5. “Like Gold” by Vance Joy: This Australian singer-songwriter first appeared on my radar back in 2013 via his hit single “Riptide.” Years later, I randomly came across “Like Gold,” a single from his upcoming album “Nation of Two,” on Spotify and I was immediately reeled in with its catchy hook. This is a song that really tells a story through the lyrics and Joy’s voice matches the lyrics with his passion. There’s a comforting calm feel that this song evokes, even having a nostalgic vibe that transports the listener to a simpler time in their life. Without any doubt, “Like Gold” has reintroduced me to the music of Vance Joy and I’m thrilled to hear the rest of the album when it releases in February.
4. “Sweet Creature” by Harry Styles: If there’s anything to take away from the rough year that 2017 was, it’s that Harry Styles is insanely talented. Stepping forward and creating his own path after One Direction has allowed Styles to really showcase his own style with his self-titled album that released in May; the album is filled with incredible songs such as “Sign of the Times” and “Kiwi,” but “Sweet Creature” is by far my favorite, because it allows Styles to hit his famous high notes in the chorus that blend beautifully with quieter verses. This is a song that has an old-school soulful feel to it, but also shows that Harry is making creative and fresh music.
3. “Silence” by Marshmello (feat. Khalid): Just when I thought that I couldn’t love Khalid anymore, he joins forces with Marshmello to deliver an epic track that perfectly utilizes both artists. The lyrics make it hard not to sing along to and Khalid’s voice is commanding and powerful as he bleeds emotions and passion. The electronic music from Marshmello has this energetic and lively feel that makes you want to get up and dance. Hopefully Marshmello and Khalid collaborate on other projects in the future, because this song is an example of a duo that is complimentary while simultaneously demonstrating the talent of the two individuals.
2. “Praying” by Kesha: 2017 saw the welcome return of Kesha to the music scene, dropping the famous “$” sign from her name and entering into a whole new era. “Praying” is both cathartic and anthemic, taking the legal issues and abuse that the singer suffered through and leaving them behind. The depression, anger, loneliness and pain that Kesha has experienced is very much present in the song, as is forgiveness and empathy. Kesha’s willingness and ability to move forward and create her own future through new music is truly inspiring and sends a strong message to those that abuse and exploit others. Kesha’s soul and emotions can be felt throughout the song and the incredible high note is testament to her talent as a singer.
1. “1-800-273-8255” by Logic (feat. Alessia Cara and Khalid): The world really needed this song. Depression and suicide have been subjects in music forever, but Logic tells a story without any fancy language or metaphors. He’s straight to the point about an issue that affects millions of people and the message of his song applies not only to those suffering, but it’s also directed to those in the position to help. By having the lyrics tell the story of a phone conversation between someone on the verge of suicide and the National Suicide Prevention Hotline, it’s made abundantly clear that this are avenues of help available. This song has an important message, but it is also catchy and allows Logic, Alessia Cara and Khalid to showcase their talents in a powerful collaboration.
5. “Bist du Down?” by Ace Tee (feat. Kwam.E): Over the past year I have been on a journey to rediscover my love for my native language, German, and this song and artist has played a huge role in that. While Ace Tee is new to music, just releasing her first EP this year, her music styling is not; this song throws it back to the R&B and hip-hop of the early 90’s when she was born. Unwittingly, perhaps, this song also helped to usher in a new wave of discussion among young people regarding race relations in Germany. That aside, though, this song just has a good, relaxed vibe to it.
4. “Paracetamol” by Declan McKenna: I’m not usually into indie because I unfortunately associate it with that “bananis and avocadis” vine by Chrish, but even before that, I couldn’t stand many indie singers’ soft and quiet voices where I could barely hear what they were saying. But Declan McKenna’s voice is soft without being quiet. This, coupled with the organ-like electronic opening and lyrics about growing up make for a great song. The darker lyrics with the fun, upbeat instrumentals create an interesting dynamic as well. I was heavily reminded of Vampire Weekend (who I miss) upon first listening.
