As we continue to wrap up 2017—to burn down and toss the ashes, ideally—it's time for another end-of-year list!
Following full-scale team efforts for the best albums of 2017 and the best songs of 2017, though, it was time to get a bit more personal. So I've asked the DJBooth writing team to each share the song they listened to most this year. In a time where it's nearly impossible to listen to everything you love more than once, it takes a special song to warrant pressing play 30, 40, 50 or more times.
These are those songs. (Also available in playlist form via Spotify.)
Frank Ocean — "Provider"
Life is filled with simple satisfaction that we often forget. The thirst-ending gulp of water tastes the sweetest. The first bite that quiets the growls of starvation is always the most satisfying, no matter the meal. When I listen to Frank Ocean’s “Provider,” the song becomes a symbol of beauty in the simplistic. The elegant melody could belong to a flower blooming, the grace of his words sail across the piano keys like a swan across a sea, and the feeling is warm—the warmth of being cradled in the arms of a lover struck by Cupid. In a year that has felt cold, heavy, and twisted, “Provider” has been an escape to the simple, warm, and loving side of life. —Yoh
SZA — "Drew Barrymore"
SZA debuted "Drew Barrymore" in early January on Jimmy Kimmel Live!, a performance that moved me to tears. The live band added a fullness and warmth, and SZA's vocals were the most commanding and assured I'd ever heard them. Six months later, the album version features slinking and tepid production, ceding the floor to SZA's heart-wrenching hook. From the live performance to the album, I still get the sense that SZA is singing directly to me and for me. “Drew Barrymore” is an emotional cleanse that we all need at least once a day. —Donna-Claire Chesman
Berner & Young Dolph — "Knuckles" ft. Gucci Mane
Perfect rap moments from "Knuckles":
1. Berner’s obligatory Cookie mention.
2. The beat.
3. Literally every single line in Dolph’s verse.
4. Dolph's “Ay hold up” ad-lib after he says “Talking on the phone while I’m getting neck.”
5. The way Dolph enunciates the end of “Told the car salesman I don’t want NO CEILINGS!”
6. “Fresh as a fashion show, we gon’ go pistachio.”
6a. Gucci saying he fucks with Berner because he represents the struggle.
6b. Berner’s hook representing the struggle
7. Everything else.
Lasting relevance and critical acclaim be damned, "Knuckles" is the pure joy of a perfect rap song. —Brendan V
JAY-Z — "Smile" ft. Gloria Carter
2017 JAY-Z is my favorite JAY-Z. That might sound blasphemous to some, especially coming from a ’90s baby like myself, but there’s an endearing air of peace, warmth, and wisdom about current day Shawn Carter—and no song better captures this than “Smile.” The revelation about his mother’s long-hidden sexuality—and the way her notoriously private son has embraced it publicly in his music—is amazing. So, too, is the soothing Stevie Wonder sample. But the reason “Smile” really puts a smile on my face is Gloria Carter’s spoken word outro, a beautiful reminder that life is too damn short to put fear over freedom, whether that’s in love or life in general. No wonder JAY-Z is so happy. —Andy James
BROCKHAMPTON — "STAR"
BROCKHAMPTON’s first bout of musical saturation was a treasure trove of potential. For me, it all started with the bouncing synths of “STAR.” Dom McLennon claiming “Jason Statham with the whip game” and Ameer Vann puffing his chest out to say, “I’m like Prince with the white doves" is thrilling enough, but Kevin Abstract’s third verse a quiet storm of empowerment this side of American Boyfriend. Just another part of the movie I’ll be rewinding when it’s all over. —CineMasai
SiR — "Ooh Nah Nah" ft. Masego
It's been two years since I've taken an actual, real-life vacation—this is what happens when you get married, buy a house and have a child in less than 24 months—which has meant turning to music to provide an imaginary oasis. In 2017, no song transported my mind to a child- and work-free tropical destination more frequently than SiR's Masego-assisted "Ooh Nah Nah," a perfect four-minute, island-influenced getaway and the highlight of his Her Too EP. —Z
Smino — "Netflix & D'usse"
The most infectious cut off of an album packed with earworm melodies, “Netflix & Dusse” isn’t so much a song as it is a teleportation device that uses warm textures and melodic percussion to transport you to the nearest tropical beach. A much better fit for Smino’s discarded contribution to Big Sean’s “Living Single,” my prior familiarity with the song’s first verse primed me to enjoy the track long before I even heard it. By the time the song’s bridge hit, I was swooning, and I returned to the song incessantly throughout the year in order to recreate this feeling. —Hershal Pandaya
Kendrick Lamar — "DNA."
I don't exactly remember the details of the first time I heard “DNA.” because I'm fairly confident I blacked out for the entire three minutes. There wasn't another song this year that pulled together iconicism and flair quite like what Kendrick Lamar and Mike WiLL Made-It crafted. It's as if Kendrick wanted to kick off DAMN. by bursting through the door riding a laser-firing jet ski. From Kendrick’s entire rap holiness being compared to his mortal counterparts in hip-hop to Fox News interludes about hip-hop ruining America, to an absolutely eternal final stretch that finds Kendrick rapping as kinetically as anything since “Control,” listening to “DNA.” embeds the song within your own genetic fabric, and with each subsequent playback that new strand of life only continues to evolve. —Matt Wilhite
03 Greedo — "Breaking News"
It’s a disservice to pick a lone 03 Greedo song. The addictive quality of his music guarantees a new “most-played” every week. Since January, the Watts rapper has released over seventy tracks, ranging in tone from freeway gasser “Bally X Balmain” to the radiantly indulgent “Giuliano Fujiwara.” Sometimes he’ll lean back into pitched sample loops, many produced himself, and carve a narrative with precise bars (“Murda Music,” “For the Paper Freestyle”). His output is consistent in its critique of the prison-industrial complex and one of the most harrowing indictments rests at the end of “Breaking News.” Before the last hook, he suggests it’s more humane to “put a shell” in an enemy than “wish jail” on him. Greedo’s recent arrest gives that line immediate existential weight. Pay attention to 03 Greedo and his take on predatory institutions. Though penned across his face, his catalogue alone reads “living legend.” (His expansive discography can be daunting. The run from “Gossip” to “03 Purple Hearts” on Purple Summer 03: Purple Hearted Soldier is a good place to start. It’s better than whatever your fav put out this year.) —Miguelito