. Lyrically, it finally comes through on that promise all artists make when they claim their new album is their “most personal yet.” Demi speaks frankly on her addictions (“You Don’t Do it for Me Anymore” and “Ready for Ya”), shows off her self-deprecating humor (“Daddy Issues”), and muses on the ups and downs of relationships and single life (“Lonely,” “Games,” “Sexy Dirty Love,” and “Hitchhiker”). She gives some truly dynamic and experimental vocal performances on the likes of “Ruin the Friendship” and “Cry Baby,” and gets emotional on “Only Forever” and “Smoke & Mirrors.” Honestly, I could go on and on about how much I love this album (and how it was robbed by the Recording Academy), but then I’d just be rehashing my review. This album was exactly what Demi needed to release and is a promising beginning to a new direction in Demi’s career. Amazing work!
5. Meaning of Life by Kelly Clarkson (Released October 27):
If I could pick one album for Comeback of the Year, it would be this one. After her disappointing sixth studio album Piece by Piece, my love for Kelly was waning. But this album proved you can’t keep a diva down for long! Kelly took a similar route to Demi musically and filled this record with pop/R&B. This album, however, feels more akin to Christina Aguilera’s Back to Basics in its throwback sound. Kelly tackles themes of feeling underappreciated and treated poorly, likely directed at her former record label with whom she has a tumultuous history. Her vocals are better than ever, her sass biting, and her overall tone empowering. Like I said in my review, I genuinely hope this is the last time we have to call one of Kelly Clarkson’s eras a comeback, because this album should fully cement her as a pop superstar.
+1. Bishop Briggs- EP by Bishop Briggs (Released April 14):
I would’ve included this on the list proper, but opted against it given that it’s only an EP and not a full-length release. Despite that, it’s such quality dark alternative pop that I had to give it the props it deserves. Bishop’s growling, soulful voice delivers biblical and nature themes. She largely uses these lyrics to get across the good and bad in herself and her relationships, as well as the innate rough wildness. Even though she’s only given us a handful of songs, each one is gold and makes you want to get up and testify! She is definitely the most underrated artist of the year.
Do you agree with my choices? What were some of your favorite albums released this year? Tell me about them in the comments!