• Alex Smith

Livewire's Best Singles of 2017

Livewire have decided on their singles of the year! Through meticulous surveys and discussions we came out with our top 5 singles and our number one pick - on top of this we've thrown in some individual responses from Livewire members for your reading pleasure...

Livewire's No.1: Dua Lipa - New Rules: In New Rules, the world’s population both far and wide found everything they were looking for in an electropop song – a catchy tropical house rhythm along with 3 very helpful rules on how to get over that ex boyfriend of yours. Dua Lipa brings a feisty vocal to an extremely catchy instrumental, leading to an anthem that almost anyone anywhere will know the words to. New Rules was the first single by a female solo artist to reach the top spot since Adele’s Hello in 2015 and for good reason indeed. Along with a pretty iconic music video that helped launched the single into major success, this catchy tune provided a summer soundtrack for lonely hearts far and wide. As Dua’s reign over tropical pop continues, we anticipate what single is coming next from her album – although if it’s anything like the previous, it’s guaranteed to be another stellar success. There was truly no other song that could be our number one pick of the year.

Sigrid - Don't Kill My Vibe: You’d have to be living in a cave to have not heard Sigrid’s debut single ‘Don’t Kill My Vibe’. Ever since its release at the start of the year its been played on pretty much every major radio station, and the Norwegian artist has picked up a horde of fans form it. With this single resulting in her playing massive festivals and gigs like Glastonbury, it’s clear that the track is something special. From the calm piano at the start to the massive chorus at the end, there is not a moment where you lose interest. The mix of piano and electric backing perfectly accompanies Sigrid’s flawless voice, creating an ideal pop song. Though being a perfect pop number, it is at no point derivative of the pop music that came before it, its full of originality showcasing the song as perfect example of the pop music that is to come. At this point I don’t think anything could kill her vibe as she’s moving from strength to strength and this single will always be the start of a great artist.

Drake - Passionfruit: As one of the world’s biggest artists, Drake naturally had an incredible amount of hype surrounding his ‘playlist’ More Life. Passionfruit, from this project, is by far one of the catchiest and most danceable tracks this year. It exudes a tropical vibe in each pulse of the beat, with steel drums, high pitched synths and little claps and hi hats littered throughout creating a toe-tapping delight. Drake’s vocals are supple and emotional, but very simplistic making it easy to sing along to. There is a certain beauty to its repetition and monotony - it encapsulates you in a relaxing world where you are engrossed in Drake’s thoughts and issues, and is the perfect track to put on repeat throughout both good and bad nights. When looking back at some of the most iconic and visible tracks of the year, this is most certainly one of them, as it has almost universal appeal and a vibe that anyone can get down to.

Camila Cabello - Havana: I think it’s pretty clear that Havana was a pretty big single in 2017 and now a firm favourite on most radio stations and dance floors alike! Yet did you know that Havana is named after Havana - the largest capital city, province, major port and leading commercial centre in Cuba? Camila Cabello does a superb job in channelling those Latino vibes and even shows off some of her moves in the music video that accompanies the single! She is also accompanied by the American rapper Young Thug who has also done rather well for himself this year too! The single was actually released as the albums second single ahead of her debut studio album “Camila” due to drop next year (stay tuned), but due to the spontaneous instant success Havana is now in its leading righteous place! With no album to her name it’s incredible that Camila Cabello is now the longest running female number one single in the UK since Adele as Havana spent a comfy five weeks at number one! Safe to say I think all of our hearts are in Havana, ooh-na-na!

Harry Styles - Sign of the Times: There are solo debuts, then there are solo debuts. Sign of the Times definitely falls into the latter category. With nods to the likes of Queen and David Bowie, it represents a huge departure from the music of One Direction and sees Styles carve out his solo career in a direction which feels genuine and of his own design. The authenticity of Sign of the Times cements Harry Styles’ position as the people’s member of One Direction: out of the five of them, Harry is the one you want to be your mate. This single also shakes off the manufactured-boyband image by flaunting his impressive vocal range, from its tender start to huge choruses at the end it feels like Harry has grown up in the 12 months since 1D went their separate ways. With very few band members behind him, Styles’ voice is star of the show. Honesty, genuine influences, and vocal prowess make Sign of the Times a worthy top 5 single of 2017.

It’s been hard to keep track of the great singles that have come out this year; it seems to be constant. So, finding 5 tracks has been difficult and I’m certain I have missed some worthy singles, but I can assure you all the ones I’ve chosen are some toasty numbers. The first single is by a band who feature on Livewire’s Ones to Watch 2018 and with very good reason. ‘Living Alone’ by Bad Sounds is an upbeat number filled to the brim with influences from R’n’B, hip-hop and pop. Another upbeat pop number which made my list was ‘Up All Night’ by Beck. Though not usually being one for overly upbeat music, this song never fails to make me feel glowing from those sweet grooves. The quiet pre-chorus, the catchy chorus, the discoy instrumentation; this song just has everything a perfect pop song needs.

