2017 was a masterful year in music. Many artists were cementing their places as the top dogs in the industry, while others were beginning to break through into newfound critical or commercial success.
So, what were some of the best songs from 2017? We have a list of some of the best and most memorable songs from an exquisite year of music.
1. “Despacito” by Luis Fonsi (ft. Daddy Yankee)
“Despacito” became a meme years later, but it was an important track for Luis Fonsi in 2017. The song was the biggest song of the summer and still receives radio play. It is likely not an exaggeration to say it is the biggest Spanish-language song ever released, with billions of views on YouTube and listens on streaming platforms.
The lyrics and production are both quite standard but done with an impressive sheen. The lyrics tell the story of a person looking for love, while the backing music is emblematic of Latin pop and reggaeton.
2. “Green Light” by Lorde
Lorde made waves with her debut album “Pure Heroine,” and fans demanded a follow-up. The new album came out in 2017 and saw Lorde move in a new musical direction. Gone was the heavy production and in its place was a more pop and earnest sound.
“Green Light” is a story about a romance that did not work out. Lorde sings of a girl who is trying to fix her life, be more true to herself, and not allow her ex to control her anymore. “Green Light” is a story of independence and finding a new path in life.
3. “Bodak Yellow” by Cardi B
Cardi B was starting to hit the mainstream around this time, and “Bodak Yellow” was another notch in her belt. The trap beat sets the stage for Cardi B to rap about the politics and issues of the time including racism and hatred of women.
“Bodak Yellow” is an anthem for women of color, and it was the first solo female rap track to make it to number one on the charts for two decades. Cardi B is a person who has no filter and lives freely, and this song is proof of that concept.
4. “Thinking Of A Place” by The War on Drugs
The War on Drugs was a favorite for indie heads and soft rock fans for many years. The 2017 album, “A Deeper Understanding,” helped solidify that perception. The band took its music to new heights, especially with its over 11-minute long epic, “Thinking Of A Place.
“Thinking Of A Place” is a love song, but it is unlike any love song you have likely ever heard. Everything is a little surreal, and you feel like you went on a strange journey by the time you reach the end of the song’s runtime.
5. “XO Tour Llif3” by Lil Uzi Vert
“XO Tour Llife3” by Lil Uzi Vert is perhaps the most unlikely smash hit ever released. The release came after Lil Uzi Vert lost a phone filled with unreleased material. He decided to publish everything that would have been leaked, including the song. “XO Tour Llife3” went on to be one of the biggest songs of the year.
The lyrics deal with a failing relationship and issues with abusing drugs. Lil Uzi Vert mixes these macabre lyrics with a trap sound to create a memorable track and one of his best.
6. “Chanel” by Frank Ocean
Many Frank Ocean fans did not expect to hear anything more from the artist in 2017. There was normally a large gap between his releases, but he surprised fans with singles that delivered exactly what the fans were hoping for.
“Chanel” sees Ocean looking to the future rather than the past. “Chanel” was more of what fans wanted from Ocean, with introspective lyrics and dense and detailed production.
7. “I Am All That I Need/Arroyo Seco/Thumbprint Scar” by Fleet Foxes
Fleet Foxes were a favorite of indie folk fans for a while, and its new album came at the height of the summer. “I Am All That I Need/Arroyo Seco/Thumbprint Scar” was the opener of the new album “Crack-Up” and was one of the record’s most memorable.
Like most Fleet Foxes’ songs, this one is layered in meaning. But the lyrics paint the picture of someone trying to find themselves after parting with a partner. They need to learn to be happy on their own and find a way to move on without the person in their life.
8. “Bad and Boujee” by Migos (ft. Lil Uzi Vert)
Migos delivered one of the most ubiquitous tracks of the year with “Bad and Boujee.” The Atlanta group reached even more ears with “Bad and Boujee,” and it is one of the best songs of 2017.
“Bad and Boujee” attempts to showcase the comfy life the group is now living. They also want to showcase their talents to more upscale neighborhoods and block parties. The production supports the lyrics with a smooth trap beat and considered sampling.
