Now that we got the worst of the year out the way, let’s about the best. Like I said in the last list, 2017 was an improvement over 2016. More and more people are becoming more aware of the world around them, being more willing to speak out against issues that affect us. There was so many great movies this year; Get Out, Logan, Wonder Woman, Spider-Man: Homecoming, Baby Driver, IT, Coco, The Last Jedi, etc. Good news for hip-hop fans in general: the genre is currently the biggest, most influential genre in the world right now. Granted, not everything was great, but hip-hop is pretty much a part of our modern culture. Artists that I like made great records and some of the artists who I didn’t like or care for improved. Hell, some of the songs I initially wasn’t feeling eventually grew on me as you’ll see. So let’s look at the hits that I liked the most this year and start the countdown.
But first, here are the first five honorable mentions
HONORABLE MENTIONS I
We’re lucky to have an artist like Bruno Mars to bring us some really fun music. Last year, he released 24K Magic, the song and the album. 24K Magic keeps the groove going with a ton of swagger, charisma, and production that would kill in the world of 80s funk thanks to the synths and the use of talk-box. Bruno is just having the time of his life on this song and you can’t help but want to have fun with him. Is it similar to Uptown Funk? Maybe, but it’s different enough to where it’s not a copy. Put your pinky ring up to the moon with this one.
Kung-Fu Kenny himself, Kendrick Lamar, solidified his dominance this year with some of the hardest-hitting music he’s ever made. First, there was the appetizer The Heart Pt. 4. Then came HUMBLE. It’s a brag rap song where Kendrick asserts his dominance over the competition while bringing bars that are convincing. This song is quotable from the first line to the last. That’s how much replay value it has. Mike Will Made-It finally decided he was gonna make good beats and gave Kendrick this minimalistic banger rooted in a lower piano melody. There was controversy surrounding the Photoshop line, which I kinda get where some of the criticisms come from, but it was blown way out of proportion especially when other rappers have said worse things. Regardless, this was just a taste of what’s to come from DAMN., one of the best albums of the year.
I initially was ambivalent towards Khalid when I first heard him, but I’m glad I gave him another chance because this guy might be one of the saving graces of modern R&B. He broke onto the scene with Location, an ode to communication within a relationship. Khalid is a young guy with an old soul, which you can hear vocally. He makes this song work, especially with how well-written it is. I like how relaxing the production with those shimmering synths and island-like percussion. I wish this guy the best and hope his career soar to new heights because he’s got potential.
With how many of her singles were flopping, it’s kinda funny that the best song Selena Gomez has done this year is for someone else, more specifically, a collaboration with Kygo called It Ain’t Me. Surprisingly, both artists are working within their strengths and limits to make a good song that reminisce on an old relationship that didn’t go well. Kygo provides a breezy tropical house beat accented by guitars, piano, and backing vocals. Is it perfect? No, but it’s one of the better tropical house hits of the past few years. That’s something.
Another song that had to grow on me. See, I’m a fan of KYLE. He’s one of those upbeat pop rappers whose music has a lot of charm. I was initially disappointed with iSpy because I felt it wasn’t him at his best. While I still believe this isn’t his best song, there’s still good elements in iSpy. It has a lot in common with last year’s Broccoli. The production is upbeat and quirky and KYLE is kind of an asshole in a funny way while talking to some chick. If you take away Lil Yachty’s atrocious verse (My bitches come in pairs like my ballsack, anyone?), you got a song that’s goofy, but fun. Can’t wait for more KYLE.
On to the list.
We start the list with number 10, which goes to the most unlikely collaboration that strangely works.
Hey, look. It’s one of the only two good songs The Chainsmokers have ever made. The first one is Roses, the second one is Something Just Like This with Coldplay. Chris Martin just dominates this song to the point where it might as well be a Coldplay song. Something Just Like This is centered on insecurities and confronting the fact that you might not be the best at everything. Even though you might not be a superhero, you don’t have to be. Someone might like you just the way you are. The production is an organic blend of Coldplay’s atmospheric guitar and piano combination with the Chainsmokers’ electronic contributions. Yes, the drop is a blatant copy-paste of the one from Roses, but it’s still a good drop and I’d argue that it’s much better composed here. Will The Chainsmokers ever make a song as good as this? Maybe, maybe not. The world may never know.
Now to surprise people with number 9. I hated this artist when she initially blew up because a lot of the music she was releasing was terrible. But as time went on, she started improving and soon, after all the bullshit she went through with her label and a certain producer who shall remain unnamed, she made her comeback. Even someone as skeptical as me couldn’t deny it.
If I told my younger self that a song from Kesha was going to be on one of my best lists, he would look at me like I was crazy. “The chick behind Blah Blah Blah making a good song? Bullshit!!” But I have to give credit where credit is due and Praying is a really good song. Don’t listen to what Buckley is saying. It’s an incredible piano ballad complimented by strings and brass that makes it feel epic. Kesha’s best vocal performance is on this song and it shows the talent she truly has and it makes the writing, which is on forgiving someone, more effective. This is no longer the trashy party chick, this is someone who has something to say and with the talent to back it up. I can see this song topping a lot of Best lists or being on people’s Top 5. Well, in my opinion, there’s nine other hits that are better.
