Words by Julian McKenzie, Steph Smalls, Rob Gaudio, and Elliot C. Williams
We didn’t follow the traditional categories laid out by institutions like the Recording Academy for the GRAMMYs, but instead thought of categories like Best Album Art, Song that Makes You Immediately Change the Radio Station, and Who We Want to See Takeover 2018.
We submitted categories and their respective nominees before voting on which hopeful was most deserving. So, in the immortal words of YouTuber and “music critic” BigQuint Indeed, “let’s not waste no more time” and get to our awards for this crazy year called 2017!
Be sure to follow the complete UTIOM Awards playlist on Spotify.
The “DJ You Would Hire” Award
You’re planning for the biggest party of the year and you need a DJ. Who should it be?
Nominees: Calvin Harris; Galantis; ODESZA; Louis the Child; Eric Prydz; Marshmello
Winner: Calvin Harris
Calvin Harris dropped an album for the summer when he released Funk Wav Bounces Vol. 1 in late June. The 10-track album was packed with songs featuring Pharrell, Katy Perry, Schoolboy Q, Travis Scott, and of course the mega-single, “Slide” with Frank Ocean and Migos. For the last 10 years, Harris has delighted our ears with electronically wavy beats that have turned into chart-topping successes in both the United Kingdom and the United States, maintaining his place on the list of “Top 100 DJs” per DJ Mag. We’re in for a fun time if Calvin Harris plays the hits at our party, and maybe gives us a discount?
Hardest Beat Drop
When the beat kicks in, you better hope your speakers can handle it.
Nominees: “That’s What I Like” by Bruno Mars; “Mask Off” by Future; “Magnolia” by Playboi Carti; “DNA.” by Kendrick Lamar; “Live Up to My Name” by Baka Not Nice; “HUMBLE.” by Kendrick Lamar
Winner: “DNA.” by Kendrick Lamar
What’s better than one hard beat drop? Two. “DNA.” has a beat drop at the top and near the end, where the beat switch brings in a banging bass below the Rick James sample. Kendrick made a killing in 2017 with his album DAMN.,and you best believe that “DNA.” was a huge reason why.
Best Solo “Direction”
There’s a theme, or direction, here. See if you spot it.
Nominees: Zayn Malik; Niall Horan; Louis Tomlinson; Liam Payne; Harry Styles
Winner: Harry Styles
All five original members of the popular UK boy band One Direction all wanted to do their own thing for a little bit. Zayn, especially. However, it was Harry’s star which shone brightest. His self-titled debut album was number one in the United States, with singles like “Sign of the Times.” Styles also impressed in the Christopher Nolan-directed “Dunkirk,” which has made over $500 million worldwide.
Old Taylor or New Taylor?
We had to ask an existential question involving the country darling turned pop sensation. Look at what you made us do, Taylor.
Nominees: Old Taylor; New Taylor; All the Taylor; No Taylor At All
Winner: No Taylor at All
We hadn’t heard from these artists in a while and they came back this year in a resounding way.
Nominees: N.E.R.D; Eminem; Jay-Z; LCD Soundsystem; Kesha; Calvin Harris
Winner: (tie) Jay-Z and Kesha
Both artists had been going through some tough times prior to 2017. We all know what happened to Jay-Z in the elevator, while Kesha couldn’t get out of a dirty legal dispute with her former producer Dr. Luke. But this year, they both bounced back in amazing ways. Hov released the transparent 4:44 in June, getting nominated for a ton of Grammys including “Album of the Year,” while Kesha finally broke free from Dr. Luke’s label and drew critical acclaim for her empowering album, Rainbow, featuring the emotional and fantastic track “Praying.” It was hard to pick just one of these artists.
Most Disappointing Artist
2017 was supposed to be a year of promise for these nominees, yet ended up being a year of disappointment.
Nominees: LCD Soundsystem; 21 Savage; Taylor Swift; Father John Misty; Arcade Fire
Winner: (tie) Taylor Swift and Arcade Fire
After “surprising America” and releasing a single out of nowhere, Taylor Swift dropped Reputation to mixed reviews. Our reviews of Taylor’s music even ranged from great to underwhelming. In any case, the album didn’t take over 2017 like it was set out to do. The same could be said for Arcade Fire, who also disappointed with their Everything Now album, featuring material that just pales in comparison to previous albums like The Suburbs and Reflektor. For most, 2017 is a year to forget, and we’re throwing these artists away with it.
Artist We Hope Won’t Be a One-Hit Wonder
These artist made names for themselves in 2017. We’re praying they keep that momentum into 2018 and beyond.
Nominees: Cardi B; SZA; GoldLink; Playboi Carti
You’re no longer allowed to sleep on SZA. That’s an order. The Top Dawg Entertainment artist dropped an album of the year candidate with CTRL, and we had no problem singing “Love Galore” and “Supermodel” at the top of our lungs. The songstress is the most Grammy-nominated female this year with five nods, including Best New Artist, an award she’s certainly deserving of. Here’s to more awards and success for the three-letter artist!
