The Top 50 Singles of 2017

Screen Shot 2017-12-30 at 10.38.42 PMScreen Shot 2018-01-13 at 2.50.42 PM2016 freed Frank Ocean from the constraints of a normal pop icon. An album didn’t have to be an album, but a visual interpolation of music and performance with Endless. Blonde didn’t need to have a chart-topping single when the album avoided convention in favor of a free-form exploration of the individual. In 2017, he continued to buck pop conventions with a release of multiple versions of songs that felt as fleshed out as the best moments of his career. “Biking” showcases this effortlessness, attaching an ambient JAY-Z verse onto a breezy string-driven beat. Frank Ocean doesn’t just glide through his verses, he hovers between rapping and singing and somehow bridges the artistic flourishes of Tyler, the Creator and the casual cool of JAY Z. “Biking” shows that even when Frank Ocean was toying with the idea of what a song could be, his creative instinct is unmatched.Screen Shot 2018-01-13 at 2.52.49 PMDedicated to Bobby Jameson is an exploration of a west coast pop “star” who tried to claw his way out of absurdity and was bitter until his fatal end. Ariel Pink is the perfect conduit for this exploration as he is the inverse of Bobby Jameson. A career indie pop star who never really seemed to care about fame, much less ask for it. On “Another Weekend” Ariel Pink sounds defeated by the 4AD press machine that chewed him up and spat him out. The low-fi synths that curve and bubble excitedly sound almost hollow, but equally pretty as they play up his pain.  As if he is going through the motions, Ariel Pink analyzes the wasted hours and experiences of past weekends as if there’s nothing to change. It seems like his obsession with pop music of the past has consumed himself, and “Another Weekend” is the tragic denouement of an oddball that was never fit for the spotlight.Screen Shot 2018-01-13 at 2.54.57 PMThe trajectory of Odd Future was always doomed from the start. A collective of artists specializing in rebellion and subversion and offensiveness started with a built-in expiration date. Longevity was never the goal, and when they dissipated as quickly as they arrived, it seemed like those in Odd Future who could grow would be the only ones who could succeed. And this is true, but I never thought Tyler, the Creator would be the one maturing with as much tenacity and grace that was found on Flower Boy. Songs on previous albums were nightmarish tours through his psyche, but on “See You Again”, fluttering pianos sway with the strings as a brass section picks up at a breakneck pace. Kali Uchis soulfully introduces the chorus as Tyler accelerates forward. The same energy from previous albums can be found here, but it’s used in such a refreshing direction; it’s intoxicating and rewarding, as a listener and a fan of artists finding their creative zenith.Screen Shot 2018-01-13 at 12.42.20 PM“You can leave home all you want, but home will never leave you” is a sentiment Vince Staples takes to sinister territories. Long Beach has always been a major playground that Vince has deconstructed and carried with him into different sonic territories. But on “Big Fish”, it’s as if the beaches of his hometown have swallowed him whole. Aquatic environments cut in and out over a domineering bass and slapping snares. Laid over these beats is Vince’s reminiscences, the life of his past encircling him as he realizes the impossible reconciliation of survivor’s guilt. And so he calmly accepts his fate recalling the memories that should be beyond him now. It incites dread, but with Vince’s deadpan delivery, “Big Fish” is cooly menacing.Screen Shot 2018-01-13 at 12.46.34 PMA monochromatic kite. Muted guitars. Community euphoria. A return from Slowdive but not a return to Slowdive. A return to energy that fit into a memory of a time no more complex than now, but so simple in the act of its remembrance. An explosion upward and inward, a particle parade surrounding the ascension. The thrum and beat of the past without nostalgia. Nothing left to lose doesn’t mean nothing left to fight against, but when it does for Slowdive, it’s a rapture of joy that is shared. Even if it’s only tonight.
Screen Shot 2018-01-13 at 12.49.10 PMSix years ago, Kieren Hebden said that there is love in you. Eighteen years ago, Four Tet released his first album. “Two Thousand And Seventeen” is the bridge between the gap between different career eras. The stylish, cool techno that transfixed fans earlier this decade isn’t gone, but it’s clear that Hebden is condensing his two career modes into a single statement. “Two Thousand And Seventeen” meditates on house and trance influences combined with a hypnotic ode to classical instrumentation. Haunting in its production, it’s clear that emotions continue to run thick throughout his work and the same love that’s spoken about in 2011 is present in 2017.Screen Shot 2018-01-13 at 12.51.11 PMThe music Future has made in 2017 has the drowsy, syrupy flavor that he has long perfected. It’s the immediately sweet balance of “started from the bottom” mentality with the knowingly poisonous fixation on his addictions. Because he’s ridden it for so long it feels fitting, regardless of what Future lays above it. In a way, Kodak has stolen the Future aesthetic (and flutes) and tweaked it to the point of losing its syrup, staring from the bottom where Future has long been absent. There are lines that might be seen as funny, but Kodak’s tone never sways from the harrowing outlook on success and the risky nature of failure. Nearly ad nauseam Kodak chants that he has those who don’t want to see him win, and that they want to see him locked in a penitentiary. As is traditional with the Future-esque approach to sound, the club beat is a musical misnomer for the themes outlaid. Somewhat brilliantly, “Tunnel Vision” uses one of the most infectious hooks of 2017 to splay graphic imagery of Kodak’s reality and the societal pressures he faces. It’s not a novel set of issues. But it’s never felt this inescapable. And it’s that inescapability that Future’s wooziness lacks, and what propels this to such grinding memorability. Screen Shot 2018-01-13 at 12.53.51 PMStory usurps music when the narrative is compelling. Tay-K is proof when this year he had fans’ eyes and ears glued to Complex, The Source, The Fader, XXL and any other hip-hop publication. Born Taymor Travon McIntyre, he earned buzz with one song: “The Race”, which is less of a song and more an example of willingness to brandish authenticity. Recorded and released while on the run from the police for capital murder charges. McIntyre briefly showcases aggression and amateurish flows bragging about his run over a largely unfinished song, but a song that charted nonetheless. A song like this shouldn’t exist, and most likely will never capture attention like “The Race” because its a captivating moment that arrested our attention for much of the year.Screen Shot 2018-01-13 at 12.55.23 PMVerbose and impractical, “Sorcerer” is a peek into the cloudy abyss of milo’s mind. Hushed shadows that hide off-kilter drums, Kenny Segal’s beat is a swaying target that milo hits with poise. It’s amazing the ease in which references to Jean Paul, John Gilmore, and Stanley Turrentine could collapse under the weight of its own pretentiousness, but milo brushes away these faults and flows into a lyrical weave until he gives in to the chorus. “I flourish in the lag time”. The gaps people can’t see, the thoughts that went overlooked. milo carries us with him to these mental hideaways for less than three minutes but reveals a lifetime about himself.
Screen Shot 2018-01-13 at 12.58.01 PMSubmerged in the amniotic fluid of the ocean, Drexciya attached their mythos to the rhythm of Roland 808’s. Adapting to an environment was their expertise and they were forefathers to experimentation within house music. “The Deep” is a love-letter to classic afro-futurism that inspired 2016’s Splendor & Misery. Explosions in the undertow and synthetic tidal waves crash in as bubbles bounce around; Daveed Diggs rapidly fires off the story of conflict and survival. It’s a lore with impeccable production value, dedicated to unsung heroes, and one that reveals clipping.’s sonic and narrative inspirations with stellar pacing and a captivating performance.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: