10) “I Get the Bag” by Gucci Mane ft. Migos
While I was not a fan of these two artists in 2017, I can even admit that this is the best both Gucci Mane and Migos have sounded. The content and production isn’t anything new from them but the flows and energy we get from them make this song a great trap banger. Every time Quavo comes on with his chorus, it immediately gets in your brain and makes you want to rap along and Takeoff has some memorable lines. Unlike their previous collaboration Slippery, Gucci Mane sounds more awake and is able to keep up with Quavo and Takeoff even if he only gets the second verse on a song where he is credited as the main artist. This is brag rap done right.
9) “Feel It Still” by Portugal. The Man
In a year full of trap music, it’s a nice breath of fresh air to get the occasional indie crossover. I love the bass line that opens the song to those horns and drums and that bridge where it sounds like an actual bridge with a feeling of buildup. This a great song to jam out too but wish it a minute or two longer than it is.
8) “Havana” by Camila Cabello ft. Young Thug
That piano melody is one of the catchiest of the year and it makes you want to groove along. This song feels both relaxing and suspenseful at the same time with Cabello and Young Thug vocals fitting in with the sultry Latin production. With it still charting high now, this will end up as a bigger song in 2018.
7) “24K Magic” by Bruno Mars
This is just a blast to listen to from the opening talkbox vocals getting you ready for the party to Bruno and his backing band having the time of their lives. This is a song that invites you to join along with them in the party and I’ve been enjoying it since it came out.
6) “Castle on the Hill” by Ed Sheeran
2017 was the year of Ed Sheeran. He began the year with his 12 week #1 hit “Shape of You” and ended the year with another #1 with his duet of “Perfect” with Beyoncé and “Shape of You” being named Billboard’s number one song of the year. But while that song wore itself out on me, “Castle on the Hill” is a pleasure to listen to. Instrumentally, this sounds like what U2 would of done in their 80s heyday with the jangly guitar sound that opens the song, those roaring electric guitars on the chorus along with the pounding drums and soaring vocals that would make for a killer live performance. Lyrically, it feels like Bruce Springsteen with Ed Sheeran reflecting on his childhood and teenage years hanging out with his friends and all the wild activities they would do around his hometown of Framingham, England and the castle there. Towards the end he sings about where all his friends have been since they grew up some good and some bad which reminds me of those where are they now facts they show at the end of those biopics and historical films. The lyrics feel very personal and descriptive to the point where anyone could relate this song to different situations in their lives. I wished this had gotten the same success Shape of You got instead of letting it burn fast on the charts but I’m sure I’d be sick of the overplay if this did get big so I’m not complaining. Still a great song in his discography. Let’s not forget this one!
5) “Slide” by Calvin Harris ft. Frank Ocean and Migos
In July, Calvin Harris released Funk Wav Bounces Vol. 1 which showed him moving away from the EDM production that made him popular to summery funk/disco and like DJ Khaled got a melting pot of artists to sing/rap on his tracks. With “Slide,” we have vocals from singer Frank Ocean along with Quavo and Offset from the rap group Migos. I love everything about this song from the slow piano intro that builds into a fun disco groove and even that pitch shifted vocal sample doesn’t annoy me. While I know nothing about Frank Ocean’s music, his delivery does fit with the melancholy feel of the production. I was also curious to see how Migos would do on this type of song given this isn’t the style they are known for and I haven’t been a fan. After listening to their performance, I can say this is this easily the best that Migos will ever sound to me because while they do their typical bragging that would get annoying on other songs, not here. Quavo and Offset really do well with this groove which makes me wish they would do more of these songs than the trap songs they normally do.
4) “Feels” by Calvin Harris ft. Pharrell Williams, Katy Perry and Big Sean
Another big song off of the album is “Feels,” which I actually enjoy a bit more than “Slide.” This is mostly because the groove is so much fun to dance to, with Harris’s funky electric guitar and bass; makes me picture myself on a beach or any summer setting. Pharrell brings a lot of energy to the first and second verses singing about wanting to savor the memories with his girl. Katy Perry sings the chorus and to me is the weak point of the song. She sounds like she just woke up and I can’t understand a lot of what she’s singing. Then Big Sean comes in and saves the song with his rap breakdown about whether his girl really loves him or is just using him for attention. While some of his lines are a bit silly, Big Sean’s flow really rides the groove where the bass and guitar gets more muted to fit the breakdown. This to me will be my ultimate summer jam for years to come.
3) “Praying” by Kesha
Since it came out in July, it’s been interesting to see how relevant “Praying” has gotten with all the sexual assault scandals being exposed day after day against figures all across society. This is Kesha’s big comeback after spending the last three years embroiled in legal battles with her former producer Dr. Luke over her claims that the man who helped make her famous sexually, physically and verbally abused her. Now with his reputation destroyed and Kesha free from recording with him, she released Rainbow in August which was her first full album in five years with Praying as its lead single. Praying shows Kesha taking the high road in this situation. While many would want to sing about wanting their tormentors to burn, Kesha thanks Dr. Luke for the hell she went through with him and how better off and stronger she is because of it. In the chorus, she sings about wishing him well and hopes he is somewhere praying and changing as he now has to face his demons. The instrumentation fits the overcoming adversity theme as it starts slow with the piano and builds each time with more pounding on the piano to those hard hitting drums along with those strings and horns showcasing the triumph at the end. And Kesha’s vocals really fit as it starts off soft and becomes more louder and stronger throughout especially when she hits that dog whistle. It also showcases her true singing talent without all the autotune and party attitude that made her a punching bag for what was wrong with pop music in the early 2010s. It’s great to hear Kesha comeback with a song like this. Definitely worth a listen!
2) “That’s What I Like” by Bruno Mars
This was my jam this year and I’m sure it was yours too. Bruno Mars brings his signature charisma singing about how cool and wealthy he is and offering all his stuff to his girl since she like what he likes. I love a lot of the production from those luxury sounding synths especially on the bridge to the bouncy bass and percussion that opens the song and run throughout.
1) “Redbone” by Childish Gambino
This was the real sleeper hit of 2017, because who would’ve thought in the year of Migos, Ed Sheeran and Post Malone that an experimental funk song by an actor’s musical alter-ego would have made it into the Top 20. This song got big for two reasons, one for its inclusion in Jordan Peele’s movie Get Out which is a great movie of itself. Secondly, it got popular from all those memes which finally proves that songs that get popular off of memes don’t have to be complete garbage. This song is anything but garbage. I love everything about the production from the guitar riff that opens the song to those synths on the pre-chorus and outro. So happy this was a hit in 2017!