Today I’m sharing my favourite songs from last year – the ones I’m still bopping to or using as the melodramatic soundtrack to situations I know will never happen but are fun to think about.
My music taste is varied but, to be honest, I don’t have a way of describing it better than to say it’s a combination of suggestions from Spotify and YouTube and soundtracks from films and television. I don’t even really listen to full albums except for a couple of artists across the genres. I think I’m trying to say this list most likel won’t look like a lot of other music listicles but alas I’m still sharing!
(By the way, if you’d like to stream the tracks on this list (and more!) give Amazon Music Unlimited a try. You can even sign up for a free monthly trial!)
Without further ado, here are my favourite tracks from 2018:
18. Girls Like You – Maroon 5 feat. Cardi B (from the album Red Pill Blues)
This has to be the most forced upon me song of 2018. Stupidly catchy if a bit saccharine, Girls Like You is almost un-unlikeable – one of those songs you just find yourself singing along to, much to thy chagrin.
17. Win – Jay Rock (from the album Redemption)
I’m not what you’d call “with the culture” so the first time I ever heard of Jay Rock was via a
smoking buddy friend from church (lol) who played this when we were hanging out once. With its brass-heavy, anthemic production scoring a shamelessly cocky delivery by Rock, Win is an irresistible song to flex to and I still do.
16. Going Bad – Meek Mill feat. Drake (from the album Championships)
I don’t know a lot about rap let alone rap beefs but even I was excited to see the internet’s favourite medium ugly boyfriend collaborating with Drake, whom I think he feuded with over how to most perfectly describe Nicki Minaj’s ass. Or something. I don’t know guys, I just like the track.
15. thank u, next – Ariana Grande (from the upcoming album thank u, next)
Grande’s instantly iconic hit is an amazing breakup song that turns heartbreak on its head by not deriding the former (and very famous) objects of the singers affections but instead thanking them for the woman (she says) she has become. And even though I, for one, am not so grateful for my ex, it’s a wonderful anthem.
14. In Cold Blood – Alt J feat. Pusha T [Twin Shadow Version] (from the album Reduxer)
I love Alt-J, who’re my favourite band, and they’re one of the few artists whose albums and new releases I actively seek out and often deeply enjoy. Following 2017’s wonderful Relaxer, they set on fusing the alternative and urban, reworking and reinterpreting Relaxer into Reduxer. While I’m not a massive fan of the whole, Reduxer has a couple of intriguing gems – my favourite being In Cold Blood featuring Pusha T. I like imagining that when Transformers get down to do the mechanical nasty, they’re probably listening to this!
13. Money – Cardi B (from the album Invasion of Privacy)
I love Cardi B’s persona a lot more than I do her music and I only ever listen to her most popular tracks. Money is one of them. Shamelessly gauche and deliciously grandiose, the track is of “feel good” and “feel rich” vibes and I’m still very here for it. Also, I know she is no master lyricist but “shake a little ass, get a little bag and take it to the store” has GOT to be up there in annals of American literature, right? No? Okay.
12. Nina Cried Power – Hozier feat. Mavis Staples (from the EP Nina Cried Power)
In this increasingly polarised era and as others shy away from being overtly political, Hozier is unafraid to speak up he does so with Nina Cried Power, both the song and the EP. The song is an angelic, sweeping ballad whose grand message is hope. It’s absolutely glorious and breathtaking, and Hozier is on phenomenal form in this team with the (so I read) legendary Mavis Staples. I’m not sure it totally qualifies as gospel despite the stunning choir vocals but it’s an amazing song of praise – a joyous exaltation to and for activism.
11. pete davidson – Ariana Grande (from the album Sweetener)
After the dizzying height of 2018’s most fascinating, if odd, romance – but before it’s blazing end – Grande released this track named for her (at the time) fiance. It’s so beautiful, naive and wonderfully unabashed. As a victim of fast, furious love that fell apart in spectacular fashion, I couldn’t help but fall in love with this song. And Grande’s voice is ridiculously beautiful so it wasn’t very hard.
10. Chun Li – Nicki Minaj (from the album Queen)
Despite Minaj’s increasingly dubious behaviour outside of studios, you cannot deny she still has it. Reminiscent of her brash and brass earlier work, the self proclaimed queen of rap returned last year with a vengeance – a Roman’s revenge, if you will (which I know you will not) – Chun Li is the most cocky and unrelentingly sure track of Minaj’s latest output. Minaj’s fiercely combative and raw yet controlled delivery over a (I’m sorry I can’t come up with a better adjective than) sick beat; coupled with electric aggression and her trademark accent-switching, is her at her best.
