Guest List Week #1: Ilana Bergstrom
Welcome to my highly anticipated and critically acclaimed "Favorite Songs of 2017" list. In honor of my number of trips around the sun, I've selected for you my top 33 songs that came out this year.
* indicates artists who I saw live in concert in 2017
(1) Carly Rae Jepsen - Cut To The Feeling
“It’s the audio equivalent of powersliding to the front of the stage as a bitchin’ guitar solo mirrors every motion of your exultation, except instead of guitars it’s synths as big and bright as the sun.”
Again and again, the reviewers on The Singles Jukebox articulate my feelings so much better than I ever can/will. So, I guess all I can do at this point is make a completely overused and unoriginal Christmasy pop culture reference:
Thank you, CRJ, for the song of the year.
(2) Selena Gomez - Bad Liar
If Selena Gomez had come out as a huge Talking Heads fan years ago, I would've had a drastically different opinion about her musical career from the start. From the iconic baseline to the desperate lyrics and her breathless vocals, I just love this song from start to finish. It’s also the reason that “Psycho Killer” was one of my Spotify “My 2017 Wrapped” top songs of the year, which was probably confusing to a lot of you.
(3) * Kesha - Woman
OKAY, SHUT UP!
Though I’ve never been a huge fan of Tik Tok, Ke$ha/Kesha’s other music has been a guilty pleasure of mine since 2010. With the announcement of her new album earlier this year, I had all of my fingers and toes crossed for an A+ banger. What I got instead was the ballad “Praying.” Not exactly what I was hoping for, despite its obvious merits.
So by the time she dropped “Woman,” with the accompanying sequin-drenched music video, I was beyond relieved. This is the Kesha I needed, especially in 2017.
(4) * Dua Lipa (Initial Talk Remix) - New Rules
I had never heard of Dua Lipa before her “New Rules” music video trended on Twitter, but once I saw it, I not only jumped on the bandwagon, I also insisted on riding shotgun. So after everyone else claimed to be a Dua fan, I worried that I was going to be sick of her music by the time her tour brings her to SF in February 2018. Since we were running out of time, the most logical thing to do was to fly to London to see her perform in front of a sold out hometown crowd at the beginning of November. (Which was awesome, by the way.)
Little did I know, a Tokyo-based producer called Initial Talk was about to blow my mind (mwah — hahaha, get it?!) with this INCREDIBLE remix. Now I think she should scrap the original song and perform this 80s version for the rest of her career.
(5) St. Vincent - Los Ageless
This is one of many songs that made me want to learn how to play the guitar in 2018. I imagine that St. Vincent ALSO got her start as a killer guitarist based on some sort of new year’s resolution, and I’m really glad that we have that in common.
(6) Indiana - Bad Luck
Yeah, I know this song isn’t on Spotify, but stop what you’re doing and LISTEN TO IT RIGHT NOW ON YOUTUBE OR SOUNDCLOUD. It hooks me from the very beginning, and just gets better and better. Can’t wait for this album to come out next year.
(7) Nine Inch Nails - Less Than
This is the second best song of the year that told me to “SHUT UP!”
Along with “Head Like A Hole,” which, by the way, came out in 1989 (!!!!), this is my other favorite NIN song. It’s everything I want from Trent Reznor in 2017, and that’s a sentence I never thought I would write.
(8) Grace Mitchell - Kids (Ain’t All Right)
Another major influence of my “Ilana needs to learn how to play the guitar” campaign. Next time you’re in a bad mood, I highly recommend putting on your best RBF, blasting this song through your headphones, and power-stomping around your city. It feels so good.
(9) * MUNA - I Know a Place
I think my most favorite thing about this song is just how much Aaron likes it. If you haven’t read his thoughts about MUNA and “I Know A Place,” go do that now … but also make sure you already listened to that Indiana song I mentioned earlier in this list. That still gets top priority.
(10) Now, Now - Yours
Huge shout-out to my coworker Brenda who told me about this song. I just think it’s gorgeous.
(11) Kendrick Lamar - DNA.
Sorry, Beyoncé, but Kendrick Lamar’s performances are my favorite part of every awards show. And yeah, I am likely the only person reading this who still watches awards shows, I know, but it gives me something fun to discuss with my grandma.
(12) Lorde - Perfect Places
I love this song, I love this music video, I love this entire album. As a self-described picky and judgmental bitch, it feels really nice to truly enjoy something this much.
(13) * Pale Waves - Television Romance
Okay, getting back to being judgmental, I was shocked when I saw what this band looks like. Two raccoon-eyed goth girls and two baby-faced blonde boys somehow came together to make songs that sound exactly like, but somehow better than, The 1975. This song is pretty much the same as their other hit “There’s A Honey,” but I’m certainly not complaining.
(14) James Hype feat. Kelli-Leigh - More Than Friends
Imagine the following scenario: You’re incredibly sick in a Glasgow hotel room. You’re running a fever, your entire body aches, and can hardly stay awake, but you have tickets to see Little Mix in a couple of hours and you didn’t travel all the way to Scotland to miss the show. Even watching music videos, your usual most reliable way to make you feel better, isn’t working. You feel miserable, sad, and really sweaty even though you just took a shower.
Then, all of the sudden, you hear what sounds like a sped-up, remixed version of En Vogue’s timeless hit “Don’t Let Go.” Something in you snaps. You immediately check out who this James Hype guy is, send the Spotify link to your favorite En Vogue enthusiasts back home, you pull yourself together and go to the MF’ing Little Mix concert.
What I’m trying to say is, James Hype probably saved my life that day.
(15) * HAIM - Want You Back
I’m not sick yet of Ian Eastwood and Francis and the Lights’ goofy choreography, which only accentuated my favorite song off HAIM’s new album.
(16) * Alex Lahey - Lotto in Reverse
Alex Lahey broke my heart when she didn’t play this song at her recent SF show, but now I guess it makes me like it even more? Messed up, I know.
(17) Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds - Fort Knox
You know that NY Times list of questions that every couple needs to ask themselves before they get married?
Will we have children?
How important is religion?
Is my debt your debt?
Well, I’m pissed because no one told me that I had to ask Aaron “Which Gallagher brother do you like most?” and now I’m second-guessing everything about our relationship.
By the way, my listing of the Gallagher brothers’ songs next to each other but with Noel on top is completely intentional. Even though I’ll admit that Liam’s new songs are fantastic, I’m Team Noel forever and I’m both confused and horrified that my husband of over five years feels differently. I recommend watching the Supersonic documentary and coming to your own conclusion, if you haven’t done so already. As Cher Horowitz once said in a very similar context, “It's a personal choice every woman has got to make for herself.”
With all that being said, Noel’s take on Kanye’s "Power" rocks.
(18) Liam Gallagher - Wall of Glass
Liam’s a whiny little shithead who probably sold his soul and more to Andrew Wyatt for this fantastic song, but damn it, it was probably worth it.
(19) Tove Lo - Disco Tits
One Singles Jukebox reviewer wrote that this song is “Tove Lo out-Tove Lo-ing herself,” and I couldn’t agree more.
(20) * Beth Ditto - In and Out
Beth Ditto’s show at The Independent this summer was one of my favorite concerts of 2017. Combining classic Gossip songs and new tracks from her solo album, I think everyone in the audience fell in (not out) of love with Beth that night.
(21) Liam Payne feat. Quavo - Strip That Down
Undeniably catchy? Absolutely.
(22) Camila Cabello - Crying in the Club
Only Sia would think to rhyme the words “faith” and “ecstasy” in a song. I’m not going to say that I think it works, but I can ignore it enough to enjoy the rest of the song.
(23) Luis Fonsi & Daddy Yankee, feat. Justin Bieber - Despacito (Remix)
I LIKE DESPACITO. AND NO, I’M NOT EVEN SICK OF IT YET. DEAL WITH ITTTTTTTT (à la Liz Lemon.)