And now we’re getting into some rookies for the number 8 spot.
Like with Khalid, SZA is a bright spot in modern R&B. It also helps that she’s signed to the same label as Kendrick Lamar, Top Dawg Entertainment. She released her debut CTRL this year and it’s a damn good R&B album. So far, the album’s big hit is Love Galore, a collaboration with Travis Scott, who was honestly the weakest part of the song. There is some groove to this production, which is more atmospheric with a muted melody and a tropical beat. The writing is centered on the aftermath of a breakup where the guy is trying to get back with SZA even though he has a new girlfriend and that has her all up in her feelings. You get a lot more honest songs like this on CTRL, so if you haven’t heard it, listen to it now.
Number 7 goes to to a song and artist that I’ve done a complete 180 on.
This is one of those songs I initially hated on, but after some time, it clicked. Like I said, some of these songs were growers and this is one of them. I’m glad I gave Amine a second chance. Like D.R.A.M. and KYLE, he’s part of what I like to call happy rap, which is the alternative to the drowsiness and misery of trap. Caroline shows part of what Amine is: a dork having fun. He’s talking to a girl named Caroline (hopefully, not the same Caroline from Roses) and wants to kick it with her. The production is very minimal and it lets Amine’s talent shine. The way he goes from rapping to singing is just effortless. You have to check out more of this guy. Go listen to his album Good For You, it’s really dope. Hope to hear more from this guy.
Well, time to talk about Khalid again with the number 6 song.
When I was putting this list together, I knew which Khalid song was going to make the main list. While Location is good, I like Young Dumb & Broke more. The production has a bumping beat anchored in a swelling organ melody. I feel like this song perfectly captures how it feels to be a teenager in love more than any other song this year. We were all young, dumb, and broke at one time. That’s how it was for most of us in high school. In Khalid’s situation, he knows that’s not an excuse for a relationship to not work, though it can be part of the reason why. I don’t have anything else to say about this song. It’s really good. Check out this dude’ music for more.
And now for the final five honorable mentions.
HONORABLE MENTIONS II
ANTI by Rihanna showed her going through different styles of music and most of them were bullseyes, including Love On The Brain. The instrumentation appropriates 50s doo-wop thanks to the swelling organ, guitar, and strings that brings this old sound to the new age. While I wouldn’t call this Rihanna’s best vocal performance, but it’s a damn good one. This is another one of those toxic relationship songs that strangely works. Desperado or Kiss It Better, it’s not, but I’ll take it.
The last we heard from Clean Bandit was 2014’s Rather Be, which is one of my favorite EDM songs of the decade. Their other big hit Rockabye, while not as good as Rather Be, is a good song in its own right. They teamed up with Anne-Marie and Sean Paul for what’s basically a dedication to single mothers struggling to raise their kids while making a living. The song is way more upbeat than it should be with this kind of subject matter thanks to the production, which combines strings with a bouncy tropical beat, synths, and steel drums. This is one of those weird concoctions that strangely works for me thanks to Sean Paul and Anne-Marie. I don’t know about you guys, but I like it.
My opinion on Travis Scott went from “this guy is nothing special” to “this guy is actually alright in doses.” Since then, I’ve soften on Antidote, though it’s still not one of my favorites. The same applies to Goosebumps, but I like it a lot more. I like how hypnotic the production is and how it literally feels like you’re on some kind of drug. I’ve gotten used to the way that Travis Scott uses Auto-Tune because it matches the numbing atmosphere of the music. Kendrick shows up for an… interesting verse to say the least. Trap isn’t really my cup of tea, but I don’t mind a song like this.
Hell has officially frozen over: I’m mentioning a song from a 1D member on a Best Songs list. Out of the group, Harry Styles was easily the best member and Sign Of The Time shows why. This song emulates a lot of soft rock piano ballads from the 70s, though it could’ve benefitted from a guitar solo. Harry isn’t that bad of a singer, he’s the only 1D member making something interesting in a good way. This song won’t make up for how little rock songs there are on the charts right now, but it’s a good throwback track. I’ll take it.
We conclude the Honorable Mentions with Adele. This was a song that I rooting for to be a hit and lo and behold. Water On The Bridge is one of the more commercial-sounding songs from 25 and it’s much better than Send My Love (which has only gotten worse with time). It’s a midtempo track with a frolicking guitar playing against piano notes and heavy drums. The writing also has a really good sentiment: even though a relationship is coming to an end, there is the hope that it meant something in the first place. It shows a maturity that’s present in the entirety of 25. Great song overall.
