Top 50 Songs of 2017
50. Rubby – “Confiesa”
49. Calvin Harris (ft. Frank Ocean) – “Slide”
48. Laura Marling – “Wild Fire”
47. Mary J. Blige – “Telling The Truth”
46. GoldLink (ft. Jazmine Sullivan) – “Meditation”
45. Sabrina Claudio – “Unravel Me”
44. BADBADNOTGOOD (ft. Kiki Gyan) – “Disco Dancer”
43. Sufjan Stevens – “Tonya Harding (in E Flat Major)”
42. Susanne Sundfør – “Undercover”
41. Fortunes. – “Focus”
40. Vince Staples (ft. Kendrick Lamar) – “Yeah Right”
39. TORRES – “Concrete Ganesha”
38. Kelly Lee Owens (ft. Jenny Hval) – “Anxi.”
37. Syd – “Bad Dream/No Looking Back”
36. Amindi K. Fro$t – “Pine & Ginger”
35. Dua Lipa – “New Rules”
34. Jorja Smith – “On My Mind (Jorja Smith X Preditah)
33. Austra – “Future Politics”
32. Nidia Minaj – “House Musik Dedo”
31. Moses Sumney – “Indulge Me”
30. Gabriel Garzón-Montano – “Sour Mango”
29. Cardi B – “Bodak Yellow”
28. The 25th Hr – “Regrets”
27. Grizzly Bear – “Losing All Sense”
26. Laurel Halo – “Moontalk”
25. St. Vincent – “Sugarboy”
24. Jens Lekman (ft. LouLou Lamotte) – “Evening Prayer”
23. Bonobo (ft. Innov Gnawa) – “Bambro Koyo Ganda”
22. The xx – “On Hold”
21. Jay Som – “Baybee”
20. Dirty Projectors (ft. DAWN) – “Cool Your Heart”
19. LCD Soundsystem – “emotional haircut”
18. Aldous Harding – “Imagining My Man”
17. Lorde – “Supercut”
16. Hercules & Love Affair (ft. Rouge Mary) – “Rejoice”
15. Tyler the Creator – “I Ain’t Got Time!”
14. Björk – “Body Memory”
13. Baths – “Human Bog”
12. Sevdaliza – “Hubris”
11. Fever Ray – “IDK About You”
10. SZA – “The Weekend”
As SZA settles into the chorus of this song, you know you're listening to someone special. "My man is my man is your man / Heard that's her man too / My man is my man is your man / Heard that's her man" opens up a narrative on side chicks and side fucks that has SZA winning out in the end, the one to truly please her man. It's a song that shows off SZA's technical ability and control, but is ultimately perfect in those moments of a failed relationship or a night our, in your feelings.
9. Pierre Kwenders – “MAKANDA”
One of the most unexpected choices of 2017, Pierre Kwender's album expands upon the Afrofuturistic genre coined by Petite Noir as noirwave. This is an undeniably unique but rich blend of Congolese drumming, experimental hip hop from a member of Shabazz Palaces and the soul samplings of SassyBlack at the end. This is the kind of song that pushes music into the 22nd century, away from African diaspora and into intentional, Black-centered communities.
8. yaeji – “passionfruit” (remix)
Drake would have been in the spot had it not been for yaeji's remix of "Passionfruit." In the original version, Drake is has most successful at capturing the sounds of dancehall life in Jamaica from the snowy Canadian north. yaeji strips the song of that warmth, creating a meditative house track on the distance between lovers. It's a bold and audacious for such a newly minted electronic artist but under her careful eye it's precise, fresh and a reflection on desire in the 21st century.
7. Kendrick Lamar – “FEAR.”
On To Pimp A Butterfly, Kendrick pioneered a jazz-inflected hip hop aesthetic that felt at times loose and unhinged. On "FEAR," he takes those epic, improvisational storytelling skills to new heights, narrating his life in three parts, from his time as a child to his time now. Along the way, he employs four distinct flows, samples heavily from religious gospel and gives insight into Black male feel that is uncanny and immediately emotionally impactful. There are no rough edges here and it's been tremendous to see just how much Kendrick has grown.
6. Carly Rae Jepsen – “Cut To The Feeling”
One of the most memorable and joyful pop songs since Robyn's "Dancing On My Own" was yet another surprise hit of 2017. We know that Carly Rae Jepsen can make bops, jams and bangers, but "Cut To The Feeling" is a class of its own. By the time she hits, "Take me to emotion, I want to go all the way / Show me devotion and take me all the way," your arms are up in the air, your hips are moving, and you have a smile plastered on your face because how can you not? It's musical Percocet.
5. Perfume Genius – “Die 4 You”
My favorite experiences with Perfume Genius are when he pushes himself to the brink of annihilation. On "Die 4 You," he looks at erotic asphyxiation and the limits one can go, even to death, in the arms of their lover. It seems like a grim affair but he renders the lyrics with such tenderness, such spareness, that you cannot help but be enraptured. "Each and every breath I spend / You are collecting / Limit every second left / 'Til I'm off balance" is some of the best writing in 2017.
4. Sampha – “Under”
The moment Sampha sang, "Sophisticated bitter queen / You're the ghost in my machine" I knew this song would be one my favorites of 2017. Come the end of the year, so much of what makes music exciting is present in this song: a sordid tale about love lost, told through lush production that ebbs and crescendos like the waves of desire, anger and loss that he sings come crashing over him. There is no resolution in this song; in fact, he sings about falling under the waves. Yet you know, given Sampha's strength, he'll be back again soon, ready to sing his piano ballads.
3. Arca – “Desafío”
Of any artist in 2017, Arca is the one that I look at as having grown the most. His previously dense, harsh and sometimes grating experimental electronica has been replaced by something more tender, nuanced and cathartic. Perhaps his experience with Björk lent a little lightness to his work or perhaps his previous outlets oriented him toward an imagined future. Whatever the case, propelled by his powerful but airy voice, he charts a space of release from queer violence and darkness. The song might be, like Perfume Genius's track, about being devoured by love and a dark sexual impulse, but he is firmly in control of what happens. This dark impulse is a tool.
2. Kelela – “Onanon”
The chorus of "Frontline" made choosing "Onanon" difficult but of all the songs on Kelela's album, this one is the most richly textured and nuanced, once again featuring production by Arca. It's less a song about love lost and more about a pattern of fighting and emotional abuse she seems to be caught in with her lover. The lyricism is blunt and easily relatable to anyone who's ever been in love in a messy relationship. But Kelela keeps it interesting through, with her commanding vocals and the ways she, along with Arca, add on to or take away from the emotional intensity. In and out of love they make us go, but we are never really able to get away from the mess.
1. Frank Ocean – “Chanel”
I list this as my best song of 2017 because I think it's Frank Ocean at his most exciting: he manages to use digital manipulation of his voice to create multiple personas in a single song. And the key double entendre of the song - the Chanel logo that has two mirrored sides to it - it provides a lyrical minefield of obfuscation and witticisms that are signature Frank. By the time he sits the second voice, his voice crescendos, the volume intensifies and he hits a stride that is one of the most viscerally felt musical moments in 2017. He feels like he's right there, always, even if his own mysterious persona puts him in a world entirely. "I see both sides like Chanel" indeed.