Listmas Odds and Ends 2017

Hello everyone! Welcome to our final little day here at Listmas 2017 at Ranting About Music! We’re gonna close on a fairly light but very list-y day today with some superlatives and awards before coming back in January; think of it as the after-show or something. Listmas was a lot of fun, and, as always, thanks for reading. There might be a small thing or two that goes up before the end of the year if I get an idea, but otherwise, we’ll see you back in January. May you get lots of new music you love for the holidays!
-Blake G.

Favorite Albums That Just Missed the List
White Reaper – World’s Best American Band
Katie Ellen – Cowgirl Blues
Lana Del Rey – Lust For Life
Worriers – Survival Pop
LCD Soundsystem – American Dream

The Annual “I Meant to Listen to This and Didn’t, So Watch Me Fall For It In Like, April” Award
Big Thief – Capacity
Bjork – Utopia
Oso Oso – The Yunahon Mixtape

“I Forgot I Even Reviewed This Album Until I Saw It On People’s Lists” Album: The xx – I See You

Most Overrated Album: Lorde – Melodrama
Most Underrated Album: Jay Som – Everybody Works

Most Protracted Album Rollouts in Ascending Order:
3. Arcade Fire – Everything Now
2. Taylor Swift – reputation
1. Father John Misty – Pure Comedy

Most Protracted Album Rollout That People Swore Was Actually Fun, You Guys: Pure Comedy

Most Protracted Album Rollout That Didn’t Even Have the Damn Decency to Come Through With Good Songs Like “So It Goes…” or “Electric Blue”: Pure Comedy

Favorite Album Cover: Kitty – Miami Garden Club

Favorite Concerts
5. Joyce Manor with AJJ and Mannequin Pussy
4. Foo Fighters with The Struts
3. Cherry Glazerr with Mannequin Pussy and Leggy
2. Green Day
1. Arcade Fire with The Breeders

Best of the Pretty Good (Considered for the Best Hits List)
“Unforgettable” by French Montana ft. Swae Lee (live by Montana, die by Montana)
“T-Shirt” by Migos
“Havana” by Camila Cabello ft. Young Thug (although it may make it next year)
“Malibu” by Miley Cyrus (a dopey song, to be sure, but the backing vocals on the chorus are great)

Worst of the Eh (Considered for the Worst Hits List)
“Rolex” by Ayo & Teo (almost grabbed “Everyday We Lit”’s spot, but at least “Rolex” sounds better loud)
“Cold” by Maroon 5 ft. Future
“Bad Things” by Machine Gun Kelly and Camila Cabello
“Swalla” by Jason DeRulo ft. Ty Dollar $ign and Nicki Minaj (does anyone get bailed out as often as Jason DeRulo? Does anyone deserve it less?)

Best Number 1 Hit: “Black Beatles” by Rae Sremmurd ft. Gucci Mane

Best Number 1 Hit if I’m Not Cheating by Including a Song Culturally Tied to 2016 That Bounced Back for a Week in January: “HUMBLE.” by Kendrick Lamar

Worst Number 1 Hit: “Shape of You” by Ed Sheeran (while “Look What You Made Me Do” ranked higher on the Worst list, “Shape of You” was infinitely more insufferable as a number one)

Worst Number 1 Hit That Didn’t Make the Worst List: “Rockstar” by Post Malone ft. 21 21 21

Peak 2017 Number 1 Hit: Also “Rockstar” by Post Malone. Hail Big Algorithm.

2017 Emerging Pop Presence Award: Camila Cabello and Post Malone (tied; Malone seems like a short game winner, Cabello could be playing the long game)

Most Likely to Be a Vegas Resident in 2019 After This Year’s Comeback Attempt: Katy Perry. The “bon appetit” jokes write themselves!

“You Succeeded This Year, But I Don’t Know If You Won” Award: Ed Sheeran

Listmas 2017 Schedule
12/14: Favorite Albums
12/15: The Gibby Fifty (50 Favorite Songs)
12/16: Top Ten Best Hits of 2017 (pt. 1)
12/17: Top Ten Best Hits of 2017 (pt. 2)
12/18: Top Ten Worst Hits of 2017 (pt. 1)
12/19: Top Ten Worst Hits of 2017 (pt. 2)
12/20: The Year In Rant/Odds and Ends


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The Top Ten Worst Hits of 2017 (5-1)

Alright, let’s finish this.

5. Taylor Swift – “Look What You Made Me Do” (#39)
“Look What You Made Me Do” is Taylor Swift’s worst hit, and I can prove it against her worst outtings from other records.
“Bad Blood” from 1989: Eh, at least it’s vague enough as a diss to not entirely rely on Katy Perry, and the remix sort of knocks
“22” from Red: flimsy as hell, but at least it’s straight ahead
“Sparks Fly” from Speak Now and “White Horse” from Fearless: I normally give credit to someone who strikes out swinging than taking the just-fine bunt, but “LWYMMD” is a bad construct in a way these two aren’t
“Picture to Burn” from Taylor Swift: This one has the gay joke, but at least Swift’s tried nuking that from orbit at this point, and the song’s trash talk doesn’t waffle metaphors

“Look What You Made Me Do” is a context-dependent tirade whose lyrics never center in on what the offending party did or what Swift is going to do in response, and the music is a loud, ill-fitting mess. I get why she frontloaded it as a single, but I’ll be amazed if this thing gets remembered.

4. Imagine Dragons – “Believer” (#9)
In 2015, Imagine Dragons released their second album, whose title remains a perfect descriptor of their music. It was (spoiler) not a very good record, and I kind of unloaded on it because Imagine Dragons are like if a forty-five minute wait at BDubs was a band. Everyone seemed to notice that, and I thought their whole moment was over when S+M ended up being a go-nowhere record that didn’t have the hits or chart success of their debut. It did have this song on it, though, called “I’m So Sorry,” which was an admittedly kickass tune that only sounded flunky when Dan Reynolds would screech the title through his nose with an exaggerated rasp.

