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50 Best Songs of 2017

Cardi B’s money moves, Harry Styles’ classic rock breakout, the record-breaking “Despacito” and more

2017 sucked like no year since 2016. But pop music kept giving us reasons for hope – from Harry Styles’ glam grandeur to Cardi B’s Bronx fire to Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee’s takeover of middle America. Atlanta trap stars like Migos, Future and 21 Savage slow-rolled out addictive smoked-filled hits. Julia Michaels, Lorde, Tove Styrke and Taylor Swift put their personal stamp on the glistening pop confessional. The pulse of the radio opened a little, via the breezy island beats that powered Drake and Ed Sheeran, or Selena Gomez dubbing in a little Talking Heads on “Bad Liar.” Even rock nostalgia felt more fun than it has in ages, whether it came via Portugal. The Man’s Motown throwback jam, the blurry Nineties-punk recollections of of Charli Bliss and Diet Cig or veterans like U2 and Beck making music that updated their classic moves. Here are our 50 favorites.

50 best songs of 2017

Dirty Projectors, “Up in Hudson”

With its electro-warped doo-wop intro over abstracted New Orleans brass, this love song starts with a meet-cute at the Bowery Ballroom and winds up sad-sacking in upstate New York. “Now I’m listening to Kanye on the Taconic Parkway riding fast,” reflects Dave Longstreth morosely, envisioning his ex “out in Echo Park blasting Tupac drinkin’ a fifth for my ass.” The singer caps his lamentation with a wicked drone-guitar and percussion jam, because when all else fails, music heals us.

50 best songs of 2017

Dua Lipa feat. Miguel, “Lost in Your Light”

A starlit rollerskating jam about love’s all-consuming joys, this collaboration between up-from-YouTube diva Dua Lipa and R&B polymath Miguel gets its kicks from its depths-plumbing groove and the crazy-in-love vocals of its two principals.

50 best songs of 2017

Lil Yachty feat. Diplo, “Forever Young”

Though the flighty, careening, twee-punk song-raps of Lil Yachty failed to turn him into the pop star hinted at by his multiple Top 10 guest spots and his Target commercial, this love song with Diplo suggests the alternate universe where giddy, melody-frying, Biz Markie-esque caterwaul can soundtrack our biggest EDM bangers.

50 best songs of 2017

Margo Price, “Pay Gap”

Country’s protest-song tradition continues with Margo Price’s plainly stated broadside against Americans who weren’t born into white manhood receiving the short end of the economic stick. Price’s bell-clear soprano underscores her no-nonsense argument in favor of equality, with the accordion-aided reverie of its chorus adding to its ultimately hopeful charge.

50 best songs of 2017

Craig Finn, “God in Chicago”

An unforgettably vivid story of a death, a drug deal, a Prince-soundtracked road trip and a bleary shot at momentary redemption on Michigan Avenue that collapses into unspeakable grief. The Hold Steady frontman’s uncharacteristically spare, calm delivery and some somber piano make the song punishingly stark as he crams a novel’s worth of emotional and physical detail into five heartbreaking minutes. A new peak for one of music’s most indelible image-slingers.

50 best songs of 2017

Jidenna, “Bambi”

On this tender throwback, singer-rapper Jidenna practically tips his fedora as he croons over muted highlife guitars and steelpan chimes. He exits the doo-wop reggae portal for a quick Drake-ish interlude, but soon returns to his gentle jungle metaphors, riding out on nifty, programmed beats.