Every so often an album comes around that mirrors my emotions and sparks self-reflection—this was Lorde’s Melodrama. A stellar sophomore follow up, it is no surprise Melodrama affected me this way. The honest way in which she describes life after ending a long-term relationship is universal. Songs such as “Writer in the Dark”,” “Supercut,” and “Green Light” speak to adapting to such a dramatic life change and the reality of letting go. Contrastingly, “Sober,” “Homemade Dynamite,” and “Perfect Places” celebrate this rebirth, highlighting and challenging the way in which we move on. My favorite track, however, is “Liability.” With this ballad, Lorde shares a fear many of us have—being “too much” for those in our lives. With “Liabilty,” Lorde gets me. The production on the album is also to be noted. With Lorde, Jack Antonoff masterfully expands upon traditional pop sounds, pushing musical boundaries to reflect deep emotions.
St. Vincent’s MASSEDUCTION challenges pop music in a similar way. A reflection of letting go and being left, with MASSEDUCTION Annie Clark doesn’t try to top previous albums but turns inward, bravely expressing her vulnerabilities. From an emotional perspective, this album feels closer to St. Vincent’s audience than her previous albums, but she achieves this feat without sacrificing the glamorous style for which she is known. Annie Clark is a talented songwriter and guitarist and MASSEDUCTION is a display of her artistic growth.
Tyler, the Creator’s Flower Boy had a lot of hype and it lived up to the hype. A testament to personal and artistic growth, each track on Flower Boy is a banger, but they also explore themes such as isolation, youth, and contemplation. Tyler distorts the boundaries of what we consider rap and hip-hop while showing us another side of himself.
2017 was the year of SZA. Having previously collaborated with artists such as Rihanna, with her debut album CTRL, she steps into the spotlight. The album dazzles, flowing seamlessly and highlighting her uniquely talented way of weaving together poetry and R&B. CTRL showcases SZA’s talent as a songwriter. Over two hundred songs were created during the recording sessions of the album, all recorded freestyle. This method led to a beautiful album, confessional and emotional with stellar production.
What to me is one of the most underrated albums of the year, Julien Baker’s second album, Turn Out the Lights, is an honest meditation on spirituality and internal conflict. Through piano, guitar, and voice, Baker speaks to the challenges faced in relationships: with oneself, with others, with spirituality. On “Sour Breath,” Baker addresses the difficulty of loving someone who is affected by substance abuse. The song ends with her repeatedly singing “the harder I swim, the faster I sink,” an acceptance of the fact that sometimes the effort we give feels like it will never be enough, an expression that resonates with such a universal emotion.
Honorable Mentions: DAMN. - Kendrick Lamar, Big Fish Theory - Vince Staples, Powerplant - Girlpool, SATURATION I-III - BROCKHAMPTON, YOUNG - Overcoats