The Top 20 Songs of 2017
Surprise: I’m breaking with tradition.
As opposed to doing a complete Top 100 Singles list as I’ve done for the past almost-decade or so (today is the ten year anniversary of MuuMuse, by the way), I’ve decided to take a different approach. Not because there aren’t more than enough good songs out there, but because I wanted to challenge myself to “desert island” the situation and limit myself to the music that genuinely soundtracked this thoroughly messy mindfuck of a year.
Besides, my MuuTunes playlist essentially operates as my Top 100 Singles of 2017 list (more like 500+!), as I updated it weekly all year long with my favorite songs. So, if you want, subscribe and listen before it refreshes in 2018.
As I say each year, these are just my personal picks. I’ve relaxed it to “songs” rather than “singles” – what’s even a single in the year 2017? – and I’m not factoring in critical acclaim, charts, sales or any of the other typical stan criteria into my decision. I’m also not very interested in debating what did or didn’t get included – my favorite songs are my favorite songs. (You’re more than welcome to share your own favorite songs in the comments section, though!)
There’s no ranking either, because I just didn’t feel strongly enough this year that one song is definitely The One. And I refuse to force that decision just to fit society’s expectations of end-of-year lists! I! Won’t! Do! It! (Okay, maybe the Lana Del Rey song…)
Honestly though, I’ve got specific memories tied to these tracks, which is why I prefer this format over agonizing about whether a track is #54 or #55 on a massive Top 100 list. This is the most honest I’ve ever been with my picks, actually.
Anyway, enough: here they are, in no particular order. Hopefully you’ll discover something new.
BLACKPINK, “As If It’s Your Last”
Released: June 22, 2017
K-Pop proved to be more of a refuge than ever in 2017, as dozens of tightly choreographed, impeccably polished pop troupes made up for the near-absence of a stan-worthy girl group in the West. BLACKPINK are – unofficially, anyway – the brightest leaders of the pack in the wake of 2NE1‘s disbandment. Like CL and company, Queen Lisa, Jisoo, Rose and Jennie are blazing their way through Korea, Japan and beyond with an undeniable cool-meets-cutesy attitude that appeals on a global level. “As If It’s Your Last” gave us a taste of the “Pink,” sparklier side of BLACKPINK – and as it turns out, they’re just as fierce when they’re serving it up extra femme. The group’s discography might still be, uh, slim, but whenever BLACKPINK’s in your area, it’s never anything less than fire. (One might even say their love is on fire – so don’t play with them, boy.)
Dua Lipa, “New Rules”
Released: June 2, 2017
Truthfully, Dua’s deserved the world since “Be The One,” but it took “New Rules” and its meme-ready set of relationship rules, plus a parody-friendly music video, to make her click with the general public. Like a follow-up to Marina And The Diamonds‘ “How To Be A Heartbreaker,” Dua dished out the dating advice all of us could use: Don’t be his friend! Don’t let him in! And while we’ll all surely fail at committing to those most sacred commandments, at least we’ve got a catchy tune to remind us to get back on track again. (“If you’re under him, you ain’t getting over him” is genius, still.)
Steps, “Scared of the Dark”
Released: March 10, 2017
Look, let’s face it: Steps saved pop in its darkest hour. The idea that the British “Tragedy” troupe could even chart with their return in 2017, twenty years after the peak of their bubblegum pop-era ’90s debut, was outrageously bold to begin with; the fact that they pulled it off with a glittering, string-filled, key change-containing disco-pop triumph like this, which felt so authentically and earnestly them, is nothing short of a pop miracle. In Lisa Scott-Lee, We Trust.
Miley Cyrus, “Younger Now”
Released: August 18, 2017
Miss Miley might have done her own thing (thang?) a bit too much with Younger Now, a return-to-roots collection of twangy, laidback tunes that felt less remarkable than a majority of Dead Petz and Bangerz. Still: “Malibu” is a dream, and the album’s namesake remains a stunning standout. Hearing Miley wail those true-as-hell truths about life, impersonating Elvis Presley and dancing along with her over-the-hill pals – “No one stays the same / You know, what goes up must come down / Change is a thing you can count on” – was a weird reassurance that came at exactly the right time.
Rita Ora, “Anywhere”
Released: October 19, 2017
When Entrepreneurita Ora commits to pop star mode – as opposed to actress mode, awards show host mode, athleisure designer mode, or any other mode – she tends to nail the gig. “Anywhere” is one of her best songs to date, like a distant cousin to Carly Rae Jepsen‘s “Run Away With Me” with its pure, us-against-the-world joyousness. That stuttering post-chorus is one of the year’s best pop noises – made even better by pretending it’s Aja performing.
