Top 10 Songs of 2017
10. “Percolator,” Charly Bliss
“Percolator” is full of lyrical gems: “I cry all the time, I think that it’s cool,” “I’m not scared to lick the floor / Cause I have sucked on something worse” and “My conscious is fucked and my judgement is leaking” are just a few. Even better, these funny, achingly accurate lyrics are delivered by the gooey, almost sardonically-sweet voice of Eva Hendricks. The words pile on top of driving, dynamic instrumentation. Even through headphones, the crashing of the drums and guitar seem physically present. Hendricks is singing right in your ear, making it appear as though Charly Bliss is your friend and this song is about your life, even if it’s not really at all. “Percolator,” like its namesake, is a bolt of energy.
— Carly Snider, Daily Arts Writer
9. “Crew,” GoldLink
On “Crew” by GoldLink, every member of the collaboration comes through with some of the best work of their careers. Brent Faiyaz’s breathy hook is relentlessly catchy. GoldLink glides over the beat; his flow is unique but it fits like a glove. Shy Glizzy’s verse is preening and mischievous, his playfully impish tone contrasting well with the immaculate and smooth backing of Teddy Walton’s production. The end product was the song of the summer: a track that is the perfect blend of chill and energetic. “Crew” is a reminder that not every great song has to contain avant-garde experimentation or deep metaphorical meaning — there is a place for well-crafted tracks that are just an enjoyable vibe.
— Jonah Mendelson, Daily Arts Writer
8. “Slide,” Calvin Harris ft. Frank Ocean, Migos
The year is 2027, and Calvin Harris’s “Slide” remains a much-beloved sunny good time juggernaut, because — much like, say, Gnarls Barkley’s “Crazy” (2006) or even M.I.A.’s “Paper Planes” (2007) — it’s the rare pop hit featuring a timeless sound that, combined with the nostalgic images and stories it evokes, transcends an ever-changing genre template. “Slide” is instrumentally adventurous. Harris seamlessly blends the technical (an alluring piano, groovy bassline and pitchy background vocals) with an elusive Frank Ocean feature and proverbial victory lap verses from Migos. It’s sex draped in dayglo reinforced by funk, not a song so much as it is a sensory artifact. Blood orange, fuchsia and lush green memories — this is 2017’s most tropically suave tint of unfuckwithability.
— Joey Schuman, Daily Arts Writer
7. “DNA.,” Kendrick Lamar
Aggressive, articulate, scathing and prideful, “DNA.” is a no-holds-barred response to general criticism of Black culture and Kendrick Lamar’s position in it. To start the track, Lamar abruptly cuts off an actual soundbite of a news anchor verbalizing her disapproval of Lamar’s Black-pride track, “Alright,” establishing an aggressive and confident tone right out of the gate. This tone does not waver. For three minutes Lamar spews pure, unadulterated passion and pride for himself and his people. The bridge delves even deeper into the realities “DNA.” addresses; another media soundbite is played, this time of right-wing personality Geraldo Rivera criticizing the effects of hip hop on Black youth, while Lamar jabs, “I live a better life, fuck your life,” in the background. When the second verse hits, it’s angry Kendrick Lamar like you’ve never heard before, and by the end of the song you feel as invigorated and prideful as he does.
— Mike Watkins, Daily Arts Writer
6. “Bobby,” (Sandy) Alex G
At some point in writing his album Rocket, Alex Giannascolli decided he wanted to be a folk artist. He reached out to Molly Germer — a high school classmate whom he recalled was a violinist — for help with the album. The result is an oddly serendipitous mix of folk, noise rock and more of Alex G’s usual. Leading the charge is “Bobby.” Its melody, perhaps the best of 2017, is a perfectly swung series of double-stops on violin paired with lackadaisical acoustic guitar.
The beauty of “Bobby” lies not just in the seamless shift in style, but in the way Giannascoli’s lyricism translates between the genres. Here, he personifies his darker qualities and guilty pleasures as the titular character, finding himself torn between “him” and, presumably, a lover. “I’d leave him for you,” he sings, “if you want me to,” the words of a reluctant romantic who knows what needs to happen.
— Sean Lang, Daily Arts Writer
5. “Motion Sickness,” Phoebe Bridgers
The second track from Stranger in the Alps, Phoebe Bridgers’s debut album, stands out among the rest for its pop flare, taught melodies and ridiculously catchy, gut-punching chorus. On NPR’s Tiny Desk, Bridgers prefaced the performance with, “This song is about being in love with someone who’s super mean to you,” and I quickly reached for my emotional seatbelt because tears were going to fall. With a chorus crying out, “I have emotional motion sickness,” and verses admitting, “I faked it every time, but that’s alright. / I can hardly feel anything, I hardly feel anything at all,” the song was destined for perfection without even considering the staccato entanglement of electric guitar and synth. “Motion Sickness” is a masterful work of songwriting by an artist unafraid to admit the messy intricacies of love.
