2017 is going to be a year that I really remember. I did a lot of things for the first time. As an artist, it was my reset button for my musical career. Everything in the past happened for a reason, and I learned a lot from it, but this year was the year to re-establish my artistry and create a new foundation for it.
It all started with [my co-starring role in] Power Rangers. I learned so much from filming the movie that it re-inspired me on an artistic level, and it’s really what made me go into Spanish music. I figured, “What the hell? I’m trying something completely new in the acting world, my first feature film.” So it gave me the balls to try something new in my music.
Although I’m very proud to be Latina and I’m proud of where I come from, [singing in Spanish] was always one of my biggest fears. It might be because I watched the movie Selena too many times -- when her dad says, “You’re either too Mexican for the Americans or too American for the Mexicans. You can’t be in the middle.” That part stuck with me, because I’ve lived my whole life in the middle. When people say, “I’m going to cross over,” I realized, “No, I am the crossover. I’m one foot on one side, and one foot on the other.” It’s scary to walk that bridge, because you never know if you’re going to be accepted into the community as an artist the way you would hope.
When I recorded my first song in Spanish, “Sola,” it felt so right, and I realized that I found myself in my Spanish music. People were like, “Finally! This sound makes sense to who you are!” It felt like everything fell into place. As much as it felt right, it was very challenging, and it pushed me to want to be better.
[My single] “Mayores” was also a coming-of-age moment. I think it was the moment when everyone was like, “Oh, wow, she can be sexy.” The topic of the song felt very empowering. I feel so proud. This year is the revival for me of my life as an artist -- a new life. -- As told to Tatiana Cirisano
Charlie Puth Reflects On His 2017
[This year] was life-changing. I gained all the popularity I needed from the first album, [2016’s Nine Track Mind], but the music wasn't representing me 100 percent. I have a weird obsession with wanting people to know things about me. This new music mirrors my life more than the previous records -- these new songs are a more transparent look into my lifestyle.
I had never had my heart broken until a year ago. I knew what it was like to lose my best friend before having a girl fuck me over. At 25, I felt feelings I was supposed to feel at 14. It was such a dramatic change in my life, I thought, “Why not have a dramatic sonic change [too]?”
The most amazing thing is the amount of people that know me for my music now. I was touring with Shawn Mendes, and I would come out to a room of almost 25,000 people every night that would sing along with [my songs]. It makes me very happy that the music has such long legs -- I feel like I’m doing something right.
I just got a new house in Los Angeles too, and it’s not what you would expect a 26-year-old who has a bit of money to get in L.A. -- it reminds me of my grandma’s house. My whole family lives out in California now; I surround myself with family to keep me grounded -- I’m never going to be alone, to quote my own song.
It is very easy in this industry to become [cocky] with all these yes men and women around you all the time telling you how great you are, but I always remind myself that I’m not always going to nail it, there are going to be times where I’m going to have a song that’s not going to do as well as another song, and that’s totally fine -- that’s what is supposed to happen.
My mind-set going into next year is to continue meeting and being inspired by people. What kind of record is going to play in the background for someone who’s saying goodbye to someone they will see again in another life? What is the record going to be for somebody who gets their heart lacerated? Everybody’s life is a movie for me, and I’m just writing the soundtrack. -- As told to Taylor Weatherby?
Ty Dolla $ign Reflects On His 2017
This year [I grew] lyrically, I grew my fan base; I came up with the name “Team Dolla.” I just came back from Nairobi, Kenya, where I had 5,000 of my own fans singing every single fucking song from [October album] Beach House 3 and all my hits. I performed for two hours and was only supposed to do one; they just let me go. It was love on another level.
I finally got to do Lollapalooza -- that was dope as fuck. It rained, but I appreciated the opportunity and the energy. I also did Governors Ball with Chance [the Rapper]. He brought me out and I did “Blessings” with him but with no Auto-Tune, just me singing and doing gospel runs -- people didn't even know I could do that.
[But] the best part about 2017 was releasing Beach House 3. I started it at the end of 2016, so it was dope to be able to finish that and get it out to the people and show them that I’m not Ty Dolla $ign the rapper, I’m Ty Dolla $ign the singer. That release, to me, means the completion, it means the conclusion. At the time Beach House 1 came out, I had a way smaller fan base, so now I really got to show people what Beach House meant to me, which is that it’s possible. It’s a metaphor for success.
