Top 50 Songs of 2017

on December 27, 2017, 12:00am
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So much of 2017 has related to excess, and whether you have it or you’re annoyed by it. Whether in noise, media, social media, words, money, things, or more — MORE?! — we’re constantly bombarded by volume; some of us come away from that wanting more, and others just want it to stop and shrivel away. Songs may not be able to change all of that, but they can certainly do a good job of explaining the situation.

Looking through our list of the best tracks of 2017, it’s littered with artists taking a side in that debate. Whether you want everybody to sit down and be humble, or you’re happy to swim through love galore, the whole world is reacting to the gigantic-ness of everything. And despite all of the noise and the frustration, there’s been a whole lot of positivity and beauty, as expressed here as well. Living in 2017 is reacting to 2017, and it’s a beautiful thing to see so many people doing so with real care.

These songs don’t deny our reality, but could well lay a path to a new one.

–Lior Phillips
Associate Editor

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50. Arcade Fire – “Everything Now”

Everything Now

Sounds Like: The Flaming Lips trying to cover an ABBA song but getting interrupted, continually and fruitfully, by a rogue faction of the Polyphonic Spree.

Key Lyric: “We can just pretend/ We’ll make it home again/ From everything now”

Why It Matters: The album’s grander ambitions (and seemingly endless, satirical guerrilla-marketing campaign) may have fallen flat, but the title track, aided by ambitious production from Daft Punk’s Thomas Bangalter and Pulp’s Steve Mackey, clocked in as one of the Arcade Fire’s most confident songs of all time.

Song in a GIF:

giphy 11 Top 50 Songs of 2017

–Tyler Clark

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49. Sam Smith – “Too Good at Goodbyes”

The Thrill of It All

Sounds Like: The ending to every breakup you’ve ever had, only two hours later, when the weight of change hits you in every possible way.

Key Lyric: “I know you’re thinkin’ I’m heartless/ I know you’re thinkin’ I’m cold/ I’m just protectin’ my innocence/ I’m just protectin’ my soul”

Why It Matters: Sam Smith conquers the ballad yet again with a hit that’s less Tom Petty and more CW. This is unadulterated emotionalism that finds the blockbuster singer-songwriter sounding stronger and more confident than ever. It’s kind of contagious.

Song in a GIF:

goodbye Top 50 Songs of 2017

–Michael Roffman

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48. Khalid – “Young Dumb & Broke”

American Teen

Sounds Like: Klonopin in a song: A Gen Z lullaby drifting through a hazy high school basement party, where everyone is the right amount of happy, in a paradise hidden far away from expectations.

Key Lyric: “I’m so high at the moment/ I’m so caught up in this/ Yeah, we’re just young, dumb, and broke/ But we still got love to give”

Why It Matters: Nineteen-year-old Khalid speaks of what he knows on this mesmerizing and anthemic ode to embracing the bliss of simple youthful contentment. You’ll be swaying along to the chorus of “Young, Dumb & Broke” hours after you hear it.

Song in a GIF:

giphy 7 Top 50 Songs of 2017

–Kayleigh Hughes

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47. MØ – “Linking with You”

When I Was Young EP

Sounds Like: A neon-flooded roller rink after a few too many Pixy Stix.

Key Lyric: “On my own/ Pretending that I’m not at home/ Act like I don’t check my phone”

Why It Matters: Three long years after her debut, the Danish powerhouse’s confident vulnerability makes “Linking with You” a sugary pop high. She sings about dreaming that that special someone finally calls, but with , even the waiting is sublime.

Song in a GIF:

giphy 113 Top 50 Songs of 2017

–Lior Phillips

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46. Danger Mouse feat. Run the Jewels and Big Boi – “Chase Me”

Baby Driver OST

Sounds Like: A hard, drifting left turn around the corner of a damp city street, shot in high-def slow-motion.

Key Lyric: “The reign of our ascension makes statisticians feel sickly/ Accountants, they get snippy, they never counted so quickly” or “Show some respect, or you’ll get showered like parade confetti/ Made man, I’m made already, nobody safe from petty/ 450 horse up in the Porsche, 600 in the Chevy”

Why It Matters: Soundtrack themes are hard to nail, especially when you have the acclaim of the film to live up to. Bringing together this much talent on a song that perfectly fits the movie and makes for a banging standalone track only serves to elevate Baby Driver, which should be a benchmark for any OST single.

