In this week’s Monday Mixtape, Marco Cartolano recommends some of the best songs of 2017. Find this week’s mixtape on Spotify here! Transcript below.
[If We Were Vampires-Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit]
Hello everybody, and welcome to Monday Mixtape. 2017 was a chaotic and unrelenting year, but also a year filled with great music. For the first mixtape of 2018, I decided to recommend some personal favorites from last year that gave me relief whenever it felt like the world was falling apart. You just heard “If We Were Vampires,” by Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit, a beautiful and slightly gothic country ballad about love in the face of our mortality. Isbell realizes that the short time he has on this world gives him a reason to cherish his wife and that immortality would only cheapen that love. Fittingly, Isbell’s wife Amanda Shires provides backing vocals to this touching ode to togetherness.
[Let 'Em Talk-Kesha ft Eagles of Death Metal]
One of the most welcome surprises of 2017 came when Kesha returned to the music scene after years of abuse and contract disputes and managed to release one of the year’s best pop albums. “Let 'Em Talk” exemplifies the new rock and country influences that made her album, Rainbow, a standout. Aided by the garage rock band Eagles of Death Metal, “Let ‘Em Talk” feels loose and energetic. Kesha expresses her new sense of artistic freedom by ignoring the haters and telling everyone to do the same. Kesha’s story became even more important as the year went along and the party that she throws herself on this song could not be more well deserved.
The other big musical reinvention of 2017, Paramore left behind Pop-Punk in favor of 80’s-inspired new wave and synth pop. Their album’s new single, “Hard Times” shows off their bright new direction. Despite the glossy tune, the lyrics to “Hard Times” describe the depression that front women Hayley Williams felt due to disputes within the band. However, the song ends on a hopeful note of Williams coming down from her dark place and moving forward with the band.
[Cut to the Feeling-Carly Rae Jepsen]
Another 80s-inspired track, “Cut to the Feeling” by Carly Rae Jepsen is a synthesizer-driven anthem. Originally written for her last album, “Cut to the Feeling” ended up on a soundtrack for the animated film Leap! While the film has already been forgotten, “Cut to the Feeling” will live on for it’s upbeat production and wonderful chorus. It’s a surge of energy that will make you let go of your inhibitions and lose yourself to your emotions.
CTRL by SZA was one of the hottest debut albums of 2017 and “The Weekend” is a standout track. The R&B track mixes trap-style production with SZA’s sultry singing. Based off a sample from the Justin Timberlake song “Until the End of Time,” the minimalist instrumental creates an atmosphere of quiet longing. SZA complains about having to share her lover with other women and hopes that she can take the place of the woman he spends time with on the weekdays. It’s a great introduction to a rising star in popular music.
[Lemon-N.E.R.D. ft Rihanna]
Super-producer Pharrell Williams’ band N.E.R.D. made their comeback in 2017. “Lemon” is a bouncy electro-rap track filled with lines that are as catchy as the beat. While the instrumental proves that Williams’ stripped-down production still has its primal appeal, the real star of the track is Rihanna. Rihanna spits a confident flow that perfectly matches the beat and has me wondering why she doesn’t rap more often. Their combined effort gave us the most fun dancefloor banger of 2017.
Finally, I need to celebrate the hardest hitting song of 2017. Kendrick Lamar goes on a 3 minute-long rampage on “DNA.” Using one of his most intense flows, Lamar analyzes the contradictions of his heritage. Both a celebration and a critique of that heritage, “DNA” has insights into how Lamar’s upbringing both defines him and informs his lofty ambitions to be the voice for the voiceless. Lamar performs his lyrical gymnastics over a hard beat that switches midway through the song to build up to an explosive climax.
And that’s all for Monday Mixtape. This week’s playlist will be available on Spotify at mondaymixtape. Make sure to subscribe to Monday Mixtape on Apple Podcasts so you get a notification every time we post a new episode. 2017 may have been a stressful year, but I hope everyone was able to find moments of relief in between the crises. Here’s hoping for a better 2018. Until next time, I’m Marco Cartolano.