A Year In Music
There is so much to say about the amount of music that is released in a year. From artist debuts, comeback albums, political statements, and everything in between; 2017 was a year compacted with all of the above. Aside from releases, music saw some of its biggest tragedies; The Las Vegas Shooting, The Ariana Grande Concert Bombing, the passing of Tom Petty, and artists like Chester Bennington and Lil Peep taking their own lives. These were the moments where the world had to stand by the music community and come together to prevail. It is in those times where cherishing those around us and continuing with music that makes the world feel like a safer place is of the utmost importance. This is our 2017 mashup that consists of all our favorite artists, albums, and singles, alongside the events that took place that enhanced and changed the music industry altogether.
This is a year in music.
Best Album: The XX, I See You
January started off with one of my favorite albums of the year. The XX brought their most innovative work diving into different realms of indie music. They touch on the dance music world and blend it with their enigmatic voices and tasteful lyrics. Their single, “On Hold,” captured the attention of fans, old and new, showcasing their refurbished sound leaving the door open to the album that was full of fine-tuned perfection that The XX is so well known for.
Best Single: “Paris,” The Chainsmokers
This single release from The Chainsmokers also gave us a taste of what was to come from one of the biggest DJ duos that were taking the charts by storm. Still not having released an album yet, they were releasing number one single after number one single; including “Paris.” This year began the recognition of The Chainsmokers. Months later, they released their full album as well as embarking on a world tour.
Best Album: Big Sean, I Decided.
It’s undeniable that 2017 was dominated by stellar hip-hop releases. February saw two Future albums, the release of Lil Uzi Vert’s “XO Tour Lif3,” and the best Big Sean project to date. Big Sean’s I Decided really shows how far the Detroit rapper has come. The album features some of Sean’s most mature songs, as well as some of his best bangers. “Bounce Back” dominated the radio and clubs, while songs like “Bigger than Me” and “Sunday Morning Jetpack” show a more intimate and passionate side to Sean. With a stellar concept and a cohesive album, Sean is our favorite hip-hop album release of February.
The U.K. is taking over once again, but in a whole new realm of music. These two London debut artists are paving their way because of their innovative sound. Stormzy brings Grime to a new level with Gang Signs and Prayers; and Sampha, on the other hand, creates his own R&B vibes with a mix of electronic to make symphonies out of his voice on Process. That album has one of the most beautiful songs I’ve heard this year on his track, “(No One Knows Me) Like The Piano.”
Best Single: Lana Del Rey, “Love”
Lana Del Rey released her most heartfelt song yet, and the cover art even has her smiling on it (the somber songstress is sad no more). “Love” is a dreamlike state of being young and in love, a simple concept brought to an even bigger scale with Lana’s glamorous vocals and extensive acoustics. This single was just a sliver of another full-length album, Lust For Life, that was released in July.
Syd of The Internet, Fin
Lil Uzi Vert, Luv Is Rage 2
Best Album: Khalid, American Teen
One of our best new artists of the year is Khalid. He took us all by surprise, and rose to the top at a rapid pace this year. With his own debut album, he captured everyone’s hearts and became one of the most sought out artists of 2017. Khalid’s name has shown up everywhere from being on the top of the charts to all over other artists collaborations, and he even earned himself some Grammy nominations along the way.
Best Single: Frank Ocean: “Chanel“
At one point in time, it seemed as if we would never hear Frank Ocean’s music after the release of Endless and Blonde in 2016, but thank God we were wrong! After “Slide,” Frank delivered one of his best songs ever, “Chanel.” Playing with his theme of duality, Frank delivers the iconic opening lines, “My guy pretty like a girl, and he got fight stories to tell.” Featuring more of the minimalistic vibes of Blonde, the song was only the start of more singles to come. Frank dropped “Biking” featuring Jay Z and Tyler, The Creator, and another song titled “Lens” in April; he also released “Provider” in August. Frank did big things in 2017.
Best New Debut: J.I.D: The Never Story
Moreover, American Teen wasn’t the only great album debut. March also saw up-and-comer J.I.D’s album, The Never Story. The ATL MC showcases the more lyrical side of the city, bringing back Outkast vibes. With a stunning banger in the form of “Never,” the Dreamville signee shows us what’s to come from the young and hungry rapper.
Drake, More Life
Depeche Mode, Spirit
Best Album: Kendrick Lamar, DAMN.