The biggest lesson I learned this year was organization. I figured out that I needed to make everything work together, so I’m making Beach House 3 an experience, from the artwork to the music to the visuals to the [Don’t Judge Me] tour that’s coming up next year. It’s all one now. Don’t Judge Me came from noticing now how everybody’s looking at me and telling me I’m this or that, and I’m like, “No, don’t judge me, you don’t know me. You haven’t done the research.” I have so many different friends from different cultures and backgrounds, and when you come to a Ty Dolla show or party, you never know what you might get, but we all have something to offer. Whoever can come through, no matter who they love or what they love. -- As told to Lyndsey Havens
Bebe Rexha Reflects On Her 2017
It’s all a blur. This year meant the world to me, because I got to release part one and part two of my album All Your Fault. So many of my favorite memories of 2017 revolve around these songs, from watching the “I Got You” video grow starting in the first week of January to performing “Meant to Be” in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in my hometown of New York.
“Meant to Be” is a cool pivoting moment for me, because now I get to [be] more of a raw, real Bebe. It’s going back to my roots; it’s exciting. I grew up in Staten Island with two immigrant parents, and I expected so much from my career. You think a hit song or fame will bring you something, or that finding love will bring you something. Growing up, we expect [certain] things, but the best thing to do is go in open-minded and just see what happens.
Even though I was a little scared about the session [for “Meant to Be” with Florida Georgia Line], I didn't say no, because I like being disruptive and doing different things. That’s what music is about; if you follow the rules it’s really boring. I want to have fun and try to change what people are used to. I want more pop artists to do country collaborations, and I bet that will happen a lot more in the next five to six months. I want to pave the way.
I think “Meant to Be” is [one of] my highest-charting songs right now -- it feels really good. It’s a testament to the music, to writing great songs and never stopping. All the success helps push me to do even better and even more.
I try to make the most of every moment. I want to enjoy every little thing, especially when I’m on the road, because you can get caught up in the motions -- then you lose perspective. In this industry, you get caught up watching the charts, but it’s really about being grateful, and any little success you should celebrate. I know it has been a tough year in this country and the world for so many people, and I hope that I brought some light into it through the music. -- As told to L.H.
DRAM Reflects On His 2017
I got to travel the country with my favorite rapper of this generation [Kendrick Lamar] on the DAMN. tour -- and he actually sought out to work with me, to have me go on the road with them. I got a call from his manager on my personal phone, that shit was crazy. Shortly after, me and Kendrick were in the studio talking about stuff, understood only to be spoken, and we worked on a few things. I’m forever thankful for that experience.
Also [this year] my mother collaborated with me and sang with me and for that to come out and have people hear it, it’s crazy. I actually have a song with my mother. It came to my head [quick] and I called Tunde Balogun and asked if it would be a good idea and he said, “Hell yeah.” I called my momma and within the next five minutes, she was definitely down. Three days later, the shit was done. I definitely would [do it again], something to think about.
The Sprite commercial too, with fucking Lebron James. It was really just voice overs so I was in the studio and didn't know the magnitude of [the commercial] until we got the end product. Everybody did their thing from their own corner of the world, but when it all came together it was like, “Damn, this shit is lit.”
I [want to] keep it going, you know. Never regress, only progress. 2017 has been really good to me. -- As told to L.H.
Portugal. The Man Reflects On Its 2017
There was something that happened when we sent “Feel It Still” around to our friends at the top of the year. There was this level of excitement that we hadn't ever seen before, and we’ve had people be really excited about songs, like “Modern Jesus” or “People Say.” There’s been that feeling in the studio, but this was different. It’s pretty surreal to have people send you Kate Upton’s profile on Instagram and say, “Read her bio line,” and it says “Rebel just for kicks.”
The last three months have been basically nonstop. It’s something you see when a song crosses over, apparently -- I’m going to talk like I’m experienced in it, I have one experience of it where we do the morning pop radio and talk shows, then in the afternoon it turns into alternative radio then meet-and-greets then a show. Trying to find some downtime in that and time to actually look at what’s happening in the world… we haven’t even been able to follow the Trail Blazers. We just did a sports podcast yesterday, and normally we’re fine talking about the Blazers, but we haven’t talked about anything but this album, specifically this one song, for such a long time now that it’s hard to get my head around this whole year.
I can’t say that we expected any of this, because you can’t. You really cannot expect a song to take off and do as well as it has. We came into this year wanting to work with our family, people that have come up with us since the beginning. We went to our friends in Portland, at Wieden + Kennedy [for the “Feel It Still” music video] -- one of the biggest ad agencies in the world, but they’re really close friends of ours -- and said, “Let’s do something with our friends.” Just seeing everything happen within our circle and with the people we’ve made music with all along has been a really beautiful part of this whole thing happening. -- As told to L.H.