Maybe the 2017 lesson is if you don't believe us, maybe believe Spotify?
The heavyweight platform, you may have heard, unveiled its 2017 Wrapped playlists (hey, here's that word again, huh?) and please by all means go ahead and follow whichever of those you might want. They're numerous, varied, cool, they really are, all of them. (Apple Music probably has a thing like that too or not, whatever, but we're #TeamSpotify here. In no small part because our cellphone provider has rolled the Spotify monthly fee into our recurring bill. #Winning)
But yes, the 2017 Wrapped Spotify playlists are a thing and they're great, but the real treasure in their roll-out was their individualized and customized feature for every user, their My 2017 Wrapped feature. Here, go ahead and try it out on your own: https://2017wrapped.com/. (If you have a Spotify account only, of course. Hehehe.)
We were more than happy to see what the platform might tell us about ourselves and our music listening habits in 2017 that we might not know and, well, it delivers tenfold.
First off, well, we're kind of surprise at how little music we've listened to. Less than sixteen thousand minutes with a 60-minute commute to and from work every day? For a music executive like we are, that's really pretty shameful. We also knew that we had loved Lil' Uzi Vert, and same for Dead Obies too, but how the hell did we love Uzi so much that our top two songs were his in 2017 but neither of the two were XO Tour Lif3??? Crazy. Finally, we did love Kendrick Lamar and he might have finished as our top artist of the year regardless, but a little confession here: Kung Fu Kenny is pretty much all we listened to this fall after we discovered the Dissect podcast, the first season of which discusses at great length Kendrick's To Pimp A Butterfly album. If you love long-form analysis, music, discussion and just overall great things, give Dissect a try. It'll have you listening to a ton of Kendrick. (And Kanye too, since season 2 tackles West's masterpiece My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy.)
That all said, let's finish our thorough look at some of our favourite albums of the year. We'll have a treat for you afterward, in the form of all 10 best albums ranked. Because we love you.
Lorde - Melodrama
Four years ago, Lorde surprised us all by releasing the instant-classic Royals, the song that would become her generation's (un)official anthem while announcing her intent on her upcoming debut album Pure Heroine. But long before we fell over the album, we merely wondered who this singer was and could she be, this singer who could capture so precisely what it meant to be a teen circa 2013. Because if then-16-year-old Ella Yellich-O'Connor felt the need to elevate her artistic persona with her name, the music had arrived already grandiose and fully formed.
This time around in 2017, Lorde is already a household name but the task facing the singer was perhaps even more daunting: what do you do for an encore when your first release only basically reinvented pop music? Melodrama is the answer and, truly, it delivers again. On this new album, the self-assured singer leaves her teenage years behind and accepts her new (young) adult self. Listen to Melodrama with headphones on, they say, because her music is pop on the introvert side. Lorde is singing directly next to you, she's not of course but it feels like it, when she sings about nursing a broken heart by going back to the one person who can't quit her in Liability, all the while showing songwriter Max Martin that there is no one true formula to making a hit record with the lead single Green Light.
Lorde has become an avatar for many for the way she's seemingly effortlessly embraced growing up, but Melodrama, with songs like Hard Feelings/Loveless or Writer In The Dark, shows this journey hasn't always been so easy. Lorde has embraced her inner self and all that entails, but it took time and work. It still does.
Oh and somewhere, Lena Dunham is surely crying that her hit show Girls had to end before she could score an episode to Lorde's The Louvre.
GoldLink - At What Cost
Death is a constant in GoldLink's music. It's there at the end of The God Complex, his debut album (mixtape, whatever) from 2014 which first introduced us to the rapper from the DMV, and it's also there throughout At What Cost, the rapper's second studio album which came earlier this year. Another constant in his music is the young man's relationships, past and present, with a number of different women in his life. It's there throughout the rapper's debut studio album, And After That, We Didn't Talk, a concept album where the 16-year-old protagonist discusses the fallout from a failed relationship and his breakup, and it's there on At What Cost again.
GoldLink's 2017 album was our first dive into the magnificent universe of the 23-year-old rapper. And in it, we found a third and final constant that's the music style and genre that's become synonymous with D.C., a sort of live instrumentation version of go-go--soul bathed in funk, if you will. It's been there since the beginning of GoldLink's career when he first showed us what he called his future bounce, and it's crystallized perfectly on At What Cost. The rapper starts by setting the stage and taking us all to a go-go evening in the Chocolate City. You shake the nerves off in the name of dancehall, because that's what Jazmine Sullivan says on the chorus of Meditation, and because it feels so damn right to do so. And because that girl you dig and have been chasing just might be looking at you right this second, and she see money all around [you]... So you shake the nerves off, by God you shake em.
But you stop when the gunshots ring out. Violence sadly is never far behind, and on At What Cost GoldLink makes plain to everyone the perils that are waiting at every corner in his hometown. It's not because it's go-go, it's because there's a huge crowd of people. GoldLink details the very rich and intense scenes of the different neighbourhoods in the DMV, from one evening to the next with the Crew. Go for the girl, yes, but always watch out. Find your saving grace. GoldLink has his, and with him the DMV will definitely reign for many moons, as he asks for on Pray Everyday. And we'll be there throughout.
Future - HNDRXX
The rest of 2017 will have proven that, a joint album with our boy Young Thug notwithstanding, there were always only ever just two albums from Future in back-to-back weeks and not three in three. Turns out that we only needed the two, that really two was fine and plenty enough, especially as both were coming after a full calendar year had lapsed with no news from the man, an absolute eternity in Future's universe. And if FUTURE had all the hits (read: Mask Off), the HNDRXX album is what we'll remember most from the 34-year-old Naydavius DeMun Wilburn's wild 2017 year.
Because where Future used to only lord over the rap world's undercurrent, his light finally shone through to the mainstream in a significant way this year. The #MaskOffChallenge. The Maroon 5 collab. And HNDRXX, this beautiful, all-encompassing work of art that's the latest step for an artist who's made it his mission statement to continually redefine the acceptable in and boundaries of hip-hop while doing the same with his own limits and vulnerabilities. Future is all about excess and proficiency, and he's yet to experience a feeling and an emotion he couldn't put forth or alternatively completely numb down in a song. If there's a way to overshare, Future will find it. If there's a through line, Future will follow it to the end. HNDRXX is no exception.
If Future Hendrix is the rapper's rockstar persona, this HNDRXX album has a clear R&B sound. Which is to say that this time, Future created the most Drake album that Aubrey himself has spent his entire career trying to make. We think of songs like Use Me, I Thank U or the Rihanna-assisted Selfish where the rapper seems just fine and happy to hang out with his girl(s). We've known Future as someone who embraces and never shies away from the pain. On HNDRXX, he does it with joy. We don't know quite what he thinks of it, but it sounds great.
Now that you know and have read a few hundred words about them, let's actually rank our favourite albums of the past year. We've discussed six of them, and we'll be ranking 10 different ones.
10. SZA - CTRL
9. Tyler, The Creator - Flower Boy
8. St. Vincent - Masseducation
7. Miguel - War & Leisure
5. Future - HNDRXX (see above)
4. GoldLink - At What Cost (see above)
2. Lorde - Melodrama (see above)