Many listeners are still in love with the album: a piece of work that allows a musician to fully sketch out their current worldview. And we’ll be counting down our favourite 50 albums of the year over the next three weeks.
But others have made a decisive shift away from albums and towards playlists on streaming services – often curated by Spotify or Apple themselves. We explored the phenomenon here – as well as how albums are mutating in response – and started our own monthly playlist.
Now, after culling votes from more than 50 Guardian writers and critics, we’ve collated our top 100 tracks of the year in a single giant playlist, featuring everything from rap to pop, vocal jazz and shoegaze. Use the widget below to subscribe to it in either Spotify or Apple Music – it’s been sequenced so that it runs smoothly from style to style, rather than in order of popularity. The actual top 10, ranked after we collated all of our critics’ votes, is below.
You may have your own particular beef to air with the selection – personally I’m outraged that Migos’s Get Right Witcha is in there but T-Shirt isn’t – so comment below with songs you think have been overlooked.
10. Paramore – Hard Times
Paramore’s passage from tortured emo teens to tortured soft-rock grownups continued with this irrepressible single from their album After Laughter. The gulf between the perkiness of the backing and the torpor of the lyrics is impressively vast – Hayley Williams sings of emotional cruelty and breakdown over Chic-style guitar licks.
9. Drake – Passionfruit
Adding to Drake’s growing canon of anti-commitment R&B jams was this lithe, nimble number powered by beautifully melancholy production by Londoner Nana Rogues (and a nice cameo from house legend Moodymann). It was also a great illustration of the democracy of the streaming age – after his More Life album (OK, “playlist”) dropped on to Spotify, it was Passionfruit that was sent up the singles charts by the public’s sheer love for it.
8. Stormzy – Big for Your Boots
After wooing the entire nation’s youth, Stormzy’s debut album was hugely anticipated and discussed. Would he dilute his scornful flow and go for poppy choruses? Lead-off single Big for Your Boots showed that he didn’t need to do either: he was as withering as ever, and the quotable bars and musicality of his delivery meant that big top lines weren’t even needed.
7. The Horrors – Something to Remember Me By
The year’s best breakup song seemed to blend every bit of a failed relationship: the regret, the resignation and, in the Ibiza-level backing, the raging bacchanalia. Lesser bands would have produced it in a much more basic, immediate way, but the Horrors – aided by Paul Epworth – folded it into a psychedelic, whirling world of multitracked synths.
6. Perfume Genius – Slip Away
Mike Hadreas gets more ambitious, robust and clear-headed with every album, and Slip Away is gigantic – the chorus arrives like a wrecking ball, with stabbing bass and crashing cymbals leaving sonic mess everywhere. But the melody twirls through it unperturbed, creating a huge pop statement – and a rough-edged sibling to our number one pick.
5. Future – Mask Off
That Mask Off pairs a sample from Selma, a musical about Martin Luther King, with a lyric that celebrates drug use, gun violence and bland materialism, arguably highlights the moral gulf at the heart of rap in 2017. But Future’s track is also intensely beautiful in its very emptiness, the sound of someone endlessly chasing thrills without knowing why.
4. Selena Gomez – Bad Liar
With just a few fingerclicks and drums, and the bassline from Talking Heads’ Psycho Killer strutting beneath her, Selena Gomez rejects the maximalism of so much modern pop. Just as David Byrne used the bassline’s tripping gait to suggest dangerously unpredictability, Gomez is similarly troubled, unable to duck her romantic feelings. Idiosyncratic and fresh, it earned 200m views on YouTube.
3. Kendrick Lamar – HUMBLE.
Kendrick trades on his generally agreed-upon “greatest alive” status by boasting about money, expensive booze and getting paged by Obama. But even amid what is essentially a track about how great he is, he still finds space for a little social commentary, rejecting Photoshop in favour of “something natural like ass with some stretch marks”.
2. Charli XCX – Boys
With its witty video that reclaimed objectification for a hipster female gaze, salivating over diverse internet-famous cuties with Charli herself in the director’s chair, Boys is a modest and perfectly written pop classic. Every element, from the Mario coin sound to the resolution after the middle eight, is a songwriting bullseye.
1. Lorde – Green Light
With this barnstorming anthem dispelling any remnants of her one-hit-wonder reputation, Lorde showed again that she is as adept at savage detail (“She thinks you love the beach, you’re such a damn liar”) as she is at the unifying power of a simple chorus. The desperation for a “green light” that will let her speed off from heartbreak is horribly, powerfully tangible in her utterly unselfconscious delivery. She’s a star who can do one of the most valuable things in pop – articulate and clarify the feelings of millions – and the most exciting thing is that, as she is 21, there is likely so much more of it to come.
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010
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