TOP 6 Albums of 2017 (after much adieu)

14 Jan

#6-Imagine Dragons

In the past, I liked Imagine Dragons just fine.  They were an agreeable band for work or other group settings that called for a musical consensus.  They were a neutral background sound.  Evolve stands out.  It’s easily in the top albums of the year.  The lyrics are meaningful, the album as a whole is cohesive, and each song is good.  There are no throw away songs here.  And the catchiness is at it’s peak, every song gets inside you.  Best song of the year–tied with Ke$ha’s “Prayer” is “Believer” oh my gawd!  They had factored even higher in my list all year long, but several last minute discoveries upset their easy top 3 place.  Still, this is good, and just shows how diverse the music was in 2017, and how many new artists came right out of the gate as contenders.

#5-Demi Lovato

After much deliberation, she settled on my list above magic Dragons because her emotion on Tell Me You Love Me is tangible and raw.  These songs are an obvious ‘fuck-you’ set to somebody.  You can feel the maturity, hear the singing power, and tell she went through a transformation while writing this and came out the better for it.  There are only 2 songs on the album that I didn’t care for (“Daddy Issues” and “Ruin the Friendship”) but big deal.  Plus, she gets extra bonus points for “Sorry, Not Sorry” my 3rd favorite song of the year, and very favorite diss song.  I was going to post a link to that video, but it was horrible.  Bad boots, bad kissing scenes, not the awesomeness I had imagined.  So here is a song without a video to ruin it.

#4-Lee Ann Womak

This is different from her prior adult contempory/easy listening/country touchy-feely stuff.  Different in a great way!  The Lonely, the Lonesome, and the Gone is bluesy.  The emotion isn’t contrived here—you can feel it.  Womak’s voice is thick with pain and grief and she easily conveys some gritty emotion.  Guitar is played with soul.  She reinvented herself, or slid into another niche—and I whole-heartedly approve!

#3-Sam Smith

I thought his radio hit was more of the same.  Urban R&B sounding stuff.  Which is good, but has been very overplayed in 2017.  I get it–every non-white, non-male, minority needs to shout right now.  Good on the industry for finally including other voices on the scene.  But it shouldn’t just get put on the radio, because it fits a certain image/demographic–the songs should be GOOD.  And the R&B is starting to get a little diluted.  Anyway, when I heard Sam Smith’s first single, it was just another one.  But when I discovered The Thrill of it All as a whole I was blown away.  The album isn’t another cookie-cutter to take advantage of the latest sound that sells.  It breaks stereotypes and pushes at boundaries, while showcasing a true writing and singing talent.  I like the gospel influence, and Smith’s resonant voice.  I like how a gay man (I haven’t researched this, it’s an assumption based on the songs).   speaks of love of religion–and men, and shows they are not mutually exclusive.  I admire the genuine way in which Smith has assembled the album.

#2-Marin Morris

She played SxSW in 2016 so I feel like neither she or her new album are exactly “new.”  But her album, which I heard in December, has been officially released in 2017.  And she’s fresh and awesome.  Every song is memorable and catchy.  Every song is good!  She’s part Miranda Lambert, part Gretchen Wilson, and part Shania Twin (in her hey-day).  And she is blowing up!  With good reason.  The hype (I’m assuming there is–I don’t really see TV, magazines, or forums in my daily life now) is legit.  This gal is the real deal.  Add to substantially talented, and I don’t think we’ll be seeing the end of her anytime soon.  I hope her sophomore album holds up.

#1-Ke$ha

Earns my #1 spot with her album, Rainbow.  The aptly-named album proves Ke$ha can pull of a range of sounds and show her true colors (pun intended–sorry, I couldn’t help it, it’s just too easy).  Sometimes, I would have to double-check these were still Ke$ha songs, and Spotify hadn’t run in to the next artist’s album, or those annoying “suggested songs” because it would be something that sounded different.  Which is good.  This album showcases the talent I always knew/hoped she had.  On her other works, I always liked the dance, but wanted something more substantial and serious also.  This is it.  In Rainbow she does not just talk through the songs as in the past (though there is that) and Ke$ha proves she can SING.  After Ke$ha’s traumatic experiences being sexually abused by her management, then held hostage to her contract, she has some pain and strength that make these songs outstanding.  Tied for best song of the year is “Praying” which shows both vulnerability and a new maturity.  I love how Ke$ha experiments with different genera categories and sounds on this album.  “Woman” is the girl-power anthem necessary to empower feminists in this Trumpian-sexism.  Ke$ha plays with a country sound on “Hunt You Down” and the game works out in her favor.  She has a campy-punk song (yes, apparently, you can have both at once) in “boogey feet.” The duet (“Old Flames”) with Dolly Parton is spot-on.  And “Godzilla” reminds me of the Juno soundtrack.  And yes, there are still the cheeky dance songs to shake your ass to!  Finishing with “Starship” was just the right move to reinforce the maturity, talent, and reinvention in the rest of the album.  I just can’t emphasize enough how Rainbow shows the range that I’d always hoped Ke$ha could pull off.

Here’s my full 2017 songs/albums list so you can listen for yourself.  I hope you enjoyed these countdowns!

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