It’s Never Too Late For 17 Great Singles From 2017

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It’s tempting to imagine that fifty years from now, people will look back at 2017 as the year that set the ball in motion for some fundamental changes to our institutional and interpersonal relationships. But back here in the present, it mostly felt like a lot of confusion and uncertainty and anxiety. Like the rest of us, songwriters and musicians seemed to be caught off-guard by the craziness, struggling to make sense of it all. Protest songs made a comeback, but in the Internet age when people protest the stupidest, most insignificant things, their impact was a little muted. Protest music loses a lot of critical mass when anyone can be their own Abbie Hoffman on social media.

Nevertheless there was some amazing music made last year, and it was especially exciting to see some barriers between genres being slowly broken down. The biggest single of the year, “Despacito” by Luis Fonsi f./ Daddy Yankee, was sung in Spanish and yet was a massive hit not just in the U.S. but all over the world. Internationalism is the last frontier for popular music, and I think this was the tip of the iceberg heralding a whole lot more cross-cultural grooving in the years to come.

Anyway, here are 17 great tracks from 2017 that deserve to be singled out. Many of these tracks came from albums that could have made my Top 10 List of Albums from 2017 but didn’t quite make the cut. Similarly some of the songs from the Album List could have made this list, but why duplicate? Some of these tracks were big hits but all of them are great songs in their own right, and if you love music you should really get to know some of them, if you don’t already.

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17. Robert Plant – “Bluebirds Over The Mountain”

Of all the Classic Rock Gods, Robert Plant has grown more as an artist since the glory days than just about any of them have. He continues to show us all how you stay creative and vital and moving forward as a Rocker in your 70s.

 

16. MGMT – “When You Die”

A jaunty, earnest little romp about death, a subject that is always timely, sorry to say, but these guys make it sound fun.

 

15. U2 – “American Soul”

Say what you want about U2, but god bless any band that sings “You and I are Rock & Roll” over and over again in 2017. That’s the kind of conviction Rock needs a lot more of these days, and these guys can still deliver the goods every now and then.

 

14. Bahamas – “No Wrong”

Less goofy than Mac DeMarco, better musical chops than Jack Johnson, Bahamas is the premium choice for connoisseurs of the laid-back stoner vibe, surely a growth niche the more that cannabis becomes legalized.

 

13. Chaz Bundick Meets The Mattson 2 – “Star Stuff”

Chaz Bundick usually fronts a dance-oriented act called Toro Y Moi, but he collaborated with a couple of SoCal jazz geeks and came up with Rock, such is the amazing, unpredictable calculus of Rock Music.

 

12. The New Pornographers – “High Ticket Attractions”

A textbook example of Pop/Rock mastery, but when you’ve got Neko Case doing a call-and-answer vocal you almost can’t go wrong.

 

11. Father John Misty – “Total Entertainment Forever”

Misty captured the zeitgeist for a couple of months this year with this one, until he injured his meta when he tripped over his own stage persona after a concert last fall.

 

10. David Bowie – “No Plan”

Mr. Bowie left this with us in the first week of the year, a much lighter treatment of his own death than “Lazarus” was, and a very thoughtful parting gift to the planet.

 

9. Robyn Hitchcock – “I Want To Tell You About What I Want”

From a really excellent record that almost made our best album list, a hilarious song about cats taking over the world. Hitchcock is another old pro who seems to be getting better with age.

 

8. Childish Gambino – “Redbone”

Technically from 2016, but when this song reached the playlists of Indie Rock stations in 2017 it was a cultural breakthrough of sorts, spurring hopes for a revival of Rock’s Big Tent days, when Soul music was a welcome member of the family.

 

7. Dhani Harrison – “All About Waiting”

Dhani Harrison inherited some of his father’s vocal qualities, and obviously learned a lot from his dad’s production techniques, but this great song shows he has clearly become a fine artist in his own right. For one thing he Rocks harder than the old man ever did.

 

6. Neil Finn – “More Than One Of You”

A towering piece of songwriting, and a breathtakingly brilliant musical performance made more remarkable by the fact it was recorded live off the floor. Why does it have only 37K listens? Do people not like beautiful songs anymore?

 

5. Portugal. The Man – “Feel It Still”

You couldn’t escape this groovy little tune in 2017, and thank goodness, since it helped Rock maintain a toehold in the Pop Charts for another year.

 

4. Spoon – “Hot Thoughts”

Brilliant song from a brilliant band that’s helping reshape Rock in the 21st century, but the knock against them is a lack of versatility and range. They sound best in smaller doses.

 

3. Elvis Costello – “You Shouldn’t Look At Me That Way”

Elvis out-Bacharachs Burt Bacharach, churning out this exquisite thing of beauty on demand for an upcoming movie. After a couple of listens you will want to sing it yourself and it will make you sound good, that’s how great a song it is.

 

2. Beck – “Dear Life”

I think this is a masterpiece, maybe the best song Beck’s ever made, a fantastic Beatley sound with a fantastic guitar line and a fantastic lyric about finding the thrill within the struggle just to get through another day. Too bad the rest of his album wasn’t this good.

 

1. Arcade Fire – “Everything Now”

Their fan base may not agree, but I think Arcade Fire gets better and less pretentious with each new album. I mean, a Rock band reviving the ABBA sound in the summer of 2017 was a stroke of ironic genius, making this the song of the year in my book.

Photo by Joshrhinehart (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons

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