From Harry Styles' glam grandeur to Stella Donnelly's astonishing lyricism to the hip-hop-meets-punk rock hybridity of Ecca Vandal, pop music in 2017 was rich with diversity. Here's our 10 favourites.
By Jon Dolan, Jonny Nail, Rob Sheffield and Simon Vozick-Levinson.
For their Sub Pop debut, the Melbourne quintet drag their dolewave-via-Dunedin jangle towards its mid-life, with the punchy, dream-pop track documenting the sunset of twentysomething insouciance, spiking sun-chasing bliss with a deadpan assessment that "you're living out of range".
Del Rey's Cali-goth empire stretches out past the Hollywood sign and deep into the desert of the soul on this darkly lustrous duet with fellow sad-eyed beauty the Weeknd. "We're having too much fun," she sings, savouring every second as slow-dissolve boom-bap pulls them under.
Shark's obsession with obsession carries over into her first full spotlight year, as the Gold Coast singer-songwriter more than matches the effortless pop flow and lust/heartbreak balance of 2016 smash "Adore". The song drifts from TGIF optimism to deeper, darker waters where "I have no room for anyone else, but you".
Sheeran famously considered giving this one away to Rihanna before deciding to keep it for himself. Smart guy! With its irresistible marimba beat and unpretentious vision of seduction (which other pop star would cue up Van the Man in the club?), it's no wonder "Shape of You" was a record-breaking smash.
She "won't be your future fairytale", and she won't be pigeonholed by those "Gwen goes M.I.A." sounds-like references either, as here the Melbourne star twists both sides of her rap-rock persona towards deadset club banger, alongside a hook finally big enough to match the attitude of her fire-tongued verses.
Everything from modern Czech authors to ancient Greek mythology gets a liner note reference, but it's the heartland rock scale-shift from grandiose ("a sky full of light") to personal ("I am grieving the loss of myself") that makes this a standout on the best Aussie album of the year.
In an unflinching account of sexual assault, the Perth singer-songwriter provides both an enthralling introduction to her poetic plainspokenness and a snapshot of the reality beyond the #MeToo movement. Most striking is the victim-blaming critique's abrupt full-stop, as calm assessor turns threatener: "time to pay the fucking rent".
The greatest rapper alive goes for the kind of achievement that didn't seem to interest him until now — a pop hit — and scores his first Number One with a hilariously defiant ode to realness and a track to match from producer Mike WiLL Made-It. For all the pop finesse, "Humble" sounds as real as arse with some stretch marks.
Lorde had an astounding breakthrough with Melodrama, but "Homemade Dynamite" is her shattering peak, a nervously sexy synth-pop thriller about meeting a kindred spirit at a party. They dance with their shoes off and tell each other their best lies while that Swedish electro beat sparkles like broken glass. "Homemade Dynamite" got a killer remix featuring Khalid, SZA and Post Malone, but Lorde's whisper holds the track together, right down to the moment where she simulates the sound of all that dynamite in her heart going off: "Poooof!"
Styles' first post-One Direction solo single was a shock — an eccentric piano ballad stretching to nearly six minutes, aiming for Bowie/Queen levels of glam grandeur, with the singer hitting heavenly high notes as he broods on death and rebirth. The reckless ambition of the song is only part of what's brilliant about it. The confidence and empathy in his voice just keep surging as the music builds. Styles was the only rock star all year (Bono excepted) to aim for such a giant-hearted sound. A high-risk move for a former boy-band star — but he made it feel real.