In addition to great singles and even greater albums, there were some truly amazing album tracks or standalone singles that deserve their recognition. Here I rank the top 30 album tracks of 2017.
To be included on this list, the track must be a song on an album released in 2017 that was not promoted to radio.
#30. Lana Del Rey, “Cherry” (from Lust for Life)
There’s something to be said about the subtlety of a dark instrumental coupled with spontaneous cursing.”Cherry” is rife with personality and still stays true to the classic languid style of Del Rey’s vocals. “And all of my peaches…. are ruined,” is a weirdly widely applicable metaphor and the fruit/sex innuendos work deliciously.
#29. Julia Michaels, “Pink” (from Nervous System – EP)
“There’s no innuendos, it’s exactly what you think / Believe me when I tell you that he loves the color pink.” This is one of the best lyrics of the year. Michaels flips the concept of lyrical innuendos on its head but uses that to create innuendo in and of itself. It’s a moment of quiet brilliance in a widely subpar EP. Between “Issues” and “Pink,” it’s beginning to like Julia will have staying power as an artist.
#28. Fifth Harmony, “Deliver” (from Fifth Harmony)
“Deliver” is a perfect snapshot of what Fifth Harmony is capable of if they are paired with the right producers and writers. The song is a slice of uptempo R&B music filled to the brim with attitude and glamour.
#27. Khalid, “8TEEN” (from American Teen)
“Location” and “Young, Dumb, and Broke” were the hits off of American Teen, but this gem has a throbbing bassline and someone of the most straightforward and relatable lyrics on the album.
#26. Thomas Rhett, “Life Changes” (from Life Changes)
This track basically tells Rhett’s life story against a bouncy melody and uplifting instrumental. “You make your plans and you hear God laughing,” is a killer lyric simply because of how true it is. Thomas Rhett makes great country music without relying too heavily on the clichés of bro-country, and he deserves more credit for that.
#25. Lil Uzi Vert featuring The Weeknd, “UnFazed” (from Luv Is Rage 2)
The Weeknd sounds almost angelic on the hook to this track. Elements of Abel’s style of ominous piano riffs intensifies the hedonistic nature of the song. Lil Uzi Vert, as per usual, kills this track with his incredibly catchy flow and unabashedly honest lyrics.
#24. Miley Cyrus, “Bad Mood” (from Younger Now)
Miley’s entire Younger Now album deserved more recognition, but this standout track is absolutely beautiful. Leaning into the indie rock genre, Miley howls her way through a track about forlorn love with grit and passion.
#23. Kelela, “Better” (from Take Me Apart)
This is one of the most beautiful ballads of the year. Kelela’s soft and sensual vocal truly shines on the relatively sparse track. If you’re looking for classic alternative R&B by way of classic pop song structure, then this one’s for you.
#22. P!NK, “Barbies” (from Beautiful Trauma)
One of the many standouts on Pink’s Beautiful Trauma, “Barbies,” is a beautifully restrained vocal performance of pure nostalgia. The second when the drums kick might be the best production choice of the year.
#21. Lorde, “Writer in the Dark” (from Melodrama)
The gravity of Lorde’s voice on this song is unbelievably strong. She sounds as melodramatic as every teen does when they start riding the rollercoaster of love, and every second of it is glorious.
#20. Billie Eilish, “My Boy” (from don’t smile at me – EP)
This bluesy Amy Winehouse-esque track is bursting with maturity and wit. All the more impressive is that Billie Eilish is just fifteen years old. Listen to the entire EP, this girl is one to watch.
#19. Taylor Swift, “Don’t Blame Me” (from reputation)
On one of the most underwhelming albums of the year, there is this high point. “Don’t Blame Me,” is a haunting electro-pop-rock track about the intoxicating nature of love. Taylor has never sounded so raptured and the production is sublime. It’s a stellar track.
#18. Halsey, “Sorry” (from hopeless fountain kingdom)
This sparse ballad from Halsey’s sprawling sophomore album is simply beautiful. It sounds completely authentic and true to Halsey, that’s what it makes it so beautiful.
#17. PRETTYMUCH, “Open Arms”
PRETTYMUCH is a new boy band more in the vein of Boyz II Men/Jodeci than One Direction/The Wanted. This track is stacked with lush harmonies and earnest vocal performances. The guys sound great, and it’s more R&B than some entire “R&B” albums that were released this year.
#16. Calvin Harris featuring Nicki Minaj, “Skrt On Me” (from Funk Wav Bounces Vol. 1)
Despite a sublime run of singles, the album tracks were gems on Calvin’s latest release as well. “Skrt On Me,” is a funky take on dancehall and Nicki provides a crazy catchy refrain and formidable verse.
