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Top 25 Songs of 2017 (So Far)

These are the songs that we'll be carrying with us throughout the year and beyond

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Albums are like roommates. We live with them, bond over shared experiences, and wrestle with differences. In the best cases — when a record truly comes to matter to us — the outcome surpasses mere coexistence, and we gain a lifelong friend whom we can lean on for consolation, empathy, or as a channel through which to vent or let loose whatever emotions might be suffocating us at the time. We come to have real living, breathing relationships with our favorite albums. And though years may pass between spins, we can return to them and pick up in the same groove where we parted.

(See: Top 25 Albums of 2017 So Far)

Oddly, we don’t ask much less of songs. We turn to these short snippets of music — usually no more than five minutes in duration — to soundtrack not our years or nights but our moments, arguably the span in which real life happens. It’s fair enough to change the channel on a cartoon character cornily coaxing us to “sing a happy song,” but the truth remains we each have happy songs … and sad songs and angry songs and others that we either cue up in our minds or pull up on our MP3 players to fit a particular situation or a more nuanced emotion than those three mentioned. Our favorite songs do no less than understand us, speak for us, and ensure that we never have to go it alone no matter the situation.

As we flip the calendar page on the first half of 2017, these are some of the songs that we plan on taking with us. Who knows when or why we may need them: maybe as something to crank loud as fuck after a shitty day at work, something to massage our eyelids shut while we lie hopelessly awake at night, or maybe something to center us so our hearts don’t burst or break over whatever the rest of the year — and our lives — may bring us. Like I said, we ask a lot of songs, but maybe that’s because they have so much to give. Here are 25 that have more to give than most.

–Matt Melis
Editorial Director

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25. Johnny Jewel – “Windswept”

Windswept

Sounds Like: The middle section of Michael Mann’s Heat, specifically the scenes featuring Amy Brenneman

Key Lyric: An instrumental but … six seconds in when the saxophone steps into the scene

Why It Matters: After toiling away at the Chromatics’ Dear Tommy for years, Johnny Jewel opted to trash the whole thing and released Windswept on his own instead. The jury’s still out on whether or not that was the best course of action, but man, when you get songs like its titular track … you kind of forget about all those years waiting. This is somber jazz, brimming with crumbling masculinity, the kind that belongs to a fiftysomething about to dive headfirst into a drink. More importantly, it’s perhaps the strongest instrumental to ever feature on Twin Peaks that wasn’t composed by Angelo Badalamenti. –Michael Roffman

Song in a GIF:

cooper Top 25 Songs of 2017 (So Far)

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24. Arcade Fire – “Everything Now”

Everything Now

Sounds Like: A dancing queen twirling to an anthemic rocker

Key Lyric: “Every inch of sky’s got a star/ Every inch of skin’s got a scar”

Why It Matters: With Reflektor, Arcade Fire made no mystery about their interest in dance music. So it shouldn’t have been a surprise that their first new song from their fifth album, “Everything Now”, explores euphoric disco through the lens of stadium anthems. They even got half of Daft Punk to produce the thing. The result might wind up being the biggest radio hit of their career, and that’s saying a lot. –Philip Cosores

Song in a GIF:

tumblr n950u1fn1v1roohieo1 500 Top 25 Songs of 2017 (So Far)

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23. Slowdive – “Star Roving”

Slowdive

Sounds Like: Running swiftly across the treetops of a lush forest, feeling the cool breeze rush through your hair

Key Lyric: “Said she’s feeling love for everyone tonight/ Smiling beautiful”

Why It Matters: Slowdive had been off the radar for over 20 years, but you wouldn’t know it from the propulsive “Star Roving”. The highlight of an altogether stellar return album, the track finds the chemistry between Neil Halstead and Rachel Goswell’s voices as glittering and majestic as ever. The world has only gotten more ready for shoegaze since Slowdive helped usher it into the zeitgeist decades ago, and this song both justifies their legendary station and works as a blueprint for future excellence. –Lior Phillips

Song in a GIF:

vacation Top 25 Songs of 2017 (So Far)

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22. Selena Gomez – “Bad Liar”

Single Release

Sounds Like: The pop sensibilities of Chairlift infused with the unabashed yearning of the most lovelorn person ever

