If the albums of 2017 were people, who would be friends with who?

Art by Jer Dee

By no means is it an exaggeration to say that songs can feel like living, breathing people in our lives. We’ve all had albums that held our hands through darkness, songs we’ve taken to the party to let loose with, verses we’ve tattooed on our arms as a reminder of a feeling.

2017 was a year when we needed music to keep us alive, to be with us on long midnight walks, to soundtrack the feeling when we fell in love (“Cut To The Feeling” pa rin, mga ulol), or to tell us, no, things might not turn out for the best, but we can dance through it still.

This list is an attempt to imagine this year’s best albums as friends. If you’ve ever wondered which records would sit down together for a beer, or find themselves stumbling down the street arm in arm at four in the morning laughing their faces off, then wonder no more.

The brainy sex-positive girl squad

SZA’s “Ctrl”, Kelela’s “Take Me Apart” and St. Vincent’s “MASSEDUCTION”

2017 was a year where we celebrated women taking charge of narratives. We saw it in the awe-inspiring solidarity women showed on social media, but we saw it, too, in the music we listened to. We had female singer-songwriters rewriting the story of female sexuality and agency in ways as complex and diverse as womanhood itself.

It isn’t beyond anyone’s imagination that SZA’s unapologetic ode to female desire would walk side by side with Kelela’s dark, undulating sonic landscapes and St. Vincent’s elaborate emotional unraveling. Think of them as the girl squad that takes no sh*t, whose pronouncements spell doom for petty boys and patriarchal power. On Wednesdays, they wear pink: “Ctrl” in the latest, freshest streetwear, “Take Me Apart” in iridescent bodysuits and “MASSEDUCTION” in patent leather.

The cool intellectual crew

Kendrick Lamar’s “DAMN.” and Björk’s “Utopia”

Imagine how different Philosophy 101 would be with Kendrick Lamar’s “DAMN.” and Björk’s “Utopia” as seatmates. Music is place to postulate both about the world as it is and the world as it ought to be, and Kendrick and Björk write 2017’s great philosophical conversation, like Chomsky and Foucault in 1971 except with more complementary points than contradictory ones.

One ruminates on society today in all its racism and injustice over cutting production, while the other draws up a dreamlike sonic future where love is prime and unabashed optimism defeats every cynical thought. I don’t know about you, but I’d sit in for that graded recitation.

The queer boys in love

Rostam’s “Half-Light” and Tyler, The Creator’s “Flower Boy”

Queer love has spent a long time on the fringes of music. It’s been played out as a gag long before I Kissed A Girl, so it’s refreshing to see such sincere, unabashed odes to boys loving boys this year in Rostam and Tyler, The Creator’s respective albums.

Amidst persecution, LGBTQs have learned to stick together as a community. “Half-Light” and “Flower Boy” are the best friends (possible ex-lovers?) who’ve made a safe space for themselves and other LGBTQs to just talk about queer love and all the trouble and trauma that comes with it. “Half-Light” tells stories of heartache and longing steeped in metaphor and wrapped in sonic wonder. “Flower Boy,” on the other hand, is a little more aggressive, but similarly vibrant and emotionally vulnerable.

The sad stoner kids

The National’s “Sleep Well Beast” and Julien Baker’s “Turn Out The Lights”

For all their gloom, songs that pass over you like a haze of sadness hold an important place in our lives. It’s music that captures what it means to hurt and makes us feel a little less crazy.

“Sleep Well Beast” and “Turn Out The Lights” are the friends you turn to when you need a glass of wine. You’d catch them lying on the floor, having meaningful late-night conversations that lead to more than a few tears. While “Sleep Well Beast” renegotiates a long-term relationship, tallying the hurts to exorcise them, “Turn Out The Lights” holds your hand through a depressive daze, ruminating on happiness, hope, and feelings of helplessness.

The hyperactive, hyper-aware, hyper-sad kids

Lorde’s “Melodrama”, Paramore’s “After Laughter” and MUNA’s “About U”

This year’s been characterized by sadness embracing the cathartic power of pop (or vice versa?). No year-end bash would be complete if you didn’t invite Lorde’s romp through darkness and desire, Paramore’s manic tragic dance party and MUNA’s mournful but optimistic pop songs.

“After Laughter” is the angsty kid dancing at the party, but taking the time in between to call out the overly optimistic rose-colored boys and the fake happy kids. “Melodrama” makes for the dreamy sad girl on the search for perfect places, who dances in slow motion as she replays a broken love story’s highlight reel in her head. “About U” is the cautious optimist, dancing along to their sadness but dreaming of a place we can all go where the sorrow isn’t as heavy anymore. What a mess, but what a party.

Tags:
#friendship #music

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