Twelve songs rose to the top of the Billboard Hot 100 in 2017, and together they tell a story. More than one story, even.
If you were looking for signs of cultural decay—uh, really? You had to go looking for those? In 2017? But still, the fact that only two solo female artists had #1 hits this year... well, it ain't quite Nazis in the streets, but it's not healthy.
Meanwhile, Black America did its best to save the charts from seductive treacle and superstar self-aggrandizement with some of the strongest hip-hop hits in recent memory. White America responded with Post Malone.
Still, the good songs were good. And the bad songs, yes, were bad. And the Weeknd, he fell smack dab in the middle. What say we separate the cream from the crap and count 'em down.
12. Post Malone ft. 21 Savage, “Rockstar”
And so one of pop music’s dopiest clichés reaches the final stage of its etymological devolution. A rock star used to be a scumbag in a band who knew how to party. Once guitars went the way of sousaphones, a rock star became any scumbag who knew how to party. Now that our Spotify-addled teens have grown too glum to trash hotel rooms, I guess it just means a scumbag?
11. Ed Sheeran, “Shape of You”
Lil Ned is fast becoming the Nickelback of sexy-feelings pop: an easy punchline for jerks who don’t have any actual opinions about music. That said, he’s the worst thing to happen to radio since the Telecommunications Act of 1996, this song's title is infuriatingly non-idiomatic, and apparently he doesn’t wash his bedsheets.
10. Taylor Swift, “Look What You Made Me Do”
I’m too sexy for this shit.
9. Bruno Mars, “That’s What I Like”
If a Buzzfeed list of 37 Things Only ‘80s Kids Can Understand got knocked up by a Super Bowl halftime show, Bruno Mars would burst fedora-first from its womb nine months later.
8. Ed Sheeran ft. Beyoncé, “Perfect”
Why don’t they make the whole Ed Sheeran album out of Beyoncé?
7. DJ Khaled ft. Justin Bieber, Quavo, Chance the Rapper, and Lil Wayne, “I’m the One”
Does any current pop superstar add less of a presence to a song than Justin Bieber? There’s something almost charming about the kid’s vacant passivity. Here his voice is like the air that gives cotton candy its shape—flavorless and insubstantial, but subtract it and all you’d have is melted sugar.
6. The Weeknd ft. Daft Punk, “Starboy”
Much catchier, funkier, and sexier than any song about what an expensive table Bella Hadid snorts coke off has any right to be.
5. Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee ft. Justin Bieber, “Despacito”
If you know the original mix, hearing Bieber butt in on the first Spanish language #1 since “Macarena” is like walking into the Duane Reade that replaced the bodega you used to shop at. But if you need to buy shampoo, what are you supposed to do?
4. Cardi B, “Bodak Yellow (Money Moves)”
She’s a goddam superhero, that Cardi is. Except instead of hiding her secret identity, stripper-turned-superstar Belcalis Almanzar flaunts it. And ain’t no kryptonite in sight—just pure up, up, and away.
3. Rae Sremmurd ft. Gucci Mane, “Black Beatles”
As trippily self-referential, knowledgeably ahistorical, and appropriately undeferential a misappropriation of the you-know-whoses’ legacy as the Backbeat soundtrack, "Homer's Barbershop Quartet," and Tiffany’s “I Saw Him Standing There.”
2. Kendrick Lamar, “Humble”
He's the greatest rapper alive whether or not you thnk he's the best. But here, as the saying goes, here he’s great because he is good.
1. Migos ft. Lil Uzi Vert, “Bad and Boujee”
While Kendrick drives to the hoop like LeBron, Migos run passing drills like the Globetrotters on their day off. Nimble and athletic, memorable and memeable, their voices skrrt and blaow and grrah and glah with a giddy interplay that’s less about what they say than how they say it. So even when it sounds like they could be a little nicer to the ladies, I try not to give those nasty lyrics a second thot thot thot.