The Sights and Sounds of 2017

Best of 2017

Unlike Behind the Setlist’s fearless leader, I love making long lists of rankings. While cutting something down to 10 can be done, and is useful as a best of the best snapshot, it is simply far too constricting for my particular tastes. I find you need a wider lens to capture what the year was actually about and what you’ll remember it for, and to be able to strike a harmonious balance between populist choices and hidden gems.

2017 was a little bit of a difficult year to rank because real life constantly overshadowed pop culture. Between Trump, Nazis and everything going on politically, to the never-ending mass shootings and racial injustices, to several natural disasters, to all the sexual misconduct that’s come out in Hollywood, to even three of my all-time favorite singers dying in the span of a few short months, it felt like we were never far from some unpleasant news alert breaking out. It’s no surprise the industry hasn’t quite figured out how to engage with these larger issues either, so the year also featured plenty of awkwardness amid this indecisive period (coughMattDamoncough).

What entertainment does have, though, is the ability to provide moments of escape and to show the world around us in a new light. It can challenge you, it can make you think, sure, but it can also make you laugh and remember to be grateful just for the simple fact you’re still breathing. And for that, 2017 offered much to be thankful for.


Kendrick Lamar towered over everybody else in music, and arguably entertainment in general, for the majority of 2017. He had his first solo No. 1 single, the most acclaimed album of the year, the best video of the year and one of the best tours of the year. Like watching Jordan in his prime, Lamar is simply on a different playing field than the competition. The rush of hearing DAMN. for the first time went unmatched, plus he’s probably the artist best equipped to comment upon where our country is at right now. He’s reached that Kanye-Beyoncé level where everything he does is an Event with a capital-E. I can’t wait for what comes next.

Aside from Lamar and DAMN., 2017 wasn’t the greatest year for albums. It was a solid year for music and singles, but out of the couple hundred or so albums I listened through, at least a few things annoyed me about every single one. I highly doubt any will go down as classics, but man, some could have been with a little additional tinkering. My favorite singer, Miguel, had my two favorite songs of the year, but I don’t think his album lands on par with Kaleidoscope Dream or Wildheart as a collective. A similar thing for John Mayer, my favorite artist overall, although I’m a bit more critical there. And the list goes on.

Two of the biggest trends in music were the complete proliferation and takeover hip-hop has on the industry now (Migos alone were almost in every other song), and the crossover of Latin music into the mainstream. Hip-hop has been the most exciting and creative genre for a while, so that part is nothing new, but the Soundcloud rap subsection will be interesting to keep an eye on where it goes, since by and large that usually leaves much to be desired. For the latter, I still maintain “Despacito” is a massively overrated song, but am excited to see what it (and “Mi Gente” and Coco) opens up, which can be felt a little already in “Havana.”

The other thing that was cool to see was new female voices emerge. For a while, especially over the summer, there was a historically low number of women in the top of the Billboard 100, and artists like Paramore and Lorde failed to land a hit. But as the year went along, the likes of Cardi B, SZA, Dua Lipa and Camila Cabello began to explode. Needless to say, it’s been a welcome breath of fresh air, unlike Taylor Swift’s latest (ba-dum-tssh). Which, my goodness, had the most nonsensical rollout of any album in immediate memory (though JT might be giving her a run for her money), and was a baffling creative path to go down. But the old Taylor can’t come to the phone right now, so let’s move on.

Favorite Stories I Wrote in 2017

1. The 10 Faces of Kendrick Lamar
2. Linkin Park Celebrates Life and Memorializes Singer Chester Bennington
3. The Search for John Mayer
4. Yellowcard Says Goodbye
5. Seattle Cries Again: Mourning the Loss of Chris Cornell


1. Kendrick Lamar – DAMN.
2. Miguel – War & Leisure
3. Spoon – Hot Thoughts
4. Cold War Kids – LA DIVINE
5. Ryan Adams – Prisoner
6. John Mayer – The Search for Everything
7. Vince Staples – Big Fish Theory
8. Barns Courtney – The Attractions of Youth
9. Foo Fighters – Concrete and Gold
10. Paramore – After Laughter
11. Acceptance – Colliding by Design
12. HAIM – Something to Tell You
13. Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness – Zombies on Broadway
14. Drake – More Life
15. Imagine Dragons – Evolve
16. Bleachers – Gone Now
17. Chris Stapleton – From A Room
18. Dua Lipa – Dua Lipa
19. Manchester Orchestra – A Black Mile to the Surface
20. The War on Drugs – A Deeper Understanding
21. Walk the Moon – What If Nothing
22. Kelsea Ballerini – Unapologetically
23. Story of the Year – Wolves
24. The Classic Crime – How to Be Human
25. Calvin Harris – Funk Wav Bounces Vol. 1
26. MUTEMATH – Play Dead
27. New Found Glory – Makes Me Sick
28. Queens of the Stone Age – Villains
29. Vic Mensa – The Autobiography
30. Jessie Ware – Glasshouse
31. The Maine – Lovely Little Lonely
32. Joey Bada$$ – All-Amerikkkan Bada$$
33. Incubus – 8
34. Ed Sheeran – ÷
35. The National – Sleep Well Beast
36. Royal Blood – How Did We Get So Dark?
37. Sampha – Process
38. Lorde – Melodrama
39. Tyler, The Creator – Flower Boy
40. Depeche Mode – Spirit
41. Khalid – American Teen
42. The Killers – Wonderful Wonderful
43. Linkin Park – One More Light
44. Harry Styles – Harry Styles
45. Nothing But Thieves – Broken Machine
46. PVRIS – All We Know of Heaven, All We Need of Hell
47. P.O.S – Chill, dummy
48. JAY-Z – 4:44
49. SZA – Ctrl
50. Grizzly Bear – Painted Ruins


