Written by Sam Murphy.
The best things that happened so far in music this year...
Stormzy's Rise To The Top
Stormzy has had a pretty incredible year so far. He released his debut album Gang Signs & Prayer which topped the charts in the UK and featured one of this year's best songs Big For Your Boots. He's struck up a bromance with Ed Sheeran, paid for kids to go to university, surprised his Mum and Sister with cars and gave career-defining performances at Coachella and Glastonbury. 2017 is his year.
It would've been easy to write Lorde off as a one-hit wonder. Royals could have been a fluke but in 2017 she returned to prove it wasn't. Melodrama, her long awaited second album, has positioned her as one of the most exciting popstars in the world. It's hit the top of the charts here and in the US and become one of the most critically-acclaimed records of this year. She's now a legend in waiting.
Metro Boomin's Assault On The Charts
Metro Boomin was a big producer before this year but he hadn't really made a dent in the charts yet. While here for FOMO Festival, he notched his first number one with Migos' Bad And Boujee and has gone on to have four top 10 hits this year. On top of that, he's produced for Future, Gucci Mane, Drake and Big Sean. He's arguably the biggest producer in the world right now.
Kendrick Lamar's Surprise Return
When you make a classic like To Pimp A Butterfly, you can award yourself a few years off. Instead of doing that, Kendrick Lamar got straight to work on his "urgent" follow-up DAMN. and dropped it with very little fuss in April of this year. It's a more inward-looking album than Butterfly but it's a critical and commercial hit. Humble became his first number one solo single and the album is at the top of basically every best of 2017 list. Kendrick is the best rapper in the world right now. You can't deny that.
The xx's Emotional Return
The xx's return could've been bad. Jamie xx was returning from a very successful few years doing it solo and the mellow music The xx had made in the past didn't really feel right for him anymore. Instead of relying on what they knew, they expanded their horizons on I See You, experimenting with different sounds and samples and even amping up the tempo. The result was their best album to date, an effort that awarded them the status of festival headliners.
Calvin Harris' Transformation From EDM Producer To Funk Master
Calvin Harris entered the year as the biggest EDM producer in the world but shocked everyone when murmurings of a Frank Ocean and Migos collaboration came to light. That collab surfaced as Slide, one of the best songs of the year that signalled his move into funkier and more nuanced music. His album Funk Wav Bounces Vol 1 arrives this Friday and features a huge array of guests from Future to Kehlani. It's widely tipped to be his best release yet.
Charli XCX's Rogue Mixtape
Charli XCX makes music faster than most of us listen to it so earlier this year she got in the studio with PC Music head A.G. Cook and banged out one of the year's best releases Number 1 Angel. The 10 track mixtape saw her fully embrace the PC Music world and deliver her best work to date. Dreamer is a cruising banger, Roll With Me is pure club euphoria and ILY2 is frantic pop gold. She really good change pop forever if she keeps heading in this direction.
Frank Ocean's BlondedRadio
We spent most of last year waiting for Frank Ocean to return and now he finally has, it doesn't seem like he's going anywhere soon. He unexpectedly launched a Beats 1 radio show, delivering a wildly eclectic mix of music with most shows ending in new music. So far he's dropped Chanel, Lens, Biking and RAF. He's also finally returned to the stage with sets that feature most of Blonde performed with exquisite perfection.
LCD Soundsystem's New Music Isn't Shit
LCD Soundsystem's reunion shows last year were triumphant but there was no telling whether their first bits of new music in seven years were going to be as successful. The album still isn't out yet but the two singles call the police and american dream are brilliant. They're euphoric and melancholic at the same time, capturing LCD's usual urgency. The album American Dream arrives in a few months and it's most likely going to be excellent.
SZA Has The Best Debut Of The Year So Far
Earlier this year it felt like SZA's long-awaited debut album CTRL would never arrive. SZA was frustrated over label delays and even threatened to quit music at one point. Thankfully they smoothed it over and she released the brilliant album, setting her up to be one of the biggest names in music. She goes toe-to-toe with Kendrick Lamar and Travis Scott on the record and wins with smart, honest lyrics and a voice that soothes like honey.
