Some people say life is a game. These people are always terrible company. Stay away from these people. Life isn’t a game at all. But if it were, there would have to be winners and losers, wouldn’t there? Now that was a terrible analogy, but you see what I am saying, don’t you? Something about winners and losers to tenuously link to this list. Well, you get the bloody idea.
Is there anyone more worthy of hero status than Ariana Grande? In fact, ‘hero’ is too weak a term for Grande, the woman who comforted victims of the Manchester bombings at their hospital bedsides like a donut-licking Florence Nightingale. While under intense media scrutiny (again, fuck you Piers Morgan) and while still recovering from the shock of having her show targeted in a terror attack, Grande went on to organise and star in the One Love Manchester concert, promoting love and unity over fear and division. Can we make her the world’s first living saint, please?
The breakout star of 2017, Dua Lipa triumphed with her savvy blend of empowerment anthems and on-trend tunes, setting the charts alight both home and abroad. Perhaps what makes Lipa’s ascension to superstardom so inspiring is that she began the year as an underdog with only a few minor chart hits under her belt. Come December, however, she was the critically-acclaimed (and chart-topping!!) pop saviour with the certified global smash to prove it. Long live Dua Lipa, the pop star we deserve.
Styles’ solo career finally kicked off in 2017, heralding the birth of a potential pop superstar. His eponymous debut blends thumping 60s-inspired pomp-rock with wistful melancholia – and there’s even a cheeky wanking reference thrown in for good measure. But Styles didn’t just stick to music in 2017. His star turn in Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk was an unexpectedly strong big screen debut, putting paid to any rumours his casting as a spunky World War II soldier was misguided. Combine that with Styles’ continued commitment to being an all-round beautiful human being and you’ve got one hell of a year for One Direction’s real breakout star.
The new face of UK grime, Stormzy exploded onto the mainstream in 2017, landing himself three top ten singles and a critically-acclaimed (and Mercury Prize nominated) debut album. Most impressive of all is Stormzy’s commitment to keeping his music pure, refusing to water it down for the sake of radio play and commercial success. But as we saw this year, Stormzy doesn’t need to alter his formula to make a splash on the charts, although a collaboration with Little Mix was a welcome but unexpected foray into pop territory. Having conquered the UK, Stormzy’s next challenge will be taking the distinctly British grime sound abroad – though we can think of no one better to serve as ambassador.
Everyone with their sights set on chart domination has boarded the Latin pop gravy train this year, hoping to secure themselves a global megahit in the same vein as Daddy Yankee and Luis Fonsi’s ‘Despacito’. Justin Bieber was the first Western star to really get the ball rolling, inserting himself into ‘Despacito’ and driving it to worldwide ubiquity. Hoping to follow in his footsteps came a deluge of copycats, with the likes of Little Mix, Demi Lovato and even Beyoncé (who hopped on a remix of J Balvin and Willy Williams’ ‘Mi Gente’) hoping to get a slice of that sweet success pie. But though many have tried, none have been as successful as the original and, if history has taught us anything, the Latin pop phenomenon is unlikely to stick around long into 2018.
Well, we didn’t see that coming. The black sheep of Fifth Harmony blossomed in 2017 thanks to her breakout hit ‘Havana’. After an underwhelming debut single, ‘Havana’ propelled Cabello to the top of the worldwide charts, cementing her as a bona fide pop star in her own right. Not only that, but she went on to become the most streamed breakout artist of 2017, a staggering feat given that her highly-anticipated debut album hasn’t even hit the shops yet.
…And the losers
Beyoncé’s year didn’t get off to the best start when she lost out on the coveted Grammy for Album Of The Year to Adele. It’s an award she’s had her eye on for the best part of two decades, and Lemonade felt like the album that was finally going to clinch it. But when the genre-straddling LP was overlooked in favour of something more traditional, it’s no wonder Beyoncé decided to take a more mainstream and, let’s face it, boring approach. What followed was a dreadful collaboration with Eminem on ‘Walk On Water’, the rapper’s weakest track to date, swiftly followed by a lazy duet with serial chart-botherer Ed Sheeran on ‘Perfect’. Both were dull and unimaginative tracks that defied Beyoncé’s reputation as a trendsetter, instead showing her as another cynical pop star dying to secure a number one. Still, it worked, with ‘Perfect Duet’ hitting the top spot in the UK and her native US – her first number one single in over a decade.
The decline of the proper pop chorus is surely, as Harry would say, a sign of the times. Gone are the days of massive bangers you can shriek your lungs out to, the once solid staple of pop having been replaced by wordless dance choruses and insipid, monotone refrains. Several of the year’s biggest hits from Dua Lipa’s ‘New Rules’ to Rita Ora’s ‘Anywhere’ have been centred around instrumental interludes while others, like Taylor Swift’s ‘Look What You Made Me Do’ have focused on repetitive, one-note bridges. But even at their best, these can’t compare to a proper pop chorus, something we need to bring back in 2018.
Now this is a real shame because, for all the flack Perry gets, Witness is a good album. But even some top-notch tunes (‘Roulette’, ‘Pendulum’, ‘Swish Swish’) couldn’t salvage a messy promo campaign that was doomed to fail from the word go. Perry’s Big Brother style live stream was a sloppy, ill-conceived idea that was both quite boring and fairly tragic. Meanwhile, her collaboration with Migos was criticised given the band’s not so subtle homophobia, and arch-nemesis Taylor Swift made her the butt of a mean-spirited joke in her comeback video. Not only that, but Witness became the first of Perry’s four albums not to spawn a number one single. Given her track record for pumping out factory-made mega-sellers, the lack of big singles – along with its undelivered promise of ‘purposeful pop’ – made Witness Perry’s most maligned album to date.
Featured image by Rob Copsey for Official Charts