Best Remixed Remake
You heard these songs one way, but this year, they were remade into something completely different.
Nominees: “Slob On My Knob” by Juicy J/“Plain Jane” by ASAP Ferg; “Lets Lurk” by 67/“Mans Not Hot” by Big Shaq; “Maria Maria (ft. The Product G&B)” by Santana/“Wild Thoughts (ft. Rihanna & Bryson Tiller)” by DJ Khaled; “Landslide” by Oh Wonder/“The Way Life Goes” by Lil Uzi Vert; “24K Magic” by Bruno Mars/“LOYALTY (ft. Rihanna)” by Kendrick Lamar
Winner: “Maria Maria (ft. The Product G&B)” by Santana/“Wild Thoughts (ft. Rihanna & Bryson Tiller)” by DJ Khaled
It was pretty fun seeing a whole generation of kids discover “Maria Maria” as a result of it being sampled on “Wild Thoughts” this year. “Maria Maria” was the number one song in April 2000, staying atop the Billboard Hot 100 for 10 weeks, and won the Grammy for Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal, beating out fellow nominees “I Want It That Way” by the Backstreet Boys, “Unpretty” by TLC, “Kiss Me” by Sixpence None the Richer, and the always memorable (read “memeable”) “All Star” by Smash Mouth. So leave it to DJ Khaled to bring the jam back with the smooth help of Rihanna and Bryson Tiller on fire verses, and just like a strong guitar riff, “Maria, Maria” haunted our ears again this year.
The come-up was real for these artists.
Nominees: GoldLink; SZA; Camila Cabello; Joyner Lucas; Khalid
It makes sense that the artist we want to see flourish also had the biggest come-up. She floated beneath the mainstream for quite some time, but she’s finally shining in the spotlight. You should’ve taken her vocals on Rihanna’s “Consideration” in 2016 as a warning salvo. Don’t mess up again.
Song That Makes You Immediately Change the Radio Station
Oh no, here’s that song on the radio again *reaches for aux cord*.
Nominees: “What About Us” by P!nk; “Gucci Gang” by Lil Pump; “Look What You Made Me Do” by Taylor Swift; “Bodak Yellow” by Cardi B; “Passionfruit” by Drake
Winner: “Look What You Made Me Do” — Taylor Swift
This song has nearly a billion views on YouTube at the time of this post being published. It also has over one million dislikes, which is good for 20th all-time among YouTube videos (for what it’s worth, “Despacito” has almost three million dislikes on its YouTube video, the most liked of all-time). It can be said that this song was pushed onto us, appearing in TV promos for college football and Shonda Rhimes’ “TGIT” Thursday-night lineup, but instead of being appealing, it became annoying — and we are over it.
Sometimes your song needs a little juice from a feature, and this feature was the juiciest.
Nominees: Cardi B on G-Eazy’s “No Limit”; J. Cole on Jeezy’s “American Dream”; Kehlani on Khalid’s “Location [Remix]”; Travis Scott on SZA’s “Love Galore”; Frank Ocean on Calvin Harris’s “Slide,” Chance the Rapper on Joey Purp’s “Girls @”; Rihanna on N.E.R.D.’s “Lemon”; Quavo on Drake’s “Portland”
Winner: Rihanna on N.E.R.D’s “Lemon”
There is reason to believe that N.E.R.D. and Rihanna came together on “Lemon” two years ago, and that Diddy was also on it, which would’ve been sick. In any case, we’re more than thankful that Rihanna still graced the song, giving us a rap verse we never knew we needed. What the hell can this Barbadian queen not do?! Here’s to more Rihanna rapping and Pharrell production in 2018.
The Feature No One Asked For in 2017
*looks at song title and feature*…Why?
Nominees: Justin Bieber on Luis Fonsi & Daddy Yankee’s “Despacito”; Michael MacDonald and Kenny Loggins on Thundercat’s “Show You The Way”; 21 Savage on Post Malone’s “Rockstar”; Every feature or song that XXXTentacion has ever made
Winner: 21 Savage on Post Malone’s “Rockstar”
21 Savage can put out some gritty and, well, savage lines that will make you believe he truly has no heart. He doesn’t really drop any such lines here alongside Post Malone, and even if the song was still among the most popular of 2017, it makes Savage’s appearance even more unnecessary.
Favorite Album That Didn’t Come Out in 2017
These albums may have come out December 2016 or earlier, but that didn’t stop us from bumping them all the way into 2017.
