Year in review: best rock songs of 2017

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November 22, 2017
Sterling Munksgard // Shutterstock

Year in review: best rock songs of 2017

When we look back at music in 2017, rock stands out as a genre that saw a tremendous amount of risk-taking and expansion. From unexpected collaborations (Lil' Wayne and Imagine Dragons?) to strong comebacks (welcome back, Paramore) to breakout artists we can't wait to hear more of (Maggie Rogers, the NYU student that stunned Pharrell with a class assignment), the rock genre has seen an abundance of both originality and dynamic performances this year.

But which songs stood out among the noise? Stacker analyzed Billboard's Hot Rock Songs chart and all-time Spotify plays to determine which songs were most popular with fans this year. This also includes songs that may have been originally released towards the end of 2016 but rose to popularity in 2017.

Imagine Dragons have cemented themselves as rock mainstays in 2017, with collaborations as well as two booming anthems that have proved incredibly popular with fans this year. Interestingly enough, the most buzzed about song that secured the year's #1 spot is from a band that skews a bit more hip-hop than other rock bands, further confirming that the current generation of listeners is more interested in rap and hip-hop than any previous generation. 

#50. The Last Of The Real Ones

Artist: Fall Out Boy

Spotify Plays: 26,091,213

Release Date: 2017

The third single from M A N I A, the newest album from rock veterans Fall Out Boy, is a love song about unconditional devotion, according to band member Pete Wentz. He said on Twitter, “That kind of love you feel for someone because of their glitches not in spite of them… where you feel the vacuum of them everywhere… and your heart just feels like TNT, quicksand, and oblivion all at once…”

#49. I Dare You

Artist: The xx

Spotify Plays: 27,268,393

Release Date: 2017

“I Dare You,” a single off of English band The xx’s third album, I See You, premiered on Saturday Night Live in late November 2016, but only grew in popularity over the coming months, eventually garnering over 27 million Spotify plays.

#48. Not Easy

Artist: Alex Da Kid Featuring X Ambassadors, Elle King & Wiz Khalifa

Spotify Plays: 27,383,153

Release Date: 2016

Alex Da Kid is already successful for his work as a music producer, helping to create hits for artists that span all the way from rock (Imagine Dragons’ “Radioactive”) to rap (Dr. Dre’s “I Need a Doctor.”) Now he collaborates with X Ambassadors, Elle King, and Wiz Khalifa for his first solo project as a musician in “Not Easy.”

#47. Reverend

Artist: Kings Of Leon

Spotify Plays: 27,453,521

Release Date: 2016

“Reverend” comes from the gritty Nashville 1999-formed rock band Kings of Leon, whose smoky vocals and blues influences have distinguished it over the years. This single is a particularly unique song, as it tells the story of country singer Blaze Foley, who died in a gunfight at age 39.

#46. Run

Artist: Foo Fighters

Spotify Plays: 27,571,720

Release Date: 2017

Foo Fighters released “Run” as a single off their ninth album Concrete and Gold. Despite being a surprise release that came without promotion or warning, the song rose to the top of the Billboard Mainstream Rock Songs chart only a few weeks after its release.

#45. Help

Artist: Papa Roach

Spotify Plays: 27,724,323

Release Date: 2017

The single from band Papa Roach comes off of their eighth album Crooked Teeth. After its release, it rose to the top the Billboard Mainstream Rock Songs chart for six straight weeks.

#44. Ascension

Artist: Gorillaz Featuring Vince Staples

Spotify Plays: 27,868,980

Release Date: 2017

The elusive Gorillaz released “Ascension” with the help of rapper Vince Staples to promote their fifth album, Humanz. It climbed up the Billboard Hot Rock Songs Chart to reach a peak position of #11 after its March release.