3. “For What It’s Worth” by Liam Gallagher: Anyone who knows me knows that I am more partial to Liam’s brother, Noel when it comes to just about everything, but especially musically, so I never thought I would put a Liam song on this list over a Noel one when they were released in the same year, but 2017 has been full of surprises; what’s one more? Liam’s former musical project, Beady Eye, sounded a lot like a Beatles cover band, so I wasn’t expecting a whole lot out of this song or out of the album in general. However, this song is raw, original and devoid of the narcissism he is known for.
2. “The Chain” by Harry Styles: I don’t know if this is cheating or not, but this next one’s a cover rather than an original. But I, like many people at this point, am in love with Harry Styles. This is a new development for me, one that grew, partially, out of this song. I am a Fleetwood Mac purist and usually hate any covers of their songs, but Styles’ passion and ability combine into a soulful and true cover. This is by no means Styles’ biggest accomplishment this year (ya know, with the incredible album he released this year), but it stands out for sure. This song isn’t on Spotify, so I’ll add a video below:
1. “Silence” by Marshmello (feat. Khalid): This song hands-down wins song of the year for me. I anticipated it when Khalid teased it on Twitter, and I was absolutely not disappointed when it was finally released. I spend a good amount of time in the car, and this is a great car song. The backing vocals in the second verse honestly made my jaw drop the first time I heard it and still give me shivers. The production value on this song is honestly incredible. I haven’t gotten sick of it yet, and I don’t see that happening any time soon.
5. “Rose-Colored Boy” by Paramore: While I was always a very impartial fan of the punk-pop group of Paramore, their various hits like “Misery Business” and “Ain’t It Fun” making waves across the music scene, something instantly drew me to their latest album “After Laughter.” An emotional, pop-infused journey for lead vocalist Hayley Williams, the album left me with a number of phenomenal tracks stuck in my head. One in particular, “Rose-Colored Boy,” still makes me want to get up and dance at the first spark of its beat.
4. “Feel It Still” by Portugal. The Man: Another anthem for the year found itself in Portugal. The Man’s “Feel It Still.” Acting as a catchy, rhythmic introduction for me to the band’s unique sound, the hit made its mark as it blared continuously across the radio.
3. “Ultralife” by Oh Wonder: After a dynamic entry with their self-titled debut album, the pop duo of Oh Wonder delivered another effortless set with this year’s “Ultralife.” With their title track breathing life into the summer, it instantly became a sprawling and infectious anthem for the rest of the year.
2. “Say It First” by Sam Smith: With the mellow brilliance of Sam Smith returning to the charts with his newest album “The Thrill of It All,” one of the most memorable singles off the album was easily the sensitive ballad of “Say It First.” Utilizing the artist’s mesmerizing voice with lyrics spinning a search for love, “Say It First” draws you instantly into Sam Smith’s newest and most volatile release.
1. “Drink Too Much” by Geowulf: After falling in love with the London-based pop duo last summer, I’ve been eagerly awaiting all year to hear more from Geowulf. With their electric hit “Saltwater” injecting dreamy lyrics into a dazzling backdrop, the Australian duo returned later this year with “Drink Too Much.” Marking another stellar single from their upcoming debut album, Geowulf remains one of the best surprises of the year.
5. “Thunder” by Imagine Dragons: I’m sure some of my appreciation for this song comes purely from my excitement about Imagine Dragons’ new music. However, I do legitimately love this song. The fairly simple lyrics make the song easy to sing along to in the car, which is a necessity for me. It also functions well as a confidence builder and pick me up. This summer I had a habit of using it to help me wake up in the mornings as I drove to work, something I highly recommend.
4. “For Elise” by Saint Motel: I can’t explain my love for this song other than the fact I’ve listened to it almost nonstop since I found it during fall break. It features an upbeat tempo, original sound and catchy lyrics. Everything about it makes me want to dance.
