Nobody is sad to see 2017 go. It was a chaotic year of political anxiety, social change, and warmongering. If there's one bright spot, it's that music seems to be rebuking the call for nationalism.
In fact, music has never been more diverse, and it can thank Miami for that.
This year, Miami not only put its weight behind the growing alternative R&B scene but also helped give the nation its first Spanish-language chart-topper since 1996. Also, the SoundCloud rap trend that exploded this year includes plenty of South Florida talent, ranging from Missy Elliott-sampling beats to Dr. Phil
So though the world seems on the brink of collapse, you can at least look back at 2017 as a great year in music.
1. Luis Fonsi featuring Daddy Yankee, “Despacito.”
Courtesy of Republic Records
The song that shook the world and made every white music journalist pretend to have cared about reggaeton before 2017 was recorded right here in Miami, where Fonsi now resides. Of all the breakout artists of 2017, no one except our moms thought the 39-year-old balladeer would create the banger of the year. Yeah, maybe Justin Bieber’s colonized remix made the song the first Spanish-language production to top the Billboard
Hot 100 since “Macarena.” But it’s not about him. With its sultry guitars, ayyy
s, and suave suavecito
s, “Despacito” made us blush in the car next to our moms and, for the first time, hold a Spanish-language song as cultural capital of our own at dorm parties and award shows alike. It inspired Beyoncé’s involvement in J Balvin’s “Mi Gente,” put Puerto Rican artists on the global stage amid natural disaster, and catalyzed the “Latin revolution” in American popular music. – Stefanie Fernández
2. Ski Mask the Slump God, "Catch Me Outside."
Ski Mask the Slump God
Courtesy of Republic Records
There’s a fair chance none of Ski Mask the Slump God’s mostly teenage fans has ever heard of Missy Elliott, so when he lifted the positively groovy Timbaland-made beat from her song “She’s a Bitch,” nobody called him out for it. And we’re won't do it now, because the Lauderhill rapper absolutely killed the song, making it his own with lightning-fast lines about anime, breakfast cereal, Bow Wow, and Hennessy. You can't argue with a couplet like this: "Naruto nine-tailed fox coat fur/I feel like a Gucci ad-lib — burr!”
— Douglas Markowitz
3. Iggy Pop, “Asshole Blues.”
Photo by Ian Witlen
Punk royalty Iggy Pop has been showing love to the Miami music community for years, popping up regularly at Sweat Records and even inviting Miami’s own Jacuzzi Boys to open up for him on his Post Pop Depression Tour. This past April, he released a flexi disc of his song “Asshole Blues” on the Boys’ Mag Mag label. “I got an asshole on my tail and he won’t let me be
,” Pop sings on the 1930s blues throwback track. “Asshole, when are you gonna die?
” The recording is gritty and nods to the recordings of blues forefathers such as Robert Johnson. It lacks any filter in terms of both production and emotion. At the end of the track, Iggy can be heard griping at the recording equipment. Give this one a listen to exorcise 2017’s negativity. — Celia Almeida
4. Kaixen featuring DVWEZ and Native Youth, “Wasting Time.”
Miami producer Kaixen told New Times
that although his songs are often likened to '80s music, he rarely listens to songs from that decade. Indeed, while the '80s echo in the flourishes of synth-distorted horns that punctuate his song “Wasting Time,” the influence of newer artists who merge R&B sounds with synth beats à la Drake’s “Hold On, We’re Going Home” is more pronounced here. For anyone keeping tabs on the blossoming local R&B scene, the pairing of Native Youth and DVWEZ, easily two of the most promising rising voices to emerge out of the region lately, is a no-brainer that's been far too long in the making. “Wasting Time” is the soundtrack to those gray situations that don't quite make it to relationships. — Celia Almeida
