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Best of 2017

The 20 Best Albums of 2017

From career-defining records from Jay-Z and Kendrick to daring debuts from Dua, Harry and SZA, these are the albums that defined 2017

20 / 20

Kehlani - 'SweetSexySavage'

While Kehlani self-released two mixtapes in the year’s leading up to 2017’s SweetSexySavage, the album was her first major label release. Proceeded by numerous singles and promotional songs, including the bops “Crzy,” “Distraction,” and a personal favorite “Advice,” the album definitely gave fans a lot to dive into with its 19 tracks. While the LP is a progressive step up in production, Kehlani’s signature songwriting and kicked-back vocal tone are still intact. And thank God Kehlani’s already releasing new songs for a future project because we’re hungry for more. Mark Sundstrom

19 / 20

Vince Staples - 'Big Fish Theory'

Brand-name artists like Kendrick LamarChance the Rapper and Migos may spend their time promoting exciting new hip-hop to the masses, but Vince Staples is too busy pushing the entire genre to places nobody could have ever expected it would go to worry about the charts or radio play. He has long been a visionary in a style of music that has only recently been let off the leash, and Big Fish Theory proves that he is the single most forward-thinking man in the industry. Vince doesn’t seem concerned about crafting big hit singles, but rather with perfecting the art of the hip-hop album that’s years ahead of what his contemporaries are laying down. Hugh McIntyre

18 / 20

Dua Lipa - 'Dua Lipa'

It was a long wait for DL1, but, boy, it was worth the wait. The buzzy British singer-songwriter continuously wowed us with alt-pop smashes like "Be the One" and "Blow Your Mind (Mwah)" and Dua's full-length debut proved her depth as a star that could handle everything from tender R&B (like on album opener "Genesis") to soulful duets (the stunning Miguel duet "Lost in Your Light") and sassy saxo-pop on "New Rules." The latter track is still rising as her breakout single, finally leading the world waking up on a promising talent that's only just begun her takeover. Jeff Benjamin

17 / 20

Drake - 'More Life'

I was this close to denouncing myself as a fan of Drake due to projects like If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late and Views, as he didn’t seem to push his limits musically. But More Life immediately shut me up because it is pure fire from start to finish. The album is the perfect amalgamation of all the facets that Drizzy fans have come to enjoy over the years: the emotional sadboy, the wannabe yardie, the sneak diss master and the introspective rapper. Immediate standouts are the braggadocio “Gyalchester,” “Passionfruit” (which will drift you away to paradise) and the crew-loving “Portland.” More Life is so incredible to the point where you almost forget how reductive Views was, and it proves that Drake will continue to have a firm grasp on the music industry’s strings for years to come. Bianca Gracie

16 / 20

Kelela - 'Take Me Apart'

Kelela—pronounced Kuh-luh-lah, which you should know that by now—delivered 14 tracks of her most personal work to date. Take Me Apart is a testament to the singer’s growth not only as an artist, but as a human as she dives deep into her emotions. The debut album showcases everything from a melodic transition of a break up and finding new love, along with the crave for affection and dealing with insecurities. Kelela elegantly expresses frustration through bouncy singles “LMK,” “Frontline,” and “Blue Light” and, as we bounce with her, we all relate to the lyrics all too well. Amissa Pitter

15 / 20

Joey Bada$$ - 'All-Amerikkkan Bada$$'

Joey Bada$$ is only two albums into his career, but he is already building a legacy that will crown him as one of the more boundary-pushing and political rappers of this generation. All-Amerikkkan Badass is powerful, intense and reflects all of the emotions the Brooklyn native has been going through in our nation's tumultuous climate. While there are nostalgic notes of early '90s hip-hop (record scratches, live-sounding drum sets, rugged vocal flows), Joey keeps it all sounding fresh. Meanwhile, songs like "Devastated" are catchy singles that are perfect for radio and concerts, but esnure the message behind the rapper's movement isn't lost. Bianca Gracie

14 / 20

Thundercat - 'Drunk'

I admit it: I jumped on the Thundercat wagon a bit late in the game. I had heard his name in music conversations and heard tracks here and there, but when I saw he was able to land blue-eyed soul titans Michael McDonald and Kenny Loggins for a song together—in the 2010s?!?—I had to hear it. “Show You the Way,” the aforementioned jam, sold me immediately. When Drunk dropped in February of this year, I immediately dove into Thundercat’s collection of lush, retro-meets-futuristic production. The songs on Drunk transport you to not just another time, but another galaxy. Standouts include “Walk on By” with Kendrick Lamar, plus “Friend Zone,” which includes the lyrics “Because I'd rather play Mortal Combat anyway / I'm all about my Johnny Cage / If you're not bringing tacos / I suggest you start to walk away.” Truly an anthem. Mark Sundstrom

13 / 20

Harry Styles - 'Harry Styles'

All the One Direction boys have blossomed into successful solo artists, but arguably none did it as elegantly and effortlessly as Harry Styles. The world was reintroduced to the star via his British-rock epic "Sign of the Times," that was as unexpected as it was moving. But Harry proved to still have his pop sensibilities intact on the harmony-heavy "Ever Since New York" and the feel-good, sexy single "Kiwi," all showcasing his artistic growth and promise as a next-generation rock star. Jeff Benjamin

12 / 20

IU - 'Palette'

Unfairly, many K-pop artists have gotten a bad reputation for making albums that are fluffy and surface-level, but IU's stunning Palette album makes a major case for the power of personal K-pop. From the autobiographical title track to standout cuts like "Jam Jam" and "Ending Scene" that seem to speak to IU's experiences in life and love as a celebrity, it all feels wholly personal and a rare glimpse into the rarely explored mind of a K-pop star. Jeff Benjamin

11 / 20

Lil Uzi Vert - 'Luv Is Rage 2'

After the success of his breakout mixtape Luv Is RageUzi delivered the highly anticipated sequel as his debut album. Luv Is Rage 2 magnifies the Philly native’s rap-rock star persona with a variety of brash cadences involving heartache, drugs, and success. Sonically, this is Uzi’s most ambitious project as he experiments with countless sounds to prove his extensive range as an artist. With only two features, Uzi makes it evident that he’s capable of carrying his own weight into the next phase of his budding career.Max Barlow

10 / 20

Jessie Ware - 'Glasshouse'

After Jessie Ware dropped her 2014 sophomore album Tough Love, she decidedly stepped back from the spotlight to enjoy married life and focus on starting a family. After giving birth in 2016, Ware was ready to write and record, returning this past July with the soulful “Midnight” single, followed by slow-bop “Selfish Love,” and finally her latest hit “Alone.” The wait for third album Glasshouse might have felt like forever, but it was worth it. Ware’s voice sounds somehow even more gorgeous than ever, while the songwriting and melodies of every track shine stronger than before. Each track flows seamlessly into the next, even if you listen on shuffle. Glasshouse is a vibe. A mood. And a great album.Mark Sundstrom

9 / 20

Lorde - 'Melodrama'

Cathartic. Intimate. Unpredictable. Lorde’s long-awaited sophomore album is everything I’d expected it to be...and then some. While devastation and regret are at the core of Melodrama, there is an undeniable element of celebratory healing: Crippling loneliness makes way for acceptance and an all-out dash onto the dancefloor, where Lorde boldly displays her heartbreak against unexpected electro-pop beats. While the 21-year-old certainly experimented with her production, she managed to maintain the raw intimacy that captivated fans on her debut, Pure Heroine. Sure, it took four years for Ella to drop this bad boy, but the magic of tracks like “Perfect Places” and “Supercut” made the excruciating wait well worth it. Tina Xu

8 / 20

Shakira - 'El Dorado'

In what feels like a true return to form for the Latin-music icon, Shakira uses El Dorado not only to shine as the solo superstar we know her to be, but also showcase the exciting breadth of different Latin artists after a huge year for Spanish-language music. Shaki explores the different sides of love on lead single "Me Enamoré," the swaying "Coconut Tree" and final ballad "Toneladas." She also features songs with Nicky Jam, Maluma and Prince Royce, all of whom feel like fellow groundbreakers in helping Shakira push Latin music forward to exciting new places, as the world's favorite hipshaker does with this wide-ranging LP. Jeff Benjamin

7 / 20

Khalid – 'American Teen'

R&B/pop newcomer Khalid surprised many when his debut album American Teen was a commercial success upon its release, but that turned out to only be the beginning for the teenager. Unlike other new records from industry stars, American Teen never disappeared from the charts and ended up producing some seriously popular singles via slow-burning hits “Location” and “Young Dumb and Broke.” Meanwhile, the full-length they’re featured on, stands out for being impossible to label as only pop or R&B as it blends to two so perfectly, proving Khalid has something entirely new on his hands. Hugh McIntyre