Nominees: “Run the Jewels 3” by Run the Jewels; “4 Your Eyez Only” by J. Cole; “Girl Problems” by Chris Lane; “A Seat At The Table” by Solange; “Coloring Book” by Chance the Rapper; “Awaken, My Love” by Childish Gambino
Winner: “Awaken, My Love” by Childish Gambino
Best Song That Doesn’t Make Sense
Even consulting the lyrics on Genius couldn’t help us out.
Nominees: “T-Shirt” by Migos; “XO Tour Llif3” by Lil Uzi Vert; “Ocean Eyes” by Billie Ellish; “Gucci Gang” by Lil Pump; “Out of Body (ft. Kilo Kish, Zebra Katz & Imani Vonshà) by Gorillaz
Winner: “Gucci Gang” by Lil Pump
“Gucci Gang” was insanely popular this year, despite the fact that we probably couldn’t tell you what the song was about. WestJet Airlines, the same airline that Lil Pump references in Gucci Gang, even played it at its Vancouver holiday party much to the chagrin of its vice-president of marketing. @ us if you can actually explain what a gucci gang is. If not we’ll just leave this song in 2017.
Song That’s Most Likely to Turn the Place Into a Karaoke Bar
You hear this song, and it’s a wrap. You’re singing it with all of your friends, and even strangers, at the bar.
Nominees: “Slow Hands” by Niall Horan; “Bad and Boujee (ft. Lil Uzi Vert)” by Migos; “Green Light” by Lorde; “Bodak Yellow” by Cardi B
Winner: (tie) “Bodak Yellow” by Cardi B and “Bad and Boujee (ft. Lil Uzi Vert)” by Migos
It’s fitting that both Migos and Cardi B get to share this honor. We couldn’t decide between either and it’s for the best. Both songs became somewhat anthems and maybe defined some 2017 emotions. Now, about those Cardi B and Offset cheating rumors.
Best Album Art
Presentation is everything, right down to the album art.
Nominees: “Without Warning” by 21 Savage, Offset & Metro Boomin; “Drunk” by Thundercat; “Culture” by Migos; “DAMN.” by Kendrick Lamar; “CTRL” by SZA; “Facepaint” by Happy Abandon; “The Aviary” by Galantis; “A Moment Apart” by ODESZA; “Melodrama” by Lorde; “Super Slimey” by Future & Young Thug; “Flower Boy” by Tyler, the Creator; “The Search for Everything” by John Mayer
Winner: “Melodrama” by Lorde
The art was created by 31-year-old Brooklyn artist Sam McKinniss. Lorde reached out to McKinniss through an email where she expressed how much of a fan she was of his work. Emails turned to meetings and eventually Lorde posed for McKinniss in his friend’s apartment, culminating into this beautiful album cover.
Best Posse Cut (four artists or more)
Three’s a crowd, but four will get you a nomination for this category.
Nominees: “RAF (ft. Quavo, Lil Uzi Vert & Frank Ocean)”by ASAP Rocky; “I’m The One (ft. Justin Bieber, Quavo, Chance the Rapper & Lil Wayne)” by DJ Khaled; “Homemade Dynamite [Remix] (ft. Khalid, Post Malone & SZA) by Lorde; “Motorsport (ft. Cardi B & Nicki Minaj)” by Migos
Winner: “Homemade Dynamite [Remix] (ft. Khalid, Post Malone & SZA) by Lorde
The star-studded remix to “Homemade Dynamite” is better than its original, coincidentally featuring artists who’ve had a massive 2017. The remix has nearly twice as many streams on Spotify as the original, and it’s superior in nearly every way.
Song That Had Us In Our Feels
Press play. *pulls out all the tissues from the tissue box* Press repeat.
Nominees: “Get You (ft. Kali Uchis) by Daniel Caesar; “Boredom” by Tyler, the Creator; “Smile” by Jay-Z; “Honey” by Kehlani; “Pray” by Kesha; “In the Blood” by John Mayer; “Ascension (ft. Vince Staples)” by Gorillaz; “LOVE. (ft. Zacari)” by Kendrick Lamar
Winner: “LOVE. (ft. Zacari) by Kendrick Lamar
One of the more underrated cuts of DAMN. “LOVE.” sees Kendrick pour out his emotions, and it’s hard to not tap into our own when we hear this. And just as the year is about to end, now there’s a video for this song? Winner winner.
Best Indie Pop Album
Which indie pop darling boasted the album of the year for its genre in 2017?
Nominee: “Facepaint” by Happy Abandon; “Stay Awake EP” by Joseph; “Melodrama” by Lorde; “Boxing the Moonlight” by Mister Heavenly
Winner: “Melodrama” by Lorde
Lorde has one Grammy nomination next month, and it just so happens to be for Album of the Year. That’s how good Melodrama is.
Best Frank Ocean Single
Can we be real about something? If Frank Ocean released all of his 2017 singles into an EP, it would be critically acclaimed, right?!
