Was there much better in 2017 than seeing Rita Ora get back to her actual job and deliver pop smash after pop smash. Your Song is the best of these and reminded everyone that if they’d just let Rita get on with it and release her album we wouldn’t have had to act surprised when she dropped this.
I have given Ed Sheeran a very hard time in 2017. Much like everyone else I was genuinely excited for Divide following the joint release of biggest song of the year Shape of You and this track. While it may have all fallen apart when it became apparent that the album, campaign, videos, release strategy was designed and not created with any artistic intent, it became hard to believe a single word Mr Sheeran said. Of all of the songs he released though Castle on the Hill is the one that I believe. It’s soars in a way that nothing he’s released before has, it’s a properly huge song and surprisingly his vocal performance holds up like I never expected it would. Castle on the Hill is by far my favourite Ed Sheeran single.
Kung-Fu Kenny and RiRi is a match made in heaven, even more so when Rap Rihanna comes out to play. The glitchy sample of the relatively recent 24k Magic gives the whole thing this modern twist on the throwback feel that’s unlike anything else on album DAMN or any other record released this year for that matter. It’s the way that the pair flirt with each other through their tease of a vocal on LOYALTY though that does it for me. Fiery bars and melodic hooks are shared and pass around, the way they trade verses between each other recalls The Throne at their best.
‘Feels like I just woke up, like all this time I’ve been asleep’ opens the latest Miley Cyrus album on a note that may appear like she’s rejecting her Bangerz persona outright. The line that follows ‘I’m not afraid of what I used to be’ washes away this idea and Younger Now is a triumphant call of acceptance of yourself. It’s refreshing to hear an artist that has been through everything the music industry can throw at her in the last few years, from that foam finger, to ‘Miley what’s good’, sound so genuinely thrilled to be making music. Younger Now is a terrific pop song and one that marks a new standard for Miley as an artist.
Unapologetically is the moment when the pieces finally started to fall into place for Kelsea Ballerini. It’s unapologetic about being a pop country crossover, it’s unapologetic about being a our and out love song and most importantly Kelsea finally sound unapologetic about being labelled as ‘the new Taylor Swift’. This was the start of one hell of a good year for one of country music’s most promising new talents and the hook has been going round and round in my head ever since.
Last year I had quite a few people questioning why none of the huge Little Mix singles, or their massively popular album Glory Days made my best of lists. Shout Out To My Ex is fun, but not their best, while Touch was possibly an oversight given its very late release. The true star of Glory Days though is No More Sad Songs. The chant of the hook by all 4 girls is like a battle cry, while the way that each of them taken on the ‘I’m begging please don’t play’ moment makes for a finale that is up their with their best songs. While Machine Gun Kelly hardly adds much to the track, this slightly beefed up version of the song is the one that stayed in my Apple Music playlist for most of the year.
If Ain’t It Fun and Still Into You were a tease of ‘Pop Paramore’ Hard Times finally ditches any need to cling onto ‘rock credibility’ and is genuinely the most exciting thing the group have delivered in years. The plink plonk of the marimba and Daft Punk vocoder moments are offset by lyrics that open with ‘All that I want, is to wake up fine, tell me that I’m alright, that I ain’t gonna die’. Hayley Williams delivers the most upbeat song about depression imaginable that’s obviously coming from a real place. Pop music looks good on Paramore.
2017 has seen so many huge acts return with long awaited albums, but there was no one more overdue that the undisputed Queen of Country Shania Twain. It’s safe to say that the last 13 years have been tough for Shania, the untimely split of her and her career long writing partner and husband alongside an illness that nearly ended her singing for good; many never thought she would be make it back to recording again. Life’s About To Get Good may seem on first listen like a fun ditty to mark her return but in the space of 3m40 she sums up everything she is feeling with some of the year’s most brutally honest lyrics. ‘It killed me that you’d give your life to be with her’ seems tough enough but it’s ‘I couldn’t move on and I think you were flattered’ that cuts the hardest for me. There’s so much depth to such a seemingly positive song, which is entirely the point of course. Life’s About To Get Good wasn’t just the song that fans had needed, you can hear throughout that it’s a song that Shania desperately needed to get her through.
Do It is a subtle track and eases its way into your consciousness with every turn. Rae Morris is so playful here, both in her teasing lyrics and her light vocal delivery. You can hear her smiling as she keeps suggesting that we can just ‘do it’, it’s supposed to be fun after all isn’t it? ‘Call me by my real name, I will keep you entertained’ is such a brilliant tease of a lyric, Do It is like the point when work and pleasure collide, it’s an exciting thing to eavesdrop on. With her album due at the start of the year, I doubt this will be the last time Rae Morris appears here.
Following a year of inescapable and inescapably dull songs from The Chainsmokers in 2016, they seemed to strike gold this year. Paris kicked the year off with a bang and was a very close call for the tail end of this list, but it’s Something Just Like This that manages to sit way above everything else they have released. It’s no surprise given that the Coldplay influence here and is stronger than their usual collaborators and in fact this song sits alongside the likes of A Sky Full of Stars and Charlie Brown better than it does Closer and Don’t Let Me Down. Once Jonny Buckland arrives to deliver his trademark ‘Coldplay guitar moment’ on the final chorus you just know that it’s going to sound huge when performed live. I can confirm that it definitely does.
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