(24) Kelela - LMK
This wins the award for “Most Old School TRL-Styled Music Video Of 2017.” Hard to not like a song after coming to that realization. The entire Take Me Apart album is fantastic.
(25) Sofi Tukker feat. NERVO, The Knocks & Alisa Ueno - Best Friend
A+ to the horns and drums that make the beat so irresistible.
(26) * Betty Who - Human Touch
Ugh, I just want this to be a Rihanna song instead — is that too much to ask?!
(27) Harry Styles - Sign of the Times
Where were you the first time you began respecting Harry Styles as a real musician? This song was a lovely surprise during a dark year.
(28) White Reaper - The Stack
Aaron’s enthusiasm for this band won me over. The end.
(29) * Big Thief - Shark Smile
Can we all stop for a minute and admit that we COMPLETELY fucked up by overlooking Big Thief in 2016? Everyone except for Carl and Marisa should be ashamed of themselves. Adrianne Lenker’s extraordinary story, talent, and reserve blow me away.
I also think this is the right time/place for me to apologize for overlooking Grimes in 2015. Forgive me, Claire, for I have sinned.
(30) The Rentals - Elon Musk Is Making Me Sad
So speaking of sad stuff, just read the song title.
Okay, moving on …
(31) Lizzo - Water Me
What. A. QUEEEEEEN.
I was so bummed that we missed her in SF earlier this year, but London called, y’all!
(32) * LCD Soundsystem - tonite
Apologies to everyone who got sick after I brought the plague to the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium last month! If it makes you feel better, I liked the song a lot more before I went to that show.
(33) Portugal. The Man - Feel It Still
This wins the award for “Song I Used To Like When It FIrst Came Out, But Am Most Sick Of Now.”
For extra credit, here are my Five Favorite Music Videos of 2017:
Dua Lipa - New Rules
Who doesn’t love ombre robes, flamingos, and “energetic dancing”? Honestly, I can’t think of a better introduction to a new-to-me artist.
Charli XCX - Boys
This text exchange occurred exactly 16 minutes after the video came out:
I’m pretty sure I then proceeded to text every other boy I knew who would be … um, interested.
You may have noticed that this song was not included in my “33 Favorite Songs of 2017” list. While I think it’s a good song—a fun and catchy song—I can’t help but wonder how lukewarm I’d feel if this genius video was not associated with it.
Kesha - Woman
Like “Boys,” I never had the chance to first listen to this song without watching the accompanying music video. But unlike “Boys,” I knew I would have fallen in love with this anthem no matter what. The video, with the campy mustaches, death-by-overuse-of-gold-sequins, and middle fingers up + epic eye rolls only accentuate that which would have already won me over.
Little Mix ft. Stormzy - Power
Another song not on my “33 Favorite Songs of 2017” list! But Ilana, I thought you love Little Mix! Didn’t you rise from the dead in Scotland to see them play an emotionally-confusing-yet-amazing show? How could you make this omission?!
Well, I was playing by the self-imposed rule that the songs had to be released in 2017, and the Glory Days album originally came out in November 2016. The official remix of “Power” with Stormzy DID come out in May 2017, but … eh. This is my favorite version of Stormzy, true, but I don’t particularly love him, much to Aaron’s disappointment.
Anyway, let’s chat about the video. As Stefon would say, “This place has everything.” They’re serving us girl power. Neon. Leather. Alaska Thunderfuck. Dramatic slow motion walking. Jesus Christ, what else can you possibly ask for?
Tove Lo - Disco Tits
A song titled “Disco Tits” better have an epic music video to match, and fortunately for us Tove delivered with a ridiculous NSFW masterpiece that’s weirdly specific to my interests:
For the record, no, I don’t have a muppets fetish, but I do like when they show up in music videos (like in “Dance Yrself Clean” and “Freakish”), and imagining them as background singers on songs like “Dark Fantasy,” “Breaking It Up,” "Dream City," and “Green Light.” Swedish stuff is cool, too.