the A-Z of pop in 2017
What a year it's been.
This article was originally published by i-D UK.
a is for allow me to string out this narrative
The old Taylor can’t come to the phone right now. Why? Because she’s busy drawing out the Kanye/Kim feud via "Look What You Made Me Do," an audiovisual double whammy that involves lyrics about a tilted stage and a bath full of diamonds that seems to reference one particular jewel heist.
b is for broadcasting the boom boom boom boom
Lorde delivered unto us the year’s second greatest lyric: “We're the greatest, they'll hang us in the Louvre. Down the back, but who cares? Still the Louvre.” (You can tell she was pretty pleased with that because she used " The Louvre" as the song title despite this lyric not even being the chorus.)
c is for chart armageddsheeron
March saw the Sheeran Singularity come to pass, when the UK’s premiere loop-pedal-bothering troubadour dumped 16 songs into the UK Top 40, precipitating a huge overhaul in chart rules.
d is for desperate times call for despacito measures
Never underestimate X Factor artists’ ability to spot a trend and maul it to death. In the wake of " Despacito," Little Mix knocked out Reggaeton Lento with CNCO, 2016 winner Matt Terry jumped on an Enrique Iglesias remix. And —following The X Factor’s inaugural and not remotely opportunistic "Viva Latino" week — eventual winners Rak-Su nicked a decade-old Enrique song title for reggaeton-esque single " Dimelo."
e is for existential musings
Proving you can take the girl out of 2009 but you can’t take 2009 out of the girl, Marina & The Diamonds decided that 2017 was the right year to launch Marinabook — something older readers might recognize as a "blog." Promoted through Marina’s Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram channels, Marinabook delivered various thoughts about freeing ourselves from the shackles of social media.
f is for five directions
Zayn: 28.5m monthly Spotify listeners.
Niall: 16.3m monthly Spotify listeners.
Liam: 15m monthly Spotify listeners.
Louis: 11.2m monthly Spotify listeners.
Harry: 10.4m monthly Spotify listeners.
g is for grand larssony
"Only You," the criminally slept-on sixth track on the Zara Larsson album, is a 10/10 masterpiece.
h is for how do you like them onions
She’s spoken of her uneasy relationship with fame, but wig-advocating song machine Sia Furler’s very good at being famous. When Sia discovered paps were attempting to sell photographs of her arse, she tweeted one of them, decimating its "value." “Someone is apparently trying to sell naked photos of me to my fans,” she noted. “Save your money, here it is for free.”
i is for i’ve been denying how i feel
Even the best popstars have no idea when they’re being terrible, but how about popstars who are oblivious to their own amazingness? Carly Rae Jepsen pissed away " Cut To The Feeling" on a dodgy film soundtrack, didn’t bother doing a photo for the artwork, and months after the fact delivered one of the year’s very worst videos. It was like 2016’s Charli XCX " Angry Birds" Soundtrack Song Fiasco all over again.
j is for jumped or pushed?
Fifth Harmony kept it classy in their VMAs performance, with departed member Camila Cabello represented on stage by a silhouetted dancer who flopped backwards off the stage within seconds of the performance beginning. ("Havana" was better than anything on the 5H album.)
k is for kesha’s return
“I’m a motherfucking woman," Kesha sang this year. And how right she was.
l is for lyrical mastery
Sorry Lorde but the best pop lyric of 2017 came from Cazzi Opeia and Jin x Jin. “I had a dream I was making love to Bruno Mars and Nicki Minaj / Is that wrong, is that wrong, is that wrong? (No!) / Double teamed by Nicki Minaj and Bruno Mars / And all I really wanted was Batman and Robin.”
m is for mxcxtapes
Charles XCX may not have released her "proper? album this year, but she turned in two excellent album-length mixtapes that were both basically albums anyway. So, all’s well that ends well.
n is for nolan, sir
Following this songwriter and producer’s involvement in both " Cut To The Feeling" and Rita Ora’s curiously amazing " Anywhere," 2018 will almost certainly see Sir Nolan upgraded to lord status.
o is for oh just get on with It
During 2017 Robyn’s refusal to release proper new material went past the point of being annoying and strayed into the realms of comedy. This year’s output included an apropos-of-nothing series of inessential remixes and — just to really wind everyone up — a portion of music aired during the Girls finale. Which sounded incredible but months later is still only available with Kylo Ren complaining about unrefined sugar over top of it. There’s still time for Honey to suddenly appear on Spotters as a Christmas gift, though, right?
p is for p-o-p-p-y she’s poppy
Internet-dwelling musical entity Poppy is both anti-popstar and hyper-popstar, if you ignore the strangely conservative musical output and her surprisingly speedy retreat to well-worn social media tropes when she has gig tickets to sell. "I’m Poppy" was great though.
p is for purposeful
Great pop is purposeful in its own right and on its own terms. This is the law. But with " Chained To The Rhythm" and her "purposeful pop" narrative, Katy Perry hoped to open up a whole new dialogue. Specifically, that dialogue was:
Her: Makes u think!!
Us: What about?
Her: Okay here’s my next song, it’s about oral sex and features Quavo!
q is for quest for relevance
The Chainsmokers would really like to be taken seriously. Coldplay has inherited U2’s desire to stay relevant with "The Kids." Put those factors together and you have "Something Just Like This," which pulled off the interesting feat of being a career low point for both bands.
r is for right, let’s face facts
Look, the research into how and why this has happened will not be complete until 2019 and between now and then you can expect many scandals and resignations as evidence emerges, but somehow in 2017 Clean Bandit sort of ended up being the UK’s best pop band. No wait, come back, look at this medley from the EMAs!
s is for sick byrne
Selena Gomez’s Talking Heads-sampling " Bad Liar" got the thumbs up from TH frontman David Byrne. “I really like this song,” he said in May, and in doing so he spoke for all humanity.
t is for the grand dua
Dua Lipa started the year with three simultaneous songs in the Top 15 and ended 2017 as the UK’s most streamed woman. In between, when her big duet with Miguel hit Number 86 and her album deserted the Top 20 in just three weeks. Fortunately " New Rules" happened in a big way. NB: There’s still time for her to release a Dual IPA craft beer and totally win 2017.
u is for unsavory images
“If you're feeling thirsty come on take a sip,” Jason Derulo sang this year on "Swalla." “‘’Cause you know what I'm servin', ooh.” He’s talking about his own sperm.
v is for various artists
The ensemble responsible for One Love Manchester, the year’s most extraordinary pop moment.
w is for wav bounces (subsection: funk)
Calvin Harris released the best album of his career in 2017. How did it sell? Not very well, really. But that’s not the point.
x is for x marks the stop
Maybe it really is time to face the music: 2017’s X Factor final drew in the show’s lowest-ever ratings.
y is for yellow
At the beginning of December the Pantone Color Institute announced that their color of the year was purple, which proves that Pantone might know a lot about licensing their brand for a series of mugs popular eight years ago with people who pretended to be graphic designers but did everything in Photoshop Elements, but they don’t know much about Cardi B.
z is for zedd
Annoyingly we've already covered Zara Larsson and Zayn, so let’s round things off by thanking Zedd for giving Alessia Cara her only 2017 hit (hopefully setting her up for a big return in 2018). Her first album was quite good, wasn’t it?