My Top 100 (Or Thereabouts) Of 2017
It’s been a while since I had the time, or perhaps the enthusiasm, to put together a top 100 list for the year. But each time I write about “The Songs That Made a Difference” at radio, some people take it as a year-end list. And this year, I was particularly curious whether I could manage 100 titles. There have been years (I remember 1980 particularly) where bad music on the radio didn’t necessarily equate to bad available music. So I was curious to at least go through the exercise
At this writing, I’m just under 100 songs. As friends and commenters remind me of others, I’m sure the list will grow. (So feel free to check back at the end of the year, especially after year-end lists from other territories remind me of songs I might have missed.) You’ll definitely see the influence of CKOI Montreal, a market which has always been hipper than its American counterparts, but this year became a harbinger of what American CHR could be if it acknowledged Alternative crossovers again.
Here’s the top 20, in no particular order, except as noticed:
Alice Merton, No Roots
Axwell/Ingrosso, More Than You Know
Brothers Osborne, It Ain’t My Fault
Calvin Harris, Feels – He followed the music where it was going, without losing his energy or hookiness.
Cam, Diane – There’s been a lot of discussion over the last two years about Country becoming more traditional; this just felt more classic.
Dan Auerbach, Shine On Me – Yes, it sounds like “Queen of Hearts,” although I wonder if he knows it as a Juice Newton song or by Dave Edmunds.
Dua Lipa, New Rules
Harry Styles, Kiwi – I didn’t buy “Sign of the Times” as anything other than a Robbie Williams song (which is fine), not Oasis and not Bowie. Maybe George Michael, “Praying For Time” (which is not a compliment). But this is the best Active Rock record of the year, and he certainly did get CHR to consider songs that they never would have played by a brand new act.
Kendrick Lamar, Humble – Instantly identifiable as a classic. As with all the Hip-Hop that CHR struggled with in the mid-‘90s, this will be remembered as a much bigger pop hit than it was. (And it’s telling that CHR was forced to consider it this year.)
Kenny Chesney, All The Pretty Girls
Khalid, Saved – Each new single shows a new side and impresses again.
Killers, The Man – There was certainly a whiff of calculation: “let’s do something like ‘Uptown Funk,’ but let’s make it Bowie references, instead.” But I still appreciated the return to form, and every act needs a policy statement.
Kyle f/Lil Yachty, I Spy – Skee-Lo, “I Wish” for this generation.
Midland, Make A Little – The Internet controversy about their authenticity was ridiculous at a time when so many Country hits feel more calibrated than composed. They were a deliberate throwback to the early days of Arista Nashville’s early ‘90s hits from Diamond Rio, Blackhawk, and others. Those songs made the label Country music’s equivalent of Motown; even when they were calculated, they sounded great on the radio.
Moon Taxi, Two High – Songs have to get in where they fit in these days, but it’s been telling to watch this and “No Roots” start as Triple-A records, then Alternative, then (one hopes) Hot AC and CHR. So much more obviously a matter of production than where a record belongs.
Ofenbach, Be Mine – I already liked it. Hearing it on vacation in French Canada sealed the deal. Also liked the symmetry of Quebec having embraced a very different band called Offenbach 40 years earlier.
Paramore, Hard Times – Veteran rock writer (and ROR editor) Ken Barnes has observed that they’ve become No Doubt. In which case, this was meant to be “Hollaback Girl.” It’s too bad that this wasn’t the song that brought energy back to CHR this summer
Sir Sly, High – It’s also too bad that this wasn’t the song that brought energy back to CHR this summer. And I guess I understand why. But if you think of it as a 2017 successor to “Cloud Nine” by the Temptations, radio managed to play that one at the time.
Sofi Tukker, Best Friend – I’m always wondering how many songs like Icona Pop, “I Love It” are just sitting on a blog page somewhere, unlikely to come to the fore unless there’s a TV or commercial sync. As music got sludgier, I had begun to despair that those songs were still out there.
SZA, The Weekend
And here’s the remainder of the top 100. Or just listen.
- Aaron Goodvin, Lonely Drum
- Anderson. Paak, Come Down
- Arcade Fire, Everything Now
- Arkells, Knocking At The Door
- Arkells, My Heart’s Always Yours
- Beyoncé, Hold Up
- Big Sean, Bounce Back
- Brantley Gilbert, The Ones That Like Me
- Brett Eldredge, Something I’m Good At
- Brett Young, Like I Loved You
- Bruno Mars, 24K Magic
- Burak Yeter, Tuesday
- Cage The Elephant, Whole Wide World
- Calvin Harris, Slide
- Camilla Cabelo, Havana
- Cardi B., Bodak Yellow
- Charlie Puth, Attention
- Charlie Puth, How Long
- Charlie Wilson, I’m Blessed
- Charlotte Cardin, Main Girl
- Cheat Codes, Feels Great
- Childish Gambino, Redbone
- Chris Janson, Fix A Drink
- Chris Janson, Drunk Girl – Somebody’s not going to like it if I compare him to great Nashville songwriters like Tom T. Hall or Bobby Braddock this soon; but these were a good showcase for the humor and versatility that made both of them famous.
- Dej Loaf, No Fear
- Dirty Heads, Vacation
- Drake, Passionfruit
- Ed Sheeran, Galway Girl
- First Aid Kit, It’s A Shame
- Fitz & the Tantrums, HandClap
- Halsey, Bad At Love
- Imagine Dragons, Believer
- Imagine Dragons, Thunder
- Jax Jones, You Don’t Know Me
- Jax Jones, Instruction
- Jessie Reyez, Figures
- K.Flay, Blood in the Cut
- Kane Brown f/Lauren Alaina, What Ifs
- Keith Urban & Carrie Underwood, The Fighter
- Kelly Clarkson, Love So Soft
- Kesha, Praying
- Khalid, Location
- Khalid, Young Dumb And Broke
- Kygo x Selena Gomez, It Ain’t Me
- Liam Payne, Strip That Down
- Lindsay Buckingham & Christine McVie, Feel About You
- Linkin Park, Talking To Myself
- LP, Lost On You
- Luke Combs, When It Rains It Pours
- Maren Morris, 80s Mercedes
- Maren Morris, Dear Hate
- Mary J. Blige, Set Me Free
- Midland, Drinkin’ Problem
- Miley Cyrus, Malibu
- Missio, Middle Fingers – As much for seeing humor return to Alternative as the song itself
- New Politics, One Of Us
- Nick Jonas, Find You
- Ofenbach, Katchi
- Paramore, Fake Happy
- Partynextdoor, Not Nice
- Portugal. The Man, Feel It Still – At a point of saturation now, but I appreciate what it did for radio, and I’m sure I’ll enjoy it again as a gold.
- Rae Sremmurd, Black Beatles
- Rihanna, Love On The Brain (Gigamesh Remix)
- Saint Motel, Destroyer
- Sweet Spirit, The Power
- Taylor Girlz, Steal Her Man
- Taylor Swift, Look What You Made Me Do – I genuinely enjoyed it for about as long as it lasted at radio
- The 1975, Somebody Else
- Train Drink Up
- Trombone Shorty, Here Come The Girls
- Vance Joy, Lay It On Me
- Wale, Fashion Week
- Walker Hayes, You Broke Up With Me
- Walker Hayes, Craig
- Whitehorse, Boys Like You
- Ying-Yang Twins, Get Out The Way
- Yo Gotti/Nicki Minaj, Rake It Up