#43. Talk Too Much

Artist: COIN

Spotify Plays: 29,377,751

Release Date: 2017

COIN, a pop rock-leaning band that until this year was mostly under the radar, rose to prominence with its single “Talk Too Much” in May of 2016. The lead single off their second album How Will You Know If You Never Try, “Talk Too Much” was written in only a few hours about band member Chase Lawrence’s chatty personality. Those few hours, however, led to the band’s most successful song to date, peaking at #28 on the Billboard Hot Rock Songs chart.

#42. Go Robot

Artist: Red Hot Chili Peppers

Spotify Plays: 29,447,069

Release Date: 2016

Red Hot Chili Peppers’ “Go Robot” was originally primed to be the band’s lead single off of their recent album The Getaway, but ended up following “Dark Necessities” instead. The video for the single was inspired by disco movie “Saturday Night Fever,” and features band member Anthony Kiedis as a bowler hat-wearing robot who enters in a disco dance contest.

#41. High And Low

Artist: Empire Of The Sun

Spotify Plays: 29,717,285

Release Date: 2016

Australian duo “Empire of the Sun” released “High and Low” in August 2016 as the lead single from Two Vines, their third album. The song became popular after it was featured in a commercial during The X Factor Australia and was on the “FIFA 17” video game soundtrack.

#40. Say Something Loving

Artist: The xx

Spotify Plays: 29,787,664

Release Date: 2017

Another single off of The xx’s I See You, “Say Something Loving”’s light, ethereal quality is a departure from the simplicity of the band’s previous work. According to a contributor at Genius, the song “incorporates Alessi Brothers' “Do You Feel It?” as well as live string arrangements that swells and stops.”

#39. 7

Artist: Catfish And The Bottlemen

Spotify Plays: 31,520,759

Release Date: 2016

Welsh indie rock band Catfish and the Bottlemen have been recently gaining more fame, culminating last year in a win at the Brit Awards for British Breakthrough Act. “7” is the second single off of their second album, The Ride, and at #8 on the Billboard Alternative Songs chart and #35 on US Hot Rock Songs, it's their highest charting single in the U.S. as well as the U.K. to date.

#38. Moving On And Getting Over

Artist: John Mayer

Spotify Plays: 31,587,673

Release Date: 2017

Bluesy rock crooner John Mayer released The Search for Everything in April, and “Moving On And Getting Over” quickly emerged as one of the standout tracks. Before the album was even released, Mayer debuted the song during a small show in Los Angeles, where fans could first hear Mayer’s story of struggling to get over an ex-lover.

#37. Still Breathing

Artist: Green Day

Spotify Plays: 32,547,482

Release Date: 2016

Punk rock household name Green Day released “Still Breathing” as the second single from Revolution Radio in late 2016. Despite this being their twelfth album to date, the band once again proved their popularity as the song climbed its way to the top of the alternative and rock charts. "Still Breathing" reached the eleventh spot on the US Hot Rock Songs chart and hit #1 on the Canada Rock chart.

#36. Andromeda

Artist: Gorillaz Featuring D.R.A.M.

Spotify Plays: 33,842,711

Release Date: 2017

Continuing their pattern of collaborating with rappers, Gorillaz teamed with D.R.A.M. for “Andromeda,” a song that, according to Damon Albarn, was very near and dear to his heart. Albarn said on Song Exploder that Andromeda is the name of a nightclub he used to go to growing up. “It was the only place in the whole of the town that played soul music, so there's a connection between the music I used to hear there and the feeling and spirit of the music I was trying to evoke.”

#35. Good Goodbye

Artist: Linkin Park Featuring Pusha T & Stormzy

Spotify Plays: 33,918,497

Release Date: 2017

Linkin Park brought in American rapper Pusha T and British hip-hop artist Stormzy to create “Good Goodbye,” from their seventh album One More Light. This was released before the death of lead vocalist Chester Bennington in late July of this year. The song made it to #15 on Billboard’s US Hot Rock Songs chart.

#34. One More Light

Artist: Linkin Park

Spotify Plays: 38,336,860

Release Date: 2017

“One More Light” is the title track of Linkin Park’s seventh album and was written by both Mike Shinoda and British songwriter Eg White. According to Shinoda, the song is about the band’s friend Amy Zaret, who had died of cancer.

