The end’s not near, it’s here
2017 has been intense, frustrating, and …. intense. Artists have never had more reason to express themselves. From Queens of the Stone Age to Frank Ocean, 2017 was a huge and personal statement from major artists. Welcome to 2017’s top 10 songs.
10. “The Village” by Wrabel
“This song is the most important thing to me that I have ever done and probably will ever do. It's the closest thing to my heart.” In the aftermath of President Donald Trump's proposal to ban transgender troops from military service, Los Angeles singer-songwriter Wrabel created a video for Billboard & GLAAD to support trans rights.
Wrabel is a gem. Wrabel is a magical soul filled with glitter and hearts. “The Village” turns pain into a soaring ballad. Accompanied by his piano, Wrabel lets his emotions flood the mic and gracefully holds every note, creating a gripping somber pop song.
“I came out as gay around 23 into a church in Los Angeles that told me I could and should change; that I was unnatural and wrong. I hope this reaches anyone in need of it and makes them feel like they're not alone.”
Essential tracks: “11 Blocks”, “Bloodstain”, “With You”
9. “Despacito” by Luis Fonsi And Daddy Yankee feat. Justin Bieber
As mentioned in Top 10 | Holiday Prep Tracks, there’s no cure for Bieber fever. AND WHO KNEW THIS KID WOULD HAVE AN DREAMY SPANISH ACCENT? Fonsi said it best: “It just felt special because it was so simple yet so catchy.” Reggaeton vibes + shiny pop chords + glossy uptempo verses = 2017’s song of the summer. Take notes music industry, I’m expecting something EPICALLY CATCHY for 2018.
8. “HUMBLE” by Kendrick Lamar
“I'm so f***in’ sick and tired of the Photoshop/ Show me somethin' natural like afro on Richard Pryor/ Show me somethin' natural like a** with some stretchmarks.” *jaw drop*
Lamar’s praise of natural beauty is unrelenting on “HUMBLE”. The major statement might be over after three minutes, but the reverberations will spread forever. With the thumping piano keys provided by producer Mike WiLL Made-It, the tone is blunt and razor-sharp. Kendrick reinvented the rap playbook on this one. This song stands on its own and it’s pretty DAMN. good. Now, sit down. Be humble.
Essential tracks: “Untitled 07”, “Poetic Justice”, “Rigamortis”, “m.A.A.d city”
7. “Malibu” by Miley Cyrus
I’m proud of you, Miley. After a few chaotic rollouts, she’s back to remind us that she possesses an incredible vocal talent, and the results are stunning. No more weed. No more tongue weirdness. No more flashing. No more obscenities. Not that all of it was bad, but it was sometimes sprawling, and overall unfocused.
“Malibu” is about finding her happy place. It’s also excellent, well-performed, melodically intriguing, and just the right amount of sentimental. We finally get a real glimpse of her vulnerability and sensitivity.
She worries she’ll only be remembered for “Wrecking Ball” and Hannah Montana. All I have to say is: Don’t worry Miley, you won’t. You’re doing good. Keep it up.
Essential tracks: “Miss You So Much”, “Karen Don’t Be Sad”, “Adore You”, “Party In The U.S.A.”
6. “Run” by Foo Fighters
Dave Grohl, is there anything you can’t do? Dave Grohl, will you marry me? “Run” is everything you want and expect from the Foos. A tender introduction followed pounding drums and Grohl’s infectious screaming register.
The song progressively zigzags through melodic interludes and screeching solos. It erupts, barks, and thrashes melodically but remains perfectly paced throughout. Concrete and Gold is one hell of a solid album. It’s pure gold. One thing’s for sure, Dave Grohl’s not going anywhere. Repeat after me: “In another perfect life / In another perfect light / We RUNNNNN!”
Essential tracks: “T-Shirt”, “Learn to Fly”, “Rope”, “Best of You”
5. “Arc Of Bar” by Japandroids
Japandroids in a nutshell: two dudes from Vancouver who love to get drunk and play music. They were often misunderstood, mainly because they tried to tackle too many different sounds, which resulted in somewhat of a sonic blur. (And the drunken lyrics about girls was an acquired taste, simply put.)
However! They’ve come a long way since “Post-Nothing”. This year’s Near To The Wild Heart Of Life is a huge leap in songwriting technique. “Arc Of Bar” is loud, clear, and dares you to feel something. Japandroids stays true to its usual blueprint (repeated synth rhythms and life-affirming lyrics) while experimenting with post-punk sounds and acoustic guitars. No overdubs or double tracking. Enjoy this seven-minute-plus-rock-dance-extravaganza.
Essential tracks: “Younger Us”, “No Known Drink or Drug”, “The House That Heaven Built”, “Wet Hair”
4. “The Way You Used to Do” by Queens of the Stone Age
Josh Homme, you inventive genius. Queens of the Stone Age will never cease to blow my mind. I’m still recovering from … Like Clockwork. Their latest album Villains contains twisted melodies, strange harmonies, and lyrics that’ll make you ponder for days. This group has chops. This album is all well-played stuff, with cool guitar riffs here and a nice vocal trick there.Villains deserves all the attention it’s asking for.
