Music is just as important to a film as any other aspect of the project and sometimes the movie’s music even outshines the film itself in the long run. In 2017 we had some exceptionally memorable cinematic musical moments that shined brightly, adding emotional depth and power to some of the year’s best. Whether they ran in the credits or became an integral part of the storytelling during the film, I took a listen to some of the best original songs that helped make 2017 a memorable year for cinema. These are my personal Top 15 Original Songs of 2017.
For this list I looked at songs that were originally written and produced specifically for cinematic projects throughout the year 2017. I am not differentiating between versions sung by characters in the film or their higher quality soundtrack counterparts. Also, songs from movies that were released on the back end of 2016, like the fabulous songs in “La La Land”, were not considered even though the film had most of its run in 2017.
These songs were rated based on their overall quality and writing as well as their relevance to the film’s story and theme and their memorability. I chose not to limit myself to one song per film but instead limited it to TWO songs per film as some movies did have multiple exceptional original songs to pick from. Finally, I did not look at any instrumental songs or original scores. These are songs with lyrical content only. I also included Netflix films for this one unlike my past “Best of 2017” lists.
So that you have a chance to experience these songs yourself, I added links to YouTube videos of each of these songs in lieu of photos for this list. Also, because some of these songs have plot significance to be discussed a SPOILER ALERT is on order. Let me know what your favorite original song of 2017 was in the comments below and, as always, enjoy the countdown!
15. “The Star” from “The Star”
Even if you don’t listen to pop or have familiarity with the legacy of top 40 radio you still probably know songstress Mariah Carey for at least one thing, her infectious Christmas classic “All I Want for Christmas Is You”. Well in 2017 Carey dropped another Christmas song, this time much less over the top, as she performed the titular song for Sony’s animated holiday tale “The Star”. Pretty much a no-holds-barred description of the significance of the star in the film, which itself explored how the animals of the Nativity saw the birth of Jesus Christ, “The Star” wins no points for originality or true memorability but I must admit for an unapologetic cash grab of a Christmas anthem it’s a pretty sweet one that I actually enjoyed a bit more than the movie it promoted. A power pop balled with a bit of classic 90s/early 2000s flare “The Star” was just as uplifting and inspirational as the film itself and reminded me of the film songs of old that used to capture the hearts of many in the 90s, like “My Heart Will Go On”. It was both a fitting original work to represented the film’s story and a nice piece of modern nostalgia.
14. “How Does a Moment Last Forever” from “Beauty and the Beast”
The 2017 live-action take on Disney’s animated classic “Beauty and the Beast” offered a few new songs to add to the story’s musical wonder. One of the first new tunes we heard in the film was a short snippet sung by Belle’s father as he reminisced on his wife and Belle’s mother in a tribute to his past and Belle’s origins. That song was “How Does a Moment Last Forever”, a balled dealing heavily with the theme of nostalgia. This song is about hanging on to the most precious of moments and, in the feature film, was sung by a character who had experience losing the luster of his life to the past. The album track, sung by Celine Dion, expands on that theme greatly giving us a full-length song that built on Belle’s past and helped set the stage for the growth she would experience in the film. While considered unmemorable by some, I found this to be an underrated track from the Disney musical and one that eventually helped solidify Belle’s bond with the Beast when she herself has to face the reality of her mother’s demise.
13. “Ride” from “Cars 3”
One of the most fun songs on this list, “Ride” to me is insanely underrated. What it lacked in emotional weight compared to other songs it made up for in energy adding an appropriate amount of fun and intensity to Pixar’s animated sequel “Cars 3”. One of several upbeat songs in the film, this guitar driven melody captured the essence of racing in the world of “Cars” in its fun but simple lyrical tribute to the simple joys of driving with the top down. It was rough, it was tough, it was simple but infectious and it accentuated the fun of “Cars” without overpowering the action as some songs tend to do in animated features. Not to mention it was probably one of the most radio friendly songs to be featured in a film in 2017 so there’s that. “Ride”, sung by ZZ Ward, was a highlight off the original soundtrack of the film which itself featured many heavy country and rock songs all geared towards embracing the fun and excitement of the racing in the movie. “Ride” was one of the best and as standout that deserves recognition.
