Top 20 Songs of 2017
This past year brought long-awaited new music, thrilling collaborations and final thoughts from legends. Our list of Top 20 Songs of 2017 also celebrates the sturdy accomplishments of those who never left us, but have continued building on already-impressive resumes. There's plenty of topical stuff – unsurprising, considering the age in which these tracks were created – but also notable moments of full-on rock and touching emotion, as you'll see in our look back at the Top 20 Songs of 2017.
Alice Cooper, 'Fireball'
Sparked by an apocalyptic vision that original Alice Cooper band bassist Dennis Dunaway couldn't shake, "Fireball" was completed when Cooper suggested a twist ending: The dream – see if this sounds familiar to anyone who's paid attention to the news lately – is actually happening in real life.
Gregg Allman, 'My Only True Friend'
From: Southern Blood
The late Gregg Allman's final road song isn't typical of the genre. Instead, Allman explores what happens when you reach the concluding turn toward home. "I hope you're haunted by the music of my soul," Allman sang on these last sessions, "when I'm gone." Consider it done.
Lindsey Buckingham and Christine McVie, 'In My World'
From: Lindsey Buckingham/Christine McVie
It's no surprise that the first album to feature both Lindsey Buckingham and Christine McVie since 1987 sounded a lot like Fleetwood Mac's Tango in the Night. What was remarkable was how quickly Buckingham clicked with McVie – even though they didn't share the kind of history he had with the missing Stevie Nicks.
Elvis Costello, 'American Tune'
Elvis Costello revived his fiery Imposter persona for the first time since the early '80s, switching out broadsides against Thatcherism for a look into a period of stateside upheaval. Paul Simon approached his original version with a certain melancholy, while Costello amps things up considerably.
David Crosby, 'She's Got to Be Somewhere'
From: Sky Trails
Call this one Steely David Crosby. No, Donald Fagen doesn't actually appear, but "She's Got to Be Somewhere" boasts a similarly sophisticated, jazz-inflected vibe. It represented another interesting side road for a suddenly resurgent artist issuing his fourth album in as many years.
Black Country Communion, 'Sway'
Black Country Communion aren't the first to use Led Zeppelin's galloping rhythms and incendiary riffs as inspiration, but their connection goes back further than "Achilles Last Stand." That's John Bonham's son Jason pounding away behind Glenn Hughes and Joe Bonamassa.
Bob Dylan, 'I Could Have Told You'
Frank Sinatra's old '50s-era take was the sound of sweet lonesomeness, perfectly placed on an urbanely desolate album called No One Cares. Bob Dylan takes the song – outfitted now with pedal steel and upright bass, but no drums – to the bottom of a whiskey bottle.
Bruce Springsteen and Joe Grushecky, 'That's What Makes Us Great'
Bruce Springsteen has a lengthy history with singer-songwriter Grushecky, having worked on his 1995 album American Babylon and 2009's East Carson Street. In between, Springsteen won a Grammy for "Code of Silence," which they co-wrote. The tumultuous 2016 election brought them back together.
Mick Jagger, 'England Lost'
England's exit from the European Union lured Mick Jagger into studio for his first work away from the Rolling Stones since 2011's SuperHeavy band. "England Lost" is told from the point of view of a disillusioned soccer fan – and, really, who better to offer a gimlet-eyed take on things?
From: Under Cöver
The lone previously unheard update on a posthumous collection featuring tunes originally recorded by Judas Priest, Metallica and others, this David Bowie cover emerged from 2015 sessions for Motorhead's final album, Bad Magic. Lemmy Kilmister died four months after its arrival.
Randy Newman, 'The Great Debate'
From: Dark Matter
Hope you weren't expecting Pixar-type stuff. Instead, Randy Newman began his latest album with an eight-minute saga in which a faith-healing preacher attempts to disprove a string of scientific theorems. Newman is an acknowledged atheist, but even he is helpless before the stirring power of gospel music.
Robert Plant, 'New World'
From: Carry Fire
Carry Fire mines a similar musical vein as 2014's Lullaby and … the Ceaseless Roar, since Robert Plant is again backed by the Sensational Space Shifters. The difference, as heard on this examination of colonialism's dark heart, is Plant's willingness to tackle larger issues.
Roadcase Royale, 'Get Loud'
From: First Things First
Roadcase Royale include four members of Heart. But their R&B-inflected sound stands on its own. They had great timing too: This anthem for female empowerment was born around the time of a series of women's marches, and then officially released on the eve of the #MeToo movement.
Chris Robinson Brotherhood, 'Blonde Light of Morning'
From: Barefoot in the Head
As they released a third album in two years, the Chris Robinson Brotherhood continued to push creative boundaries. The gorgeous, country-tinged "Blonde Light of Morning" – with its weeping pedal steel, courtesy of Phil Lesh sideman Barry Sless – illustrates the point perfectly.
Todd Rundgren, 'Wouldn't You Like to Know'
From: White Knight
Todd Rundgren has tried on so many different hats lately – everything from EDM to Beatle sideman to electro-blues – that it's easy to forget the thing that first hurtled him to fame: his way with a ballad. Think of "Wouldn't You Like to Know" as "Hello, It's Me" for a new generation.
Leon Russell, 'Love This Way'
From: On a Distant Shore
What could be better than one last statement of purpose from a legend? That's exactly what "Love This Way," a standout track from Leon Russell's posthumous album, became. He crows, he whines, and he howls, as an R&B-soaked choir eggs him on. It fits in with all of his best stuff.
Ringo Starr, 'We're on the Road Again'
From: Give More Love
Ringo Starr was joined by friends old and new for a song that celebrated his life of an itinerant (though obviously world-famous) musician. They include Paul McCartney, brother-in-law Joe Walsh and All-Starr Band contributors Edgar Winter and Steve Lukather – the latter of whom co-wrote "We're on the Road Again."
Styx, 'Hundred Million Miles From Home'
From: The Mission
"Hundred Million Miles From Home" was a classic singalong from Tommy Shaw, who co-wrote this with his longtime collaborator Will Evankovich. That's not the only thing that feels thrillingly old-school about the track: It also featured a rare turn by original Styx bass player Chuck Panozzo.
Roger Waters, 'Smell the Roses'
From: Is This The Life We Really Want?
After waiting 25 years for new rock music from Roger Waters, fans might have hoped for something that recalled Wish You Were Here or Animals. Check and check. But Waters notably updated the details on "Smell the Roses," giving new life to his latest anti-war screed.
Neil Young, 'Hitchhiker'
After so many swerves into musical ditches, the sound of a stripped-down, straight-forward Neil Young record can connect like a bolt out of the blue. The title track for the shelved Hitchhiker, like the rest, was recorded on a Malibu night in the summer of 1976, but it remains ageless.