#33. Walking The Wire

Artist: Imagine Dragons

Spotify Plays: 39,417,447

Release Date: 2017

The second single off of Imagine Dragons’ third album, Evolve, pop-rock anthem “Walking The Wire” was met with an overall positive reception from critics. The Daily Trojan noted that this song could help the band bridge the gap between rock and mainstream top 40 pop, saying that “Though Imagine Dragons uses less acoustics and more synths here, the song is evidence of the group's potential to achieve 2017-style music stardom while not completely straying from their roots.”

#32. No Roots

Artist: Alice Merton

Spotify Plays: 40,578,666

Release Date: 2017

German-British singer Alice Merton struck gold with her first EP, No Roots — the title track zooming to #2 and #1 on the German and French charts, respectively. The song traveled to the U.S, hitting #2 on the Spotify Viral 50 Charts at the end of last year.

#31. Saturnz Barz

Artist: Gorillaz Featuring Popcaan

Spotify Plays: 42,496,569

Release Date: 2017

Virtual band Gorillaz is back again on the charts, this time with “Saturnz Barz,” featuring Jamaican dancehall musician Popcaan. Damon Albarn explained that this particular collaboration was not only a unique experience for him, but also for Popcaan, who he helped explore the boundaries of his own genre. Albarn told Genius, “I think this is quite different to anything else he'd ever done. It's very personal. It tells a kind of alternate narrative to a lot of the ideas within modern dancehall.”

#30. She's Out Of Her Mind

Artist: Blink-182

Spotify Plays: 42,504,951

Release Date: 2016

Millennial favorite Blink-182 released its seventh album, California, after a five-year hiatus and the addition of Alkaline Trio vocalist Matt Skiba. The song reached a high of #11 on the US Hot Rock Songs chart before being framed as more of an alternative song and skyrocketing to #2 on the US Alternative Songs chart. Though the album itself received less than favorable reviews, it managed to earn the band their first nomination for best rock album at the 2017 Grammys.

#29. Alaska

Artist: Maggie Rogers

Spotify Plays: 44,426,853

Release Date: 2017

Genre-bending singer-songwriter Maggie Rogers became famous overnight, after a video featuring her song “Alaska” went viral on YouTube. Producer Pharrell Williams was a visiting guest to a songwriting master class at NYU and was visibly moved by the song. “Alaska” is part of Rogers’ three-song EP, Now That the Light Is Fading, and soared to #18 on the US Hot Rock Songs chart.

#28. Angela

Artist: The Lumineers

Spotify Plays: 44,480,875

Release Date: 2016

Coming from The Lumineers’ second album Cleopatra, “Angela” is a song about singer Wesley Schultz's ex-girlfriend Angela Henard. The story about a girl “struggling to escape her past” rose in popularity from its 2016 release to hit #15 on the US Hot Rock Songs chart, and even higher at six on the US Alternative Songs chart.

#27. Cross My Mind

Artist: A R I Z O N A

Spotify Plays: 44,989,164

Release Date: 2017

“Cross My Mind” hails from rock/electropop band A R I Z O N A’s debut album, GALLERY. The band already found success thanks to their popular single “Oceans Away.” When it comes to “Cross My Mind,” the band told Idolator that “music allows us to be comfortable with our imperfections, and [this] is a song that captures the dichotomy of our nature versus our intentions.”

#26. Sleep On The Floor

Artist: The Lumineers

Spotify Plays: 56,967,781

Release Date: 2016

The Lumineers’ Cleopatra produced a handful of 2017’s biggest rock hits, including “Sleep On The Floor,” a song whose emotional music video amassed over 67 million views. The video tells the story of a woman who imagines herself escaping the sad confines of her home to take an epic road trip with her love, ending with them both sleeping on the floor together.

