My Guilty Musical Pleasures of 2017
The hit musical Rent asks one of life’s most pressing questions: “how do you measure a year?” For me, my years can be measured by music. Whether it was the playlists I listened to on my metro commute, or the albums my roommate and I played while getting ready for a night out, every year has had a distinctive sound. While from a sociopolitical perspective, most can agree that 2017 was messy, for lack of a better term. In the music world, 2017 rocked.
I personally use Spotify as my music platform, and was pleasantly surprised to see how Spotify condensed my music taste into a neat infographic summarizing my musical year. The company informed each of its users how many different genres and artists they listened to, as well as curating a playlist of their most played songs of the year. For me, it revealed my obsession with two particular albums-- Harry Styles’ self-titled solo album and Lorde’s sophomore album, "Melodrama".
I have followed Harry Styles’ musical career since he was 16 and first appeared on the British X-Factor. I was merely one of millions of pre-pubescent fangirls. Styles’ first album as a solo artist exceeded my expectations, showcasing the raw talent visible even when singing bubble-gum pop marketed towards teenage girls, while at the same time singing about more mature themes. One Direction’s hiatus has largely been attributed to differences in creative visions, as made apparent by the range of distinctive styles and sounds that each of the former members have produced in their individual work. Styles’ album is no different, and couldn’t sound more distinctive from the more widely palatable pop he sang as a member of One Direction.
Styles showcases his musical versatility in his debut album, with songs ranging from rock and roll reminiscent of the Beatles and the Rolling Stones, to sweet ballads. In this album, Styles creates a distinct sound and brand for himself as a solo artist, experimenting more so with the indie/alt/rock genre than his past music. Unlike the more upbeat pop that One Direction specialized in, Styles’ album moves past the familiar themes of teenage love and explores more mature topics, such as heartbreak and trying to rekindle a failed relationship. Compared to the new music produced by each of his former boy band members, Styles’ album is the one that stands out the most.
When Lorde’s second album hit Spotify last June, I listened to it nonstop for, well, the rest of 2017, obsessively, repeatedly. Similarly to Styles, this album to me felt like the one where Lorde truly found her sound and created a unique sense of musical style. Like many pop artists, Lorde’s sophomore album was inspired by a familiar event -- a breakup. For someone going through my own breakup this past fall, Melodrama wasn’t just another album with fun pop hits, but also lyrically cut far deeper. It was Lorde’s ability to turn a deeply personal event into universally familiar lyrics that made me fall in love with the album. Countless of lyrics from Melodrama seemed to apply specifically to me, or my ex. This talent, in part, is why I think Lorde’s sophomore album was such a success, and inspired far too many of my Instagram captions. Lorde effortlessly mixes the sounds of contemporary pop with 80s elements such as synth and reverb in order to make both the music and the message timeless and applicable to all, whether it be your 13 year old sister pining over her crush or your mother reminiscing over her high school boyfriend.
As artists, Harry Styles and Lorde have distinctive styles (excuse the pun) and raw talent that captivates the ears and hearts of millions of adoring fans worldwide, myself included. In 2018, I’m looking forward to making a lot of changes in my life, but listening to music other than those two albums might be one of the bigger challenges.