Alright, the rules are: it must be a song that placed in the top 10 at some point on Billboard’s charts and it cannot have been on last year’s list. Other than that, it’s pretty straightforward.
10. Alessia Cara “Here”
This song isn’t that good, let that be known, but it deserves credit for becoming the pop introvert anthem (the real introvert anthem is Courtney Barnett’s “Nobody Cares If You Don’t Go to the Party”, but pop deserves their own). Introverts need their own jams and to hear a song say “I would rather be at home all by myself not in this room” and “How did it ever come to this / I shoulda never come to this” allows for 26 years of party going anxiety to be released from my body in pop solidarity. Thank you Alessia.
9. Charlie Puth w/ Selena Gomez “We Don’t Talk Anymore”
I have little to say about this song, it just wasn’t as terrible as “Can’t Stop the Feeling” (which does does have four seconds where it’s pretty good) or as bleh as “Closer” which despite being #1 for a third of the year I can barely recall. When it comes to rating pop music that’s all you need sometimes.
8. Flo Rida “My House”
Flo Rida is like Bruno Mars or Pitbull, he’s never been cool but he sure is plain enough to capture the top of the charts consistently. “My House” might be Flo Rida at his coolest, he’s just so casual here, like have you ever heard anyone tell you to pop open champagne with the amount of nonchalance that Rida does here? Mad respect. (I must admit here that most of the times I heard this song was during this Spotify commercial, which I like quite a bit?)
7. Mike Posner “I Took a Pill in Ibiza”
The best part of this song is the opening where Posner name drops Aviici. Why don’t more pop artists do this? Way more middling artists would rise to fame if they dropped tabloid-esque stories in the middle of their songs. The next Haim album should be a list of songs inspired by that time they hung out with Taylor Swift at the beach. I’m shocked that John Mayer hasn’t released a whole album featuring with each track named after his celebrity sexual exploits. This would be gold, c’mon people!
6. Rae Sremmurd “Black Beatles”
Really only a hit due to its usage in the viral video meme #TheMannequinChallenge “Beatles” is a solid addition to a duo that will probably be providing us with hyped up trap singles for the next ten years.
5. Rihanna w/Drake “Work”
This year saw the Rihanna and Drake ‘ship reach its peak (and probably its finish?) and “Work” was at the center of it. They released two I can’t really tell if this is empowering to women music videos for the song, each featuring Drake up on Rihanna in their real life will they or won’t they relationship. At this point I have no idea where their standing is, but I hope the mythology continues because the two are a perfect musical match.
4. Rihanna “Needed Me”
Rihanna is gold when it comes to making hits, but she’s never quite reached the album-maker level status of someone like Beyonce. She came close with this year’s Anti, but it contained a lot of filler. “Needed Me” is surprisingly the only other single to chart in the top 10 from the album and it’s one that shows Rihanna potential as more than a pop artist. It’s actually kind of strange that this was a radio hit at all, but nonetheless it features that unique DGAF island vibe that she has come to represent.
3. D.R.A.M. w/ Little Yachty “Broccoli”
This song owes its success to Chance the Rapper who paved the way for the ultra-sincere upbeat hip-hop jam (and also featured both artists on his mixtape). D.R.A.M. and Yachty bring so much delight to this song, it’s absolutely infectious, capturing the spirit of D.R.A.M.’s album cover (which you should really check out). Hip-hop has evolved from capturing inner city life, boasting about wealth, the I can be sad emo phase, and now it’s turned to sincerity–essentially turning into those moments in Saturday Night Live when a character breaks–it’s kinda cheesy, but there’s so much glee that it works.
2. Desiigner “Panda”
I often find myself deferring to the out of nowhere hits when it comes to ranking the pop charts. It’s no surprise that Desiigner made a name for himself this year, but “Panda” truly did come out of nowhere. I suppose we’re going to get one rapper making trap music to surprising success per year (last year was Fetty Wap and now Desiigner), much like there was a string of indie rock bands with top hits in the preceding years. The song will outlive Kanye’s sampling of it, I even went to an Angels game where MVP Mike Trout had it as his walk up song, so ya know it’s good.
- Beyonce “Formation”
I almost ranked a couple of these songs ahead of this one, but when it came down to it I could not ignore the importance of “Formation”. It’s an anthem for women everywhere, but particularly for women of color. I’m going to try to go through as many of these lists as possible without doing a state of the nation, but I mean look at the state of the nation… Beyonce has slid perfectly into her #Feminist role, grabbing the mic, making herself the emcee, and paving a way for the woman who gather behind her.
Honorable mentions: That one part in “Can’t Stop the Feeling” when Justin Timberlake sings “Nothing I can see but you when you dance…”; DNCE “Cake By the Ocean”; Adele “Send My Love”; 5th Harmony “Work From Home”