Music

The 70 Best Songs of 2017

The year in song reflected the state of the world around us. Here are the 70 songs that spoke to us this year.

20. Zola Jesus - "Exhumed"

"Exhumed" is a glorious, frantic mash of VHS and digital degradation, referencing equal parts The Blair Witch Project and The Ring. While Nicole Hummel has always situated herself within a gothic style, this year's Okovi is poignant all the more for its departure from Taiga's pop sentiments. In 2017, Z returned home, and "Exhumed" is its best illustration. The track is a brutal catharsis, with its chilly strings and industrial beat, transcending mere darkwave (though no doubt goth kids will be listening to it while applying black eyeliner). It's the gorgeous stuff of nightmares – better leave a light on. - Tristan Kneschke


19. Lana Del Rey - "Love"

In a year riddled with tragedy and unrest it was Lana Del Rey who came through with a song that cut through all the misery and offered a tiny glimmer of hope. It's almost as if this world has gotten too cynical for a simple song about love to connect with people, but Del Rey's stunning debut single from her third album did just that. "Look at you kids with your vintage music," she winks on "Love", all the while creating a pitch-perfect pastiche of classic torch songs and teen ballads, from references to Phil Spector and the Beach Boys. Accentuated by its stark backing arrangement, the track's power lies in ins simplicity and directness. Love might not be all you need, but it sure does make life worth living. "It don't matter because it's enough / To be young and in love," Del Rey croons, urging listeners to embrace the feeling. - Adrien Begrand


18. Selena Gomez - "Bad Liar"

As a teeny-bopper Disney star, Gomez was responsible for some truly irritating Top 40 fodder back in the day, but with 2015's Revival, she developed a distinct brand of minimalist dance-pop, using stark, bare instrumentation to make remarkably compelling songs. "Bad Liar" is a brilliant continuation of that, swiping the bassline from Talking Heads' "Psycho Killer" and turning into a rambling, stream-of-conscious pop song that is at turns funky, at turns slinky, and always, always sexy. In a world made out of excessive EDM synth breaks, the whispered strut of "Bad Liar" feels less like a break from that cookie-cutter Eurodisco and more like the remedy for it. Refreshing doesn't even begin to describe it. - Evan Sawdey


17. Portugal. the Man - "Feel It Still"

It can feel kinda weird when a band has a crossover hit. For the majority of people, it's their first encounter with the artist so it's fair for them to assume that this is their first stab at song writing and lo and behold they have hit the jackpot, struck gold and cleaned up all in one go. In the case of Portugal. the Man, "Feel It Still" is from the band's EIGHTH album. As to why it has hit such a nerve is open to question. Maybe, it's a question of timing. Maybe its upbeat mix of '60s guitar pop, '70s soul and funk with a modern twist serves as a perfect antidote to the plethora of anodyne chart music that has been co-written and produced to within an inch of its life. Maybe, it's because it's just such a damn simple and catchy song that never fails to animate even the most hardened heart Whatever, the reason let's hope this song is the entry point for many more to dig into the bands back catalogue. - Paul Carr


16. Khalid - "Young, Dumb, and Broke"

Easily the coolest song of the year, "Young, Dumb, and Broke" slides in like a senior into pottery class: that is with red eyes and a big heart on their sleeve. On an album decidedly about being a teen in this day, "Young, Dumb, and Broke" is the thesis statement. Over a simple organ, bass, and drums combo, Khalid calmly croons the thoughts of a high schooler, but mostly it's about caring a lot while just not caring at all, for real. "I can not give you everything. You know I wish I could," Khalid sings. Well, you gave a generation of songs a jam worth remembering. That's enough for 2017, at least. - Christopher Laird


15. King Krule - "Dum Surfer"

It's testament to just how dark King Krule's album, The OOZ, is considering the catchiest song on the album, "Dum Surfer," documents a narrator's drunken adventure spent puking, getting into a car accident, gloomily reflecting on life, and taunting God. It's a lot to process in what I'm both inclined and disinclined to call a pop song, especially when told through ramblings consistent with the narrator's inebriated state. Don't worry if you're not in the mood to revel in the narrator's dread just yet, though. With its slippery saxophone, punchy guitar, and its aggressively inescapable hook, "Dum Surfer" has plenty of sonic distractions destined to keep you coming back for more, regardless of your mood. - Chad Miller


14. Lorde - "Green Light"

As an opening salvo, the first we heard of the follow-up to Lorde's excellent debut album, "Green Light" was startling. Upbeat, aggressive, and downright poppy in its construction, "Green Light" was and is a brilliant way to separate herself from everything that came before. The existence of "Green Light" got even more interesting once the album was released, as the album is a perfect, beautiful mess of largely uncommercial tracks, designed to confront more than to welcome. In that context, "Green Light" is a red herring, a little bit of easy listening before more difficult material like "Sober" or "Supercut". Whether a confrontation or an invitation, however, "Green Light" is an ecstatic ode to letting go, the kind of song you can get caught up in, the kind of song that could use an extended single edit because four minutes just isn't enough time. It's a shame that this one never reached the height of "Royals" on the singles charts; it is a superior track by every qualitative measure. - Mike Schiller


13. Charli XCX- "Boys"

Charli XCX capped a banner year which saw the release of what may be her most accomplished release to date, Number 1 Angel—full of bubbly, sexually-charged poptimism and audacious femininity—with a single and self-directed video that channeled those energies into a more low-key style of decompression pop. But "Boys" goes beyond its buoyant beat and sweet-and-simple lyrics, toward a perfectly natural reorientation of pop music's often problematic sexual power dynamics. Alongside a mixtape which centered fresh, up-and-coming female and queer voices, Charli's "Boys" reiterated pop in 2017 as a proudly, unapologetically feminine space—and yet it's so chill, sugary, and genuinely adorable, you might have never noticed. - Colin Fitzgerald


12. Kendrick Lamar - "DNA"

Front to back, "DNA" is pure skill. It starts as a relatively straightforward, fiery screed, with a sparse beat whose only function is to get out of the way of Lamar's lyric. There are rhymes within rhymes, a little bit of self-aggrandizement, a little bit of humility, and a lot of history. Lamar is detailing the burden he bears as a Famous Black Man, and doing so with anger, with energy, and with incisive wit. And yet, none of that prepares you for the last minute of the song, when Mike Will Made-It throws that Rick James sample in there (the one that sounds a lot like the one from Kanye West's "Runaway" because it's sampled from the exact same recording of the exact same song), and Lamar just goes off in the sort of career-defining way that will be used to demonstrate his verbal dexterity for years to come. It's the sound of an artist breaking through the ceiling; it's an already-established, critically-adored artist reminding us that he hasn't stopped topping himself yet. - Mike Schiller


11. Haim - "Want You Back"

The fire has already swept through and ravaged everything in sight, but "Want You Back" smolders. All chances of recovery are distant, but the singer yearns dearly, and so the song raises that stubborn emotion like some kind of flag. How fitting then that the song kicks off Haim's powerful sophomore album, as the album is all about the process of living through all this mess, but on "Want you Back" Danielle Haim is not ready to move on just yet. When she says, "I'll take the fall and the fault in us… Just know I want you back" you can almost see her, sifting through the ruins, trying to find something worth holding on to. - Christopher Laird

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