Kelela | photo courtesy of the artist

Year-End Mania is the Key’s annual survey of the things below the surface that made 2017 incredible. Today, Key contributing writer Lissa Alicia shares her favorite introspective music of the year.

We all love a feel-good tune, but for me there is nothing better than wallowing in self-doubt and pity while listening to someone who totally gets your soul. Maybe this sentiment stems from my angsty early childhood obsessions with Linkin Park and the entire Fueled By Ramen record label circa 2007. Ten years later, I have been able to resonate with a few deep (debatable) tunes that don’t fall under the pop punk / emo banner.

Abra – “Bacardi”

Considering that her alternative moniker is Darkwave Duchess, one can easily imagine deep synths paired with late 90’s esque unchallenged vocals of Abra. The baseline is reminiscent of 90’s freestyle music. While “Bacardi” may not be her most popular song, Abra’s rendition of Jagged Edge’s “Where The Party At” mixed with a bit of Lumidee’s “Never Leave You” gives a completely different context to the formerly jovial songs. When Abra asks “where the party at?” it sounds like she is looking to get into some self destructive behaviors as opposed to the standard Henny on the rocks.

King Krule – “Locomotive”

This autumn, I feel in love with the guttural ginger from across the pond. Maybe it’s because I have never heard another musical artist sing so transparently about depression. “Locomotion,” off of the recent released The OOZ, sound like the drone of the corporate rat race if it was actualized in musical form. Krule groans, at an increasingly louder volume, “And how unjust is this weight. My back was so broken”. Then deep dives back into a more guarded “Tear me apart, pull me open (Look inside) See the corrosion.” The vague lyrics themself are severely emo, but thankfully the music is significantly more sophisticated.

SZA – “Drew Barrymore”

If this is not the most transparent, millennial girl problems that we don’t want to admit to song of 2017 then I don’t know what is. In this song, SZA, who is gorgeous by anyone’s standards, sings about both body and relationship insecurities. Honestly, her entire album, CTRL, is just a look into a 20-something black woman’s diary. The part in the song where I broke down in tears multiple times while listening “I get so lonely, I forget what I’m worth. We get so lonely, we pretend that this works. I’m so ashamed of myself think I need therapy. I’m sorry I’m not more attractive. I’m sorry I’m not more ladylike. I’m sorry I don’t shave my legs at night.” *Note while writing about/playing this song on repeat, I took multiple sing along breaks because it is, in fact, that deep.*

Lil Uzi Vert – “XO Tour Llif3”

Over the past three years, Lil Uzi has shoulder shimmied his way into my heart. The first time I saw Uzi perform live was in 2014 at What Scene’s Foxtail Fest at District 9. I have no recollection of what he was rapping about, since his crowd surfing took center stage. That being said, I can speak on if he was always this moody. But XO Tour Llife though, this might be the most emo song on the list. “Push me to the edge! All my friends are dead!” This song takes the cake for most ubiquitous surface-level sadboy song of the year.

Kalela – “Better”

When it comes to pop and pop-adjacent music, I have a strong affinity for 90’s-sounding love songs, or in this case, breakup songs. Full transparency: I only started listening to Kalela about two weeks ago and I am already obsessed with “Take Me Apart. This album is yet again another example of a woman sharing her vulnerability through art with the world. Better is about a breakup. “The breakup up is occurring for no other reason than the fact that Kalela has checked out of the relationship. “We’re better off as friends, baby, you can’t stay. We both know I’m not there anymore. Tell me, is this how it goes when you let someone know. That it’s all for the best,” sings Kalela. Seriously, can anything dampen your mood than finding out your lover no longer wants to be with you and there is nothing you could have done to fix things?