2017: Favorite 50 Songs Pick a song, close your eyes, and turn it up

We celebrate the end of the year the only way we know how: through lists, essays, and mixes. Join us as we explore the music that helped define the year. More from this series


PART 5: “COUPE” mixed by Dylan Pasture


SOPHIE

“It’s Okay To Cry”

[MSMSMSM INC]

In the last few years of an astonishing output, SOPHIE has been steadily building a toolbox of highly constructed, highly delicious femininity over a series of tracks probably best summarized as “bangers.” But with “It’s Okay to Cry,” an uncharacteristic ballad, those tools are unleashed into the realm of the personal and the political. Along with its accompanying music video — yes, the best of the year — SOPHIE constructs a featherlight and deeply moving space of play and emotional outpouring, sparsely shimmering sheafs of bass pushing forward her constantly modulated but extremely present vocals, as she reminds with a completely serious wink that it’s OK to cry.

Casting a hyper-stylized movement from rainbows to thunderstorms with a giddy rush of knowingly false universality that feels so real, she opens up a feminine space for herself and us to feel, respond, become, cry. She touches her lips. There’s a catch in her voice. A breath is taken in. Modulations and divergences from tone and structure become the center. Her voice, production, and body merge. The chorus repeats, so soft, so gentle, until there’s a downpour and everything crashes joyfully, tearfully open, the borders of the feminine torn open as we and her burst in. Coming-out is rehabilitated as a generative process. She collapses the wretched distinctions between synthetic/organic or, worse, between real/unreal, of bodies, genders, and emotions.

It’s OK, it’s OK, it’s OK. It’s very beautiful. In the shuddering collapse of this year, crying is fine; crying can be a space of transit, crying can feel good. SOPHIE’s nipples look like mine, as my body undergoes its own flux, its own chemical rearrangement. That recognition is not meaningless, one of many possibilities among chemicals and filters and goofy pop arrangements. It’s OK. I can’t stop crying, and I don’t think I want to.


Charli XCX

“Boys”

[Atlantic/Asylum]

Boys. If there’s one thing that’s clear from the eminently catchy “Boys,” it’s that Charli XCX is all about her boys! Bad boys, good boys, boys with eyepatches, boys with HBO Go logins… boys. L.A., Puerto Rico, Toronto acting as New York in the movie Cocktail: everywhere she goes, boys. However, is there such a thing as too many boys? At what boys do boys start boys everything over? When boys constantly boys on friends (boys boys excuses) on account of boys the boys, maybe boys too many boys. Boys boys accumulating boys boys results boys boys boys boys boys boys fantastic boys boys boys “Boys”? Boys boys boys boys boys boys — boys boys boys boys boys boys “Boys” — boys boys BOYS BOYS BOYS boys “boys boys boys.” Boys. Boys.


Playboi Carti

“Magnolia”

[Interscope]

For a year in which an awful lot of rap happened, “Magnolia” is an incredibly useful shorthand. Ten seconds in, you’ve already heard 2017’s definitive opening line and the unforgettable tag of the producer who ruled the year. 2017 was a year of overnight, often confounding, stardom — What the fuck is this? 30 million views?! — but “Magnolia” leaves no such questions. It’s an immediate and undeniable hit, a sort of avatar of the broader SoundCloud movement made presentable for the broadest possible appeal. It was inescapable, the difficult-to-measure internet stardom of the year’s emergent talents made tangible and therefore overwhelming. Even greater than its aux cord omnipresence was its influence; every week there was another “Magnolia,” but at the end of the year, only the original remains.


Lil Uzi Vert

“XO Tour Llif3”

[Generation Now/Atlantic]

Precarity is a fitting idiom for our collective moment. Contoured by crisis after crisis, an affective brinksmanship has pushed us to the edge. Ongoing police brutality, violently emboldened white supremacy, and racialized deportations have us teetering, chattering, hypervigilant. But Uzi persisted, agile and gamboling, attuning to the rhythms of the precarious everyday. Jumping in the NASCAR, fast car, we revved with Uzi. And with the unbothered traipse of the tongue on the teeth, he dropped the “s” of the exhaustingly appropriated “yas” into his iconic ad lib and finagled it into something nimble, something revitalizing. I’m alright. Are you alright? Yaaaaaaaaa.