6 / 20

Tyler, The Creator - 'Flower Boy'

The beloved Bastard, Goblin, Wolf and Cherry Bomb are the four offsprings that molded Tyler, the Creator into the artist he is today to create his first GRAMMY-nominated album. Flower Boy is the music that Tyler has always wanted to make, but wasn’t ready to show the world until he perfected his sound. His transparent lyricism and neo-soul productions convey him as an artist with maximum confidence. The themes of exile, intimacy and nostalgia remind us that Tyler is still the young kid at heart we all gravitated to on 2011's "Yonkers." Since then, Tyler has steadily blossomed into an expert songwriter and producer who continues to prove his longevity with Flower Boy marking Tyler’s most glued-together project to date. Max Barlow

5 / 20

St. Vincent – 'Masseduction'

Always the weirdest, coolest person in the room, St. Vincent expands her reach on her latest album and winds up appealing to a whole new audience in the process. Between songs like “New York,” “Los Ageless” and the cleverly-named title track (a combination of mass and seduction), the alternative pop-rocker was clearly looking to craft the kind of music more people could enjoy, and she succeeded brilliantly. Masseduction is certainly still odd, but it’s so easy to fall in love with the innate strangeness and unlikely hooks featured throughout the 13 tracks. Hugh McIntyre

4 / 20

SZA - 'Ctrl'

Ctrl is the album we’ve been waiting for since SZA's 2014 Z EP release. The five-time GRAMMY-nominated singer perfectly blends neo-soul, R&B and alternative rock while singing lyrics that resonate with us on another level. SZA confidently tackles her vulnerability on songs “Garden (Say It Like Dat),” “20 Something” and “Normal Girl,” providing tracks that can make any 20-something-year-old reflect along with her. Amissa Pitter

3 / 20

Jay-Z - '4:44'

It took us a few decades to get to this point, but Jay-Z finally presented us with a truly personal album. 4:44 reads like a diary of the past few years of the rapper’s life, revealing that he and Beyoncé were meant to release a joint album, but she ended up recording Lemonade. And naturally, 4:44 was his apologetic side to the story. The record is brief with only 10 songs, but Jay-Z deeply taps into his inner demons in a way that’s touching but also alarming at times. From confessing about his adulterous ways that almost broke up his marriage to the financial legacy he wants to leave his children, 4:44 is another testament as to why Jay-Z is considered the greatest rapper of all time. Bianca Gracie

2 / 20

Sampha - 'Process'

Sometimes when artists become the most sought-after name in the underground, egos inflate and they lose their way. That didn't happen with Sampha on his first solo full-length album, but instead he created the best collection of songs of his already-impressive career. Process further establishes Sampha as a once-in-a-lifetime talent, one whose ability to pull off risky sonic experiments is unparalleled. Among its many treasures, the album contains the track "(No One Knows Me) Like the Piano,” which might be the most beautifully written song of 2017. Hugh McIntyre

1 / 20

Kendrick Lamar - 'DAMN.'

DAMN. is the perfect title for Kendrick Lamar’s fourth album, as almost every song hits you with such intensity that you have no choice but to react. Four albums deep into his career, he doesn’t need to prove himself to anyone, but this record will tear apart any hesitations you may have had about K-Dot’s supremacy. The rapper interweaves Fox News anchor Geraldo Rivera’s ignorant commentary on “Blood” and “DNA,” adds an unexpected “24K Magic” sample on “Loyalty” featuring Rihanna, enlists legendary Bronx DJ Kid Capri to host the album and on the final track explains the connection between Lamar’s father and his label boss Top Dawg, the moments on this album are unforgettable. K. Dot also continue to bare his soul in such an honest way about uncomfortable-but-pressing topics like murders of black men, racism in America and the complications of love. There’s no question that Kendrick Lamar is one of the most important artists—not just rapper—of our time. And DAMN. brilliantly drives that notion home. Bianca Gracie

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Photo of the day

HOLLYWOOD, CA - APRIL 30: NSYNC is honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame on April 30, 2018 in Hollywood, Californ

Apr 30: *NSYNC 4EVER

It’s been a while since the guys of *NSYNC reunited. Since their epic onstage reunion at the 2013 MTV VMAs and JC’s 40th birthday, the guys have been doing their own thing, until today! Justin, JC, Joey, Lance and Chris got together to celebrate their new star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and as if the day couldn’t get any better, JC reminds us that tomorrow it’s gonna be MAY.