While the first half of 2016 was dominated by event albums, 2017 so far has been the year of the event single.
Whether it was the long-awaited comeback of an established fixture like Kendrick Lamar or Miley Cyrus, the arrival of an emerging solo talent like Julia Michaels or Harry Styles, or the leveling up of an ascendant star like Sam Hunt or Lil Uzi Vert, it's been songs, not albums, that have captured headlines and attention spans this year. And of course, if there was a week in which sales and streams (or just general excitement) seemed to be lagging, the pop machine reverted to a tried-and-true formula established as a sure shot back in '16: Just throw Justin Bieber on it.
Here are our 50 favorite songs of 2017 so far -- the biggest hits, the songs that fell through the cracks, and everything in between.
(Note: Songs were considered eligible for this list if they were either released in 2017 or peaked on the Hot 100 during that time — unless they already appeared on our 2016 list.)
50. Auli'i Cravalho, "How Far I'll Go"
Serving as the unofficial theme song to the Disney animated film Moana, this rousing number strikes down doubt and sparks self-belief with its boundary-pushing lyrics, with the boxed-in titular protagonist wondering “Will I cross that line?” before declaring with orchestra-supported determination: “One day I'll know, how far I'll go.” -- LYNDSEY HAVENS
49. Logic feat. Damian Lemar Hudson, "Black SpiderMan"
On the surface, it may look like “Black SpiderMan” is just a push for Donald Glover to play the title role in Marvel’s next Spider-Man installment, but Logic’s breezy banger with Damian Lemar Hudson is so much more than that. In the first verse, when he raps “I ain’t ashamed to be white, I ain’t ashamed to be black, I ain’t ashamed of my beautiful Mexican wife,” the Maryland-bred MC is advocating for being unapologetically yourself during a time when the world may have you feeling the otherwise. Logic’s track was a breath of fresh air on first listen and gets better each time. -- XANDER ZELLNER
48. Maddie Ross, "You're Still My Sugar"
This is an entire pack of Starbursts in one three-and-a-half-minute explosion of a love song; impossible, multi-colored pop/rock sweetness with no shortage of lemony kick. The confection tastes so perfect that by the time you even notice how fundamentally weird the thing is -- the slapsticky sound effects, the soaring chorus ("Everybody's so fake/ Saw you at daybreak/ In love by morning") that never repeats, a whole lot of unexplained fish imagery -- you're already halfway to diabetic. -- ANDREW UNTERBERGER
47. Chris Stapleton, "Second One to Know"
You knew Chris could rock, too, right? More down n’ dirty than anything on his world-weary breakthrough Traveller, “Second One to Know” finds Stapleton and his electric six-string mired in gritty desperation. Of course his girl would be the first to know if she put his love on the backburner -- it’s being the third or the fourth that’s got him petrified. We’ve long known Stapleton’s got soul, and the blues licks he brandishes here should send the likes of Kaleo, Cold War Kids and Black Keys running back to the drawing board. -- CHRIS PAYNE
46. Lana Del Rey, "Love"
To be young and in love….with this track. Lana Del Rey’s delirious lead single off her upcoming Lust For Life album is quintessentially Lana; with a cinematic, orchestral sound and carefree, nostalgic vibe. Her vocals are stunning over the lush instrumentation, and July 21 (album release day) can’t come fast enough. -- ALEXA SHOUNEYIA
45. Ricardo Arjona, "Ella"
Latin songs about female empowerment don't come as often as reggaetón hits, but when they do, they come in full force, just like Ricardo Arjona's "Ella" -- part of the singer-songwriter's latest Circo Soledad, which became his ninth No. 1 on Billboard's Latin Pop Albums. While the song itself may not be one of Arjona's chart-toppers, its poignant and defying lyrics (and growling, Stones-y guitar-and-cowbell groove) make the thought-provoking song a perfect anthem for confident and independent women. -- GRISELDA FLORES
