If 2017 has taught us anything it’s that some underdogs will shine, if given a chance.
Reflective of recent Grammy nominations, SZA and Cardi B had an amazing year with an album and single (respectively) that showcased serious Black girl magic. We also got iconic projects from Kendrick Lamar with DAMN., JAY-Z with his introspective 4:44 and Daniel Caesar’s Freudian.
To summarize this epic year in music, we enlisted five women in the industry with great ears and opinions on 2017’s best songs.
Lyndsey McFail, BMI Social Media Manager
SZA – “20 Something”
As my 20-somethings came to an end this year, I carried this song with me. Part of me wanted to close this chapter, but the other half of me wanted to reflect on everything I’ve accomplished during my 20s and the things I am still striving for.
Aaron Abernathy – “Now A Days | Human Actions Matter (Leviticus)”
This old soul is just what the doctor ordered when it comes to “love” music. Abernathy’s album makes me hopeful in the midst of the current state of the world. His music not only gives me Marvin Gaye “What’s Going On” vibes but also hope, for a better future and more understanding among us.
Calvin Harris, Frank Ocean and Migos – “Slide”
This was my favorite song of the summer. Between Calvin Harris’ beats and production, Frank’s raw vocals and Migos’ adlibs, it just exudes summertime fun whenever I listen to it.
Sampa the Great – “Black Girl Magik”
Not to be confused with Sampha (featured on Solange’s “Don’t Touch My Hair”), Sampa the Great is on the list because her raps are poetic. Overall, the sound is different and refreshing.
Future – “Mask Off”
The song may reference recreational prescription drugs but the beat was out of sight. So out of sight that I spent an equal amount of time listening to the original sample, “Prison Song” by Carlton Williams that came out in 1976.
Sylvia Obell, Buzzfeed Entertainment Reporter
Cardi B – “Bodak Yellow”
When it came to bad b*tch anthems this year, Cardi’s magnum opus was in first place both in our hearts and on the charts. It’s lyrics are as gritty and empowering as Bardi herself. My favorite kind of feminism. Here’s hoping our 2018 is as great as Cardi’s 2017.
SZA ft. Travis Scott – “Love Galore”
If there was ever a song that perfectly describes how frustrated dating in the digital age will leave you, it’s this one. “Why you bother me when you know you don’t want me?” may be the greatest question ever posed in this history of human existence. Shakespeare ain’t got shit on SZA.
Kendrick Lamar ft. Rihanna – “Loyalty”
As a one Savon Garrison said in Love Jones, “Falling in love aint shit. Somebody please talk to me about how to stay there.” I’ve always believed LOYALTY is part of that answer, so I was thrilled to hear a love song that centered around that most-important trait. The fact that it came from the brilliant Kendrick Lamar and magnificent Rihanna – aka the collaboration I never knew I always needed – was icing on the cake.
JAY-Z – “4:44”
Not since “Song Cry” has Hov been so vulnerable about a romantic heartbreak on a record. Except this time, we know exactly who all the players are, making finally hearing Jay’s truth a harrowing experience for Carter family fans everywhere, amplified by No ID’s amazing production and the perfect sample from Hannah Williams and the Affirmations’ “Late Nights and Heart Breaks.”
Daniel Caesar – “Get You”
In a time where young male R&B artists are more likely to croon about sex than love, Daniel Caesar’s 2017 Freudian album was a breath of fresh air. It’s full of genuine, pure, love songs and it’s top single “Get You” reigns supreme. If you don’t believe me just ask all the men across the U.S. who have proposed while Caesar performs it on tour.
Tamika Young, Spotify Communications Manager
Bruno Mars – “Versace on the Floor”
Bruno is just a musical genius. This is a song that gives me a 90’s R&B vibe. It’s on constant repeat so much; it was one of my top songs on Spotify this year.
G-Easy, ASAP Rocky and Cardi B – “No Limit”
This just that puts me in a good mood and gives me an instant pick-me-up towards the end of the day. When you hear that beat, you can’t help but get out your seat.
