By god, there was a lot of music released in 2017, and there’s no sign that the torrent will slow anytime soon. Big artists seem to be figuring out how to game the streaming system, and it feels like it’s to listener’s detriment.
As 150 streams of a song equates to one song sale, and ten song sales equates to an album sale, there are a few reasons to shamelessly overstuff an album. First, the more songs on an album, the more cracks you get at a monster, career-making single. Second, consumer expectations are changing – fewer and fewer people go into an album planning on listening to it cover to cover. That means, third, for the dwindling number of idiots like myself that can’t help but listen to any album like an album, even those filler tracks are racking up fractions of sales.
Basically, if you thought Culture dragged a bit as a 13-song, 58-minute experience, and you had your face blown off by the 24-song, 105-minute Culture II bonanza, buckle the fuck up for Culture III, which will probably sync up perfectly with the director’s cut edition of Return of the King (Quavo, if you’re reading this,,, call me).
The changing music landscape is a blessing and a curse for a fan like me. I’m something of a completionist, and I hate the idea that an album that would change my life could pass me by because I was waist-deep in the fifteen-song Lil Pump.
I struggled in the last year with over-consumption and consumption of the wrong music. I probably listened to a hundred albums cover-to-cover at least once, but it wasn’t until late in the year that I circled back around to quite a few of them and realized that they really resonated with me. Sorry, Lana, Fleet Foxes, others. I deeply regret the month of my life I spent trying to figure out why I didn’t like Alvvays’ Antisocialites (it’s boring).
This was also maybe the first year I felt out of touch with a sizable segment of popular music. The Soundcloup rap scene, headlined by rappers like the aforementioned Lil Pump, XXXTentacion, and Smokepurpp, is fucking enormous with the youth, and I’m not sure how well I understand it.
Is it a phase teens are going to look back on with embarrassment, the way millennials look back on nu-metal, or is it the necessary evolution of edgy pop in a time when Eminem is passe? I’m leaning toward the former, but I can’t say. I’ll sound old as hell, but I really can’t imagine such a low effort product having real staying power.
On the other hand, the explosion of pure content enabled me to get paid to write about the local music scene in DC. Many of the artists I covered are independent, likely recording on laptops and in bedrooms, and I was still able to access them on Spotify, Soundcloud, and Bandcamp. That wasn’t happening twenty years ago when a much smaller pool of writers could (I imagine) cover a scene.
Because I’m so conflicted about the direction the music industry is speeding, and because it’s now a Washed staple, I asked a few people about their thoughts on music in 2017. Disclaimer: through no fault of their own, the folks I interviewed are pretty homogeneous – white, college-educated millennials. I tried to broaden my reach, but it turns out people weren’t bursting down the doors trying to be interviewed for an anonymous music blog. Anyway, that’s the disclaimer. A big thank you to the participants, and we’ll be back with this at the end of the year.
Welcome back to the second annual Washed Music By The People event. I didn’t think we’d make it this far. Was this a good year for music?
I think there are silver linings to every year. Eminem came back, which isn’t a great indicator, but for the most part 2017 has been good for music. Everyone feels awful, and that spurs them to make interesting, personal stuff.
Father John Misty, Kendrick Lamar, and Godspeed You! Black Emperor put out really impressive albums this year. More than anything they stood out against the regular sort of reactionary anti-Drumpf music we all expected. They were all unique.
That’s an interesting take. I can’t speak to GY!BE, but I feel like FJM and Kendrick have both made more personal feeling work in the past. Comedy and DAMN. both feel personal to me too, but in a kind of surreal sense, not necessarily in a realistic, soul baring kind of way. What is your album of the year?
GY!BE’s Luciferian Towers resonated with me the most. This year has definitely been a political awakening for many; I’ve found myself disillusioned with the Democratic party and turning to various leftist circles. For the time being, I’ve escaped the political maelstrom and found myself immersed in anarchism as a way to live and conduct myself. Luciferian Towers felt like true freedom and hope rising out of a failing society, soaring above the windows of busted-out skyscrapers. It conveys a sense of resolve against constant 24/7 disaster coverage, not shelter or escape from it. The only way to freedom is through freedom. Luciferian Towers inspired me where other albums just made me wistful.
That’s definitely the most thorough answer I’m going to get. I need to give it a listen. I feel like I don’t have the attention span anymore to try post-rock/instrumental type music. I like the description though. Did you have a favorite song of the year?
“Hallelujah Money” is probably my standalone favorite this year. I couldn’t give you any real reason other than it sounds very cool. I spent maybe ten extra minutes in a College Station CVS playing that song on repeat because it was like an artsy movie scene. Come to think of it, I saw both GY!BE and Gorillaz live this year.
