2017 has been an incredible year in music! Here are the best of the best.
2017 has been an incredible year in music. Literally thousands of new songs hit the Internet since last Christmas, so needless to say it was incredibly difficult to narrow down our Top 20 singles of 2017. But alas, we managed anyway! Check out our list in descending order and let us know what you think in the comments!
20.) “Get Low” – Zedd featuring Liam Payne
It’s been an interesting year for One Direction singer Liam Payne. While he managed to achieve the highest selling single of the band’s remaining members (5 million copies sold), “Strip That Down” was a catchy yet polarising addition to the post-1D landscape, and further overwhelmed several already flooded pop cliche markets (JT wannabes, Rent-a-Migos-Feature, the Ed Sheeran generic pop writing empire). A stronger but far less appreciated effort was this smooth, summery dance tune born from Payne’s long-running friendship with producer Zedd.
Why? Elaborate and vivid lyrics create a dazzling picture. Despite the lyrics taking all sorts of twists and turns, Liam’s vocal performance makes it sound so easy and fluid.
Why Not Higher? Groomed for stardom since childhood, is there such a thing as Liam becoming too rehearsed? There isn’t a whole lot of personality in Liam’s voice, he could use some edge and some emotion that doesn’t sound scripted.
19.)”No More Sad Songs” – Little Mix
While “Touch” was the obvious favourite from Little Mix’s fourth album “Glory Days”, the third single was a delicate yet striking – and extremely underrated – release.
Why So High? The breezy chorus, perfectly encapsulating how it feels to be happy and sad at the same time.
Why Not Higher? That awful Machine Gun Kelly single feature, and the largely forgettable verses.
18.) “There’s Nothing Holding Me Back” – Shawn Mendes
Shawn continues his ascent to pop superstardom with his most high-energy hit yet.
Why So High? The breakneck pacing, the boundless, reckless abandon and the pure ecstasy that comes with falling in love for the first time.
Why Not Higher? While it suits the desperate tone of the song, Shawn really needs to relax those poor vocal chords before he does permanent damage.
17.) “High On Me” – Guy Sebastian
I’m aware the primary readership on BreatheHeavy is American but, as an Australian, I wanted to shine a light on one of our best vocal talents.
Why So High? Guy Sebastian is, essentially, our Kelly Clarkson. The first Australian Idol winner way back in 2003, Sebastian has since had a consistently strong musical output, covering basically every popular music genre in the process. For High On Me, he channels polished funk-pop with the type of effortless groove that’s given him a 14 year career in Oz.
Why Not Higher? To a crowd unfamiliar with his sound, the track might seem like it’s treading similar ground already conquered in some of Sam Smith’s funkier past moments.
16.)”Reminder” – The Weeknd
Another stellar entry into The Weeknd’s catalogue, this time making braggadocios rap sound melodic.
Why So High? You know what all this current mumble rap is missing? Actual vocal talent. Abel’s silky tone and those light falsetto ad-libs at the end add such a unique vibe to the song, and injects his own unmistakable personality into a genre where it can be difficult to tell apart one flow from another. The video – featuring almost every current power figure in rap – is an example of star power that speaks for itself.
Why Not Higher? A confusing single release, with a music video in February and a release only to rhythmic contemporary radio three months later. Frankly, I’m still not sure if it was an official single.
15.) “Kiwi” – Harry Styles
The blasting, boisterous rock bop every 1D fan knew Harry Styles was bursting to create.
Why So High? The perfect chaos of being so enamoured with someone, you’re not even really paying attention when they announce they’re carrying your child. Totally relatable stuff and I’m so into it. Pop needs more grit, more edge and more wacky fun just for the sake of it.
Why Not Higher? But really, what the hell is he on about?
14.)”Attention” – Charlie Puth
A year ago, a Puth poem never would’ve made it onto any of my lists. How times change.
Why So High? An infectious, subtle, slow burning tune, showcasing the best of Puth’s airy vocals and introducing his talent for producing as well.
Why Not Higher? The post-chorus “what are you doing?” feels a tad unnecessary and deviates slightly from the sultry darkness of the verses.
13.)”Your Song” – Rita Ora
Rita cops a bad rap in the US. As a result, the States are missing out on an extremely promising pop renaissance from a talented singer who appears to be finally finding her niche.
Why So High? I was struck by how honest the lyrics feel, they sound lived in and delivered with a slight rasp from Ora gives them unexpected profundity. The fact that she didn’t write a word of it just further proves her talent as a convincing vocalist/performer. Also the bass at 1:19 is a hidden treasure for headphone listening.
Why Not Higher? It deserved a bigger chorus.
12.) “Sorry Not Sorry” – Demi Lovato
Demi returns with yet another pop scorcher. Is there another artist whose songs better encapsulate the term “banger”?
Why So High? There’s a lot to love here. Flawless power vocals, supreme confidence and the type of positivity that can only come from a healthy state of mind and being.
Why Not Higher? I’m undecided about the bridge. It’s hard not to get hyped in the lead up to that chorus but considering how well written the verses are, I think more could’ve been expressed in the bridge, too.
11.) “Perfect Places” – Lorde
The type of alt-pop track Lorde could probably write in her sleep. And probably does.