Key Lyric: “In my room, there’s a king-size space/ Bigger than it used to be/ If you want, you can rent that place/ Call me an amenity/ Even if it’s in my dreams

Why It Matters: While it’s hard to discuss “Bad Liar” without delving into its “Psycho Killer” sample, that element of the song ends up being less integral to the tune than expected. It’s more of a flex on Selena Gomez’s part, exalting her taste and showing the world that she could get the iconic Talking Heads tune into her own. But the song is so much better than all of that, full of personality that comes from Gomez’s longing and salesmanship. The result is the most widely appealing song she’s ever released. –Philip Cosores

Song in a GIF:

giphy 1 Top 25 Songs of 2017 (So Far)

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21. Kamasi Washington – “Truth”

Harmony of Difference EP

Sounds Like: Standing above the expanding universe and the resulting epiphany of seeing the interlocking beauty of everything

Key Lyric: Saxophone solo…

Why It Matters: In a world of non-stop news, reaction, and chaos, sometimes a 14-minute track in which 30 musicians interact patiently, attentively, and beautifully can make a big difference. A highlight from saxophonist Kamasi Washington’s new EP, The Harmony of Difference, “Truth” works as a sort of hypnotic meditation, an escape from the noise and into the miraculous interconnectivity that we may often miss. –Lior Phillips

Song in a GIF:

giphy 2 Top 25 Songs of 2017 (So Far)

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20. Frank Ocean – “Chanel”

Single Release

Sounds Like: Channel Orange-era Frank on the midnight shores of the French Riviera

Key Lyric: “I see both sides like Chanel/ See on both sides like Chanel”

Why It Matters: Frank Ocean has rarely sounded this comfortable or forthcoming, and that says a lot seeing how this single arrives in the wake of his recent creative purge (see: last year’s Endless and Blonde). And given that he’s canceling appearances left and right, this may be the closest we’ll get to him in a long while. –Michael Roffman

Song in a GIF:

noe Top 25 Songs of 2017 (So Far)

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19. Kendrick Lamar – “DNA.”

DAMN.

Sounds Like: Hip-hop being reclaimed for the conscious lyricists of yore with more than enough bump to rock the charts, the club, and the streets

Key Lyric: “I got power, poison, pain and joy inside my DNA /I got hustle, though, ambition, flow, inside my DNA”

Why It Matters: While the culture argued over mumble-rap and flavor-of-the-moment sensations, Kendrick Lamar charged through the noise with a powerful, eye-opening blast of mind-expanding verses over a bombastic Mike Will Made It production in his ongoing campaign for the title of greatest rapper alive. –Scott T. Sterling

Song in a GIF:

tumblr m6wa8f9kz41r5xkt9o1 r1 500 Top 25 Songs of 2017 (So Far)

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18. (Sandy) Alex G – “Bobby”

Rocket

Sounds Like: A neglected beer warming to room temperature as clouds of cigarette smoke thicken and the saddest song on the bar jukebox plays on repeat

Key Lyric: “I’d leave him (clean it, burn them) for you/ If you want me to”

Why It Matters: There are no tricks here. Soft-stepping strums, violin, and the vocal help of Emily Yacina come together to make this heart-on-a-sleeve, tender duet one of the most relatable songs of the year so far. As our own David Sackllah wrote in his review of Rocket, “Alex G opens up and finds a language that speaks for more than just himself,” and “Bobby” talks to feelings we all know: depression, suspicion, guilt, and, most movingly, the desire to abandon our hangups, habits, and ruts to be better for someone else. You won’t find a simpler lyric than “I’d leave him (clean it, burn them) for you/ If you want me to,” but it translates, as Sackllah suggests, to any language with a beating heart. –Matt Melis

Song in a GIF:

charlie brown Top 25 Songs of 2017 (So Far)

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17. Gorillaz – “Andromeda” (feat. D.R.A.M.)

