Every year, I compile a long list of my favorite music. For 2017, that list was 41 albums in length, plus an additional 20 songs. I typically divide the albums into five categories: one category for country music, one for rock, one for pop music, one for R&B and one for rap music. I try to limit eight albums to each category, but there’s so much good music out there that my goal of a Top 40 can usually runneth over. From those lists, I selected my absolute favorites and plucked from the various categories until I comprised this final list for DelmarvaLife. Again, I’m not a music critic. I simply know what I like, so here’s my top ten music of 2017.
10. FROM A ROOM: VOLUME 1 by Chris Stapleton – This is only Stapleton’s second album. He’s been a singer-songwriter for over 15 years. Two years ago, he won two Grammys. He was even nominated for Album of the Year. This year, he’s up for three prizes, including Best Country Album. It’s most likely he will win that prize for this record certified gold this past summer.
9. YOUNGER NOW by Miley Cyrus – After moving more toward hip hop music, this record is Cyrus moving back toward her country roots. Her father is a popular country star and she infuses a little of that back into her rhymes. She also gets help from Dolly Parton on a very catchy song called “Rainbowland.”
8. THE CHIEF by Jidenna – This is the debut album for Jidenna. He’s signed to Wondaland Records, the label of Janelle Monae, under Epic Records. His first song was featured in the Oscar-winning film Moonlight (2016) in which Monae co-starred. Jidenna’s father is Nigerian, which influences a lot of his sound.
7. MEANING OF LIFE by Kelly Clarkson – This is the eighth album for the very first winner of American Idol. The album is very reminiscent of her days on the singing competition show. It really just shows off her amazing vocals.
6. HARRY STYLES by Harry Styles – The English singer was in the boy band, One Direction. This is his debut project as a solo artist. The sound is very removed from his boy band style. The sound is instead more classic rock, more acoustic guitar for example.
5. HOT THOUGHTS by Spoon – This is the ninth album by the rock band from Austin, Texas. Rolling Stone magazine says, “Nearly 25 years in, his [Britt Daniel] has made maybe their best record yet…”
4. FAKE SUGAR by Beth Ditto – This is Ditto’s debut. In an interview with CNN International 11 years ago, she described herself as a “fat, feminist lesbian from Arkansas.” The A.V. Club says, “Ditto’s powerhouse voice remains a steely, piercing instrument imbued with Southern sass and dynamic range.”
3. MY LOVE DIVINE DEGREE by Cody Chesnutt – The neo soul singer from Atlanta recorded his debut 15 years ago in his bedroom using a 4-track. It was one of the most lo-fi things ever and absolutely incredible. This time, he has help from Raphael Saadiq. The Wire magazine says, “The sound is crisp without sacrificing any of Chesnutt’s trademark grit.”
2. RAINBOW by Kesha – This is the third album from the 30-year-old pop star from Staten Island. She burst onto the scene in 2009 on Flo Rida’s “Right Round.” She has gone on to sell millions. She draws a lot of influences for this record from Iggy Pop to Dolly Parton with whom she does a duet. It helped that Kesha’s mom is a songwriter who has worked for Parton in the past, but regardless of family connections, this is a powerful album.
1. 4:44 by Jay-Z – The 13th album from the 48-year-old, Brooklyn rapper was certified platinum within a month of its release. It’s ranked #9 by Metacritc of albums on the most Top Ten lists. Jay-Z is nominated for eight Grammys, the most of any person this year. The record is in response to his wife’s album Lemonade, which was up for Album of the Year last year. It’s apologetic. It’s sympathetic. It’s conscious. It’s topical. It’s revealing in a way that he’s never been before. It truly is the best.