Songs from 2017: the best of the year

The votes have been counted and the list compiled - and now we finally have NME's top songs of 2017. From rap legends to grime newcomers, proper pop stars and britpop icons, take a look at the top 50 below.

40. Kamasi Washington – ‘Truth’

‘Truth’ is a 13-minute epic of sunshine riffs and elegant arrangements. Saxophonist Kamasi Washington shows off his virtuosic chops over subtle thematic changes, excelling in fluid runs that never verge too far into dissonance. His personal brand of jazz is warm and melodic, with the soaring variations differing enough each time to keep it interesting. Washington’s harmonious marathon finishes with a massive gospel choir accompanied finale, which brings with it a sense of resolution as each of the motifs earlier heard returns. It’s cinematic and impossibly intelligent jazz, but in a straight forward and easily accessible way – and it’s totally brilliant.

39. Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds – ‘Holy Mountain’

Sure, it sounded like The Vaccines doing Ricky Martin at karaoke, but let’s stop pretending that’s not the most fun ever. Throw some Beach Boys bigness in there too? Sure, why the hell not. While his brother was off collaborating with LA producers, Noel countered with this wild, horn-heavy slice of millennial glam-rock. Proof that even though he’s the wrong side of 50, Noel isn’t quite ready to morph into Paul Weller just yet.

38. Run The Jewels – ‘Mean Demeanor’

The gods have promised, victory will one day know my face/Won’t be denied the pride, won’t be denied my prize,” Killer Mike declares in the first verse of ‘Mean Demeanor’. Brash, ballsy and with a roaring bass line, Run The Jewels have brought their A-game for their offering on the Fifa 18 soundtrack. With their trademark lyrical prowess offering political commentary on the world, on ‘Mean Demeanor’ the hip-hop duo have done what they do best: created a blistering banger that actually has something to say.

37. Kendrick Lamar – ‘DNA.’

Many would class ‘Humble.’ as King Kendrick’s coronation, but ‘DAMN.’ featured plenty of moments which are just as strong. ‘DNA.’, the album’s second track, is a confrontational corker where Kendrick employs powerful beats and slick production to perfection, all while proudly celebrating his black heritage. The knockout blow, however, is reserved for his mocking sample of Fox News host Geraldo Rivera who claimed that hip-hop had “done more damage to young African-Americans than racism in recent years”. A royal pasting, indeed.

36. Phoenix – ‘Ti Amo’

As Europe fell apart, Phoenix were doing their bit to piece it back together in their uber-cool, nonchalant way. References to the beauty of the continent were rife on their sixth album, from the Rome-praising ‘Vio Veneta’, to the constant references to fruity scoops of gelato. But if the album and its spellbinding tour proved anything, it was that Europe desperately still craved that party. The bouncing, shimmering ‘Ti Amo’, offers said anthem all while posing the immortal question ‘Champagne or Prosecco?’ Think we’ll have a glass of both, thanks.

35. Gorillaz – ‘Ascension’

When recording ‘Humanz’ in 2016, Damon Albarn told Gorillaz’s guests to imagine a “worst case scenario” where Donald Trump was inaugurated as U.S. President. Then it happened. On ‘Ascension’, Albarn and Vince Staples decide to ditch Trump-stained planet earth for a higher realm. “The sky’s falling, baby / Drop that ass ‘fore it crash” Staples chants, using IRL political turmoil as a launchpad for their joint space mission. If ‘Humanz’ really is a party album for the apocalypse, ‘Ascension’ is the axis it spins on.

34. Kasabian – ‘Bless This Acid House’

In an album chockablock with lucid references, bonkers lyrics about milkshakes and “jibber-jabber at the bargain booze”, ‘God Bless This Acid House’ offered a realist, relatable breather. Built around a mega glam-rock riff, Tom and Serge trade lines about messy night outs where they – and us – feel utterly invincible. “I see my friends in all our numbers/Rip up my plans, nothing matters” the pair sing, and in that moment – truly, nothing does matter quite like that killer chorus.

33. J Hus – ‘Did You See’

At every party this summer you were bound to hear the unmistakable Afrobeat jam that is J Hus’ ‘Did You See’. With its minimalist instrumentals and ridiculously catchy chorus, the hit single crawled up the charts ending up in the top ten. The earworm introduced the nation to the huge talent that the young MC is, and we’re better off for it.

32. AJ Tracey – ‘Blacked Out’

AJ Tracey’s ‘Blacked Out’ packs a punch. It’s four minutes of thunderous braggadocio and snarling bass, accompanied by Sir Spyro’s simple, urgent production; but what takes centre stage is the young MC’s lyrical prowess. Effortlessly rapping about his new success and never sugar-coating the graft it took him to get there, Tracy is more than cementing himself as one to watch. “I’m not second but I am top two” he boldly declares, and who are we to disagree?

31. Mount Eerie – ‘Real Death’

Death is real / Someone’s there and then they’re not / And it’s not for singing about / It’s not for making into art,” sings Mount Eerie on ‘Real Death’. Therein lies the complex haunting Phil Elverum’s deeply sad ‘A Crow Looked At Me’ album, which deals with the death of his wife Geneviève Castrée. He’s asking: is creating music out of this tragedy the right way of coping? Diary-like and refusing to skip any single detail, Elverum triumphs in making something both respectful and soul-bearing from such impossible subject mater.

Don’t agree with our list? Have your say and vote in the VO5 NME Awards 2018

Next page Previous page