#25. Cleopatra

Artist: The Lumineers

Spotify Plays: 58,797,241

Release Date: 2016

The premise for all the songs off of Cleopatra was inspired by stories and experiences while touring. “Cleopatra,” the title track, is no different. The song, according to the band’s website, stems from lead singer Wesley Schultz’s encounter “with a taxi driver Wes met in the Republic of Georgia, who related a tale of personal tragedy without a trace of self-pity.”

#24. Waste A Moment

Artist: Kings Of Leon

Spotify Plays: 60,370,901

Release Date: 2016

The lead single from Kings of Leon’s album WALLS is a record-breaker. It’s the band's fifth single to top Billboard's Alternative Songs chart. It also tied the record for the second longest single — alongside Coldplay’s “Clocks” — to stay at #1 on the Adult Alternative Songs chart (for a total of 15 non-consecutive weeks.)

#23. Love On The Weekend

Artist: John Mayer

Spotify Plays: 61,773,227

Release Date: 2017

The most successful single from John Mayer’s newest album, “Love On The Weekend” has continued through the end of 2016 and well into 2017 to gain momentum, a signal that fans are as interested in Mayers pop-rock capabilities as they are in his blues. The single topped out at number five on the US Hot Rock Songs chart.

#22. Two High

Artist: Moon Taxi

Spotify Plays: 63,201,307

Release Date: 2017

The Nashville-based alt-rock group released their single “Two High” in May of 2017, choosing a message of hope to set the tone for their upcoming album, Let The Record Play. According to Relix Magazine, "[the song is about] hope for understanding, hope for acceptance, and hope for our future. We were inspired by the simple and universal peace sign. It's a gesture we would like to see more of.”

#21. Hard Times

Artist: Paramore

Spotify Plays: 63,674,584

Release Date: 2017

Another Nashville based rock band, Paramore, came back into the public eye after more than four years with “Hard Times,” the lead single off of their album After Laughter. This song marks a bit of a new sound for the band, veering into a more synth-pop, '80s new wave direction. Despite this slight departure, however, the band still knows how to produce a hit, with “Hard Times” charting at number six on US Hot Rock Songs.

#20. All The Pretty Girls

Artist: Kaleo

Spotify Plays: 67,708,487

Release Date: 2016

A more sensual, folk-rock single to dominate the charts this year, “All The Pretty Girls” from Icelandic rock band Kaleo was their breakout hit, which the band credits for their quick rise to U.S. fame. The album, A/B, peaked at number four on the Billboard US Top Rock Albums chart.

#19. Super Far

Artist: LANY

Spotify Plays: 67,930,578

Release Date: 2017

After releasing four EPs over the span of the last three years, alt-rock band LANY (an acronym for “Los Angeles New York") released their self-titled, debut full-length in June. The single “Super Far” kicked off the promotion of the album before it was released, but has already managed to garner more than 67 million Spotify plays.

#18. On Hold

Artist: The xx

Spotify Plays: 73,261,188

Release Date: 2017

The xx’s “On Hold” is the lead single from their recent album “I See You.” It was released in anticipation of the album in late 2016, but continued its momentum throughout the following months, reaching a peak of #7 on the US Hot Rock Songs Chart.

#17. Lust For Life

Artist: Lana Del Rey Featuring The Weeknd

Spotify Plays: 75,654,113

Release Date: 2017

The second single for Lana Del Rey’s highly-anticipated album “Lust For Life” features buzzy crooner The Weeknd — the first time Del Rey has ever featured another musician in any song. The song peaked at number four on US Hot Rock Songs chart and #64 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.

#16. Lost On You

Artist: LP

Spotify Plays: 77,396,607

Release Date: 2016

LP’s Death Valley EP features “Lost On You,” a sad love song about coming to terms with a break-up. LP previously was successful writing songs for big names, including The Backstreet Boys, Cher and Rihanna. She recently decided to venture on her own, however, and it has paid off. “Lost On You” topped eight international charts: France, Greece, Israel, Poland, Romania, Serbia, Slovenia, and Turkey. It soon infiltrated the ears of American listeners, and now has over 77 million Spotify streams.