Future Dropped Two Albums
Future's output has always been fast and plentiful but no one really expected to get two albums in two weeks, packed full of hits. The rapper dropped Future with little warning and then followed it up with HNDRXX. Both albums hit number one while the former gave him Mask Off, his biggest hit to date.
Kehlani Came Into Her Own
Kehlani's debut album SWEETSEXYSAVAGE arrived this year proving what we already knew, that she's a force in music that shouldn't be messed with. The record is a confident, autobiographical effort that relies on that next-level voice. There are hits, deep cuts and hard-hitters just like every great debut.
Dillon Francis Won Groovin The Moo
Dillon Francis' huge closing sets at Groovin The Moo won over crowds this year as he dropped My Chem's The Black Parade and Daryl Braithwaite's The Horses but his off-stage antics were also just as impressive. We got him to cover his own song Anywhere with squeaky toys and he was definitely the most impressive squeaker.
Chance The Rapper Finally Won Grammys
Chance had been campaigning for months to get independent artists more recognised at the Grammys and he pulled it off with a spectacular night. He won three including Best New Artist off an album that was made available to his fans for free. That's a pretty bloody huge achievement.
Beyoncé Stole The Grammys With Twins In Her Belly
While the Grammys night seemingly belonged to Chance, Beyoncé also made waves, performing Love Drought and Sandcastles pregnant with twins. It was by far the best performance of the night, one that should have sealed the Album Of The Year award. She didn't win it, it went to Adele but even Adele though she should've won it.
Young Thug's Director Made A Video Without Young Thug
When Ryan Staake was pinned to direct a $100,000 video for Young Thug's Wyclef Jean he thought the rapper would be there. But he wasn't. Thug never turned up for long enough to film the video but instead of canning it, Staake made a video about how he never turned up. It's brilliant and easily one of the best vids of the year, no thanks to Thug.
Lady Gaga's Super Bowl Performance
Lady Gaga completed the trifecta this year. She performed at the Grammys, the Super Bowl and Coachella, delivering spectacular performances at each. None were better than her epic Super Bowl performance which saw her fly onto the stage from the top of the stadium and kill it from the ground.
Royal Blood Are Back And Killing It
Royal Blood released their new album How Did We Get So Dark? last week and it's already signalling the return of rock 'n' roll. The duo celebrated a number one record while on stage at Glastonbury and they'll continue the celebrations when they touch down in the country for Splendour In The Grass next month.
Middle Kids Are Proving Themselves To Be Superstars
Middle Kids are having a spectacular year. The Aussie band have been globe-trotting, performing at some of the world's biggest festivals off the back of their stunning self-titled record. It's being pumped along by Never Start, one of the best local singles of the year which solidifies them as anthem-makers. They only made everyone fall in love with them more with their stunning Like A Version of Crowded House's Don't Dream It's Over.
Drake's More Life Didn't Suck
Drake's Views was trash. After a few career-highs, the record performed commercially but was panned critically. He came back strong though this year with a very long "playlist" of songs that showcased some of his best work in years. It was an overhyped project but one that lived up to expectation, delivering hits alongside bars and bangers.
Our High Tea With Dune Rats
This may be more a personal highlight but our year hit a high point when we took Dune Rats to a fancy high tea. The Aussie band who hit number one this year with their second LP managed to turn a very hoity-toity event into something raucous and while we were never quite sure exactly what they were going to do, we enjoyed the ride all the same.
Dua Lipa Transformed Into The Pop Queen She Was Destined To Be
Dua Lipa has gone from strength to strength this year. She's played huge festival stages, been pumped through radio airwaves, covered magazines, delivered stunning videos and finally, released her debut album. Dua Lipa is packed full of big hits and it doesn't even feature her Martin Garrix collab Scared To Be Lonely or her Sean Paul track No Lie. The hits just keep on coming.
The Music World Opening Its Doors To Young Producers
We know we already said Metro Boomin was the producer of the year but we failed to mentioned Asahd Khaled, DJ Khaled's 8 month old son who executive produced his new album Grateful. For someone who can't even speak yet, it's a spectacular achievement.