Nominees: “Biking”; “Provider”; “Lens”;“Chanel”
Frank Ocean had us anxiously waiting for years after channelOrange before he eventually dropped two albums in 2016. But he was ridiculously generous in 2017 with a quartet of singles including our winner for this category. The original made waves but “Biking” is arguably better without Jay-Z rapping about bicycles and Tyler’s prose midway through the song. Is it too much to wonder what’s in store for Frank in 2018?
Guilty Pleasure Song of the Year
Sorry, not sorry about bumping these songs all day and all night.
Nominees: “Attention” by Charlie Puth;“Sorry Not Sorry” by Demi Lovato; “Bad Liar” by Selena Gomez; “I’m The One (ft. Justin Bieber; Quavo, Chance the Rapper & Lil Wayne) by DJ Khaled; “Passionfruit” by Drake
Winner: (tie) “Sorry Not Sorry” by Demi Lovato, “Bad Liar” by Selena Gomez, “Passionfruit” by Drake
Each lovable and hateable in their own special ways, Demi Lovato, Selena Gomez, and Drake share this honor and we’ve got no problem admitting that we indulged in each of these songs more than once. A day.
The Future of Jazz/R&B
“To you from failing hands we throw the torch be yours to hold it high”
Nominees: Kamasi Washington; Thundercat; Jaimie Branch; Sampha
Thundercat isn’t a household name, but he’s worked with some of your favorite artists like Kendrick Lamar, Ty Dolla $ign, Erykah Badu, and Childish Gambino — just to name a few. Whether as a vocalist, bassist, or more, his latest solo album, Drunk was one of the finest albums of any genre to be released in 2017. But his expertise is jazz-R&B infused, so it’s natural that we awarded him the torch to lead the way for the genre heading into 2018.
Producer of the Year
If this producer is behind it, it was bound to be a hit this year.
Nominees: Pharrell Williams; Metro Boomin; Calvin Harris; Pi’erre Bourne
Winner: Metro Boomin
Metro Boomin wasn’t even nominated for a Grammy. Unacceptable.
This guy produced five Top 10 singles in the Billboard Hot 100 in 2017 and dropped two solid collaboration albums with Offset/21 Savage, and Big Sean. Give this guy his due, because he’s the best producer in the game. Bar none.
Music Industry Event of the Year
2017 was full of amazing moments in the music industry, here were our favorites.
Nominees: Mans Not Hot Freestyle on BBC Radio; Eminem Freestyles About Donald Trump at 2017 BET Hip-Hop Awards; Remy Ma Winning Best Female Rapper over Nicki Minaj at 2017 BET Awards; Beyoncé Announces Pregnancy With Twins; Kesha Releases “Pray”; Migos vs. Akademiks vs. Joe Budden at the 2017 BET Awards; Adele Winning Grammy for Album of the Year and Shouts Out Beyoncé’s Lemonade; FYRE Festival aka The Fall of Ja Rule
Winner: Migos vs. Akademiks vs. Joe Budden at the 2017 BET Awards
The Complex Media show “Everyday Struggle” featured some of the more entertaining music debates of the year, but it reached its internet notoriety peak at the 2017 BET Awards when the show interviewed Migos. DJ Akademiks became a meme on his own for not understanding Takeoff during a question, in addition to looking pretty nervous as things started to escalate between Joe Budden and the group. Budden was fed up with how the interview went with Migos and took exception, walking off, causing the Migos to rise IN (near) UNISON. The moment became a classic on the internet for 2017, and Migos has since spoofed the show in their latest music video, “Ice Tray.”
Female Artist that Shredded the Hardest
Shout out to the ladies who did the damn thing on the guitar in ‘17.
Nominees: Courtney Barnett; St. Vincent; Lil Simz; Waxahatchee
Winner: St. Vincent
Masseduction, the fifth studio album from St. Vincent (Annie Clark), has received critical acclaim in 2017. Her live shows have a reputation for their multi-sensory appeal and have been called, “sexy, silly and kind of scary.” In addition to being St. Vincent’s first top 10 album in the United States, the album was ranked #1 on the New York Times’s Best Albums of 2017 list, so it’s safe to say 2017 was Annie Clark’s year.
Who We Want to See Take Over 2018
With a new year on the horizon, who do you want to see make it theirs?
Nominees: Pell; Brasstracks; Kanye West; Camila Cabello; Carly Rae Jepsen
Winner: Kanye West
After a tumultuous, yet fun, release of The Life of Pablo in 2016, Yeezy had a quiet 2017, save for a few guest appearances and even appearing a bit plump like his earlier days. Well we’re hoping the old or new Kanye emerges from whatever cave or mountaintop he’s been hiding out on to unleash his next studio album, whether it be solo or with KiD CuDi. Although we never know what to expect when Ye appears, we miss our Yeezy. 2018 is yours to own, Kanye.