As the year comes to a close, we all find ourselves reflecting on the past, whether there were good memories, well-spent times, or simply good music. It has also been an astounding year for women in music, and some artists are, unfortunately, very slept on. From making hits to breaking records, women in music have truly set the bar high. In no particular order, here’s a top five list of female artists that you should remember in 2017, and for years to come.
Kelela Mizanekristos (who goes by Kelela) released her debut album, “Take Me Apart,” this fall but she is not new to the music scene. She has been releasing great music since her 2013 mixtape, “Cut 4 Me,” which is an eclectic mix of electronic beats from various producers blended with her ethereal vocals. 2015’s “Hallucinogen” followed, with the singles “A Message” and “Rewind.” Earlier this year she was featured twice on Gorillaz’ long-awaited album, “Humanz.” First on “Submission” featuring Danny Brown, and again (with uncredited vocals) on “Busted and Blue.” On “Take Me Apart,” she keeps it mellow, but still has elements of heavy electronic influence with synths and glitchy beats. Her lead single, “LMK,” is a danceable, Janet Jackson-esque song, while “Blue Light” and “Onanon” take things slow. Regardless of what route she takes, there’s no denying that she’s something special. Not to mention, she’s been praised by Solange and collaborated with her (she’s featured on “Scales” from Solange’s critically acclaimed “A Seat at the Table”). Need I say more?
Jhené Aiko has woven in and out of the music industry throughout her career, but her sophomore album “Trip,” released in September, makes it evident that she’s here to stay. Older fans may remember her as the “cousin” of boy band B2K’s rapper Lil Fizz, but those days are long gone. She first made her mark in her solo career as an adult with her 2011 mixtape Sailing Soul(s), which featured rap heavy-hitters such as Kendrick Lamar, Drake, and Kanye West. She followed that up with 2013’s “Sail Out” (you may remember “The Worst” and “Bed Peace” featuring Childish Gambino) and her 2014 debut studio album, “Souled Out.” She is also one-half of the group TWENTY88 with rapper (and boyfriend) Big Sean. Their collaborative self-titled album was released in 2016. As for “Trip,” it’s a self-medication album of sorts. Her brother, Miyagi, tragically passed away five years ago.
This artist is undeniably the most mysterious of this lineup. H.E.R.’s name stands for “Having Everything Revealed,” which is ironic since she has been making music anonymously since the start of her career. Speculators suspect that the real artist behind this mysterious muse is child prodigy Gabi Wilson. Her musical style is contemporary R&B, and as Apple Music describes, “downcast post-breakup material that sounds vulnerable and assured at once.” She released her first EP, “H.E.R., Vol. 1,” just last fall, then “H.E.R., Vol. 2” this summer. Her latest project, “H.E.R., Vol. 2: B-Sides” not only featured 6 new tracks, but also put all of her works from previous projects onto one big self-titled album.
Marlanna Evans, better known as Rapsody, is a true force to be reckoned with in the rap game. She’s one of the leading ladies of Jay-Z’s Roc Nation, has many projects under her belt and was recently nominated for two Grammy awards (“Sassy” Best Rap Song, “Laila’s Wisdom” for Best Rap Album). Rapsody’s most recent album, “Laila’s Wisdom,” boasts critically acclaimed features from Kendrick Lamar to Busta Rhymes and Anderson Paak. Her bravado is something serious in songs like “You Should Know” and “OooWee,” and she isn’t one to shy away from commentating on the world (check out “Nobody” and “Power” to catch that essence). Keep an eye out for her, and who knows, she may go from Grammy-nominated to Grammy-winning very soon!
21-year old Sabrina Claudio began her music career in 2016 singing covers and uploading them to Soundcloud. She followed this up with two releases in 2017. First, her March 2017 EP “Confidently Lost,” and then her debut album, “About Time.” Known for her soothing voice and illustrious harmonies, Claudio never loses momentum on the latter project. The title track “Confidently Lost” has become an anthem for solace in solitude and being comfortable being alone. Her single “Belong to You” follows that theme. In an interview with The FADER, Claudio explains the concept saying: “In the song, it seems as if I’m speaking to a partner…but what I wanted to do with the video is make you understand that I’m talking to myself. There are so many mirrors in the video and I wanted to make sure that people understood it was a love song to myself.”
You may know her as the lead singer for the band The Internet, but Sydney Bennett, or just Syd, has been paving her own path as of late. Her debut solo album, “Fin,” released in February, and her grind shows no signs of stopping. Hence the title of her follow-up EP, “Almost Never Home,” which came out in September. Her solo sound is a huge deviation from the Syd that The Internet fans know and love, as it is more influenced by produced beats and synths rather than a live band, but that isn’t all bad, of course! The subject matters of staying true to herself, working hard to achieve her goals, and beautiful women are no stranger to Syd, and she sings about each in a unique way.
She’s come a long way from her “Whip My Hair” days! The artist formerly known as Willow Smith has been making a name for herself lately, and she doesn’t seem to be slowing down. After releasing her second album “The 1st” this past October and currently touring on Jhené Aiko’s “Trip” tour, she seems to be closing out 2017 right. Willow recently performed a few songs from her latest album at AFROPUNK in Atlanta this October (which I got to witness for myself) It’s grunge with heart and flow, which suits Willow just right.