Humanz

Sounds Like: The best song off the not-so-great Humanz

Key Lyric: “When the passing looks to die for/ Take it in your heart now, love her”

Why It Matters: “Andromeda” keeps Gorillaz’s long-running streak of outstanding singles alive, and while there are some unquestionably great tracks off Humanz, this one actually sounds and feels in line with Damon Albarn’s animated brats. –Michael Roffman

Song in a GIF:

zak7oni Top 25 Songs of 2017 (So Far)

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16. Cloud Nothings – “Enter Entirely”

Life Without Sound

Sounds Like: The dust and plaster raining from your parents’ ceiling as you push the boundaries of your Fender Champion 20 amp upstairs

Key Lyric: “There’s someone I would like to be if I could be but/ The path is frightening”

Why It Matters: Because it’s a scorching, deceptively simple slice of throwback alt-rock that asserts what any rock fan knows to be true: Rock isn’t dead or dying; it simply is and always will be. –Randall Colburn

Song in a GIF:

tumblr mt5i17t5ks1ratheuo1 500 Top 25 Songs of 2017 (So Far)

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15. Aimee Mann – “Simple Fix”

Mentall Illness

Sounds Like: A gloomy merry-go-round that once aspired to be a roller coaster but is now resigned to travel in tedious circles until its horses fall off

Key Lyric: “There’s a simple fix for the wrong mix”

Why It Matters: The best cut off Aimee Mann’s stunning, new record, Mental Illness, shows how much can be done with a straightforward strum, plaintive singing, and a few background strings. On “Simple Fix”, she captures the universal feeling of being in a relationship that falls into the same rut time and time again. It’s the definition of insanity to stay in such a situation and expect better outcomes the thousandth time around, but we all have toiled in these Sisyphean relationships at one time or another. Unfortunately, the simplest solutions are often the hardest to follow through on, and Mann helps us feel less alone, if just as frustrated, in our self-imposed trappings. –Matt Melis

Song in a GIF:

giphy Top 25 Songs of 2017 (So Far)

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14. The National – “The System Only Dreams in Total Darkness”

Sleep Well Beast

Sounds Like: Sympathy for the devil on a crisp, cold Brooklyn night

Key Lyric: “We said we’d only die of lonely secrets”

Why It Matters: The National aren’t a band of grand changes from album to album, but the nuances of “The System Only Dreams in Total Darkness” does point to the band’s evolution. There’s the Keith Richards-aping guitar lick, the subtle electronic textures, and the foreboding tone. But beyond being a preview for the album to come, the song still functions as a strong standalone, allowing Matt Berninger’s vocal steering to soar as the song unravels. –Philip Cosores

Song in a GIF:

giphy 4 Top 25 Songs of 2017 (So Far)

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13. Ryan Adams – “Doomsday”

Prisoner

Sounds Like: A promise shattering like a broken vase into thousands of pieces with one person on their hands and knees trying to scoop up the impossible fragments and glue them back together with tears while the other stands there, looks on, and then quietly walks away

Key Lyric: “My love, we can do better than this/ My love, how can you complicate a kiss?”

Why It Matters: Most of us probably pledge to love someone forever at some point only to fall short. What always worked no longer does, and we’re left holding nothing but an empty promise and the painful reality that our love really wasn’t the inextinguishable flame we had always thought. On the gorgeous, mid-tempo “Doomsday”, Ryan Adams finds himself stuck in that moment. He can’t help but proclaim that he “could wait a thousand years” while at the same time admitting that he doesn’t know “how to let [his] feelings go.” He’s looking back not because he truly believes there’s something to be salvaged but because he doesn’t know how to move forward. Snapshots of heartbreak like “Doomsday” lend Prisoner a brutal honesty and set it miles apart from the more obvious sentiments found on many breakup albums. –Matt Melis

Song in a GIF:

giphy 9 Top 25 Songs of 2017 (So Far)

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12. Bleachers – “Don’t Take the Money”

Gone Now

Sounds Like: The culmination of an ’80s cinematic romance

Key Lyric: “Somebody broke me once/ Love was a currency/ A shimmering balance act/ I think that I laughed at that”

Why It Matters: There’s never been any doubt about Jack Antonoff’s ability to craft hits; it’s just that usually they are reserved for other artists (see No. 3 on this list). But with “Don’t Take the Money”, Antonoff reserves one of his best pop moments for himself, turning out a song that builds a world in its aesthetic. It’s a tough balancing act, to release something that sounds like nothing else coming out right now and still be steeped deeply in the familiar. That’s a noble goal and one that Bleachers succeeds in completely.