12. “Home” from “Ferdinand”
Sung by vocal powerhouse Nick Jonas this song was a pure radio friendly, kid friendly and shamelessly catchy pop tune featured prominently in Blue Sky’s animated offering “Ferdinand”. Considering the song’s heavy themes of finding a home where you finally belong and being who you are it fit the score of “Ferdinand” perfectly encapsulating the maturing the titular bull undergoes from his childhood to adulthood throughout the film. It was catchy and, in its own way, memorable and was complimented by a controlled and simple performance by Jonas that injected confidence into its relatively simple lyrics. It might have contained a bit of pandering, but in the end “Home” actually turned out to be even more memorable and enjoyable than the film itself and was a much more appropriate pop tune to represent the film than Ed Sheeran’s “Castle on the Hill” which was featured in the trailer.
11. “Stand Up For Something” from “Marshall”
Sadly, I never got to see or review “Marshall” before the start of 2018, but it’s not hard to understand why this song was a fitting entry to the film’s soundtrack. The film explored the early career of Thurgood Marshall and seeing as Marshall was an important African American figure who stood for something in his own right this song hit the nail pretty hard on the head. Performed by Andra Day and Common the song talked about how having possessions, money, and all the treasures you could want don’t make you worth anything. It’s what you stand for and how you stand by your convictions that make you a truly good person. The song acted as a dedication to Marshall’s legacy and his willingness to stand up for the forgotten and misrepresented. It’s not the most creative or subtle piece on this list but sometimes a blunt message is warranted. Both the film and this song had a point to make and we heard it loud and clear with both Andrea Day and Common serving a very worthy voices to spread that message in a radio friendly but socially significant tune worth a listen.
10. “Never Forget” from “Murder on the Orient Express”
For those who didn’t stay for the credits of this divisive mystery film you probably missed Michelle Pfeiffer’s beautiful vocal rendition of the film’s main theme, “Never Forget”. Sung in a soft tone with piano making up most of the accompaniment, this simple song fit perfectly in the credits of this film as it can almost be described as a concluding thought of sorts by Pfeiffer’s character Caroline, who we had discovered was not who she seemed and brought together everyone on the train to take part in the murder of a man whose actions sent her family into a spiral of negative consequences. The song itself plays out like a final poem from Pfeiffer’s character to her granddaughter and daughter telling them they have been avenged and they can live, or die, in peace. It mentions many coming together to show their love for one shifting between “we” and “I” where appropriate. It’s a delicate song and one that provided beautiful subtlety about it that left it to the listener to interpret it as they wish. Now if only the film itself embraced that same subtlety.
9. “It Ain’t Fair” from “Detroit”
The Roots performed this appropriate lyrical poem to compliment “Detroit”, a film tackling the history of police brutality on blacks from America’s past, specifically from the 1967 12th Street Riots. The film itself was timely enough and the song that accompanied it, “It Ain’t Fair”, was maybe even more timely directly discussing the issues of police brutality and the unspoken victims of prejudice head on and all after we just watched a pretty horrific example of real life racism play out before us on the big screen. The song spoke directly to the listener challenging whether they would care or react if they knew something was wrong. The song also featured direct references to the unfortunate racist history of America’s police with lines like “wolves disguised as sheep patrol our streets”. While racism among police is much, MUCH less of a concern today more recent issues have surfaced to once again start the conversation and this song both implored compassion for those being wronged and urged us to learn from the past to change the present. It’s a powerful message from a song that perfectly captured the lessons we were all meant to learn from the film that featured it.