Song in a GIF:

gangsta girls car Top 50 Songs of 2017

–Ben Kaye

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45. Nine Inch Nails – “Less Than”

Add Violence EP

Sounds Like: A sly protest song, sung with teeth bared, set to a beat by La Roux. Or if you prefer, it sounds like a demon, a party boy, and an anti-war activist having a freaky threesome in the bathroom of an all-night club.

Key Lyric: “And you can always justify/ The missile trails across the sky again”

Why It Matters: In recent years, as Trent Reznor has explored all the different sounds he’s good at making, he’s occasionally neglected the kinds of songs that made him great. “Less Than” hearkens back to Nine Inch Nails’ hits from Pretty Hate Machine and The Downward Spiral – it’s a howl of rage you can dance to. The difference here is that Reznor’s rage is turned outwards instead of in.

Song in a GIF:

tenor Top 50 Songs of 2017

–Wren Graves

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44. Migos – “Bad and Boujee”

Culture

Sounds Like: The song the Peanuts gang might rage and blow a few stacks to if they were as lit as Migos. “Bad & Boujee” is a testament to their signature flows that pair them with deconstructed synth piano gold from Metro Boomin.

Key Lyric: “Raindrop, drop top/ Smokin’ on cookie in the hotbox/ Fuckin’ on your b*tch, she a thot, thot/ Cookin’ up dope in the crockpot/ We came from nothin’ to somethin’, n*gga…”

Why It Matters: “Bad & Boujee” is Migos’ first single to top the Billboard Hot 100. The group turned rap’s aspirational flexing into a nouveau riche trap anthem that speaks to their love of women and iced-out excess but also makes clear their willingness — if tested — to adhere to the code of the streets.

Song in a GIF:

giphy 114 Top 50 Songs of 2017

–Karas Lamb

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43. The Kickback – “Hotel Chlorine”

Weddings & Funerals

Sounds Like: A one-man tug-of-war for emotional stability across wet, slippery tiles as indifferent locker doors slam shut all around

Key Lyric: “I could be your swim mate/ I could be your slave”

Why It Matters: In a year that many of our favorite rock and roll go-tos tasted bland, we found ourselves turning to up-and-coming flavors like The Kickback more and more. The brutal catchiness, wit, and manic desperation of songs like “Hotel Chlorine” have kept us feasting all year — always allowing time to digest before jumping back in.

Song in a GIF:

ys1whxtzrrlmc Top 50 Songs of 2017

–Matt Melis

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42. Calvin Harris feat. Frank Ocean and Migos – “Slide”

Funk Wav Bounces Vol. 1

Sounds Like: Relaxing by the pool in the moonlight with your significant other while sipping on margaritas.

Key Lyric: “Put some spotlight on the slide/ Whatever comes, comes through clear.”

Why It Matters: Frank Ocean comes together with Migos’ Quavo and Offset on a breezy, disco pop jam that’s as deep or superficial as you want it to be. While the chorus contemplates intimacy and meaningless sex, two-thirds of 2017’s hottest trio enjoy bouncing back and forth over a groovy bass line.

Song in a GIF:

hplchln Top 50 Songs of 2017

–Eddie Fu

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41. Brian Eno and Kevin Shields – “Only Once Away My Son”

Adult Swim Singles 2017

Sounds Like: It’s like some ancient recording of an alien world, where silence is replaced by what can best be described as aural embalming fluid

Key Lyric: That part where your mind goes full David Bowman about three minutes and 53 seconds into this nine-minute odyssey.

Why It Matters: Brian Eno and Kevin Shields are responsible for some of the most groundbreaking music of the last few decades, and while their collaboration for Adult Swim isn’t exactly changing history, it’s certainly a little Eric Stoltz and Lea Thompson: some kind of wonderful.

Song in a GIF:

2001 Top 50 Songs of 2017

–Michael Roffman

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40. Future – “Mask Off”

Future

Sounds Like: The best song to score Grand Theft Auto: Vice City that never actually did. “Mask Off” is an aesthetic win for trap music as arguably the most dynamic song to bear the hallmarks of the mighty subgenre to date.

Key Lyric: “Two cups, toast up with the gang/ From food stamps to a whole ‘nother domain/ Out the bottom, I’m the livin’ proof/ Ain’t compromising, half a million on the coupe.”

