The Best Singles Of 2017
The difference between a song and a single is at the heart of this list. Rhiannon, Jason, Arcade Fire, Big Thief, even Glen, are really songs lifted from albums as an appetizer to the main even. Fonsi, the Post Malone remix, Bodak Yellow, DJ Khaled are built to break the Hot 100. It’s a different artform, but I consider the former where this list really lies. Next year I plan to also do a best songs of the year for what should be album tracks whether they are released as singles or otherwise.
1 – 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, and while that is big, it also heralds what might be a major move by Latin American pop into the USA.
2 – 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.
3 – 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”? Featuring Tom Morello and Nathaniel Rateliff of the Night Sweats. Nice, eh?
4 – 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
5 – Feel It Still – Portugal, The Man – The bass is the hook and it is killer, all the very soulful band have to do is lay back and let it do its job.
6 – If We Were Vampires – Jason Isbell And The 400 Units – One of the smartest songs ever written about mortality, Jason parsing his feelings to an irrevocable full stop, imagines that immortality would make him so casual he wouldn’t even hold his woman’s hand. Impossibly tender and caring, Jason wonders if immortality would be worth the loss of that tenderness to the irreparable damage of time
7 – 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
8 – 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.
9 – Creature Comforts – Arcade Fire – Death disco in the extreme where Arcade Fire fans cut themselves, hate themselves, and contemplate suicide with extreme prejudice. – That synth opening leads you down a path of teenage horrors and the edge of suicide, while you dance
10 – 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 and the woman at # 11 co-wrote it.
11 – 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.
12 – 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.
13 – 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.
13 – Adios – Glen Campbell – A fond farewell from Glen, his “Blackstar” though with a lot more sweetness.
14 – Kim K – K. Michelle – It is easy to under estimate Michelle -there is something of the Tonya Harding about her, she doesn’t look the role or act the role of the true voice of black women, but she sure sounds it here.
15 – Look What You Made Me Do – Taylor Swift – This is the rarest of songs, it has steadily improved over time, a strangely constructed song with two sides, a Taylor pop and a post drop trop chorus, it adds up… not at first but in the end. The karma line is epidemic self-portrait, her most revealing moment on the album.
16 -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.
17 – Mary – Big Thief – After their debut album Masterpiece, I wondered if they could ever repeat that much feeling. They could. “Mary”
18 – It’s A Shame – First Aid Kit – Either Fleetwood Mac at their softest or Conor Oberst at his most lelodic, a glorious and beautify song.
19 – Christmas Eve – Kelly Clarkson – Not simply a very good new Christmas song but also very very well sung.
20 – The Way Life Goes (feat. Nicki Minaj & Oh Wonder) – Remix – Lil Uzi Vert – Uzi is the pallbearer for emo rap and funeralism heartbreak has never been better. Nicki’s verse is excellent.
21 – Far – Lil Xan – Emo rap, but with better than average rapping. This is the sound of 2017.
22 – Our Streets (featuring A$AP Ferg) – DJ Premier – This is on a new level with the C Notes, Ferg’s rap is enormous and the hook is brilliant
23 – Échame La Culpa – Luis Fonsi and Demi Lovato – Nearly as good as the best single of the year, Demi is excellent and the beats add to the ear candy.
24 – This One’s On Me – Jessi Mason – Sublime self portrait.
25 – Cotton Candy – Jessie Reyez – I have Reyez down as one of the breakout stars of 2018, and this terrific, obsessive love song does everything to prove it.
26 – rockstar -remix Nicky Jam, Ozuna – Nobody hated that 21 savage remix more than I did, but Latin American reggaeton Nicky gives the song a strange depth I hadn’t noticed before.
27 – Tonya Harding (in Eb major) – Sufjan Stevens – I prefer it to the other version, very delicate and very compassionate, it is the sound of white trash America being thrown in the garbage.
28 – Blissing Me – Bjork, serpentwithfeet – Thissplits the difference between an album track and a remix, with the glorious serpentwithfeet adding his voice to Bjork on the best song on her new album.
29 – Waitin – Kelela – The middle single off her current album has a frosted, intentional mood of small yet emotional degrees of sound encroaching around her.
30 – 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