“Have all the songs been written?
Have all the truths been told?
Has all the gas been siphoned?
Do the banks still carry gold?”
– The Killers, “Have All The Songs Been Written?”
I hear the bellowing voice – it is not kind. Its roar drowns out rivers and oceans and mountains. It cancels out progress and peace. It disarms logic and tact. This voice has tried to distract us from everything meaningful. It can overshadow but it cannot kill what sober minds find most meaningful.
The most intelligent and passionate voices we have in society – science, music, literature, among others – earned a small percentage of our attention this year. Divisiveness and bigotry dominated in an unprecedented way. The platform for the rest of us evaporated.
There were no transcendent or perennially replayable speeches from activists. There were no songs as culturally profound as “We Are the World.” There were no controversial books, movies or TV shows stirring civil unrest to the cusp of revolution. There was no day worth remembering.
It isn’t that they didn’t exist, it’s just that, if they did, we didn’t do a good job of promoting them. The platform can only hold so much and we gave way to the most monstrous of egos.
Ah, some NFL players took a knee, which would fit as a revolutionary statement. But only a few of us remember why they started protesting America’s theme song in the first place.
Hold on one second, Taylor Swift just dropped a new single.
(Flicks off shoulder)
My apologies. Back to events that matter.
As dark as these days may seem, you can sense a united front through refined awareness and discussion as opposed to cover-ups and verbal hand grenades. I have no answers today, just pay attention and fight for what’s right when given the chance. The dialogue matters. The solutions will come.
I don’t know how much you paid attention to music this year – there were more important events happening, it’s understandable. But music is my base and foundation – it’s where I retreat every day. And I can tell you, the fire inside still rages.
Top Tracks of 2017
(Excluding tracks represented in the 2017 album review.)
“Feel It Still” by Portugal. The Man
The boogie-worm anthem of the year also stirs up memories of a revolution. There’s more depth here than I realized.
“White Man’s World” by Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit
A white man who understands his place in the rainbow. Privilege isn’t about apologies, it’s about how we can dissolve those boundaries.
“Blood on Me” by Sampha
Written like scenes from a suspenseful thriller, Sampha tries to wrangle together all the inner struggles we battle from day to day: guilt, shame, anxiety, fear. There’s universal appeal here.
“Appointments” by Julien Baker
I almost found the strength to write about this in my top albums of 2017, but I don’t think I am equipped to handle the subject matter. Mental health is a fickle condition and anyone who thinks they can cure someone in that state is greatly disrespecting the struggle. This song externalizes the difficulty of just faking a smile.
Julien Baker is 22 and already bears a tremendous toll. While she suffers, her music soars. Such an unkind trade-off.
“Nouel” by Laura Marling
I can usually weave all the hot topics from the year into these year-end posts, but goodness, 2017 was loaded. I’m trying. Like, remember all the sexual-misconduct-and-then-some whistleblowing a month ago? Oh, that’s still a thing.
The problem with this entire year seems to boil down to power. Men have too much of it and abuse it in the sickest ways. We need a little more Wonder Woman and a little less Dawn of Justice.
Laura Marling’s Semper Femina album covered the basics of gender inequality before it was trendy. You can read a more in-depth analysis of this song in an earlier post.
“Man’s Not Hot” by Big Shaq
Every year, there’s a song so ridiculous in its genius that I cannot shy away.
“Two plus two is four
Minus one that’s three, quick maths”
Never write another song – you have all the sauce this universe can give.
“Don’t Bother Calling” by Moses Sumney
Aesthetically, this song gleams like a November moon and never strays too far from itself. His voice is the sound of sweet firefly lovemaking. Spellbinding album.
“The Man” by The Killers
After their fourth single, I laid out this sage-like claim: “I think The Killers are back!” Without even listening to any of their new material, my wife replied, “I think you just want them to be back.” Oh ho HO!
How does the humility taste, Dear?
“Colder Heavens” by Blanco White
As I savor the richness of this somber track, I am reminded of the days when a sunset could erase the day that preceded it.
“Drew Barrymore” by SZA
The lengths that one would go to to impress a love interest can lead to unsettling behavior, especially when society is so enamored with flawlessness. In this song, SZA begs for attention through the eyes of a flippant man while apologizing for her imperfections. Too often we let others dictate our value and that forfeiture of control can lead to tragic consequences.
Struggling for self-worth in a relationship is not exclusively a woman’s issue, though we are in the midst of their reckoning. They have the floor.
“Freaking Out” by Juiceboxxx
Welp, I’m about out of room so this last spot is reserved for someone without millions of plays and is still worth an introduction. Unhinged lo-fi hip-hop gets me.
Editor’s Choice: “One More Light” by Linkin Park
You’re still shining in the hearts of millions. May your demons finally be at rest.
Best Tracks of 2017 Playlist:
Was everyone represented? Did I let my biases shine through? I’ll do better next year.