9. “Dum Surfer” by King Krule
King Krule took art-pop to a new level with “Dum Surfer.” The sound of the track is unlike anything you would expect to hear for the subject matter, and the anger and disgust are palpable from the first notes.
King Krule sings of a night out in Britain, going on a journey from pub to pub and getting drunk all the while. The song is not a celebration of this kind of party lifestyle, but rather a condemnation. Despite all the harshness, it is an incredibly approachable track with a toe-tapping beat.
10. “Sign of the Times” by Harry Styles
It would have been easy for an artist as established as Harry Styles was after his One Direction days to play it safe. Styles could have easily kept releasing mainstream pop music and nobody would have complained.
Instead, Styles released “Sign of the Times” and took his music in a new direction. Styles was inspired by glam rock artists like David Bowie in crafting this song, and he certainly changed his public perception with one track.
11. “911/Mr. Lonely” by Tyler, the Creator (ft. Frank Ocean and Steve Lacy)
Tyler, the Creator stunned fans with his 2017 album “Flower Boy.” The artist created a new sound, packed with soul and jazz influences to go along with his trademark rapping. Critics like the album so much that they nominated it for a Grammy Award for Best Rap Album.
“911/Mr. Lonely” sees Tyler rap about his feelings of isolation and loneliness. The rapper wishes for other people to reach out to him and try to help him through his loneliness. The track is deeply personal and shows the deterioration of Tyler and his issues.
12. “Dreams Tonite” by Alvvays
Alvvays came up in the proud tradition of Canadian indie music. Its second album, “Antisocialites,” saw the band push its music in a new direction. The album, however, maintains the same fuzzy-sounding production that became a calling card for the band.
“Dreams Tonite” is a downer of a love song about a person realizing a relationship may not be working out. The singer questions if they are still in love with their partner, and wonders if they would have gotten together if they met now instead of a few years ago.
13. “DNA.” by Kendrick Lamar
Kendrick Lamar was, without question, one of the best rappers of his generation with the release of his album “To Pimp a Butterfly”. Lamar followed up the album with “DAMN.” in 2017, and it was another masterpiece. The album improved Lamar’s case as one of the greatest rappers of all time.
“DNA.” sees Lamar deal with the increased scrutiny his music had come under in recent years. The rapper also talks about what makes him unique, and he says it is all in his DNA. With Lamar’s track record, it is no surprise he released one of the best songs of 2017.
14. “Passionfruit” by Drake
Drake looked to incorporate a more worldly sound to his music by 2017, and he succeeded with “Passionfruit” from his mixtape “More Life.” Drake swaps out his characteristic melancholy for a more confident direction with “Passionfruit.”
The lyrics detail a long-distance relationship where each person is attempting to wrest more control. It’s an earnest song about the pitfalls of long-distance relationships and the anxieties that come with them. Whereas old Drake may have been sad about this, he comes off as much more confident in this track than he would have in his earlier days.
15. “New York” by St. Vincent
“New York” is a love song both about a person and a city at the same time. St. Vincent feels that the spark has gone out of living in New York, and the singer must determine if she wants to leave and start a new life in a new place.
Whereas the moment a relationship with something is often hard to pinpoint, “New York” is a song about the exact moment the excitement is gone and all that’s left is to decide how to move on.
16. “The Story of O.J.” by Jay-Z
In 2017, Jay-Z had nothing to prove to fans or critics. The man was a legend of the genre, and will likely end up highly related on anyone’s list of greatest rappers of all time. Of course, not one to rest on his laurels, Jay-Z released “4:44” and reminded the world that he still had a near gear to get to.
“The Story of O.J.” is a song about slavery and its effects on the Black community that was still being felt at the time. Jay-Z wanted to make a song for the Black Lives Matter era, and he successfully did so as only he could.
17. “Motion Sickness” by Phoebe Bridgers
Phoebe Bridgers broke out as one of the many sad girls of indie music in 2017, and her song “Motion Sickness” perfectly captures the appeal of the subgenre and her music.
Bridgers sings of a relationship that is falling apart at the seams. Nobody is truly to blame, as both people are making mistakes. The song is autobiographical, and Bridgers delivers an impassioned vocal performance with just enough post-production to create something unique. The relationship has no hope, and the singer hopes she can drown out the other person and the noise to move on.
