Hello everyone! I previously mentioned that I’m branching out from just talking about books, so at the end of this year I will be counting my top picks for music, film/TV AND books and I will be doing my “awards” for books and music (because I haven’t watched enough TV to do one for that).
Seeing as I can listen to a lot more music than I can read books in one year, this list is longer than the book one will be 😀 Also, I have actually ranked these so this is going to be a countdown, but you have NO IDEA HOW FREAKING DIFFICULT THIS WAS AND I KEEP CHANGING IT.
Also, this is based solely off of audio tracks whereas the awards will include things like the music videos and stuff as well. I hope you enjoy and maybe find some new songs! Not all of these songs were released in 2017, but I added them to my playlist for the first time this year. Where there is no music video I’ve put a lyric video or a live performance clip.
Also, I really wanted to take the time to talk about each of the songs properly, so if you don’t care about any of the meanings or anything feel free to just watch the music videos! Of course if you do read my comments it’s even more appreciated, because I did take the time to look up some interesting facts about the songs, but like this list is over 4000 words (HOW) so I totally understand if you don’t 😀
HONOURABLE MENTIONS: Daya- Sit Still, Look Pretty & Agust D- Agust D
So even though this list is already 20 SONGS LONG, I’ve decided to cheat and add two honourable mentions as well, but it’s my blog so I can do whatever I want. Just bear with me for a second- I listened to A TON of really good music this year.
Daya has said Sit Still, Look Pretty is about “being a girl who goes after her own dreams and really fights for what she wants, and not letting anyone get in the way of that.” She also said that “it’s important for young girls to know that they don’t have to act a certain way or depend on someone for happiness. They can find all of that within themselves.” She mentioned that the song is important for boys as well, saying “I think that girls and guys should be able to do whatever they want and go after what they want to do in life”.
So basically, in addition to being incredibly catchy and a great bop, this song has a very important and empowering message. And whilst music videos didn’t factor into my choices for this list, I’m going to talk about them anyway and this is a pretty interesting video with some really nice lighting.
Agust D is a very personal track and deals with Agust D’s personal struggles rather than society as a whole. In his mixtape as a whole he addresses themes of depression and fame, but this song in particular is essentially a diss-track to anyone who made fun of him, told him he couldn’t make it or otherwise hated on him.
To fully appreciate it, a little background is needed: Agust D started out as an underground rapper and then became an incredibly successful member of the Korean boyband/hip hop group “BTS” or “Bangtan Sonyeondan”. The underground rap scene in Korea is largely scathing of rappers in idol groups, which is where a lot of the hate comes from. The song also uses military beats and military terminology.
I really recommend you turn on the subtitles as the lyrics are very important and also quite funny and clever (and although the song is nearly all in Korean, the subtitles are English, plus he raps incredibly quickly). This is a self-produced track and the instrumentals are also done by Agust D himself. The other rap members of BTS did backing rap.
20: GOT7- You Are
You Are is a song from GOT7’s newest album and was written by the leader of the group: JB. JB said in an interview that “the lyrics talk about how that person in my life has become the reason for my existence. The words can be interpreted in a lot of different ways. It could be about us and our fans, us and our parents, or two people in a relationship.”
The lyrics are about a person who hopes that their loved one will be the path that guides them and draws parallels between the comforting feeling one can feel with that person and the sense of hope you get when looking up at a beautiful sky when you feel down. Turn on the subtitles again for English lyrics or just enjoy the beautiful melody and honey voices!
Again a bit of background might be good to help appreciate this song. Leading up to the release of their latest album, one of the members received a lot of hate and there were rumours of him leaving the group to do a solo career or as a result of some health issues. Unfortunately, some people began to express that they liked this idea. As a result, the group named their new album “7 for 7” and it focuses a lot on how they depend on each other and how they wouldn’t be the same without each other.
19: J-Hope (BTS)- Boy Meets Evil
Boy Meets Evil is technically not a proper “song” and is actually the introduction or trailer to boyband/hip hop group BTS’ 2016 album “Wings”. The song features a rapper and dancer of the group called J-Hope and shows a boy facing a devil (temptation). Wings was about temptation, uncertainty and growing as a person.