For my next three tracks I move away from pop music and with Atlanta Garage Rocker’s the Black Lips I’m moving very far away from a perfected pop sound. They instead create a laid back 60’s sounding song in their single ‘Crystal Night’. The slide guitar, dreamy lyrics, imperfect vocals and subtle piano make me swoon every time I listen to the smooth ballad.

The second I heard that (Sandy) Alex G was releasing a new album it was certain I’d enjoy it and boy I did. Lead single ‘Bobby’ was not was I expected but it definitely delivered. The alt-country harmonies and instrumentation perfectly suit Alex G’s voice, and lead the way for his almost romantic lyrics. The last track on my list was only released a week ago and I might still be in my honeymoon phase with the song but I’m certain its earned its place. ‘Tonya Harding’ by Sufjan Stevens is a beautiful piece about the controversial figure skater Tonya Harding. With simple backing are able to hear Sufjan’s elegantly crafted lyrics “well this world is a cold one, but it takes one to know one” sung through his always stunningly delicate vocals.

XO TOUR Llif3 starts off by offering a surprisingly vunerable and introspective song, packaged with one of the biggest and obsessive beats I’ve heard this year – not to mention a catchy as hell hook. A$AP Ferg’s Plain Jane delivers some brutal and candid verses over possibly the hardest beat of the year courtesy of Kirk Knight. The glistening and summery Slide is next, with the always beautiful voice of Frank Ocean combining with two great verses from Quavo and Offset. Kendrick Lamar once again just misses the top spot, but DNA. is a force to be reckoned with. The punching beat works amazingly in tandem with the subject matter, but the standout moment is the beat switch, which is one of the best I have ever heard. It is, however, one of the legends of hip-hop that takes the top spot.

The Story of O.J. is a track that doesn’t restrict itself, and provides the defining social commentary of 2017. An artist of Jay-Z’s stature makes this an incredible important song, and the hook is beyond powerful. The themes in track are dealt with fantastically, with Jay deploying his trademark rap style to discuss his issues with how newer rappers use their wealth, his life decisions, and how Black Americans experience America. The beat is gorgeous and intertwines a fantastic sample of Nina Simon’s Four Women that deepens the impact of the track – but the music video is what puts it above all else. It has absolutely no subtlety, utilising stereotypical imagery to forward to the meaning behind the song candidly and without holding back. When people say that Jay-Z is irrelevant and past his prime, The Story of O.J. is more than enough evidence for the contrary.

2017 was literally oozing with killer singles that I kind of found it tricky to nail down my top 5. Never the less, I had to give credit to the prolific returns of Calvin Harris, Gorillaz, Paramore and Marmozets. Throw in “Dirt” by Cardiff grime-punk group Astroid Boys, and you’ve got a watertight year of diverse singles.

I won’t lie to you, though, it took me quite a while to get on board with the new Paramore. Almost four years since their self-titled album and what we got with “After Laughter” was… more of the same? Except, it wasn’t. Hayley Williams’ songwriting became ever more sincere and only recently have I finally understood the brilliance of “Fake Happy” which deals with mental health issues in a candid and up-beat way, much like BMTH’s “Happy Song”. But seriously, you’d have to be crazy to not at least enjoy the plastic 80s edge of “Hard Times” which, if anything, nails the sound that bands like Fickle Friends, Busted and The 1975 have kind of got going over the past few years. In short, it’s a banger.

The brainchild of Damon Albarn, Gorillaz also breathed in a handful of genuinely perfect singles, although at the extent of releasing an over-saturated album, “Humanz”. However, despite the criticisms that “Humanz” contained ‘too many features’, it definitely managed to summarize the sound of 2017 with collaborators including Danny Brown, Vince Staples, DRAM, Pusha T, De La Soul, Jenny Beth and so much more. But all in all, the lead single “Andromeda” was the most Gorillaz-sounding single on the entire album and I had it on repeat for months. It’s an album that will certainly need revisiting in a year or two, but with the deluxe edition containing 26 tracks it just felt like too much. Cut it down to about 10 and it could’ve been my album of the year.

I love a song that builds and Ring from Formation is definitely A Song That Builds. The fact it takes about six minutes to do so is great and the fact it does so with a strange cowbell-based breakdown along the way is something I just generally want more of in music. Aside from being released as a single, the song also makes for a great album climax and really stands out as a high point on an album that can go from fab to cringe-worthy in the space of half a song. Orthodox Man probably has some of my favourite lyrics from Blanaevon, especially with the inclusion of a great bare hands/bear hands pun in the second verse. It’s a song about a seemingly unhealthy level of devotion to another person which normally would be sad, but the song just makes me want to dance.

