I feel like it was only days ago that I was writing my favorites for 2016. Turns out that was a whole year ago! I feel like I say this almost every year, but 2017 was incredible when it comes to music. Numerous times throughout this year, I found myself saying “Okay…this is the best album this year” or “this is the best song”.
When I started Lemonade, I wanted it to be a blend of mainstream and indie music. All too often, other publications tend to choose sides and pit one against the other which is completely ridiculous in my opinion. Music is there for us to enjoy regardless of its popularity. When picking favorites though, this mindset does prove to be troublesome as there are so many options and comparing them all is like comparing apples to oranges.
Below you will find the music that struck a chord with me in 2017 and made it one of my favorite years for releases. Understand that if an artist, song or album is even mentioned as a consideration, the margins between each and every one were incredibly thin. Thank you to all the amazing artists who we interviewed, reviewed and listened to. Most importantly, thank you to our readers who made 2017 the best ever for Lemonade Magazine.
Favorite Album of 2017: Paramore – After Laughter
This category was especially tough, since two albums stood out for me in 2017. One was Lights‘ Skin and Earth, while the other was Paramore‘s After Laughter. I honestly can not find a flaw in either release. All that I can say is that from a personal standpoint, Hayley Williams poured everything into After Laughter, even more so than usual. Everything is on display, the good, the bad, the ugly, love, disdain, fear and hope. There is not one time I listen to “26” where the line: “Reality will break your heart/Survival will not be the hardest part/It’s Keeping All Your Hopes Alive/ When all the rest of you has died/So let it break your heart.” doesn’t hit me like a ton of bricks. Hayley Williams and Paramore have not slipped yet. Each and every release they just get better and better. After Laughter will forever be one of my favorite albums.
As I said before, Lights‘ Skin and Earth was right there at the top for Album of the Year for me. If you have been following our site for a while, you are probably tired of both me and Aaron talking about our love for her 2011 album, Siberia. Little did I know, the Canadian songstress was only just getting started back then. The first time I listened to Skin and Earth and “Savage” came on, I had one of those jaw drop moments. I remember thinking to myself, “What can’t her voice do?” This song is a huge leap from her synth pop origins. It is a hard hitting rock masterpiece that will destroy you every time you hear it. The entire album is nothing short of brilliant, but “Savage” is simply incredible.
Two EPs really stuck out for me this year, both being genuinely unique and leaving you wanting more and more. One of those was 1 AMVRKA‘s One America, the other was Lydia Ford‘s Floods. Both EPs got a ton of play in my car this year and deciding which one is my favorite is like deciding between whether I like pizza or ice cream better. Maybe it is the fact I got to listen to Lydia Ford for a longer period of time this year, call it a flip of a coin, but I went with Floods. Her sound is a bit of a throwback to the late 1990s and early 2000s and what she did on a limited budget was really quite amazing.
Favorite New Artist or Band of 2017: 1 AMVRKA
You did not think I was going to leave Rudy Maya and Jesse Scott out completely, did you? Better known as 1 AMVRKA, these guys showed us what originality is all about. Their debut EP, One America, features a fresh new hip-hop infused sound featuring socially-aware lyrics that will leave you thinking and wanting to listen again and again. This duo is poised for some big things come 2018 in my opinion, so be cool and get on the bandwagon now.
The male artist category is always a tricky one for me, since male artists tend to be in bands more than they are solo artists. There is one man in particular though who has the ability to capture the attention of men and women, young and old and keep it for a whole show like no other. That man is Bruno Mars. I had the pleasure of watching Mars at the Tacoma Dome this summer with Aaron Mannari and his fiancée, Jess Bennett, and I think all three of us can attest that he certainly lives up to the hype and is fantastic live. Everyone in the arena had a smile on their face and were on their feet dancing whether it was in rhythm or not. There are not many artists out there who are can captivate such a diverse audience like Bruno Mars can. Congratulations on an outstanding 2017!
Favorite Female Artist of 2017: Lights
Not only did Lights have a killer album that she released in 2017, but the multi-talented artist also released a six part comic series written AND illustrated by her! There are so many female artists that slayed in 2017, including Lorde, Halsey, Erin McCarley, Jillette Johnson and the list goes on, but Lights is something else. Nobody in my generation has taken on what she has and executed it as perfectly as she has. I would say that it is going to be hard for her to top 2017, but if anyone can do it, Lights can.
Favorite Band or Duo of 2017: Paramore
How could I not pick Paramore as my favorite band of 2017 when After Laughter was such a huge part of the year? As I stated earlier, Paramore just keeps getting better. Unlike many bands, they do not try to stay trendy, instead they stay true to themselves and the end product is as genuine as it gets. The only thing Paramore did wrong in 2017 was never coming to my home state of Washington on tour, can we fix that in 2018?
Favorite Music Video of 2017: “Not Racist” – Joyner Lucas
Every year I watch more music videos for Lemonade than anything else. There are always several that catch my attention, whether it be the cinematography, the creativity or, in many cases, the humor. This year though a certain music video got the nod from me, because of how important it is for the times we are living in. The first time I watched “Not Racist” from Joyner Lucas, I almost could not make it through the opening. It was painfully hard to watch as a man wearing a Make America Great Again hat tore into an African-American man with every stereotype that has been beaten and bruised to a pulp. As the video progresses, you realize that the song is not meant to be divisive, but instead quite the opposite. Sure, it points out the ignorance that is still prevalent in 2017, but this is not a “white vs black” statement, it is a “try to see it my way” statement.
The concept is simple, the message is crucial. Bravo to Joyner Lucas on this one.
I may be breaking the rules a bit here, as the Solar Eclipse was not a music moment, but how could I possibly choose anything else? It is only once or twice in a lifetime that something like this happens in your neighborhood.
If someone had asked me how I would be enjoying the 2017 eclipse when I was young, I probably would have figured that I would be married by then and enjoying it with that special someone. With that being said, life does not always work out the way you think it will and I instead found myself driving alone overnight to the town of Woodburn, Oregon, roughly four hours from my hometown of Bellingham, WA.
I arrived in Woodburn somewhere around 5am and when I got there, I managed to find my friend Tim’s old Chevy Luv truck in a parking lot just off of I-5. My friend Tim is also from Bellingham, but me being the idiot that I am, decided to leave on a whim and by the time I had contacted Tim, he was already in Olympia, WA hence my solo drive down. Previous to my last minute decision, I had been persuaded by news reports predicting apocalyptic traffic jams to just stay home and watch the partial eclipse. Thankfully, my mind was changed by Snapchat. How you ask? Another friend of mine, Allie (who is an occasional contributor for Lemonade) in Fresno, CA was joking about the “Path of Totality” geotag that you only could use if you were in the path. For whatever reason, that was enough to change my mind and brave whatever may cross my path.
I still get shivers thinking of the moment of totality. When it happens, you just are not ready for it. As small as we are, I think it is hard to fathom something so much bigger than us. The beauty is beyond anything we can imagine and the experience is a powerful one to say the least. I am not sure if we humans deserved such a magnificent show as The Great American Eclipse, but I sure am glad that I can say I was there to see it.
2017 opened our eyes to some of the most difficult things the world has had to endure in years. Thankfully it also treated them to something really spectacular. Here is to a 2018 where we can move forward and unite once again.
Editor in Chief of Lemonade Magazine