The 50 Best Songs of 2017

Here are the tunes that made us laugh, cry, rage, relax and generally feel better about ourselves.

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10. Phoebe Bridgers, “Motion Sickness”
This stunner of a song from Bridgers’s LP Stranger in the Alps is bewildered from the beginning: “I hate you for what you did,” Bridgers sings against some fuzzy pop-rock rumble, “and I miss you like a little kid.” That couplet alone crystallizes the dizzying emotional trauma that often accompanies the end of a relationship, but the fast-rising L.A. artist spends the next four minutes painting a vivid picture of heartbreak, sorrow and defiance. The hurt is real, but there is hope in the song’s elegant, loping melody, which sounds like it dropped to Earth straight from heaven. —Ben Salmon

Watch Phoebe Bridgers perform live at Paste Studio

9. Spoon, “Hot Thoughts”
Death, taxes and Spoon. In historically volatile times, it’s good to know there are things we can count on. On the title track to their ninth (!) consecutive good-or-better album, the Austin, Texas, lean-indie machine showcases its most reliable features: danceable beats, prickly and inventive guitars, self-assured strut, vaguely seedy lyrics. But this time—as on the rest of the album—it all comes entangled in a well-crafted network of electronic effects. It’s an impressive evolutionary step two-plus decades into an incredible career. —Ben Salmon

Read: Ranking All Nine Spoon Albums

8. Sampha, ”(No One Knows Me) Like the Piano”
Soulful British singer Sampha made his much-anticipated full-length debut this year with Process, and no song from the album represents him quite as well as “(No One Knows Me) Like the Piano.” The song finds Sampha looking back on the death of his mother, with the family piano—the very instrument on which he wrote much of Process—symbolizing the way in which music saved the singer’s life in the face of unspeakable loss. It’s little more than Sampha, his beloved ivories and “something some people call a soul,” as he sings, a simple yet undeniably powerful ode to the saving grace of songcraft itself. —
Scott Russell

Watch Sampha’s 37-minute film, Process

7. Lizzo, “Truth Hurts”
If dating in the age of ghosting, zombieing, and whatever other cute name they want to start calling someone who’s being a schmuck and has you down, look no further than self-esteem rap queen Lizzo. “Why a man great ’til they gotta be great” she asks on “Truth Hurts,” a self-love banger so catchy it should come with a warning label. She goes on to absolutely roast the man who dared to relegate her to side-chick, shrugging it off over a piano-loop and irresistible beat. —Madison Desler

Watch Lizzo’s 2016 Dayrtotter live session

6. The xx, “On Hold”
The past few years have seen R&B/hip-hop producers mining hits of the past in ordinary fashion, often pinching entire hooks and melodies and forcing the artists they’re working with to find their way within them. Jamie xx, the musical mind behind British pop trio The xx, once again shows how something familiar can be twisted into fresh shapes. In this case, it’s a snippet of a Hall & Oates song that he juliennes into the chorus of this brilliant elegy to a crumbling relationship and an unwillingness to simply let go. —Robert Ham

Listen to three bonus tracks from the deluxe edition of The xx’s I See You

5. Alvvays, “In Undertow”
Beautiful breakup tune “In Undertow” opens Alvvays’ stellar sophomore album on a high, despite its heartbroken undertones. “There’s no turning back after what’s been said,” singer Molly Rankin laments, letting go of a failed relationship before it pulls her so far out to sea that she loses sight of land. Surrender has seldom sounded this sweet—”In Undertow” is a near-narcotic piece of indie-pop that made immediately clear upon its release that Antisocialites was going to be a wave worth riding all the way to the beach. —Scott Russell

Read Paste’s review of Alvvays’ Antisocialites

4. Father John Misty, “Pure Comedy”
Pure Comedy’s title track also serves as its thesis statement, distilling the record’s—and Josh Tillman’s—worldview into a grim piano ballad. It’s easy to see why Tillman toyed with calling it “Total Bummer,” but it nails the comedy of “the human race slipping on the same banana peel over and over again through the ages,” as he puts it. “How’s this for irony?” he sings. “Their idea of being free is a prison of beliefs / That they never, ever have to leave.” —Bonnie Stiernberg

Read: The World According to Father John Misty

3. Jay Som, “The Bus Song”
Few songs have captured the mundane beauty of city life like Jay Som’s “The Bus Song.” Melina Duterte unpacks the emotional pace of a relationship and likens its ebbs and flows either to riding a car or taking the bus. It’s as if she’s staring at the end of things, but finds comfort and solace within herself when riding the bus: “But I like the bus / I can be whoever I want to be / take time to figure it out.” Duterte’s relatable lyrics are wrapped in guitars and melodious arrangements that evoke nostalgia for simpler times. Her even-keeled delivery shows a refreshing temperament, evident throughout her debut LP, Everybody Works, Paste’s favorite album of 2017. —Adrian Spinelli

Read: Jay Som: The Best of What’s Next

2. Kendrick Lamar, “DNA”
Now that he’s found himself on that vaunted plateau of superstardom, Kendrick Lamar doesn’t appear ready to hit cruise control. Instead, he’s roping in everyone from jazz freaks Badbadnotgood and arena rockers U2 to help turn his fourth album DAMN. from great to instant classic. But it says so much about his talent that the best track on this record is nothing but rhymes over a trap beat from Mike Will Made It. The song is positively steaming as Lamar spars with the music and explodes with wit, ego and humor. —Robert Ham

Read Paste’s review of Kendrick Lamar’s DAMN.

1. Kevin Morby, “City Music”
Kevin Morby’s fourth solo album is a dusky ode to urban life, and its core is its seven-minute-long title track, which perfectly captures a carefree wander down a city street on a warm summer night. “City Music” travels at a walking pace atop a pulsing bass line, as Morby coolly sings a love song to downtown sounds. But it’s his army of guitars that make this tune truly soar. They’re squirrelly and skyscraping and seductive, like Television plucked out of a New York City punk dive and plunked down in front of some sweeping L.A. vista at sunset. That vibe? That’s the vibe that carried “City Music” to the top of our list of 2017’s best songs. —Ben Salmon

Read Paste’s interview with Kevin Morby

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