2017 has been a great year for music and the rate of diversity of the tracks that penetrated the mainstream was admirable. Here we’ll list the top 25 tracks of the year, feel free to tear it apart!
In order to be eligible for this list, the track must have been released as an official single between January 1, 2017, and December 31, 2017.
#25. Future, “Mask Off”
That flute. I don’t think a single instrument has defined rap music in 2017 as much as the flute. “Mask Off” used the flute amp up the eerie aspect of the song. The soft airy flute juxtaposed against Future’s gruff grumble was a recipe for a smash. The chanting chorus, “Percocet, molly, Percocet!” rang throughout 2017 and defined a mini-era of rap.
#24. Kelly Clarkson, “Love So Soft”
“Love So Soft” is a perfect combination of soul and pop. The crazy notes Kelly hits during the climax of the song prove that 15 years after her American Idol victory, Kelly’s voice has only got stronger and more powerful. Delightfully, Kelly got a Grammy nomination for this stellar vocal performance despite its disappointing chart success.
#23. Camila Cabello featuring Young Thug, “Havana”
The biggest hit by a female pop artist this year, “Havana” was destined to be a hit. The infectious Latin and trap influences track is personal, political, and sexy. Camila and Thugger have great chemistry on the track and her understated vocals play well with the relatively sparse production.
#22. Kesha, “Praying”
Kesha’s return to the pop music scene was nothing short of spectacular. The heart-breakingly emotional ballad has one of the most moving vocal performances of the year. Kesha allows us to feel her pain, but her delivery makes it clear that we’ll never truly understand it. Between the crisp lyricism and pointed vocal production, Kesha has produced a true diamond in a year in which we mined tirelessly to find.
#21. Playboi Carti, “Magnolia”
In a year of viral of hits, “Magnolia” shined because of its excellent use of adlibs. With every euphoric “Phew!” the milly rock effect gets stornger. Carti’s bubbly delivery ensures a track that embraces its meme nature while still setting the stage for an artist introduction.
#20. Travis Scott, “Butterfly Effect”
Brooding and dark, “Butterfly Effect,” elevates the trap song artform to something more sinister and appealing. “For this life, I cannot change,” is a lyric that defines what a lot of people are feeling in this current political climate. Who would have thought a trap song about hopelessness would turn out so good?
#19. Paramore, “Fake Happy”
In a year where music tackled depression and suicide, Paramore did it with taste and grace. “Fake Happy,” is bluntly written but delivered with raging passion; the final chorus is a tear-jerker and overall a shining jewel of their discography.
#18. J Balvin, Willy William & Beyoncé, “Mi Gente”
Charity + an original bop + Beyoncé rapping a fire verse and singing in Spanish = perfection. “Mi Gente” is an ebullient mixture of sounds and cultures that culminates in a fun track that exudes happiness. It’s a track that brings everyone together, something we needed desperately in such a divisive year.
#17. Miguel featuring Travis Scott, “Sky Walker”
Miguel perfected his craft with his latest album, War & Leisure, and lead single, “Sky Walker” was the perfect introduction. The production sounds like we’re floating in space and the perfect combination of rapping and singing just works.
#16. GoldLink, Brent Faiyaz & Shy Glizzy, “Crew”
I don’t think any song released as a single this year has a better hook than this. Brent’s slightly broken vocal delivery and Glizzy’s squealing rap make this track pop. The production is forward-thinking yet still reflective, with elements of soul and ragtime. Get into this track and the album too!
#15. St. Vincent, “New York”
Is there a better 2017 lyric than “you’re the only motherfucker in the city who can stand me?” St. Vincent brought her pen to new heights in this torchlight ballad. The melody is absolutely beautiful and the overall sentiment of loneliness speaks to the great phenomenon that marginalized groups are facing 2017 America. It’s a timeless song that transcends generations, it’s utterly beautiful.
#14. Carly Rae Jepsen, “Cut to the Feeling”
The savior of pure pop music does it again with “Cut to the Feeling.” The track is exuberant and beacon of levity and escapism in a year of darkness and strife. It’s truly a shame so many people wrote Carly off after, “Call You Maybe,” but her talent is undeniable and she is truly here to stay.
