I think we can all agree that 2017 has, for the most part, been a shit year. However, some pop songs, for the most part, weren’t shit — well done 2017. Here are the best 50.
50. Anne-Marie — ‘Ciao Adios’
Anne-Marie was primed and ready to capitalise on the momentum of her success courtesy of Clean Bandit’s ‘Rockabye’; and she knocked it out of the park. By-the-numbers pop executed perfectly.
49. Jason Derulo — ‘If I’m Lucky’
It seems as though Shawn Mendes’ ‘There’s Nothing Holdin Me Back’ had a one-night stand with Selena Gomez’ ‘Hands to Myself’ — ‘Hands to Myself’ kept the baby and gave birth to ‘If I’m Lucky’.
48. Carly Rae Jepsen — ‘Cut to the Feeling’
I considered not putting the video here for OBVIOUS REASONS. Whilst this isn’t Jeppo’s best track, Jeppo’s not-best is still better than most other people’s not-not-best.
47. Becky Hill — ‘Rude Love’
‘Rude Love’ should have been that song that enters the charts at #7 based on Radio 1 airplay but then reaches #3 after Capital picks it up due to its top 10 status.
46. Charlie Puth — ‘Attention’
Hello Recording Academy, please create the category for Best Bassline and make this the inaugural recipient.
45. Terror Jr. — ‘Death Wish’
Being able to make opening lyrics “You change me like hair dye / Then you leave me like a hair tie” catchy cements its position.
44. Zedd & Alessia Cara — ‘Stay’
2017 was littered with [Dance Act] & [Pop Star/Group] — ‘Generic EDM’ (feat. Trying to Gain Spotify Listeners), but Zedd and Alessia Cara’s wistful number stood out amongst them all because it’s actually a very good song.
43. Maluma — ‘Felices los 4’
I’d enjoy this song without the video, but being able to SEE Colombian heartthrob Maluma is the icing on the cake.
42. Alesso — ‘Falling’
Whilst ‘Falling’ completely went under the radar to the WORLD, Alesso’s actually had a rather good 2017, producing one of the best songs of the year further up the list.
41. Maroon 5 and SZA — ‘What Lovers Do’
The biggest pop-rock band of the millennium interpolating an exceptional 2016 trop bop was a pop moment.
40. Camila Cabello and Young Thug — ‘Havana’
‘Havana’’s runaway success was a perfect demonstration of how to launch a new female popstar in the streaming era. Chucking songs at the wall until something sticks, revolving the promo budget around said song, then rushing to craft an album featuring 11 sort-of-the-same songs. Bring on January 12th.
39. SZA — ‘Drew Barrymore’
The most-promising new voice in female R&B at her best.
38. Halsey — ‘Now or Never’
“Needed Me” is a song recorded by Barbadian singer and songwriter Rihanna from her eighth studio album, Anti (2016).
37. Billie Eilish — ‘Bellyache’
Billie Eilish’s age is literally less than half the number of her position here but she already has more talent than I’ll ever have in my life.
36. Becky G and Bad Bunny — ‘Mayores’
35. Louisa Johnson — ‘Best Behaviour’
All hail The Biggest Selling Single of 2017 to Miss the Top 40. It’s a shame this didn’t hit harder with the general public, as Louisa’s soaring vocals and the adrenaline-inducing post chorus were an I’ve-arrived-and-I-kicked-the-door-down-on-my-way-in moment.
34. Little Mix and Machine Gun Kelly — ‘No More Sad Songs’
Whilst I’ll never fully understand the A&R process behind this collaboration, ‘No More Sad Songs’ is perhaps the most underrated Little Mix single.
33. Lil Uzi Vert — ‘XO TOUR Llif3’
The very good, albeit typographically apocalyptic, breakthrough track that typifies a genre which dominated 2017.
32. Lana Del Rey — ‘Love’
Perfume advert-esque models floating through the solar system in vintage cars while she performs on the Moon is a quintessential Lana Del Rey visual, accompanying one of her very best songs.
31. Kendrick Lamar and Zacari — ‘LOVE.’
Thank God this didn’t end up as a ‘feat. [Justin Bieber] or [Drake]’ (delete as appropriate) which it easily could have. One of the most sonically beautiful tracks of the year.