The highlight of this song, apart from the gorgeous song itself, is the stunning music video (which would have scored it higher on this list except I’m not counting music videos). I am partially biased because of the gorgeous purple lighting, but J-Hope’s dancing is also very powerful and communicates the message of the song without even needing to understand the lyrics. If like me you do want to understand they lyrics, this song also comes with subtitles!
18: Marina and the Diamonds- Primadonna
This is definitely one of the older songs on this list! Primadonna was released by Welsh singer-songwriter Marina and the Diamonds in 2012.
An explanation of the song can be found in full on Wikipedia (accurate source I know), but is slightly confusing so I’m going to do my best to sort of paraphrase it for you. Essentially, the song is supposed to talk about a relatable but somewhat undesirable character trait and addresses people’s need to be acknowledged and adored.
The song very much leaves it up to individual interpretation as to whether this is a good or bad thing and remains mostly neutral, acting more as a spring-board for ideas than as a message.
The vocals of the song itself have been described as “operatic” and is very impressive and the song is incredibly catchy and a lot of fun to dance around to and lip sync with some friends (or for the more reserved in the comfort of your shower). I am personally an advocate for using it for some fun car karaoke, although if you’re anything like as bad as me at singing those around you may not find it so fun.
17: Joshua & Vernon (SEVENTEEN)- Rocket
Alas we have come to the first song in this list without a music video! Rocket is from Korean boyband’s newest album “Teen, Age” and features the two Korean-American members of the group: Joshua and Vernon (hence the song being half in English and half in Korean).
Vernon has said that the song is about two people just going together towards some undefined point, like setting off in a rocket with an unclear goal. It sort of seems to be about just going for what you want even if you’re not sure and just enjoying yourself and not letting anyone else ruin it for you.
The song makes use of interesting synthesised background music in addition to a more traditional instrumental sound and uses voice effects to almost give the song a slightly outer-space and modern, daring vibe which meshes well with the idea of shooting off in a rocket and the message of the song. Personally, I think this makes it sound really fun and unlike any other song on this list, although it may put some people off.
16: B.A.P- HONEYMOON
HONEYMOON is a song off of B.A.P’s summer 2017 mini album “Blue” and is supposed to be about freedom. The song is about having the courage to be free and make your own choices and how liberating and good that feels. In the music video each of the members has a symbol or prop and these seem to show different themes related to freedom.
Through these, the song seems to talk about overcoming a dependence on drugs, choosing a different path to the one prescribed for you, breaking out of your comfort zone despite possible dangers, overcoming grief, the peacefulness and happiness which you can find in solitude and overcoming or dealing with having been bullied or violated.
The video seems to show how hard freedom can be to achieve, but how worthwhile it is to try. If you want to find out more details about this here is an excellent source.
Despite the dark themes it touches on and the general powerful meaning of the song, the song itself and even the music video seem to be bright and cheerful, which not only communicates the possibilities freedom brings, but also makes it a very fun, beautiful and catchy song. In fact, it is quite possible to miss the deeper symbolism of the music video as I know I did when I watched it.
15: Suga (BTS)- First Love
First Love is a solo song by Suga off of Korean group BTS’ Wings album. It’s a very stripped back and deceptively simple rap. The song is actually completely autobiographical and shows Suga’s relationship with music through the relationship he had with a piano in his childhood home.
It’s really an ode to the importance music has to Suga, which is well-known by fans of the group and deals with how he abandoned music when he was younger, but came back to it and again almost lost it through physical injuries and his experience of depression, but how it always remained there for him to come back to.
It’s an incredibly sad, yet somehow uplifting song. Suga’s experiences with the piano and music have essentially made him the person that he is today and was his first love (hence the title).
This song is relaxed and very soothing for much of it, but also manages to show strained emotions and desperation. Plus, it’s just gorgeously audibly pleasing (is that a thing? like aesthetically pleasing but for sound?).
14: Birdy- Wild Horses
Wild Horses is a song written by Birdy for a friend of hers who was in a tough relationship at the time.
The song shows the narrator moving on from a love which provided comfort, but also a great deal of pain which she no longer needs and can live without. It’s very much an acknowledgement that despite the beautiful memories, the relationship was not healthy and that the narrator is more than capable of overcoming their current sadness despite how it may feel in the moment.
