Best of 2017- Top 25 Pop Songs of 2017
This year was a truly great year for mainstream music all the way around. There wasn't just one song that dominated the airwaves for the last twelve months (okay, maybe there was), but instead, a great many songs made their way into the spotlight and made us all feel, dance, or sing along in different ways.
Yes, I shamelessly listen to pop music, and I'm not ashamed of it. I'm just really happy that I got to experience more music than I've ever listened to before this year.
For the third year now, here are the top 25 pop songs of 2017.
"Dig Down," Muse
Muse’s newest single features lyrics that we’ve come to know and love from the English rock band. We know about Matthew Bellamy’s goal to inspire power in his listeners. But what makes the song great is its instrumentation. It begins with a repeating synth, slowly oscillating in intensities, almost like a faint radio signal going in and out. The second verse pads the beat with some strings, before Bellamy’s sharp guitar punctuates the sound and it explodes into a fulfilling final chorus. Muse’s patented layered backup vocals are also on full display here.
"DNA," Kendrick Lamar
“DNA” is not a single from Kendrick’s new album Damn. But it is one of the album’s best. This punchy electric mantra features genius-like lyrical flow, featuring lyrics about identity and individuality. There’s something about Kendrick’s lyrics, with just about every line ending with the phrase “inside my DNA.” that makes the song truly legendary. Plus, the music video features Don Cheadle!
"First Try (Team Swim Remix)," Johnnyswim
Abner and Amanda are at it again with this fantastic second mix of their song “First Try” off their Georgica Pond album. This version features a more balanced chorus between Abner’s “I’ll get it right…” and Amanda’s “Don’t want no…” sections, as well as a brilliant addition of a choir on the sweetest backup vocals you’ll ever hear. They may not have gotten it right on the first try, but this remix is evident that if you ain’t evolving your music, you ain’t grinding hard enough.
"Still Breathing," Green Day
Green Day’s newest album, Revolution Radio is further demonstration that God’s favorite band has grown so much since their early power trio days. “Still Breathing” is a great example, and it is the most contemplative song out of the three singles released from the new album so far. It explores finding strength within oneself in the face of personal struggles, and features an uplifting chorus with a descending bass line, structurally reminiscent of another emotionally packed song, “21 Guns.” I love it when Green Day gets emotionally mature and personal, don’t you?
"Paris," The Chainsmokers
I still find it fascinating that the Chainsmokers still started their mainstream careers with “#selfie.” Sure, their songs may have overstayed their welcome due to the amount of airtime that “Closer” received, but I’m still a big fan of their club-mystique/electropop sound. “Paris” is one of those. It’s a lot like “Closer,” in that we’re remembering some kind of lost love in a scenic locale along with a basic four chords in the back. Sometimes you can’t really explain what you like about a song. Maybe the repeating “we go down together” is an earworm, or maybe it’s the aesthetic of driving at night while the lights rush past, listening to this song that’s appealing to me.
"In the Blood," John Mayer
A bit of personal preference here. This song means a lot to me. John Mayer takes his musical style in a new direction with this one, fusing Americana country with a mainstream alternative sound. Lyrically, I enjoy the themes of not really knowing who you are yet, not really sure if your parents or family has anything to do with why you are the way you are, and hoping not to repeat any mistakes your ancestors made, while being okay with being unsure of your way. This one’s up there in emotional weight just like “Stop This Train.” Also, that voice on background vocals in the chorus is Sheryl Crow. So that’s fun.
"Galway Girl," Ed Sheeran
Never did I think that an Irish drinking song could have mainstream success. “Galway Girl” takes the Irish fiddle motif and adds in Sheeran’s sharp, quick, punctuating vocals. Thanks to the help of the Irish band Boega, the chorus relies heavily on traditional Irish music, as we hear a familiar “she played a fiddle in an Irish band, but she fell in love with an Englishman,” which is inspired from just about every Irish jig known to man. “Galway Girl” also has Sheeran’s vocal prowess embedded into the track, with a tone very reminiscent of his previous songs like “Sing” and “Shape of You.” “Galway Girl” was the third most streamed track on Spotify from Sheeran’s ÷ album.