5. Deaf Poets, "Celestine."
Photo by Sylvain von K
Deaf Poets have always had plenty in common with other decibel-damaging duos such as Japandroids, the Kills, and the White Stripes. On “Celestine," the pair captures the gritty and ferocious energy of its live shows and bottles it into a song. Nico Espinosa’s chaotic drumming and crashing cymbals open the track, alerting the listener to what’s to come. An eerie, thumping bass line and Sean Wouters' echoing, psychedelic vocals lend gravitas to an otherwise old-fashioned, kick-ass rock number. Unfortunately, Deaf Poets are headed north this winter to New York like confused snowbirds, but we hope they get lost in Miami again sooner than later. — Angel Melendez
6. Holly Hunt, "Bowling Green."
Photo by Walter Wlodarczyk
Gavin Perry and Beatriz Monteavaro have repeatedly proven themselves to be one of Miami's best sludge-rock bands. Seeing them live is to witness two people onstage create a wall of chaotic noise that sounds like an army of thousands. Though Holly Hunt might not appeal to a wide audience, the band is perhaps the best gateway into the local rock scene that continues to rattle Churchill's crumbling walls. The instrumental "Bowling Green" perfectly shows what the duo does best: machine-gun-like drumming and guitar work that adds an enormous amount of weight to the track. The last 30 seconds of this barely three-minute song is just fuzzy feedback that gives the listener time to absorb it all. — Jose D. Duran
7. DJ Khaled featuring Rihanna and Bryson Tiller, “Wild Thoughts.”
With assistance from a particularly saucy Rihanna and a verse from Bryson Tiller, DJ Khaled took the Latin-flavored guitar rhythms of “Wild Thoughts” global this year by flipping and reversing Carlos Santana’s 1999 hit “Maria Maria.” “Wild Thoughts” was surpassed only by “Despacito” as the unofficial summer song of 2017, but unlike Luis Fonsi's unrelenting hit, “Wild Thoughts” made listeners want to press replay. The trio shot the video in town, with RiRi low-key freeing the nipple in Little Haiti for all of YouTube to see. It’s sweaty, sexy, and — with Rihanna singing about being “white-girl-wasted on brown liquor
” and making an eye-popping Maytag reference — just the right level of ratchet. — Celia Almeida
8. Oscar G, “Steel Love.”
Photo by Christopher Almeida
“Steel Love” is yet another excellent release from Miami’s most prominent practitioner of house music. But it also stands on its own by, well, standing on its own. Befitting of a song titled “Steel Love,” the steel drums permeating the joint lend it a tropical feel without ever committing to a single nationality or musical tradition; in other words, it’s quintessential Miami. In a time when South Florida music has come to be primarily associated with hip-hop and hip-hop-adjacent productions (no matter how wide of a spectrum that might entail), it’s comforting to know that not only are there still artists holding it down for house music, but that the songs remain as fresh as ever. — Zach Schlein
9. Nil Bambu, "Time Travel."
Move over, SoundCloud rappers, because 2017 was the year South Florida's R&B scene flexed its muscle. And this is not your mom's Toni Braxton R&B. Grabbing influences from pop, hip-hop, rock, and electronic, the new wave of R&B really defies classification. Fort Lauderdale's Nil Bambu dropped the EP Diamond Sutra
this year, reinforcing how good the scene has become. The strongest track off the EP, "Time Travel," shows plenty of restraint, giving the song enough room to breath with a Sade-esque delivery. Bambu's singing never goes into overdrive, and that's for the best. Every time she coos, "I wanna ride
," you can't help but melt. — Jose D. Duran
10. Fudakochi, “Melanin Poppin.”
Photo by Alex Markow
James Brown said it loud, “I’m black and I’m proud!
” at a time when black folks in the United States needed to hear that affirmation in the face of racial turmoil and were still reeling from the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. Fudakochi doesn’t have Brown's reach, but he still took it upon himself to write a similarly needed affirmation for today. His song “Melanin Poppin,” off his spaced-out, psychedelic soul album Love Invasion S.P.,
has the ease of a breezy, early-afternoon stroll through the park. “When I walk down the street with my Afro poppin'/I get these looks like, ‘Damn, can I touch your hair?
’ he sings. “They say, ‘Something is different about your skin/It’s like you’ve got some superpower
.” Fuda’s answer to the mystery is simple: His melanin is poppin’ that day. Take Fudakochi’s advice: “When they wanna give you a hard time/Just know your melanin is poppin’ and poppin’ and poppin’
.” — Celia Almeida