8. “Never Enough” from “The Greatest Showman”
I’ll be honest I just LOVE this song, but out of respect for much better songs I had to put it a bit lower than I wanted to on this list. One of many original songs from “The Greatest Showman”, a film that loosely explored the life and career of celebrated entertainer P.T. Barnum, this tune was shown to be sung by Jenny Lind, a real-life songstress who P.T. Barnum turned into a stage star. Played by Rebecca Ferguson in the film, Lind performs this song as her first number during her debut show for Barnum with the lyrics speaking, albeit ironically, to Barnum’s neglect of his wife and the simple things in his life for the sake of fame. Although Barnum was deaf to the song’s deeper meaning at the time, we later got a reprise that drove the point home. In reality the tune was sung by Loren Allred who provided an absolutely show stopping performance of a balled that served as the one song that drove the more depressing emotional weight of the story where others proved to be a bit more inspirational and optimistic. While it lacked a bit of substance, its point was clear and concise and the performance was absolutely astounding making it one of my personal favorites and a guilty pleasure of mine from 2017 that I’ve had on repeat since I saw the film.
7. “Mighty River” from “Mudbound”
The only song from a Netflix exclusive to make this list, “Mighty River” complimented “Mudbound’s” story of racism and PTSD awareness in a universally respectable manner that was neither heavy handed nor too cliché. As with many songs on this list, singer Mary J. Blige kept it simple sharing a mid-tempo, soulful performance with lyrics speaking to the universal message of unity and peace. Where other songs on this list were more aggressive and specific to their respective movie’s themes, “Mighty River” was more ambiguous and worked as both a tribute to the message of the film it was written for and as a radio friendly call to many to end hate and work to create unity and understanding. Comparing time to a river in its ability to wash away the past as well as create resistance and struggles this was one of those songs that balanced simplicity and complexity perfectly presenting a message that was easy to understand and appreciate with a lyrical approach that could only work in the hands of truly talented and capable singer. Combine it with an equally powerful film filled with similar social commentary and you have an amazing match.
6. “Evermore” from “Beauty and the Beast”
The second “Beauty and the Beast” track on this list “Evermore” was an obsession for me before “Never Enough” succeeded it in December. Throughout the year this song, sung by Dan Stevens as the Beast in the film and Josh Groban on the studio track, quickly became the most popular original song from the live action adaptation and its not hard to see why. Sung by the Beast as Belle rides away to help her father escape the judgement of villagers after seeing his fate in the magic mirror, Beast lamented about not telling Belle his true feelings as well as the personal changes he underwent as a result of meeting his true love. As much as “How Does a Moment Last Forever” helped add to Belle’s character arc, this song added to the Beast’s and showed his own maturity throughout the film while solidifying his love for Belle in the process. The song was his confession to the world that he had learned from his mistakes and was a tribute to his release of Belle to allow her to save her father, an act he does out of compassion and love even though he knows this may mean she is gone forever. However, he knows she can never be gone forever because she will always be in his heart…how sweet! I mean it, how sweet. This is probably one of the most touching songs in the film and one that felt appropriate to adding to the story for a new generation.
5. “Hold the Light” from “Only the Brave”
The credits song for this absolutely amazing tribute to the homegrown heroes of the Granite Mountain Hot Shots who lost their lives in 2013, there was a lot to love about this power balled. First off the song is sung in a haunting tone by country star Dierks Bentley, a native of Phoenix, Arizona who was personally touched by the firefighters from his home state who made up the Hotshots and perished in the Yarnell Hill Fire. Bentley even performed a tribute concert in 2013 for the firefighters and insisted he be a part of the film honoring their legacy. Thus we got this amazing and truly memorable tune that was built to create an emotional impact as the real pictures of the 19 men who lost their lives flashed on the screen when the credits rolled. Speaking about loss and the everlasting connection of love and brotherhood, “Hold the Light” was both sad and inspiring as it promised that the connection between people and those they lost never goes away. Even listening to it while I’m writing this still gives me goosebumps. It’s a song that deserves to be heard and one that perfectly fits the tone and impact “Only the Brave” deserved to make.
