Glassnote Records

The 25 Best Singles of 2017

15

Rodney Crowell, “It Ain’t Over Yet”

An award-winning memoirist, Rodney Crowell knows full well the implicit power of autobiography—and he’s never wielded it more compellingly than on “It Aint’s Over Yet,” the standout single from his based-on-a-true-story collection Close Ties. His verses feel like pure confession: He bemoans his “rickety old legs and watery eyes” over a spunky, ramshackle beat. He admits that his mind is a mess. He looks back over a long and varied career and wonders where it all went. He sees his relevance slipping away—but just in the nick of time, John Paul White swoops in with the defiant chorus: “I don’t care what you think you heard/You’re still learning how to fly.” The ultimate grace note is when Crowell reflects on the woman who tried to save him and whom he pushed away—only to have his ex-wife, Rosanne Cash, appear for a wise, supportive verse of her own. The song ends with the light dawning and a realization that maybe the glory days don’t have to be over. Hurst

14

Lil Uzi Vert, “XO Tour Llif3”

In which the punchline-first title of one of those children’s books of the “Go the Fuck to Sleep” breed is milked for every last ounce of post-millennial malaise that it’s worth. That rare post-apocalyptic dank-fest that eschews maximalism in favor of the sonic approximation of what’s left when there’s genuinely nothing left, “XO Tour Llif3” is no prank. When Lil Uzi Vert’s vocals climb to the higher register, and both his psyche and producer TM88’s drone plummet to the lowest subbasement, words just start falling apart in his cheek, and you’d almost feel embarrassed to be listening were we not all collectively, like him, being pushed to the edge. When was the last time something this despondent reached the highest reaches of the Billboard Hot 100? Gilbert O’Sullivan’s “Alone Again (Naturally)”? Henderson

13

Future, “Mask Off”

As much a meme as it is a single, “Mask Off” inspired a social media trend challenging fans to perform their own renditions of the earworm flute hook. But the song would have been a jam even without the internet’s help, just for producer Metro Boomin’s inspired pairing of that hook—sampled from an obscure recording of “Prison Song” from Selma: The Musical—with a standard trap beat. And if Future’s lyrics don’t stray far from his usual preoccupations with paper-chasing and prescription drug abuse, there’s an undeniable power in the sheer staccato economy with which he spits them out. “Mask on, fuck it, mask off” is a line for the ages, and until Future and young Metro bless us with their next banger, this is the cream of the crop. Hoskins

12

Craig Finn, “God in Chicago”

If Hold Steady songs are awash in the euphoric glow of long nights filled with killer parties, Craig Finn’s solo work is bathed in the sobering, regretful light of the morning after. “God in Chicago” is Finn’s masterwork in this often bleak slice-of-life style. In what is essentially a short story told almost entirely in spoken word over tolling piano chords, Finn squeezes a screenplay’s worth of character detail into four and a half minutes as he recounts a friend’s death leading to a mundane drug deal and ultimately a starry-eyed tryst in the titular city with the deceased’s sister. There’s a ton to unpack, and even more left intriguingly unsaid. But what sets “God in Chicago” apart among Finn’s considerable backlog of stories about partiers, deadbeats, and weirdos is the sheer breadth of the emotional journey it takes its characters on. We get the awkward beauty of an unexpected night on the town and its almost spiritual significance—“I felt God in the buildings”—followed by a heartbreaking return to reality. Winograd

11

Katy Perry, “Chained to the Rhythm”

The lead single from Katy Perry’s first album in four years is a strikingly subtle piece of Caribbean-inflected protest pop. The breezy track isn’t just a slow burner, but its message—that we’re all living in bubbles, “happily numb”—is also decidedly bipartisan. Whether the song, co-written by Sia and produced by longtime Perry collaborator Max Martin, is an endorsement of self-care or a critique of escapism in times of political upheaval is up for interpretation. What is certain is that a track with a hook that implores listeners to “Come on, turn it up/Keep it on repeat” had better deliver the goods, and this one most definitely does. Cinquemani

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