Kim Petras, “I Don’t Want It At All”
Released: August 1, 2017
German pop princess Kim Petras released some of the best pop songs all year long, from “Hillside Boys” to the gorgeous, ’80s-tinged “Slow It Down” (with its oh-so-Femme Fatale breakdown) to the glitchy greatness of “Faded,” released days ago. But of all the bops, “I Don’t Want It At All” takes the cake as the campiest standout, like a bonus track from Heidi Montag‘s Superficial or Paris Hilton‘s debut album. (Don’t worry – she snagged Paris herself for a cute cameo in the music video!) A frivolous ode to maxed-out credit cards, designer labels and summers in the Hamptons, “Don’t Want It” is like pretending the trashy, flashy electro-pop era of the ’00s never ended. Hey, the world is a waking nightmare – can’t we just have a brief moment of completely superficial shopaholic escapism?
Allie X, “Casanova”
Released: June 9, 2017
“Casanova fucked me over / Left me dying for your love.” Few pop lyrics uttered this year felt more anguished – or, at least, angry as hell. The shuffling highlight from Allie X’s supremely underappreciated, near-perfect CollXtion II is a brilliant blend of good-against-evil, vaguely religious lyricism (living in sin is the new thing), over-the-top vocal theatrics and fierce, strut-ready synth-pop.
Kim Lip, “Eclipse”
Released: May 23, 2017
LOOΠΔ is one of the most exciting girl groups out of South Korea, and the group hasn’t even debuted yet. Instead, ten of the twelve (!) members have premiered, roughly once a month, over the past year with individual solo singles leading up to their grand reveal in 2018. Each song’s been great (increasingly so!), but it’s Queen Kim Lip’s dreamy “Eclipse” that finally sent me rocketing into the Loonaverse as a full-fledged, card-carrying Loonatic. The smooth and sensual, Janet Jackson-eque jam is an endlessly replay-friendly, breathy electro-R&B gem. It’s so universally pleasing, it even goes down well amid drunk NYC gay boys when played at 2 AM during DJ sets.
Katy Perry, “Bon Appetit (Solo Version)”
Released: May 12, 2017
I know. But without dwelling too much on the #wokepop, mixed-messaging mess that was the Witness era, let’s celebrate what actually worked: “Bon Appetit” went from sounding like it would have been fine for a deluxe edition bonus track, to being so-cringe-it’s-good, to being legitimately just a very good pop song. (Go ahead and skip past the Migos feature for the far superior solo version.) The way the chorus bursts forth into a glitter-fest after the two-minute mark is a tasty delight – as is the “gonna hit that sweet tooth!” moment. Much love to Biblegirl for bringing the song to life during her Eastern Bloc Sunday shows – sometimes, a song just doesn’t fully click until you see it interpreted by a dude in a wig.
Cassie, “Love A Loser (feat. G-Eazy)”
Released: August 4, 2017
The return of Cassie’s been super low-key thus far, but incredibly promising: her comeback track “Love A Loser” is somehow my most-played song of 2017, in fact. The moody, downtempo kiss-off to a dunce is, like Cassie herself, stylish and sexy as hell – even if she’s totally pissed. Her hypnotic delivery steals the show, just as it first did with “Me & U” years ago. “I’d rather lose a lover than to love a loser,” she cooly proclaims like a mantra – now that’s some sage wisdom, if I’ve ever heard it. Oh, and an honorable mention? “Obvious,” Cassie’s under-the-radar collaboration with Eden Prince, which proved that, as with 2012’s still-brilliant “King of Hearts,” the icy electro-R&B princess performs spectacularly well when up against a sleek club beat.
Major Lazer, Anitta & Pabllo Vittar, “Sua Cara”
Released: August 4, 2017
Anitta and Pabllo Vittar are my two favorite global success stories of 2017. Both Queens are killing it individually and doing big things for Brazil on the international scene with their huge voices, stage skills and, of course, their bundas. Diplo knows this too, which is why he enlisted the bombshells to subtly shake up some social boundaries and guest on the Song of Summer ’17: “Sua Cara,” an entirely in-your-face (literally) explosion of sick beats and Portuguese-language cockiness. 2017 is the year that we didn’t need to #ComeToBrazil – Brazil came to us, instead.
Clean Bandit, “Disconnect (feat. Marina And The Diamonds)”
Released: June 23, 2017
Original review (sort of)
Marina Diamandis, being the talented singer-songwriter she is, perfectly captured the anxiety, exhaustion and depression that’s come with our steadily increasing dependence on technology and social media above a slick Clean Bandit beat. At a time when I never felt quite so lost, she seemed to say it all quite beautifully with both her ongoing Marinabook online diary and this log-out-and-get-outside anthem. “I don’t wanna be alone / Living through a telephone.”