Why It Matters: “Mask Off” is a rags-to-riches tune from Future that ties drug use to the role that ill-gotten gains often play in funding the American Dream. The narrative counters that of Tommy Butler’s “Prison Song”, which Metro Boomin sampled for its iconic flute. Ironically, it is Future’s most successful single to date.

Song in a GIF:

giphy 115 Top 50 Songs of 2017

–Karas Lamb

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39. The National – “Day I Die”

Sleep Well Beast

Sounds Like: An open-ended yet triumphant closing scene, like the victorious characters of Ocean’s Eleven hitting the open road with seedy henchmen closely following.

Key Lyric: “‘Cause I really don’t have the courage not to turn the volume up inside my ears”

Why It Matters: In a year where everyone tried to drown out the noise, The National gifted us a song that filled our ears with exultant guitars, propulsive rhythms, and cleansing words. Matt Berninger’s peering assessment equally scorches and galvanizes while the band erupts with a dynamic vigor rarely seen in their career.

Song in a GIF:

giphy downsized large Top 50 Songs of 2017

–Doug Nunnally

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38. Brockhampton – “Gummy”

Saturation II

Sounds Like: Drinking 40s with your closest high school friends during the last summer before everyone leaves for college.

Key Lyric: “That nigga need to act his age, he ain’t acting like a grown up/ Ain’t that boy from Texas? He ain’t acting like a soldier/ Knew that boy in high school, man, that nigga wasn’t awkward”

Why It Matters: While “Gummy” is one of Brockhampton’s more conventional-sounding tracks, Kevin Abstract still keeps it weird by pitching his voice up to sound like M.I.A. Meanwhile, the self-proclaimed boy band takes on their detractors as Kevin Abstract sarcastically addresses criticism about his emotional lyrics while Dom McLennon brags that no other group can match their artistry and cohesiveness.

Song in a GIF:

tumblr o4jzaocnyb1ukyi98o1 500 Top 50 Songs of 2017

–Eddie Fu

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37. Drake – “Passionfruit”

More Life

Sounds Like: A drunk text from an ex on a night out that you know you should ignore but respond to anyway.

Key Lyric: “You got issues that I won’t mention for now ’cause we’re falling apart”

Why It Matters: Smoother than “One Dance”, this song is the apex of latter-period Drake’s laid-back jams and his sharpest melody yet.

Song in a GIF:

giphy 6 Top 50 Songs of 2017

–David Sackllah

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36. Aimee Mann – “Simple Fix”

Mental Illness

Sounds Like: A night out at the orchestra cut short when somebody yells, “Is there a therapist in the house?”

Key Lyric: “We’re babies passing for adults/ Who’ve loaded up their catapults/ And can’t believe the end results/ So, here we go again”

Why It Matters: In a year in which so many of us have fallen into unhealthy emotional patterns, there’s something hopeful about Aimee Mann suggesting the idea of a “Simple Fix”, even if most of us don’t have the courage or the ability to just walk out the door.

Song in a GIF:

giphy 1 Top 50 Songs of 2017

–Matt Melis

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35. Kendrick Lamar – “DNA.”

DAMN.

Sounds Like: Hip-hop being reclaimed for the conscious lyricists of yore with more than enough bump to rock the charts, the club, and the streets.

Key Lyric: “I got power, poison, pain and joy inside my DNA/ I got hustle, though, ambition, flow, inside my DNA”

Why It Matters: While the culture argued over mumble-rap and flavor-of-the-moment sensations, Kendrick Lamar charged through the noise with a powerful, eye-opening blast of mind-expanding verses over a bombastic Mike Will Made It production in his ongoing campaign for the title of greatest rapper alive.

Song in a GIF:

tumblr m6wa8f9kz41r5xkt9o1 r1 500 Top 50 Songs of 2017

–Scott T. Sterling

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34. The War on Drugs – “Thinking of a Place”

A Deeper Understanding

Sounds Like: Capturing dusk’s light like fireflies in a jar made of the ripples in the Missouri River.

Key Lyrics: “Because there’s a rhythm in the way that we’ve been moving/ Yeah, there’s a darkness over there, but we ain’t going”

Why It Matters: Returning three years after a breakthrough album with an 11-minute single is ballsy. However, when that single is such a beautifully atmospheric ode to remaining hopeful in the melancholy before finding love, it’s proof The War on Drugs have the balls to be one of the best rock bands working today.