In addition to being another song with an incredibly important and relatable message, this song also boasts some gorgeous and unique vocals that I have come to expect and look forward to in Birdy songs. This is the 5th track on Birdy’s 2016 album “Beautiful Lies”.
13: V (BTS)- Stigma
Stigma is V’s solo song off of BTS’ album “Wings” which I have mentioned A LOT in this post. I actually discovered the main tracks of the album last year when it was released, but found the other songs this year.
Stigma is about hiding your identity. It’s about lying to yourself and the world about who you are and how it makes you feel dirty and disgraceful. The song deals with how you struggle with your identity and the song is essentially a confession and a plea to be forgiven.
V talks about how he tried to cover his “scars” or flaws, but felt like the world could see them anyway and feeling the need to be punished. He also talks about how the longer he tried to hide, the worse the pain and scars seemed to become.
It’s a very emotionally raw and powerful song, with a very unique sound.
12: GOT7- Moon U
Moon U is the second song off GOT7’s 7 for 7 album to make this list and is a chilled, urban hip-hop song composed by one of the group’s vocalists, Youngjae. Bambam also participated in writing the lyrics.
There’s no official statement about this song, but from looking at the lyrics, it seems to be comparing the relationship the narrator has with someone as being like how looking at the moon or a starry night feels. The relationship isn’t defined but does seem to be a crush. The song also admits that it is cheesy, but acknowledges that it’s the truth nonetheless.
It has a calm groove, mixed with interesting sounds and vocals which make it both soothing and interesting.
Although GOT7 sub all of their music videos, this is a live performance that was filmed and therefore has no subtitles. If you want to know the lyrics you can find them here (and just watch the lyric video instead), but it isn’t necessary.
11: GOT7- Teenager
Teenager is the THIRD song off of GOT7’s 7 for 7 album on this list which is pretty incredible. This particularly impressive considering the album only actually has 7 songs.
Teenager was written and composed by the leader of the group, JB and actually features a rap chorus, which is unusual in the group’s music.
The song is about how love can make you feel young and silly, or unsure like you were as a teenager. It’s about a girl making the narrator feel young and excited again, like they are experiencing the world all over again with fresh eyes.
Like many other songs on the album, this has a chilled slightly hip-hoppy and relaxed vibe.
This song doesn’t have a music video, but it does have a performance video which is kind of the same thing but simpler. It also has subs in five languages (Korean, Chinese, English, Japanese, Thai) because this group is a) multi cultural and b) absolute sweethearts.
10: A.C.E- CACTUS
CACTUS was A.C.E’s first ever song and has similar elements to their most recent song as well. A.C.E have so far mixed hardstyle with traditional K-Pop elements as well as other elements of EDM and created a very unique flavour of music.
CACTUS is about how the members felt that they were misunderstood and the cactus is symbolic of how they were: they seemed to be unapproachable or hard, but they were feeling lonely and like they wouldn’t be able to achieve their goals.
It’s also about how they were able to survive through hard circumstances and overcome the hard times. This likely refers to the training period of the boys as they all trained with many different companies for a long time before forming this group.
This MV also has no subs, but you can find a lyric video here or you can watch th english version of their of the song (below), but bear in mind that some of the lyrics are different as it was released as a thank you for the fans. However, it is still just as good as the original and definitely worth listening to.
9: SEVENTEEN- Without You (I’m Wearing A Hat)
Another video with a ton of subtitles! For this one, pick from Taiwanese Chinese, English, Greek, Japanese, Korean and Brazilian Portuguese. This isn’t an MV for it either, but it may as well be with how gorgeous it is (it’s actually a live performance).
Without You (also known as “I’m Wearing A Hat”) is off of SEVENTEEN’s latest album “Teen, Age” and was written the whole group and composed by Woozi (SEVENTEEN are known for being a completely self-produced group).
Despite all of my searching and this being quite a popular song, I can’t actually find an article about what this song is about, so I’m going to just do some self-interpretation. It appears to be about regret after the end of a relationship and keeping hope that the relationship could work out in the end.
It also seems to focus on the ideas of changing oneself in a positive way (in terms of personal development) as a result of self-reflection, without loosing oneself or hurting oneself more in the process, despite the amount of pain the narrator is in as a result of the end of the relationship.
