Favorite popular music from 2017

It’s wrong to call this “popular music,” because most of it isn’t that popular, but we certainly can’t call it rock and roll any more, can we?

First, here are the ones that everyone else recommends too:

Run the Jewels 3, not a let down.

Kendrick Lamar, Damn, a common pick for best of the year.

Tyler the Creator, the album has an obscene name, which I won’t reproduce, but I can list the name of the Creator.

King Krule, Ooz, “The world is a filthy, utterly debased place, his music suggests, but there are rewards of sorts for those determined to survive it. In this spirit, The OOZ drops at our feet like a piece of poisoned fruit, a masterpiece of jaundiced vision from one of the most compelling artists alive.”

Migos, Culture, rap from Atlanta.

Vince Staples, Big Fish Theory, but not theory as they do it as Northwestern.

SZA- Cntrl, from New Jersey, “Her forebears are more Keyshia Cole and Mary J. Blige, who have hurt and have been fearless enough to sing about that hurt…”

Lorde, Melodrama, “the New Zealand century” is gaining on “the Norwegian century.”

Taylor Swift, Reputation.  This one is kind of popular.

Perfume Genius, No Shape, “The body has become sturdier, less despotic.

My summary remark is that I didn’t intend to listen to so much rap/hip-hop, but it remains the most vital genre.

Here are some more original selections:

Jlin, Black Origami, “…a gorgeous and overwhelming piece of musical architecture, an epic treatise on where rhythm comes from and where it can go.

Juana Molina, Halo.  Argentina, avant-garde songstress, vivid vocal and instrumental textures, she has almost abolished lyrics.

The Secret Sisters, You Don’t Own Me Any More, folk for 2017, “They went from opening shows for Bob Dylan and Paul Simon to cleaning houses to make ends meet.”

Django Bates, Saluting Sgt. Pepper.  A jazzy, big band, music hall take on the album, works surprisingly well, one of the freshest takes on the Beatles since Laibach.

Paul McCartney, Flowers in the Dirt, remastered, an underrated album to begin with, this release also includes the previously unavailable acoustic demo tapes with Elvis Costello.

Death Grips, Bottomless Pit.  Has the information density and partial unpleasantness of the old Skinny Puppy recordings, “seesawing from grit to gloss to back again.”

Beach Boys, Wild Honey, titled 1967 — Sunshine Tomorrow.  This remix brings out what was supposed to be just a “blues/soul/Brian cooling his heels” album as an acoustic masterpiece and proper successor to Pet Sounds and Smile.

Philip Glass, Piano Works, by Víkingur Ólafsson. One of the two or three best Glass recordings I know, here is an interview with the pianist.

Overall, if I had to push any of these on you it would be the last two.  Soon I’ll cover jazz and world music.


Run the jewels again? Ugh

J HUS, Mura Masa is what they been playin at trafe.

"Kanye West, Yeezus. His best album by quite a bit."


I’d like to know if Tyler still listens to any of the albums he put in his 2013 list.

Ah, the classic Pitchfork hipster formula. Mainstream rap to prove that you're multicultural. Indie music to prove that you're underground. Classic rock to prove that you're well rounded. And a handful of popular songs to prove that you're not a hipster.

Oooh so edgy and ironic.

Lighten up, lunatic.

Great analysis! :-)


Like the 10 rating Pitchfork gave “Rubber Soul” not everything trite and hackneyed and/or the product of hipster performance is actually wrong. The same can be said for almost all the snark heaped on Pitchfork and its ilk, it is pretty dead on accurate as well.

Yeah that was a bold review. Giving Rubber Soul a perfect 10 nearly 44 years after its release. No one else gives the Beatles the credit they deserve.

What if Tyler actually likes the music that he says he likes?

if you have followed these lists over the years, the drift in content makes that hypothesis pretty unlikely.

The idea that liking rap is considered a signal of being 'multicultural' made me lol.

No Stoney - Post Malone?

Definitely a better album than Kendrick's latest offering.

I wonder if Tyler actually listens to this simplistic tripe or is just virtue signaling.

Take THAT, Tyler!

Ha ha, exactly.

"You don't actually like stuff; it's just signalling" is about the most tiresome critique imaginable.

No it's more like how could such a bright person actually enjoy such mindlessly vapid stuff. It's suspicious.

It's music, it sounds good no matter how many PhDs you have. Not every pop song has to be a 7/8 time signature prog rock math problem to be enjoyable.

You must be kind of young, planting your flag about how YOUR music is so much better than that OTHER crap people listen to is a teenager/young adult pose. As you get older you realize it's just taste, and Tyler's doesn't matter to yours.

"such a bright person"


Get Philip Glass on Conversations with Tyler!

you coulda just posted tyler's album name as 'flower boy', nothing offensive there.

jlin, and juana molina are hella tight tho.

For me the only 2017 album that’s stuck is...Nightmare Logic - Power Trip.

I agree. It's kind of a consensus pick in metal this year, but it lives up to the hype. If you're looking for something a bit more obscure, check out "Misantropologi" by Undergang. It's a bit more OSDM than thrash, but has a similar raffish energy. Couldn't tell you about the lyrics though cause they're in Danish.

Will do, thanks!

I don't doubt Tyler's list is sincere, but these are nearly all albums that sound cool if you listen to them once, as if they're performance pieces, as if you can review them as an intellectual exercise. But the music that endures is the stuff that gets stuck in your head, and it's impossible to judge that unless you listen to an album at least a few times.