Every once in a while, we get a song that’s huge on the alternative charts make the pop charts and that’s the case with the number 5 song on the list. And I’m glad it was this song.
Portugal The Man have been around since the mid-2000s and they just started blowing up thanks to Feel It Still. The weakest element of Feel It Still is John Gourley’s falsetto vocals, but I’ve reached a point where it doesn’t even bother me. It interpolates The Marvelettes’ Please Mr. Postman and made a 60s psychedelic/bluesy track with a groovy bassline and horns. That’s not the only 60s influence present as the writing alludes to a revolution. Hey, 2017. Sounds familiar? It is kind of ironic that this song got big off of commercials. Kinda sad that’s how most alternative/indie songs become hits. But if it’s giving good songs like this exposure, then I’m cool with it. It’s a really good song.
Number 4 goes to another collaboration, but one that made the most sense to me since one of them wants to be the new Michael Jackson and the other made a disco album in 2013. It’s the team-up we didn’t know we deserve, The Weeknd and Daft Punk.
While Starboy wasn’t the greatest album made, it has a lot of jams, including this closing track, I Feel It Coming. It’s the second collaboration between The Weeknd and Daft Punk and I like it more than the title track. I Feel It Coming is a midtempo disco ballad with a beautiful array of synths mixed with some funky guitar and drums. It feels like a combination of Michael Jackson and a Get Lucky sequel, but The Weeknd manages to make the song his own as he’s wanting more from the love of his life, not just the one-night stands. Daft Punk did a great job making the song distinctive with their signature vocoders. Is it similar to Michael Jackson? Yeah, but it’s pretty clear that MJ is one of The Weeknd’s biggest influence and he took that influence to create something great.
The number 3 spot goes to the owner of the number one song of 2017 according to Billboard. Shape Of You has gotten a lot of flack and while some of it is deserved, it’s not the worst song ever. Even if it was bad, I won’t hold it against Ed Sheeran because he made this.
This song is kind of a late bloomer, but I’m glad it blew up because Castle On The Hill might be one of the best songs Ed Sheeran ever made. Is it Galway Girl? No, but I’ll take what I can get. Castle On The Hill is about Ed Sheeran’s hometown of Framlingham and the people who lived there and the memories he had and shared. The instrumentation pulls a lot from U2 and Coldplay, utilizing shimmering guitars and one of the best choruses I’ve heard this year. It also contains not just some of Ed Sheeran’s best singing, but also one of his most compassionate performances to date. Castle On The Hill, one of the few pop hits that rocks this year.
Number 2 is the grooviest, funk-tastic song of the year and it’s a song that got boosted thanks to memes and the movie Get Out. When it comes to a song like this, stay woke.
It must be great being Donald Glover a.k.a. Childish Gambino. Actor, musician, comedian, writer, director, producer, etc. Is there anything the guy can’t do? Well, last year, he put out a funk album called Awaken My Love and one of the highlights of the album is Redbone. I fell in love with this song the moment I first heard it. This is one of the best produced songs of the year thanks to the liquid guitar work, the shimmering synths, and a groovy as hell bassline. It feels like Gambino took a DeLorean to the 70s and worked with Parliament. Childish Gambino channels his inner Prince as he sings in a higher register than he’s used to. I can see why Jordan Peele chose to use this song in Get Out because it gives off such a creepy vibe. I’ve listened to this song so many times and I never got sick of it. So what could be better?
Many months ago, I said that this song was going to top this list and that hasn’t changed ever since. This guy deserves all the success he’s been getting this year and there was no other song on this year’s YE chart that’s better. Anyone with any objections to this can fight me because I’m sticking with it.
While Migos and Future were doing their thing and the Soundcloud rappers popped up like cockroaches, Kendrick Lamar sits on his throne as the king of rap looking down on the competition as mere peasants. DNA is the spiritual successor of HUMBLE and it’s a much better song. The production is insane, easily the best thing Mike Will Made-It has ever made. Of course, you can’t give Kendrick any bullshit beats, especially when he basically gives us the modern day remake of I’m Black And I’m Proud. No hooks, no singing, just bars and every bar Kendrick throws at us is a razor-sharp hit. And if that wasn’t enough, halfway through, after a sample of Geraldo Rivera being a clueless idiot, the song switches up to a heavier beat rooted in a Rick James sample and it doesn’t just bump in the whip, it makes the whip explodes because it has the force of an atomic bomb, reducing anything within a five-mile radius into dust and reducing even the most sophisticated man to his primal instincts. That’s how much of a slapper this song is. DNA, the hardest banger of the 2010s AND the best hit song of 2017.
And those were the best songs of 2017. Here’s to 2018 hopefully not sucking. Keep an eye on the UPDATES page for future posts to come. To everyone out there, have a happy holidays and a happy new year.
SONGS OF THE WEEK
Light My Fire-The Doors
Don’t Knock My Love-Wilson Pickett
The Motive Used To Be The Melody-Sango & Xavier Omar