Kendrick Lamar has the best-reviewed major album of 2017
by Kendrick Lamar
|2016||95 Skeleton Tree
by Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds
|2015||96 To Pimp a Butterfly
by Kendrick Lamar
|2014||95 Black Messiah
by D'Angelo and the Vanguard
One of the most notable features of this year's highest-scoring albums list is its absences. New releases from usually high-scoring outfits like Arcade Fire, Beck, Gorillaz, Sufjan Stevens, and HAIM failed to crack our list. Even generally well-reviewed new releases from Björk, Spoon, Jay-Z, Fleet Foxes, Grizzly Bear, and The War on Drugs didn't wind up in this year's top 40.
But damn if Kendrick Lamar didn't have another good year. For the second time in three years, the rapper has claimed the title of Metacritic's highest-scoring album. In fact, he's the first artist in Metacritic's 17-year history to repeat as #1.
Of the 594 new studio albums released in 2017 that have received at least seven reviews from professional critics, 154—or just under 26%—received universal acclaim (with a Metascore of 81 or greater). That's higher than 2016's 23% figure, and marks the third straight year that percentage has increased. Either music is getting a bit better overall, or critics are being more generous in their assessments.
Below is this year's final ranking of the best full-length studio albums (in Metacritic's database) released during 2017, as determined by their Metascores, which represent an average of all reviews by professional critics at the time of each album's original release. Note that live albums, reissues, EPs, compilations, and the like are excluded from this chart, though they are listed separately a bit further down this page.
The 40 best-reviewed albums of 2017 (min. 15 reviews)
95 DAMN. (Aftermath)
It is becoming increasingly clear that Lamar is the best artist working in hip hop—or possibly any genre—today, and he has yet to put out a dud album. The average Metascore for his five releases (including last year's untitled unmastered., which may not technically be a full album) is 89.6; take out his 2011 debut Section.80, and that average jumps up to 92.
"Damn. is an almost flawless hip-hop masterclass that crunches Kendrick's consuming concerns—life and death, pride and guilt, fate and freewill—into the tightest, most explosive package yet."
93 A Crow Looked at Me (P.W. Elverum & Sun)
At the end of 2016, we talked about how many of that year's best albums dealt with mortality as a theme. That is true of 2017's second-best release as well, which finds Phil Elverum grappling with the recent death of his wife on a powerful, emotional, and deeply personal album from his Mount Eerie project.
"They are beautifully and simply arranged, but it is not an entertaining album to listen to in any conventional sense, nor can it be shaken off easily. It is, however, the kind of album that makes all others seem frivolous while you’re hearing it."
—Paste More reviews...
91 Melodrama (Republic)
It turns out that the success of 2013's Pure Heroine, the debut from young New Zealand singer-songwriter Lorde, wasn't a fluke. Her Grammy-nominated, Jack Antonoff-produced follow-up is even better, cementing her place among pop's brightest stars.
"There is a palpable depth of feeling and meaning in her songs, operating on both personal and universal levels, delivered with subtle dynamism and dizzying imagination. She is a breath of fresh air with the power of a hurricane."
—The Telegraph More reviews...
90 The Dusk in Us (Epitaph)
Coming five year's after their stellar 2012 album All We Love We Leave Behind, the ninth LP from the Massachusetts-based metalcore band somehow scored even higher with critics, and it finds Converge continuing to explore their sound without settling for more of the same.
"It's still heavy as fuck, but it's also textural, emotional, diverse and defiant as fuck, too."
—Magnet More reviews...
89 Black Origami (Planet Mu)
Jerrilynn Patton's 2015 debut Dark Energy marked her as one of the "footwork" genre's rising stars. Her follow-up is even stronger, offering what reviewers call a dense, complex, and futuristic take on electronic music.
"It’s dark and brooding, fiercely sparse at times and blindingly dense at others. Footwork is no longer an appropriate descriptor for this music. With Black Origami, Jlin has transcended her roots to build a language all of her own. And simply put, it’s brilliant."
—Dusted More reviews...
89 Big Fish Theory (Def Jam)
The year's #2 hip hop album finds the 24-year-old Long Beach, California native building on the acclaim of his debut Summertime '06 while further developing his sound.
"The full-length follow-up to his 2015 debut, Summertime ’06, surpasses expectations, with incisive lyrics and beats that spurn current trends for a set that sounds unlike anything else in hip-hop right now."
—Entertainment Weekly More reviews...
88 Masseduction (Loma Vista)
Annie Clark is another artist who seems incapable of recording a mediocre album. And she has clearly hit her stride: the average Metascore for her past three releases is over 87. Like Lorde's Melodrama (above), Masseduction features production from Jack Antonoff of Bleachers and Fun.
"It’s a jittering, coruscating sucker punch of an album--and St. Vincent’s first bona fide masterpiece."
—Boston Globe More reviews...
87 Plunge (Mute)
Frontwoman for the now-defunct Swedish electronic music duo The Knife, Karin Dreijer restarted her solo project Fever Ray in October when, without advance warning, she released the musically innovative and lyrically provocative Plunge to great critical acclaim.
"Plunge is riskier than anything she has made before. It is sometimes harsh, often dissonant, frequently audacious."
—Pitchfork More reviews...