"It Ain't Me," Kygo & Selena Gomez
This is the first entry on this list to signify a major theme in just about every song to come: tropical house has become a big thing in the last few years, and 2017 was just about the peak period of the trend. The song begins with a basic acoustic guitar riff, and then goes into a really cool chord progression on the piano in the pre-chorus. The hook of “It Ain’t Me” features that Caribbean flavor heavily, as Gomez’s previous lyrics are reduced to clipped, repeating syllables to go along with the pulsating synths, piano, guitar, bass, and pan flute (if you listen hard enough).
The Top 25:
25. "All the Pretty Girls," Kaleo
A very sweet song to begin our countdown, “All the Pretty Girls” is comprised of an acoustic guitar and a whole lot of vocal emotion from JJ Julius Son. You can throw many different labels on the genre of the song, anything from indie-folk to alternative. Kaleo has that European-style rock sound, and the two songs on this list are evidence of their range as a band. As the chorus of this song hits, we’re treated to the gorgeous falsetto of JJ Julius Son, with the repeated line of “won’t you lay me down,” which is a delightful earworm to go with the kind acoustic solo line after each chorus. As the song presses on, you can hear the intensity in Son’s voice, as it just teeters on the edge of full intensity, while still maintaining that air of fragility.
24. "Heatstroke," Calvin Harris feat. Young Thug, Pharrell Williams & Ariana Grande
This pleasant hit from Calvin Harris will heat up any dance floor. Harris provides the bouncy beat, and the styles of all three artists on the track are indelible. Young Thug provides the first verse, Ariana Grande the sultry second verse, with Pharrell’s multi-layered vocals filling in the spaces. A solid bop all around.
23. "Stay," Zedd & Alessia Cara
Another DJ-singer collab from this year, “Stay” features one of the catchiest choruses of the year. Alessia Cara, fresh off a breakout year highlighted by four Grammy nominations, provides the vocals on the track. This is not Zedd’s first go around with talented female vocalists, as he was featured on Ariana Grande’s song “Break Free.” The hook Zedd provides for Cara cuts strips away everything, and brilliantly messes around with vocal effects. As Cara climbs her way through the pre-chorus, Zedd masterfully adds some synthesized vocal harmonies, which explode their way into the hook of the song. “Stay,” is nominated for a Grammy for best Pop Duo/Group Performance in 2018.
22. "Issues," Julia Michaels
Julia Michaels’ debut single is one of the more personal songs from this year, as it serves as a raw ode to some of Michaels’ own anxieties. The symptoms are laid out in front of us: “I’m jealous, I’m overzealous, when I’m down I get real down, when I’m high I don’t come down.” It’s also got this genius string line through the verses. Michaels also gives us one of the catchiest hooks of 2017, from her smooth “I would judge you too,” to her “I got issues, and one of them is how bad I need you.” Not bad for a first timer, reaching as high as 11 on the Billboard Hot 100 charts.
21. "Slow Hands," Niall Horan
The first of our One Direction singles, “Slow Hands” is a fantastic, bluesy second effort by Niall Horan, and a major turn from his previous single, the contemplative “This Town.” I appreciate the effort made by Mr. Horan to broaden his musical horizons appealing to both the sensitive side and sexy-party-loving sides of his (and 1D’s) fan base. It’s very Ed Sheeran of him. Rock out to the killer baseline, bouncy percussion, sexy guitar, and crooning vocals. And that chorus, though. *swoon*
20. "Attention," Charlie Puth
Charlie Puth is silently climbing the ladder of success. This takes the previous entry, “Slow Hands,” and puts a darker twist on it. Clearly a song with a bite of abandon and bitterness in it, Puth sings about his partner’s love for his success, but not so much him. I mean, how can you resist that beautiful voice? The way he is able to switch back and forth from an airy falsetto into full voice during the last chorus is astounding. The best part of the song comes just before the last chorus, when Puth adds an extra half measure to take a breath. It leaves us wanting so more, and then we’re fulfilled when he lays into that final dagger of the track.
19. "Something Just Like This," The Chainsmokers & Coldplay
I will admit- the lyrics to this song make no sense to me. I’m not really sure why Chris Martin is singing about Spiderman or Batman or whatever. But in that way, it makes total sense that the Chainsmokers and Coldplay would get together on a collaboration. It’s a happy-go-lucky EDM-infused song, and the hook is catchy as hell. Maybe I indulge a bit, but we all have our guilty pleasures, am I right?