44. Kyle feat. Lil Yachty, "iSpy"
While purists and/or middle-aged folks struggle to make sense of the sing-speak wave of hip-hop taking over radio, the relentlessly positive Kyle enters the fray with "iSpy," a cutesy pop-rap nursery rhyme featuring movement poster boy Lil Yachty. Is it rap? Is it serious? Who cares – it's catchy as gleeful as hell, and in times like these, we'll take anything as relentlessly positive as this. -- JOE LYNCH
43. Hailee Steinfeld, "Most Girls"
While Hailee Steinfeld’s “Love Myself” was a dynamic paean to self-love in all its many-rated forms, she extends that righteousness to her whole gender with her latest single. With a xylophone-revved beat and an adrenaline-pumping drop just before the chorus, "Most Girls" sounds as anthemic as its liberating lyrics, so much so that singing along makes anyone feel like a damn queen. -- TAYLOR WEATHERBY
42. Marian Hill, "Down"
Chances are that when Marian Hill released “Back to Me,” their collaboration with Fifth Harmony’s Lauren Jauregui, last December, they expected it to be the tune to break the Philly electronic duo into the mainstream. Turns out it actually took an iPhone ad a month later with an older song, “Down.” Not a bad breakthrough, either way; the silky, sleek “Down” is the choicest entry point into Marian Hill’s music, beginning with its sparse, piano-led verses sung by Samantha Gongol, which slips into Jeremy Lloyd’s percussive vocal-bending on the chorus. -- KEVIN RUTHERFORD
41. Sigrid, "Don't Kill My Vibe"
Norwegian upstart Sigrid has spent the first half of 2017 dropping pop gems left and right, none more exhilarating than her first crack at global domination. Debut single “Don’t Kill My Vibe” is overwhelming to any person whose vibe has been metaphorically killed by someone who just doesn't care enough, and some of its tightest punches are delivered in its quieter moments -- like in the second verse, where Sigrid concludes, “Guess you’re surprised I’m the puzzle you can’t figure out.” That may be true, Sigrid, but we’ll keep trying. -- JASON LIPSHUTZ
40. Katy Perry feat. Skip Marley, "Chained to the Rhythm"
Three weeks after Donald Trump was sworn in, mainstream pop delivered its first subtle jab against our new reality. Katy Perry's “Chained to the Rhythm” is a plea for a more literal version of wokeness -- for people to awaken from the beat of complacency and rise up against authority -- and with Skip Marley vouching for one love, one heart, the single has a tasty mix of dance floor durability and political disruption. -- J. Liphsutz
39. Joey Bada$$, "For My People"
Joey Bada$$'s sophomore album released this past April served as the most potent statement of his ideology and musical palette to date, and a song like "For My People" -- with its plaintive-yet-defiant hook, and production that combines steady driving drums under a moseying, understated loop -- is one of the best songs he's released. But as always with Joey, it's his lyrical precision and ever-evolving flow that set him apart, combining ruminations on the plight of young black youths trying to rise above with a determination to use his platform to be a leader among his peers. -- DAN RYS
38. Computer Games, "Every Single Night"
Well, if Taylor Swift ever wants to make the half-decade-earlier prequel to 1989, she knows who she can call for her backing band. Computer Games' hard-earned mid-'80s bonafides are established with the first saxophone hit in the chorus, but like all truly great pop throwbacks, by song's end you're not transported back in time, but rather ahead, to a beautiful future where you're hearing this song blare out of top 40-tuned radios E! V'RY! SIN! GLE! NIGHT! -- ANDREW UNTERBERGER
37. Bruno Mars, "That's What I Like"
