With 2017 already flying into the past (wtffff), we decided that it was high time to round up our best and favorite tracks of the year—and we're extremely proud to announce that Ed Sheeran is nowhere to be found. Without any further ado, here are Street's slappers of 2017, hand–selected by each member of Music staff:
"DUCKWORTH." by Kendrick Lamar
Noah Kest, Music Beat
Often overshadowed by the bigger hits on DAMN. like “DNA.” and HUMBLE.”, Kendrick’s “DUCKWORTH.” is a four–minute story recounting his father’s past with Anthony “Top Dawg” Tiffith, founder of Kendrick’s label Top Dawg Entertainment. Kendrick tells the tale of his father, who worked at the local KFC that Tiffith planned to rob. However, Kendrick’s father’s kindness stopped Top Dawg from committing the crime, possibly preventing the death of Kendrick’s father and allowing Kendrick to achieve the success he has. It’s a multi–layered song that goes beyond just the story. Kendrick’s acknowledgement of this event and its significance in his life displays his appreciation for both the status he’s attained and the people who have gotten him there. Using this song to close off a profoundly introspective album, Kendrick shows his recognition that he is not purely self–made and is a product of predecessors who shaped the path he's on. Kendrick is at the top of today’s rap game, and his ability to weave a somewhat dull past experience into an almost awe–inducing story of fate in “DUCKWORTH.” proves just that.
“Fire” by The Dangerous Summer
Amy Marcus, Music Beat
The Dangerous Summer caused a lot of musical heartbreak back in 2014 when they announced their break–up, but towards the end of 2017 they got back together out of nowhere and put out a new track that’s incredibly them. Full of passion and emotion, "Fire" is the perfect comeback for the beloved alt band, and it sets a stunning precedent for their new self–titled album coming out later this year.
"Perfect Places" by Lorde
Zoe Albano–Oritt, Music Editor
I thought for a long time about this, and my thoughts always led me back here. Melodrama came out at a time in my life when I desperately needed it to. It gave me the tools to describe every emotion swirling around inside me and provided me with a road map to catharsis. "Perfect Places" is a microcosm of the entire record, even when you just look at small chunks of the song. Furthermore, "Perfect Places" showcases some of the poppiest melodies on the album, while simultaneously maintaining its melancholy mood. In fact, many of Melodrama's themes can be boiled down to the three lines repeated over and over again in the outro: "All the nights spent off our faces / Trying to find these perfect places / What the fuck are perfect places, anyway?" It's maybe the most relatable phenomenon, yet it bites every time—we're all distracting ourselves from the reality of our circumstances one way or another, but is what we choose to distract ourselves with really any better in the long run than sucking it up and facing the truth?
"4:44" by JAY–Z
Arjun Swaminathan, Music Beat
From the moment a mournful Hannah Williams sample opens the song, “4:44” holds a vice–like grip on the listener’s ears. As the title track of Shawn Carter’s 13th studio album, the record serves as an open apology letter to his wife, Beyoncé Knowles–Carter, and his daughter, Blue Ivy. Carter’s candid lines are full of confession and regret over his alleged marital infidelity, perfectly capturing a somber, self–critical mood, and his smooth sentimental flow meshes neatly with the soulful beat. “4:44” is a rare instance of a Jay-Z song with minimal double entendre or wordplay, but there is almost no need for such multilayered lyricism as Carter weaves a contemplative love story regarding his relationship.
At its core, that’s what makes “4:44” the best song of 2017—the unique ability of Carter to strip down his emotions and the secrecy surrounding his marriage with the world’s biggest pop star in order to deliver a masterpiece of storytelling. There’s no need for a catchy hook or a grandiose background instrumental, as the poignant Williams’ sample and the introspective content alone suffice to make the listener keep hitting the replay button. Ultimately, it serves to reemphasize Jay–Z’s standing among the pantheon of great hip hop artists and musicians in general.
"Doves in the Wind" by SZA ft. Kendrick Lamar
Isabella Fertel, Music Beat
The third song on SZA’s debut studio album CTRL, “Doves in the Wind,” is modern feminism at its most beautiful. Self–described as a “dedication to vaginas,” “Doves in the Wind” showcases SZA's soulful narrative–telling ability to talk about sex and the extremities people go to just to get so. Co–written by the great Kung Fu Kenny himself, this R&B ballad packs some serious lyrical punch, with lines like “how many times she gotta tell you the dick is disposable” and “wait for it, dine for it, spend time for it, see no colored line for it” superimposed on top of an urban gritty track. Street gives this song 10/10 middle fingers up.