The 17 Most Important Albums of 2017

As 2017 winds down, we are forced to reflect on the past year’s change, enlightenment and struggle. One thing that many people can agree on is that 2017 has been a year of amazing music. It is almost certain that the musical gifts we have received this year have helped us make it to the other side of 2017 with the last morsel of sanity we keep with us. Without further adieu, enjoy a list of 17 of the most important albums of 2017 (so far) in chronological order.

1. American Teen - Khalid (March 2017)

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Khalid writes American Teen as a testament to his teenage years in his “lonely city of El Paso." With themes of heartbreak, young love and nostalgia, many listeners find that this album captures the essence of an “American Teen” in 2017. Specifically, “Location” explains the blossoming of a relationship in the age of technology and how difficult it can be to decipher one’s feelings through nonverbal communication. As a whole, the album is cohesive and the consecutive songs melt into each other, making these easy-listening beats the perfect soundtrack to think back on the past. This album blew up throughout 2017, making Khalid one of the most successful rookie musicians.

2. Divide - Ed Sheeran (March 2017)

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Ed Sheeran brings listeners back from the traditional male vocalist stereotype, working ballads such as “Dive” and also fun Ghanian-inspired songs like “Bibia Be Ye Ye." Sheeran is known for his unparalleled lyrical talent and has openly written for many artists within and out of his genre. Ed Sheeran is also known to experiment with sound through his trademark accessory of the acoustic guitar, and also beatboxing. This album samples new styles through each song, and, most surprisingly, used traditional-Irish inspired tunes on tracks “Nancy Mulligan” and “Galway Girl." With his massive international market, Ed Sheeran always makes a point to take a fresh perspective on his albums, all named after math functions (Plus, Multiply, Divide). Sheeran recently rejoined his tour after breaking both of his arms in a bike accident in London.

3. More Life - Drake (March 2017)

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Drake utilizes More Life to invite listeners into a pulsing, colorful and forgiving point of view that is critical after his past album, Views, that the artist said perpetuated a version of himself he had never known before. When dropping hints about his new album, the 6 God said “And more chune for your headtop so watch how you speak on my name, you know," which he later incorporated into several points of his album. This phrase is spoken in Jamaican Patois and essentially warns listeners that he has more tunes coming for their heads, and warns people to show him respect. Patois is a combination of English and West African languages most commonly spoken in Jamaica. The More Life tracklist is purposefully planned out, so that each song matches up with the song before it, telling the story of Drake’s enlightened mind after his dark days of Views.

4. DAMN. - Kendrick Lamar (April 2017)

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Is it wickedness? Is it weakness? You can decide while listening to Kendrick Lamar’s powerhouse album, DAMN., filled to the brim with summer anthems including “DNA.," “HUMBLE.” and “LOYALTY. FEAT. RIHANNA.” It is no mistake that the album’s title and songs all end with a period, as this album is most definitely a statement to listeners as well as the music industry. This unique album makes many powerful claims that Lamar openly expresses in this long-awaited masterpiece.

5. The Search for Everything - John Mayer (April 2017)

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John Mayer pulls out his traditional swing of feel good, relaxing tunes for his ninth album in his familiar, unwavering voice that brings peace to many. Mayer waited four years to release this album, and songs like “Rosie” and “In the Blood” allow listeners to understand why the American-born artist waited so long to release a new album. Mayer uses The Search for Everything to articulate the past years of his life, the people he has met, and the thoughts he has come to terms with. John Mayer channels his triumphs and failures into this modest record.

6. This Old Dog - Mac Demarco (May 2017)

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In his third album, Mac Demarco warmly invites listeners into a laid-back sound, communicating his thoughts about growing older, being in love and thinking about his childhood. This Old Dog puts Demarco’s ordinary oddity and guitar effects on hold to allow his lyrical ability to shine. The gap-toothed artist’s iconic sound is slightly druggy, carefree, and something that is unparalleled, which almost perfectly shares Demarco’s personality. In this toned-down album, listeners see into Mac’s personal life through a matured sound, reflecting his distant maturity at this point in his life. The final track on the album “Watching Him Fade Away” gets to the root of Demarco’s individuality, chronicling the internal debate he has about contacting his father who left the family when the artist was young. During his performances, which are commonly general admission, Demarco has the audience sit on the floor as he vocalizes the pain he feels as he watches his father figure “fade away." As the Canadian-born indie rock artist pours his heart into this album, This Old Dog undoubtedly makes its way into the conversation about 2017’s best musical products.

