TDC’s Top Ten Songs from 2017(ish): 10 – 6
I don’t listen to a lot of music, guys. Changing that fact is one of my 2018 resolutions, and to that end I have recently joined the rest of the civilized world on Spotify. Hopefully when I write my list of Top Ten songs from 2018, I will be speaking from a place of greater authority than the one I greet you from today.
Today, however, I greet you as a creature of habit. I tend to find bands and artists I like, and listen to them on repeat for months at a time. This often comes at the expense of enjoying the shocking volume of new music that gets released throughout the year. New music tends to reach my ear in two ways: 1. New albums by one of my “can’t miss” favorite artists, or 2. New songs are played on my favorite alt-rock radio station which I listen to on my 30 minute daily commute (like I said: creature of habit). You will find songs from both categories on this list (I am getting to the list okay CALM DOWN).
This year, I’ve also enjoyed being introduced to new music by my students. As I begin my career as a high school guidance counselor, I’ve found music to be one of the best ways to connect with teenagers who—for some crazy reason—think that I am an old person. They are white kids in rural Vermont, so naturally 99% of the music they listen to is rap. I don’t think they are exactly Kendrick Lamar’s target audience, but he’s killing it up here anyway.
Finally, now that I’ve rambled on long enough to lose most of my readers anyway, I’ll offer one final caveat. An incredible amount of music was released by major artists this year. With apologies to the following list of artists (and their fans) who released new music in 2017, your songs will not appear on my list because I have not yet had the chance to listen to them:
The Flaming Lips, The xx, Japandroids, Migos, Animal Collective, John Mayer, deadmau5, Ed Sheeran, The Shins, Depeche Mode, Real Estate, Drake, Passion Pit, Raekwon, Aimee Mann, Jamiroquai, Mastodon, The Chainsmokers, Cold War Kids, Father John Misty, The New Pornographers, Rich Homie Quan, Incubus, Sheryl Crow, The Cranberries, Feist, Gorillaz, Mary J. Blige, New Found Glory, Foster the People, Mac DeMarco, Machine Gun Kelly, Paramore, Zach Brown Band, Do Make Say Think, Linkin Park, Rascal Flatts, Snoop Dogg, Gucci Mane, Shakira, alt-J, Dispatch, Major Lazer, Ani DiFranco, Katy Perry, Phoenix, Rancid, Rise Against, 2 Chainz, Bassnectar, Fleet Foxes, Lorde, Royal Blood, 311, Imagine Dragons, Vince Staples, Jay-Z, Coldplay, Kendrick Lamar, Lana Del Ray, Nine Inch Nails, Arcade Fire, Queens of the Stone Age, LCD Soundsystem, Jack Johnson, Foo Fighters, Wyclef Jean, The Killers, Macklemore, Primus, Beck, Hollywood Undead, Weezer, Maroon 5, Sam Smith, Evanescence, Taylor Swift, Barenaked Ladies, Sia, U2, N.E.R.D., and Eminem.
Having said that, please feel free to yell at me for anything and everything you find distasteful about my 10 favorite songs from 2017*:
I literally hate myself for including this human being on my list but it would be super disingenuous of me to pretend like I didn’t spend 73% of 2017 with this song stuck in my head. This song gets stuck in my head whenever someone says “congratulations”. This song gets stuck in my head when I drive past the Post Office. This song gets stuck in my head when I think about legendary Utah Jazz power forward Karl Malone. I hate you, Post Malone. Congratulations.
This song started getting serious airtime on my local alt-rock station (shoutout to 99.9 The Buzz) sometime over the summer, and it quickly became one of my favorite tracks to hear mixed in between overplayed Arctic Monkeys songs. Sir Sly is a trio of dudes from LA that have been around for about 5 years, reaching a degree of mainstream recognition somewhere between “middling” and “oh it’s that song from that video game”. Finally, they thought “hey what if we wrote a song about getting really fucking stoned and how awesome that feels?” and that turned out to be their ticket to the top. It remains to be seen if their flash in the pan can turn into a sizzle, but for now “High” describes their biggest hit yet, my interest in seeing where their career goes from here, and the volume in my car when this song comes on the radio.
I should really hate this song. It checks a shockingly high number of boxes on the “what I hate about songs” list: naked appeals to nostalgia; an irresponsibly idiotic music video; unnecessary autotune/vocal effects; an eye-rollingly ironic title; “river of champagne” is a lyric…. and all from a band so unique and quirky that it had to capitalize its entire name. But all those immutable facts seem to mute themselves nonetheless, when the refrain hits: “Some nights feel like every night/this one feels brand new/only got bad things on my mind/when I’m with you”. And then without warning or consent, I’m viewing a slideshow montage of the drug-and-alcohol-fueled debauchery that comprised a huge percentage of my late teens and early 20s. (Mom don’t worry I was also doing my homework and being responsible for an acceptable percentage of my late teens and early 20s).
Also a slogan used to recruit bright and talented minds into careers in public education, “Don’t Take the Money” is the third big hit from Bleachers, the side project of Fun’s Jack Antonoff. “I Wanna Get Better” and “Rollercoaster”, the singles from Antonoff’s debut album Strange Desire (2014), had the same synthy, melodic catchiness as Fun, but without all the obnoxious faux-gravitas that made Fun so not fun to listen to. “Don’t Take the Money” keeps his streak alive, and delivers on the promise shown by his break out hits. This is light, head-bobbing fare—but sometimes that’s exactly what you need after a long day at a job where you most certainly did not take the money.
Sometimes you need light, head-bobbing fare—but sometimes you want music to actually mean something. Logic, a Maryland-based rapper who is 6 days younger than me, was fully off my radar until some of my students heard me talking about how hip-hop these days is all mumbly garbage. Taking it upon themselves to prove me wrong, they showed me this song, which takes as its title the phone number to the National Suicide Prevention Hotline. Fighting back tears, I thanked them and then went home to get my hands on as much Logic as I could. Let me just say—his earlier stuff is better, but this track from 2017’s Everybody stands alone as a statement against the stigmatization of depression, self-harm, and suicide. His performance and speech at the 2017 MTV Video Music Awards pulled back whatever thin veil existed around this song’s meaning and intention, and made the implicit explicit in a way that went far beyond the industry.
Part of what we do in the mental health field is facilitate conversations about these exact issues, and amplify the voices of those who are speaking out about them on a national level. We do this in the hopes that we can avoid a significantly harder responsibility of our profession—counseling the grieving survivors of suicide, who are experiencing what is only now starting to be understood as a significant trauma unto itself. Everyday we fight against the thunderous silence that clouds these conversations, and the unnerving discomfort that allows these stigmas to persist.
It’s rare—given the artists I tend to listen to—that a song cuts so deeply into the heart of my real life, my principles, and the values I hold close to my heart. Logic’s decision to use his platform and influence to shout these issues from the rooftop—to give a voice to those who might otherwise suffer in silence—moves beyond music and beyond the industry, and steps foot into the realm of creating real, lasting change in our sick, broken society.
Well, on that jarringly serious note, I will conclude the first half of my Top Ten list. Keep an eye out for the second half, coming soon, which will feature music from my two favorite bands, a local juggernaut, and the track I consider to be my personal 2017 theme song.
*Note: some of these songs are from 2016, but didn’t hit my radar until 2017. I’m not even sorry that I’m not sorry.