2. The Aces – I Don’t Like Being Honest
3. Coldplay – Kaleidoscope
4. Bishop Briggs – Bishop Briggs
5. R.LUM.R – Afterimage
6. The Goo Goo Dolls – You Should Be Happy
7. Alice Merton – No Roots
8. Nine Inch Nails – Add Violence
9. Halfnoise – The Velvet Face
10. Blank Books – EP1


1. Miguel – Pineapple Skies / Told You So
2. Kendrick Lamar – DNA. / HUMBLE.
3. Linkin Park – One More Light
4. Calvin Harris – Slide (feat. Frank Ocean & Migos)
5. Carly Rae Jepsen – Cut to the Feeling
6. Bleachers – Don’t Take the Money
7. Spoon – Can I Sit Next to You
8. Ryan Adams – Do You Still Love Me?
9. Foo Fighters – Run
10. Drake – Passionfruit

Music Videos


1. Linkin Park & Friends Celebrate Life in Honor of Chester Bennington (October 27 at Hollywood Bowl)
2. Sturgill Simpson (October 6 at Greek Theatre)
3. Kendrick Lamar: DAMN. Tour (August 9 at Staples Center)
4. John Mayer: The Search for Everything Tour (April 21 at the Forum)
5. Yellowcard: The Final Show (March 25 at House of Blues Anaheim)

Most Anticipated for 2018

1. Arctic Monkeys
2. Kanye West
3. Thrice
4. Vampire Weekend
5. Carly Rae Jepsen


Despite the lowest box office receipts in 15 years, 2017 was one of the strongest years film has seen this decade. Instead of merely one or two films standing tall above the rest, there were a dozen. You could rearrange my top 10 into nearly any combination and I’d be fine with it, which doubles into not having a clear runner I’m rooting for in the Best Picture race for the first time in I don’t know how long. Maybe ever? The year was not without its share of high profile bombs and disappointments, to be sure, but most hit their marks in some way, shape or form.

The two pairs that stood out the most in my mind were The Big Sick and Lady Bird (fresh takes on played-out genres), and War for the Planet of the Apes and Logan, which capped off their beloved character arcs as well as any fan could have hoped. Andy Serkis and Hugh Jackman deserved two of the five slots in another weak Best Actor year (as did Adam Sandler for Meyerowitz Stories), but unfortunately that was not to be. Which means for the second year in a row women dominated in the most memorable onscreen performance department (Lady Bird, Three Billboards, I, Tonya, The Shape of Water, Molly’s Game, The Florida Project, Wonder Woman), even though they continue to not be paid accordingly in the real world.

Meanwhile, two trends I noticed the most were a growing disconnect over critical reactions and filmmakers being too precious with their work. It used to be reserved mostly for DC fanboys defending the “quality” Warner Bros. was throwing up on the screen, but now it’s spilled into the likes of Mother! and The Last Jedi, where people either absolutely loved or hated the end result with equal passion. (For the record, I am in the middle on Mother!, apparently the only one without a strong conviction on either side, while I enjoyed Jedi but was certainly left wanting more.) Three Billboards currently has the mantle now, generating hotly brewed think pieces on its way to Oscar glory.

But one of my main complaints this year is films need to be edited down more. We live in this age where now, especially with streaming, time is treated less as a constraint because you’re free to stretch things out for as long as you want. And almost every Netflix show demonstrates how detrimental that can be to the storytelling. For whatever reason, it spilled into film in 2017, and it seems like directors now are almost scared to make something under two hours (except Christopher Nolan, who went in the opposite direction). But go down the list and many of the films I had issues with, and even some that I still quite liked, would have been helped immeasurably if told more concisely (Blade Runner 2049, Molly’s Game, The Last Jedi, The Florida Project, Call Me by Your Name, Phantom Thread, Mudbound).

