I’m sure everyone’s been seeing end-of-year best-of lists everywhere they look, but I’m not quite ready for my own list of 2017 movies yet. There’s still more to catch up on, but songs are shorter and easier to appreciate, and dang, have there been some good ones this year! Ever since my 2016 song list, I’ve been trolling the radio and YouTube and carefully listening out for what might make it onto the 2017 edition. I must admit this list isn’t how I thought it would look earlier in the year, and I’m surprised that no Clean Bandit, Chainsmokers, or Lorde made the final cut.
I’ve heard all of these multiple times throughout the year, and despite agonizing over a few placements, I’m confident in my choices. Do keep in mind that music is highly subjective and dependent on taste and that these are my personal choices based on mine. There’s bound to be songs that I’ve missed in the past year, so feel free to comment on my picks or let me know your own favorites. Now, on to the list!
- “The Castle on the Hill” by Ed Sheeran
Sheeran’s other hit “Shape of You” may have been the best-selling single of the year, but “The Castle on the Hill” is my favorite song of his yet. Built on an honest nostalgia for the past that is no more, it’s a wistful ballad for anyone who wishes they could go home.
- “It Ain’t My Fault” by Brothers Osborne
Like last year, I had to include one great country song, and “It Ain’t My Fault” was the high point of the year for that genre. Full of guilty finger-pointing, a jamming guitar riff, and T.J. Osborne’s oh-so-deep voice, this is a perfect song for singing along to at a concert. Oh, and the video is like Point Break if it were slapstick and very politically incorrect.
- “Walk on Water” by Thirty Seconds to Mars
Jared Leto and a choir may not be the most obvious combination, but they come together brilliantly for this rock anthem. I’d say he’s a better singer than actor. This is just the first of several alt-rock hits you’ll see on this list.
- “No Roots” by Alice Merton
Alice Merton rocked the charts in Europe first, and when “No Roots” made its way across the Atlantic, America got to see why. I fell in love with the sound of Florence and the Machine last year, and the catchy simplicity of “No Roots” taps into a very similar Bohemian beat.
- “Believer” and “Thunder” and “Whatever It Takes” by Imagine Dragons
As far as the airways at least, 2017 was a banner year for Imagine Dragons, who seemed to rule several radio stations with three separate hit singles. The #8 spot is technically for “Believer,” but all three get better the more I hear them, which says a lot considering “Believer” has been played to death all year. Reviews for the Evolve album have been mixed, but Imagine Dragons continues to deliver their unique brand of mainstream experimental rock. (Since I’m grouping the three, the video is a mashup by YouTuber Sam Tsui.)
- “The Man” by The Killers
You know those jerk people who think they’re God’s gift to mankind? No one actually likes those people, but it can still be fun to sing with that kind of self-confidence. “The Man” is a perfect opportunity and quite a catchy one at that, with a different sound than I’d expect from The Killers. I hear this song a lot at work too, where one of my friends sings it to refer to me. Not that I let that go to my head….
- “Love Is Mystical” by Cold War Kids
With its heavy piano riff in the background and a jazzy pulse, I can rarely stay still during this song. It just made its way onto the radio, and I hope they give it just as much airplay as all the vastly inferior songs.
- “The Greatest Show,” written by Pasek and Paul, from The Greatest Showman
At least one movie cracked the Top Twelve. “This Is Me” has gotten all the attention with its Golden Globe win and Oscar nod, but “The Greatest Show” is the crown jewel of The Greatest Showman’s soundtrack, which the big finale should be. I haven’t actually seen it yet, but this song is so good that I can’t wait.
- “Stranger Things” by Kygo, featuring OneRepublic
Not to be confused with the Netflix show of the same name or “Strangest Thing” by The War on Drugs. How interesting that the only two artists from last year’s song list (Kygo at #7, OneRepublic at #1) made it onto this one with a collaboration! I already liked Kygo’s tropical house style, but I’m now a huge fan after his latest album Kids in Love. I could have just as easily put “Sunrise,” “Kids in Love,” or “Stargazing” here, but I’m trying to keep it to one place for each artist and this was my favorite.
