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 viral memes.
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.” 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, ayyys, and suave suavecitos, “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." 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.” 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." 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." 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.” “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.” 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
11. Plastic Pinks, “All’s Alright.” It’s Sunday morning and you still can’t shake the stench of last night’s spilled beer. If there’s one thing you can count on at a Plastic Pink’s performance, it’s this: The band will show Miami one hell of a good time. “All’s Alright,” the first track off the garage-rock outfit’s latest EP of the same name, is a high-energy banger that demands you get unapologetically rowdy. Kick off your weekend under the palms with this one and turn it up. — Jessica Gibbs
12. Native Youth featuring J.K. the Reaper, “Understatement.” Gaby Guerrero, better known as Native Youth, went from the smoked-out bedroom vibes of her 2016 EP, Polarized, to a fleshed-out, multi-instrumental alternative-R&B reflection on uncertain relationships on this year’s longer and more complex, Second Chances. The saxophones that introduce “Understatement” are jarring yet smooth and sexy in an anxious, verging-on-minor-key way. Musically, the song is a pastiche of classic '70s R&B slow-jam influences such as Al Green and the alluded Marvin Gaye, but its lyrics about sipping Moscato to “get it started” and taking one’s time are at once seductive and pained. North Carolina rapper J.K. the Reaper’s verse syncopates the seductive R&B formula into the scattered thoughts of earnest millennials in messy love. It’s a love song for anxious hookups that tries hard to know what it’s talking about. — Stefanie Fernández
13. AnastasiaMax, "All Went Black." The brother-and-sister-fronted AnastasiaMax, a four-piece out of Fort Lauderdale, sounds exactly the opposite of what it might lead listeners to believe. The members' influences range from the rock royalty of Jack White to jazz luminaries such as Billie Holiday and Nina Simone. Also on that list are Ray Charles and Royal Blood, who, aside from having names that begin with the letter r, share nothing in common. The bandmates of AnastasiaMax are about as similar. Instead, on their first single, “All Went Black,” a goth-pop stunner, 14-year-old Anastasia Brenner and 18-year-old Maxamillion Brenner blaze their own path. Opening with a bit of haunting piano, Anastasia threatens with a gentle croon before adding to the ethereal hymn and grandiose rock theatrics. “All Went Black” is a dramatic, rousing number that teases moments of My Chemical Romance and Tori Amos. It’s a welcome bit of cold comfort from a Sunshine State rock outfit. — Angel Melendez
14. Brika, “Don’t Want Your Love.” On her first release of 2017, Briana Alexa Martinez, better known as Brika, takes us through an entire evening’s worth of drinks and conflicting thoughts regarding dating and romance in Miami and beyond. “Don’t Want Your Love” is another jazzy, soulful offering from the R&B vocalist. Smooth and loungy in its gentle beats and early John Mayer guitar riffs, the track begins with the line “I’ve been feeling cold,” a comment more about being single than being chilly. Her smoky vocals explore the lusty side of a night out slow-dancing, the tantalizing allure of closeness, yet keeping anyone from getting too close. It’s a drama that’s played out time and again across countless bars, clubs, bedrooms, and cars. — Angel Melendez
15. Tama Gucci, "Lexus." Tama Gucci’s 14-track debut mixtape, Out of Order, makes you feel as good as, if not better than, wrapping yourself in a silk blanket. Each track is dreamier and sexier than the previous. “Lexus,” a sultry R&B ode to cruising around the streets of Miami with your boo, is a standout track showing off Kymani Floyd’s buttery vocals. His smooth opening lyrics, “It’s 100 degrees outside/But it’s still not as hot as you,” tells us one thing: His special someone must be fine as hell. — Jessica Gibbs
16. Jaialai, "Curaçao." What happened to the beloved sport that Miami loved so much in the '80s? Who cares. These Miami up-and-comers are the only Jaialai we care about. “Curaçao,” the opening song on the band’s EP, When I’m on the Run, is a groovy psych-rock track that’s best served with balmy breezes and scenic routes. The band, composed of Jose Vinicio Adames, Oscar Sardinia, Richard Boullon, and Mario Lemus, is a promising act on Miami’s thriving scene. — Jessica Gibbs
17. Markus Schulz presents Dakota featuring Bev Wild, “Running Up That Hill.” Markus Schulz, AKA Dakota, is a proud Heat, Dolphins, Hurricanes, and even Marlins fan and Miami Beach resident. More than a year ago, he asked himself an ambitious question: What in hell is going on in the world, and why are these things happening? His Reiki-inspired reply is revealed in his introspective audio-video show, The Nine Skies. The seventh track in the story is Schulz’s interpretation of Kate Bush’s “Running Up That Hill.” This moment moves the plot to a place where problems are forgotten and pleasure is sought. — Elvis Anderson
18. Elastic Bond, “Honey Bun.” Paul McCartney once sang, “You'd think that people would have had enough of silly love songs/I look around me and I see it isn’t so.” The lyric was a rebuke of his former songwriting partner John Lennon, who once quipped during their years-long feud that McCartney had taken to writing nothing but silly love songs after the Beatles' demise. Silly or not, it was Lennon who once wrote “All You Need Is Love,” and at times when it seems the world is coming apart at the seams, people really just want to hear someone tell them they’re loved. Elastic Bond’s “Honey Bun” is a sweet, no-frills song about the kind of love that makes you want to turn away from your phone screen and lie in bed with that significant other whose affection leaves you at a loss for words. — Celia Almeida
Local rapper MC Jumanji has spent years trying to popularize the U.K.-based hip-hop genre of grime in the States, and “Vibe With You” is the strongest ambassadorial effort yet. Mixing a steady lyrical flow with the catchy braggadocio refrain of "Better say that's my shit
," he creates a jam that will get local hips shaking while staying true to its London influences. Like all the tracks off his new album,Not Done Yet
, "Vibe With You" mixes rap with dancehall to create a sound that has enough familiarity to be catchy and enough of the offbeat to stand out. Extra points for the track finding time to throw in a random pop-culture reference to Omar Epps. —David Rolland
20. Bhad Bhabie, "Hi Bich." “Hi Bich” is an excellent example of the SoundCloud rap revolution that began in South Florida and took the nation by storm this year. It demonstrates how laughably easy it is to get famous off one of these tracks. All you need is a busted, distorted beat; a simple, repeated hook (“Hi bitch, hi bitch”); and a running time of less than two and a half minutes to accommodate the minuscule attention span of today's youths. You also need an absurd personality, fluorescent-colored hair, and expensive yet poor taste in clothing to sing it. In this case, it's Bhad Bhabie, AKA Danielle “Cash Me Ousside” Bregoli, whose only claim to fame is being rude to her mom on Dr. Phil and appropriating black dialects. — Douglas Markowitz
Keep Miami New Times Free... Since we started Miami New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Miami, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Miami with no paywalls.