30. Kelly Clarkson — ‘Love So Soft’
Call me when your fave is at a vocal and artistic peak a decade-and-a-half into their career.
29. Sigrid — ‘Don’t Kill My Vibe’
The most important Norwegian export since oil.
28. Tove Styrke — ‘Say My Name’
Tove Styrke’s ukulelebop feels like Adele’s ‘Send My Love’ took acid — and the high is amazing.
27. Sigrid — ‘Plot Twist’
The dense, rich, engulfing production still doesn’t detract from Sigrid’s standout vocals. What a fucking chorus.
26. Clean Bandit and Zara Larsson — ‘Symphony’
My favourite thing about ‘Symphony’ is extra bits being added each time the chorus comes back around, with the final chorus’ explosion leaving you feeling like Grace has whacked you round the face with her cello.
25. Bruno Mars — ‘Versace on the Floor’
The best song Bruno Mars has made.
24. Black Pink — ‘마지막처럼 (As If It’s Your Last)’
I can SMELL the poppers in the first 15 seconds of this K-pop banger. The song then transforms for the (amazing) verses and then again for the (even better) chorus. And for the love of God, won’t someone do something and not limit their output to quite literally one song a year?!
23. Julia Michaels — ‘Issues’
The thing I love about Julia Michaels is that she’s capitalised on the popularity of the whisperpop trend, which is helmed by Selena Gomez, who only got there herself through Miss Michaels’ songwriting, and won. A savvy queen.
22. Cardi B — ‘Bodak Yellow’
One of the year’s most endearing breakthrough stories from a bodacious superstar-in-the-making giving one of the year’s best rap performances.
21. Niall Horan — ‘Slow Hands’
Who’d have thought that it would have been Niall to attain the second-best solo career?!
20. Charli XCX — ‘Boys’
Charli XCX at her music-video-directing, smashing-societal-norms, Mario-coin-obtaining best.
19. Khalid — ‘Location’
Okay, yes, this was technically released in 2016 but it was “‘serviced’” to radio in 2017 so HERE IT IS. Khalid’s lyricism and composition skills are really allowed to shine here, being so incongruous to the song’s production.
18. Taylor Swift — ‘Gorgeous’
The seemingly most whimsical Taylor Swift song is actually the most clever because it’s the most straightforward. A quintessential Max Martin pre-chorus segues a charming chorus that doesn’t take itself too seriously, allowing Taylor to show a pla(damage control)yful side.
17. Lorde — ‘Green Light’
The moment ‘Green Light’ premiered, I got into the car with my best friend and drove around with it on full volume; we both agreed we’d die happy if we crashed there and then.
16. Ariana Grande and Future — ‘Everyday’
This is Ari’s best video, isn’t it? Nothing but respect for the Best Person to Exist in 2017.
15. Nicki Minaj’s verse in ‘Rake It Up’
The internal rhyming scheme. Her DELIVERY of said internal rhyming scheme. This is Nicki’s song.
14. Calvin Harris, Frank Ocean and Migos — ‘Slide’
It felt like Calvin Harris was doing that thing where artists attempt to show they can make ‘real’ music after being commercially successful, and ended up inadvertently making the pop song of the summer.
13. Sigrid — ‘Strangers’
Middle 8 of the year.
12. Kesha — ‘Praying’
The most important comeback of the year.
11. Mura Masa & Charli XCX — ‘1 Night’
Charlotte’s knack for composing a melody over literally anything is second-to-none, and her singing “but iiiiii” in the chorus of ‘1 Night’ is the single best pop moment of the 2017.
10. Julia Michaels — ‘Uh Huh’
This quirky number from Ms. Michaels may not have shaken the charts, but it demonstrated how much of a force Julia can be in her own right. With conversational pop lyrics aplenty, and a great production and label team behind her, Julia is getting stronger with each release; and she may be a huge threat if a debut album materialises.