- “Without You” by Avicii, featuring Sandro Cavazza
It’s pretty much a toss-up on whether Avicii or Kygo is my favorite DJ right now. Just when Kygo seems to be gaining ground, Avicii releases something like “Without You,” which ranks up there with his best work. The elusive goal for electronic music seems to be to find that rare combination of beats that feels iconic and designed to get stuck in your head, and Avicii achieved it here. (“Lonely Together” was also a good one from Avicii this year.)
- “One Foot” by Walk the Moon
The #1 and #2 spots were tough. Like last year, I had a choice between an emotional anthem or an infectiously catchy dancefest. OneRepublic’s dancefest won last year, but even if Walk the Moon is only second this time, I still adore this song. I’ve gone nuts in my car to this song more than once, and it’s just one more example of Walk the Moon’s talent for upbeat awesomeness.
- “Praying” by Kesha
“Praying” had to be #1 because of how honest and personal it is and how it changed the way I viewed Kesha, formerly Ke$ha. Before this, I thought of her as her “party girl” persona, but “Praying” showed a different side of her. After losing a messy court battle with her music producer Dr. Luke, whom she accused of sexual assault and emotional distress, she channeled her grief into this moving ballad of self-reempowerment. You can hear the raw emotion in her voice. Kesha’s trials predated the recent boom in sexual accusations and probably would have gone differently today, but her words of hope and prayer are the best possible response from such victims. I don’t really care about the Grammies airing later tonight, but I am rooting for “Praying” for Best Pop Solo Performance. (Update: Of course, it didn’t win. This is why I don’t care much about the Grammies.)
So that’s my Top Twelve, but there were plenty of other goodies in 2017. Below are the many runners-up, generally listed from favorite to least favorite (but still good):
“Dreamer” by Axwell Ʌ Ingrosso, feat. Trevor Guthrie
“Symphony” and “I Miss You” by Clean Bandit
“Let Me Go” by Hailee Steinfeld and Alesso, feat. Florida Georgia Line and Watt
“Tell Me You Love Me” by Galantis & Throttle
“Clap Your Hands” and “Not All Heroes Wear Capes” by Owl City
“Nobody Can Hear You” by ALIUS
“Lonesome” and “Too Much” by Shaed
“Strangest Thing” by The War on Drugs
“Good Thing” by Tritonal
“Suit and Jacket” by Judah and the Lion
“Green Light” and “Perfect Places” by Lorde
“Paris” by The Chainsmokers
“Road” by Bruno Martini and Timbaland, feat. Johnny Franco
“Something Just Like This” by The Chainsmokers and Coldplay
“Up All Night” by Beck
“Feels Like Summer” by Weezer
“Lay It on Me” by Vance Joy
“It Ain’t Me” by Kygo and Selena Gomez
“Hard Times” by Paramore
“The Spectre” and “All Falls Down” by Alan Walker
“No Such Thing As a Broken Heart” by Old Dominion
“The Heart Is a Muscle” and “The Deepest Sighs, the Frankest Shadows” by Gang of Youths
“No Promises” by Cheat Codes, feat. Demi Lovato
“Feel It Still” by Portugal. The Man (talk about played to death on the radio)
“The Cure” by Lady Gaga
“What Lovers Do” by Maroon 5
“Sober Up” by AJR
“All the Pretty Girls” by Kenny Chesney
“There’s Nothing Holdin’ Me Back” by Shawn Mendes
“Peace Sign” by The Front Bottoms
“Wolves” by Selena Gomez and Marshmello
“Every Day’s the Weekend” by Alex Lahey
“Remember Me” by Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez, from Coco
“Body Like a Back Road” by Sam Hunt
“Cameo” by Sam Tsui
“To Be Human” by Sia, feat. Labrinth (from Wonder Woman)
“You’re the Best Thing About Me” by U2
“Legends” by Sleeping with Sirens
“This Is My Time” by Amy Stroup
Hopefully, you’ll discover some gems among these as well, but let me know of any other favorites from last year you might have. Here’s hoping 2018 will be just as prolific!
As with last year, it seems fitting to finish off this musical recap of 2017 with a brief tribute to the musicians lost last year. Rest in peace, Gregg Allman, Walter Becker, Chester Bennington, Chuck Berry, Glen Campbell, David Cassidy, Chris Cornell, Fats Domino, Johnny Hallyday, Jon Hendricks, Tom Petty, Mel Tillis, John Wetton, Don Williams, and Malcolm Young. Let’s remember them at their best, like my favorite Tom Petty song.