Why So High? Delivered with all of Lorde’s staple nuances – whispered sound effects, smoky vocals curled around each syllable, lyrics detailing dangerously fun nights out, there simply couldn’t be a better send-off for 2017’s strongest album, Melodrama.
Why Not Higher? Like I said, this is quintessential Lorde, to the point of sounding typical.
10.) “Lust For Life” – Lana Del Rey featuring The Weeknd
Lana took one look at the horror year that was 2016, glanced back at her own catalogue and thought “Well that’s enough of that”. Amazingly, The Weeknd agreed with her.
Why So High? If I told you that, in 2017, the two frontliners for depressing, fatalistic pop would drop an ethereal tune about rejecting the idea that self destruction is an inevitable part of existence, and that youth is the only valid time for profound life-changing realisations, would you have believed me?
Why Not Higher? It appears to borrow heavily from one of Lana’s own songs, Without You. Also judging by the love it or hate it reaction online, it’s an acquired taste.
9.) “Castle On The Hill” – Ed Sheeran
Amidst all the garish and obnoxious submissions Sheeran made to pop music this year, the best of the bunch was of course cruelly left behind.
Why So High? Similar to There’s Nothing Holding Me Back, the energy and passion for approaching life head-on is infectious, but there’s an added maturity here. Sheeran isn’t anywhere near his first experiences, but that doesn’t mean he’s forgotten the way every single one made him feel. Sometimes reminiscing can be just as much fun.
Why Not Higher? Is the line “Me and my friends have not thrown up in so long” brilliant or cringeworthy?
8.) “The Cure” – Lady Gaga
After Joanne left pop fans feeling confused, Gaga reassured us it was all going to be okay.
Why So High? The soft purr of the verses so perfectly creates the sense of comfort and care Gaga wants the listener to feel.
Why Not Higher? The harsh tone she uses during the chorus is too jarring after such delicately handled verses.
7.) “Praying” – Kesha
Kesha storms into our hearts with one of this decade’s most heart-wrenching redemption songs.
Why So High? In a world that sells a lot of faux-empowerment, Kesha showed the world what authentic and cathartic revival really sounds like.
Why Not Higher? It was a steep deviation from her trademark sound, but it was probably for the best.
6.) “Symphony” – Clean Bandit featuring Zara Larsson
Clean Bandit continue their golden run with another stunningly solid pop-dance single.
Why So High? A masterfully written love song with genuinely romantic lyrics that manage to stay on a musical theme convincingly, without ever sounding cheesy. Also the devastating music video, which will make you cry by the end every single time.
Why Not Higher? Honestly, the dance beat isn’t bad but perhaps more emphasis on symphonic instruments would’ve taken the song to new heights.
5.) “New Rules” – Dua Lipa
Miss Dua arrives and claims her spot as one of the pop girls.
Why So High? How many pop songs instruct you to stay away from fuckboys? Dua counters pops love affair with deliberate bad decisions making and expects more from you.
Why Not Higher? This is simply an arrival, there’s a lot more to come from pop’s promising new star.
4.) “Cut To The Feeling” – Carly Rae Jepsen
Queen Carly reminds us exactly why we fell in love with her in the first place. Nobody does 80s revival pop like this.
Why So High? Can anyone resist smiling and jumping around when this comes on? Carly proves she tapped into something truly magical with her Emotion album, and she sounds right at home cheerleading her way through an anthem that sounds like I Wanna Dance With Somebody’s peppy younger sister.
Why Not Higher? It’s an extension/revisit of the Emotion era, rather than showcasing what and who Carly Rae Jepsen is and sounds like in 2017.
3.) “Bad Liar” – Selena Gomez
Okay, she’s getting good at the whisper-singing.
Why So High? It’s always interesting when a previously generic pop star suddenly gets intriguing and experimental. Selena offers up some interesting character acting here in her odd speak-singing delivery, at times she sounds nonchalant and at other times hoarse with desperation. The whole mood is unsettled. Gomez also flexes her acting chops in the video, where she plays every main character in a twisted story about a daughter and father awkwardly crushing on the same woman.
Why Not Higher? Is it really singing, though? Rumours also abound that co-writer Julia Michaels in fact recorded the passionate notes sung in the bridge.
2.) “Green Light” – Lorde
Lorde’s victory lap saw her return to radio with yet another rule-breaking song format that set her apart from everyone else.
Why So High? What a triumphant, confident return. The song builds and builds til it reaches a buzzing plateau so succinctly visualised by Lorde hanging backwards out of a speeding car, before voguing out atop its roof.
Why Not Higher? This song is SO GOOD, but it’s not even the best song on Melodrama.
1.) “Unforgettable” – French Montana featuring Swae Lee
French arrives with the year’s biggest dance-rap bop that didn’t feature Bieber.
Why So High? Swae Lee’s somewhat dreamy, harmonious vocals are probably the revelation of 2017 for me. His performance on Unforgettable has me intrigued for his forthcoming solo album. The vibe his voice creates against the irresistible dancehall beat, and contrasting with French’s deeper tone, brings an odd sense of nostalgia to the track. The song feels instantly familiar but undeniably fresh all the same. And as the music video subverts the subject matter of the song by celebrating African dance instead of taking place in a club, so too does the song offer unexpected moments of affection with lines like “trying to do what lovers do” and “I want your mind and body”.
Thoughts on BreatheHeavy’s Top 20 Singles of 2017? Leave a comment below!