IT’S FINALLY HERE – both this list, as well as the end of the year.
While 2017 has felt like swimming through sewage in nearly every imaginable aspect, there’s no denying it was a brilliant year for pop music. Not on the charts, or for men, but neither of those have ever truly mattered anyway.
Whittling down songs to this exclusive, 41-seater club of auditory excellence was a special kind of hell all on its own, but as Sheryl Crow once sagely sang, “The first cut can always be included in a social media-only list of honorable mentions, along with all the others that follow. Baby I know!”
The wonderful songs that did make it, however, can be found (in descending order) on this convenient Spotify playlist – but if you’d also like some live commentary with your music, LET’S GET TO IT.
41. The Sound of Arrows – ‘Don’t Worry’
In a year that’s been consistently unsettling and upsetting, the alternate reality created by The Sound of Arrows’ soundscapes felt particularly well-timed. Their album Stay Free was the audio equivalent of being tucked in on a cold night and given a gentle kiss on the forehead – and ‘Don’t Worry’ is one of the greater examples of that, steadily working itself up from cautious hope to bursting, deliberate faith. It also makes for a rather spectacular, retrospective playlist closer, which is a neat coincidence that will probably be very impactful on the three or so people who won’t put it on shuffle.
40. Zayn feat. Sia – ‘Dusk Till Dawn’
‘Dusk Till Dawn’ kicking off with the lines “not tryna be indie, not tryna be cool / just tryna be in this, tell me are you too?” felt like a pointed statement after Zayn’s sophomore return took a quick break to recalibrate once ‘Still Got Time’ stalled during takeoff. Zayn’s always sold his not-entirely-bothered-ex-boybander vibe convincingly, but when it lapped over into music that sounded like it could rock itself to sleep, all signs pointed towards him having lost the plot. Then ‘Dusk Till Dawn’ – propelled by the gale force winds unleashed by its vocalists’ pipes – came crashing into our lives, and combined with its very shiny music video, the message was clear: Zayn’s not ready to take himself out of the game just yet.
39. Scarlet Pleasure – ‘Deja Vu’
Scarlet Pleasure fill ‘Deja Vu’ with little ticks that jolt you into paying extra attention as they swerve off course and into oncoming traffic while racing along at 105 km/h. It’s like a late night ride where you’re just drunk enough to not be petrified of how bad your Uber driver is – and with better music playing, of course.
38. Stefflon Don feat. French Montana – ‘Hurtin’ Me’
The greatest non-Sigrid plot twist of 2017 was the reveal that ‘Hurtin’ Me’ was actually written from the perspective of the woman who got dumped for Steff instead.
37. Charli XCX feat. Tove Lo and ALMA – ‘Out of My Head’
Patron Saint of Pop Charli XCX would be littered throughout this list if she’d released multiple singles off her two (extremely excellent) mixtapes, but rules are rules and ‘Backseat’ might get its time in the sun next year, so here we are.
36. Halsey, Lauren Jauregui – ‘Strangers’
Refer above for case #27 in favour of Lauren Jauregui’s solo career.
35. Monsieur Adi feat. Red – ‘Stay Up Late’
You know a word we don’t use enough when categorising music? STOMPER. Bangers are fab, belters are nice, but a stomper takes a little bit of both and throws in some attitude as well for the perfect combo. ‘Stay Up Late’ was one of this year’s premium stompers – largely off the potency of that MASSIVE “1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7!” hook, which Monsieur Adi very wisely manages to include in every major section of the song.
34. LPX – ‘Slide’
Avril Lavigne falls to the floor. Her shoulders ache, her arms feel like rubber. The spirit of Rock and Roll, which she decided to capture and carry in the form of a 10-foot neon sign that reads “Rock and Roll”, lays in the dirt beside her. In the distance, she sees P!nk launching herself from building to building, moving further away, with Kelly Clarkson hoisted on her back. Avril shuts her eyes. She’s alone. She’s defeated. Rock and Roll is dead.
Seconds pass, and then suddenly, the sound of footsteps. They get louder, until they seemingly stop right next to her limp, tired body. “Need a hand?” says LPX.
33. Anne-Marie – ‘Then’
Here’s reason #1 for why we should all put off making end-of-year lists for as late as possible.
32. Muki – ‘Friends Don’t Make Out’
‘Friends Don’t Make Out’ is not so much about an awkward encounter as it is about its retelling the next day, amidst giddy laughter and a palpable sense of satisfaction from its reciter as the proud owner of a top-notch tale. The song swells and bursts with the reveal of every new detail, showering its audience with bubbles and glitter as Muki turns her night-out into a fully realised stage production that’ll have your jaw on the floor.
31. Woodes – ‘Dots’
‘Dots’ does not sound like it was meant to exist on this miserable planet. Every second of it feels enormous and uncontainable, pulsating with the sort of power that does not feel like it should be wasted on human ears – or at least on shitty earphones. Imagine if James Cameron whacked this onto the next Avatar movie. IMAGINE THIS BLASTING THROUGH A THEATRE’S SOUND SYSTEM.
30. Selena Gomez – ‘Bad Liar’
Selena’s blunt dedication to understanding and elevating herself as an artist was fascinating to witness in 2016, and ‘Bad Liar’ sees that aim actualised in a way that feels organic and unforced. With her words in mind, it’s unsurprising that she didn’t feel ready to drop an entire body of work just yet, but when the lead-up is as captivating as this, it’s hard to mind.
29. Ralph – ‘Tease’
“Always talking ‘bout your dog and your restaurant” is the most deliciously specific call-out featured in any pop song this year.
28. Haiku Hands – ‘Not About You’
The best part about ‘Not About You’ is how it’s so open to multiple interpretations. Could it be about intersectional feminism? Probably. Getting ready for pre-drinks? Possibly. Pointing at men from across the street and laughing? Hopefully.