I didn’t think much of it at the time, but those few pinched seconds of “I’m So Sorry” would be the harbinger of Imagine Dragons’ return to the hit parade with “Believer,” whose hook Reynolds delivers as though he’s trying to shatter his nasal cavity. It’d be almost impossible to tell what Reynolds was bleating if his lyrics weren’t something as basic as “HEYYYYY YA MAKE ME A/YOU MAKE ME A BELIEVAHH, BELIEEEVAHH” over a garish beat. And, if that wasn’t enough, Reynolds also decides to get his “I’ve been listening to a little band called Twenty One Pilots–maybe you’ve heard of them” flow on a few times, only without sounding as natural on the mic as Tyler Joseph (God, do any of these guys believe in real last names?). Add that on top of the half-assed AWOLNATION-stealing shanty, and you’ve got a song that’s straight up rock and roll heresy.

3. Sam Hunt – “Body Like a Back Road” (#8)
I swear this song didn’t make the list because of its central premise. Like, I know it’s easy to shag modern crossover country ([“Look What You Made Me Do” voice] “I do it all the time”), but if you’re being fair about it, “Body Like a Back Road” has the same cross-genre premise of “Trap Queen.” No, “Body Like a Back Road” makes the list because every part of it is just lousy. Sam Hunt’s halting singing can’t quite mask how poor his voice is, the instrumentation sounds too drunk on cheap beer, I cannot fathom why anyone in 2017 would use those “heys” that we were all sick of by “Rack City,” and the lyrics are just flat-out dumb. “Body Like a Back Road” is like a back road: it’s shite and you should avoid it.

2. Blackbear – “Do Re Mi” (#98)
I swear this song made the list entirely because of its central premise.

In the interest of bloggeristic integrity, I listen through each song on the year-end Hot 100 before sitting down to seriously make a list of best/worst candidates. I’ll pencil in obvious picks as I go–like, of course “Slide” was going to appear on the best list somewhere, as was “Body Like a Back Road” on the worst–but I don’t preload my lists because there’s always a chance I’ll be surprised.

For example, when I discovered “Do Re Mi” got its name from playing that “Do re mi fa so fucking done with youuuu” hook straight, this fucker was damn near guaranteed a spot in the top 5. A by-numbers trap rattler by rapper Blackbear–a guy who seems less like a human and more like if an #aesthetic Insta gained sentience so it could learn how to ghost you–“Do Re Mi” is a blast of misogyny that doesn’t have an original bone in its cad body. I mean, I can get behind a good “fuck you” song, and I’m sure that someone like The Weeknd or Drake or even dvsn could make something like this a little more palatable, but you look at “Do Re Mi” and it’s like, c’mon, dude. I was going to make a crack about how this song seems like musical equivalent of seeing a guy call his ex a “fuckin bitch” on Facebook, but “Do Re Mi” straight up includes the lyric “Bitch, you crazy.” This song’s just mean, too; there’s no demented freedom coming from Blackbear, he’s just a guy in his feelings. Shit, she was probably right to leave his ass, too.

1. XXXTentacion – “Look At Me!” (#99)
So, our annual trip to the summit of Shit Mountain has been full of bad music, but we’re just having fun with it, right? Like, end of the day, it’s just a countdown from jokes at Shawn Mendes’ expense to jokes at Lukas Graham’s and we all peace out, yeah?

It’s a little harder to do that with this year’s number one.

XXXTentacion is a Florida rapper. Without getting into a year and a half of unpacking, I am writing this sentence while he is back in jail after getting slapped with additional charges like witness tampering and harassment following his arrest last year over domestic violence allegations, and there is a very real chance that he would be in prison for decades if convicted. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

“Look At Me!” just bums me out. There’s a torturous “art vs. artist” argument you can dance around, there’s a tired debate you can throw around over the merits of looking into someone’s darkest parts, but “Look At Me!” isn’t really worth entertaining either one. As a song, it’s SoundCloud rapper fodder that believes sounding like shit is a treasured aesthetic choice, like how bands will call themselves lo-fi to avoid having to sound coherent, and X’s shock rap, which largely consists of lines like “can’t keep my dick in my pants” and “My emo bitch like her wrist slit” doesn’t land like depraved, gleeful fantasy, but like someone conjuring imagery to cope with their own trauma. But with X, these impulses aren’t just imagery. They have real, tangible consequences for him and everyone around him, and honestly, a career like his feels counterproductive to him getting the help he needs, and the hell away from anyone else who might get hurt. It seems toxic. And, for a year where pop culture itself seemed tainted because of the toxic actions of the men running the (sometimes literal) show, there’s no song that fits this year’s worst impulses better than “Look At Me!”

[Y’all are cool sitting this embed out, I promise.]

Listmas 2017 Schedule
12/14: Favorite Albums
12/15: The Gibby Fifty (50 Favorite Songs)
12/16: Top Ten Best Hits of 2017 (pt. 1)
12/17: Top Ten Best Hits of 2017 (pt. 2)
12/18: Top Ten Worst Hits of 2017 (pt. 1)
12/19: Top Ten Worst Hits of 2017 (pt. 2)
12/20: The Year In Rant/Odds and Ends

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Top Ten Worst Hits of 2017 (10-6)

Hello everyone, and welcome to Day 5 of Listmas, where we’re closing out the year of 2017 here at Ranting About Music! For the last 4 days, we’ve been looking at everything good about the year musically; my favorite albums, favorite songs, and the best pop hits of the year. But, you had a bit of a year, right? You’re not looking for someone to talk about the greatness of Kendrick Lamar for the umpteenth time, or lay down some more praise for Kesha. You’re here for blood, aren’t you? You’re here let your inner hater loose. Well, these next two days have you covered with the worst this year had to offer.