That was probably my favorite song off a Gorillaz album I didn’t care for much. Thanks for the answers! Bonus q: favorite lyric of the year?
From FJM’s “Total Entertainment Forever”, “When the historians find us we’ll be in our homes / Plugged into our hubs / Skin and bone / A frozen smile on every face / As the stories replay / This must’ve been a wonderful place.”
So: talking album of the year. For a little background, do you remember what your favorite album was last year?
Shoot, I’d probably say Chance (Coloring Book). There were a lot of candidates though… It’s tough to pick one.
Yeah, between that and Pablo and Lemonade and Blonde, and like 12 other really good albums, last year is hard to beat. Do you think this year was a better music year?
I’m not sure if it’s a product of the actual music of this year as compared to last, or how busy my personal life has been, but I feel like I found almost twice as many SOLID albums last year than this year.
I think I agree with that. I feel like last year was really top-heavy in a great way, but this year I feel like there were legitimately fifty albums I was really into at one point or another. Do you still listen to many albums as “albums” or have you kind of abandoned the traditional album for playlists?
Man, this year my listening habits changed in a pretty big way. Since college I’ve been big on listening to a whole album, but I think this is the first time where I’m not sure if I listened through a whole album all year. Except Kendrick. But yeah, I’m turning into a playlist guy because of convenience.
Yeah, this felt like a really big jump in terms of popular artists releasing loose singles that felt tailor-made for inclusion on official Spotify playlists. With that disclaimer, what ended up being your album of the year? Was it an easy choice?
I feel like it’s Kendrick almost by default. DAMN. was heavy, masterful and had like every type of moment you’d want in a rap album. Even as my listening is trending away from rap, that album is pretty clear cut this year for album of the year.
A great choice. Was there something specific that made it your album of the year? And out of curiosity, what genres have you been leaning into more?
I think it’s one of the few that was so well put together as a complete ALBUM. Like, as I said, even as not a huge rap fan I felt like I had to listen to the complete thing all the way through. Loved all the very diverse moments it had, like to kick it off with “BLOOD.” and “DNA.”, get ya all hyped, and my fave song off the album was “LOVE.”, which was such a smooth and sweet song. Just very complete, artist at the top of his game. Lookin’ like Lebron dunkin’ on the whole league.
Genres I’m gettin into – 2017 was the year that pop makes a comeback for me. Lorde, Carly Rae, HAIM, and Bleachers made amazing albums that you could put on the radio. I think pop made up a lot of my listening as opposed to last year.
Definitely agree. We’re getting to the last two questions here. First, did you have a song of the year?
That’s really tough haha. But, I think mine is “Don’t Take the Money” by Bleachers. For a kind of personal reason—song is about just kinda free falling into love and taking a risk. Hit me with my relationship and it played at my wedding right after we got married so that gives it the edge for me.
Damn, a wedding song. Highly unrelatable content for me, but that feels like a good way to pick your song of the year. To close it out on a yearbook-ass question: what’s your lyric of the year?
“When I met her at the club I asked her who she felt / Then she went ahead and put that booty on that Gucci belt”. That’s the best I can come up with at the moment – but I stand by it nonetheless.
Was 2017 a good year for music, for you? Also, thanks for doing this for the second year running!
Anything for you. And I’d say 2017 was a really interesting year for music. I work with teenagers and they are in the know about the latest break through artists. I just can’t get behind most of their favorites 😬 but on my end of the music spectrum I did gain some new faves.
Are you talking about the Lil Pumps of the world? I feel super out of touch with the newest wave of, like, hip hop and turn up music.
Bingo. As you know, I’m a substance abuse counselor and Lil Peep (a new wave artist) recently died of a Xanax overdose. There’s literally a rapper named Lil Xan… I mean… come on. Kodak Black, 21 Savage, 6ix9ine…I just don’t get it.
Yeah, with the exception of 21 Savage, I think all of those artists are pretty bad musically and even worse morally. It’s a weird trend, but it doesn’t look like it’s slowing down. 6ix9ine should be arrested on his name alone. You said you have a few new faves this year though. Do you have a clear cut album of the year?
2017 has felt like a century because so many albums have been released this year. As you know, I rarely listen to an album all the way through because I’ve always been without things like Apple Music and Spotify. The only album I think I’ve listened to all the way through is DAMN. by Kendrick. Which I loved.
If you just had to listen to one full album all year, that’s a pretty good choice. It’s also super different from your choice last year, Bad Vibrations by A Day to Remember. Did you have a favorite song of the year, and did it come from DAMN.?