7. Harry Styles - Harry Styles (May 2017)

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Retired One Direction star Harry Styles shocks audiences with his self-titled solo debut, and seamlessly transitions from having a pop background into the deep end of a satisfying rock sound. His confidence shines through, as the artist never sounds as if he is trying too hard to please his listeners. The album suits Harry Styles’ coveted soft-rock aesthetic and the melodies perfectly showcase the singer’s vocal ability, something that was never prevalent in his past musical setting. Styles plays two different roles on the album, one of a confident hard-rock artist, and another of a vulnerable twenty-something, expressing that even the man that everyone wants to know more about feels pain, regret and sorrow.

8. Hopeless Fountain Kingdom - Halsey (June 2017)

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Halsey tells a story through her artistic approach to her sophomore album Hopeless Fountain Kingdom. She channels a reminiscent '90s sound on the album’s tenth track “If Walls Could Talk," sounding like it should be blasting from the CD player of a '90s-era high school student. The artist also works in collaborations with Quavo, Lauren Jauregui and Cashmere Cat. Although some of Halsey’s music lies below the radar, she is also well-versed in writing music that is commonly played on the radio for millions to enjoy, contributing to her competition with powerful female artists including Taylor Swift and Ariana Grande. Halsey incorporates pop and rock influences onto this album with a large track list to please many.

9. Ctrl - SZA (June 2017)

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SZA, the stage name for New Jersey singer Solana Imani Rowe, writes of her experience in modern romance through easy-listening R&B tunes on her second album Ctrl. She employs a fearlessly personal form of lyricism that connected to many people in their late teens and early twenties. She collaborates with Travis Scott, Kendrick Lamar, James Fauntleroy and Isaiah Rashad, who help her communicate an impactful personal experience. On the first track of the album, “Supermodel," SZA confesses that she slept with her ex-boyfriend’s best friend for revenge after her ex-boyfriend broke up with her on Valentine’s Day and went to Vegas instead of celebrating their relationship. To make the album even more true to the artist, SZA includes voice memos of her mother speaking to open and close the album, using these pieces of advice as a trademark on this period of her life. She opens up her desires on the heartbreaking track “Normal Girl," where she expresses that she wants to be the kind of girl a man would take home to meet his mother, the type of girl that would make their father and their boyfriend proud. Through her pain, SZA recognizes that anything worth having, in this case it’s love, is worth fighting for, which sheds a hopeful light on this touching record.

10. Melodrama - Lorde (June 2017)

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Imagine at once, what it is/was like to be a teenager, to find oneself among impermanent circumstances. In her sophomore album Melodrama, Lorde captures the exhilaration of what it means to be alive. Ella Yelich-O’Connor channels very personal moments of her 18/19-year-old life into every note, breath and chord of this record. The singer shines the “Green Light” of opportunity and possibility on her life and that of listeners on the first track of the album, regardless of the brokenness she confesses in songs such as “Liability” and “Liability (Reprise)." Through breakups and house parties, Lorde illustrates nothing short of the deepest passion for this transformative moment in her life. Lorde earns immense recognition for her clever lyricism, rhyming and experimentation with rhythm on this album, truly making it one of a kind in the indie-pop genre. With stunning metaphor and unmistakable passion, Melodrama is an album that illustrates the life of a blossoming woman, and the marvels of modern life. Lorde writes an album that is exceedingly relevant for many, and enjoyable for all.

11. Funk Wav Bounces Vol. 1 - Calvin Harris (June 2017)

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Don’t be afraid to catch “Feels” for this sun-kissed summer album. Calvin Harris evolves from being just another EDM artist to the master of the perfect groove and funky R&B. Harris features several artists on this album including Frank Ocean, Migos, Khalid, Young Thug, Ariana Grande, ScHoolboy Q, PARTYNEXTDOOR, DRAM, Future, Travis Scott, A-Trak, Snoop Dogg, John Legend, Takeoff, Nicki Minaj, Katy Perry, Big Sean, Kehlani, Lil Yachty and Jessie Reyez. This star-studded record surely captured the care-free summer jam vibe Harris was successful in perpetuating. Each track on this album articulates perfectly the summer memories from 2017.