April was an exciting month for hip-hop fans. We got a fantastic Joey Bada$$ album, All Amerikkkan Badass, and were even more blessed with a new album from Kendrick Lamar. Damn. brought us the lead single, “Humble,” which came as a banger trap anthem; the complete opposite of the jazz inspired To Pimp a Butterfly. Nonetheless, when the album dropped April 14th over Coachella Weekend One, we got to see the best of all of Kendrick’s work meshed into one amazing album. Featuring a mix of boom-bap and trap, Kendrick shows off his talents as an MC, securing his spot as one of not just this generation, but of all time.
Best Single: Harry Styles; “The Sign of the Times”
Boy Band sensation, Harry Styles, shed his One Direction exterior and presented to the world his debut single. His sound is heavily influenced by ’70s rock, and the anthem, “The Sign of the Times,” set a precedent for what was to come off his self-titled debut album. It takes us back some decades, and completely establishes the pop sensation in a realm of his own mature level.
The month of April also brings the true start to festival season. Thousands gather in the polo fields in Indio, California for Coachella Music and Arts Festival. Over the course of two weekends, artists from the likes of every genre compiled the lineup. Headliners like Kendrick Lamar, Radiohead, and Lady Gaga took over the main stage. All the while Lorde, The XX, Skepta, DJ Snake, Kaytranada, Grouplove, Future, Empire of the Sun, and so many more artists filled the three day weekend with unforgettable sets that make Coachella such the high established festival that it is.
The Chainsmokers, Memories…Do Not Open
Foster the People, Sacred Hearts Club
Best Album: Paramore; After Laughter
Hayley Williams will forever have one of my favorite voices in music. Paramore continuously makes music that I’ll never stop listening to, and each album they experiment with a new side of their sound that they have yet to invest in. After Laughter is another excerpt of them dipping their toes into the sounds of the ‘80s. The single, “Hard Times,” opens the vault to their album that is full of nostalgic sounds that have that Paramore flare. What I think is some of their best work yet, while also being a very underrated album of the year, Paramore definitely rejuvenates their sound with a new and fresh style.
Best Single: Beach House, “Chariot“
May was practically dominated by women. One of the standout tracks of the month came from none other than Maryland’s Beach House. The band led by vocalist, Victoria Legrand and Alex Scally, released an unreleased track from their compilation album, B-Sides and Rarities, titled “Chariot.” The gorgeous track is in typical Beach House fashion, sporting the lovely angelic vocals Victoria is known for.
Best New Debut: Logic, Everybody
Maryland rapper, Logic, released his album, Everybody, which has easily one of the biggest songs of the year, “1-800-273-8255,” that brings to surface the effects of suicide awareness. In parallel, one of the lowlights of the year was the passing of Chester Bennington of Linkin Park. The band had released their final album, One More Life, in May. The album took a more electronic sound than the band’s previous work. Chester, unfortunately, took his own life 2 months later.
Bryson Tiller, True to Self
Best Album: Vince Staples, Big Fish Theory
With so many releases in June, it was hard to pinpoint a favorite album, but one release has been consistently playing here at Control Headquarters since its release; and it just so happens to be an artist from the same city as our office. Long Beach’s Vince Staples delivered us Big Fish Theory. The album blended the office’s universal love for hip-hop and dance music. Delivering an experimental joyride of obscurity, Vince shows how great of an artist he truly is. From the futuristic G-funk sounds of “745” to the Detroit techno-inspired “Rain Come Down,” the album doesn’t slow down in pushing the boundaries of hip-hop. The album also features an all-star line-up of features from Ray J to Kendrick Lamar to Damon Alburn; the album is a testament to greatness.
Best Single: Portugal. The Man, “Feel It Still“
The radio is always full of infectious songs, and with the release of Portugal, The Man’s eighth studio album, Woodstock, came one of the biggest songs of the year, “Feel It Still.” While the single dropped in March, the song didn’t take off until around summertime. The pop-funk infused track features one of the most feel-good effects of any song that took over the airwaves.
LANY has become a staple to my music repertoire of this past year. They’re ‘80s pop radio meets indie/electronic, and their adolescent lyrics and soft vocals make their debut album all the more timeless. It is definitely a record that I just can’t get tired of listening to. Standouts like “Good Girls,” “Superfar,” and “ILYSB” truly show off their sound, while “13” brings forward their innocent portrayals of love.