What kind of album would Villains be without the theatrical jam “The Way You Used to Do” with its dirty riffs, handclaps, and synths? This is rock in its filthiest and funniest form.
Essential tracks: Please see entire discography and take your pick. Thank you.
3. “Chanel” by Frank Ocean
If you’re looking for good rap music, 2017 did not disappoint. Especially not Mr. Ocean. “Chanel” is the first solo track since Blonde and Endless dropped in 2016. Frank Ocean knows how to leave you wanting more. He explores basic rhythms, creates fascinating pulses, and shuffles 4/4 beats. Chanel is a rich emotional lullaby: “My guy pretty like a girl, and he got fight stories to tell/I see both sides like Chanel, see on both sides like Chanel.”
The popular rapper discusses his bisexuality and carefully dives into the prejudices around masculinity. This song showcases Frank Ocean’s impeccable storytelling and slick delivery. He never loses sight of what’s important. By the time you get through the second verse, it’s easy to see Ocean’s allergic to nonsense and always shoots straight from the heart, and never misses. A well-deserved place in 2017’s best.
Essential tracks: “Rushes”, “Self Control”, “Super Rich Kids”, “Swim Good”
2. “Million Reasons”, “Perfect Illusion”, and “Joanne” by Lady Gaga
Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta, you’ve had quite a year. From the Super Bowl LI’s halftime show to releasing a documentary (Five Foot Two) on Netflix and to addressing the death of her late aunt Joanne in her fifth studio album Joanne.
“I named my record after my father's sister because what I realized is for all of us, there is grief passed on from generation to generation, from our parents, from our grandparents. Things that happened to them that were passed on to you. When I look back on my life, there's a series of events that took place that blasted me. And I walk around a lot wondering if I'll ever feel the way I used to feel. What was my life before the fame? What happened after? What happened during? And all the things that made me who I am as a young woman. So, if you can all just take a moment and give yourself some mercy for that moment that blasted you so hard you can't remember who you were before. For me, that moment has one name, and it's Joanne.” (excerpt from the 2017 Joanne World Tour)
Stripped of the usual theatrics, visuals, and garish outfits, Joanne focuses on Lady Gaga’s voice and her piano. It’s a purposeful expression of embracing her 30s with open arms and being vulnerable with her fans once again. Joanne explores folksy roots and combines them with Gaga’s classic and deeply irresistible electronic-pop. Lady Gaga continuously pushes herself to create art through pop and quite frankly, succeeds every single time. Whether her chameleonic image changes, one thing remains the same: she’s the only real pop star around.
For Little Monsters only: “Sorry Joanne, Gaga’s come out to play”, she told a sold-out crowd at Uncasville’s Mohegan Sun Arena. Rumor has it, a new song called “Frankensteined” and LG6 are in the works. You might find clues in her ‘’John Wayne’’ music video ?. Are you ready for 2018?
Essential tracks: “Bad Romance”, “Marry the Night”, “Paparazzi”, “Born this Way”, “Edge of Glory”, “Yoü and I”, “Heavy Metal Lover”, “Grigio Girls”, “Venus”, “Dope”, “Beautiful Dirty Rich”, “Bad Kids”, need I go on?
Little Monsters, put your paws up!
1. “Praying” by Kesha
“I’ve overcome obstacles, and I have found strength in myself even when it felt out of reach. I’ve found what I had thought was an unobtainable place of peace. This song is about coming to feel empathy for someone else even if they hurt you or scare you. It’s a song about learning to be proud of the person you are even during low moments when you feel alone. It’s also about hoping everyone, even someone who hurt you, can heal #prayingforchange” (source: @iiswhoiis)
Kesha has been locked in legal battles with producer Dr. Luke for the last three years, after accusing him of sexual and emotional abuse. He then countersued for defamation and breach of contract, preventing Kesha to produce her own music elsewhere.
She finally returned this summer with her first single in five years. This powerful piano ballad “channels her feelings of severe hopelessness and depression.”
“there were many days that my music was simply a coping tool, for my emotions. PLEASE GOD i hope anyone reading this knows that they also have the power to turn emotion into art and reach the world. if i can, you can. and thank you animals, for believing this day would come again for me, and making it happen. SO MUCH LOVE I CANT EVEN RIGHT NOW” (source: @iiswhoiis)
“Praying” is a beautiful gospel-like anthem. It’s raw. It’s emotionally charged. It clings to your heartstrings and doesn’t let go. Kesha might be bruised, but she’s far from being broken. She’s unafraid and doesn’t diminish the pain she’s endured. Keep your head up, Kesha. Thank you for being a beacon of hope to so many.
This song embodies what 2017’s been all about: fighting for what’s right + fighting for your rights and never giving up on yourself and your country.
Essential tracks: “Bastards”, “Woman”, “Warrior”