50. SZA – ‘Drew Barrymore’
A song so good the actual Drew Barrymore agreed to star in its accompanying video, ‘Drew Barrymore’ shows off the New Jersey star’s skill in sounding both vulnerable and seriously pissed off, sometimes in the space of one lyric. “I’m sorry I’m not more ladylike,” she spits sarcastically over loose guitars. “I’m sorry I’m so clingy I don’t me to be A Lot.” SZA claims she didn’t truly love music until she worked on debut album ‘Ctrl’ – surely ‘Drew Barrymore’ was a turning point.
49. The Horrors – ‘Something To Remember Me By’
Among the least predictable about-faces of 2017, ‘Something To Remember Me By’ finds The Horrors ascending the sacred synthpop mantle occupied by bands like Depeche Mode and New Order. This is the titanic closing track to fifth album ‘V’ – an undeniably euphoric tune that could mark the beginning of a new chapter for the band.
48. Mac DeMarco – ‘My Old Man’
Mac has never sounded so wise and so melancholy as he does on this cautionary tale. The first release from the Canadian’s third studio album ‘This Old Dog’, this low-key guitar track blends in some soft synth pulses to supplement its pensive tone as he notes his growing similarity to his estranged father: “Look how old and cold and tired and lonely he’s become… there’s a price tag hanging off of having all that fun.”
47. LCD Soundsystem – ‘Call The Police’
Other than the festive treat of 2015’s one-off anomaly ‘Christmas Will Break Your Heart’, this was the first new and original track released by James Murphy and co in seven years. From the “Heroes”-like ache of that opening guitar refrain, it was automatically apparent that this was not only worth the wait, but with that inimitably bittersweet blend of sentiment and sass, of heart and hedonism, of intelligence and immediacy, New York’s finest were elevating their legacy into a bright, new golden age.
46. Young Fathers – ‘Only God Knows’
Irvine Welsh described the Scottish Mercury winners’ contributions to the ‘Trainspotting 2’ soundtrack as ‘the heartbeat’ of the film. That’s certainly the case, but this track alone is the punk gospel heartbeat that pumps the blood. True, it’s a profound echo of the movie itself, but separate the two and you’d be left with one flawless masterclass in streetwise soul. Drop it at the end of your hardest house party and prepare to collapse in joy and weep. Who knew something so real could get you to heaven?
45. Future – ‘Mask Off’
2017: the year the flute got cool. Björk flies the flute flag on new album ‘Utopia’, Drake did the same for his ‘More Life’ playlist, and Future’s huge hip-hop hit ‘Mask Off’ gets by on a flute sample, originally recorded in 1978. The Georgia rapper’s tales of sometimes fun, sometimes miserable excess (“Percocets, molly, Percocets”) are the perfect match for Metro Boomin’s sweet, fluttering, flute-tastic beat. Now, over to 2018: any chance the cowbell’s going to make a comeback?
44. The xx – ‘I Dare You’
With ‘I See You’, The xx finally added a dash of colour to their previously monochrome palette. ‘I Dare You’ is the pop-tinged encapsulation of their evolution from a saunter to a strut. Now wearing their love of dance and their lust for life on their sleeve, this is the sound of stretched-out summers and three friends at play. While somehow managing to keep the subtlety and intimacy intact, this is a more flirtatious, three-dimensional and joyful incarnation of the band you were already in love with – sealed with a kiss and a wink.
43. Marilyn Manson – ‘We Know Where You Fucking Live’
The God of Fuck proved to be as thrilling as ever on the lead song from his tenth album, ‘Heaven Upside Down’. As much a threat as a single, ‘We Know Where You Fucking Live’ was an industrial powerhouse, that featured lyrical zingers about nightmares, corpses and coming to someone’s house to burn them to a crisp. Talk about a nightmare neighbour. The video was pure Manson too, with guns and nuns aplenty. Don’t ever change, Mazza.
42. Lil Uzi Vert – ‘XO Tour Llif3’
North Philadelphia’s Lil Uzi Vert played this year-defining song for the first time while supporting The Weeknd on his 2017 tour, and ultimately he named it after the experience – but it’s actually about a 2016 breakup mired in substance abuse and suicidal thoughts. The grungy hook may sound satisfyingly nihilistic (“Push me to the edge, all my friends are dead) but it’s actually referring to the deceased presidents on the cash he’s using to get his next fix
41. J Hus – ‘Common Sense’
Whereas J Hus’ hit single ‘Did You See’ was an Afrobeat influenced summer jam, the opener to his debut album ‘Common Sense’ is a slick slice of G-funk. The vibrant young MC is a musical chameleon, constantly taking a different genre and making it sound his own; and here on ‘Common Sense’ J Hus offers up a funk bass line and metallic synthesisers, as he raps boldly over the top. Lyrical bravado and a trumpet solo.
- Don’t agree with our list? Have your say and vote in the VO5 NME Awards 2018