Tay-K

“The Race”

[Self-Released]

“Fuck a beat/ I was tryna beat a case”: Tay-K disavowed rap while rapping. It is no longer novel to point out how virality, how virtuality involves itself in reality; in 2017, this whole dichotomy is parodically frail. But because “The Race” was released the day Tay-K’s fugitive state was arrested, there were those who insisted on a perversely mythified linear causality. Rather, “The Race” incepted a (real) immanent hallucination that slipped away as we listened, 1:44 of “Pi’erre Bourne x Playboi Carti type beat,” dissipating, supplanting what it ripped and stepped on, that is, cut: its jongleur MIDI flute and wheeled-up vocals an obscene caesura between two harshed states: evasion, incarceration. No intro nor outro. (Self-)Cruel in its Spongebob physics, drawing doodles. Past tense, subtraction, fizzling with a constitutive negation. “But I ain’t beat that case/ Bitch I did the race.” The race was the song. We listened to, re-mixed “The Race,” which was already over.


milo

“Sorcerer”

[Ruby Yacht/The Order Label]

Like much of his other work, who told you to think?????!?!???!???!???! found milo simultaneously behind the mic and at the DAW, painting each track with his alter-ego Scallops Hotel’s sprawling, fragmented production style. Few MCs could match how easy he made it all seem. Even skittering hi-hats — which are reaching store-bought, birthday-streamer levels of tackiness — were made refreshing once again under the guise of this bearded philosopher, whose verbal acrobatics didn’t disappoint. “I flourished in the lag time,” he said, again and again, as synths twinkled and samples rumbled. Bear witness to milo’s reflective, quiet anger, slowly becoming cathartic acceptance.


Cardi B

“Bodak Yellow”

[Atlantic]

“Bodak Yellow” was a snack in the middle of a full-course meal. Fem icon, Gangsta Bitch, and bride from B, Carti B earned an impenetrable respect ranging from huge to tiny. All the middle school girls volleyball teams singing “You get popped/ You a goofy/ You a cop/ Don’t you come around my way/ You can’t hang around my block.” Beast mode is: Carti B removing the body (“I don’t dance now”) from ownership of self (“I make money moves”) to her armor (“These is bloody shoes”), aside from the obvious Alpha-move elephant in the room. We need more of this now more than ever!


Lil Pump

“Gucci Gang”

[Tha Lights Global]

Lil Pump wasn’t as controversial as XXXTentacion or as deep as Lil Peep or as innovative as Playboi Carti. But the 17-year-old dominated the stream game in 2017, and he had the analytics to prove it. Which was curious, since what Pump offered on “Gucci Gang” was actually shockingly straightforward: monosyllabic bars like he’s staring at a computer screen, dropping signifiers of hedonistic youth — brands, meds, loins — over a viral-optimized concoction of trunk simulations and Miami concentrate. He says “Gucci” 53 times. If this sounds like the making of an ephemeral, on-the-surface SoundCloud rapper who’s passing through meme-like before the next big thing, then you’d be right. What of it?


Frank Ocean

“Biking” ft. JAY-Z & Tyler, The Creator

[Blonded]

Frank Ocean returned in 2017 with a low-density posse cut starring the auteur legend himself as millennial chillout messiah, JAY-Z in a comeback year delivering a half-mumbled ad lib verse, and an uncharacteristically low-key Tyler, The Creator in the meaty role of streetwise ambassador. The world spun slowly under their Gucci sandals and PK Rippers, but BMX Aristotle was there to braid luxury brand callouts into a hook worthy of a windswept cruise down Ventura Boulevard at dusk, and that was enough. America is dead; long live the spirit of California. Long live Frank Ocean.


Yaeji

“Passionfruit”

[GODMODE]

It teaches us to talk to one another. It teaches us to listen again. It’s the work and rework, it takes time. Yes, “music begins with osmosis, remixing a form of embodiment of another.” It reminds us again. Music begins with osmosis, reforming the bodies of others. Yes, it’s always borrowed. Yaeji, insisting, showing us: it’s in the stew, “the side dishes are all shared.” Don’t “pick up the pieces […] music coheres in their distance. [who could] ask for more than the wholeness of fragments?” Yaeji: fractured, whole, miles away.

Click to the next page to view and listen to the entire list.

We celebrate the end of the year the only way we know how: through lists, essays, and mixes. Join us as we explore the music that helped define the year. More from this series


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