3. The Entire Falsettos 2016 Broadway Revival Cast Album: This is probably cheating, but I am physically incapable of choosing a single song to represent this masterpiece of a musical. While the revival premiered in 2016, the album itself was not released until January of this year and technically counts as 2017. Taking place in the late 70s/early 80s, the plot of Falsetttos focuses on the story of Marvin, a man desperately trying to force his family to get along after taking a male lover. What ensues is a beautiful musical that touches on themes of love, family, and friendship. The revival cast is made up of extremely talented Broadway stars (including Christian Borle and Andrew Rannels), all of which are in great form. It’s a little long, so I’d highly recommend a listen during a roadtrip.
2. “The Good Part” by AJR: AJR’s second album is an experience best listened to in order and all the way through. However, if you can only listen to one song, this is my recommendation. While AJR’s music is more synthsized/electronic than I would typically listen to, their use of unique instruments and complex musical arrangements has completely won me over. “The Good Part” features all of the elements that make this album great.
1. “In the Middle” by Dodie: According to Spotify, this was the song I listened to the most this year. I wasn’t surprised. “In the Middle” comes from Dodie’s second EP, released in August of this year. This song has more of a pop feel to it than the rest of the album, which I thoroughly enjoyed. It’s nice to see an artist mix things up a bit; Dodie is having fun here. RELATED: This isn’t Dodie’s first time on an end of the year list, I chose the song “When” from her debut “Intertwined EP” for last year’s roundup.
5. “Walk on Water” by Eminem (Feat. Beyoncé): While Eminem’s latest album was good, it was simply only good and left much to be desired for me personally. That said, the opening song “Walk on Water” provides a interesting look at where Eminem is at now. Eminem does a good job at providing commentary through his lyrics towards both his past music and where he sees himself now compared to others in the genre. Most interesting is that the song opts for a piano melody as opposed to a regular hip-hop beat, which works surprisingly well in conjunction with Beyoncé’s chorus.
4. “Believer” by Imagine Dragons: From the start, “Believer” hits you with a heavy beat that is hard not to pay attention to. If you’re ever feeling down or just looking for some motivation, this song delivers from the musical beat alone. I wouldn’t consider myself an Imagine Dragons fan, though this song certainly got me more interested in them after first hearing it, and has stayed in my playlist of favorites since.
3. “Jump Up, Super Star!” by Naoto Kubo: Just like its actual gameplay, “Super Mario Odyssey” brings a refreshing take on its music that is a delight to listen to. While each world has its own style, the final part of the New Donk City world features one of my favorite singles of the year. “Jump Up, Super Star!” continues Nintendo’s use of the Big Band Swing genre, and the song itself just embodies the sense of adventure that you’ll find all throughout the game itself. The songs catchy lyrics also give nods to past “Mario” titles, with the song used in the original “Donkey Kong” game even being teased as well.
2. “Floral Fury” by Kristofer Maddigan: With the 1920’s cartoon aesthetic, “Cuphead” needed a soundtrack that would match perfectly alongside it, and composer Kristofer Maddigan provided. While the entire soundtrack is great, “Floral Fury” stands out among the rest with its unique samba style. The uptempo piece gives a lot of the spotlight to trumpet, making it hard to sit still when listening, which even the boss you fight during the song can’t help but do.
1. “Dinah” by Big Bad Voodoo Daddy: In an album dedicated to Louie Armstrong, Louie Jordan and Louie Prima, “Dinah” kicks it off in a special way by covering one of Armstong’s biggest hits. The song begins with the same intro that Armstong gave in the original recording, and right away you’re into the fantastic sax interlude. Musically it is the same notes, but the band does a great job at adding their own flair to it, while paying respect to those who performed it before like Mr. Armstrong. The whole album continues this sentiment with Big Bad Voodoo Daddy’s New Orleans jazz style, making it my favorite release of the year.