With Hunting, Little Comets manage to fit so much fun into such a short space of time. Apparently the song was written in the space of 5 minutes and is from the perspective of someone who loved to hunt foxes until the ban came in. A ridiculous premise for an equally ridiculous song that I would challenge anyone not to smile at when listening to it. Pretty much the definition of a bop. Everything about blaze is tight. I would make an argument that this song is the best thing to come out of its genre since Jellyfish, which makes it even more impressive that Zuli’s music is mainly the work of just one guy. The harmonies are completely on point and it grooves along better than I think flowery power pop has any right to. If you don’t listen to this song and instantly want to go to the beach then I’m judging you. Father John Misty’s vocals are a focal point of every song he writes and Total Entertainment Forever is no exception, however in this case the lyrics and instrumentation really do it for me. Lyrically, the song stays firmly in the realm of ‘technology isn’t bad, people are bad’, which stops it from crossing over into tired Banksyisms. Smatterings of brass are always a winner, especially when they don’t remind you of circa 2006 Mark Ronson and instead make you wish you played an instrument. This is peak Misty and it’s exciting to think of what tone his next single will take.

The lead single from MGMT’s forthcoming record, and the title track, ‘Little Dark Age’, marks the band’s welcome return to the face of pop music with glistening might. The track is layered, golden, dark, and addictive, the funky bassline and hook-stuffed chorus making the song simply repeatable. It’s evident the band have moved on from the heights of 2009’s ‘Kids’ and ‘Electric Feel’; they’ve evolved, and they’ve evolved so well their new music blends into the distorted pop style around today with stark personality.

Another lead single from a new album, ‘Machine’ was the first single from The Horrors’ fifth record ‘V’. ‘Machine’ is swathed in ‘80s nostalgia, the loop of percussion opening the track announcing the single with heady, mouthwatering tension. Frontman Farris Badwan leads the track with his instantly recognisable sultry vocal, and this song proves the band still have it. The groove and funk of Portugal. The Man’s lead single ‘Feel It Still’, with samples taken from ‘Please Mr. Postman’, is something to be in awe of. It’s a single with passion, with psychedelia, with pump. The song is electric and danceable. Really, it’s just such a good song for any occasion: dancing, eating, casual listening; the pop romp is suited for anything.

There’s a theme emerging here: lead singles from phenomenal albums are dominating my end-of-year-list. But The Big Moon’s ‘Formidable’ is one song that is possibly the year’s most noticeable earworm. The recognisable voice from frontwoman Juliette Jackson and the band’s effervescent formula of upbeat indie coalesce in this perfect indie pop track. To top it all off, what a surprise! Another lead single from an album. This time, it’s Marika Hackman, with her clever, witty, and wry ‘Boyfriend’. The lo-fi dreamy guitars of the track and the tight lyrics set her out as a songwriter with a bite.

Making Fever-era Kylie Minogue sound more like Nick Cave, is Australia’s Confidence Man whose single ‘Better Sit Down’ personifies the word banger in every sense. Both camp and ingenious, Confidence Man’s formula of witty, Fat Boyslim-esque pop music makes their music whatever you want it to be and Better Sit Down is by no means an exception. An artist who seems to show no aversion to incessant productivity is Kamasi Washington and standalone single, Truth, elevates him to an almost prodigal level of musicianship that makes his output an artefact to truly treasure.

One of the hardest things for a lot of bands is matching their live sound on record so as one of the country’s best live acts, it was always going to be interesting to see what Flamingods’ next release could be. As the first 10” single from Dan Carey’s label, Speedy Wunderground, their reworking of 2014’s Hypoerborea is psychedelic in every sense of the world. A 13-minute odyssey that blends relentless motorik beats and polyrhythms, it was arguably the track that floored me the most over the last 12 months and made me begin to rethink my existence.