Song in a GIF:

giphy 2 Top 50 Songs of 2017

–Ben Kaye

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33. Lorde – “Homemade Dynamite”

Melodrama

Sounds Like: An infinity pool overlooking Miami Beach circa 1997 with Savage Garden playing somewhere in the background.

Key Lyric: “Might get your friend to drive, but he can hardly see/ We’ll end up painted on the road/ Red and chrome/ All the broken glass sparkling/ I guess we’re partying”

Why It Matters: Lorde dresses up her own blank space with a swanky house party, snapping selfies of youthful abandonment that speak volumes for the ages. This is lush, spacious pop that’s almost Hemingway-esque in its details.

Song in a GIF:

dynamite Top 50 Songs of 2017

–Michael Roffman

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32. Smino – “Amphetamine”

blkswn

Sounds Like: Late-night swims in balmy five-star hotel pools, when you’re really staying in the beat-up motel down the road.

Key Lyric: “Grandaddy spittin, ain’t nothing new bout the system/ ‘Cause how they do me they did him/ Appropriating the fellas/ Sucking the fruit from my elders/ Don’t give a Chuck bout no Berry/ They rather listen to Elvis/ Woah, mama”

Why It Matters: At nearly eight minutes, Smino closes out blkswn with a nourishing meditation on the draws and ills of addiction. What could have been a total downer actually becomes a comforting thesis on overcoming, leaving listeners with subtle swells of optimism.

Song in a GIF:

trainspotting Top 50 Songs of 2017

–Michael Roffman

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31. LCD Soundsystem – “tonite”

American Dream

Sounds Like: The DJ discovering a locked groove at the end of his chosen record and letting it play because the dance floor keeps moving.

Key Lyric: “Sure enemies haunt you with spit and derision/ But friends are the ones who can put you in an exile”

Why It Matters: Some were skeptical of an LCD Soundsystem return, and others were hungry for it; either way, they needed to prove themselves, and prove themselves they did. “tonite” is vintage LCD, but also James Murphy and co. continuing to analyze their place in the dance pop landscape.

Song in a GIF:

Gww5IJj Top 50 Songs of 2017

–Lior Phillips

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30. Lana Del Rey – “Love”

Lust for Life

Sounds Like: “Don’t Worry Baby” and “Will You Love Me Tomorrow” waking up next to each other in an opium den, unaware that they’re now married.

Key Lyric: “Look at you kids, you know you’re the coolest/ The world is yours, and you can’t refuse it”

Why It Matters: Lust for Life wasn’t Lana Del Rey’s best album by any means, but it certainly put its best foot forward with these four chords and the truth. As she tightens up her pop gifts, perhaps a whole album of stunners as indelible as “Love” isn’t far behind?

Song in a GIF:

ngjdx Top 50 Songs of 2017

–Dan Weiss

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29. Perfume Genius – “Slip Away”

No Shape

Sounds Like: Being shot out of a cannon through a Victorian gala and landing in the biggest marshmallow fudge cake you’ve ever seen.

Key Lyric: “Take my hand, take my everything/ If we only got a moment/ Give it to me now”

Why It Matters: After years of stunning work powered by pain and struggle, Mike Hadreas’ fourth album finds an undeniable happiness. On “Slip Away”, he forces all of that noise out of his head, relishing every moment with a lover that he can’t be kept from.

Song in a GIF:

tumblr otitg8zt1i1sc0ffqo4 540 Top 50 Songs of 2017

–Lior Phillips

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28. Lil Uzi Vert – “XO Tour Llif3”

Luv Is Rage 2

Sounds Like: Pretty much exactly what Uzi chose to call the album on which this howling emo-rap sucker-punch appears: the cross-section of rage and love, drenched in furious, erotic desperation.

Key Lyric: “Shoulda saw the way she look me in my eyes/ She said, ‘Baby, I am not afraid to die'”

Why It Matters: This bleak-as-hell banger distills the feeling of seeking recklessness as catharsis, having absolutely nothing to lose, pushing and shoving and taunting danger with an unhinged fearlessness: this song is basically the only way to feel alive and something close to okay in the hellscape of 2017.

Song in a GIF:

tumblr nro76tnicv1t7lixko1 400 Top 50 Songs of 2017

–Kayleigh Hughes

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27. The xx – “I Dare You”

I See You

Sounds Like: Watching two of your closest friends finally figure out they have amazing chemistry and take the plunge, when you’ve seen it coming for years.

