The Top 50 Best Songs of 2017

Yes, yes, schedule slip again, although given the sheer scope of this list, I hope I’ll be forgiven my usual procrastination. Now, this is exactly what it says on the tin – a list of the songs that are, in my opinion, the very best that 2017 had to offer, not simply the popular ones. Of course, I listen to quite a bit of music, and while these 50 tended to command a disproportionate amount of my time and attention, they’re still only a subset of the much larger amount of music I had to sort through in order to narrow things down. This was not an easy endeavor, and I fully anticipate this being the longest piece I’ve written in this space yet. Buckle in, because we’re in for a ride.

Now, the rules for eligibility are very simple this time. To be in the running for this list, a song needs to have been included on a full-length album that was released in 2017. That’s it. I don’t care if it was released as a single before this past year, or even if it was included on an album from before 2017 – so long as it was also on a 2017 album, it counts. And lastly, I’m limiting myself to three songs per album maximum, otherwise the contenders for my favorite albums of 2017 would command an even more disproportionate share of this list. Besides, it promotes diversity in this list, which is important in and of itself.

Lastly, I forgot to add this disclaimer when I did the previous top tens, but I should say that this list, along with all of my other reviews, consists purely of my personal opinions, and in no way do I misconstrue these assertions as objective fact. Other peoples’ opinions and tastes will no doubt differ, and that’s perfectly acceptable. That’s life.

With all of that said, let’s begin.

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The Top Ten Best Hit Songs of 2017

Welcome back, everyone. Last time, I mentioned that I thought 2017 was a pretty good year for pop music, and here I’ll get to explain exactly why I feel that way. Like I said on the intro for the worst list, there was a lot of diversity, and lots of artists outdid themselves, both artists I like getting a rare shot at the mainstream, as well as established hitmakers exceeding my expectations. I had to make several cuts when I finalized my worst list, but I also had to make just as many cuts here. As far as I’m concerned, that’s an indicator of a solid year for music.

Now, the rules for eligibility are the same as before. A song must appear on the Billboard Year-End Hot 100 Chart for 2017. And just like I made an unofficial worst list last year, I did a best list as well. Here it is:

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The Top Ten Worst Hit Songs of 2017


Okay, so if you’re at all familiar with internet music reviewers in general, and folks like Todd in the Shadows in particular, then you already understand what I’m doing here. If not, an explanation: every year, Billboard Magazine publishes a list of the top 100 hit songs, the pop songs that, through a combination of sales, radio play, and streaming, were the most popular tunes of the time. They’ve been doing this since the late 1950’s, and going back through old lists of hit songs is an enlightening exercise.

Of course, I’m not interested in the hit songs of the past right now, but of the present. In general, the 2010’s have been a strange decade for popular music, in large part because pop music has had an increasingly nebulous definition during this time. For any number of reasons, including the dissemination of indie and underground artists, the decline of sales and radio audiences, and the eccentricities of streaming, pop has become less and less dominant in the popular consciousness.

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“Antisocialites” by Alvvays – An Album Review

Image result for antisocialites alvvaysSo, my last music review probably made it clear that I listen to a fair amount of country music, but I also listen to plenty of pop as well. And one of the oddities that I’ve noticed over several years of observing the Billboard Hot 100 is that, well, Summer’s not always a season of Summer songs. The cliche is that there will be a ton of up-tempo dance jams starting every June, but sometimes the opposite happens, and the pop charts turn to downbeat mush instead.

This was probably most true back in the Summer of 2014, when Iggy Azalea’s Fancy was the number one song in the country. That tedious four-note bass line was inescapable, despite it being a terrible foundation for any song, let alone something to enjoy the sunshine in. Those were grim days, so I count myself lucky that a blog I follow happened to drop a review of an obscure Canadian retro-surf act. And that review was very positive, so I found myself listening to the debut from the band Alvvays. Yes, those two v’s make a w, by the way.

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“The Nashville Sound” by Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit – An Album Review

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Back when I first started writing here, I mentioned offhand that while my main focus would be political, I’d occasionally find time to write about music or movies or the like. Now, I’m not much of a movie guy, to be totally honest, but I do like listening to different kinds of music, and there have been plenty of albums in 2017 that I’d have loved to talk about. I plan to have mid-year and end of year explorations of some of these albums, but before then, it’d be weird if I didn’t have at least one standalone album review under my belt. So, on that self-critical note, let’s talk about Jason Isbell.

For the uninitiated, it’s important to note that Jason Isbell is an artist that straddles two different genres. He’s mostly known today for country music, but he got his start as a member of The Drive-By Truckers, legends in the Southern rock genre. Since leaving that band in 2007, he’s slowly grown in stature in the independent country scene, but still commands significant rock credibility as well – his last album Something More Than Free topped Billboard Magazine’s album charts for both rock and country albums.

And to get my own opinion out here, Isbell deserves all of the success and critical acclaim he’s gotten and then some. Not only is he a powerfully evocative songwriter, but his instrumental prowess probably goes underappreciated on his more recent (and more country-inflected) releases. Some of the compositions on Something More Than Free approached being a blend of Americana and progressive rock, and the result was my third favorite album of 2015, even better than To Pimp a Butterfly, if you’ll believe it. And so here we are with another album from Isbell and his band The 400 Unit. Like his last two, it’s produced by Dave Cobb, a bonafide superstar in the world of country producers. Naturally, I had extremely high expectations for this project, both because of Isbell’s previous work and the song I heard in advance of its release, the harrowing If We Were Vampires. So enough stalling – did Jason Isbell make magic again?

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