Kendrick Lamar’s sparse and hard-hitting rap treatise, Damn, is music critics’ favourite record of 2017.
The album, which explores the conflicts in Lamar’s personal life, his faith and American society, has topped a “poll of polls” compiled by BBC News.
Second place went to SZA’s sensual, intimate and partially-improvised R&B album, CTRL.
Pop star Lorde came third with Melodrama, an exhilarating song cycle about the angst and ecstasy of youth.
Melodrama was co-written and produced by Jack Antonoff, who worked on two other albums in the critics’ top 20 – St Vincent’s Masseduction and Taylor Swift’s multi-million-selling Reputation.
The full top 20 looked like this:
Critics also selected Charli XCX’s mixtape Number 1 Angel and Drake’s More Life project – which was marketed as a playlist – amongst their choices, illustrating how albums are evolving in the streaming era.
But Lamar was the runaway winner. Damn featured on all but two of the polls surveyed by the BBC and took first place on 10 of them.
Q magazine called it “a flawless hip-hop masterclass”, praising the Compton-born rapper’s “pyrotechnical brilliance on the mic”.
The star’s gift is that he can “paint pride and agony with the same brush”, agreed Rolling Stone, singling out the seven-minute album track Fear as a highlight.
“Like Sigmund Freud meets Scarface, Lamar connects the dots from the seven-year-old terrified of catching a beating from his mother to the 17-year-old terrified of being murdered by police to the 27-year-old terrified of fame.”
“It is the unimpeachable truth that Kendrick Lamar recorded the greatest album of 2017,” said Billboard.