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Top 50 Songs of 2017

Here are the tracks that by and large reacted to the year with beauty and positivity

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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


    50. Arcade Fire – “Everything Now”

    Everything Now

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    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


    49. Sam Smith – “Too Good at Goodbyes”

    The Thrill of It All

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    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.

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    Song in a GIF:

    goodbye Top 50 Songs of 2017

    –Michael Roffman


    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”

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    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


    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”

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    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


    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.

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    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


    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.

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    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


    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…”

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    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


    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

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    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


    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.

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    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


    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

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    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


    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.

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    Song in a GIF:

    giphy 115 Top 50 Songs of 2017

    –Karas Lamb


    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.

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    Song in a GIF:

    giphy downsized large Top 50 Songs of 2017

    –Doug Nunnally


    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.

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    Song in a GIF:

    tumblr o4jzaocnyb1ukyi98o1 500 Top 50 Songs of 2017

    –Eddie Fu


    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.

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    Song in a GIF:

    giphy 6 Top 50 Songs of 2017

    –David Sackllah


    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.

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    Song in a GIF:

    giphy 1 Top 50 Songs of 2017

    –Matt Melis


    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.

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    Song in a GIF:

    tumblr m6wa8f9kz41r5xkt9o1 r1 500 Top 50 Songs of 2017

    –Scott T. Sterling


    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”

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    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


    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”

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    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


    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”

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    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


    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”

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    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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