Song Writing

The Songfacts Top Ten of 2017

by Ed Pearce

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The computers have been counting and the list compiled - and now we finally can bring you the ten songs on the Songfacts database released in 2017, which have been viewed the most over the past year. The 10 songs here are not necessarily the most popular ones of the year but the ones that contained lyrics or subject matter that intrigued you. So buckle up people, take a deep breathe... drum roll... here we go.
The Top 10:
(click the song titles to see the Songfacts entries)

10) Drake - "Blem"

Drake's More Life album found him combining influences from around the globe and this cut was a case in point. T-Minus' beat had a dancehall feel, and Aubrey Graham's rhymes were based around "blem," a word that originated in Jamaican patois language and is now used by the Caribbean community in London.

You wanted to know what The OVO boss was on about when he raps "I'm blem for real, I might just say how I feel." We told you "Blem" is a slang term meaning to express the state of being high off a certain leafy plant. We explained that the effect of the drug means that Drake has no inhibitions, so he warns the girl he's addressing that he is going to speak his mind.

9) Ed Sheeran – "Perfect"

The first of several Ed Sheeran songs in our Top 10 of 2017 list, "Perfect" would have been higher in the tally had the Beyoncé featuring remix been released earlier in the year.

Many of you wanted to know the story behind the song and we told you the Brit wrote "Perfect" for his girlfriend Cherry Seaborn. We added that the red-haired songsmith had set out to write the biggest tune of his career, and it seems he's succeeded having topped the charts all over the world. The tune seems sure to be standard fare on wedding-reception dance floors and karaoke parlors for decades to come.

8) Ed Sheeran - "Shape Of You"

It's too bad about Ed Sheeran's third album slump. Yep, that dip in sales that Divide NEVER HAD. Rather, the Brit's lead single from the project "Shape Of You" skyrocketed to the top of the Billboard 100 upon its release in January 2017, becoming the best performing song of 2017. It also peaked at #1 on the singles charts of 44 other countries.

With such a successful lead single it was no surprise that Divide went on to break records worldwide, sometimes smashing them. For instance, the tracks on the album achieved a total of 56.73 million streams on Spotify on its first day of release, obliterating the previous record of 29 million for Starboy by The Weeknd in November 2016.

As to why "Shape" was one of several Ed Sheeran songs that made the Songfacts Top 10, it's down to the track's complete and utter popularity - no further explanation is required.

7) James Arthur - "Say You Won't Let Go"

This simple acoustic guitar-backed love song was one of the surprise hits of 2017. James Arthur had been the 2012 UK X Factor winner, but his career seemed to have faltered following several controversial remarks made on social media. However, "Say You Won't Let Go" not only returned the Brit to the limelight in his native country but also accompanied all the countless booming club thumpers and braggadocio rap cuts on the charts worldwide to become one of 2017's most memorable and lasting tracks.

6) Camila Cabello - "Havana"

After Camila Cabello left Fifth Harmony to pursue a solo career, many wondered if she could maintain the same success. At first, things didn't look too promising for the Latin singer, as her debut solo single, "Crying in the Club," failed to reach the Top 40 of the Hot 100. But then came this ode to her Cuban roots, which bounced up the chart peaking at #2, better than anything Cabello had achieved in her girl band days. "Havana" has also performed well internationally, topping the charts in several countries, including Canada, Mexico and the United Kingdom.

Many of you wanted to know the song's meaning and we explained that "Havana" is the story of Cabello falling in love with a bad boy from the city of her childhood.
Atlanta rapper Young Thug also spat some rhymes on the song, but in the end, it was all about Camila.

5) Portugal the Man – "Feel It Still"

Alaska-bred rock outfit Portugal. The Man have been releasing albums since 2006 but it took this inspirational groover to break the band on pop radio.

Written by the band's frontman John Gourley in just 45 minutes, you were especially intrigued by the offbeat chorus of "Feel It Still" - "I'm a rebel just for kicks now." We explained the lyric was inspired by various sea changes since 1966 that Gourley has felt, such as civil rights movements, war protests and '80s New York hip-hop. Another factor was democratic socialist Bernie Sanders' campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination.

4) Jason DeRulo - "Swalla"

Probably the biggest surprise in our Top 10, "Swalla" was a middling hit for Jason DeRulo, peaking at #29 on the Hot 100 and reaching the Top 10 in a number of European countries.

It was the dance banger's hook of "Shimmy shimmy yay, shimmy yay, shimmy ya Swalla-la-la," that especially interested you. We explained that the lyrics are an interpolation of late Wu-Tang Clan rapper Ol' Dirty Bastard's track "Shimmy Shimmy Ya" and DeRulo is telling us of his attention being caught by a girl doing a "Shimmy" - a dance which involves shaking the body in a sexual manner."Swalla," slang for "swallow," was just a word that the singer just threw out in the studio.

The song was also popular in Asia and many of the viewings came from that continent. In fact around one third of the hits for "Swalla" were from India. (Normally, around 2.5% of all Songfacts sessions come from that country).

3) Ed Sheeran - "Galway Girl"

We return to the carrot-haired English singer with this ditty about a girl from the Irish city of Galway where Sheeran's cousin and uncle both live. Though the Brit has admitted that the folky track is a love-it-or-hate-it song (sometime collaborator Benny Blanco is of the opinion that it's his worst-ever tune), many of you loved "Galway Girl" and came to Songfacts to find out more about its background. We told you it's a made-up story inspired in part by the fiddle player for Northern Irish trad-folk band Beoga, who backed Sheeran on the cut.

2) Ed Sheeran - "Bibia Be Ye Ye"

The fourth and final Ed Sheeran entry in our list is a song sung partly in Twi, a language spoken in Ghana. "Bibia Be Ye Ye" was only on the deluxe version of Divide but enough of you came to Songfacts to make it the second-most-visited current song of the year. We told you that the African-inspired track is about hope and its title translates to "All will be well."

1) Childish Gambino - "Redbone"

Actor, director, comedian, rapper singer-songwriter and all round clever clogs Donald Glover has achieved much in his multi-faceted career, including Emmy and Golden Globe Awards. Now, the modern-day Renaissance man has clocked up the Top Viewed Song of 2017 on Songfacts!

Glover, whose musical stage name is Childish Gambino, released "Redbone" as the second single from his Awaken, My Love! album. The soul-infused track proved to be a sleeper hit, spending the first half of 2017 slowly climbing the Billboard Hot 100 before peaking at #12 on the chart for the week of August 19, 2017. The slow rise of "Redbone" was aided by its placement in the opening credits of blockbuster thriller Get Out.

We explained that "Redbone" is a term for a light-skinned black woman and Gambino is addressing his girlfriend with a caramel complexion.
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