9. Paramore — ‘Hard Times’
One of the best Paramore singles to date, the lovechild of ‘Ain’t It Fun’ and ‘Still Into You’ does that amazingly creepy thing of disguising melancholic lyrics with jolly production. It’s staggering that with a chorus as infectious as this, and coming off the back of their most successful song, AND that song winning a Grammy, ‘Hard Times’ didn’t even dent American radio. They deserve so much more.
8. Dua Lipa — ‘New Rules’
‘New Rules’ is by no means Dua Lipa’s best song. It is, however, the song that pop geeks needed to celebrate Dua cataputling herself into stardom and her name to be welcomed into many British households. The sheer cinematic beauty of the video, combined with call-and-response lyrics peppered throughout, allow Dua to nicely package the song up and gift it to the near-1 billion people who’ve listened to it. *whispers* New Rules? More like justice for ‘New Love’!
7. Demi Lovato — ‘Sorry Not Sorry’
Demetria really won this year, huh? Her biggest single ever; a properly good album; an amazingly candid documentary; and all of these creating an onslaught of memes, Demi really hit it home - with ‘Sorry Not Sorry’ being her crowning achievement.
6. Lorde — ‘Perfect Places’
The best song from 2017’s best album and that’s all there is to it really.
5. Katy Perry and Migos — ‘Bon Appétit’
There are precisely 3 things that make this song incredible:
1) The build up of drums starting at the 2:31 mark in the video.
2) Katy uttering “go ahead” before the kick into the final chorus.
3) The kick into the final chorus.
4. Rita Ora — ‘Anywhere’
This is her best song ever, isn’t it? The Alesso-produced euphorobop does that thing with its nostalgia-inducing chorus that pop songs should do: make you feel fucking awesome. Oh, and call me when your fave can face an onslaught of misogyny for years, be trapped in a record deal, not have a proper album campaign for 5 years but come back stronger, more popular and even more of an artist than before. Queen Rita.
3. Tove Lo — ’Disco Tits’
Body-talking, cloud-advocating girl of coolness Tove Lo was seemingly primed and ready to conquer the globe leading into Lady Wood, and its sequel Blue Lips, through a slurry of features; but sadly, it was never meant to be. Thankfully, she’s stuck to her guns and found her niche in horny “‘dark’”-pop, typified by the overt “I’m sweat from head to toe / I’m wet through all my clothes / I’m fully charged, nipples are hard / Ready to go” chorus on ‘Disco Tits’.
2. Little Mix — ‘Touch’
Reports say scientists are still trying to work out whose skin Perrie is wearing.
1. Selena Gomez — ‘Bad Liar’
If you told me in December 2016 that in 2017 Selena Gomez is going to come around with a song that samples a hetty 70s rock band and it’s going to be the best song of the year, I’d have laughed in your face; not because it’s by Selena Gomez, but because it seemed like a pretty tall order. But here it is… and what a song.
I have so much unconditional love for Selena Gomez. She admirably completed her Hollywood Records record deal, scouted for a new label that would suit her, found her sonic niche, gave them an album that she had control over but would still yield commercial success, and was seemingly granted some creative freedom — of which came ‘Bad Liar’.
The intricate pop song relies heavily on syncopation within the production, making for a nice contrast from the four-to-the-floor song on which ‘Bad Liar’ creates its entire bassline. It’s spacious but rich in layers, allowing Selena’s vocals to weave through, leaving her recognisable tone to shine and convincingly tell a story.
I mean, Justin Tranter and Julia Michaels manage to get a four syllable word at the end of a line in a pop song, rhyming “than it used to be” with “amenity”. The lyric “But just like the Battle of Troy / There’s nothing subtle here” is weirdly perfect; Selena Gomez, Department of History. Credit to Tranter and Michaels by the way, who are now fully able to make a song a Selena Gomez Song™.
There’s so much to love about ‘Bad Liar’ for all its quirks and simplicities. It wasn’t made to smash top 40 radio. It wasn’t made to be at the top of all the pre-made Spotify playlists. It was made out of a fangirl moment that three people had, inadvertently creating something innovative yet serviceable.
When you try and piece it all together, ‘Bad Liar’ seems like a haphazard choice for what Selena Gomez is; but that’s precisely why ‘Bad Liar’ basks in being such a glorious oddball.