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In 2017, we welcomed back some of our favourite female musicians and looked on proudly as they released new music videos, rocked out on stage and made countless late-night talk show appearances. Returning to the spotlight after enjoying relative privacy, working on new music or struggling with mental and physical issues can be difficult, but these women made it look easy.
The four-year interval between the release of Lorde’s game-changing Pure Heroine and this year’s Melodrama felt endless, but fortunately the wait was more than worth it. Melodrama is everything we loved about Pure Heroine wrapped in a more mature, introspective package—while Lorde’s debut album was something of an ode to teen angst, her sophomore showing, by her own admission, “feels like a young woman.” Developing a distinct musical identity while giving yourself the freedom to experiment is a tight rope to walk, but Lorde unsurprisingly managed to maintain her balance.
Before this year, Shania Twain hadn’t released an album since 2002’s Up! (largely because she was diagnosed with Lyme disease and dysphonia, a disorder that negatively affects the vocal chords, in the early 2000s). But by the time she sat down to start working on 2017’s Now, Twain was armed with fifteen years’ worth of stockpiled emotions, hooks, and ideas. Twain not only wrote and co-produced every single song on Now but also used her comeback to play around with themes and musical styles we didn’t even know she had in her. And when you consider that she also guest-starred on Broad City in September and rode into the Grey Cup on a dog sled in November, you can’t deny that 2017 was the year of Twain.
We make sure to keep Pink on repeat as much as possible, which is why we were shocked to learn that she took a five-year break between 2012’s The Truth About Love and 2017’s Beautiful Trauma. Fortunately, taking time off didn’t make her any less of a badass. To make Beautiful Trauma the best album it could be, Pink worked with music heavyweights Jack Antonoff, Julia Michaels, Max Martin, and Eminem (with whom she co-wrote “Revenge”). The work definitely paid off—you’re crazy if you don’t think “What About Us” is a jam. Plus, don’t forget that heartfelt, motivational speech she made when she accepted the Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award at the 2017 VMAs. Bravo, Pink.
Kehlani’s only put out one studio album so far (this year’s SweetSexySavage), but make no mistake—the R&B singer-songwriter made a comeback in 2017. Before she made it as a solo artist, Kehlani belonged to a four-member music group called PopLyfe. After leaving the group in 2011, she had to couch surf for a couple of years before releasing two critically acclaimed mixtapes in 2014 and 2015 (one of which was nominated for a Grammy). In 2016, she was open about experiencing mental health issues and about overcoming a suicide attempt. But 2017’s SweetSexySavage proves that each and every one of Kehlani’s hardships turned her into a confident, self-assured person who’s able to write tracks like the slow, groovy “Escape” and the bold “CRZY” (as well as one-off singles like the mesmerizing “Honey”).
Pleasure is Feist’s first album since 2011’s Metals, and the Canadian pop-folk artist clearly took the time to pour her heart and soul into her new music. Feist’s albums have always been introspective, and Pleasure is no exception. Fortunately, the album features more than a few songs that are introspective and get stuck in your head for hours on end. In 2017 Feist also published a Pleasure “companion cookbook” and put together a couple of moving musical tributes to two departed Canadian music legends, Leonard Cohen and Gord Downie. So yeah, Feist had a pretty good year.
Clarkson’s never been one to take an extended musical hiatus, but we still consider the release of her 2017 album Meaning of Life something of a comeback. That’s because Meaning of Life is the very first album Clarkson produced without RCA Records, and she clearly feels liberated by the switch. From Ellen to James Corden, Clarkson’s made multiple talk show appearances during which she talks about how happy she is with her new musical direction, and we’re happy too—Meaning of Life is Clarkson at her most passionate, soulful and fun.
If anyone deserves to be on this list, it’s Kesha. In 2014, she sued her former producer, Dr. Luke, for sexual, physical, and emotional abuse. Earlier that year, she was diagnosed with bulimia and spent a few months in rehab to treat the disorder. Three years later, she finally got the opportunity to express the grief and frustration she had been bottling up for years. But instead of releasing an album that oozes anger and bitterness (which Kesha would have had every right to do), she put together Rainbow, an album that’s all about being empowered and maintaining hope in seemingly hopeless situations. By releasing Rainbow, Kesha gave her fans permission to connect with her on a deeply personal level, and for that we are grateful.