Key Lyric: “I’ve been a romantic for so long/ All I’ve ever heard are love songs.”

Why It Matters: It’s been a dark year, and we need all the optimism we can get our hands on. Framing romance not as an inevitability but as a dare adds some needed levity to the whole courtship process, and who couldn’t use some of The xx’s time-tested vocal contrasts?

Song in a GIF:

giphy 13 Top 50 Songs of 2017

–Sasha Geffen

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26. Saba – “There You Go”

Non-Album Single

Sounds Like: A syrupy Sunday afternoon on the porch, keeping an eye out on the neighborhood but slowly slipping into a dream.

Key Lyric: “I’m at yo head that’s a CAT scan/ Not here to kick it, no Jack Chan/ Random shout-out to my black fans”

Why It Matters: Chicago’s Saba and Oakland producer Daoud have done work together, but this delectably smooth, piano-driven production splits between the Bucket List mastermind going out of his mind and wondering where his friends lost to violence are — a deft handling of the reality of West Side Chicagoans.

Song in a GIF:

giphy 15 Top 50 Songs of 2017

–Adam Kivel

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25. Cloud Nothings – “Enter Entirely”

Life Without Sound

Sounds Like: That woozy, lonely, and bitter feeling at the end of every late-night walk home, when you realize there’s nowhere else in the world you’d rather be than yesterday.

Key Lyric: “Moving on but I still feel it/ You’re just a light in me now”

Why It Matters: Dylan Baldi puts things into perspective with another must-squeeze anthem that wraps our love-torn wounds with gauze and distortion. Once more, he throws his weight into repetition, bludgeoning our bruises until they’re blistered and screeching. This one hurts.

Song in a GIF:

enter entirely Top 50 Songs of 2017

–Michael Roffman

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24. Jay-Z feat. Gloria Carter – “Smile”

4:44

Sounds Like: Thumbing through faded, sepia-toned photos in a dusty, old album.

Key Lyric: “Mama had four kids, but she’s a lesbian/ Had to pretend so long that she’s a thespian”

Why It Matters: “Smile” is among the most intimate songs on an album full of personal revelations. In addition to his mom coming out and speaking her truth, Jay-Z takes inventory of his own transition from rising star to mogul.

Song in a GIF:

giphy 6 Top 50 Songs of 2017

–Greg Whitt

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23. HAIM – “Little of Your Love”

Something to Tell You

Sounds Like: A sunny stroll through Laurel Canyon, possibly during the late ’70s, all lensed to perfection by Damien Chazelle.

Key Lyric: “Don’t it feel like that night was from a dream (Ooh, ooh, ooh)/ I’ve never felt nothing like that/ Looking at you, looking right back”

Why It Matters: HAIM dials back the decades with this shiny, new doo-wop number that’s none too precious and all too simple. That’s an easy target to miss, but all three sisters hit the bull’s-eye in a row, walking away like it was no big deal. Probably wasn’t.

Song in a GIF:

little Top 50 Songs of 2017

–Michael Roffman

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22. Frank Ocean – “Chanel”

Non-Album Single

Sounds Like: The end of an episode of Entourage where the guys come out on top, and all is right in Hollywood again (so basically every episode).

Key Lyric: “Can’t you see I am the big man? (Big man)/ God level I am the I am (whoa)”

Why It Matters: After ruling the end of 2016 with Endless and Blonde, Frank Ocean didn’t lose a step in 2017. He dropped a handful of singles this year, including notable features on the Calvin Harris and A$AP Mob albums, and “Chanel” might be the best of the group.

Song in a GIF:

giphy 5 Top 50 Songs of 2017

–Greg Whitt

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21. Harry Styles – “Sign of the Times”

Harry Styles

Sounds Like: A classic rock balladeer coming to terms with the insanity of modern life.

Key Lyric: “Remember everything will be alright/ We can meet again somewhere/ Somewhere far away from here”

Why It Matters: Harry Styles’ debut solo single immediately signaled the former One Direction vocalist would be reaching far outside his previous stomping grounds, instead opting here for a massive hook a la Robbie Williams or Ronan Keating — and nailing it, from every neon guitar twang to fist-pumped caterwaul.

Song in a GIF:

giphy 112 Top 50 Songs of 2017

–Lior Phillips

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20. Kelela – “LMK”

Take Me Apart

Sounds Like: Texting a new flame at one in the morning when both of you obviously want to meet up but neither of you wants to leave your room.