Another debut album artist that became a crowd favorite overnight with her cool girl vibe and notes about life and love that brought her to the highest standard, and became everyone’s favorite newcomer. A lot like Khalid, SZA was everywhere. Her assistance was being sought out on every collaboration, and her album, Ctrl, was impactful and personal; which gave everyone something to hold onto.
Calvin Harris, Funk Wav Bounces Vol 1.
Phoenix, Ti Amo
Imagine Dragons, Evolve
Dua Lipa, Dua Lipa
Best Album: Tyler, The Creator, Scum Fuck Flowerboy
Tyler, the Creator has come a long way from that kid who ate a roach in his video. On his 4th album, Tyler delivers his most personal work of art. Scum Fuck Flower Boy is a battle of emotions. Tyler shares with us his personal feelings, which is a left turn of his previous work Cherry Bomb. While that album focuses on happiness, that is completely thrown out on Flower Boy. Loneliness is a constant theme throughout the album, but Tyler opens up even more on than that. The song, “Garden Shed,” caused a lot of conversation because it appeared that Tyler comes out as either gay or bisexual. Regardless of Tyler’s sexuality, Tyler gives us one of the greatest albums of 2017. With beautiful tracks like “See You Again” to the wild bangers like “Who Dat Boy” and “I Ain’t Got TIme,” Tyler cycles through his emotions to deliver a powerful album.
Best New Debut: Mura Masa, Mura Masa
Mura Masa released his self-titled debut album, and combined the world of hip-hop and electronic music on a new level. He enlisted artists like Charlie XCX, A$AP Rocky, Damon Albarn, and Desiigner to bring his tropical beats to an even more advanced level. No one is making music quite like Mura Masa, and he continues to create his own lane of dance music, which also helped him attain a Grammy nomination as well as a large recognition for his work this year.
Best Single: “Less Than,” Nine Inch Nails
When Trent Reznor isn’t scoring giant films alongside Atticus Ross, he’s making some of Nine Inch Nails’ best music that they have had in years. Last year, the industrial rockers released their first EP in a trilogy titled Not The Actual Events. With no distinct timeline, we were told the trilogy would be finished by 2017. In July, NIN dropped “Less Than” with a release date not even a week later for their second EP, Add Violence. The EP title suggests “Less Than,” but it is actually a more intense experience. While the song starts off very retro, the song is swamped by distorted guitars and dark imagery; thanks to Trent’s songwriting. Although, there’s no sight of the third EP being released this year, Nine Inch Nails has left a great taste in our mouths as we patiently wait for the next installment.
Vic Mensa, The Autobiography
Haim, Something to Tell You
21 Savage, Issa Album
Best Album: Daniel Caesar, Freudian
All our “best” for this month are much newer artists. Daniel Caesar made a complete heartfelt album with plenty of soulful undertones with a true R&B style. It is a smooth and crisp rendition that sits in the same realms of Frank Ocean and Miguel.
Best Single: Lil Uzi Vert, “The Way Life Goes” feat. Oh Wonder
Lil Uzi Vert also showed us the optimistic side of his music. With the help of Oh Wonder, “The Way Life Goes” is an honest lyric that captures the artistry of Lil Uzi that I love. This has been the one single that has made its way on repeat with everyone here at Control.
Best New Debut: Billie Eilish, don’t smile at me
Billie Eilish is the sixteen-year-old sensation about to take the music industry by storm. Rebellious teenage angst, yet compelling and magnetic. What started out as a viral hit from her single, “Ocean Eyes,” ended up transforming her Soundcloud presence into one of the biggest artists to watch of the year. Her fusion of indie and pop capture her mystic tones and eerie statements of life and love captivatingly. An artist beyond her years that is only just getting started.
Queens of the Stone Age, Villains
Best Album: Odesza, A Moment Apart
Odesza releasing new music this year showcased the movement happening in dance music. A live show is what they are all about. Their euphoric sounds and stadium filling ballads put them into their own genre of electronic music as well. Their latest album is perfection from start to finish earning them sold out shows and Grammy nominations.
Best New Single: The Killers, “Run For Cover”
While September was exciting for dance music, rock also had a great month. The Killers released their fifth album, Wonderful Wonderful, incorporating elements of post-punk into their brand of poppy alternative rock. One song off the album that really brought back the essence of classic Killers is”Run For Cover.” It is the rock vibe of “When We Were Young,” but the 2017 version.