— Dominic Polsinelli, Senior Arts Editor
4. “XO TOUR Llif3,” Lil Uzi Vert
In 2017, “XO TOUR Llif3” became for millennials what “Smells Like Teen Spirit” became for Generation X in the ’90s, an “anthem for apathetic teens,” a rallying cry of disenchantment for those who live with an imprecise dissatisfaction. And no one today comes as equipped for such a grunge-era popular revival as Lil Uzi Vert. Uzi, who dresses in ripped black skinny jeans and cites Marilyn Manson as his greatest musical inspiration, has long cultivated a sense of emo otherness. He plays with satanic imagery, and sing-raps his apathy with enthusiasm.
With “XO TOUR Llif3,” Uzi finds a vehicle to voice his apathy and enthusiasm as equals. Those two moods might sound contradictory, but Uzi shows without reserve how the two can exist simultaneously. When he shouts that haunting line, “Push me to the edge / All my friends are dead,” Uzi sounds almost excited about the misery, like he’s managed to detach himself from his own downward spiral for a moment and is singing to someone else’s song. He dances along with them, carefree, a few dozen shots too deep on a hot tour bus to nowhere.
— Matt Gallatin, Daily Arts Writer
3. “Supercut,” Lorde
“Supercut” is the perfect microcosm for the careful oxymoron its album, Melodrama, operates on. It’s a euphoric picture of grief; a breakup song you can play both at a party and in a car with your best friend. It — like all good things in your teens — makes you smile and breaks your heart.
Lorde is no stranger to vulnerability. A confessional whisper hangs over her sophomore album. In the middle of a party, below the pulse of the music, she leans over and tells you something no one else knows. And that thing is that it is impossible to be nineteen: At once so full of life and crushed by having to live it. On “Supercut,” Lorde gives us this dilemma in the clearest terms. She’s old enough to feel, for the first time perhaps, true nostalgia. “We were wild and fluorescent come home to my heart,” she sings to this lost love, someone she now can only visit in dreams. Lorde (already wise beyond her years) sees the seams of this fantasy. It’s just a supercut, a cinematic trick that you can rewatch but never relive.
“Supercut” puts all of Lorde and producer Jack Antonoff’s pop prowess on display. It’s punchy and pulsing and, like the relationship it details, impossible to pin down.
— Madeleine Gaudin, Managing Arts Editor
2. “Chanel,” Frank Ocean
This year saw Frank Ocean enter an unpredictable post-Blonde era. Rather than recede into the media blackout that characterized the album’s rollout, he released a string of unlikely collaborations and loosies timed to perfection throughout the year. None, however, were quite as piercing as “Chanel.”
The song drips with Frank’s effortless cool; the fact that he got tattoos in Shibuya is dropped like an afterthought. The piano sounds almost intentionally aloof, as if he’s above raising his volume or tempo.
Can you even remember a lyric wittier than “I see both sides like Chanel”? But of course seeing both sides is nothing new to Frank — his guy is “pretty like a girl / and he got fight stories to tell.” His lyrics don’t string together so much as they stand alone, one after another. In one breath, he somehow manages an “issa knife” joke about double-cupping his Actavis (RIP Pimp C…) before following up with a meditation on fighting.
Half of Frank’s cool lies in this sharp aimlessness. He darts between ideas without even attempting to connect them, but they’re each interesting enough to leave us wanting more. Aside from “Chanel” and a few other releases, there was precious little we got from Frank in 2017, but you tend to find something new with each listen. Even if 2018 proves to be as dry, I won’t have too many qualms about still listening to “Chanel” this time next year.
“Bodak Yellow” is a story of success. Wrapped up in catchy bars and aggressive self-confidence, the tireless hustle of a young woman climbing to the top commands the attention it deserves. After all, Cardi B is a force to be reckoned with. Each line is delivered with gusto. The chopped syllables are punctuated with intensity. Every “Said little bitch, you can’t fuck with me” takes up more space than the last. It’s no surprise that the single hit at gale-force magnitude, rising from near obscurity to chart-topper at an almost unparalleled rate and maintaining its reign in a way that hasn’t been seen for an unaccompanied female rapper since the likes of Lauryn Hill.
I dare you to try and ignore “Bodak Yellow.” It blasts from the speakers of your favorite local bar, instigates dance parties in New York City subways and ever since “These is red bottoms / These is bloody shoes” first graced our ears, there has been a 217% spike in searches for Christian Louboutins.
Like it or not, this is Cardi B’s world; We’re just living in it.