Aly & AJ, “I Know”
Released: November 3, 2017
Ten years after Insomnatic, the “Potential Break-Up Song” duo is back for more – and this time, it’s personal. The sister act’s undergone a serious indie-pop transition for their comeback, and the result is blissfully believable – which is not easy to pull off with “Disney act” in one’s DNA. “Take Me” was a superb reintroduction for the girls, but the lush “I Know” – a heartwarming, empathetic encouragement ode in times of trouble – is one of the year’s finest pick-me-ups. (Their whole Ten Years EP is perfect, though – especially “Promises.”)
Released: March 6, 2017
I will maybe get the most shit for this one, especially considering EXID, Red Velvet, 9Muses and so many other worthy girl groups put out incredible music, but I have to remain true to my heart…and my fingers: I stan “Fingertip” so hard. For those unfamiliar, GFriend are almost exclusively known for their girl crush concepts. so it was an unexpected delight to see them transform into, um, gun-toting military space travelers…or something like that. (The move proved to be divisive, and the girls are already back to their cutesy roots.) The song’s a cheesy, retro romp that sounds like a Sega Genesis theme song. And the invisible weapon choreography is so fun – I should know, as I embarrassed myself in the back row trying to learn it at the “Fingertip” dance workshop at KCON NY. Also, the dance break at the 3 minute mark. I just…TANG TANG TANG.
Lana Del Rey, “Get Free”
Released: July 21, 2017
When the world plunged into new depths of despair after November of last year, no one could have guessed the Ultraviolence Queen herself, in all of her stormy bleakness, would be the one to put her heavenly hands on our heads and assure us that everything will bealright. Of all the songs on her socially conscious Lust For Life, it’s “Get Free” that made the most lasting impression. The mildly upbeat melodies – at least, upbeat for Lana – paired with the well-shit, at-least-I-tried lyricism truly brought solace in a dark time – and her pledge to keep going provides chills, still. “Sometimes it feels like I’ve got a war on my mind / I wanna get off, but I keep riding the ride / I never really noticed that I had to decide to play someone’s game or live my own life / But now I do, I wanna move out of the black into the blue.”
BTS, “Not Today”
Released: February 13, 2017
Yes, the boys of BTS are currently having quite a moment with their history-making “DNA” and Love Yourself: Her, both of which are great – but I’m even more partial to the song the Bangtan Boys dropped earlier in the year. Known for their against-the-odds rise to global superstardom, the unbelievably popular boy band’s aggressive, unstoppable burst of underdog attitude was undoubtedly my most-played pump-up track at the gym (just pumping all that iron, brah!) Extra plus ordinary, indeed.
Marlene, “Next To Me”
Released: March 30, 2017
Like so many Swedish queens before her, Marlene successfully hit the pop sweet spot (the P-spot?) with the gorgeous, understated masterpiece that is “Next To Me.” The hypnotic, swoon-filled delight stayed faithfully by my side like a warm, disco-lite security blanket ever since I premiered the track back in March. (Humblebrag, or something.) In my bed, in my dreams, in my head – you name it, there she was.
Becky G & Bad Bunny, “Mayores”
Released: July 14, 2017
In a fair and just world, Becky G would be lauded worldwide for her streak of unbelievably fuego Spanish-language singles released since last year’s “Sola” – all of which find the pint-sized pop powerhouse boldly asserting her sexuality and agency. And part of being a self-empowered young woman is knowing that you have no time for little boys, preferring an older gentleman who buys you flowers, opens doors and …uh, is too big to fit in your mouth. We love a little Queen who knows exactly what she likes.
Released: February 3, 2017
MUNA’s debut album, About U, is full of some of the year’s best, most emotionally charged dark-queer-indie-synth-rock-whatever-you-wanna-call-it pop. But this song. This song. “Everything,” the record’s gorgeous, slow-burning closer, thoroughly seals the deal. If ever you’ve wondered how much someone else is wondering about you, the questions posed in the second verse alone are just – oof, oof, oof. “The world could be burning, and all I’d be thinking is ‘How are you doing, baby?’” Tears – and that’s before the crashing conclusion. One thing’s for sure: they got the song’s title right.
Sufjan Stevens, “Visions of Gideon”
Released: November 3, 2017
I admittedly know next to nothing about Sufjan’s artistry, and I’m hardly a cinema connoisseur. That being said: not since Sia‘s “Breathe Me” in the finale of Six Feet Under have I been so entirely destroyed by a musical moment in film/television than this song’s appearance in the beautiful Call Me By Your Name – a movie that Gay Twitter debated, dragged and praised all year long. No spoilers, but the song hasn’t left my mind ever since – truly a masterful, hauntingly beautiful piece of art. His ode to Tonya Harding, released just a few weeks ago, also ranks high. 2017: the year I realized I’m a Sufjstan,.
What were your favorite songs of the year? Let me know below. Just don’t yell at me, because I really don’t want to hear it.
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