#15. Kehlani, “Do U Dirty” (from SweetSexySavage)
Kehlani’s debut album wasn’t that great but this hidden gem was quite enjoyable. “Swear you see the good in me, but that don’t beat the hood in me,” is also a super well-written line. The track is honest while being tongue-in-cheek, it’s also urban while embracing its pop sensibilities.
#14. Demi Lovato, “Ruin the Friendship” (from Tell Me You Love Me)
This track is a standout in Demi’s entire discography, the quiet storm horns mixed with Demi’s slowly intensifying vocal delivery is a recipe for excellence. The slyness of the lyricism displayed here is peak pop perfection.
#13. Kendrick Lamar, “The Heart Part IV”
Released as a prelude to DAMN. “The Heart Part IV” is a prime example of skill. Filled to the brim with insane lyricism, perfect cadence, impassioned delivery, and flexible flow, “The Heart Part IV,” is impeccable.
#12. SZA, “Broken Clocks” (from Ctrl)
If you’ve ever felt the exasperation of working life and trying to mix the new steps of adulthood with the old strongholds of teenage years, then this track speaks to you. Every time delivers the lie, “all I’ve got, is these broken clocks,” it’s a slam dunk. There is an authentic passion and precision in the way her lines bounce off the production and it is heavenly.
#11. Kelly Clarkson, “Would You Call That Love” (from Meaning of Life)
This IS probably the most classic Kelly Clarkson track on her latest album, but injected with more soul, rasp, and grit than ever before. Kelly Clarkson really came into her own as an artist this year, and this track is a perfect example of her evolution.
#10. Starrah & Diplo, “Zoo” (from Diplo X Starrah)
Basically, the Julia Michaels of R&B and hip-hop, Starrah’s joint EP with Diplo is full of tunes. “Zoo,” is a smooth and fun track that plays to both artists tracks and it’s catchy without feeling forced.
#9. JAY-Z, “The Story of O.J.,” (from 4:44)
The hook is already iconic and there are so many life lessons to be learned from the lyrics. Give it a listen and tell me it doesn’t deserve it’s Grammy nomination for Record of the Year.
#8. Rapsody featuring BJ the Chicago Kid, “Black & Ugly” (from Laila’s Wisdom)
Rap tracks addressing haters are commonplace, but the tone of this one with its gospel-lite production really makes it stand out. Rapsody is the best female rapper since Nicki Minaj and she clearly is a woman of skill. This track just as other songs on her debut album is truly phenomenal.
#7. Jhené Aiko featuring Brandy, “Ascension” (from Trip)
This is the most heavenly song of the year. Both ladies’ voices float above the instrumental and Brandy’s intricate runs sound like a choir of angels. This album as a whole was severely underrated and this gorgeous collaboration between old school and new school princesses of R&B deserved more.
#6. H.E.R., “Lights On” (from H.E.R., Vol. 2)
The current torchbearer for traditional R&B for the latter end of the millennial spectrum, H.E.R. delivers a lush track with “Lights On.” The song is sensual and soft and natural, it just feels good.
#5. Frank Ocean, “Lens”
No one has used Auto-Tune this well since Beyoncé on “7/11.” “Lens” is an emotionally charged song that meanders its way through the plateaus of love and relationships. It’s nearly perfect.
#4. “LUST.,” Kendrick Lamar (from DAMN.)
This track makes the listener feel naked. The track is so honest about today’s general society and behavior that it is uncomfortable. The constant repetition and slight alteration of certain lines only intensifies the brutal veracity of this song.
#3. Chris Stapleton, “Scarecrow in the Garden” (from From a Room: Volume 2)
Chris has had a killer year, he dropped to stellar and successful albums. The second volume in his mini-collection contains this bluesy track. Chris ha blurred the lines between country, folk, rock, blues, and soul for a while now and this track is a perfect storm of all five genres. It’s quality country music that could belong to any era.
#2. Frank Ocean, “Provider”
Yes, this is Frank’s fourth entry on this list, even without dropping an album, Frank delivered impeccable music. “Provider,” is a mixture of rap, R&B, and pop about love and all its depth and nooks and crannies. It’s weirdly catchy in an off-kilter way, but it works in a sublime way that only Frank can execute.
#1. SZA, “Supermodel” (from Ctrl)
It’s perfection. The fuzzy guitar instrumental, the sharp and witty lyrics, the desperate and yearning vocal performance, the overall arrangement: all perfect.