#15. HandClap

Artist: Fitz And The Tantrums

Spotify Plays: 79,922,964

Release Date: 2016

Fitz And The Tantrums found their big hit in the form of “HandClap,” their highest-charting song so far of their careers. The song soared to the second spot on Billboard US Hot Rock Songs and US Alternative Songs, as well as 52 on the Hot 100 chart. Said lead vocalist Fitz of the song, “It’s the X-rated version of ‘Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind’ happening on a dance floor.”

#14. Cocoon

Artist: Milky Chance

Spotify Plays: 84,512,080

Release Date:  2017

Riding the wave of Milky Chance’s megahit “Stolen Dance,” the German duo released “Cocoon,” from their second album Blossom. The macabre video for the song, in which a strange girl mysteriously throws up little white stones, has over 16 million views, while the song itself has 84 million streams on Spotify.

#13. Love

Artist: Lana Del Rey

Spotify Plays: 84,636,432

Release Date: 2017

The lead single from Lana Del Rey’s “Lust For Life” was promoted with giant posters all around Los Angeles before its release (though it was leaked before its scheduled release). Pitchfork praised the song, saying it “is an ode to allowing yourself to feel, [...] and reassures the listener that the feeling can still lift, that love can still conquer." “Love” nabbed the second spot on the US Hot Rock Songs chart.

#12. Whatever It Takes

Artist: Imagine Dragons

Spotify Plays: 100,824,474

Release Date: 2017

“Whatever It Takes,” climbed up the US Hot Rock Songs chart to hit the fifth spot for Imagine Dragons, while gaining over 100 million streams on Spotify. A good amount of the song’s visibility came about due it its designation as the theme for WWE's PPV event “Battleground,” as well as the video game “Madden NFL 18.”

#11. Heavy

Artist: Linkin Park Featuring Kiiara

Spotify Plays: 108,192,963

Release Date: 2017

Though “Heavy” became popular due to its very sincere treatment of mental health, it also represents a more somber side to dynamic band members Chester Bennington, Mike Shinoda and Brad Delson. Additionally, this single was the last released before Bennington’s death a few months later. According to the singer, “Heavy” is about being the root of the causes you struggle with. “Most of my problems are problems that I cause myself. That's what that song's about — that time when you consciously look at that. Once you acknowledge what it is, you can separate yourself from it and do something about it, as opposed to just being in it."

#10. Somebody Else

Artist: The 1975

Spotify Plays: 122,377,976

Release Date: 2016

The 1975’s highest-charting hit not only has been popular with fans — reaching more than 122 million streams on Spotify — but also with the toughest of critics. Pitchfork included the song in its list of the 100 best songs of 2016, ranking it at number 74. Its star power outlasted the year, however, and is one of the top 10 most popular rock songs of 2017 as well.

#9. Way Down We Go

Artist: Kaleo

Spotify Plays: 144,547,260

Release Date: 2016

The Icelandic up-and-comers created a song that Hollywood couldn’t get enough of this year, sending it to the top of the US Rock Airplay chart, as well as the US Alternative Songs list. “Way Down We Go” was featured in the movie “Collateral Beauty, in trailers for the movie “Logan” and for the fourth season of “Orange Is the New Black,” as well as the popular new thriller “Riverdale,” to name a few.

#8. With Or Without You

Artist: Hunter Plake

Spotify Plays: 175,848,505

Release Date: 2017

Hunter Plake’s success with his cover of U2’s “With Or Without You” is the testament to the reach and influence of NBC’s singing competition show, The Voice. Plake was a contestant on the popular show. He sang this song for his semifinals performance and was eliminated thereafter. But despite being cut, his cover gained a whopping 175 million streams on Spotify, in a way, making him a winner after all.

#7. Ophelia

Artist: The Lumineers

Spotify Plays: 191,420,961

Release Date: 2016

The lead single from Cleopatra turned out to be a good bet for The Lumineers. “Ophelia” has been streamed over 191 million times on Spotify and landed on the seventh spot on the US Hot Rock Songs chart. Wesley Schultz said the song refers to people falling head-over-heels for fame.

