There was a point immediately following the November 2016 election where some naively optimistic folks tried to put a positive spin on things: At least the music will be good. Now more than a year later, we can definitely say that the presidency of Donald Trump has inspired as much drivel as it has legitimately great political music. But the best music is often a reflection of the times we live in. Looking at the following 50 songs which make up a wide-ranging snapshot of contemporary life, artists like Kesha, Kendrick Lamar, and Father John Misty thrived when facing adversity or absurdity, putting forward work that feels specifically vital in 2017.
But, of course, there is plenty of great music from 2017 that stands apart from time. Selena Gomez deftly wove one of the most famous decades-old bass lines into one of the best pop songs of the year, while Ryan Adams’ heartbroken anthems feel like they could fit comfortably in most timelines of rock and roll. Regardless of where the songwriting was coming from specifically, maybe the best throughline we can find is that music is often telling the story of endurance and survival. We made it through another year, one that felt tougher than most, and despite all the hate the world was throwing our way, we were still able to find joy in music. The miracle isn’t in the quality of the music, it’s in our ability to still enjoy it.