18. "Feel It Still," Portugal. The Man
I love this song. And yes, while I’m sure that fans of Portugal. The Man before they gained mainstream success would like to have him back. But he’s here now, so you can’t. This one brings us back to the glorious era of 60’s rock and roll, R&B and soul music. We’ve got elements of “Mr. Postman” in the melody of the chorus, one of the slickest guitar licks you’ll hear in a while. And those horns in the back? Pure sweetness. I feel like I’m in an Apple commercial whenever I listen to this song for some reason.
17. "Redbone," Childish Gambino
As if we couldn’t love Donald Glover anymore than we do, he comes out with this gem of a song. This one is five and a half minutes of straight up sex. Sorry, not just sex. Love making. Man. Damn.
Redbone is featured in the opening and closing of the film Get Out, and became a sleeper hit this year, thanks to the switch in style from Gambino. He’s entirely in falsetto for this one, and the funky, psychedelic guitar takes us on a journey. This single from Gambino’s second album, Awaken, My Love! Is nominated for a Grammy for Record of the Year. A well-deserved honor.
16. "Way Down We Go," Kaleo
With very little effort, Kaleo makes a second appearance on this list due to the Icelandic band’s (oh, by the way, they’re from Iceland… way cooler) powerful single from their second album, A/B. The track was featured in the trailer from the film Logan, which is probably where many people have heard it before. Originating from a piano, the song evolves into a heavy drum line and JJ Julius Son’s gritty, emotionally charged vocals. The song is very much in the style of a Hozier or an X-Ambassadors, as we feel the earthy tones surround us. Go ahead, try not to tap your foot and bob your head when listening to this one.
15. "Castle on the Hill," Ed Sheeran
This one is so pure, I can’t help but smile when I listen to it. I’m really hoping that this is what all Americans think northern England is like when Sheeran describes his childhood to us, and paints a gorgeous picture of said castle on the hill during the emotional, uplifting chorus. Reflecting on both the good and bad of his childhood and journey into adulthood, Sheeran is at his most pure form. We have his quick-strumming guitar patterns, the trademark gritty, strained notes at the top of his range, and the fantastic chord progression that pervades throughout and ties the gorgeous ode to growing up together.
14. "Sorry Not Sorry," Demi Lovato
On June 29th, Demi threw a house party. And it was good. And we all bowed down. This is just another example at how much of a champ Demi Lovato is. Ever since “Cool For the Summer,” we’ve really gotten to see the real Demi come into her own, and it’s just straight up brilliance. The range this woman is able to produce is absurd. She’s the baddest. We all know this. “Sorry Not Sorry,” received an MTV Music Video Award nomination for Song of the Summer. Because Demi is the queen of songs of the summer.
13. "Too Good at Goodbyes," Sam Smith
Did anybody else miss Sam Smith? I sure did. I can never figure out what his schtick is, but I think I’m totally okay with that. It’s not quite full-on lamenting over heartbreak, it’s not pure “I will get through this,” and it’s not overly braggadocious. Whatever the case, “Too Good At Goodbyes” is just another example of how well Smith can hold us in the palm of his hand and make us feel so many emotions- he pulls away from a strained, up-and-down relationship, while also finding a bit of melancholy solace in the fact that he’s grown up enough to move on. This is a gentle reminder that Sam Smith’s voice is also not of this earth.
12. "Still Feel Like Your Man," John Mayer
I am pleased and honored to finally be able to put John Mayer on one of these lists. His first album in four years, The Search For Everything really encompasses just about all eras of Mayer’s career, from his roots as a blues guitar player, through his mainstream pop phase, to his more mature Americana-folk-rock phase. “Still Feel Like Your Man” is a combination of the first two, as we’re treated to this funky guitar riff throughout the track. It packs more of a punch than the lead single, “Love On the Weekend,” and that’s why it earns a spot here on this list, from its sensual vocals about leaving shampoo in the shower (we’re aware this is about Katy Perry, right?), or enjoying the letters in a former lover’s name. Also, take a watch of the music video. A 40-year old John Mayer dances with giant panda bears. Still feels pretty ageless to me.