The chipper, candy-coated bounce of Bruno Mars’ “That’s What I Like” is a step away from the pimp-strutting funk of “24K Magic,” yet it hits even higher nostalgic notes. For last year’s 24K Magic, the falsetto-scraping crooner harnessed his inner playboy for some of his best work to date, with “That’s What I Like” shimmying out from the rest. -- STEVEN J. HOROWITZ
36. Kodak Black, "Tunnel Vision"
No MC has had a better breakout year from behind bars than Kodak Black. Despite the mountain of legal allegations against him, the Florida rapper crashed the Billboard Hot 100’s top 10 with “Tunnel Vision,” an eerie, syrup-y earworm that ironically features Black croon-rapping “Li’l Kodak they don’t like to see you winnin’/ They wanna see you in the penitentiary” over a flute-laden beat produced by Southside and Metro Boomin’. The song’s controversial visual -- which tackles racism and the KKK, and shows Black in front of a burning cross -- added to its shine at the top of the year. -- ADELLE PLATON
35. Sam Hunt, "Body Like a Back Road"
There’s something inherently praiseworthy about a song that combines a bunch of driving-related metaphors with a feel-good summer beat. That’s exactly what Sam Hunt did with his first post-Montevallo single, an irresistible snap-along that proves he’s going to continue his hit-making streak with his eventual sophomore LP. “Body Like a Back Road” introduces a new energy to Hunt’s sound that has clearly resonated with even more fans than he’d charmed with his first LP – going 15 in a 30 may be pretty cool, but going all the way to No. 6 on the Billboard Hot 100 is even cooler. -- T.W.
34. LP, "Up Against Me"
Laura Pergolizzi, stage name LP, has penned songs for Christina Aguilera, Rihanna, Cher and the Backstreet Boys. But luckily, she decided to step into the solo spotlight – her raw energy and unapologetically rock persona are a welcome change in a sea of pop stars. In fourth-album highlight "Up Against Me," she belts "they didn't tell us what we're up against/ I just want you up against me" and you feel her desire, pining over the object of her affection. Be assured, this song will leave you wanting more yourself. -- LESLIE RICHIN
33. Portugal. The Man, "Feel It Still"
After laying low for nearly five years, indie rockers Portugal. The Man returned with some pep in their step with this infectious track that kicks off with a groovy driving bass line and later enlists heavy horns to seal the deal. “I’m a rebel just for kicks now,” frontman John Gourley sings on the chorus, a notion reinforced as the song ends in a rallying ”fight back” call-and-response. Whatever the band's cause, the alt-listening public has joined their resistance: "Feel It Still" became PTM's first Adult Alternative No. 1 hit in April. -- LYNDSEY HAVENS
32. Ed Sheeran, "Shape of You"
“Shape of You” easily holds the 2017 record for most weeks spent at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 so far (12) -- just the 18th song to spend at least 12 weeks atop the Hot 100 in the chart’s 59-year history. Additionally, 21 weeks after the song debuted on the Jan. 28-dated Hot 100 (at No. 1), the song is still in the top 10 — standing at No. 5 this week. This is a long-winded way of saying that “Shape of You” clearly resonated with millions of listeners this year, and its catchy, trop-house-influenced sound was a force to be reckoned with. -- X.Z.
31. Playboi Carti, "Magnolia"
Trying to understand the appeal of Playboi Carti's "Magnolia" on an intellectual level is going to be a fruitless experience; on first listen, the biggest takeaway from the single is how it flips the hook to 2 Milly's 2015 dance craze soundtrack "Milly Rock," and that's about it. But the song is inexplicably irresistible, due to the brooding propulsion of PierreBourne's production and Carti's delivery, which gets stuck in the mind in a way that seems unlikely, but works perfectly. Carti may not be rap's next great poet, but with songs like "Magnolia" he's certainly got a bright future ahead of him -- just don't tell Ebro. -- D.R.
30. Clean Bandit feat. Anne-Marie & Sean Paul, "Rockabye"
The Caribbean is certainly in this season. U.K. trio Clean Bandit proved their hitmaking touch to be no fluke with this unshakeable dancehall-tinged summer jam, featuring resurgent Jamaican star Sean Paul and Essex native Ann-Marie. “Rockabye” became the group’s second Billboard Hot 100 top 10 hit (No. 9), three years following their Grammy-winning breakthrough “Rather Be.” -- MATT MEDVED
29. Frank Ocean, "Chanel"
Frank Ocean has released a steady stream of surprise tracks in 2017, and no one is complaining. “Chanel” was the first release after Blonde, and it paints a picture with words in the most evocative, enigmatic sense ("V both sides of the 12/ Steam both sides of the L"). Ocean has always been a lyrical genius and this track, aided by a mesmerizing instrumental, proves it as well as any. -- A.S.
28. Sampha, "(No One Knows Me) Like the Piano"
Sampha's music doesn't just touch your soul – it quietly slices into it, leaving you a little bit wounded but emotionally wiser. No more on his debut album Process is this more apparent than "(No One Knows Me) Like the Piano," a Joni Mitchell and Alicia Keys-esque ode to his late mother and finding solace in music. -- J. Lynch
27. Migos feat. Lil Uzi Vert, "Bad and Boujee"
“There’s no better song to have sex to,” claimed Donald Glover while shouting out Migos' Hot 100 chart-topper “Bad and Boujee” featuring Lil Uzi Vert during his 2017 Golden Globes acceptance speech. Beyond the sheets, though, the Dab-inducing hit -- home to the beloved ad-lib “Raindrop, drop top” -- was inescapable both on the Internet and in real-life. Migos’ Quavo, Takeoff and Offset even performed the track during four different sets -- Future, DJ Khaled, DJ Snake and Gucci Mane -- over the course of Coachella Weekend 1. And for better or worse, “Bon Appetit” collaborator Katy Perry also went viral trying to mouth along. -- A.P.
26. Japandroids, "North East South West"
Hockey fans need jock jams too, and Japandroids -- who once triumphed over Nickelback in a fan vote to decide the Vancouver Canucks' entrance music -- gave 'em an all-timer with Near to the Wild Heart of Life's first-line highlight. "North East South West" isn't explicitly about pucks, nets and cross-checks, of course, but it's hard to listen to a north-of-the-border anthem this enthralling -- with frosty guitars and vocals hissed out like lingering cold-day breath -- and not picture an entire stadium rapturously yelling "UP AGAINST THE WALL!" as some bruising enforcer puts that punk Crosby into the glass. -- A.U.
25. Kygo & Selena Gomez, "It Ain't Me"
Kygo finally got his U.S. pop hit – and yeah, having Selena Gomez on vocals helps, but it’s tough to imagine “It Ain’t Me” not clicking with pop audiences regardless of its singer. Put ‘em together, though, and you’ve got a deceptively strong breakup track; despite Kygo’s upbeat production -- from the trop-house-esque synths for which he’s become known, to an ebullient choir backing Gomez’s vocals on the chorus -- it’s very much a potent sayonara to an underwhelming ex (hm, wonder who Selena’s dated in the past?). And look, maybe it’s a stretch to imagine Gomez listening to the Libertines, but that’s small fry. -- K.R.
24. Childish Gambino, "Redbone"
Serving as the second single off Childish Gambino’s 2016 experimental-soul album Awaken, My Love!, "Redbone" slinks on with funky, slow-simmering synths as Gambino’s falsetto pierces each word. This song has proved to be the most accessible off the album to Gambino fans old and new (it recently peaked at No. 22 on the Hot 100), as it eased longtime listeners into Donald Glover's detour from his MC persona, and also hooked those who were drawn in by his R&B rebrand. -- L.H.
