© 2024 New Hampshire Public Radio

Persons with disabilities who need assistance accessing NHPR's FCC public files, please contact us at publicfile@nhpr.org.
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations
Less than 2 hours remain till we pick the next prize winner of $2,000 in gas or electric vehicle charging. Purchase your tickets now!

2017 Music Wrap


It's almost the end of the year, and even though we're all looking forward to 2018 with new resolutions, a symbolic clean slate, it's also a time to look back and appreciate what we gained during the year past. Then, of course, it's time to party. So if you're looking for suggestions for a New Year's Eve playlist or just trying to catch up on tunes you might have missed, NPR Music writer Stephen Thompson is here to help. He joins me now in the studio, as he does every year at this time, to share his favorite songs of 2017. Hi, Stephen.


SUAREZ: Now, before we get started, I want to mention that you're coming back soon to talk about upcoming music to listen to in 2018 - just putting that out there so our listeners have something to look forward to in case they don't like any of your 2017 picks. Well, that's not going to happen. Let's get to it. What have you got for us?

THOMPSON: (Laughter) I'm a big believer in second chances. Well, the first song I've got here is called "Prom" by a singer who goes by the name of SZA.


SZA: (Singing) Fearing not growing up keeping me up at night. Am I doing enough? Feel like I'm wasting time.

SUAREZ: Why haven't we heard more from SZA before 2017?

THOMPSON: Well, she's been bubbling up for a few years. She had an EP a few years ago. And this, finally, is kind of her long-awaited first full-length record. It's called "Ctrl" - C-T-R-L. And it's all just packed with charisma and personality. You listen to this record and you think this could absolutely be our next pop icon, kind of the way a Beyonce or a Kendrick Lamar - these kind of superstars at the very top.

SUAREZ: So here we go. That's my cue to bring in someone whose album has been getting big airplay all year, that's Kendrick Lamar. His album "DAMN" was a huge success.


KENDRICK LAMAR: (Rapping) Nobody pray for me, even a day for me, way - yeah, yeah. I remember syrup sandwiches and crime allowances. Finessing on them with some counterfeits, but now I'm counting this. Parmesan where my accountant lives. In fact, I'm downing this.

SUAREZ: So what makes this song stand out for you?

THOMPSON: Well, it fits into this record that is so personal and also about big ideas, about humility but also his place in the world.


LAMAR: (Singing) Be humble. Hold up. Sit down. Hold up. Hold up. Be humble. Hold up. Hold up. Sit down.

SUAREZ: Moving on, you've chosen a very different sound for our last song.


KESHA: (Singing) You almost had me fooled, told me that I was nothing without you. Oh, and after everything...

SUAREZ: This is "Praying" by the pop star Kesha. Now, Stephen, this one seems like an appropriate song for the times we find ourselves in right now with the Weinstein et al.'s scandals spiraling out to other industries. And a lot of Kesha's music is kind of personal, confessional, isn't it?

THOMPSON: It's not only personal, it's very relevant to the times that we're in right now, as you said, not only because of the Weinstein stuff but for anybody who needs kind of this anthem of grace and self-belief. Is.


KESHA: (Singing) I hope your soul is changing, changing. I hope you find your peace falling on your knees, praying.

SUAREZ: When Kesha was famously going through her lawsuit against Dr. Luke in 2015, there was worries, rumors, whatever you want to call it, that by speaking out against such a powerful producer, she'd ruin her career, she'd derail. Is this album, especially in this cultural moment, a comeback for her?

THOMPSON: Yeah, I think it absolutely is. And it's also - there's a feeling on the rest of the record of celebration, of her survival not only as an artist but as a person.

SUAREZ: And why don't we make time for one last suggestion, Stephen? You better make it count because we have a little bit more than 24 hours left to listen to all these songs and we can never play a 2017 song again. This is it, all this music sunsets.

THOMPSON: That's right.

SUAREZ: Let's listen to Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit.


JASON ISBELL AND THE 400 UNIT: (Singing) It's not the long-flowing dress that you're in or the light coming off of your skin, the fragile heart you protected for so long or the mercy in your sense of right and wrong.

SUAREZ: Tell me about Jason Isbell, and is this really a song about being vampires?

THOMPSON: No, this particular record, called "The Nashville Sound," is a reflection of this kind of new phase of his life. He quit drinking. He got married. He's had a kid. And you have these really powerful songs of gratitude and kind of eyes freshly opened to the world around him. I find this record very warm and profound and just beautiful.

SUAREZ: That's NPR Music's Stephen Thompson. Thanks for sharing your 2017 picks.

THOMPSON: Thank you.


SUAREZ: And for Saturday, that's ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Ray Suarez in for Michel Martin. We'll be back tomorrow. Thanks for listening and have a great night. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Stephen Thompson is a writer, editor and reviewer for NPR Music, where he speaks into any microphone that will have him and appears as a frequent panelist on All Songs Considered. Since 2010, Thompson has been a fixture on the NPR roundtable podcast Pop Culture Happy Hour, which he created and developed with NPR correspondent Linda Holmes. In 2008, he and Bob Boilen created the NPR Music video series Tiny Desk Concerts, in which musicians perform at Boilen's desk. (To be more specific, Thompson had the idea, which took seconds, while Boilen created the series, which took years. Thompson will insist upon equal billing until the day he dies.)

You make NHPR possible.

NHPR is nonprofit and independent. We rely on readers like you to support the local, national, and international coverage on this website. Your support makes this news available to everyone.

Give today. A monthly donation of $5 makes a real difference.