The Year in Music: Whole Lotta Women — Top female artists return with new music in 2017

Capitol Records2017 saw new long-awaited new albums arrive by some of music’s highest-profile female artists.  Yes, there was Taylor Swift, but we also got new albums from others.

Katy Perry
Following the news in May that Katy Perry would be one of the judges of ABC’s American Idol reboot, the pop superstar’s fifth album, Witness — her first in four years — arrived in June.  It was preceded by three singles, only one of which reached the top 10: “Chained to the Rhythm.”  That song, co-written by Sia, was described by Katy as “purposeful pop,” and the lyrics, inspired by the 2016 election, were a rallying cry encouraging people not to be so complacent.  The album, which received mixed reviews, debuted at #1; at that point in the year, it was only the second artist by a woman in 2017 to do so.

The third single, “Swish Swish,” was a direct response to Katy’s feud with Taylor Swift, which she discussed openly with James Corden while doing Carpool Karaoke.   In fact, Katy was extremely open during all her promotion of the album, going so far as to broadcast a four-day live stream of her life — including sleeping, eating and being psychoanalyzed — as an event called Witness World Wide.

Katy hosted the MTV VMAs on August 27, and launched her Witness world tour in September.  She also said she wanted to bury the hatchet with Taylor Swift, and changed the lyrics of “Swish Swish” to reflect that when she sang it live.  So far, there’s been no confirmation as to whether Taylor has accepted her olive branch. 

Shania Twain
Talk about waiting a long time between albums: Shania Twain returned in September of 2017 with NOW, her first new album in 15 years.  The album was preceded in June by the single “Life’s About to Get Good,” inspired by her split with Mutt Lange, her former husband and longtime producer.

Shania said, “I really didn’t think that I would ever make another album without Mutt…I never thought I would sing again.”  But she continued to write songs, and says that everything else she did in the past 15 years — getting remarried, losing and then regaining her voice, writing her autobiography, doing a Las Vegas residency and embarking on a 2015 “farewell” tour — gave her the courage to release music again.

NOW debuted at #1 on the Billboard album chart, and scored the largest sales week for a female artist in nearly two years.   Shania also said a performance she did in April at the Stagecoach festival made her re-think her decision to stop touring.  Her Shania NOW tour will get underway in May of 2018.

After releasing a 2014 album with singer/songwriter Dallas Green under the name You + Me, and then scoring a hit with her song from the movie Alice Through the Looking Glass, “Just Like Fire,” Pink returned in October of 2017 with her first solo album in five years, Beautiful Trauma. It debuted at #1, and had the biggest debut sales week for an album by a woman since Beyonce‘s 2016 album, Lemonade.

The first single, “What About Us,” was inspired by the 2016 election and earned Pink a Grammy nomination.  She performed the song as part of a medley of her greatest hits at the MTV VMAs on August 27.  That same night, she received the Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award and made headlines with her acceptance speech, which was about female empowerment.

On the American Music Awards in November, Pink performed the title track of the album while hanging suspended from the 34th floor of a building in downtown Los Angeles.  She released the single’s video, starring Channing Tatum, a few days later.  Pink will kick off her Beautiful Trauma world tour in March.

Kelly Clarkson
In 2016, Kelly signed a new record deal with Atlantic and said she was working on the album she’d always wanted to make.  In October of 2017, it finally arrived.  Meaning of Life was, as promised, much more soul- and R&B-influenced than Kelly’s previous work.  It received good reviews and debuted at #2 on the Billboard chart. The first single, “Love So Soft,” earned Kelly a Grammy nomination.

Meaning of Life featured fewer songs written by Kelly herself, because looking after four kids didn’t leave her much time for songwriting.  One song, “I Don’t Think About You,” was about her split from her previous record label, where she’d famously tangled with executives over creative control.  Another, “Go High,” was inspired by Michelle Obama‘s “When they go low, we go high” speech at the 2016 Democratic National Convention.

Kelly promoted Meaning of Life by, among other things, serving as a key adviser on The Voice, the show she announced in May she’d be joining in 2018 as as a coach.  Kelly explained that she’d chosen The Voice over American Idol because her husband manages Voice coach Blake Shelton, and she and her kids have spent so much time there over the years that they feel comfortable. Also, she joked that she’d already given American Idol fifteen years of her life.

Also in October, Kelly released her second children’s book, River Rose and the Magical Christmas, which included a new original song, “Christmas Eve.” In November, Kelly duetted with Pink for the first time.  They opened the American Music Awards with a version of “Everybody Hurts” by R.E.M.

Sam Smith
In addition to the release of these long-awaited albums by female artists, an honorable mention goes to Sam Smith, who released The Thrill of It All, his long awaited sophomore album, in November.  It debuted at #1 and produced the top-five hit “Too Good at Goodbyes.” His tour kicks off in March.

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