23. Carly Rae Jepsen, "Cut to the Feeling"
Dance-pop might not be radio catnip these days like it was 7 or 8 years ago, but there should be room in hearts and playlists for a single this flawlessly constructed. With fervent hand claps, joyous "woo!"s and an ecstatic delivery of an anthemic chorus, Carly Slay's latest is the closest we'll get to Whitney Houston's late-'80s dancefloor euphoria in 2017. She might not be a chart juggernaut any longer, but she's low-key on her way to pop icon status. -- J. Lynch
22. Niall Horan, "Slow Hands"
The pop world spent the first half of 2017 obsessed with the post-One Direction metamorphosis of one Harry Styles, much like it did the previous year with Zayn. But slow down and make some time for 1D’s resident guitar strummer, the one with time to spare for the inspiration of this groove-laden sing-along. “Slow Hands” get its freak on somewhere between Sam Hunt’s countryfied R&B and U.K. folksters like Ed Sheeran and James Bay: For Horan, it’s a perfect fit, a promising solo salvo and -- thank goodness -- all-but assured to outlive the myriad Interpol jokes it spawned. -- C.P.
21. Father John Misty, "Pure Comedy"
Using art as a political vent for protest is partly what made Father John Misty’s “Pure Comedy” such a delightful roast of the current administration. But it’s the man born (for the first time) as Josh Tillman’s musical grasp of the forefather styles of Randy Newman and Elton John that helps deliver the punches in such a smooth, soothing-for-all-six-minutes way. -- S.J.H.
20. Haim, "Want You Back"
If anyone doubted Haim’s commitment to the breezy classic rock of 2013 debut Days Are Gone with the sister trio’s newfound fame, “Want You Back” gently assuages one’s fears. It’s Petty, it’s Fleetwood, it’s any number of ‘80s pop-rockers – oh, but it’s still unmistakably HAIM, no question there. Killer bass line (though we’re talking Ariel Rechtshaid production here, so that’s far from shocking), shimmering synths and guitar, a pounding beat – what more could you ask for from a sleeper summer hit? Crank it. -- K.R.
19. Kendrick Lamar, "HUMBLE."
2017 has been a massive year for Kendrick Lamar: On top of earning his third No. 1 album on the Billboard 200 and crafting one of the best music videos of the year with “HUMBLE.,” the track also gave the MC his second-ever Hot 100 No. 1, and first as a lead artist. The simple-but-infectious piano riff behind Lamar’s assertions of superiority to all other hip-hop artists -- rightly humbling all those who listen -- helps reestablish Kendrick as a top 40 leading man. -- X.Z.
18. Zedd & Alessia Cara, "Stay"
All you have to do is listen to Alessia Cara’s booming vocals over Zedd’s sparkling handiwork and you’ll understand why we couldn’t leave this irresistible team-up off our list. The Auto-Tune effect coating Cara’s yearning vocal on the chorus gives the top 10 Hot 100 smash an otherworldly quality, making “Stay” a likely choice to stick around radio all summer. -- DENISE WARNER
17. Muna, "I Know a Place"
Muna exploded onto the alt-pop scene this February with About U, a dazzling fusion of festival-ready synth-scapes and underlying guitar grit. The queer-identifying female trio blasts out its mission statement on the uplifting “I Know a Place,” originally written in early 2016 as an all-purpose anthem for LGBTQ safe space celebration, which took on a very specific meaning after the Orlando nightclub tragedy of last June. And it's seen its meaning continue to evolve: Performing the anthemic single on Jimmy Kimmel Live! in February, vocalist Katie Gavin adapted the lyrics of its bridge to attack Donald Trump -- “I throw my arms open wide in resistance/He’s not my leader even if he’s my president” -- a gesture the band plans to continue into this summer’s festival season. -- C.P.
16. Lady Gaga, "The Cure"
After detouring into country-lite territory with Joanne, Lady Gaga returned to sheer, unapologetic pop with this standalone single, which ended up being the perfect gift to fans attending her fill-in headline appearance at Coachella when she debuted the song during the fest's first weekend. "The Cure" sees Gaga doing what she does best: slinging a burrowing hook over a dancefloor-ready beat and, most of all, having fun. -- S.J.H.