Kendrick Lamar: its nice to listen to a couple of times, but after awhile its just annoying. He is definitely overrated.

What’s so unprintable about « Flower Boy «  by Tyler the Creator?

Betty Who's The Valley was a great pop album. I have a hunch that there are several genres Tyler completely ignores.

In Jocelyn Glei's recent podcast, Tyler said that you can hear the difference in music made in 1965 compared to 1967 where as comparing 2015 and 2017 is exactly the same (example of complacency). That may be true in many cases, but there has been a massive shift from Progressive House to Future Bass. I would credit the Jack U song Where are U Now featuring Justin Bieber with the dolphin sound that has since been copied and is everywhere (of course this song was also released in 2015, but at the time nothing else mainstream sounded like it).

Noooo, not the dreaded "end of year" lists again ... instead of these inane lists, I would prefer to know the selection criteria for inclusion on the list. If it's mere aesthetics, then the list tells us more about its creator than it does about the intrinsic worth of the music itself.

Good comment.

"intrinsic worth of the music" The hell? Tyler likes it, that's its worth.

If you don’t like it, don’t read it. Nothing to dread ...

Ok but not Migos.

And nothing from Brazil...

This what America has become in terms of music. Nothing interesting at all.

Such is life in America...

I wouldn't even call it life. This is what America has become, a land of uninteresting music without any samba.

He said there would be a different post on world music, dude.

Why not choose one album you liked this year, and provide an in-depth post about what you like about it and why? It's far more interesting to hear all the reasons a person likes something than to read a quick drive-by of albums you feel ought to be "raised in status." Who cares about that? Tell me about your passion for the music you like, don't just tell me that you like it.

Now this is interesting, agreed. Or maybe both. Show us the list then pick one entry to really discuss.

My favorite hip hop album of 2017 was Freddie Gibbs - You Only Live 2wice. From Gary, IN and very good. Soon will be his second album with Madlib- you should also give Pinata a listen from a few years ago.

Genuine Q: How do thoughtful people countenance the overt misogynism of Kendrick Lamar? I've only listened to him a few times. I admit to finding his beats catchy and some of his lyrics trenchant. But I am always appalled by his misogynism. And I wonder how "enlightened liberals" manage to approve.

The album has a 95 rating on metacritic. So apparently critics and writers of economics blogs do not mind the misogyny but has turned some heads


Give an example?

Your fantasy waifu will be extra attentive this evening Mr. White Knight.

Jlin certainly wins for most non-complacent album of the year, I would say. Not exactly a record I like to spend a lot of time with, though.

thanks for that article. Though I don't even understand that particular "feminist critique." The claim there is that it's misogynist to praise women--as Lamar evidently does--who don't get plastic surgery and use lots of makeup?

I was thinking his problem was more about the objectification of women as sexual objects. Bragging about a "wifey, girlfriend, and mistress." Of course, I haven't analyzed his lyrics with any care, but it just seemed so apparent that "this is not a good way to regard women." But I've never found a defense of his boorishness.

I don't think backseat freestyle is a good example, not because it isn't what you are saying it is, but because I think he is supposed to be "parodying" the culture or behavior of specific subsets of young males that he grew up in/around. I also in general just take that to be a not very serious song. I understand he is the one writing, performing and putting it out on his album, however I don't view it as a reflection of his thoughts or views. Maybe I am giving him the benefit of the doubt.

I think his gratuitous use of b!tch or other derogatory terms for females could be interpreted that way, though they are generally used towards other males for example calling someone a [email protected] n**ga. I don't know if that makes it more or less misogynistic, and IDK how much the intent or his subjective meaning of the word vs. the objective or societal understanding of the words matters. Overall I think your criticism/observation, in terms of objectifying women, is fair and is true more broadly of music in general (especially rap, country, and pop).

I do think he is one of the most talented artists / entertainers / musicians, and this album was another great showing for him. I also think he should win album of the year and rap album of the year at the upcoming grammy's.

I liked the new album from At The Drive-in.

My favorite hip hop album of the year is Saturation II by Brockhampton. It is an aural feat made even more impressive upon realizing the band members are all young 20-somethings who met on the internet.

Isn't "popular music" just singles and not albums these days?
Here's in no particular order is some of what I couldn't stop
listening to this year:

"Sign of the Times" Harry Styles
"Issues" Julia Michaels
"Believer" Imagine Dragons
"Thunder" Imagine Dragons
"Castle On The Hill" Ed Sheeran
"Feel It Still" Portugal. The Man
"Despacito Remix" Luis Fonsi & Daddy Yankee
"Bad Liar" Selena Gomez
"What About Us?" Pink
"Let Me Go" Hailee Steinfeld, Alesso

Hi Tyler

Good pics, but can I suggest three more (exceptional) hip hop albums from this year? You won't be disappointed.

Open Mike Eagle - Brick Body Kids Still Daydream
Oddisee - The Iceberg
Milo - Who Told You To Think??!!?!?!?!

Hi Tyler

Good pics, but can I suggest three more (exceptional) hip hop albums from this year? You won’t be disappointed.

Open Mike Eagle – Brick Body Kids Still Daydream
Oddisee – The Iceberg
Milo – Who Told You To Think??!!?!?!?!

No Emperor of Sand? I thought that might have made the cut

Comments for this post are closed