The year’s 10 best singles, along with a special shout out to Bob Seger
The world had us spinning, but music kept us together.
In assembling my list of the year’s best singles, I looked to Spotify, and my favorite songs of the year coincided almost exactly with those I played the most. These are those 10 songs, with only a slight edit: after Bob Seger brought his catalog to streaming in June, it turns out “Still the Same” was my sixth most-played song of the year.
Seger aside, these are the songs that soundtracked a topsy-turvy 2017:
1. Lil Uzi Vert, “XO Tour Llif3”: In a year where you didn’t know what kind of news you’d wake up to on any given morning, what better refrain to encapsulate the daily feeling of uneasiness than “all my friends are dead, push me to the edge?” Philadelphia rapper Lil Uzi Vert’s weird, disorienting emo rap missive became an unlikely anthem in this strangest of years, so unlikely that Uzi didn’t even bother giving it a proper title. Oddly, that seems fitting.
2. Harry Styles, “Sign of the Times”: While his One Direction cohorts were off making club songs, Harry Styles went the classic rock route and spread his wings with this hymn for today that sounds like, well, Wings. “Just stop your crying, it’s a sign of the times/ we gotta get away from here,” Styles sings like a prophet sent from above, and you want to simultaneously run away from it all and run toward rock’s new savior.
3. Kendrick Lamar, “Humble”: Kendrick has no problem taking listeners to school. With “Humble,” he reminded everyone he can just as easily hit the brakes and make a song ready-made for car stereos, bolstered by a hashtag-ready chorus and some serious West Coast bounce. Sit down, be humble.
4. Drake, “Passionfruit”: Tropical Drake is the best Drake. This smoothed out jam from Drake’s “More Life” playlist features the year’s best sample, with Detroit techno mainstay Kenny Dixon Jr. — aka Moodymann — briefly interrupting the party with a profane plea for everyone to freshen up their drinks. It has nothing to do with the song, but it somehow makes the whole thing work.
5. Future, “Mask Off”: Only when you put out as much material as Atlanta rapper Future — three albums this year alone — do you land something like this, a hazy drug banger that repeatedly name drops Molly and Percocet over what sounds like the theme song from a 1970s Kung-fu flick. Keep walking the earth, Hendrix.
6. Arcade Fire, “Everything Now”: Everything now, all at once, all at the same time. That’s the world we live in. Through that prism of infinite content, Arcade Fire spins a disco-rock celebration at odds with itself: Win Butler lyrically bemoans the flood of the information age, but that disco ball above won’t stop spinning.
7. Father John Misty, “Pure Comedy”: In a mere 6 1/2 minutes, Father John Misty wryly, hilariously breaks down the tragedy of human existence. Ultra-literate term paper rock at its most savage.
8. LCD Soundsystem, “American Dream”: James Murphy contemplates middle age, relationships and connections while rhyming “set you free” with “bourgeoisie” — no surprises there. It’s the bed of falling stars underneath him that makes this return from hiatus a welcome one.
9. Miley Cyrus, “Malibu”: Miley finds love, wrapping her tale of domestic bliss in a metaphor about the oceanside town in Southern California. May we all find our Malibu.
10. Lorde, “Green Light”: “Those great whites, they have big teeth,” and so does this dance floor shaker, an empowering revenge tale propped up by pop’s go-to beatmaking assassin, Jack “Bleachers” Antonoff. Green light, go!