The biggest difference I’ve found, between the best hits and the worst hits lists, is that the hardest part of both lists is sussing out the rankings on the worst hits. The best and worst songs of the year are usually pretty apparent, and you can build your case on the best hits list pretty well because there tends to be depth to liking a thing. Disliking something tends to be a knee-jerk reaction, and requires more interrogation of how you feel the way you feel. And these are the songs that, on reflection, can suck it from this year. First a quick recap on the rules.

-Had to land on the Billboard year-end Hot 100.
-Couldn’t be on my worst hits list last year.
-Had to peak this year.

One honorable mention like the best list, and then we’ll go.

Dishonorable Mention: Portugal. The Man – “Feel It Still” (#45)
The Dishonorable Mention has traditionally been the space where I can let my petty soul breath. If there’s a song that I hate, but putting it on the actual list would be disingenuous because it’s not the worst, then this is where it goes. Gotta earn that “Ranting” in the site name somehow.

Anyway, the 2017 dishonorable mention goes to “Feel It Still,” the random hit from indie lifers Portugal. The Man. The narrative around this one was excited chatter that Portugal. The Man, a real life band with actual, breathing people in it, was able to claw their way to the Top 10 after an extended stint on the charts. That much is true: “Feel It Still” caught on in the later part of the year thanks to its appearances in TV spots, ads, and sports arena dance cams with its lightly funky beat and accenting horn. Limited exposure like that is the best way to encounter “Feel It Still,” because the song crumbles like fucking ash if looked at head-on. “Feel It Still” is a song made out of spare parts: Danger Mouse-era Black Keys vintage-psych worship, anonymous vocals, and Fitz and the Tantrums/Bastille/the “Pumped Up Kicks” guys instrumentation for a song so vague that I swore I’d heard it before when listening to it for the first time. I get that it was relief seeing a real band actually notch a hit, but it’s less fun when the hit in question is just like, “Shake It Off” on benzos.

10. Sam Smith – “Too Good At Goodbyes” (#77)
Okay, so remember yesterday, where we talked about how great Kesha’s “Praying” was because it was a piano ballad that didn’t feel like it was cheating you, and how I specifically mentioned that living in a world where Samuel Frederick Smith was making piano ballads made it hard to not be cynical about them? “Too Good At Goodbyes” proves how you get so cynical in the first place. This soppy ballad tries do everything, but ends up coming off as aimless; those backing singers come rushing into the last chorus like, “Wait, shit, we’re here already?!” But beyond that, this song’s lyrics make no fucking sense. Smith says how he’s been here before, and how his lover must think he’s cold and heartless…but then the pre-chorus makes it sound like Smith’s the one who got hurt? And then he resolves that he’s not going to let anyone close, but the song is about someone telling him goodbye, and implies they’ve done this a bunch of fucking times and what the hell do you want from this man, Sam Smith?  I know that because of his arm-load of Grammies and multiple bank accounts, Smith has no reason to not keep rewriting this shit, but can he at least put some effort forth?

9. James Arthur – “Say You Won’t Let Go” (#11)
“Hey babe, I wrote this song about us! I wrote about how you talked to me at a party–or maybe it was a club? I kinda forget, I just know that it was dark–and how you were such a drunken mess that I held your hair back while you threw up, and you were okay with that despite the fact that we had just met. I wrote about how you smiled between heaves, and how I fell in love with you and how your body rejected vodka cranberries. Oh, and how you said I should stay over, but I refused. And then I wrote about how awesome it was of me to bring you breakfast in bed, and coffee, and how I’ll take the kids to school while you, I don’t know, just kind of exist as someone for me to wax poetic about. There’s also a bit where I say I want to love you till death do we part, like wedding vows, but then, I say that it’s just like our wedding vows! And how your love is worth more than its weight in gold despite love being an intangible concept because I love you so much I no longer understand metaphors! Oh, and the whole thing is set to this really basic little acoustic guitar ja–hey, where are you going?”

8. YFN Lucci ft. PnB Rock – “Everyday We Lit” (#95)
The Question:
What would it sound like if you took someone who hated modern rap, but also didn’t know a lot about it, and told them to make a rap song that sounded most like what they envisioned all modern rap to be?

The Answer:

7. Ed Sheeran – “Shape of You” (#1)
Writing for Uproxx, culture critic Steven Hyden pointed out that nothing’s ventured by making fun of Ed Sheeran in the year of our Lorde 2017. Attacking Ed Sheeran at this point is like shitting on Michael Bay or trash talking Applebee’s: it’s the easiest way to show you have basic (as in minimal) discernment/taste. It’s free points. But then, I listen to “Shape of You,” and more than the overplay, more than the fact that I sometimes think it was written and produced a predictive bot that plugged and chugged a bunch of Spotify pop playlists like that Harry Potter chapter, what I hate about “Shape of You” is what a Self-Insert Fic it is. That Ed Sheeran would be able to sucker a woman in through the combined powers of Van Morrison and the China Buffet is the height of male fantasy, as is imagining that anybody would find a lyric like, “I’m in love with the shape of you” or “And now my bedsheets smell like you” endearing. It might be easy to make fun of Sheeran, but that doesn’t make it wrong.

6. Shawn Mendes – “Mercy” (#54)
Who did this to Shawn Mendes? Who broke this (Siri, how old is Shawn Mendes?) child’s heart to the extent that the only way he thinks he can win them back is through a song whose John Mayer Lite guitar, elbow slamming piano chords, and exaggerated drums are so melodramatic that they venture into cartoonishness? Did this same person not tell him that a world The Disaster Artist at least in development in it is not one where “You’re tearing me apart” can be taken seriously as a lyric? Was it this same soul who convinced squeaky-clean Shawn Mendes that he had to sing with a phlegmy rasp to convey gravitas, or that he had to offer to torture and offer up his life twice for them? Or did they just say “make a terrible song for me” and all it there? I ask because I care, Shawn. I ask because I worry, Shawn. I ask so you don’t appear in the #6 spot again, Shawn.

We wrap up this list tomorrow!