11. "Down," Marian Hill
Marian Hill’s debut single was a sleeper hit this year, coming from nowhere to reach as high as number 21 on the Billboard Charts. The group gives us elements we’ve seen before in songs like Kiiara’s “Gold” from last year, including a fairly basic instrumental riff through the verses (in Marian Hill’s case, it’s a fun piano riff), and a hook where lyrics are run through a vocoder to give the ears a treat. Marian Hill takes it a step further by adding this odd-sounding pan flute-type instrument to the hook, but it only invests us further in the song. The music video is also brilliant, as director Jack Begert uses the elevators and fun camera angles to compliment the song’s trip-hop sound.
10. "Green Light," Lorde
I think I asked myself what happened to Lorde on the day this single was announced. Apparently, this is what happened to Lorde- she was off making more awesome music. “Green Light” is different from her past hits like “Royals” or “Team,” but it’s definitely her most dance-friendly song thus far in her career. This break-up anthem is not something we’ve seen from Lorde before. Initially, “Green Light” is very dark, as we can see those bottled up emotions taking shape, ready to unfold in front of us. And unfold they do. The song explodes into a neo-disco dance party, as we hear some piano, a reserved yet forward-pressing drum beat, and that good old pulsating synthesizer to round it out. “Green Light” fires strongly into its chorus and makes us all want to dance along, as Lorde lays it all out for us- it’s as if everything she’s been feeling- not just in the situation of the song, but perhaps in all the growing up she’s done since Pure Heroine- explodes into the music. This song is glorious. The metaphor of the green light serving as Lorde’s blessing to move forward in her life is one powerful image. Good to have you back, girl.
9. "Million Reasons," Lady Gaga
We are in the midst of a renaissance for Lady Gaga. “Million Reasons,” delves into sides of the pop icon that we’ve never seen before. It’s almost a country song, really. The song deals with heartbreak as well as hope, but also shows us a more spiritual, more religious side of it. Perhaps we’ve never seen this outright from Gaga, but I think it works really well. When you strip away all the synths and the costumes and just let it be about the music, simplicity can work just as well. “Million Reasons” is just that. It just might be one of Gaga’s best songs since “Bad Romance.” Allow me to be cliché for a moment- with the promotion of Joanne, I was about ready to clock out on Lady Gaga. I found “Perfect Illusion” annoying and lazily written. But I really just need one good reason to keep with it. This was it.
8. "Sign of the Times," Harry Styles
Our second One Direction defector, Harry Styles, made a statement with his debut single. In an interview with Rolling Stone, the way Styles describes the writing of the song is this:
“The song is written from the point of view as if a mother was giving birth to a child, and there’s a complication. The mother is told, ‘The child is fine, but you’re not going to make it.’ The mother has five minutes to tell the child, ‘go forth and conquer.’”
If that’s not lyrical maturity, I don’t know what is. Style’s song sounds almost apocalyptic at first listen, with his “just stop you’re crying, it’s the sign of the times,” almost like a message to people ready for 2017 to be over, as well as a swirling of multiple synthesizers, pianos, bass, and percussion in a slow-moving power ballad. It’s a great spinoff from an artist with what appears to be a bright future as a singles artist. I’m still not fully convinced that this isn’t a ploy by One Direction to have many successful singles careers and then get back together, though.
7. "Bad and Boujee," Migos feat. Lil Uzi Vert
Rain drop, drop top, seven away from the top top. Donald Glover gave a shout out to Migos during the Golden Globes back in January, and that spike this unlikely hit into the top spot on the Billboard Hot 100. In a song that owes a lot to James Brown’s song “Super Bad,” Offset, Quavos and Uzi launch a full out attack on the bourgeois, as they use their new money to switch their flows like clothes, cook up dope in a crock pot, and order chicken with blue cheese. It’s one of the year’s most bizarre and ultimately ubiquitous songs, but damn, is it catchy. Also, if you have a second, take a listen to Migos, Jimmy Fallon and the Roots play this song using only office instruments. It’s baller.
6. "That's What I Like," Bruno Mars
This is what we’ve come to love from Bruno Mars. All kinds of bragging with no kinds of issues from us. This song marks Bruno’s seventh number one single- a 90’s style song featuring lots of synth, some crooning vocals from Mars, and an extra treat- some brilliantly placed trap drums. This song is just plain old fun to listen to. And the best thing about it- you couldn’t escape it this year.