Song in a GIF:

giphy 5 Top 25 Songs of 2017 (So Far)

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11. The War on Drugs – “Thinking of a Place”

A Deeper Understanding

Sounds Like: The ending to a season three episode of Miami Vice

Key Lyric: “Love is like a ghost in the distance, ever-reached”

Why It Matters: Three years removed from 2014’s Lost in the Dream, The War on Drugs not only prove that they’re still one of the best rock bands out there, but that they can also get away with 11-minute songs. –Michael Roffman

Song in a GIF:

twin peaks Top 25 Songs of 2017 (So Far)

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10. Drake – “Passionfruit”

More Life

Sounds Like: A drunk text from an ex on a night out that you know you should ignore but respond to anyway

Key Lyric: “You got issues that I won’t mention for now ’cause we’re falling apart”

Why It Matters: Smoother than “One Dance”, this song is the apex of latter-period Drake’s laid-back jams and his sharpest melody yet. –David Sackllah

Song in a GIF:

giphy 6 Top 25 Songs of 2017 (So Far)

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09. HAIM – “Want You Back”

Something to Tell You

Sounds Like: Wilson Phillips by way of Michael Jackson, proving many of their first album comparisons increasingly apt

Key Lyric: “And I know that I ran you down/ So you ran away with your heart”

Why It Matters: It may be a bit audacious to write a song clearly influenced by MJ and have the nerve to call it “Want You Back”, but the majesty of HAIM has long been transforming the familiar into something very much their own. “Want You Back” hits that task on the nose, managing to land a knock-out single when the band needed it most. –Philip Cosores

Song in a GIF:

giphy 8 Top 25 Songs of 2017 (So Far)

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08. Lil Uzi Vert – “XO Tour Llif3”

Luv Is Rage 2

Sounds Like: A bleary existential anthem that achieves just comeuppance for those shitty Punk Goes Crunk albums

Key Lyric: “Push me to the edge/ All my friends are dead”

Why It Matters: From Soundcloud to a bona fide hit, this proves pop-punk doesn’t have a monopoly on angst-filled catharsis and that dead-eyed nihilism doesn’t always have to be a bore. –David Sackllah

Song in a GIF:

giphy 7 Top 25 Songs of 2017 (So Far)

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07. Perfume Genius – “Slip Away”

No Shape

Sounds Like: Being shot out of a cannon through a Victorian gala and landing in your lover’s arms in the middle of an idyllic meadow

Key Lyric: “Take my hand, take my everything/ If we only got a moment/ Give it to me now”

Why It Matters: Anthems are rarely as good as they are when they come from Mike Hadreas. Considering how deeply and closely he explores pain and conflict, hearing the Perfume Genius mastermind then sing of a powerful love managing to thrive no matter how forbidden carries an extra golden sheen. –Lior Phillips

Songs in a GIF:

perfume genius Top 25 Songs of 2017 (So Far)

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06. Lana Del Rey – “Love”

Lust for Life

Sounds Like: The siren of reason calling you out of your bedroom, away from CNN, and into the daylight

Key Lyric: “It doesn’t matter if I’m not enough/ For the future or the things to come/ ‘Cause I’m young and in love”

Why It Matters: “It’s enough just to make you go crazy, crazy, crazy,” sings Lana Del Rey on new single “Love”, her return following 2015’s Honeymoon. And damn, does the honeymoon feel over. She’s coming back to a world whose center cannot hold, and that lyric couldn’t more accurately describe what it feels like to wake up each morning in this country. But for all of Del Rey’s cryptic talk of ousting Donald Trump through witchcraft, “Love” ends up being the most hopeful spell she’s cast yet. There are shades of The Beatles (“All You Need Is Love”), The Beach Boys (“Don’t Worry Baby”), and even Bob Dylan (“The Times They Are a-Changin’”) present in either style or message, but more so it’s a song that reminds us to cling to normalcy and that which we’ve always valued in these times of confusion. A hex can come in handy, I suppose, but a song that understands us and nudges us toward a more hopeful tomorrow feels like the far more useful tool. –Matt Melis

Song in a GIF:

del rey love Top 25 Songs of 2017 (So Far)

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05. The xx – “I Dare You”

I See You

Sounds Like: The soundtrack leading up to the climactic kiss at the end of the best teen coming-of-age movie you’ve never seen.