Ed Sheeran – “Shape of You”
This song is the one I listen to (constantly) when I’m getting ready for a night on the town. The touches of a Caribbean beat, the lyrics —everything is perfect about this song. This will certainly be on my top list for many years to come.
SZA – “Love Galore”
SZA’s voice is just unlike anything I’ve heard in a long time —this song is timeless.
Kendrick Lamar ft. Zacari – “Love”
No list would be complete without at least one Kendrick song. It was hard to just pick one song because this entire album is good from start to finish.
Rachel Hislop, Okayplayer Editor-in-Chief
Moses Sumney – “Plastic”
The first time I heard “Plastic” was during the Season 1 finale of Insecure. It was a haunting scene, Issa, holding the pieces to her life together in one hand, and her phone in the other. I remember distinctly feeling a pang of emotion as the song played, It was my first introduction to the beauty of Moses Sumney. Months later I nursed a beer at a bar on the Upper West Side as an acoustic guest strummed his guitar and sang “My wings are made of plastic.” In any form of delivery, “Plastic” is easily one of the most vulnerable songs I’ve ever encountered. Aromanticisim’s release would come later in the year (in September) and prove to be a perfect home for “Plastic,” nestled in songs equally as delicate in construction.
Daniel Caesar ft. Kali Uchis – “Get You”
If I needed to convince anyone of the magic of Daniel Caesar, I would simply queue up “Get You” from the bridge when he hits an effortless howl of “whoooo?” There’s a soul behind the run that you can’t quite verbalize. Maybe it’s because I fell in love this year, maybe it’s because this song celebrates the purity of finding a match that feels like a stroke of pure luck, I don’t know, but this 22-year-old sings as if he’s lived through cycles of love, war and heartbreak —and came out on the other side embodying a soul formed centuries before him.
SZA – “20 Something”
CTRL is one of those projects that will taste like the year I endured every time I revisit it. Admittedly, “20 Something” isn’t a standout when considering the album as a whole body of work, but as I entered and trudged through the final year of my twenties, it was exactly what I needed. These twenties were a whirlwind of exploration, heartbreak and reinvention, a true frustration of a decade draped in wins and losses that SZA accurately addresses on this track. May God bless these 20 somethings for real.
Sampha – “Plastic 100 C”
I am a writer, and an empath, so lyrics that provide a fast track to my feelings are always winners. Sampha touches both. “My vital organs are beating through. My ribcage opened, my heart ballooned,” the UK native has a way with words and a delicately controlled falsetto to accompany. How refreshing to hear a man so bare and open about emotions, hurt, loss and all of the life that happens in-between. Sampha is a jewel.
Drake – “Passionfruit”
Unpopular opinion: My favorite form of Drake is him dwelling in his feelings, (obviously a theme in my music taste). In comparison to his other bodies of work, More Life was a lackluster offering from the Toronto native, but “Passionfruit” was an upbeat warm breeze that was actually the sleeper song of the summer. The track opens with a DJ Moodyman sample that sounds like stickiness of a basement party and then floats into Drake doing what he does best: Singing about heartbreak while making you want to dance. It’s a strange juxtaposition that feels like home.
Scottie Beam, Media Personality
Kendrick Lamar – “DNA”
Embracing blackness, no matter its flaws. Something we all need to practice.
SZA – “Supermodel”
This song opened the door to many hidden insecurities I struggle with. I had no clue I wasn’t the only one.
Cardi B – “Bodak Yellow”
Women were in dire need of a hype anthem. We got it this year.
JAY-Z – “Smile”
DO YOU KNOW HOW HARD IT IS TO GET CLEARED FOR A STEVIE WONDER SAMPLE. INCREDIBLE.
Kendrick Lamar – “Fear”
Kendrick Lamar talks about fearing his mother and his anxieties about dying at a young age. When he lists all the ways he might die, it broke my heart but it proves how important it is to protect and celebrate the lives of Black boys and girls.