15. Julia Michaels, "Issues"
No surprise that Julia Michaels' debut single is one of the most acutely written pop songs of the year -- an ode to highly flawed mutual dependence, unstable but unsubstitutable -- since she's already spent a half-decade behind the scenes establishing some of top 40's most distinctive and distinguished penmanship. Slightly more unexpected is how similarly flawless the song's vocal delivery is: quivering through lyrics like "When I'm down I get real down/ When I'm high I don't come down" with the appropriate sense of vertigo, and then tip-toeing down the staccato violin scales of "You don't judge me/ Coz if you did, ba-by-I-would-judge-you-too..." like she was in turn-of-the-century Destiny's Child. -- A.U.
14. Future, "Mask Off"
Future’s “Mask Off” -- whose catchy refrain is based around an (appropriately) addictive “Percocets, molly, Percocets” chant and whose cooing Metro Boomin-produced beat samples Tommy Butler’s “Prison Song” -- became 2017's flute rap MVP, in a surprisingly crowded pool of candidates. In a year where Future released two full-length LPs before even hitting March Madness, "Mask Off" set itself apart from the rest of Future’s catalog with a hellacious visual starring Amber Rose and a subsequent fire-breathing remix featuring Kendrick Lamar, following their Coachella Weekend 1 duet, making the trap smash Future's biggest Hot 100 hit yet as a lead artist. -- A.P.
13. Miley Cyrus, "Malibu"
Whereas previous incarnations of Miley Cyrus seemed all about proving she was grown-up, badass and/or weird, the Miley Cyrus of "Malibu" doesn't sound like she's selling us anything – she's simply sharing her soul, and for the first time in years, the former Hannah Montana sounds satisfied. While there's a long history of California representing utopia in American pop, the happiness of "Malibu" isn't frothy or mindless – the ache in Miley's voice reveals her current beachside bliss is a hard-fought victory, and it gives the song an emotional heft missing from most odes to romantic domesticity. -- J. Lynch
12. DJ Khaled feat. Justin Bieber, Quavo, Chance the Rapper & Lil Wayne, "I'm the One"
With Justin Bieber, Chance the Rapper, Quavo and Lil Wayne all on the same song, it’s almost impossible for that kind of collaboration to not become instant gold. And fortunately, DJ Khaled didn’t miss a step with his star-studded lineup, pairing the song's unmissable hook with a bouncy beat that entwines all four superstars in flawless fashion. Instead of overlapping them, Khaled lined up each artist with their own distinct verses -- with Bieber, of course, brilliantly taking the lead on the wavy chorus, tying it all together -- allowing their individual musical personalities to shine in the process. It's so downright fun it’s hard to not fall for at least one of the dudes on the track; or, at the very least, be singing “oh way oh, eh oh eh oh” to yourself for the rest of the day. -- T.W.
11. Paramore, "Hard Times"
What do you do when you realize life ain’t that fun? You invite your old friend back into the band and write a tropical Talking Heads banger about how the world is just plain trash. “Hard Times” proclaimed Paramore’s latest album with attitude, signaling a series of stylistic shifts in the process: from chugging, dual-guitar rock to Taylor York’s nimble new wave jabs, from stern faces and black backgrounds to oversized outfits and Lisa Frank’s color board. After Laughter is Paramore’s push for whip-smart alt rock in the land of pop and its lead single was arguably the best single from what may be the best popular rock band of this century. Here’s to harder times ahead. -- C.P.
10. Selena Gomez, "Bad Liar"
Qu'est-ce que c'est? Just a one-time product of the teen-pop machine coming into her own as an adult pop star, with a little help from a trio of pop's most reliably inventive, inspired songwriters and Tina Weymouth's all-time most famous bass line. Gomez's unlikely sung-spoken, stop-start cadence ("But then I see your face/ Oh wait, that's someone else") reminds mostly of one of the 21st century's most devout Talking Heads acolytes, but it's obviously impossible to imagine James Murphy delivering a line like "Every time I watch you serpentine" with such delicious venom; even the former Waverly Wizard has never sounded this assured, invested or dangerous before. It's unchartered waters for Selena, and it's no surprise that top 40 has yet to dive in -- but hey, David Byrne likes it, and goddamn right he should. -- A.U.