#6. Feel It Still

Artist: Portugal. The Man

Spotify Plays: 193,169,625

Release Date: 2017

Portugal. The Man’s first song to hit the Billboard Hot 100 and first song to top the US Hot Rock Songs chart, “Feel It Still” saw a surge of success over the year. The band is also one of 12 acts to have reached #1 on six or more airplay charts, according to Billboard. But Portugal. The Man is no newcomer to the alt-rock world — the band’s second single is from their eighth album, Woodstock.

#5. Human

Artist: Rag'n'Bone Man

Spotify Plays: 237,370,260

Release Date: 2017

British singer-songwriter Rag’n’Bone Man released “Human” as part of his debut album of the same name. It became a quick fan favorite in the UK in 2016, but it gained traction across the pond after Rag’n’Bone man performed on “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon” in February 2017.  “Human” has gone on to #1 on the Billboard Alternative Songs chart and #2 on the Rock Airplay chart while amassing 237 million streams.

#4. Sucker For Pain

Artist: Lil Wayne, Wiz Khalifa & Imagine Dragons With Logic & Ty Dolla $ign Feat. X Ambassadors

Spotify Plays: 433,510,796

Release Date: 2016

This unique collaboration brings rock and rap giants together to create a sultry, gritty single for the 2016 movie “Suicide Squad.” Though the movie fell short with a 26 percent on Rotten Tomatoes, “Sucker For Pain” was a smash hit, reaching the fifteenth spot on the US Billboard Hot 100, and third on both the US Hot Rock and R&B/Hip-Hop Songs charts.

#3. Thunder

Artist: Imagine Dragons

Spotify Plays: 447,508,634

Release Date: 2017

Imagine Dragons delivered their fourth top 10 hit from Evolve in the form of “Thunder,” which now has more than 447 million streams on Spotify. The song reached number 15 on the Hot 100 and clinched the No. 1 spot on US Hot Rock, Pop and Alternative Songs charts. Band member Dan Reynolds told the Review-Journal that “Thunder” is about “reflecting on all [the low points in your life] and saying, ‘Good, I’m happy for all that because that brought me to this place of being. It created angst inside of me that bred art.’”

#2. Believer

Artist: Imagine Dragons

Spotify Plays: 467,764,242

Release Date: 2017

Though Imagine Dragons released a handful of smash hits this year, none were so popular as “Believer,” Evolve’s lead single. The song, released after the band’s brief hiatus due to frontman Dan Reynolds’ battle with disease, deals with, as Reynolds puts it, “reflecting on specific things in my life that were painful [...] and just rising above that, finding a place of perspective where I could be appreciative of the pain in my life and make it my greatest strength.” The song aired during the 2017 Super Bowl in a Nintendo commercial, and its popularity only increased from there. “Believer” reached number four on the US Hot 100 chart and topped the US Hot Rock Songs (42 non-consecutive weeks and counting).

#1. Heathens

Artist: twenty one pilots

Spotify Plays: 671,377,670

Release Date: 2016

Duo twenty one pilots probably couldn’t fathom topping the success of their Grammy award-winning song “Stressed Out,” but sure enough, in late 2016 they produced another chart-topper, “Heathens.” Another hit spawned from the “Suicide Squad” soundtrack, the success of “Heathens” continues to build, nabbing a Grammy nomination for best rock performance, as well as an astounding 671 million streams on Spotify. Number one on the US Hot Rock Songs chart and two on the US Hot 100,  “Heathens” is the longest-running No. 1 rock song in Billboard history, beating Walk The Moon’s “Shut Up And Dance.” Though twenty one pilots lean into the hip-hop and rap genres as well as rock, this likely does the band more good than bad. Their popularity further illuminates the fact that R&B and hip-hop are currently the most popular genres among fans, surpassing pop and rock for the first time in history. 

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