Key Lyric: “It ain’t that deep, baby.”

Why It Matters: Kelela finally graced us with her debut album this year, and as its single, “LMK” shows her at the height of her powers. Few singers manage to hit a register as simultaneously substantial and delicate as this; fewer still match their vocals with such a comprehensive sound world.

Song in a GIF:

source Top 50 Songs of 2017

–Sasha Geffen

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19. Spoon – “Hot Thoughts”

Hot Thoughts

Sounds Like: The perfect jam hitting a packed club late in the night, fueling the crowd for one collective joie de vivre feeling.

Key Lyric: “Hot thoughts all in my mind and all of the time”

Why It Matters: Spoon eschews the late-career introspection most long-running rock bands encounter, instead finding inspiration in dance rhythms, pop structures, and jazz flirtations. The enduring charm of their music shines through, ingratiating them to a wider audience instead of doubling-down with their existing fans.

Song in a GIF:

giphy 14 Top 50 Songs of 2017

–Doug Nunnally

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18. Charli XCX – “Boys”

Non-Album Single

Sounds Like: Running through a side-scroller video game full of tropical scenery and oiled up pecs with no real objective.

Key Lyric: “In every city I’ve got one with different ringtones/ Flyin’ from LA all the way to Puerto Rico”

Why It Matters: Though a video objectifying a whole wide series of dudes is a start, the bubblicious beat and Charli’s rakish delivery boost the single into a higher layer of pop heaven. There’s fun in droves on “Boys”, another burst of plinking percussion and 1-Up synths around every corner.

Song in a GIF:

giphy 111 Top 50 Songs of 2017

–Lior Phillips

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17. Kamasi Washington – “Truth”

Harmony of Desire EP

Sounds Like: The center of the spiral universe in hyperlapse.

Key Lyric: It’s an instrumental, but the unified choral theme where everyone comes together around 11 minutes in is heavenly.

Why It Matters: In a world full of tension, separation, and divisive language, a tune that finds a mystic cohesion and unity at an instinctual core can feel like a miracle. Kamasi Washington has delivered plenty of blessings in his career, but the majestic “Truth” brings the whole world together in a transcendent heartbeat.

Song in a GIF:

giphy 110 Top 50 Songs of 2017

–Lior Phillips

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16. Ryan Adams – “Doomsday”

Prisoner

Sounds Like: A train that pulled out of the station months ago at sunset, leaving a man there on the platform ever since, debating whether he should’ve been on it.

Key Lyric: “My love, oh, and I don’t know/ My love, how to let my feelings go/ My love, I said I’d love you now ’til doomsday comes”

Why It Matters: In a heartbreaking year, nobody depicted the devastation and bewilderment of actual heartbreak with more brutal honesty than Ryan Adams.

Song in a GIF:

6677368d7d284d9f6cc4cf481398ef67 h 45486 Top 50 Songs of 2017

 

–Matt Melis

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15. Sampha – “(No One Knows Me) Like My Piano”

Process

Sounds Like: Sitting in a dark, featureless room, watching a lone candle flicker and refuse to fade.

Key Lyric: “And you took hold of me and never, never, never let me go/ ‘Cause no one knows me like the piano in my mother’s home/ In my mother’s home”

Why It Matters: The raw heart of Sampha Sisay’s debut LP, “Like My Piano” deals directly and intimately with the death of the London singer-songwriter’s mother and the way in which music proved an escape and salvation in its face. The song balances tender keys and a veritable chorus of Samphas, at once fragile and undeniable.

Song in a GIF:

giphy 18 Top 50 Songs of 2017

–Lior Phillips

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14. Gorillaz feat. Vince Staples – “Ascension”

Humanz

Sounds Like: Retro night at the nightclub on the last ship off of Earth, looking out the window as it implodes, hopeful but skeptical.

Key Lyric: “They hated on us since days of Moses/ Let my people go crazy”

Why It Matters: Not content with releasing his own sublime album that at once thrills and challenges, Vince Staples fits right in with the pack of cartoon primates. Vince and 2-D each share some rhymes about the world burning and trying to find someone to love to watch it happen with.

Song in a GIF:

giphy 16 Top 50 Songs of 2017

–Adam Kivel

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13. Sheer Mag – “Expect the Bayonet”

Need to Feel Your Love

Sounds Like: Catchy, hook-heavy protest rock that shows at least one band paid attention during history class.