5. "Bodak Yellow," Cardi B
“Bodak Yellow” is straight up vicious. We’ve got the simple keyboard riff and hip hop beat through the whole song, but it’s really Cardi’s lyrics that make the track, as they get more and more aggressive as the near four-minute track. Spawning inspiration from Kodak Black’s song “No Flockin’,” Cardi B makes the song her own by simply rapping about herself and why she’s the best. As far as I know, it’s not a diss track, and she’s not out to get anybody. We’re simply seeing Cardi’s no-holds-barred personality on full display. This bop held the number one spot on the Billboard Hot 100 for three weeks back in October- and it showed. I have never seen so many people know every word to a song like this before. Praise B. We can’t fuck with her if we wanted to.
4. "Believer," Imagine Dragons
A bit of personal preference here. I love me some Imagine Dragons. I love that this track is featured in more than one place on my gym playlist. The movie wasn’t very good, but this was featured on the trailer to Murder on the Orient Express, and that certainly piqued my interest. “Believer” is the band’s best work since “Radioactive,” and it has all the electronic percussion we could want to get us pumped up. The verses are measured and meticulous, with a sole guitar riff underlying Dan Reynolds’ vocals. The choruses let loose, a full on ignition of sound and emotion that we’ve come to love from the band. The melody of each “believer” in the choruses isn’t something I’ve ever heard in a top-40 song before, which makes the song delightfully different from most pop tracks in the last few years.
3. "Shape of You," Ed Sheeran
We are into the obvious songs now. Of course “Shape of You” is on this list. This may very well be Ed Sheeran’s most popular song yet, although it’s a major shift from his well-known Irish rock and acoustic guitar work. Perhaps a bit more condescending than his other tracks (at least, the way I hear it), but this one was inescapable this year. That percussive synth opening is iconic, and the hook is an earworm you won’t soon forget. With the success of ÷ and specifically “Shape of You,” I can only wonder what direction Sheeran is going to go next.
2. "Despacito," Luis Fonsi & Daddy Yankee feat. Justin Bieber
Our second prize goes to the song that brought reggaeton back into the mainstream. I mean, all in all, they didn’t really have to include Justin Bieber for the American release, because the original is just fine as it is. However, if you’re going to branch outside Latin pop stations and into the Top 40 circle, you’re going to need a relevant name to do it. This song was everywhere this year, and was the longest-reigning top song on the Billboard Hot 100 this year, staying at number one for fifteen weeks this year, the entire duration of the summer. This song broke all kinds of barriers. It’s pretty cool when a song can increase tourism in Puerto Rico by nearly 45%. “Despacito” also made Daddy Yankee the most listened to artist worldwide on Spotify in November of this year. The song also paved the way, as previously mentioned, for latin and reggaeton music into the American mainstream. Eleven primarily-Spanish songs made their way onto the Billboard Hot 100 this year, an upgrade from only two in 2016. Say what you want about it being everywhere, but this is one of the more culturally important songs of the year.
1. "Praying," Kesha
We have reached the top of the mountain. Kesha is at the peak. The first single off her newest album, Rainbow, “Praying” is a song filled with more emotional meaning than many of us would know what to do with should we own those feelings too. In order to have a song with this much power, one would have to experience a dark, dark place first. If you’ve read anything about Kesha, you know that the last few years have been just that. Musically, the setup is simple. It’s very much a piano with a very soulful, gospel feel to it. Added later to the mix are violins, backing vocals and drums. Lyrically, it’s much more complex. Kesha has admitted to the song stemming from suicidal thoughts she’s had in the past, identifying the meaning of the song as “hoping that everyone, even someone who hurt you, can heal.” Many have speculated that the song is about Dr. Luke, Kesha’s former record producer, who she accused of sexual assault and emotional abuse in a lawsuit in 2014. “Praying” is Kesha’s message of hope to anyone struggling, and the emotion is so honest and so raw, we hear her nearly screaming at the top of her register during the climactic moments of the song. A bone-chilling, heartbreaking, tearjerking song to say the least. This was not only the best, but also the most important song of 2017.
What were your favorite songs from this past year? Leave a comment down below.
Also, take a look at According to Andrew's Best of 2017 by clicking HERE!