Best Of 2017: Singles Through August
At The Purchasers Option – Rhiannon Giddens – Based upon an advert dating from the time of slavery where a woman was being sold with her baby optional, Rhiannon imagines the decency of the slave in question. A true insight into the hell of slavery and a work of Americana that makes sense of the terrible genre. Also, just musically, that chorus is killer.
Despacito Remix – Luis Fonsi, Daddy Yankee, Justin Bieber – Luis is a Latin American heartthrob and Daddy Yankee is the king of reggaeton but this is a major popstroke because among the many things the often maligned Bieber can do is apparently the most lush pop the world has ever invented… 16 weeks at # 1, a new record.
If We Were Vampires – Jason Isbell And The 400 Units – One of the smartest songs ever written about mortality, Jason parsing his feelings to irrevocable full stop, imagines that mortality would make him seem casual he wouldn’t even hold his woman’s hand. Impossibly tender and caring, and wonders if immortality would be worth the loss of that tenderness to the irreparable damage of time
Shape Of You – Ed Sheeran – This has ruled the charts since it was released and while it sounded enough like “No Scrubs” for Sheeran to share co-writer credits, my sense is he did it for a quiet life. Whatever, this is one of the great dance songs, a hot sex dance smash.
Love Someone – Brett Eldredge – Brett gets a hook dream of a song in his grip and doesn’t let go and there is such a sweetness to the chorus it brightens you all the way up.
Creature Comforts – Arcade Fire – Death disco in the extreme where Arcade Fire fans cut themselves, hate themselves, and contemplate suicide with extreme prejudice
Big Boys – Chuck Berry – if the lyrics were a touch tighter it would fit right onto “The Great 28,” and as it stands it is his best song since, I dunno, “Tulane”?
Wild Thoughts – DJ Khaled, Rihanna, Bryson Tiller – One of the top hooks of the year by one of the great sellers of hooks in the world -by whom I mean Rihanna.
Issues – Julia Michaels – Justin Trantner’s partner in writing is ready to step out and if this is the quality of song she is writing, there should be zero problems. A tuneful, well rhymed, excellently drum motived, minimal beat brilliance. A terrific song and if she has many more like this for the album (and she should), expect Julia to be our net big pop star.
Bad Liar – Selena Gomez – Selena meets Ani Di Franco, co-written with Julia Michaels and Justin Tranter and a bass backing track off “Psycho Killer,’ this is Selena’s greatest moment.
Something Just Like This – The Chainsmokers and Coldplay – The birth of love with Chris and Andrew trading verses in honor of a woman who doesn’t want superman and just wants to be loved with one of those gorgeous tunes these guys can do and other’s really can’t.
Bodak Yellow – Cardi B – It really isn’t every day that a VH-1 reality star and former stripper records a single so undeniable it is the best rap track since “Bad And Boujee”. It made Cardi a star just like that and what is better, she deserves it.
Mary – Big Thief – After their debut album Masterpiece, I wondered if they could ever repeat that much feeling. They could. “Mary”
To Be Without You – Ryan Adams – A terrific Neil Young soundalike that sounds like Ryan Adams.
England Lost – Mick Jagger – Drums and bass-y electronica with a neat metaphor for the decline and fall of the British Empire: a soccer match.
How Did I Find Myself Here – The Dream Syndicate – The great founding members of LA’s Paisley Underground movement kill it for half the song as a garage groove jam band, then add in the vocals and get better.
Adios – Glen Campbell – A fond farewell from Glen, his “Blackstar” though with a lot more sweetness.
Tell the Devil I’m Getting There As Fast As I Can – Ray Wylie Hubbard, Eric Church, Lucinda Williams – I liked this just fine, a clever and brittle life on the road song, head and shoulders above the rest of the album, and then Lucinda comes in and that’s it, I’m a goner.
Brujas – Princess Nokia – “I’m that Black a-Rican bruja straight out from the Yoruba And my people come from Africa diaspora, Cuba And you mix that Arawak, that original people. I’m that Black Native American, I vanquish all evil.” A completely brilliant self-portrait.
Look What You Made Me Do – Taylor Swift – And sneaking in under the wide: another day, another drama drama from the irreplaceable, irresistible Swift.