Listmas 2017 Schedule
12/14: Favorite Albums
12/15: The Gibby Fifty (50 Favorite Songs)
12/16: Top Ten Best Hits of 2017 (pt. 1)
12/17: Top Ten Best Hits of 2017 (pt. 2)
12/18: Top Ten Worst Hits of 2017 (pt. 1)
12/19: Top Ten Worst Hits of 2017 (pt. 2)
12/20: The Year In Rant/Odds and Ends

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Top Ten Best Hits of 2017 (5-1)

5. Drake – “Passionfruit” (#65)
Drake got about as close to taking 2017 off as someone can get while still releasing a 22 track project in the same year. More Life didn’t come with any videos (sidenote: for a former child/teen actor, Drake’s videos have always been underwhelming) or a tour or any late night show guest appearances; after its release, the 6 God was arguably the quietest he’s been since 2008. Yet, despite the fact that I’ve seen small-ball indie bands promote their work with more effort, “Passionfruit” stuck because it’s just that good. Equal parts “Hold On, We’re Going Home” and “Too Good,” “Passionfruit” is like, the platonic ideal of a Drake single for this point in his career. He could do nothing, and this thing would still turn up on radio, on streaming, and at the club because of how well it blends sadboy synths, a thumping beat, and pop sensibilities. Not even that kind of doofy intro could sour this fruit.

4. Kendrick Lamar – “DNA.” (#62)
Similar to “Redbone” yesterday, ranking “DNA.” on the best hits list feels like a “letter of the law vs. the spirit of the law” line step in a way that ranking “HUMBLE.” or “LOYALTY.” wouldn’t. Putting it here feels loosely analogous to award show category fraud, like nominating Get Out for Best Comedy or Musical at the Golden Globes. But the damn (ha) thing looks enough like a hit, so I’m counting it. If “HUMBLE.” is Kendrick playing nice and coloring in the lines of a radio single, “DNA.” is him doing a single on his terms of fire and brimstone. For most of its length, “DNA.” is a loud and technically impressive but conventional track, but then you get to that Fox News sample and the countdown, and Kendrick goes in. I feel like every time I write about Kendrick, I inevitably talk about how electrifying those moments are when he decides to just annihilate a track, but the remarkable thing about “DNA.” is that the beat fights back. The last minute is just Kendrick and Mike WiLL Made-It’s beat warring for supremacy in a battle of speaker destroying rasped syllables, bass bombs, and samples. That this thing gained traction all was a testament to Lamar’s pull and people’s willingness to go with it.

3. SZA ft. Travis Scott – “Love Galore” (#80)
Dating in the 2010s is fucking complicated. There have been thousands of essays involving millions of words to catalogue the subject, hours of conversation dedicated to it, an entire library of fiction, and approximately 20% of all social media fixates on this notion. And SZA’s “Love Galore” is probably as incisive as any sprawling essay or conversation in four and a half minutes about modern romance. A lightly tropical R&B track with some actual rhythm and blues to it, SZA hits on the highs and lows of a back and forth will-we-won’t-we-but-we-probably-shouldn’t-but-fuck-it not relationship she has a guy played by capable placeholder Travis Scott. SZA’s vocals hit every important emotional beat here, but I also love just how unflinching this song is. Like, SZA straight up asks why they’re still doing this when dude’s got a woman, and then cops to digging up dirt on her. She doesn’t sugarcoat what she’ll do to maintain control (also, her Genius notations are a blast).

2. Kesha – “Praying” (#67)
Just listen to this song. Kesha’s return to music during her protracted battle with her abuser and King Shit of Fuck Mountain Dr. Luke is a skyward ballad dedicated to the sun finally breaking through again to lead you out of the dark. It’s inspirational for yourself while also knowing that justice will prevail against the person holding you down; that they’ll be pressed to run away and pray for repentance. But even without the context, “Praying” hits like a fucking ton of emotional bricks. It has Kesha’s best ever vocal performance, and that’s even before it hits The Note (you know the one), and the best use of Ryan Lewis–that Ryan Lewis–that you’ll ever see. It’s hard to not be a little cynical about piano and string ballads in a year that has Sam Smith in it, but “Praying”? “Praying” is like kingdom come.

1. Calvin Harris ft. Frank Ocean, Quavo, and Offset – “Slide” (#71)
So, the name of this list is the best hits of the year. And “Slide” just kind of is a perfect song. It was a perfect summer hit all the way in February, and slid (haaaa) right into place during the warm season, and listening to it near constantly all year still hasn’t worn any holes in it. In fact, “Slide” is so great that it even inspired its own mini-list of perfect moments.

5. 0:54: “Do you slide on all your nights like this?” is one of those title lyrics that’s immediate and exciting, but vague and cryptic at the same time. It just sounds like potential for nothing but a good time (it also makes for a killer Instagram caption).
4. 2:28: Few things announced fun in pop music this year like hearing “Off-set!” and his verse on “Slide” is an incredibly tight, memorable performance.
3. 0:50: That twinkling synth shows up for the first time. It’s just a fantastically wistful production flourish that signifies how methodical Harris is on this track.
2. 1:44: This moment, where Frank switches up his delivery for “Wrist on a wrist, a link of chams” and sings “chaaaarms” in that Frank Ocean major sixth, is where his performance clicks on “Slide.” It’s the moment where you realize that Frank, a guy who’s been illusive to the point of detriment before, is showing all the way up on a guest mainstream track (while telegraphing his continued activity for 2017).
1. 1:59: That Frank to Quavo hand-off. The thing with “Slide” is that it was announced as a Calvin Harris, Frank Ocean, and Migos collaboration, and while any two of those could have probably worked, there was skepticism around what all three of them would do. By the two minute mark, “Slide” establishes itself as a capable Ocean and Harris joint, but you’re still wondering how Migos play into it. And then, from out of nowhere comes the smoothest damn transition from Frank to Quavo, who turns in an AutoTune sung verse that perfectly bridges the gap between Frank and Offset. It’s the connective tissue of the track, and what turns a great collaboration into something noteworthy: the best pop hit of 2017.

