This has been an eclectic, strong year for albums from both emerging and veteran artists. From boy band superstars confidently launching their solo careers to rockers testing out their pop chops, it’s been a year for flexing ranges and taking chances. To cap off the year, we asked our readers to vote for the 10 best albums of 2017. Here are the ranked results.
In 2016, Tori Amos trekked through the Smoky Mountains to find a way to reconnect with her mother’s family history. Along the way she learned as much about herself as she did the state of the country and its future. Native Invader balances the personal with the political with as much sadness, anger, clarity and hope as one would expect from Amos.
Mark Ronson brings a funky lightness to Queens of the Stone Age’s heavy sound. The band is as electrifying as ever on Villains, a darkly sassy old school rock ‘n’ roll romp that’s not afraid of a little dancefloor fun.
Kesha’s road to Rainbow was long and dimly lit, but she came through on the other side to create the best music of her career thus far. From Dolly Parton and Eagles of Death Metal features to a Ben Folds songwriting credit, the “Praying” singer had some of the industry’s finest on her side to help craft an immersive showcase of not only her sweeping range of influences but her long under-appreciated vocal abilities as well. This is Kesha at her most free, making beautiful, hopeful art out of years of trauma.
Lana Del Rey’s fourth album is her poppiest turn since her debut. On Lust for Life, she solidifies her Sixties camp style but successfully brings a lot of anachronistic nods — to Coachella and a Beatles deep cut, specifically — into the modern era with little fuss and plenty from an all-star team of guests ranging from A$AP Rocky to Stevie Nicks.
After a brief hiatus, the Foo Fighters returned stronger and fresher than ever with Concrete and Gold, a tough, poppy follow-up to the conceptual Sonic Highways. On their latest, Grohl & Co. team up with a surprising collection of collaborators, including Justin Timberlake and Boyz II Men as well as pop superproducer Greg Kurstin (Adele, Sia).
No one has had quite the streak that Kendrick Lamar has, and for the Compton rapper to follow up a complicated, soul-searching, politically charged masterpiece like To Pimp a Butterfly with a more pop-leaning, fun victory lap such as Damn is the perfect showcase of his range and abilities. On this album, Lamar shows that he can perfectly balance being a skilled lyricist and major hitmaker.
Since her teens, Demi Lovato has traversed through her many musical sides: she can be a big, soulful belter as much as easily as she can be a bubblegum dance-pop princess. On Tell Me You Love Me, Lovato is at her most musically adventurous, balancing all those sides into an honest, fun and strong project.
It was a great year to be a One Direction fan, with the constant stream of new solo releases from members of the boy band. Niall Horan, the group’s sweet, folky Irishman, released an exceptional, Eagles-inspired debut album that has him channeling both his acoustic soft side and rougher rock edge.
Sweeping and brooding, Lorde turned a breakup into a magnum opus with the colorful Melodrama. Showing off her growth as a songwriter and singer, this prodigious young artist created a moodscape of sounds and complex feelings to create a masterful piece of music that explores every urge, action, hope and fear that swirls in one’s head when processing a fresh heartbreak.
It’s tough enough to launch a solo career after being in one of your generation’s biggest pop groups, but Harry Styles went the extra step to go against the grain of current pop itself with his debut album. Always the biggest Fleetwood Mac fan, Styles channeled Seventies FM rock and folk for his self-titled LP, working with Jeff Bhasker and creating a moody, rootsy tale of jet-setting romance and heartbreak across raucous rockers like “Kiwi” and soft-spoken strummers like “Ever Since New York.” In the end, Styles created a masterpiece mature beyond his 23 years.