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The winners and losers of music in 2017

Because there can be no W's without L's

Posted by Kish Lal

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Looking back at the year that was 2017, there are a few things that stand out—the political climate, the unrelenting stream of bad news, and the fairytale stories of success we found solace in. Pop culture and music are often cast aside as guilty pleasures but when times are rough every pleasure grants us necessary respite. It’s hard not to get emotional when thinking about how our lord and savior, Cardi B came to find success in the dregs of an awful year. Seeing a woman from the Bronx, who stripped in order to leave an abusive relationship become the first female rapper with a number one solo single in 19 years is the Cinderella story we all needed.

In 2017 Soundcloud rappers became rockstars, premature retirees became Grammy nominated, and our heroes achieved success in ways we didn’t know they could. The end of the year always makes us wistful for the albums that soundtracked our lives, but 2017 was the year where an artist’s narrative away from the music shaped our capacity for hope.

Of course there is no yin without yang, no W’s without L’s, no number one without a number 53. There were plenty of flops in 2017 from overhyped album releases and bad gimmicks to Twitter spats and interview sound bites that induced painful secondhand embarrassment. Here are the winners and losers from the year that was.

01. Winner: Cardi B

No one had a better year than Cardi B. She was already making waves with her mixtapes but the release of ‘Bodak Yellow’ changed everything. It only takes a cursory glance at Twitter to see it’s impact and weeks after it peaked at number one it spurred an impromptu dance party in the NYC subway. Cardi’s rise from reality TV star to rap royalty isn’t your run of the mill success story. It gives hope to people of colour, to sex workers, to people struggling with abuse, to people who are poor, to people who aren’t well versed in the complexities of the woke Twitterverse. It’s a story laced with humour, sadness, outfits that will make your eyes water, and most importantly reminds everyone that dreams can come true.

02. Loser: Jaden Smith

There are three people I always want the best for: Cardi B, Big Sean, and Jaden Smith. The hype surrounding the impending release of Jaden’s album, SYRE had everyone excited. He had already released ‘ICON, ‘Batman’ and ‘Fallen’ each of which had amazing visuals and sonically, were almost there. Jaden Smith’s charm is in his obnoxious lyrics, his unrelatable wealthy upbringing, and how despite all that he’s still kind of uncool. SYRE was an experimental flop. The first song ‘BLUE’ was split over four separate tracks, making it 14 (exhausting) minutes long. It was the album we all wanted but we’re ready to give it back.

03. Winner: Rihanna

If you had to pick someone who had a better year than Cardi B it’d probably be Rihanna. From Fenty Beauty and PUMA X FENTY to being 2017 Harvard University Humanitarian of the Year and the most streamed female artist (despite not releasing an album) Rihanna made being disgustingly successful, stylish and amazing look like a breeze. Then there was her MET gala look, the Instagram lipstick tutorial, ‘Wild Thoughts’ and every time she snapped at a troll in her comments. There is no year that isn’t Rihanna’s.

04. Loser: Post Malone

Post Malone’s position in hip-hop has been hotly debated since ‘White Iverson’ made waves. Stoney despite being released at the end of 2016 continued to do numbers into 2017. He constantly charted with ‘Congratulations’ and recently with ‘rockstar’ but it was his big mouth that got him in trouble. Making an entire career off black art, only to turn around and say things like, “If you’re looking to think about life, don’t listen to hip-hop,” is unequivocally trash. Not to mention his worrying descent into ‘reverse racism is real’ territory.

05. Winner: Lil Uzi Vert

Uzi made everyone wait almost a year for Luv Is Rage 2 but its release spurred a collaboration in the works with his hero, Marilyn Manson, a video with Nicki Minaj, and even before the album drop there was the cult success of ‘XO Tour Lif3′. If 2017 will be remembered by anything it’ll be the sound of drunk people at house parties smiling while screaming, “all my friends are dead/push me to the edge”.

06. Loser: Young Thug

Where did it all go wrong? Young Thug’s Beautiful Thugger Girls was in industry terms “highly anticipated” but its sales were a miserable reflection of that hype. It was a good album but Thugger can’t seem to find his beat in a scene that praises his genius but doesn’t buy into his product. He’s not someone you enjoy watching flail and the public breakdown of his relationship just piled on top of what already was a bad few months. Jerrika Karlae and Thugger’s very public love story ended in a very public breakup. The one thing you don’t do when you’re dumped is make a scene on Twitter and when Young Thug tweeted at his ex “Bitch u goin die”, he immediately lost my vote.

07. Winner: Migos

Migos ended 2016 with ‘Bad And Boujee’ but that was only a glimpse into the success they’d continue to have months later. Migos trying to fight Joe Budden alone is enough to say they clocked 2017. And when they weren’t busy jumping people they were consistently releasing new features with the good (Calvin Harris), the bad (Liam Payne), and the very weird (Katy Perry). It’s hard to imagine a moment this year where Migos were absent from the top 100, the gossip headlines, or album rumour mill.

08. Loser: Camila Cabello

“Stop trying to make fetch happen” is on a surface level a memorable quote from the movie Mean Girls, but ultimately they are words to live by. Former Fifth Harmony member Camila Cabello is the human embodiment of “fetch”. Her dramatic exit from the girl group earlier this year wasn’t by any means a surprise—there is always the Beyonce that leaves- but surp the surprise was that it was her. Her lack of singing ability and charisma makes her an unmemorable cog in the pop music machine. Each of of her songs has a high profile feature (hello Young Thug on ‘Havana) and yet still plateaus well before hitting number one on the charts. Someone out there with a lot of money believes in Camila Cabello but in the words of Regina George, “it’s not going to happen!”

09. Winner: Tommy Genesis

Former Awful Records member Tommy Genesis is objectively an underground artist but watching her go from Instagram honey to a new magazine spread each week has been mesmerising. She signed to Interscope Records subsidiary Downtown Records, released her most polished track yet with Tommy, and collaborated with M.I.A. for Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week. 2018 could be an even bigger year for Tommy, following in the step of Uzi and making us wait for World Vision 2, the follow up to her 2015 record World Vision.

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