Jason Toney, currently of CBS Interactive, and previously of AXS/AEG, Disney Interactive, and Bunim-Murray Productions, is all about digital media. He's held site and content production roles and is presently most interested in data-driven strategy work. This is his personal blog. Yeah, he still does that on occasion.

2017 in Music

"Love. Long as we got..."SZA, Love Galore

2016 ended in such a discombobulated fashion that I didn't do my usual annual accounting of the music that mattered. At least not in a blog post. In some private slack channel, Solange's A Seat at the Table was my most important album of the year while DJ Khaled's I Got the Keys was my favorite song. I didn't remark on why things mattered though which is what I'm most interested in when jumping into the way-back machine to remember.

So, let's take an accounting of 2017. A year that I thought might be dominated by protest music wasn't. More than anything I loved music that was both adventurous and sure-footed. Musicians and performers who were confident in their vision while taking risks,  sonic and emotional. Artists who entered this challenging year and decided to be more open and raw and real rather than more closed off from the world. There's a lot of melancholy and ennui in popular music these days, particularly in contemporary hip-hop, but that's not where my ears were drawn. Give me driving rhythm. Make me dance. Lift me up. Swing out, sister. Wake up, brother.

The 2017 Mixtape

The song I listened to the most this year was Big Amount, a 2016 single off of 2 Chainz's 2017 album Pretty Girls Love Trap Music. It still bangs, especially on my GO! playlist which powers my workouts and runs. A close second is the GRAMMY-nominated Crew by Goldlink. Goldlink's music dominated the first half of the year. It's energetic and infectious and is a reminder that the spirit of DC is alive regardless of whoever is spending their nights in the White House.

My Song of the Year though is SZA's Love Galore. The first bars transport me. I sing along. I shoulder bop and shimmy shake. It stays with me long after it ends. It sounds like nothing else I heard this year. And SZA and Travis $cott make their performances feel effortless. In an age when indie, alternative, experimental rhythm & blues is, by far, the standout genre, this is the standard-bearer.

The rest of my faves are on this YouTube Playlist. You can also find them on Spotify though you'll be missing JAY-Z's 4:44 and Family Feud (feat. Beyoncé) in that version because streaming exclusives won't let us be great.

The Albums

Most of the end of the year lists I've seen have had Kendrick Lamar's DAMN. and SZA's Ctrl in their top five or ten and often as one and two, respectively. While I've listened to DAMN. more, Ctrl is ahead of it on my list, but both lose out to Sango's De Mim, Pra Você for the top spot.

Sango explained, "#DMPV allowed me to seek for more history; more understanding; more roots. We are all influenced by one another." 

This statement could've been tattooed on my forehead in 2017. It's been my mission to seek a stronger connection with my fellow humans, to better understand the how and why of the ways we treat each other, to be influenced and be influential.

De Mim, Pra Você is the soundtrack for that work.

The rest of the 2017 albums that mattered to me

  1. Sango - De Mim, Pra Você
  2. SZA - Ctrl
  3. Kendrick Lamar - DAMN.
  4. Jay-Z - 4:44
  5. Aretha Franklin with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra - A Brand New Me
  6. Goldlink - At What Cost?
  7. Jordan Rakei - Wallflower
  8. Demi Lovato - Tell Me You Love Me
  9. Rapsody - Laila’s Wisdom
  10. Ibeyi - Ash
  11. Sampha - Process
  12. Tuxedo - Tuxedo II
  13. Bonobo - Migration
  14. Beck - Colors
  15. Haim - Something to Tell You
  16. Kamasi Washington - Harmony of Difference
  17. The xx - I See You
  18. Migos - Culture
  19. Sylvan Esso - What Now
  20. Leikeli47 - Wash & Set
  21. Halsey - hopeless fountain kingdom
  22. Jonwayne - Rap Album Two
  23. The Foreign Exchange Presents - Hide&Seek
  24. Jessie Ware - Glasshouse
  25. Lorde - Melodrama
  26. J Dilla - Jay Dee’s Ma Dukes Collection
  27. Vulfpeck - The Beautiful Game

Albums from previous years that were new and impactful to me 

  • Aretha Franklin - I Never Loved A Man The Way I Love You
  • NxWorries - Yes Lawd!
  • Aretha Franklin - Young, Gifted, and Black
  • Lion Babe - Begin
  • Lizzo - Coconut Oil
  • Terrace Martin - Velvet Portraits
  • Donna Summer - Bad Girls
  • LaBelle - Nightbirds
  • Sade - Diamond Life
  • X-Ray Spex - Germ-Free Adolescents
  • Andrew Bird - Are You Serious?
  • Baby Queens - Baby Queens

Shout-out to NPR's 150 Greatest Albums Made by Women list for being the single biggest impact on my listening habits this year. It pushed me out of a rut. It reminded me how exceptional Jagged Little Pill and Control were and still are. It gave me an appreciation for Joni and Dolly and Dusty. It connected me with Donna Summer and LaBelle in ways I wasn't before. It presented a shocking revelation: that I had never listened to an Aretha Franklin album before—only her ubiquitous hits—and that I had been missing out, grossly so. 

It sent me down a riot grrl rabbit hole that I hadn't been in for years and left me in awe of the soul songstresses of the fifties and sixties. It made me more aware of the control playlists have on our ears—be they human curated on the radio or algorithmically driven on our favorite streaming service—and that we have to be diligent in seeking out artists and music that fails to break through our collective patterns.

I hope these thoughts and lists send you on some new sonic adventure. If it does, tell me about it, won't you?

Bonus:

Here's what Spotify says about my listening habits

Misterjt319 Spotify Wrapped 2017

And, here's the data Last.fm collected

MisterJT Last.fm 2017 Top Artists
MisterJT Last.FM 2017 Top Albums
MisterJT Last.FM 2017 Top Songs

Thinking about 2018

The Questions: 2017 Work Edition