Key Lyric: “I’ve been reading the news, and you’ll surely regret/ If you don’t give us the ballot, expect the bayonet!”

Why It Matters: At a time when rock and roll’s relevance couldn’t be lower, Sheer Mag not only stir excitement for the dying genre with “Expect the Bayonet”, but remind us that rock and roll’s job traditionally has been to speak truth to power and afflict the comfortable. How in the hell is that not needed and relevant right now?

Song in a GIF: 

tenor 1 Top 50 Songs of 2017

–Matt Melis

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12. Vince Staples – “Big Fish”

Big Fish Theory

Sounds Like: A montage song from a movie where the protagonist lights a cigar with a $100 bill.

Key Lyric: “I was up late-night ballin’/ So, far from my past misfortune/ No sleepin’, late nights no eatin’/ Gun squeezing, I’m a real Artesian”

Why It Matters: Vince Staples has come a long way from Long Beach, but his ascent to rap’s vanguard hasn’t left his guard lowered; as this song (and its shark-infested video) suggests, Staples’ healthy distrust of success (and the problems that it barely keeps at bay) is the main driver of his still-unexhausted potential.

Song in a GIF:

giphy 12 Top 50 Songs of 2017

–Tyler Clark

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11. The Killers – “Run for Cover”

Wonderful Wonderful

Sounds Like: Whatever is going through Tom Cruise’s head when he’s sprinting around on the set of a Mission: Impossible movie.

Key Lyric: “I saw Sonny Liston on the street last night/ Black-fisted and strong singing “Redemption Song”/ He motioned me to the sky/ I heard heaven and thunder cry”

Why It Matters: This one’s the hangover after last year’s 10th anniversary celebration of Sam’s Town, a jogging crooner by way of ’80s Springsteen that finds Brandon Flowers sounding young, angry, and exultant. No shit The Killers are still headlining festivals.

Song in a GIF:

run for cover Top 50 Songs of 2017

–Michael Roffman

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10. Cardi B – “Bodak Yellow”

Non-Album Single

Sounds Like: The stylistic answer to Bobby Shmurda’s “Hot N*gga” but takes a cue from Jay-Z’s 2001 Nas diss “The Takeover”, as Cardi B takes Kodak Black’s “No Flockin” flow and makes it a hot song.

Key Lyric: “These expensive, these is red bottoms, these is bloody shoes/ And I’m quick, cut a n*gga off, so don’t get comfortable, look/ I don’t dance now, I make money moves”

Why It Matters: “Bodak Yellow” is Cardi B’s statement of purpose. She cements her career transition from stripping to climbing the Billboard charts on a menacing, minimal track that doesn’t trade her gritty, Uptown swagger for pop in order to rank. Cardi’s delivery throws back to “Quiet Storm”-era Lil’ Kim while the zeitgeist that is “Bodak Yellow” has found her rubbing shoulders with Lauryn Hill as only the second woman in history with a solo hip-hop No. 1 single on the Billboard Hot 100.

Song in a GIF:

giphy 116 Top 50 Songs of 2017

–Karas Lamb

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09. Courtney Barnett and Kurt Vile – “Over Everything”

Lotta Sea Lice

Sounds Like: A hazy, golden summer day rolling out in front of you like a carpet, one that manages to stretch to 25 hours when flattened out.

Key Lyric: “You could say I hear you on several levels at high decibels”

Why It Matters: While it may be a song primarily about solitude, Kurt Vile’s ability to capture Courtney Barnett’s phrasing and create a song she could step right into led to what became the best rock collaboration of the year.

Song in a GIF:

mildaridelectriceel max 14mb Top 50 Songs of 2017

–Matt Melis

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08. Childish Gambino – “Redbone”

Awaken, My Love!

Sounds Like: George Clinton’s basement on a hot August night, where the air’s so toasty the shaggy carpet’s starting to smoke from decades of spilled bong resin.

Key Lyric: “Too late/ You wanna make it right, but now it’s too late/ My peanut butter chocolate cake with Kool-Aid/ I’m trying not to waste my time”

Why It Matters: Donald Glover shakes things up considerably with this throwback groove that deals with paranoia and infidelity. The vintage funk is a good look on the Atlanta mastermind, whose voice sounds as if it’s coming through a Leslie speaker circa 1976. It’s hot.