87 Arca (XL Recordings)
Perhaps best known as a producer on Björk's recent albums (including the recently released Utopia), Venezuelan artist Alejandro Ghersi has also released three studio albums, of which this self-titled release is his best. Arca sings on the album for the first time, with lyrics in Spanish.
"As always, Ghersi pushes his boundaries on Arca, and the vulnerability he displays makes it some of his most exciting and moving music yet."
—AllMusic More reviews...
87 V (Caroline)
Goth-influenced English indie band The Horrors could have been easily dismissed as mere Chameleons knockoffs when they arrived a decade ago. Instead, they have proven to have unexpected staying power, releasing a series of acclaimed albums and growing their sound, culminating in this year's V, their highest-scoring record to date.
"Overall, V maintains a distinctively elegant gloom, The Horrors continuing to find intoxicating new shades within their gray moods. It’s an album that confirms them as one of the most consistently surprising, most artistically sophisticated, simply greatest rock bands working today."
—A.V. Club More reviews...
|Album/Artist||Score||Stream It||Buy It|
|13||50 Song Memoir|
by Magnetic Fields
|14||A Kind Revolution|
by Paul Weller
by LCD Soundsystem
|16||The Underside of Power|
|17||Relatives in Descent|
|18||Sleep Well Beast|
by The National
|19||I See You|
by The xx
by Moses Sumney
|21||Soul of a Woman|
by Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings
by Laura Marling
by Father John Misty
by Aimee Mann
by Tyler, The Creator
by Laurel Halo
by Perfume Genius
by Robert Plant
|29||Take Me Apart|
|30||Soft Sounds From Another Planet|
by Japanese Breakfast
|31||Need to Feel Your Love|
by Sheer Mag
|32||Turn Out the Lights|
by Julien Baker
by Hurray for the Riff Raff
by Mark Lanegan Band
by The Mountain Goats
|36||Life Will See You Now|
by Jens Lekman
|37||Gang Signs & Prayer|
|38||Ty Segall (2017)|
by Ty Segall
by Randy Newman
|40||Stranger in the Alps|
by Phoebe Bridgers
What about albums with fewer reviews?
Here is a look at the albums that received extremely positive reviews, but not enough of them to qualify for our list above. (In other words, consider them the year's best under-the-radar releases.) Albums on this list received 7-14 critic reviews. (Titles with fewer than 7 reviews are excluded from all year-end charts.)
|Album/Artist||Score||Stream It||Buy It|
|1||Eternity, In Your Arms|
|2||The Order of Time|
by Valerie June
by Brand New
|5|| Thin Black Duke|
by Charly Bliss
|7||Reaching for Indigo|
by Circuit des Yeux
by Power Trip
by Four Tet
More bests and worsts
If you read the fine print under our list of high-scoring albums above, you noticed that reissues, compilations, live sets, and other album types were excluded from our best-reviewed albums charts (which are intended to include only new full-length studio albums). Here are the highest-scoring "disqualified" albums of the year:
|Album/Artist||Score||Stream It||Buy It|
|1||OK Computer: OKNOTOK 1997-2017|
|2||Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band [50th Anniv. Ed.]|
by The Beatles
|3||Purple Rain [Deluxe Expanded Edition]|
by Prince and the Revolution
|4||The Queen Is Dead [Deluxe Edition]|
by The Smiths
|5||Master of Puppets [Remastered & Expanded Edition]|
|6||Automatic for the People [25th Anniversary Deluxe Edition]|
|7||Lovely Creatures: Best of Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, 1984-2014|
by Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds
|8||Singles OST [Deluxe Edition]|
by Various Artists
|9||Les Liaisons Dangereuses 1960|
by Thelonious Monk
|10||Bright Phoebus [Reissue]|
by Lal & Mike Waterson
Now that we've heard from the critics, what about Metacritic users? Here are the 2017 releases receiving the highest average user scores:
|Metascore/Album/Artist||Listen||Buy It||User Score|
|1||88 Masseduction by St. Vincent||8.6|
|2||76 SweetSexySavage by Kehlani||8.5|
|3||100 OK Computer: OKNOTOK 1997-2017 by Radiohead||8.5|
|4||95 DAMN. by Kendrick Lamar||8.5|
|5||91 Melodrama by Lorde||8.5|
|6||84 No Shape by Perfume Genius||8.4|
|7||84 Flower Boy by Tyler, the Creator||8.4|
|8||76 Native Invader by Tori Amos||8.3|
|9||100 Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band
[50th Anniv. Ed.] by The Beatles
|10||86 CTRL by SZA||8.3|
Thousands of albums are released each year, and most of those don't even make their way to reviewers; as a result, the vast majority of the awful albums recorded each year do not show up on Metacritic. However, there are always some major releases this year that fail to impress critics, and we now share with you the 10 disappointing albums receiving the worst reviews in 2017:
|1||Memories: Do Not Open|
by The Chainsmokers
|3||One More Light|
by Linkin Park
by Imagine Dragons
|5||The King & I|
by Faith Evans and the Notorious B.I.G.
by Katy Perry
|8||Prophets of Rage|
by Prophets of Rage
|9||Give More Love|
by Ringo Starr
by Lupe Fiasco
What do you think?
What were your personal favorite and least favorite albums of 2017? Let us know in the comments section below, and don't forget to vote for your favorite albums of the year in our Best of 2017 User Poll. And for more of 2017's best albums, see which titles critics are including on their year-end top 10 lists.