Well I have a pretty wide range of music taste. I don’t think my favorite song of the year came from DAMN. Two songs that I never get tired of hearing on the radio that got released this year are “High” by Sir Sly and “Thunder” by Imagine Dragons.
Was 2017 a good year for music to you?
Very good year, lot of favorite musicians came out with quality new stuff this year. This was also a year where I felt a definite shift in my listening habits.
This was the first year in probably forever where rap wasn’t my primary genre of music. I shifted to alternative/indie and electronic heavily. Few rap projects stood out to me enough to get revisited.
I definitely think last year was a better year for the top-end hip hop market. TLOP, Untitled Unmastered, and Coloring Book alone are pretty hard to follow up, let alone the dozen or so other really good hip hop albums. So do you have a clear album of the year?
Oh yeah. Also had quality T-Scott, Schoolboy, Isaiah Rashad, Vince Staples, and two Anderson .Paak albums.
That question is funny, because if I think about the album that clearly got the most spins from me as a “whole” this year, I think it would have to go to Teens of Denial – but that was released in 2016 and I don’t know if i’d even call that the AOTY. It just always kinda felt right to listen to. I think it’s really gonna come down to Pure Comedy or This Old Dog… with the edge to Pure Comedy.
I feel you on the Teens of Denial-a-year-later phenomenon. You were into that last year too, but I feel like every year, I finally catch up on something I missed from a year ago and I end up furious I didn’t check it out earlier. Ruins my past album of the year lists. Pure Comedy and This Old Dog were two of my favorite alternative (I guess) albums this year, too. Both are pretty somber, but the former on more of an existential scale, and the latter on a personal level. What made those two your tops of the year?
They were by two artists I respect, obviously the music quality is very high, and they both continue to grow as time goes on. Their meaning becomes more complex the more you sit with it, but somehow you understand it much more. That’s what stood out the most about Pure Comedy, especially the more you sat with it, the better it continued to get. I went through a phase this fall where i would listen to “So I’m Growing Old On Magic Mountain” on repeat and that’s a ten-minute song.
Pure Comedy is an interesting example because my initial criticism of it was it was too on-the-nose and there was no nuance, but over time my appreciation definitely grew, even if that criticism still holds some water. It felt appropriate for the social and political climate, in a way. Do you think the current political climate influenced how you consumed music, or which music you chose to consume, this year?
Nah, not at all. It was more of a function of where I’m at in life.
Did you have a song of the year this year, and did it come from Pure Comedy or This Old Dog?
Hmm, that’s a good question. “Passionfruit” is definitely up there. “Ballad of the Dying Man / So I’m Growing Old On Magic Mountain” would be my two picks from Pure Comedy. “Replica” – the xx.
I don’t know about This Old Dog. At first it might have been “Dreams From Yesterday”, but now it would “One More Love Song” (thanks in part to your review). Also, this is unrelated, but I’m looking through my top songs and this song is in my top ten:
It’s by a band that has like 1,000 monthly listeners. They’re tiny. I pulled it out of an Instagram story posted by Nathan Williams lmao. Yeah, if it’s a song I played steady all 2017, it would be “Passionfruit”. It came out in February, and it was still banging in August.
Thanks for the Washed plug. One more question to cover everything I wanted to cover: favorite lyric of the year?
“Fake fucked with me back then, but it’s getting harder for you to fake it now / Fuck being rich when I’m 40 / Man, I’m tryna make it now.”
Was 2017 a good year for music? How about compared to last year?
Yes, 2017 was a good year music top to bottom. Feel like it had a few great albums (critically and for me personally), but there were so many solid albums that it was impossible to listen to them all. Honestly I would have a hard time comparing it to last year because I have a shitty memory with music and stuff starts to blur together but I’m going to say yes, 2017 was better than 2016 because of the depth.
What was your album of the year? What made it your album of the year?
AOTY for me was DAMN. It was AOTY for me because of how well it spoke on social injustice in a year that was really defined by it. Sound bites from news reporters talking about rap, black culture, drugs, etc and songs like “XXX.” were intertwined really well in an album that has bangers like “DNA.” and slower, almost ballad-like songs like “LOVE.”
Was your favorite song of the year, if you have one, on the album?
“Controlla” SOTY (ed. note: “Controlla” is from 2016, but it’s truly timeless). But actually, very hard to pick one song off DAMN. Depends on my mood, but “DNA.”, “ELEMENT.”, or “LOVE.”
Bonus Q: favorite lyric of the year?
Lyric of the year: “I’m waiting for it / That green light / I want it.”
You son of a bitch
Actual LOTY gotta be, “Out in Portland / Tryna get in her Oregons”.
That’s a keeper. DJ chose a lyric from “Portland”, too.
That song is incredibly quotable.