4. “The Mystery of Love” from “Call Me by Your Name”
Sadly, I never got to see this film in 2017. It was never released in a theater in my area, so I was left out of viewing one of the most prominent awards season contenders of the year. However, I understand the film’s significance and why this song has gained so much love. Sung by Sufjan Stevens, this soft mid-tempo balled spoke to the unknown strangeness of love and the connection the emotion creates. The film itself chronicled an Italian teen’s love for and connection with his father’s assistant exploring themes of sexual awakening and sexual identity. As one of several songs contributed by Sufjan Stevens for the soundtrack, this tune seems to have resonated most with viewers due to its haunting depiction of a person’s delightful confusion over the emotions of romance. It spoke of love of all kinds as both a curse and a blessing and anyone who has experienced any kind of love knows that those emotions can indeed be quite a mystery. Stevens managed to create a song that was both significant to the plot of the film and atmospheric in its own way as if we were hearing these words directly from the mind of the film’s 17-year-old main character Elio. It’s beautiful in so many ways and acted as a truly encompassing tune of everything the film stood for, even for those who had yet to see it.
3. “This is Me” from “The Greatest Showman”
The main theme from “The Greatest Showman”, “This is Me” was prominent in the commercials and has become the film’s main push for potential award season success. Honestly though it’s kind of worthy of that push. Sung in the story by the oddities that made up P.T. Barnum’s circus right after Jenny Lind’s rendition of “Never Enough” gave Barnum a chance to schmooze with the higher ups this song was led by Keala Settle, a professional singer who portrayed the bearded lady and became a defacto leader among the oddities in the film. It spoke of the oddities’ places as outcasts in society in a way relatable to anyone who finds a struggle finding a place in the world around them. It spoke of the pride the oddities had in themselves and their willingness to finally let the world see who they are even as their mentor, Barnum, is losing his way. As other oddities pitched in to sing their part this tune became an all-encompassing tribute by the cast to the unique and odd among us all. Inspiring as it is entertaining and memorable this song truly captured the main message of “The Greatest Showman” and proved to be a much needed and fitting burst of energy in the film’s second act. On its own it’s a message to everyone listening to embrace everything about themselves no matter the roadblocks and to never apologize for who they are.
2. “Remember Me” from “Coco”
Pixar always has an ear for fitting original music for its projects and this was no exception. “Coco” told the story of a young boy who found himself in the world of the dead where his past family members and his new friend Hector taught him the value of leaving a mark on the world and being remembered. “Remember Me” played a pivotal role in the films plot as it helped reveal the deeper connection young Miguel unknowingly had with Hector and helped Grandma Coco remember her father, thus revitalizing the family’s love of music. It was a song that also inspired Miguel to embrace his own musical talents and seek out his true lineage as his favorite singer, and the man he believed to be his father, Ernesto de la Cruz made it a hit after singing it in a popular film. Lyrically “Remember Me” was a delightfully simple song about preserving the love for someone special despite the distance, either literally or figuratively, that keeps them apart. As the main theme and a prominent plot device in the film it served as a fitting tie in to the overall story becoming a song that resonated not just with the viewers, but the characters as well. Personally I prefer the lullaby version (which you can listen to above) than the fully produced one in the credits, but they both have their merits.
1. “The Pure and the Damned” from “Good Time”
Composed by Oneohtrix Point Never and featuring the vocals of Iggy Pop this song was the main theme for the highly underrated 2017 film “Good Time” playing over the credits of the project and capturing the haunting feeling that came from the adventure we just watched. “Good Time” was a film about a man trying to right his mistakes by stealing enough money in one night to pay off a judge to free his mentally handicapped younger brother. This song plays after the man failed and was arrested while his younger brother was released because of the man’s confession. “The Pure and the Damned” even says “the truth is an act of love” and it was the truth, not the money or drugs, that finally allowed the handicapped brother to be released and recover from what transpired. Iggy Pops haunting vocals made this song resonate on a level even the film itself couldn’t reach and the synth-heavy production made it a unique and memorable standout among “Good Time’s” already intense and amazing soundtrack of original work. This song not only captured the essence of “Good Time’s” hidden message it also captured the tone and feel of the film as a whole and wrapped it all up in a nice package worthy of Oscar gold. It might never get that honor, but, in my opinion, it was the most deserving.