15 – Funk Wav Bounces Vol. 1 by Calvin Harris
EDM owes a lot to Calvin Harris. He has been responsible for putting the genre on the map with some of the biggest hits this decade Yet, he is not resting on his laurels. He’s created a new sound less focused on club bangers and geared towards chill and relaxed fun. This is a DJ who tamed down mega collaborations that would have otherwise exploded. Funk Wav Bounces Vol. 1. is EDM’s best evolution yet.
14 – Evolve by Imagine Dragons
Imagine Dragons has achieved a level of popularity that has made it easier to attack them baselessly and call them sell-outs. But what do they mean, exactly? Although the band’s creativity peaks in “Believer” and “Thunder”, the rightful first and second singles from Evolve, it cannot be denied that their music has become reliable like that of Maroon 5’s. You may want to cringe on some tracks. But for the most part, it’s a bop.
13 – Rainbow by Ke$ha
No one can beat Ke$ha’s comeback story in 2017. I will not tell you that she has created the best masterpiece for the year. But you will hear an artist willing to explore, go out and create just about any kind of music she enjoys doing. Rainbow is a hodgepodge of content that honestly don’t fit together, except as the work of an artist who has now been liberated and absolved of all the constraints producers impose on them.
12 – ÷ by Ed Sheeran
I might have included this in the list just to prove I can write the divide sign. Kidding aside, my only criticism of ÷ would be how it sounds like a deliberate attempt to make it big and popular. Yet, if any artist draws affirmation through mainstream acceptance, is there anything wrong with it? You can call the album anything you want but you cannot deny it has been a force that is inescapable this year.
11 – After Laughter by Paramore
Bitterness has not sounded this sweet. Paramore’s After Laughter is far from being secure and contented. Yet, it has the ability to convey these emotions in a way we wish we could – a little bit composed, and with a whole lot of class. The band’s sound has matured through the years. And hopefully, so have we. This is the perfect soundtrack to our always failed attempt at finally coveting the satisfaction we know is elusive.
10 – The Thrill of It All by Sam Smith
When Sam Smith released his sophomore album, we knew it was an impossible task to match In the Lonely Hour. We even asked if he had the content to sing of as he was now in a relationship, like only heartbreak can inspire good material. Yet, with a different man, still heartbroken at times, we find ourselves smitten again. It wasn’t the pain and sorrow. It was his music that relied on a voice that no contemporary of his can match.
9 – More Life by Drake
I would get accused of having a bias for Drake. But if that were one to excellence, I’d gladly concede. Drake doesn’t call this an album. He thinks of it as a playlist. I don’t see the difference, not that it matters. Drake would release music as he created them, not giving a damn how overexposed he’s been. Yet, the dancehall/tropical vibe that his music manages to create is a void that only he fills and we’re blessed again through “More Life”.
8 – I See You by The XX
It was only in 2017 that I discovered The XX. Yes, that is a mistake I can never recover from. I See You is a masterpiece I wish more people found for themselves. The XX may not have a public persona that people can follow. But their music is more than enough to satisfy cravings you didn’t know existed. I wouldn’t call it grand, as the core of what makes it beautiful is how understated and refined the album is.
7 – From a Room, Vol.1 by Chris Stapleton
When we say it has to be all about the music, rarely do we find material that allows us to assess it from that lens solely. Yet, I would argue, Chris Stapleton’s sophomore album is an exception. It is nothing but a great display of his raw, big and talented voice, songwriting becoming of a brilliant storyteller, and simple yet effective instrumentation. I don’t listen to country music often. But this one is beyond any genre.
6 – One More Light by Linkin Park
It’s a tragedy that not a lot of people gave One More Light a chance prior to Chester Bennington’s passing. Yes, it was a complete turnaround of a sound we’ve been accustomed to. But the courage to experiment demonstrated how personal and insightful the project became. One More Light is not going to change any of the tragic events that took place. But it does provide us a memory and a companion to remember him by.
5 – Meaning of Life by Kelly Clarkson
Meaning of Life might just be Kelly Clarkson’s least commercially successful album. But what those numbers don’t tell you is that this is her most inspired sound in all the years I’ve been a fan of hers. In finishing her previous contract, she has gained fire and soul that escaped some of her previous music. She is now making material both she and her followers enjoy.
4 – Melodrama by Lorde
I didn’t listen. I had doubts about Lorde’s second coming, thinking her debut was a fluke. And here I am preaching her word. By any standard, Lorde would not be your typical pop star. But she has converted her quirks, hopelessness and imperfections into a gem that can be considered a treasure for our ears. We all say that our favorite artists sing our anthems. But Lorde is the candidate who best represents the human experience.
3 – DAMN. by Kendrick Lamar
Before we even heard the record, we knew Kendrick Lamar would deliver and there would be universal acclaim. What we didn’t expect was how in tune he was with the mainstream public when he recorded it. DAMN. manages to win over not just his critics, but more importantly, the everyday listener unaware of his genius. He may end up losing Album of the Year again but the rest of the world would now be united in disagreeing.
2 – Reputation by Taylor Swift
When Taylor Swift gave the world a preview of her second pop album through “Look What You Made Me Do” and “…Ready for It?”, we got worried if she will break her streak of successful albums winning us over. With Reputation, she doesn’t disappoint. If you give the album a full listen, you will realize how broken and insecure she’s become, that the reputation she earned may have increased her angst but has done her music good.
1 – Harry Styles by Harry Styles
I can think of no better example of being too pretty to be taken seriously than Harry Styles. You listen to his album and all the songs can be pretty much released as singles. This is the only album in 2017 that I feel has no filler. Many say he’s trying too hard. But how does intent matter in evaluating the brilliance of his material? He might not have the commercial success his bandmates enjoy. But trust me, he has the talent to win it out.