By Dustin Griffin
I realized when looking over my list of the ten best albums of 2017 that they were all by male artists. I found that strange given how many amazing albums came out this past year by female artists. For fun, I expanded my list to twenty and, not surprisingly, eight of the next ten best albums were by female artists. What I like about the albums on that list is how much more diverse they are than my first ten, which is mostly hip hop.
So I decided to round that second list out and do a top ten albums by female artists. After all, why should boys have all the fun?
10. Demi Lovato – “Tell Me You Love Me” : Like Kendrick Lamar’s “DAMN.”, this is a deceptively simple sounding set. Demi keeps things succinct and to the point. Her voice sounds like pillowy sheets and her music sounds like it’s tiptoeing around her fragility. It’s not all breaking point pop though. ‘Games’ and ‘Sexy Dirty Love’ will get your toes tapping.
‘Ruin the Friendship’ is the best jazz song of the year, on a pop album.
9. Jessie Ware – “Glasshouse”: Jessie sings barely above a whisper for much of “Glasshouse”, and the content fits. Motherhood, relationships, love, hurt. This is personal music. Vulnerable yet strong. ‘Alone’ and ‘Your Domino’ are catchy and on consistent rotation on my phone.
‘Stay Awake, Wait For Me’ is the best love song of 2017.
8. Dua Lipa – “Dua Lipa”: I’m not normally a huge fan of electro pop, but catchy is catchy and this album is absolutely infectious. The music is hoppy, but Dua’s low lying vocal chords and the pushy beats give the album an aggressiveness that takes the listener by surprise.
‘Blow Your Mind (Mwah)’ is the most danceable song of the year.
7. Paramore – “After Laughter”: Pop culture’s obsession with the 80’s continues with Paramore’s too fun and wonderfully titled “After Laughter”. The album’s influences are worn on its sleeve. From the neo-nostalgia of Daft Punk on ‘Hard Times’, to the neon pop of Tiffany on ‘Forgiveness’. I was actually very surprised at how well the band nailed the 80’s tribute with a modern twist sound. This is music for the piping lined short shorts generation, of today.
‘Hard Times’ is the best driving song of the year.
6. Lana Del Rey – “Lust For Life”: I love Lana Del Rey. I love her apocalyptically sweet, breathily dangerous vocals and her dark soundscapes. “Honeymoon” was one of the best albums of 2015 and “Lust For Life” is (almost) as good. The thing that popped out at me about this album were the features by prominent hip hoppers and R&B cats A$AP Rocky, Playboi Carti, and The Weeknd. As well as rock and pop royalty Stevie Nicks and Sean Ono Lennon. This album slides along like it’s made of coconut oil.
‘Summer Bummer’ is the best rainy day song of the year.
5. Jessie Reyez – “Kiddo”: To call “Kiddo” a unique album is an understatement. There is an undercurrent of anxious restlessness to the music, as though the album doesn’t quite know what it wants to be, and so tries to be everything at once.
And here’s the kicker. It works.
‘Shutter Island’ is one of the most addictive songs of the year.
4. Jlin – “Black Origami”: This unbelievably dense album can make you feel like you’re on drugs while listening to it, even stone sober. A crazy eargasm of percussive instrumentals, I guarantee you will have no idea where “Black Origami” is headed from one song to the next, even if you’ve listened to it a dozen times already. How many albums can you say that about?
‘Carbon 7 (161)’ is the best headphones song of the year.
3. SZA – “Ctrl” : Not content with releasing the best hip hop album of the year in “DAMN.”, Top Dawg has also released the best R&B album of the year with “Ctrl”. Forget that it has features by Kendrick Lamar, Travis Scott and Isaiah Rashad, SZA’s latest is often heartbreaking, never boring, and always revealing something new with every successive listen. Much like the rest of Top Dawg’s catalogue.
‘Go Gina’ sounds like Rihanna at her best and is the best R&B song of the year.
2. Lorde – “Melodrama”: No it doesn’t have an immediate pop hit like ‘Royals’ (although ‘Green Light’ comes close), but “Melodrama” is the most complete, mature statement in this young woman’s musical catalogue thus far. There’s a lot of dark content on this album, but it’s all so beautifully expressed, it never gets you down.
‘Sober II (Melodrama)’ is possibly the most moving song of the year.
1. Rapsody – “Laila’s Wisdom”: One of the year’s best hip hop albums, by the best current female hip hop artist. This is easily the best thing Rapsody has done thus far and hits every note right on its bullseye. Crazy bars, perfect features, jazzy boom bap and honest, deep, challenging lyrical content. Rapsody is giving females a strong, razor sharp voice in a genre that has been at best overcrowded with testosterone and at worst overtly misogynistic.
‘OooWee’ is the best song of the year by a female artist.