9. The Weeknd feat. Daft Punk, "I Feel It Coming"
The Weeknd’s second Daft Punk-assisted single off third studio album Starboy silenced critics who felt the French robots weren’t represented well enough in the LP's chart-topping title track. A sultry, slinking disco-funk jam excitedly anticipating the female orgasm, “I Feel it Coming” arguably holds its own against any offering on Daft Punk’s most recent outing, 2013's Random Access Memories. In addition to bringing Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo and Thomas Bangalter back to the Grammys stage, the collaboration was Abel and The Robots' second straight smash, peaking at No. 4 on the Billboard Hot 100. -- M.M.
8. Khalid, "Location"
Like Lorde with "Royals" a few years earlier, Khalid came seemingly out of nowhere with a strangely compelling sound that, while not exactly unprecedented, isn't quite like anything else on the charts -- it's not often church choirs and 8-bit video game noises comfortably brush up against each other in the same hit. Even if "Location" is ostensibly about young love and meeting up to hook up with someone, the croak in his voice gives the song a soul-searching quality not present in most alt-R&B slow jams. And considering the rest of the 19-year-old talent's debut album American Teen is equally strong, Khalid just might end up challenging Lorde for the 'youngest old soul' crown in pop music this year. -- J. Lynch
7. Lil Uzi Vert, "XO Tour Llif3"
For most casual hip-hop fans, the idea of Lil Uzi Vert -- of all people! -- creating a song that would have the ability to define a generation would have seemed bizarre at best, offensive at worst. But that's exactly what Uzi did with "XO TOUR LIF3," a compelling earworm of a hit that doubles as both a rallying cry for a disaffected generation and a plea for help from someone who is flat-out daring you to "push me to the edge."
Last month, Vulture called "XO TOUR LIF3" a "modern-day 'Smells Like Teen Spirit,'" and it's hard to argue with the point. Just as a generation of teenagers felt abandoned and alone in an era defined by rising divorce rates and suburban decay in the early '90s, these days a generation of teenagers growing up amid the fallout from a misguided war on drugs and a relationship with authority defined more by violence than community-building can feel similarly beaten down. Uzi, in releasing this song, captures that spirit matter-of-factly, giving "XO" another layer of meaning -- for better and for worse. -- D.R.
6. Kendrick Lamar, "DNA."
The Internet let out a collective “woosah” when Kendrick Lamar released third album DAMN. (fourth if you count 2011’s Section.80) in April. After spazzing on the lead single “HUMBLE.,” Lamar went especially H.A.M. on “DNA": Backed by a bouncy, speaker-slapping beat -- helmed by “HUMBLE.” producer Mike Will Made-It -- the song launches with the Compton rep proclaiming “I got loyalty, I got royalty inside my DNA.” The MC responsible for woke art like 2015’s To Pimp a Butterfly shoves his Black heritage and relentless lyricism into the spotlight on the aggressive track, while spraying a few shots at “the fakes” and Fox News along the way (“I’d rather die than to listen to you”). Throw in Kendrick's intense “DNA.” video starring Don Cheadle -- whose Rush Hour 2 character inspired Lamar’s Kung Fu Kenny persona -- and it’s obvious he's-got-he's got-he's-got the 2017 rap game in a chokehold. -- A.P.
5. Harry Styles, "Sign of the Times"
Lost in the talk about the quintessential Britishness inherent in the grand piano, theatrical vocals and epic crawl of "Sign of the Times" -- all very true, of course -- is Harry Styles' sly sense of humor. Not that anyone's gonna be confusing him with Rowan Atkinson anytime soon, but there's a sneaky wryness to "Sign of the Times" that keeps it on the right side of pomposity: "Welcome to the final show/ Hope you're wearing your best clothes," he quips like the Joel Grey of the apocalypse; later observing "Breaking through the atmosphere/ And things are pretty good from here," as if he knew he'd be literally rising above the fray in the song's high-flying music video. Helpful stuff: If you're not smiling at the world's closing montage by song's end, at the very least he's probably gotten you to stop your crying. -- A.U.