#13. Little Big Town, “When Someone Stops Loving You”
Released as the third single off of LBT’s stellar The Breaker, this track is stacked with delicate harmonies and yearning vocal performances. Every note is hit with laser-sharp precision and every lyric feels simultaneously personal and universal. Country music had a great year in 2017, and this is one of the best examples.
#12. Frank Ocean, “Chanel”
“My guy pretty like a girl / And he got fight stories to tell,” is possibly the best opening line of the year. The track tackles the duality and spectrum-like nature of things with rambling production and interesting delivery that consists of talking, singing, and rapping. Probably more mainstream and accessible than anything on Blonde, “Chanel” is biting and yet still soft. The song is a giant contradiction of itself but it works in harmony, somehow.
#11. Cardi B, “Bodak Yellow”
Everyone goes crazy when this song comes on. Everyone. Regardless of social identifiers, this track makes everyone feel like the HBIC. Cardi’s delivery and flow are feisty and fiery the production is rough and street. Probably the most unlikely #1 hit of the year, “Bodak Yellow” was the anthem of a generation this year.
#10. Lana Del Rey, “Love”
Released at the top of this year, “Love” is backed by lush production that is almost symphonic. This song just breathes love and youth into the air; in times where hate is the first response, “Love” reminds us the joys in the caveats of this great, big thing we call love.
#9. Lil Uzi Vert, “XO Tour Llif3”
“All my friends are dead, push me to the edge.” I could stop right here with this lyric. This track combined the gloomiest elements of trap with pop songwriting and emo themes to create a monster of honesty and volatile virility. Just listen to it.
#8. Tamar Braxton, “My Man”
Four plus minutes of bluesy wailing about a lost man never sounded so good. The song structure is particularly interesting for a traditional R&B song, and the vocal delivery is so emotional that the audience becomes the main character. “My Man,” doesn’t need to be autobiographical to be impactful, Tamar’s voice does it all on its own.
#7. N.E.R.D. & Rihanna, “Lemon”
Rihanna is giving you bars on this joint cut with the eternally underrated N.E.R.D. The track never quite settles into one groove, and that is what makes it so good. “Lemon” is political and apolitical at the same time and it’s just so good.
#6. JAY-Z, “4:44”
This track is probably one of the most well-written songs of the decade. The self-effacing and extremely personal lyrics shown Shawn Carter in a new light after 20+ years of the Jay-Z persona. To see such a strong and powerful black man embrace vulnerability and accept his mistakes is inspiring and heart-breaking. “4:44” will go down as not only one of Jay’s best songs but as one of the best rap songs ever.
#5. Ed Sheeran & Beyoncé, “Perfect Duet”
With a middling third album, Ed Sheeran had a hit waiting to explode with the sentimental ballad, “Perfect.” The updated remix featuring Beyoncé, however, adds another layer of depth to the already beautiful track. The vocal mastery and control that Bey shows on this track are enviable and the way the two artists harmonize on the final chorus is absolutely gorgeous. It truly is the perfect duet.
#4. Chris Stapleton, “Either Way”
Those belts in the chorus of this song blow me away every time. Obviously, we’ve come to expected soulfully gritty vocal performances from Chris, but he brought it to another level with “Either Way.” This song is so astounding in its robustness that I have no further words for it.
#3. SZA, “The Weekend”
Truthfully, I could have put up the tracklist of Ctrl and ended this list. The Weekend details an ingenious plan that flips the script on cheating, instead, the women will use the man as a sort of timeshare. In an era where women are reclaiming their time and power, this track is a perfectly understated way of paying homage to them.
#2. Lorde, “Green Light”
We’ve heard how amazing this song is all year, and it’s aged incredibly well. I have nothing else to say, just listen.
#1. Miranda Lambert, “Tin Man”
This track called out the brokenness of humanity. Sometimes we’ve given so much love and gotten nothing in return so we’re left feeling empty and cold. The analogy of Tin Man from the Wizard of Oz works perfectly, Miranda’s delicate vocal performance and the light instrumentation creates the most beautiful soundscape of the year. It’s a triumph, as is the rest of her album.