5. “Date Night” by IDLES: IDLES’ debut album “Brutalism” reminds me how Rock music can still be fierce musically and retain thought-provoking topics. And “Date Night” is the track that is my favorite off the album. The thumping, idiosyncratic bass, the guttural guitars and frontman Joe Talbot’s animated vocals. Talbot is like a combination of John Lydon (Sex Pistols) and Henry Rollins (Black Flag). This is a sound of a raging lunatic that has certainly caught my attention and leaving me wanting to play “Brutalism” over and over again.
4. “The Story of O.J.” by Jay-Z: This was straight up brilliant from Hova. Considering where he is now in his career, it would make sense to see an established icon like him to make an album that shows him becoming the elder statesmen in Hip-Hop. The sample of Nina Simone’s “Four Women” brilliantly ties up with the lyrics of issues that are being dealt with in the Black community with Jay giving his advice to the community to make them better. Do check out the music video to this track as it further emphasizes the lyrics presented here.
3. “how do you sleep?” by LCD Soundsystem: While I don’t think “American Dream” is anywhere near the level the last two LCD albums, it did produce some great tracks with “how do you sleep?” taking the top spot. It feels like this is a dark, twisted version of another LCD song, “Dance Yrself Clean” (from 2010’s “This Is Happening”). The Joy Division-like drumbeat, James Murphy’s tense vocals and the stomping electronic beat halfway through the song brings a darker side of LCD that I’ve never seen in their previous output.
2. “PRIDE.” by Kendrick Lamar: This was the surprising track for me from “DAMN.” I never thought Kung Fu Kenny would go out and make this Psychedelic-like Hip-Hop track. My most played song off of “DAMN.”, “PRIDE.” has the hypnotic guitar chords, the sleepy like vocals of Anna Wise, the religious imagery lyrics and the beautiful refrain “Maybe I wasn’t there,” which conclude to me that this is one of the best tracks Lamar ever recorded.
1. “Liability” by Lorde: A heart-piercing piano ballad from Ella Yelich-O’Connor. This is the best track from “Melodrama.” The soft yet vicious vocals from Lorde with lyrics about personal self-doubt that I can relate to on many levels. “Liability,” as well the album itself, shows Lorde’s songwriting growing and leaving me thoroughly satisfied considering my lack of interest on her debut album. Plus, she’s only 21 years old and her storytelling leaves me floored.
5. “Sacrifices” by Drake: Would it even be a valid list if a Drake song wasn’t included? “Sacrifices” is the 12th song off Drake’s playlist “More Life,” which was released back in March 2017. “Sacrifices” is a window to Drake’s elegant lifestyle and also a look into his female affairs. “40 got a house on the lake, I ain’t know we had a lake, she complainin’ how I’m late, I ain’t know it was a date.” The track includes a swag-rap verse from 2 Chainz and a ridiculously impressive verse from Atlanta superstar Young Thug. The beat has a tropical feel and creates the perfect vibe for sitting back and relaxing to, and has the ability to set the mood for any room you’re in.
4. “Apple of My Eye” by Rick Ross: On Rick Ross’s album “Rather You Than Me,” Ross balances out introspection and traditional Rozay party anthems. Ross opens up the album with a run down of his ambitions and the feats he’s overcome throughout his life in “Apple of My Eye.” The track opens up with Ross expressing what the apple of his eye was: being someone that his mom could be proud of, and someone his neighborhood could look up to. Ross raps “Lights off so you never tend to speak much, go your separate ways every time the lease up.” Rick Ross highlights the struggles he’s endured to be the mogul and icon he is today. The saxophone in the background of the track captures the therapeutic vibe of the song and forces you to listen to every word. The song ranks on my list because it has so much to digest and will always leave you looking deeper into yourself.