Listmas 2017 Schedule
12/14: Favorite Albums
12/15: The Gibby Fifty (50 Favorite Songs)
12/16: Top Ten Best Hits of 2017 (pt. 1)
12/17: Top Ten Best Hits of 2017 (pt. 2)
12/18: Top Ten Worst Hits of 2017 (pt. 1)
12/19: Top Ten Worst Hits of 2017 (pt. 2)
12/20: The Year In Rant/Odds and Ends


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Top Ten Best Hits of 2017 (10-6)

Hello, and welcome to day 3 of Listmas! Today, we narrow our sights (and site) on the pop charts for the year. I’ll be honest: 2017 was kind of a rough one on the charts, where it felt like there was, at times, only a handful of different sounds that were catching on. Not that the sounds weren’t interesting, but you could make an argument (as Craig Jenkens does here in a brief but must-read essay) that pop’s found its center sound, and is refusing to budge. That center can feel limiting, but here are 10 hits that didn’t.

The usual disclaimers and rules before we get started:
1. Gotta be on the list: if it didn’t make the cut for Billboard, it didn’t make the cut here.
2. One and done: if it made my 2016 list, it’s tired from this one, so goodbye “Starboy” and “Black Beatles.”
3. Live for the now: holdovers from 2016 that peaked then and charted here because of a slow descent are ineligible. This meant DQing “Closer” and “Can’t Stop the Feeling!” so there weren’t exactly great losses. Now, we’ll do one honorable mention before the list proper.

Honorable Mention: Childish Gambino – “Redbone” (#25)
I love “Redbone” plenty. I remember being blown away when Childish Gambino released it as the 2nd single last year to preview Awaken, My Love! to clarify that, yup, this kinda-jokey rap project was really in the business of ’70s funk for a whole record. I remember trying to match that falsetto when no one was listening. I remember being stoked that it soundtracked the opening credits to Jordan Peele’s Get Out.

None of those are what kicked it onto Billboard’s list. Instead, “Redbone” made the year-end by the jankiest method of internet fame: it became a meme. To be fair, the meme in question is absurd and funny, but y’know, still just a meme. The same thing happened with “Black Beatles” last year, but that translated into airplay in a way it didn’t with “Redbone,” so while I love it, it would violate the spirit of the law to rank it on the list proper.

10. Future – “Mask Off” (#14)
Future and producer Metro Boomin are frequent, frequent collaborators, working on literally dozens of songs together. “Mask Off” might not necessarily be their crowning achievement, but damn, if it isn’t their most fruitful. Metro’s “bass+snare+[random instrument]” beats seem to not miss–“Bank Account” almost made the list based on that guitar alone–but matching that gliding, cinematic pan flute from Tommy Butler’s MLK musical Selma (not that one) with Future is near perfect. Of all the Atlanta trap rappers, Future’s one of the best at weaving through a beat, and I can’t imagine Migos or 21 Savage or anyone sounding this melodic on the track. “Mask Off” wasn’t Metro’s biggest production gig this year, but it handily won the “most heard blasting out of cars” award (on a kind of related note, the Kendrick Lamar remix is peak Kung-Fu Kenny).

9. Lil Uzi Vert – “XO Tour Llif3” (#13)
“XO Tour Llif3” (nope, still not over that spelling) is a loud bash of teenage feelings, but a sneakily well-constructed one. Each part of it ratchets up the drama, from that opening twisting synth to Uzi’s higher and higher yelp to the spent croak he uses on the last chorus; the whole song’s just an angsty joyride. While the “Push me to the edge/All my friends are dead” hook’s gotten a lot of praise, I think that the pre-chorus before that of “I don’t really care if you crrrrry” is the real make because it’s all melodic flourishes. It’s that kind of construction that took “XO Tour Llif3” from SoundCloud one-off to national hit; it’s been years since it felt this cathartic to scream “I’m not okay.”

8. The Weeknd ft. Daft Punk – “I Feel It Coming” (#34)
The Weeknd’s written a hit song that mentions 5:30 AM; now he’s written one that sounds like it. “I Feel It Coming” combines Daft Punk in full-blown “Random Access Memories disco classicist” mode and Abel Tesfaye doing his best Off the Wall-era Michael impression for a cut that’s as warm and reassuring as watching the sun come up with the person with whom you just spent the night. Granted, that reassurance is that you don’t have to worry because Tesfaye’s gonna sex you up right, but there are no drugs involved, so I think that technically counts as progress for a Weeknd tune. Also, I just realized this is the second song in a row that rhymes “eyes” with “lies.” Go figure.

7. J Balvin and Willy William ft. Beyonce – “Mi Gente” (#50)
“mi gente” translates to “my people,” and Willy William (a French DJ and producer) says that the inspiration for the song came from his desire to make something for all people to dance to. And fuck me, did he do it; “Mi Gente” is the kind of jam that impossible to stay still during, blending Latin pop, Afrobeat, and dance for a beat that succeeds because it’s always doing something different. You’ve got what’s become a kind of standard rhythm, but it stops and starts and there are so many different elements always playing off of it that the production is its own, dynamic thing instead of a constant loop like so many other hits. The chemistry between the 3 vocalists is great, too; Colombian singer J Balvin and William fire off solid verses and a traded off pre-chorus, and Beyonce comes through in party-mode as a gracious guest who doesn’t try to overshadow the track. The success of “Mi Gente” is a truly collaborative effort, and for a good cause, too. What’s not to like?

