The 54 Best Tracks of 2017

KELELA “Take Me Aside” (Warp)

Hovering slow-motion anticipation alternates with ecstatic rushes because Kelela presents a late-night tryst. The lyrics’ aquatic imagery parallels sounds that could result from underwater.


SYLVAN ESSO “Radio” (Loma Vista)

The sheer joy of a well-produced pop single overwhelms cynicism about formulas, formats and advertising, as synthesizers bubble and tingle through a track that clocks in at a formula-perfect 3:30.

MURA MASA “Messy Take pleasure in” (Anchor Point/Downtown/Geffen)

Minimalism runs pop with the producer Mura Masa’s airtight, artificial, catchy track filled with plinking gongs and looping piano.

WILLOW “Oh No!!!” (MFSTS Music/Roc Nation)

Skeletal but frantic percussion and bass drive this panicky admission of concern with commitment.

IBIBIO SOUND MACHINE “The Chant (Iquo Isang)” (Merge)

Reaffirming and warping her Nigerian heritage with African-tinged electronic funk, Eno Williams sings in Ibibio and English about drawing durability from a remembered traditional chant.

LAURA MARLING “Soothing” (More Alarming/Kobalt)

Two basses plucking in tandem cradle Laura Marling’s resolute tone of voice as she turns apart an ex who would like a second chance.

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JULIA MICHAELS “Concerns” (Republic)

Love equals group therapy for two as Julia Michaels specifics, and accepts, both her and her guy’s worst tendencies over stately strings.


PROTOMARTYR “My Children” (Domino)

A measured drone accelerates and retains accelerating toward a wailing psychedelia, as Joe Casey grumbles and barks his thoughts on the plight of the next generation: “Good luck with the mess We left.”

GRIZZLY BEAR “Three Rings” (RCA)

A six-defeat rhythm, subdivided multiple techniques and supporting a range of melodic fragments and guitar lines, propels this onetime Brooklyn band’s melody through separations and reconciliations.

DUA LIPA “New Guidelines” (Warner Bros.)

Dua Lipa sings brash, big-voiced pop with self-empowerment in mind. Over the Caribbean-tinged defeat of “New Guidelines,” she reminds herself not to succumb to outdated temptations.

TYMINSKI “Southern Gothic” (Mercury Nashville)

Twangy guitar and haunted-house electronics take a song about Bible Belt hypocrisy.


SHARON JONES & THE DAP-KINGS “Call on God” (Daptone)

The soul belter Sharon Jones, who died in 2017, hardly ever got around to recording a complete album of gospel; there’s just this melody, fervently insisting on divine generosity.

JOAN SHELLEY “If the Storms Under no circumstances Came” (No Quarter)

Intertwined acoustic and electrical guitars, harking back to Pentangle, carry a serene modal melody and thoughts about how disruption is essential.

CHRIS STAPLETON “Without Your Take pleasure in” (Mercury Nashville)

Tucked away close to the end of Chris Stapleton’s “From AN AREA Vol. 1” is this folky, dramatic plea for a lover’s return.


THE XX “Performance” (Little Turks)

Just how much of everyday life is a defensive facade? In this drumless, string-backed ballad, Romy Madley Croft expectations her “brave face” will be seen through, but she doesn’t expect that to happen.

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LES AMAZONES D’AFRIQUE “We Play the Kora” (True World/RFI Talent/3d Family)

A Pan-African women’s supergroup sings for African feminism, demanding respect and option, atop deep, strange studio funk.

ED SHEERAN “Form of You” (Atlantic)

Here’s clockwork catchiness: level upon crisp level, all staccato rhythm like the vocals.


Daddy JOHN MISTY “Pure Comedy” (Sub Pop/Bella Union)

The idiom is cabaret piano ballad with electronic reinforcement. On the other hand, the lyrics see humanity from afar and it’s not rather: biologically predetermined, deeply superstitious and greedily self-destructive.

Jon Caramanica

1. CHRIS JEDAY Offering J BALVIN, OZUNA AND ARCÁNGEL “Ahora Dice” (Universal Latin)

Best Latin pop, ideal Latin trap, ideal post-reggaeton, best posse trim, ideal heartbreak anthem, etc.