12. 4:44 - Jay-Z (June 2017)

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Sean Carter (Jay-Z) has created a 13th album, one that has been written to please himself and the personal, intimate intentions he has for 4:44. Jay-Z does not utilize this album to express his take on current trends in the rap genre. In fact, the musicality of this record is vastly different than that of any other Jay-Z album. He includes collaborations with Beyonce, Frank Ocean, Gloria Carter and Damian Marley. He addresses that “nobody wins when the family feuds” on the album’s sixth track, “Family Feud” that communicates the tension his and Beyonce’s family faced during a cheating scandal. This album is not so much of a statement as it is a reminder for rap fans that Jay-Z is still one of the best in the game.

13. Flower Boy - Tyler, the Creator (July 2017)

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Tyler, the Creator trades his signature and distinct loud rap for a more matured sound on his collage of colorful memories that are reflected on Flower Boy. The artist even confesses to fans that having an album closer to what he enjoys rather than what fans expect from him is a more liberating approach to songwriting. Tyler has always been a master of rhyme and verses that make audiences think to understand. Flower Boy shows a transformation in Tyler, the Creator’s career, specifically his inclusion of romance on the record. “See You Again” begins with a daydream of Tyler’s lover who, you guessed it, he wants to see again. The most important song on the album, however, is “Garden Shed," where Tyler creates a beautiful metaphor of himself being the “Flower Boy” who grows through a sexual awakening. He raps "Garden shed, garden shed, garden shed, garden shed / For the garden / That is where I was hidin' / That was real love I was in/ Ain't no reason to pretend" which indirectly expresses how he is “coming out” of his untrue lifestyle, possibly revealing his homosexuality. This effervescent, nostalgic and hopeful album acts as a milestone in Tyler, the Creator’s career and the acceptance of artistic vision.

14. Rainbow - Ke$ha (August 2017)

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Rainbow is Kesha’s first album after a series of lawsuits against her former producer Dr. Luke for emotional and sexual abuse. Kesha sheds her past trip-hop sound for a clearer and more focused approach to music. Her most moving pieces on the album are, without a doubt, “Praying” and “Rainbow” that keys listeners into Kesha’s discovery of strength and hope past the trauma she has faced as an artist. Rainbow shows Kesha’s lyrical and vocal talent in a way that the previous fruits of her career did not. Enlightening and transformative, this album is largely significant when discussing the best albums of 2017.

15. Tell Me You Love Me - Demi Lovato (September 2017)

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Former Disney Channel actress, Demi Lovato, defines the pop trends of 2017 in her statement of an album, “Sorry Not Sorry”. Lovato adds edge to her new flirty R&B sound. This album solidifies her “adult” image, making listeners question if she is the same girl that was once the star of Sonny with a Chance and Camp Rock. The sultry “You Don’t Do It For Me Anymore” is the melodic riff-filled breakup anthem 2017 didn’t know it needed. Collaborating with Lil Wayne on the gritty slow-jam “Lonely” turns Lovato’s image up another notch and puts a stamp of perfection on Demi’s new sound.

16. Wonderful Wonderful - The Killers (September 2017)

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The Killers, a staple in the alternative-rock world, release their fifth album Wonderful Wonderful. Although this album’s sound strays from the widely known 2004-era smash hit “Mr. Brightside," the Killers pull together a strong record. Groovy and transformative, the second track on the album, “The Man” proclaims about a powerful and indestructible man and “nothing can break [him] down." This song sounds like the perfect transition between commercials during halftime of a prime-time Sunday night football game, which is drastically different from romantic and airy “Some Kind of Love." This song shows another strength that The Killers have over other alt-rock bands: lead singer Brandon Flowers’ iconic voice. This album highlights many of The Killer’s strong suits and the versatility of them.

17. The Thrill of It All - Sam Smith (November 2017)

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Sam Smith utilizes his nothing-short-of angelic voice to proclaim his romantic desperation in terms that resonate well with everyone. Like many solo British male artists, Smith is a hopeless romantic with a fragile heart and this shines through the British Fog onto The Thrill of it All. Smith proclaims his music as “dance and cry” music. The best example of this is the seventh track on the album, “Baby, You Make Me Crazy," in which he sings in a gospel-like falsetto “Why’d you have to fill my heart with sorrow?” The upbeat tunes Sam Smith is notorious for using to back-up his mushy and heartbroken lyrics leave listeners with a smile on their faces, knowing that that one ex is no longer worth one’s energy. Smith uses “Pray” as the kind of song one can’t help but get goosebumps from, both from the immaculate gospel-like backup vocals and Smith’s signature display of his unparalleled voice range. The Thrill of it All is truly a thrill to listen to.

Despite the struggle 2017 has brought upon many of us, it has gifted us with an abundance of music to enjoy for years to come.

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