6. Cardi B – “Bodak Yellow” (#24)
Here are some things to know about “Bodak Yellow.” It’s the first solo number 1 by a female rapper in 3 presidencies. It’s inspired by/interpolated from Kodak Black’s 2014 “No Flockin'” a song that I think 12 people have ever heard despite it going platinum earlier this year. It’s likely the only song you’ll see both Janet Jackson and Azealia Banks dance to. It’s the major label debut single of Cardi B, who has two mixtapes, and already had successful careers as a stripper, social media presence, and reality TV star before her breakout year as a rapper. Its producer J White claims to have made the beat in 15 minutes. It has a length of 3 minutes and forty-four seconds, and consists of approximately 686 words bellowed through semi-recently fixed teeth, and in a Bronx accent that sounds ready to kick your ass.

Here’s the final thing to know about “Bodak Yellow:” it is a world-class shit-talker.

Come back tomorrow for the top 5!

Listmas 2017 Schedule
12/14: Favorite Albums
12/15: The Gibby Fifty (50 Favorite Songs)
12/16: Top Ten Best Hits of 2017 (pt. 1)
12/17: Top Ten Best Hits of 2017 (pt. 2)
12/18: Top Ten Worst Hits of 2017 (pt. 1)
12/19: Top Ten Worst Hits of 2017 (pt. 2)
12/20: The Year In Rant/Odds and Ends

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The Gibby Fifty: 50 Favorite Songs of 2017

Hey all, and welcome back for day 2 of Listmas 2017!

I imagine that most of us are going to spend the day abuzz about Star Wars, or staying off the internet to avoid Star Wars spoilers. I get that! So today is going to be a light day for us here at the RAM office, with just the Gibby Fifty: my 50 favorite songs for the year. The rules for this list are brief, but eternal: one song per artist/album, had to come out this year or on an album this year, and if it’s here, it’s not on the Best Pop Songs list that starts tomorrow. I also wrote one or two liners for a couple of songs this year because hey, let’s try something different. The songs are in alphabetical order, and there’s a Ranting About Music #branded playlist at the bottom.

Amber Coffman – “All to Myself”
Arcade Fire – “Creature Comfort” – This thing already sounded like a staple live
Best Ex – “See You Again” – New project from Mariel Loveland of Candy Hearts, pretty idiosyncratic and peppy
Broken Social Scene – “Please Take Me With You”
Bully – “Kills To Be Resistant”
Calvin Harris ft. ScHoolboy Q, PARTYNEXTDOOR, D.R.A.M. – “Cash Out”
Charly Bliss – “DQ” – I swear, you can hear Eva Hendricks sing exclamation point on that last line
Cloud Nothings – “Modern Act”
Drake – “Teenage Fever”
Frank Ocean – “Chanel” – “My guy pretty like a girl” is this year’s best opening lyric
Future – “Draco”/”Hallucinating” – Get you somebody that can do booff
Gorillaz ft. D.R.A.M. – “Andromeda”
Gucci Mane ft. Offset – “Met Gala”
Harmony Woods – “Renovations” 
Japandroids – “No Known Drink or Drug” –  1:44 in this song is like swan diving off 6 Marshall full stacks into someone’s arms, I love it.
Japanese Breakfast – “Road Head”
Jay Som – “Baybee” – How does Melina Duterte do so easily what Kevin Parker broke his ankles trying to do on Currents?
Julien Baker – “Happy to Be Here”
Katie Ellen – “Han”
Kendrick Lamar – “GOD.”
Kississippi – “Cut Yr Teeth” – This song came out like 6 days ago, which is the same number of times I’ve listened to it a day since then
Kitty – “Sugarwater”
Kurt Vile & Courtney Barnett – “Over Everything”
Lana Del Rey – “Love”
LCD Soundsystem – “how do you sleep?” – LCD Soundsystem, an all-time bitter band, have never sounded this acidic, and it’s great to hear Murphy just go scorched earth
Leggy – “Not What You Need”
Lil Uzi Vert ft. Pharrell – “Neon Guts”
Lorde – “Supercut”
The Menzingers – “After the Party”
Migos ft. 2 Chainz – “Deadz”
The National – “I’ll Still Destroy You”
Paramore – “Caught in the Middle” – “I don’t need no help/I can sabotage me by myself” and people really want to say Paramore aren’t emo anymore.
Perfume Genius – “Otherside”
Queens of the Stone Age – “The Evil Has Landed”
Run the Jewels – “Legend Has It” – This song wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for Black Panther
Ryan Adams – “Do You Still Love Me?”
Small Circle – “About You”
The Smith Street Band – “Song For You” – A good, brawny, punk rager
Sorority Noise – “A Better Sun”
St. Vincent – “Sugarboy”
SZA – “Prom”
Taylor Swift – “So It Goes…” – Yeah, yeah
Thunder Dreamer – “You Know Me”
Vince Staples – “745”
The War on Drugs – “Strangest Thing”
Weezer – “Happy Hour” – Weezer basically wrote a Sirius XM single, but I kinda like it?
White Reaper – “Judy French” – This is the perfect “It’s Friday, and school/work’s out” jam
Wolf Alice – “Don’t Delete the Kisses”
The World is a Beautiful Place & I Am No Longer Afraid to Die – “Infinite Steve”
Young Thug ft. Future – “Relationship”

Listmas 2017 Schedule
12/14: Favorite Albums
12/15: The Gibby Fifty (50 Favorite Songs)
12/16: Top Ten Best Hits of 2017 (pt. 1)
12/17: Top Ten Best Hits of 2017 (pt. 2)
12/18: Top Ten Worst Hits of 2017 (pt. 1)
12/19: Top Ten Worst Hits of 2017 (pt. 2)
12/20: The Year In Rant/Odds and Ends

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Ranting About Music’s Top 17 Favorite Albums of 2017

LISTMAS TIME!! Welcome to Listmas, the annual end of the year mania here at Ranting About Music!, where we look back on highs and lows of the year in music. As always, this means you’ll see a new post going up every day for 7 whole days, starting today. It’s a lot of fun for me, and really, it’s a thank you to y’all for reading. I appreciate the continued love and support this site got this year and every year. Today, we’re starting, per tradition, with my favorite albums. Full calendar’s at the end of the piece!