Completely unfazed by the myriad of side-projects and sense of anticipation that proceeded 2013’s, 6 Feet Beneath the Moon, King Krule’s Dum Surfer marks a triumphant return to form which provides his strongest and most dancefloor-ready single since he first stumbled into the public gaze. Aside from being a great track and being played nearly every day by my housemates, it also warranted one of the year’s most exciting (and slightly bizarre) Jools Holland appearances. 2017 also saw the return of Perth psychedelic band, Pond and whilst their 7th studio album, The Weather, isn’t necessarily their most consistent, the single Paint Me Silver is one that’s hard to dislike. Based around a floaty, slowed-down Todd-Rundgren sample which works as the backdrop for a rather lovely vocal melody; the song highlights their aptitude for catchy, psychotropic pop music. Not a mention of Tame Impala in sight…

2017 has been a frustrating year for many reasons, so it’s no surprise that the year’s standout singles make you want to head butt walls and leap off amplifiers. ‘Yuk Foo’ is the perfect punk song that Wolf Alice have been teasing since ‘Moaning Lisa Smile’, and also the bravest lead single of the year. Grammy-nominated hardcore band Code Orange usually sound like a goat being thrown into a cement mixer (in a good way), but on ‘Bleeding in the Blur’ they proved that they’re at their best when more melodic with Reba Meyers on lead vocals.

On the title track of the latest Rattlesnakes album, Frank Carter followed through on his promise to deliver the sonic equivalent of “watching all your friends and family eviscerated before your eyes. All the things you knew and loved, gone”.

The kings of British metal, Architects released their first single since the tragic death of primary songwriter Tom Searle. Not only is ‘Doomsday’ one that Tom would undoubtedly be proud of, it’s also massive enough to infiltrate daytime Radio 1 and decimate the arenas that Architects will soon be headlining.

Don’t Kill My Vibe is the pop banger we never knew wanted, but turns out we really needed. It’s as feelgood, infectious and energetic as Sigrid herself, the 21-year-old from Norway who broke into the big time seemingly out of nowhere. Behind the scenes, however, loads of major labels were battling it out to sign her – and rightly so, what a debut single, what a voice, what a banger. Speaking of feelgood, Wolf Alice’s Don’t Delete The Kisses was my song of the summer – as Ellie Rowsell herself described it so eloquently, it’s a ‘balls out motherfucking love song bitches’ and it’s just so damn wholesome. I love the rhythm and the poetry of the lyric ‘I look at your picture and I smile, how awful is that I’m like a teenage girl - I might as well write all over my notebook that you rock my world’, and completely unashamed mushy it is.

When I first heard Grant Green, I remember tweeting that it was a masterclass in writing the perfect song or something like that. Mr Jukes, or better known as the genius that is Jack Steadman teamed up with the late Charles Bradley, who provides incredible vocals on this track, to create this soulful, warming, life-affirming track. I can hear remnants of album 4 Bombay Bicycle Club in the drumbeat and a whole world of other influences in the brass and soul and I have listened to it countless times. Confidence Man were one of my favourite new discoveries all year, and Bubblegum was the track that introduced me to their weird and wonderful world of colour and dancing and sass. Finally, Rex Orange County released a lot of very good songs this year, and Best Friend is certainly one of them. Another feelgood, loved-up track, it showcases Rex’s vocal, instrumental and songwriting talent perfectly.

Slide by Calvin Harris, Frank Ocean & Migos was not just the greatest single of year, but also the last stage of a renaissance arc for all three artists involved. Calvin, newly escaped from the throes of Taylor Swift, rebranded his image from that of an electro-pop sellout to the new savior of 70’s funk with one deft hook, with Frank Ocean impeccably beginning a year of critically acclaimed singles, and Migos continuing their unparalleled pop-crossover run - they even let Takeoff have a verse. Big Fish by Vince Staples brought West Coast funk to the internet generation, warping a G-Funk beat through layers of distortion and bass, utilising the biggest hook of Vince’s career so far with his verse the most effortlessly perfect on the resulting album.

Grant Green by Mr Jukes with Charles Bradley gave the world the hardest to google soul-throwback of the year (is Grant Green the artist or the song? Is the band Mr Jukes or Charles Bradley? Who is Mr Jukes, anyway?) - funky, raw, fired up, the last thing you’d expect from the guy who released ‘Flaws’ all those years ago. STAR by Brockhampton emerged as the ultimate banger in the small but distinct category of hip-hop songs that reference Bruce Campbell from The Evil Dead & Secret Agent Cody Banks, a characteristic example of Brockhamptons pop sensibilities fused with their trademark wonky trap production and infectious energy. Lastly, King Krule’s Czech One rounds off my favourite singles, capturing the sleepy soulful vibes that mark his music apart from any other guitar acts right now. Wave goodbye to the Billy Bragg guitars on ‘Easy Easy’ or the weird Tom Waits rapping of ‘A Lizard State’, say hello to a more mature Eastern European Jazz bop.

(Real Death by Mount Eerie is also devastating - while not a track that I initially put on my favourite tracks of the year, it’s presence seems to haunt me as we end a year of political corruption and personal tragedies as the most honest song of the last few.)

Check out these songs as well as a selection of our other favourites in our Singles of the Year Playlist:

#singlesoftheyear #music #newmusic

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