18. “Real Death” by Mount Eerie
Many singers have crafted songs about death, but very few have done it about a departed spouse. “Real Death” by Mount Eerie sees frontman Phil Elverum sing about the fallout from his wife’s passing.
The song has a very sparse production, with an acoustic guitar and piano being the main accompaniment. Elverum sings from the heart about the sights and feelings he experienced a week after his wife’s death. It’s a somber song about how every little thing reminds you of the person and there is little escape from the grief.
19. “For the First Time” by Mac DeMarco
Mac DeMarco is best known for his sad indie music, and “For the First Time” is no exception. DeMarco released the song on his album “This Old Dog.”
DeMarco sings about a lover who has left him, and the singer tries to find a new way through life without them. The singer does not want to avoid the pain but instead wants to keep remembering the ex-partner, even if the pain is too much to bear at times.
20. “Feel It Still” by Portugal. The Man
Portugal. The Man is better known for its rock music dating back years, but the band had one of its biggest hits in 2017 with “Feel It Still.” The song takes a new approach to music for the band, and it has the feel of a classic Motown song.
The music video captured plenty of attention with over 30 easter eggs hidden inside. Viewers could click on these easter eggs to find links to different social causes at the time.
21. “Magnolia” by Playboi Carti
Playboy Carti was only 21 when “Magnolia” came out, and the youngster cemented himself as one of the biggest players in modern rap music. Though some detractors have issues with his style of mumble rap, Playboi Carti makes it work in this track.
The song sees Carti hit many of his common themes, fast cars, drugs, and issues with the police. It is an upbeat song and infectious to listen to.
22. “Cut to the Feeling” by Carly Rae Jepsen
While some erroneously want to paint her as a one-hit wonder, Carly Rae Jepsen is one of the best pop music makers in the world. Her style and music have evolved from “Call Me Maybe,” and since 2015 she has produced some of the most exceptional pop music this century.
“Cut to the Feeling” is a superb single from Jepsen. The song has an upbeat sound, but the lyrics hide a bit more nuance. The singer is anxious to move forward and knows she has a ways to go to get to where she wants.
23. “Say Something Loving” by The xx
The xx released its third album in 2017, and “Say Something Loving” remains the best cut of the record. The xx moved to warmer and more heartfelt music over the years, and “Say Something Loving” is no exception.
The song is about the anxieties and fears that come with a new love and the worries we all feel when navigating romance.
24. “The Weekend” by SZA
SZA discusses an affair in “The Weekend.” The singer sees a man on the weekend, but she feels unfulfilled as she cannot be with him any other time. He has other responsibilities and girlfriends, and it leaves the singer wanting more.
This song and its accompanying album helped put SZA on the map and helped expose her music to a wider audience.
25. “Fake Happy” by Paramore
Paramore was already plenty famous when 2017 rolled around. The band decided to reinvent itself with its newest album and embrace a poppier and electronic sound.
“Fake Happy” sees the singer criticize the people they see around them. The people who put on a smile but are not happy. The singer sees them as pretending to be something they are not.
26. “(No One Knows Me) Like the Piano” by Sampha
Sampha surprised everyone with a debut album that was heartfelt and touching, detailing a person struggling with anxiety and a mother’s death.
“(No One Knows Me) Like the Piano” is an impressive piano-driven track that takes you on a journey to understand the mindset of someone who is missing an important connection. The only constants in the singer’s life were the piano and their mother, and one of them is gone for good.
27. “Diving Woman” by Japanese Breakfast
Japanese Breakfast is the indie pop project of Michelle Zauner. She released her second album in 2017 and achieved even more success in the indie sphere.
“Diving Woman” is the opener on the album and serves as a thesis for what themes Zauner wishes to explore. She talks about relationships and why they seem different and foreign in 2017.
Top Songs From 2017, Final Thoughts
With so much good music throughout the year, it is hard to pin down the best songs of 2017. What was your favorite? Did we miss any ones you love? Let us know your list!