Song in a GIF:

redbone Top 50 Songs of 2017

–Michael Roffman

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07. St. Vincent – “New York”

Masseduction

Sounds Like: Wandering the cold streets of the Big Apple, passing immaculately decorated shop windows until the lights all blur.

Key Lyric: “You’re the only motherfucker in the city who can handle me”

Why It Matters: Annie Clark’s fifth album, MASSEDUCTION, is magnificently detailed and intricately themed, and “New York” stands as perhaps its grandest statement. The lead single is at once triumphant and desolate, fluorescent and gritty, full of every contradiction — much like the city it’s named after.

Song in a GIF:

giphy 19 Top 50 Songs of 2017

–Lior Phillips

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06. Johnny Jewel – “Windswept”

Windswept

windswept Top 50 Songs of 2017

Sounds Like: The quieter middle section of Michael Mann’s Heat, specifically those late-night scenes involving Robert De Niro and Amy Brenneman.

Key Lyric: It’s an instrumental, but that saxophone is the purest distillation of grief.

Why It Matters: Johnny Jewel bottles the crushing angst and dread of 2017 with this somber jazz meditation that’s relieving and bruising all at once. This year, we were all Dougie Jones, watching aimlessly as uncompromising change casually drifted by us.

Song in a GIF:

cooper Top 50 Songs of 2017

–Michael Roffman

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05. Migos – “T-Shirt”

Culture

Sounds Like: The 3:00 a.m. ride to Waffle House after the club.

Key Lyric: “Do it for the culture/ They gon’ bite like vultures”

Why It Matters: Migos kept up the momentum from their chart-topping 2016 single “Bad and Boujee” and proved that they are here to stay.

Song in a GIF:

giphy 4 Top 50 Songs of 2017

–Greg Whitt

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04. SZA – “Love Galore”

Ctrl

Sounds Like: A sweaty night at the hotel that you know you probably shouldn’t be having, but still can’t help yourself.

Key Lyric: “We do whatever we want, go wherever we want/ Love however we want, it don’t matter/ You’ll do whatever I want, get whatever I want/ Get whatever I need, it’s about love”

Why It Matters: Anticipation can make everything a little hotter, and that’s certainly the case with SZA’s long-awaited debut album. Add in the should-they, shouldn’t-they interplay with Travis Scott, and the steam gets almost unbearable — the key word being almost.

Song in a GIF:

giphy 17 Top 50 Songs of 2017

–Lior Phillips

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03. Portugal. The Man – “Feel It Still”

Woodstock

Sounds Like: The only song you’ll hear at the Gap that won’t make you want to blow your brains out.

Key Lyric: “Ooh woo, I’m a rebel just for kicks, now/ I’ve been feeling it since 1966, now/ Might be over now, but I feel it still”

Why It Matters: Portugal. The Man stave off obsolescence with a hit they’ve been trying to deliver for over a decade. “Feel It Still” is this year’s most unlikely triumph, and the Portland rockers earned every week on the charts with this smart, addicting, and incredibly thrifty slice of psych pop. It’s been everywhere all year, and yet it’s never not welcome. Keep it comin’, fellas. Keep it comin’.

Song in a GIF:

feel it still Top 50 Songs of 2017

–Michael Roffman

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02. Lorde – “Green Light”

Melodrama

Sounds Like: Finding the aggressive strength needed to find clarity in a relentless emotional whirlwind.

Key Lyric: “I know about what you did, and I wanna scream the truth”

Why It Matters: We all knew Lorde was special, but who could have imagined her gloomy, callous aesthetic reaching these glorious heights? She towers over the music scene with this puzzled dance anthem, giving you just as much reason to move in sadness as in triumph, allowing us to view melancholy with fresh, multicolored lenses for an endlessly cathartic experience.

Song in a GIF:

0moz6 Top 50 Songs of 2017

–Doug Nunnally

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01. Kendrick Lamar – “HUMBLE.”

DAMN.

Sounds Like: The trapped-out grandson of Boogie Down Production’s “The Bridge Is Over”.

Key Lyric: “This that Grey Poupon, that Evian, that Ted Talk, aye/ Watch my soul speak/ You let the meds talk”

Why It Matters: After risking casual fans and ignoring commercial radio with the critically acclaimed concept album To Pimp a Butterfly, the greatest rapper in the world reminds us all that he can make a song that slaps.

Song in a GIF:

giphy 3 Top 50 Songs of 2017

–Greg Whitt

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Playlist

Stream the entire list via Spotify below.

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