Thankfully, I avoided any of the real bad misfires. (No Snowman or Emoji Movie for me. The worst I dared to see was Downsizing, which I can live with.) Okja was probably my biggest disappointment, and the only significant overpraising I didn’t agree with was Mudbound, and to a slightly lesser extent Call Me by Your Name and Phantom Thread. (Personal side note: It is becoming increasingly difficult to fall in love with PTA’s films, no matter how many noms he still gets, which is a whole separate article and makes me sad.) And if you want to get picky, the year didn’t appear to produce any transcendent entry in animation, documentary or foreign film. Still, if that’s the worst you can say about a year’s slate, that isn’t too bad with all things considered.

1. War for the Planet of the Apes
2. Logan
3. The Big Sick
4. Lady Bird
5. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
6. I, Tonya
7. Blade Runner 2049
8. Dunkirk
9. The Shape of Water
10. The Meyerowitz Stories
11. Spider-Man: Homecoming
12. Get Out
13. The Post
14. Good Time
15. Thor: Ragnarok
16. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
17. Molly’s Game
18. Star Wars: The Last Jedi
19. The Killing of a Sacred Deer
20. The Disaster Artist
21. The Florida Project
22. Wonder Woman
23. Baby Driver
24. Coco
25. John Wick: Chapter Two
26. Darkest Hour
27. Kong: Skull Island
28. Logan Lucky
29. Wind River
30. It
31. The Fate of the Furious
32. Win It All
33. Alien: Covenant
34. Split
35. Call Me by Your Name
36. Roman J. Israel, Esq.
37. All the Money in the World
38. Phantom Thread
39. A Ghost Story
40. Brawl in Cell Block 99


These days I spend my time watching as many shows as anything else media consumption related, if not more. And I still didn’t come close to catching all the big guns this year. It’s safe to say we are in the midst of peak Peak TV, which doubles as a positive and negative. But for now it means I have yet to spend a second watching anything from Twin Peaks, HULU, or a large chunk of Netflix and Amazon’s originals. And I never bothered to continue Big Little Lies after being bored by its first episode, even though I’ve been planning to for months since it’s cleaned up on the award’s circuit.

2017 didn’t feature an abundance of masterpiece seasons, with down years from previous stalwarts like Veep, The Americans and Fargo (massively on that one), but there were a few exceptions. The Leftovers and Halt and Catch Fire ended their runs with superb final outings. It’s a small miracle either lasted as long as they did, and to do so with such grace and beauty is a testament as to why both will be remembered for years to come as two of this decade’s finest, no matter how small their original audiences were.

Meanwhile, the television half-hour continues to be the most creative format for storytelling today. The Good Place is off to as fresh a start as any show in recent memory, seemingly resetting itself at will while flawlessly hitting the right notes, while BoJack Horseman, Vice Principals, GLOW, Black-ish, Master of None, Veep, Silicon Valley,You’re the Worst, Baskets, Insecure, Search Party, Nathan for You, The Carmichael Show and Man Seeking Woman (both R.I.P.), It’s Always Sunny, Better Things, Curb Your Enthusiasm, the final season of GirlsPeople of Earth and Crashing (takes a deep breath) all prove just how stacked and diverse this bench is. And that’s not even mentioning Atlanta, which was off but returns for its second season in March.

I wasn’t blown away by many new shows of those I was able to start—I had especially high hopes for Legion and American Gods, yet both were fitfully inconsistent—but The Deuce, the latest from The Wire‘s David Simon, was certainly at the top. GLOW was also one of the most purely enjoyable things I saw all year, and David Fincher’s Mindhunters flashed gripping potential. Lastly, I would be remiss if I did not mention “Finding Frances,” Nathan for You‘s spellbinding two-hour season finale that I am convinced could have competed for Best Documentary at the Oscars. But alas.

1. The Leftovers, season three
2. Halt and Catch Fire, season four
3. The Good Place, seasons one and two
4. Better Call Saul, season three
5. BoJack Horseman, season four
6. The Deuce, season one
7. Vice Principals, season two
8. GLOW, season one
9. Black-ish, seasons three and four
10. Master of None, season two
11. The Americans, season five
12. Veep, season six
13. Silicon Valley, season four
14. You’re the Worst, season four
15. Baskets, season two
16. Insecure, season two
17. Search Party, season two
18. Mindhunters, season one
19. Nathan for You, season four
20. The Carmichael Show, season three
21. It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, season 12
22. Man Seeking Woman, season three
23. Better Things, season two
24. Game of Thrones, season seven
25. Curb Your Enthusiasm, season nine
26. Girls, season six
27. People of Earth, season two
28. Legion, season one
29. American Gods, season one
30. Billions, season two
31. Crashing, season one
32. The Young Pope
33. New Girl, season six
34. Brooklyn Nine-Nine, seasons four and five
35. Preacher, season two