3. “911/Mr. Lonely” by Tyler, The Creator: Tyler, The Creator hit us all by surprise with a bass filled single titled “Who Dat Boy,” accompanied by a music video with a cameo from A$AP Rocky during the Summer of 2017. Although, following that song, he did a 180 and calmed the nerves in the room with “911/Mr Lonely.” The track is about the loneliness Tyler feels and the feeling of hoping at least one person hits your line today. The track features alternative R&B greats Steve Lacy, Anna of the North and perhaps one of the greatest of this generation, Frank Ocean. This song is on my list because of the undeniably beautiful chords and the perfect features. Tyler also delivers honest story-telling like verses that express the true emotion of the song.
2. “Self-Made” by Bryson Tiller: Most of the world knows of Bryson Tiller through is chart topping single “Don’t” back in 2015. Since then, Tiller has established stardom and has been welcomed into the hearts of the new culture of R&B. In July of 2017, he released his sophomore album “True To Self,” which contained 19 songs; five more than his debut album. On the album, Tiller takes us through a ray of emotions as he always does, but then hits with a rare braggadocio in “Self-Made.” The song opens with a bang and Tiller wastes no time getting straight to the point. “Gucci on my belt, bought a necklace for myself, bought Giuseppe for myself, spent them blessings on myself ” he raps with an open confidence, contrary to usual reserved demeanor. This song ranks on my list because its impossible for this song to not lift your confidence. This song is a reminder to always walk into any place with a poised swagger.
1. “The Heart Part 4” by Kendrick Lamar: In late March of 2017, amidst album releases by Hip Hop frontrunners by the likes of Drake, and Rick Ross, another Hip-Hop icon made certain we didn’t forget about him. On March 23, Kendrick Lamar abruptly released his militant and poetic single titled “The Heart Part 4.” The track starts off with soft kicks and a soulful sample as Lamar spits his first line: “30 millions later my future favors the legendary status of a hip hop rhyme savior.” The Compton MC flows effortlessly through three beat changes telling the world where he’s been and and that he still runs the game. This song ranks as 1st because of its over-your-head lyricism and the production of each beat effortlessly contours around Kendrick’s flow. Making it a one-of-a kind song that only a one-of a kind artist can execute.
5. “Cold” by Maroon 5 (feat. Future): As a fan of Maroon 5, I was excited to hear the song on the radio when it was released. The song is catchy as usual, and the lyric talks about turbulences lovers encounter. People who are in a relationship tend to relate to the song. Moreover, Adam Levine’s voice fits in well with Future’s rap verse in the song.
4. “Mystery of Love” by Sufjan Stevens: Nothing is more beautiful than adolescent love. Featured in the LGBTQ+ movie “Call Me by Your Name,” this piece reckons pictures and flashbacks of the summer days that Elio and Oliver spent together in an Italian small town. However, the slightly somber melody epitomizes a sad ending. It was a utopian romance between the boys. But love is love.
3. “Despacito – Remix” by Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee (feat. Justin Bieber): Meaning “slowly” in English, “Despacito” was people’s summer addiction in 2017. The Spanish rhythm and lyrics seemed novel but addictive to lots of people. When Justin Bieber participated in the remix version of the song, it made a hit worldwide. From grocery stores in the U.S. to the nightclubs in China, I’ve heard the song everywhere.
2. “1-800-273-8255” by Logic (feat. Alessia Cara and Khalid): It’s not my first time to hear songs about suicide, but Logic has made his piece fairly innovative yet inspiring. The title is the number of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. From “I just wanna die” to “I don’t wanna die anymore,” the song transitions from hell to heaven, portraying how people successfully save themselves.
1. “Fetish” by Selena Gomez (feat. Gucci Mane): Gomez takes one step forward in the fashion game in her video and song cover of “Fetish,” rocking a vintage yellow dress with a pair of white sneakers. As sexy as usual, “Fetish” consists of beats from R&B and electronic music, and the theme of the lyric plays around desires and attractions between the two loved ones.