Key Lyric: “I’ve been a romantic for so long/ All I’ve ever heard are love songs”

Why It Matters: During a year already packed with so much sad, The xx  have delivered a desperately needed slice of unbridled romanticism to inspire the summer fling of your dreams, complete with a heart palpitation beat. –Scott T. Sterling

Song In a GIF:

giphy 3 Top 25 Songs of 2017 (So Far)

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04. Spoon – “Hot Thoughts”

Hot Thoughts

Sounds Like: The last of your cigarettes slowly burning out in the ashtray, under humming neon light

Key Lyric: “Pure facets and features/ Last drag drug from your lips/ Making you think how good it was to let baby kiss ’em”

Why It Matters: Three years after the magnetic, technicolor They Want My Soul, Britt Daniel and co. had a high bar to meet in terms of immediate thrills — and the lead single and title track to Hot Thoughts vaults over it with a sexy smirk on its face. From the signature swaggering rhythm to Daniel’s smoky vocals, “Hot Thoughts” proves there’s a lot of classic Spoon yet to come. –Lior Phillips

Song in a GIF:

hot thoughts Top 25 Songs of 2017 (So Far)

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03. Kendrick Lamar – “HUMBLE.”

DAMN.

Sounds Like: Kanye West’s “Power” twisted through Genius and set atop a burning Mercedes-Maybach S650 Cabriolet

Key Lyric: “This that Grey Poupon, that Evian, that TED Talk, ayy”

Why It Matters: King Kendrick keeps his crown on tight and delivers an anthem for our Era of Insolence, where humility feels like it’s at an historic low and ignorance at an all-time high. Granted, much of the song involves K-Dot’s vicious self-posturing — arguably in light of certain rappers who are also leaping up the ranks by the month (see: Lil Chano) — but its simple, haunting chorus of “Sit down, be humble” is arguably the motto of 2017. –Michael Roffman

Song in a GIF:

humble Top 25 Songs of 2017 (So Far)

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02. Lorde – “Green Light”

Melodrama

Sounds Like: A pop rebellion not confined to a simple verse-chorus-verse structure. Instead, thanks to a key change, it literally sounds like a pair of songs smooshed together like a sandwich.

Key Lyric: “But honey I’ll be seein’ you wherever I go/ But honey I’ll be seein’ you down every road”

Why It Matters: As we’ve heard from subsequent Lorde singles, the decision to put “Green Light” as the first sampling from her sophomore record was neither safe nor advised. It joyously breaks pop rules to tell the story that Lorde wants to tell, and its success speaks volumes about the benefits of following your instincts. Lorde believed her audience was game for the non-linear, for sadness and celebration coexisting, for throwing the guidebook out the window. And she was right. –Philip Cosores

Song in a GIF:

lorde Top 25 Songs of 2017 (So Far)

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01. Migos – “Bad and Boujee”

Culture

Sounds Like: 2017. Too easy? “Bad and Boujee” sounds like a slow-rolling ride in a particularly nice car with the windows rolled down, except that’s when you find out the streets are your veins and Migos have completely infiltrated your bloodstream.

Key Lyric: “I’m young and rich and plus I’m bougie (hey)/ I’m not stupid so I keep the Uzi (rrah)/ Rackaids on rackaids, got back-ends on back-ends/ So my money makin’ my back ache (aagh)”

Why It Matters: “I think that they’re the Beatles of this generation,” Donald Glover said of Migos when accepting his Golden Globe for Atlanta. And for every person that smirked at that assessment, there were a handful of people nodding enthusiastically, years of Southern rap tradition validated on a grand stage. And it all came thanks to “Bad and Boujee”, the song that Glover singled out for his appreciation and the one that has gotten the whole world dabbing. The Metro Boomin-produced, Lil Uzi Vert-featuring cut celebrates the good things in Quavo and Offset’s life. And though you might not literally be cookin’ up dope with the uzi, you’ll certainly get the same feeling from the first listen — and then that infectious hook won’t leave your head and you’ll continue to feel it for months. –Lior Phillips

Song in a GIF:

betty white Top 25 Songs of 2017 (So Far)

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