4. Lorde, "Green Light"
In a well-circulated New York Times Magazine piece, New Zealand alt-pop star Lorde -- who, lest we forget, won a song of the year Grammy with her first single -- says that esteemed producer Max Martin told her “Green Light” was a case of “incorrect songwriting.” And maybe, on paper and on record, he was right: Maybe that key change is a little jarring. Perhaps the chorus, which consists of the same two phrases repeated over and over, is so repetitive and simplistic that you’re left wanting just a little more than the image of Lorde coming and getting her belongings, but not really wanting to. And what’s with the structure – verse, chorus, verse, slightly elongated chorus, bridge, fin?!
Look, its chart position (just a No. 19 peak on the Hot 100 in its second week) doesn’t lie: it’s a weird one. But, frankly, who the hell cares? Lorde and Jack Antonoff crafted a song that sticks in your brain from first listen, lyrically and musically. That rollicking piano is euphoric, its refrain is unforgettable, and her declaration that “you’re such a damn liar” as she breaks from the rhyme hits like a cricket bat to the chest. Yeah, she’ll have other hits, but this'll be the one you can't let go. -- K.R.
3. Luis Fonsi & Daddy Yankee feat. Justin Bieber, "Despacito" (Remix)
Whether you're a Latin music lover or you can hardly speak any Spanish, it's likely you've had the same four syllables stuck in your head since Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee gifted "Despacito" to the world back in January. It's no secret that the irresistible monster hit has taken the world by storm, thanks to its catchy chorus and hummable riff -- add Justin Bieber singing en español to the mix, and you've got yourself the first Spanish-language No. 1 on the Hot 100 since "Macarena" in 1996. Though it was released months ago, the tropical vibe and flirty lyrics to "Despacito" make the track the perfect candidate to take the title for Song of the Summer 2017 -- no complaints here. -- G.F.
2. Drake, "Passionfruit"
Drake is one of the more recent Summer Song masters, whether it be with his debut smash “Best I Ever Had” (No. 4 on the ranking, 2009), “Find Your Love” (No. 9, 2010) or last year’s “One Dance” featuring Wizkid and Kyla, which marked his first S.o.S. topper. And it’s because the Canadian artist is so comfortable toggling between more hard-edged rap and breezy singsong anthems that “Passionfruit,” the clear crown jewel on his most recent album More Life, extends his chances to holding the title for the second consecutive year. His invocation of island rhythms and instrumentation feels natural on the Nana Rogues-produced hip-swisher, as catchy and cookout-ready as anything he’s done. It’s a testament to his versatility that he’s lasted so long as one of hip-hop’s preeminent figures, and “Passionfruit” is as obvious an extension as a Drake summer anthem could be. -- S.J.H.
1. Calvin Harris feat. Frank Ocean & Migos, "Slide"
Every once in a while, a song will come along that is so perfectly irresistible that it demands to be played repeatedly, on a loop, for an obnoxiously extended period of time; think Daft Punk and Pharrell's "Get Lucky" back in 2013, for instance. Since the moment of its release in February, "Slide" has been that type of song, combining effortlessly-cool vocals from Frank Ocean with an upbeat, Auto-Tuned interlude from Quavo and a witty verse from Offset that opens with the endlessly quotable, "Offset! / Good gracious / Starin' at my diamonds while I'm hoppin' out the spaceship." And we haven't even talked about the beat yet -- spliced together by Harris, this chameleonic groove fits into every type of setting or playlist, whether dropped during a laid-back weekend afternoon or at the height of a packed party. "Slide" manages to capture some of music's premier innovators at the height of their powers, and the result is the best song of the year so far. -- D.R.