The song is quite relaxed and soft, but features a very synthesised, electronic backing track which both compliment and contrasts the sound of the vocals.
The song also has one of my favourite lines of all the songs I’ve listened to this year- not in terms of lyrical brilliance, but just how it sounds (at 0:35-0:42).
8: BTS- Mic Drop
There are actually three versions of this song, but I’m only going to include two of them here as I don’t like one of them.
MIC Drop is a song off of Korean boyband/hip hop group BTS’ newest album “Love Yourself: Her”. It is one of the more hip-hop tracks on the album and is essentially a diss track for all of the people who hate on them or doubted them.
The song was written with J-Hope and RM, two of the group’s rappers. RM has said that his inspiration for this song came from Obama’s speech in which he dropped the mic.
The song above is a remix of the original song (below). There are two versions of this remix- the MV one and the audio track one. The audio track one also features Desiigner and removes my two favourite verses of the song, so I’m not a massive fan of it, but the MV only features Steve Aoki and is great.
The lyrics of the song are witty and funny and the beat is powerful.
The main difference between the original and the remix is that the remix is heavily english. The lyrics didn’t change, so they are the same as in the original version, they’re just in english in the Steve Aoki remix. The other difference is that the remix beat is slightly more electronic and different.
I definitely recommend both versions and the live performance (below) is incredible, but hasn’t got english subtitles, so I recommend watching the remix MV first. Not only does it have more english in the first place, but it also has english subtitles.
Personally, although I love them both, I find the remix more of an attack on the ears in terms of how busy the backing track and therefore slightly prefer the original, but like I said I love them both.
7: A.C.E- Callin’
A.C.E’s second song also made my list this year! So it’s 2 for 2 seeing as they only released two singles in the first place.
Like CACTUS, Callin’ also blends various genres of hardstyle, EDM and other genres of music to form a very unique but A.C.E-sounding song. This song is actually faster than CACTUS (if that’s even possible), but also features some much slower sections in the verses, which help give the song more depth and character.
This song continues A.C.E’s story where CACTUS leaves off and is about how they are ready to conquer whatever challenges life throws at them. It’s about young men who are ready to face the world.
The song features a very involved and heavy backing track, some amazing vocals, rap that flows impeccably and some incredible ad-libs. Some of the sounds and beats of the song seem out-of-place upon first listening, but actually give the song flavour and work really well after you get used to them as they interrupt where you think the song is going.
The music video is heavy on the editing and is a bit of a visual attack so whilst it’s not bad enough to warrant an epilepsy warning, if that is something you do suffer from or you get headaches very easily from flashing lights etc. you may want to watch a live performance here instead (somehow their live vocals are incredibly stable despite their complicated dancing). There are also no subtitles for this video, so you can find a lyric video here.
A.C.E come from a small company and are very new, so they’re very underrated and they’re my precious babies who I must protect at all costs :D.
6: The Rose- Like We Used To
The Rose is a Korean band (as in they play instruments) that released their first song earlier this year. Like We Used To is their second single and continues the style they established with their first song with a classic, soft rock sound.
The song talks about remembering all of the good times in a relationship (friendship, romance etc.- it isn’t specified although the MV shows it in terms of a friendship) and how that they are all tainted now that it’s over. It’s a song about longing and how all of the good things are hard to enjoy now.
The instrumentals are accomplished and audibly pleasing (yes, I’m going with that being a thing) and the vocals are sweet, beautiful and fit the song perfectly. The track is also composed/written by the group themselves. The MV does not have subtitles, so if you want to watch a lyric video you can do so here.
5: Jackson Wang- OKAY
With this song we welcome a THIRD language to my list here! Jackson Wang’s OKAY is half chinese (I assume mandarin) and half english. Jackson is a rapper in the Korean boyband GOT7 who I have mentioned a lot on this list and this was released after the same grief which lead to the album 7 for 7.
I previously mentioned that one member was getting a lot of hate, and that member as Jackson. The song seems to be about a romantic relationship, but could also be very easily be applied to the fans. It’s about overcoming hard times and feeling okay with yourself. There’s a definite bitter undertone and the song seems to be saying “I tried my best to be good for you, to be what you wanted, can you please just accept me, why do you treat me so badly”.