The album class of 2017 is an interesting beast. There were a lot of great albums out across multiple genres, but it didn’t have that thing 2016 did where it sometimes felt like there was a new capital M Masterpiece popping up somewhere every few weeks. You’ve seen this translate to a little more diversity in 2017’s list toppers. Like, yeah, there are still two records that have shown up on about every list I’ve seen (including this one because I can only be so contrarian), but it’s not to the point where you can guess everyone’s Top 5.

Instead, this has been what I’ve thought of as “the year of the 8.5.” It’s been a relatively light year on albums that make you say, “Yes, that is the one from that artist,” but it’s been really easy to keep this year’s best in rotation. Each record, from the moody soundscapes to the punk scorchers to the intimate strummers, has songs that meant a lot to me, and I hope they can mean a lot to you too, if you check’em out. I always like to call this my list of obsessions. We’re gonna do a lucky 7 on the honorary mentions, and then the top ten, m’kay?

17. Perfume Genius – No Shape
16. Japandroids Near to the Wild Heart of Life
15. Japanese Breakfast – Soft Sounds from Another Planet
14. Vince Staples – Big Fish Theory
13. St. Vincent – MASSEDUCTION
12. Wolf Alice – Visions of a Life
11. Charly Bliss – Guppy

10. Future – HNDRXX
Empty space. That’s always the first thing that hits me about
HNDRXX: that an album by Future, a rapper who has specialized in relentless trap music for the last 3ish years, opens with space empty but for abstract vocalizing. Over the album’s expansive run time, Future uses that space for some of his best songs, shedding aggro-trap rap for a bunch of songs that lean more into R&B and interstellar pop. There are plenty of capable songs here, like always, but the record goes on a run midway that’s damn near bulletproof from “Use Me” to “Hallucinating” that Future’s recent output just can’t keep up with. He sounds invested on HNDRXX, too, like a man finally coming out of a purple haze with a rekindled flare for life. Future’s spent years telling us he was among the stars; HNDRXX makes him sound like he might not be alone up there for once.

9. Lorde – Melodrama
I keep going back and forth with Melodrama. On one hand, it’s as perfectly executed a mainstream pop album as you’ll see this year (he wrote on the 4th anniversary of Beyonce’s surprise release from orbit) that takes more risks than it had to, but on the other hand, I feel like the hype celebrates this record for being the stone cold classic it isn’t because it’s kind of hard to root against Lorde. It comes down to the music for me, and fuck it, “The Louvre” is such a good song that it’s taught me how to spell “Louvre,” I’m still tickled that the synth panic on “Hard Feelings” gets to exist on a big tent pop album, “Sober II/Melodrama” slaps, and “Supercut” is a top 5 pick for song of the year. If Melodrama gets remembered as Lorde’s best album, I’ll be a little bummed, but it still left a mark on me all year long.

8. [tie] Julien Baker – Turn Out the Lights/Sorority Noise – You’re Not As _____ As You Think
These two are tied because I ended up thinking about them together. Granted, part of that is because the two artists know each other (Baker gets a lyrical nod on “A Better Sun,” Sorority Noise frontman Cameron Boucher plays woodwinds on Turn Out the Lights), but these records feel like two different paths to the same end of coping with trauma.

These records–hell, these artists–are emotionally beat back by substance abuse, mental illness, and the suicides of others; and are tasked with finding their will and self-worth in the fall out. They’re also both more than a little Christian, and search for absolution through musical catharsis. Baker’s singer-songwriter approach favors hushed piano and guitar balladry with pensive lyricism, while Sorority Noise utilize battered pop-punk to describe being mentally bombed out but resilient. Both of these records face their demons in isolation, and they’re both more than a little devastating (okay, they’re fucking devastating), but ultimately, Julien Baker and Sorority Noise see the value of others, and more importantly, themselves.

7. Kitty – Miami Garden Club
Kitty (“Kitty Pryde” when she was viral) took a long journey to get to Miami Garden Club from her tumblr cloud rap days. She developed and refined her persona and voice. She went from journal-centric cloud rap to trance to EDM. She moved a bunch. And all that work has culminated with Miami Garden Club, which blends everything she’s done, and moves it somewhere almost post-pop. There are some conventional tracks on here, like slurry electro-popper “Running Away,” ‘80s sci-fi jam “Asari Love Song,” and squelching rap banger “Mass Text Booty Call,” but I wasn’t able to get this thing out of my head because most of the album lives in the abstract areas between pop, rap, EDM, R&B, and even video game-y chiptune. It might just be my ignorance, but what do you call a song like “New Leaf” that sounds like trance meets pop and strips both genres to the essentials? Or “If U Wanna Come Over,” which matches floating synths and robot noises to rap rhythms? Honestly speaking, Miami Garden Club reminds me of Blond(e) in that both records are the sound of an artist not caring about what anyone else is doing, and going their own way. We could use more of that.

6. Paramore – After Laughter
Paramore’s fifth record snuck up on me. When it was released following a lightning quick campaign in May, I liked it plenty, although I thought it didn’t quite match their 2013 self-titled effort. But these songs stick. I found myself coming back to “Rose-Colored Boy,” “Told You So,” “Pool,” “Fake Happy,” “Idle Worship,” and especially “Caught in the Middle” throughout the year, and stacking all these songs next to each other only strengthened their appeal. There’s nuance to this record, too; really listen to how many drum rolls and fills are splashing about in “Grudges,” the vocals buttressing “Idle Worship,” or synths on “Told You So,” and tell me Paramore didn’t secretly make one of the year’s catchiest headphone albums. Now, throw in Hayley Williams’ powerhouse vocals and darkest lyrics over that, and you’ve got a potent, memorable cocktail about letting yourself feel how you feel while still moving forward. After Laughter isn’t just dancing with tears in your eyes, but finding the people and things that keep you dancing.

