As the New Year draws near, Headline Planet’s recap of the year’s best pop hits continues.
Earlier this week, we confirmed that songs by Clean Bandit, Halsey, Imagine Dragons, Dua Lipa and James Arthur made the Top 20.
Today, we move into the Top 15.
As a reminder, qualifying songs must have first charted at pop radio in 2017 — and reached at least the Top 20.
15) There’s Nothing Holdin’ Me Back by Shawn Mendes
The simplest way to describe “There’s Nothing Holdin’ Me Back” is that it sounds like a typical Shawn Mendes single on steroids.
And insofar as Shawn Mendes’ singles have been consistently good, that statement ultimately means that “TNHMB” is great.
“TNHMB” displays a level of dynamics not seen any Mendes’ previous releases. The composition, production and vocals properly rise and fall, leading to an immersive experience. Whereas Mendes’ music has always made for a pleasant listen, “TNHMB” truly engages and captivates audiences. It creates a legitimate connection between Mendes and his listeners.
In addition to demonstrating a more dynamic vocal delivery, Mendes sings with more confidence and charisma than ever before.
Paired with strong instrumentals (including 80s-style guitar that wonderfully complements his delivery on the chorus), Mendes’ vocal showing positions “TNHMB” as a legitimate event.
It absolutely cements the song as one of the year’s best pop hits.
14) Redbone by Childish Gambino
Yes, it is admirable that established hip-hop artist Donald “Childish Gambino” Glover decided to make a psychedelic funk song like “Redbone.”
Yes, it is impressive that the song so credibly captures the sound of a previous era. This is not a song “inspired” by the past; it is one immersed in it.
What really makes “Redbone” special, however, is its sheer quality. It is not special simply because the artist took a risk. It is special because it is a truly great record.
Best of all, despite its throwback nature, “Redbone” still possesses an enormous degree of modern pop sensibility. It may feel like it came from the 1960s or 1970s, but it still sounded right for radio in 2017. Catchy with resonant lyrics, “Redbone” is an accessible, engaging record that warranted the hype – and success – it enjoyed throughout the year.
It is a nominee for Record Of The Year (among other awards) at the upcoming Grammy Awards.
It is also one of the best pop hits of 2017.
13) Something Just Like This by The Chainsmokers & Coldplay
With “Something Just Like This,” The Chainsmokers and Coldplay firmly dismiss the notion that collaboration requires compromise.
The sublime record accentuates each act’s strengths. The beat, production and electronic components are every bit as lush and enthralling as those on The Chainsmokers’ own breakthrough hits.
Coldplay frontman Chris Martin, meanwhile, sings with the conviction and charisma that have cemented his status as one of music’s elite frontman. Avoiding the trap that plagues so many EDM-pop vocalists, Martin never comes across as a passenger on a production-driven journey. He always seems to be steering the ship.
Compelling throughout, “Something Just Like This” builds to a downright magical conclusion. The fusion of glorious guitar work, stunning electronic production and Martin’s vocals creates one of the year’s best sonic “moments.”
The entire effort makes for one of the year’s best pop hits.
12) That’s What I Like by Bruno Mars
“That’s What I Like” is not necessarily a novel piece of songwriting. It does really not have the inherent, obvious, universal “hit” feel of his Mark Ronson collaboration “Uptown Funk.” It certainly would not have been a smash in the hands of another artist.
All those limitations are okay, because “That’s What I Like” is not trying to transform mainstream music. It is not trying to recreate the magic of “Uptown Funk,” and it is not in the hands of another artist.
It is a platform for Bruno Mars to be Bruno Mars.
It is an opportunity for Mars to showcase the confidence, swagger, charisma and vocal prowess that make him one of the most (if not the most) compelling artists in mainstream music.
Bruno Mars absolutely seizes the opportunity. His game, dynamic, self-assured delivery epitomizes the term “superstar.” He invites listeners into his world – and dazzles them when they get there.
Mars’ performance is the highlight, but the production more than holds up its end of the bargain. Not simply a complement for Mars’ vocal showcase, the production elevates “That’s What I Like” into a striking, infectious, unforgettable pop record.
“That’s What I Like” showcases the brilliance of Bruno Mars. It certainly ranks as one of the year’s best pop hits.
11) Malibu by Miley Cyrus
While typically intended as a compliment, the term “versatile” does not do Miley Cyrus justice.
She is not simply capable of adapting to the sounds of different genres and eras. She completely immerses herself in her music, making songs of any style sound like they completely belong to her.
The outstanding “Malibu” exemplifies this point.
With rootsy, surf-rock elements, “Malibu” marks a substantial departure from the songs on “Bangerz” – her last commercial offering. Yet Cyrus performs the song as if she has spent her entire life making this kind of music. Forget “credible,” this record sounds downright authentic.
Cyrus’ talent, it should be noted, goes beyond her “chameleon” skills. She is also a commanding, dynamic, passionate vocalist who tells a compelling story with each and every note.
Beyond that, she is an unapologetic vocalist. Whereas some pop artists mute their quirks, Cyrus embraces them. Her pronunciation of “yewww” and “Malibewww” is surely polarizing, but it also gives the song a raw, honest, real quality. It establishes Cyrus as someone who is personally connected to her music – as someone who is sharing rather than merely performing.
Top-to-bottom, “Malibu” is a stunning record. Precise in when to support and when to contrast with the vocal delivery, the production accentuates Cyrus’ fantastic performance.
“Malibu” is one of the year’s best pop hits.