The first taste of Washington, D.C. crooner Nick Hakim's stellar upcoming Green Twins set is a trembling, distant echo of a howling love song: "If there's a God, I wonder what she looks like/I bet she looks like you." Like the best songs on Tame Imapala's Currents, it doesn't feel like a soul throwback, and that's why it truly is a soul throwback.
Wasn't it just late 2016 when a charming, part-rapped, part-sung, warped-funk ode to a mononymic female -- by a similarly single-named artist we were mostly unfamiliar with -- stormed the charts and made for one of the year's most pleasant pop surprises? Let's hope Smino's similarly delightful "Anita" can make it two years in a row.
Jennifer Paige, "The Devil's in the Details"
Yes, that Jennifer Paige: the one who, for a brief moment in 1998, had the biggest breakthrough hit of any rookie on the scene, before TRL came along and introduced a new class of pop superpowers. Well, in 2017, she's back, with a Kickstarter-funded album on the way, and a lead single -- the sinister, synth-creeping ballad "The Devil's in the Details" -- that suggests we should've give Paige a lot more than 15 minutes back in the day.
Charly Bliss, "Glitter"
An irresistibly chugging '90s-alt-styled rave-up of relatable relationship insecurity. Charly Bliss frontwoman Eva Grace Hendricks described "Glitter" to NPR as "a song about dating someone who’s too much like you and it making you feel full of self-hatred," but you get that and more from the song's absolute knockout chorus: "Am I the best/Or just the first person to say yes?"
Violet Days, "Suck at Love"
Not to be confused with recent Hot 100 crashers Hey Violet, though Violet Days' "Suck at Love" is a similarly propulsive, creative and practical tale of modern-day relationships to that group's "Guys My Age." The chopped-up sighs that provide the backing vocals on the chorus leave the song's most lasting impression, the sound of a romance sputtering but not giving up just yet.
A favorite of the pop Internet since at least their 2015 underground hit "Beat of My Drum," duo POWERS returned in February with this reggae-tinged disco stomp, featuring the year's finest combination of melodramatic vocals, sweeping strings, grimy bass and off-beat synths. Remarkably, though, it's still maybe not the best "Heavy" to see release last month.
DJ Premier & Miguel, "2 LOVIN U"
One of the most legendary producers in the history of East Coast hip-hop teams with one of the greatest R&B triple-threats of of the 21st century, and the results are easily worth the three-year wait: Miguel scorches on the verse and chorus ("Then the gavel hits the stand/I'm damned to lovin' you"), and all DJ Premier can say on the scratch breaks is "D-A-A-A-A-MMMNNNN!!"
Steve Buscemi's Dreamy Eyes, "Closer"
For those electro-pop fans who wish the xx were just a little looser-limbed, there's Swedish quartet Steve Buscemi's Dreamy Eyes, whose "Closer" marries the boy-girl vocal intimacy and warm-hearth production of the star U.K. trio with funkier bass and post-disco drums for a perfect 4 a.m. private dancefloor jam. Band name of the goddamn year, too.
Sigrid, "Don't Kill My Vibe"
Borrowing one of Kendrick Lamar's signature phrases for a booming anthem of personal independence, Norwegian newbie Sigrid's debut single hits heights of scratched-voice catharsis that are usually the sole province of that other powerhouse singer whose name starts with "Si-." Appropriately, don't be super-surprised if "Don't Kill My Vibe" becomes 2017's "Chandelier."
Anne-Marie, "Ciao Adios"
British singer-songwriter Anne-Marie is already a star overseas, thanks to her chart-busting dance hit "Alarm," and is on her way Stateside as well with her appearance on Clean Bandit's Hot 100-scaling smash "Rockabye." New song "Ciao Adios," with its lithe, dancehall-inflected bounce and rubbery kiss-off vocals, might just be the song to put her over the top here.