It’s a very heart-breaking song for those who know the background, but also quite an inspiring song as the beat is strong and steady, which implies that the narrator is getting through their problems.
The song is a rap song, although it features some of Jackson’s own vocals and was written and produced by Jackson and Team Wang (as his staff are affectionately called). It’s quite dark and I don’t really know how to describe it so definitely listen to it for yourself. The beat of the song is quite slow, which really adds to the atmosphere created by Jackson’s husky voice.
Although the song is largely in English (definitely enough to completely understand what is going on), some of it is Chinese and there are no subtitles, so if you would like to watch a lyric video there is one here. But the MV is gorgeous so I definitely recommend watching that as well.
4: Jimin (BTS)- Serendipity
This is the second introduction/trailer song I am including on this list and is off of BTS’ latest album “Love Yourself: Her”. Serendipity features Jimin, one of the groups vocalists.
Serendipity means to be happy by chance/luck and the song is about a sweet relationship that is meant to be (e.g. “the universe has moved for us”). It’s about a relationship where there is no one more perfect or suited and where you save each other. So essentially, it’s a love song. A very, very beautiful love song.
The melody and vocals are sweet and perfectly match the mood of the song and the video, if a little weird, is gorgeously shot.
3: Ryan Gosling & Emma Stone- City of Stars
City of Stars is off of the original soundtrack of “La La Land”. I started to watch the film and actually never finished it, but it has some truly gorgeous songs and this is probably my favourite of all of them.
As the song is from a musical film and is intended to communicate story, it is quite straight forward to understand, but it’s essentially about finding love and happiness.
I mostly love the sweet instrumental track and the stripped back, raw and human-sounding vocals. It makes me want to slow dance around the room with myself.
2: Harry Styles- Sweet Creature
Sweet Creature is the second song on Harry Styles’ first solo album “Harry Styles”. It features the same almost old-school vibe as the rest of the album which I am in love with.
When asked what the song was about, Harry didn’t give a straight answer, but had the following to say on the matter: “more so than one story, it’s very much a piece of me that I haven’t shared or talked about before”.
He also said that “I think most songs are written for one listener… it’s so much easier to say something in a song than it is to say it someone and I think it’s really amazing to be able to communicate through that and be able to wrap up everything that you want to say in three and a half minutes and say it in a song”.
It seems to be about someone who makes him feel at home though.
The song features absolutely gorgeous and very impressive vocals which are the main reason why I love this song so much.
1: SEVENTEEN Hip Hop Team- TRAUMA
Finally we have landed on my favourite song of the year!! TRAUMA is a song written, produced and performed by the rappers of boyband SEVENTEEN. They are also known as the Hip Hop Team and include Mingyu, Vernon, S.Coups and Wonwoo.
The song is about each of the members individual traumas and problems. The stories told in the thing are all personal and true and it’s about acknowledging and expressing the hardships that they’ve gone through to achieve what they have.
The song is mostly rap (as all of the members are rappers), but Mingyu proves a previously unknown aptitude for singing during the chorus. The beat is simple but strong and highlights their voices, which are all very unique. The sound of the song in general is very original.
The song is primarily in Korean, although Vernon’s verse is English as he is Korean-American, as is the chorus. Unfortunately although the video is an amazing work of art, it doesn’t have subtitles, so you can find a lyric video here.
Seriously though, this song is a piece of art, it’s heartbreaking and incredible and I must have watched it SO MANY FREAKING TIMES when it first came out.
This is also a track off SEVENTEEN’s most recent album “Teen, Age” making it the third song from the album on this list.
And that’s it! In the end, I ended up including songs in THREE languages (Korean, English and Chinese). I really wanted to include a range of songs in this list because I believe that people should listen to music outside of their own cultures as well. Plus, there’s so much non-western music out there that it would be sad not to include it, especially when I listen to it so often!
Unfortunately, there are not many artists in western music that I LOVE at the moment (and one of my favourites actually didn’t make this list because her music is completely instrumental plus her album this year was a Christmas one) because I’m not a massive fan of the most popular music styles in western music at the moment. So if you have any favourites that you think I might like based on this list, please let me know because I would love to have a more balanced list next year!
How many of these songs had you heard of? (Quite possibly not many as it was heavy on non-western music.) Did you like any of the other ones that you listened to?
Happy listening, Keira x.