Heart Break could quite easy fall into that trap of ‘clever lyrical idea, but underwhelming song’ but instead Lady Antebellum take that simple phrasing trick and have created one of their best singles in years. Hillary and Charles sound glorious as always, the way Hillary builds through the ‘Giving love a rest, between my ex, and my next’ lyric is especially genius. To me this is yet another example of excellent pop country crossover in 2017 and Lady A are still holding on near the top of the pile. When your favourite band are delivering career high records like this year after year there’s honestly nothing better for a fan.
The soundtrack to many Wild Thoughts about Rihanna and the way she says she ‘knows you wanna see me nakey nakey naked’. Wild Thoughts should only be as listenable as every other song that takes an iconic sample, sticks some rappers on it and calls it a day, but it’s Rihanna delivering her steamiest performance to date that pulls this nearer to classic territory. The fact that I haven’t even needed to mention that this was just ‘Another One’ for the artist himself in a massive 2017 shows just how electrifying Rihanna’s performance on Wild Thoughts is.
The majesty of Homemade Dynamite is in the quietness. Lorde’s breathy vocal, the slight acapella opening or that brief second of silence before she makes the child like explosion noise, t’s the use of empty space here that makes the main chorus that bit more explosive. It’s still restrained, but Homemade Dynamite feels like a proper evolution of the sound we heard on Lorde’s debut album Pure Heroine. It’s exactly the song of single I had expected from her in 2017, but that’s definitely not a bad thing considering the rest of the Melodrama album. When your most obvious and most relatable hit from your album is as wonderfully weird as Homemade Dynamite you are onto a winner.
A standout on the best album of Miranda Lambert’s career, Tin Man produced multiple career defining moments on award shows in 2017. Hearing her perform this live was a true highlight of the year. There’s no chorus, hardly any lyrics, but hearing that ‘You can take mine if you want, it’s in pieces now’ achieves genuine heart wrenching feeling every time she sings it.
I Dare You is by far the simplest record that The xx have ever been involved in. The triumphant climax of an album full of brutally honest and personal songs, I Dare You is a much more obvious love song that could have divided fans. Instead it’s the sound of Oliver and Romy finally at ease with their voices, their personal situations and their success. The sense of longing is replaced with a glimmer of hope and a playfulness we have never heard from the band.
If Unapologetically was the spark for Kelsea’s transformation into Pop country’s newest star then Miss Me More is surely when the whole fire started burning. It’s full of sass and power, ‘I found my independence, can’t believe I ever lost it’ has a fiery honesty about it, but it’s the delivery of ‘It’s what you wanted, ain’t it?’ that captures the sort of fiesty attitude country music hasn’t seen since Carrie Underwood first dug her key into that tyre. The smooth ‘ahhh’ between each chant of ‘I miss me more’, or the prickly guitar riff that weaves in and out of the electronic production, it’s an outstanding record. Technically it hasn’t even become a single yet, but Miss Me More is by far my favourite country leaning track of 2017.
Want You Back is a baffling song to behold on first listen. In parts expansive in its swelling verses and then packed to the brim with contrasting sounds and lyrics on it’s impossibly catchy chorus. It’s so busy with layers; clicks, high pitched samples, crashes of drums it’s a lot to take in especially as Daniella Haim is delivering frantically sung lines. It’s once Alana Haim takes over the hook for the middle 8 that the song finds itself back together. Want You Back is one of those brilliant second album singles that doesn’t sound like them doing their best version of Fleetwood Mac, The Eagles or Kate Bush; this is Haim trying to sound like Haim.
I was pretty cold on Symphony on first listen. In fact, it was my least favourite of the Clean Bandit singles released over the previous 12 months for quite a while. It’s a real grower though and as I was collating my end of year lists I surprised myself at how much I wanted to keep going back to this. It’s another case of the perfect featured artist jumping on a song at the moment they are ‘supposed’ to break through. where Zara Larsson delivers a career best vocal on the huge chorus. The way the song builds with each verse, just teasing the chorus enough for a proper payoff is key to the magic of Symphony. By now I had started to think that Rather Be was a fluke, but a song about the magic of songs ends up being one of the best things that either act has been involved in.
When Drake makes it smooth it’s h so hard to resist. I do love Drake when he raps, but Passionfruit is his slinkiest vocal performance since Hold On We’re Going Home. This song achieves that same sort of emotive quality that his all time best songs do, recalling the aforementioned hit as well as the smoky haze of Marvin’s Room, but takes it back into the dancehall realm of the likes of One Dance. ‘Leavin/you’re doing that just to get even/don’t pick up the pieces just leave it for now/they keep falling apart’ is expert wordplay that could only come from a rapper who occasionally slows the flow down as much as he does here. Even the introduction that has Drake ask the listener to ‘get some more drinks goin’ on, I’ll sound a whole lot better’ gives the whole thing this vivid nightclub atmosphere; as a song every moment has imagery without the need for a video. It must be nice to have a song as evocative as Passionfruit described to an artist as ‘typical’ of them.
With Frontin’, Get Lucky and Blurred Lines already under his belt, it seeems that Pharrell Williams has Summer Anthems written into his blood. It’s the combination of all 4 of these massively different acts though that gives Feels this glorious party vibe that 2017 so sorely needed. Pharrell is as smooth and funky as ever; Katy gives a delicate take on the disco vibe; Big Sean delivers his second great pop verse of the year and Calvin brings that same killer instinct when it comes to music that will be stuck in your head for decades. The whole thing just adds up one of the year’s most obvious feel good anthems. There’s a lot of emotion and passion in the songs that made the top 10, but for bang for your buck, there’s no way you can’t be smiling once Feels has kicked in.
Click below to see the top 10: