100 Best Songs of 2017

2017 was an especially emotional year in music, due to the tragic suicides of two of rock’s most important and beloved artists: Chris Cornell, front man of Soundgarden and Audioslave, as well as a successful solo artist, and Chester Bennington of Linkin Park. I, along with millions of their collective fans, are still heartbroken over their untimely deaths. Other notable passings include the legendary Chuck BerryFats Domino, Al Jarreau, Gregg Allman, J. Geils, Tom Petty, Glen Campbell, Malcolm Young, Prodigy, David Cassidy, Della Reese, Mel Tillis and Keely Smith.

As with every year, a number of new or breakthrough artists emerged on the music scene, and two of my favorites were Greta Van Fleet and Liverpool, UK foursome Wide Eyed Boy. Other good ones who finally had huge breakout hits include Portugal. The Man, Highly Suspect, Sir Sly, MISSIO and Mondo Cozmo to name but a few. There were a great many albums released, and there was no way I could listen to them all, but I sure gave it my best! A few standouts for me were A Deeper Understanding by The War on Drugs, Hot Thoughts by Spoon, Villains by Queens of the Stone Age, LA DIVINE by Cold War Kids, Sacred Hearts Club by Foster the People, The Rise and Fall of Babylon by Disciples of Babylon, and Into the Back Room by Oli Barton & the Movement. I also recognize the artistic and cultural significance of Kendrick Lamar’s highly-acclaimed DAMN..

My music tastes, while eclectic, lean toward Alternative Rock, Hard Rock, Folk-Rock, Punk, R&B and Pop-Rock, so my Top 100 song choices generally reflect those genres. Followers of my blog know I publish a Weekly Top 20, and how songs ranked on those weekly lists, as well as how long they spent in the top 20, generally helps determine their year-end ranking. I invariably come across some great songs late in the year that I somehow missed earlier, and thus never appeared on my Weekly Top 20, so I’ve included those. There were so many fantastic songs in 2017, and it frustrated me to have to cut my favorites down to only 100. All the songs on this list could easily be in the top 40.

Some of the year’s most popular hits – the ubiquitous “Despacito” by Luis Fonsi, et. al., the horrific “Bodak Yellow” by Cardi B, or many of the other shitty rap, hip hop, pop and bro country songs that topped the Billboard Hot 100 Chart – will not be found on my list.

Many bloggers and critics list songs in the year they were released, while Billboard and other charts generally place them in the year they were ‘hits,’ which is what I prefer. Most of the songs on this list were released in 2017, however, a number of them were released in 2016, and Lord Huron’s “The Night We Met” is from 2015, but didn’t chart until 2017. Because there are always a few songs that overlap from one year to the next, I always wrestle with how to rank them, as well as whether to list them in only one year or two. It seems the fairest thing to do is include those songs on lists for both years if they spent enough time on the charts in each year, although it can diminish their ranking on each list. For example, The Weeknd’s “Starboy” spent the last two weeks of 2016 and the first week of 2017 at #1, so how to rank it on each list is a dilemma, and I’m seldom pleased with the outcome. The songs in this Top 100 that also appeared on the list for 2016 are indicated with an *

OK, I’ve rambled on long enough, so let’s get to the songs already!

1. FEEL IT STILL – Portugal. The Man
“Feel It Still” is one of those songs that virtually everyone loves, thanks to an irresistibly catchy retro dance beat and deep bass line, that awesome little guitar riff, and lead singer John Gourley’s delightful falsetto. It’s a short track, only 2 minutes and 43 seconds long, but was a massive hit for Portugal. The Man, spending an astonishing 18 weeks at #1 on the Billboard Alternative Chart, as well as many weeks at #1 on the Adult Alternative and Adult Pop charts.  The band, now based in Portland, Oregon (they refer to themselves as ‘Lords of Portland’) is originally from Wasilla, Alaska. They released a number of albums since forming in 2004, but “Feel It Still,” from their album Woodstock, was their breakthrough single. It’s a fantastic song and an instant classic.

2. MY NAME IS HUMAN – Highly Suspect
I fucking love this song! “My Name is Human” features some of the best guitar work of any song on this list (after Metallica’s “Atlas, Rise!”). The heavy, gravelly bass riff at the opening sends shivers down my spine, then spooky guitars, percussion and otherworldly synths enter along with Johnny Stevens’ intense, breathtaking vocals that go from seductive to wailing, adding goosebumps to the ones already covering my body. The track is perfection from start to finish. It was released in September 2016 in advance of release of their superb album The Boy Who Died Wolf, and debuted on my Weekly Top 20 at the end of November, but peaked at #1 in late January-early February, so lands on my Top 100 of 2017. The song’s brilliant video showing a human being built by robots and then given finishing touches by Stevens is a little creepy, yet stylish and riveting.

3. THE MAN – The Killers
I’m a huge fan of The Killers, so was thrilled when they released “The Man,” in advance of their first studio album in over five years Wonderful, Wonderful. Though it received mixed reviews from critics and bloggers, I love it, and it spent five weeks at #1 on my Weekly Top 20. I love how the song winds up at the beginning, then explodes into a pounding dance beat courtesy of Ronnie Vannucci’s power drums. Throw in a sturdy bass line, sweeping synths and Brandon Flowers’ soaring tenor vocals, and you’ve got a fun, exhilarating track. I also love when Flowers pays homage to David Bowie late in the song with the line “headed for the hall of…FAME!” The fantastically entertaining video shows Flowers playing several different characters who are full of themselves, all thinking they’re ‘the man’.

4. THE SYSTEM ONLY DREAMS IN TOTAL DARKNESS – The National
From their critically acclaimed seventh studio album Sleep Well Beast, “The System Only Dreams in Total Darkness” is a gorgeous song by The National. The piano and gnarly guitar riffs, accompanied by an urgent drumbeat, are captivating, and when combined with singer Matt Berninger’s stunning, heartfelt baritone vocals, The National deliver a truly phenomenal track.

5. HUMAN – Rag’n’Bone Man
A magnificent, powerfully moving song with a gospel feel, “Human” was a huge, breakout hit for UK singer/songwriter Rag’n’Bone Man (born Rory Charles Graham). The song was released in July 2016, but didn’t chart in the U.S. until early 2017. It reached #1 in many countries, including Austria, Belgium, Germany, Greece, Poland and Slovakia, as well as the Billboard Alternative and Adult Alternative charts. (Shockingly, it peaked at only #74 on the Billboard Hot 100 – a chart that’s been taken over by mostly hip-hop, country and bad pop, and thus now irrelevant to me.)

6. HIGHWAY TUNE – Greta Van Fleet
Greta Van Fleet literally blast through the speakers like an atom bomb with “Highway Tune.” ‘Wow, just wow!’ was my – and apparently everyone else’s – reaction upon first hearing this explosive head-banger from the young Michigan foursome. The band consists of the three Kiszka brothers Josh, Jake and Sam (Josh and Jake are twins), and drummer Danny Wagner, all of whom are in their late teens or early twenties. Despite their youth, these guys are highly skilled musicians, and lead vocalist Josh – a diminutive guy with a gargantuan bluesy voice – sounds disarmingly like an early Robert Plant. These guys are destined for greatness! Take a listen:

7.  HIGH – Sir Sly
There are a lot of humans and ‘H’ songs in my top 10, and another is the exuberant “High” by L.A. band Sir Sly. Led by a dominant buzzing bass line, the track lives up to its title, bopping along with a snappy dance beat and a cascade of jangly guitars. I love this gem, and the delightfully trippy video is my absolute favorite of 2017. How can anyone not like this band and song after watching them dancing about like marionettes channeling Cirque du Soleil! It’s all so deliriously upbeat, leaving us feeling – well, ‘high’.

8. SO TIED UP – Cold War Kids featuring Bishop Briggs
Cold War Kids are another one of my favorite bands, and Bishop Briggs is pretty awesome too, with a distinctive, powerhouse voice. So, combining her passionate vocals with those of Cold War Kids lead singer Nathan Willett results in auditory fireworks to match the biting lyrics about a destructive co-dependent relationship you can’t escape. I loved this hard-hitting song at first listen and never tired of hearing it.

9. HOLDING ON – The War on Drugs
I fell in love with the music of The War on Drugs a few years ago after I heard their mesmerizing song “Red Eyes.” So it was natural that I’d love their gorgeous epic track “Holding On” from their outstanding album A Deeper Understanding. Having six band members, including two guitarists, two keyboardists – one of whom also plays sax, a bassist and a drummer, gives their music a lush, full sound. The piano, guitar and synths on “Holding On” are stunning, and singer Adam Granduciel’s sublime vocals bear a striking resemblance to Bob Dylan.

10. SIGN OF THE TIMES – Harry Styles
Since the breakup of One Direction, each of the individual members have released their own material, some of it fairly respectable. But to me, the greatest single by far has been “Sign of the Times” by Harry Styles. The deeply moving anthem aims straight for the heartstrings, and blew me away the moment I first heard it. The song gives ample proof of Styles’ singing talent, and how much he’s grown as an artist, both vocally and stylistically. The song starts off with a somber piano movement then, with tremendous emotion in his voice, Harry begins to sing “Just stop you’re crying, it’s a sign of the times. Welcome to the final show. Hope you’re wearing your best clothes.” He may be admonishing us to not cry, but boy it’s hard not to! His voice rises to a tender falsetto before the song bursts open with sweeping orchestration. In an interview with Rolling Stone, Harry explained that “Sign of the Times” is from the point of view of a mother giving birth to a child, but there’s a complication whereby the child is fine, but she’s not going to make it. “The mother has five minutes to tell the child, Go forth and conquer.

I really thought that given the immense popularity of One Direction and each of the individual members, this song would spend many weeks at #1, but I was wrong. It debuted on the Hot 100 Chart at #4, then quickly dropped off, which shocked and disappointed me. I guess it just didn’t click with very many of the young teens whose tastes dominate the charts, and seem to prefer bad pop and hip hop over quality songs with thoughtful lyrics.

11. CLEOPATRA – The Lumineers
12. CAN I SIT NEXT TO YOU – Spoon
13. LOVING YOU IS SO EASY – Wide Eyed Boy
14. SHINE – Mondo Cozmo
15. LOVE ON THE BRAIN – Rihanna
16. ON HOLD – The xx
17. WOLVES – Wide Eyed Boy
18. HOT THOUGHTS – Spoon
19. 24K MAGIC – Bruno Mars *
20. SIT NEXT TO ME – Foster the People
21. UNFORGETTABLE – French Montana ft. Swae Lee
22. RUN – Foo Fighters
23. THE NIGHT WE MET – Lord Huron
24. BELIEVER – Imagine Dragons
25. FEELS LIKE SUMMER – Weezer
26. WITHOUT YOU – Disciples of Babylon
27. THE WAY YOU USED TO DO – Queens of the Stone Age
28. ATLAS, RISE! – Metallica
29. STILL BREATHING – Green Day
30. HEAVYDIRTYSOUL – twenty øne piløts
31. LOVE IS MYSTICAL – Cold War Kids
32. EVERYTHING NOW – Arcade Fire
33. STARBOY – The Weeknd, Daft Punk * (#17 song of 2016)
34. SUIT AND JACKET – Judah & the Lion
35. DOING IT FOR THE MONEY – Foster the People
36. LITTLE ONE – Highly Suspect
37. SHAPE OF YOU – Ed Sheeran
38. BLOOD IN THE CUT – K.Flay
39. SQUARE HAMMER – Ghost
40. LOST ON YOU – LP
41. BLAME – Bastille
42. THE SKY IS A NEIGHBORHOOD – Foo Fighters
43. BOTTOM OF THE DEEP BLUE SEA – MISSIO
44. J-BOY – Phoenix
45. DON’T TAKE THE MONEY – Bleachers
46. I LOVE YOU BUT I’M LOST – Tears For Fears
47. GREEN LIGHT – Lorde
48. HOW DID YOU LOVE – Shinedown
49. DON’T WANNA KNOW – Maroon 5 ft. Kendrick Lamar
50. SOMETHING JUST LIKE THIS – The Chainsmokers, Coldplay
51. SCARS TO YOUR BEAUTIFUL – Alessia Cara
52. WALK ON WATER – 30 Seconds to Mars
53. MONSTER – Starset
54. RUST TO GOLD – Council
55. I NEED A LIGHT – Run With It
56. BLACK BEATLES – Rae Sremmurd w/Gucci Mane
57. TAKE IT ALL BACK – Judah & the Lion
58. COLD COLD COLD – Cage the Elephant
59. IN COLD BLOOD – alt-J
60. MIDDLE FINGERS – MISSIO
61. WISH I KNEW YOU – The Revivalists *
62. LIGHTS OUT – Royal Blood
63. 7 – Catfish and the Bottlemen
64. KINKY – Oli Barton & the Movement
65. ONE FOOT – WALK THE MOON
66. ONE OF US – New Politics
67. REDBONE – Childish Gambino
68. UP ALL NIGHT – Beck
69. SILENT SUN – Morning Fuzz
70. NO ROOTS – Alice Merton
71. BEFORE THE END – Fiction Peaks
72. NO SLEEP – Vox Eagle
73. LAY ME DOWN – Candid
74. CALIFORNIA DREAMING – Hollywood Undead
75. REVEREND – Kings of Leon
76. DIG DOWN – Muse
77. DEVIL IN THE DETAILS – VERIS
78. SHINE ON ME – Dan Auerbach
79. COLD LITTLE HEART – Michael Kiwanuka
80. WATER UNDER THE BRIDGE – Adele
81. WHO’S GONNA SAVE US NOW – Crystal Cities
82. XXX. FEAT. U2 – Kendrick Lamar ft. U2
83. GIVE ME REASON TO DIE – Dyslexic Postcards
84. SONG #3 – Stone Sour
85. JUDAS – Fozzy
86. THAT’S WHAT I LIKE – Bruno Mars
87. NOT JUST YOU – The Puss Puss Band
88. IT’S A TRIP! – Joywave
89. WHAT ABOUT US – P!nk
90. COME OVER – Vox Eagle
91. ENTER THE DREAMLAND – Meresha
92. LAY IT ON ME – Vance Joy
93. THE VIOLENCE – Rise Against
94. THUNDER – Imagine Dragons
95. GOSPEL – Raker
96. SIK’ HELLISH US – Cold Revive
97. SMOKE AND MIRRORS – Morosity
98. I FEEL IT COMING – The Weeknd, Daft Punk
99. SWEET DISASTER – Dreamers
100. THE ONE I WANT – The Trims

11 thoughts on “100 Best Songs of 2017

  1. This is an amazing list. Though I would have loved to have heard some your thoughts on a selected few from 11 to 100. Your top 10 is as diverse as mine! I really love My Name Is Human by Highly Suspect after listening to it. Thank you for bringing to my attention the array of music out there this year. Happy New Year my friend.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Robert. I considered writing about #s 11-20 as well, but it takes a lot of time and I wanted to get this published before the end of the year. Perhaps I’ll add a few notes if time permits. Happy New Year to you as well!

      Like

  2. Great list!! You know I agree with your #1 since it was my #1 as well. I also agree on your Harry Styles assessment. Damn good album and amazes me how it didn’t do better (even though my oldest daughter loves it and bought it on vinyl…or did I buy it for her…either way). Great job!!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. COLD REVIVE ❄ can’t express enough how much it’s ment to us to be recognised and even considered to place in such a line up of outstanding music artist with song’s that are equally awesome. It’s defiantly touched a core in our hearts and those who believe in our band and music alone. Thank you for all the countless hour’s of hard work that goes into such a task of gathering together some of the greatest other artist involved and their music …for which we are truly blessed to be a part of . It’s because of your dedicated work that lead to so many of our greatest accomplishments as music artist today. Sincerely, Brent Stevens and the Boyz’ — Cold Revive❄

    Liked by 1 person

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