The National, Sleep Well Beast
LCD Soundsystem, American Dream
Galantis, The Aviary
Foo Fighters, Concrete and Gold
Best Album: Snoh Aalegra, Feels
Probably one of the most unknown artists we’re giving all the praise to is Swedish singer, Snoh Aalegra, who delivered what might end up as my album of the year. Her debut album, Feels, is gorgeous and refreshing to hear in 2017. A blend of trip-hop, pop, and soul, Snoh brings a mix of Portishead and Michael Jackson. Being a signee to No I.D.’s Artium label, Snoh already has success set up, all she needed to do was deliver, and boy did she. The album features great production, emotional songwriting, and Snoh’s angelic vocals that made you do as the album suggested, feel. Ms. Aalegra does a wonderful job of holding the project up by herself, but features do help. She scores some big ticket artists like Logic, Vic Mensa, Vince Staples and Swedish rapper, Timbuktu. Snoh Aalegra has a lot of appeal, and I’m sure in due time, she’ll blow up and shine as the great artist she already is.
Best Single: Beck; “Up All Night”
This single is on Beck’s 13th studio album, Colors, and glitters as a pop-rock anthem. A modern yet retro take of his music infuses this song with funky guitar riffs and an upbeat tune, taking a step away from his Grammy-winning folk album, Morning Phase. One of my favorites listens of the year.
Best New Debut: H.E.R., H.E.R.
H.E.R is an artist that everyone needs to listen to. She is R&B/soul artist that hits all of the feels. She writes emotional lyrics that soothe the soul, and she creates exquisite songs to sway along to. She also emulates mystery with her unknown identity when she performs making way for the only thing to be focused on is her music. What could be the prodigy of an Alicia Keys sound, she takes her ’90s to early ‘2000s melody, and makes it a current beat of her own.
Best Album: Sam Smith, The Thrill of it All
Sam Smith’s long-awaited return was finally given a release date. His initial single, “Too Good At Goodbyes,” brought back the silky vocals of the British phenomenon. His full album was much more contemporary, and touched on very personal yet very real topics. Bringing about the issues of today along with formally writing music about his own sexuality, Sam Smith has a true talent for opening the doors and letting us all into his thoughts as well as into his heart. The Thrill of it All is a welcome home album from one of my favorite artists.
Best Single: Gorillaz ft. Little Simz, “Garage Palace“
Since Gorillaz released Humanz in April, the band continued to release new material, mostly being outtakes from the Humanz sessions. Of all of them, one of the standout tracks is “Garage Palace” featuring the talented UK rapper, Little Simz. The upbeat dance record seriously showcases Little Simz ability as a daring MC who could destroy any instrumental put on her face. The track is so great it begs the question why it was left off the album in the first place. Nonetheless, it’s an amazing track and I’m glad the world got to hear it.
Taylor Swift, Reputation
Walk the Moon, What If Nothing
Maroon 5, Red Pill Blues
Best Album: N.E.R.D, No One Ever Really Dies
Even though the year is on its last 31 days, the music still doesn’t stop. Maybe one of the best returns of the year comes in the form of N.E.R.D’s No One Ever Really Dies album. This album had been complete for some time, as Pharrell and Co. held a large listening party at Complexcon in November. The hot single, “Lemon,” features a rap verse by who would have guessed Rihanna, who absolutely destroys her verse over the dance fueled experimental beat. The album finally came out in December, and it did not disappoint. The album sounds like what you’d expect an N.E.R.D album to sound like in 2017. It’s a modern, daring marvel that takes elements of the popular music of today, while pushing it to the complete edge. With stellar features from Future, Kendrick Lamar and many others, No One Ever Really Dies stands out as an amazing addition to the N.E.R.D discography.
To continue with the theme of dance infused hip-hop, the Internet’s best boy band, Brockhampton, released the single, “BOOGIE,” off their final installment of the Saturation series, Saturation III. The song is an absolute banger with heart throbbing bass and a saxophone that’s sure to make a crowd go crazy. This song is high energy, and only gets more chaotic as the song progresses. The song alongside the album is a great way for Kevin Abstract and his boyband to end the year.
Also, in December, Miguel released his fourth album, War and Leisure. The album came to be one of Miguel’s best projects to date, being critically acclaimed, and having one of my favorite singles this year. “Pineapple Skies” is this psychedelic R&B mix that showcases everything that is pristine about Miguel and his musical style. It is groovy and silky, and just absolute magic.
Neil Young, Hitchhiker
-Morgan & Hiram