5. SZA – Ctrl
Ctrl’s name works on multiple levels. At its most metatextual, it reasserts SZA’s control over her career, which looked just a year ago like it was going to flame out before she could capitalize on the promises of a few EPs, guest spots due to executive meddling. On another level, the name reflects how the album is a constant back and forth about who maintains control in and of a relationship. And finally, ctrl is a record about the consequences of maintaining (or hell, just trying to maintain) control in your life. It’s an album that doesn’t shy away from handling the shit that makes you feel insecure, but it also plays with the highs and lows of where those insecurities take you. Despite the themes, though, ctrl is an often breezy and melodic listen (what’s the last major TDE record that wasn’t a major head rocker?) with a wildly expressive voice leading the charge. There’s nothing less than great in this record’s first seven tracks, and SZA grounds the spacier back 7, too–just listen to how she does on the interstellar “Anything.” This has been SZA’s breakout year, and one listen to Ctrl is enough to say she deserves it. Debuts rarely sound this commanding.

4. The World Is a Beautiful Place & I Am No Longer Afraid to Die – Always Foreign
The World Is a Beautiful Place & I Am No Longer Afraid to Die came back to kick it. The Connecticut emo collective knew they couldn’t blow their expansive sound on Harmlessness even further out for their next record, so they decided to fold it in on itself. The result is their tightest work musically (“The Future” and “Dillion and Her Son” are still just impossibly catchy two and a half minute poppy punk songs) that matches their most direct lyrical effort. Always Foreign is a record of binaries: it has brief and sprawling cuts that are equally impacting, and it has their most vitriolic lyrics, yet also, most empathetic; they’re a band where nothing feels off-limits. And, for a year with a frankly sometimes exhausting number of Trump records, this one felt layered. Always Foreign contends with not being able to save everyone, but treasuring who you have and lamenting who you’ve lost.

3. Harmony Woods – Nothing Special
“I think I might need you” goes the recurring lyric on Harmony Woods’ (led by Sofia Verbilla) debut record, a half-hour long document of falling in and falling out with someone after desperately trying to make it work. The record’s name doesn’t relate to its quality (no shit), but to the universality of a relationship’s arc, from the pain-in-the-neck struggle of getting to a paramour’s house just to realize it was worth it once you’re there, to watching TV so you can be together, to working with them emotionally…to knowing you can’t do this anymore, and what you’ve built won’t sustain either of you. Verbilla tells an aching and affecting story through personable vocals, repeating lyrical motifs, and in-the-room production (care of Modern Baseball’s Jake Ewald and Ian Farmer behind the console–Bren Lukens from the same band plays lead guitar).

Nothing Special has the hallmarks of a Philly record: it’s treble-friendly, punchy, and willfully zig-zags between singer-songwriter and punk, and stands out because of Verbilla’s ambition. Harmony Woods is self-described on band camp as “lo-fi by circumstance,” and the album’s last minute epics–I’m thinking of “Parking Lot” and “Renovations” in particular–attest to that. I can’t wait to hear the new adventures in hi-fi that could come from this group (sidenote: should you buy this one, which I truly suggest you do, I advise grabbing the physical, if only because this thing has my favorite liner notes/inner art design of the year).

2. Kendrick Lamar – DAMN.
If you told me Kendrick Lamar was gonna follow up 2015’s jazz-rap masterpiece To Pimp a Butterfly with a Southern Rap-tinged, palindromic odyssey that owes as much to the Old Testament as it does kung-fu movies, I probably wouldn’t have been that surprised until you told me people would go fucking nuts for it. DAMN. took on mainstream success Lamar’s previous records could have only dreamed of, but it’s hardly a kissass record or just a collection of woke bangers. DAMN. still looks over its shoulder plenty, it just feels more user-friendly because there aren’t any Kashami Washington sax freak outs or cassette tape skits gumming things up, and the singles are a little shinier. DAMN. doesn’t play it straight: there’s still a seven minute/three suite song, a two-parter with U2, a track that’s more blues than rap, and freeform slam poetry over Thundercat basslines. And while there’s still plenty of barbs about anti-Blackness in America, Lamar’s focus shifts inward this time. He worries about doing good works with his time on Earth. He battles ego, terror, and vices while trying to uphold truth and loyalty and wondering about his relationship with a righteous God. That he’s able to do this while still firing on all cylinders and perfecting that rasping, apocalyptic flow is, itself, basically a miracle. So pray for him, he’s dying of thirst.

1. Jay Som – Everybody Works
And to think this thing was made in a bedroom.

Jay Som’s Everybody Works is one of those records that clicked right away as “That One:” a document where you can hear an artist stretch in every direction without missing a stride. It’s indie pop, categorically speaking, but really, virtually any kind of pop or rock fan would find something to love here. If the reflective, pocket-sized anthem “The Bus Song” doesn’t do it, maybe “1 Billion Dogs,” a post-shoegaze pop rager with a gloriously noisy guitar solo will, or any one of Everybody Works’ 8 other fully release songs. This is Melina Duterte’s 2nd full release, but she already has a commanding knowledge of dynamic songwriting and incisive lyricism that makes for an album full of highlights like “For Light.” Duterte’s lack of genre fealty is refreshing, too; she’s just making the music she wants, and if that’s going to include stuff like technicolor psych-pop explosion “Baybee” and the Lonesome Crowded West crunch of “Take It,” I’m more than happy to keep listening. Everybody Works is an essential listen not just for how well it’s made, but for how well it cut through the noise this year; it’s about as welcoming as a pile of familiar blankets.

Listmas 2017 Schedule
12/14: Favorite Albums
12/15: The Gibby Fifty (50 Favorite Songs)
12/16: Top Ten Best Hits of 2017 (pt. 1)
12/17: Top Ten Best Hits of 2017 (pt. 2)
12/18: Top Ten Worst Hits of 2017 (pt. 1)
12/19: Top Ten Worst Hits of 2017 (pt. 2)
12/20: The Year In Rant/Odds and Ends

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