2. A BOOGIE WIT DA HOODIE Offering KODAK Dark “Drowning” (Highbridge/Atlantic); DON Q FEATURING A BOOGIE WIT DA HOODIE “Protect Ya Patek” (Highbridge/Atlantic); A BOOGIE WIT DA HOODIE Offering FABOLOUS “Wild Thots” (

Depending on the enterprise, A Boogie could be brawny, cheeky, blustery, whatever he wants.

3. BRETT YOUNG “In Case You Didn’t Know” (Big Machine)

Love as a good meditation that’s bigger than circumstance.

4. CHARLIE PUTH “Attention” (Atlantic)

Mean, low, greasy, desperate yet somehow glistening.

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5. SAHBABII Offering LOSO LOADED “Pull Up Wit Ah Stick” (Casting Bait/Warner Bros.)

The melodies are intoxicating upon this sweet hymnal about casual violence.

6. ASHLEY MCBRYDE “JUST A LITTLE Dive Bar in Dahlonega” (Warner Nashville/Atlantic)

A hearty, expertly written region song about hope after hopelessness.

7. LOUGOTCASH Offering REMY BOY MONTY “Pipe Down”; LOUGOTCASH “Make 10” (Gwinin)

Back-to-back slaps from one of hip-hop’s virtually all instinctual hook men.


8. LIL UZI VERT “XO Tour Llif3” (Technology Now/Atlantic)

That is 2017 hip-hop, the Salvador Dalí remix.

9. LIL PEEP Offering LIL TRACY “Awful Issues”; LIL PEEP “Better Off (Dying)” (Lil Peep/First Access)

R.I.P. (and watch out for imitators).

10. SNOH AALEGRA Offering LOGIC “Sometimes” (ARTium)

Revisiting the groove of the mid-1990s, when hip-hop and R&B had been still equal dance companions.


11. DJ KHALED Offering JUSTIN BIEBER, QUAVO, Probability THE RAPPER AND LIL WAYNE “I’m the One” (We the Best/Epic)

A song so very much like sunshine that it essentially disappeared at the earliest gust of fall wind.

12. JACOB SARTORIUS Offering BLACKBEAR “Struck Me Back” (RCA)

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Kids these days already know: technology is here to preserve us further apart, not unite us.

13. CARDI B “Bodak Yellow (Money Moves)” (KSR/Atlantic)

Seems silly to keep griping about New York rap when that is here, no?


14. FRANK Sea “Chanel” (Males Don’t Cry)

He sings just like he’s pleading but there isn’t a hint of want underneath.

15. SAM HUNT “Drinkin’ AN EXCESSIVE AMOUNT OF” (MCA Nashville)

The very best Sam Hunt song of the entire year wasn’t the the one that topped the Billboard country chart for 34 weeks.

16. PRETTYMUCH “Would You Mind” (Syco/Columbia)

The ecstasy of the peak boy-band era arrives for a comeback – this has that, and in addition harmonies, and a sense of history.

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17. MATT OX “Overpowering” (

An argument for each precocious preteen to be armed with a professional video crew, a SoundCloud account and a fidget spinner.

18. BAILEY BRYAN “Hard Drive Home” (300/Warner Nashville)

A superb country song about heartbreak from a young singer who’s already seeking past Nashville.

19. NICKY JAM Offering WISIN “Si Tú La Ves” (Sony Latin)

Exuberant reggaeton carnival music.

20. THE BLAZE “Territory” (Animal 63)

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Birthing music for different planets, new solar systems.


21. LUIS FONSI AND DADDY YANKEE Offering JUSTIN BIEBER “Despacito (remix)” (Common Latin/RBMG/Def Jam/Republic)

Justin Bieber probably still doesn’t know what, but everyone else does.

22. JESSIE REYEZ “Gatekeeper” (FMLY)

Raw catharsis for anyone who’s ever handled a Harvey Weinstein, a good Charlie Rose, a good Louis C.K.

23. MABEL Offering KOJO Cash “Finders Keepers” (Capitol)

Post-speed garage area R&B is back.


24. SMOKEPURPP “Ski Mask” (Alamo); LIL PUMP “Molly” (Tha Lamps Global/Warner Bros.)

Peak punk from the Beavis and Butt-Head of SoundCloud rap.

25. ED SHEERAN “Dive” (Atlantic)

The happiest blues.

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