9. PettyWap – Young M.A. (from the upcoming album Herstory in the Making)
Young M.A. has a lot going for her. Cool and inherently sexy (Um, hello? That soft butter on warm bread voice of hers?), she also seems to have a quiet but confident swagger about her which is truly what makes PettyWap so great. Low husky lines delivered as if off hand on a chilled out beat as she flexes and gets petty about her gang gang, her women and their men, and, of course, the haters. It almost makes you forgive the entirety of mumble rap.
8. Love Lies – Khalid & Normani (from the album Love, Simon – Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)
One of my favourite films last year (and Nyengo’s as well, FYI) was Love Simon. It’s soundtrack is all kinds of ace as well but the one song I won’t stop playing is Love Lies. Together, Khalid and Normani produce a moody and sensual duet that’s both catchy and distinct in a sea of standard contemporary urban pop and R’n’B fare.
7. Mariner’s Apartment Complex – Lana Del Rey (from the upcoming album Norman Fucking Rockwell)
Del Rey’s most recent efforts are perhaps her most Cohen-esque and my goodness, does it benefit from that Cain of the earth swagger! In that Lolita-in-the-hood/pristine American babydoll voice she has absolutely perfected by now, Del Rey croons the first lines: “You took my sadness out of context /At the Mariners Apartment Complex/I ain’t no candle in the wind.” Right about there is where I fell madly in love with this track.
6. Hunger – Florence and the Machine (from the album High as Hope)
Florence Welch is a beautiful mermaid with a siren voice and it shines magnificently in last year’s delirious and enthralling power ballad, Hunger. To my mind, Welch is one of the few artists of our era with a very distinct and intriguing point of view. You don’t always really know what she’s saying (what does “you make a fool of death with your beauty” even mean?) but you know it’s born from the same sorrow as yours – that unbearable lonely place that you’ve never really known how to put into words. I’ll be listening to Hunger for years.
5. Sky Full of Song – Florence and the Machine
The queen of bohemian power ballads shows off her siren voice in this soft ballad of yearning. Again capturing the allure of often indescribable and fleeting feelings with lyrics like “I want you so badly but you could be anyone“, Sky Full of Song is soaring heights of sad and cutting. I love it.
4. When the Party’s Over – Billie Eilish
Starting off as a haunting hymn, When the Party’s Over builds into a beguiling and wistful lament sung over by a beautiful rasping voice that is soft where it needs to be and more emphatic when it wants to cut. The fact that a 17-year-old crafted this song of sweet torture is just a fact that makes me love it even more. What a wonderful tune to feel sad to.
3. Nothing Breaks Like a Heart – Mark Ronson feat. Miley Cyrus (from the upcoming album Late Night Feelings)
Look, this is song is an absolutely delicious bleak banger and I adore it. Mark Ronson is a master at these pop collaborations. Together with Miley Cyrus – who embraces her Tennessee roots in easy, sutry heartbroken fashion – they create a haunting, thrilling lament of (lost) love against the backdrop of our decaying world. I don’t get a lot of opportunities to wax poetic about Cyrus and unfortunately, lovelies, when I see a door to gab, I run through it.
Miley Cyrus is a wildly underrated artist and one of the most fascinating artists in modern pop because she doesn’t fear metamorphosis. She lives who she is, get into a studio and says what she wants to say. And then she grows up and compels herself to do it again. Cyrus is a transformative creature – from her cheeky wholesome Disney princess days to her “I’m sexy now so here I am in lace underwear (and also, there are feathers!)” post-disney era to her molly-popping twerking provocateur extravaganza to her mellow Malibu moment to now, a certified cross country savant. Miley is THAT bitch and it is an absolute crime that she is not given more credit. Okay, that’s it!
2. Venice Bitch – Lana Del Rey (from the upcoming album Norman Fucking Rockwell)
When Del Rey was riding the wave of her breakout hit Video Games, many opined about the, they said, nefariously fabricated aura of American mysticism she employed for her image and sound; what with her trademark use of Iconography Americana like cola, Pabst Blue Ribbon, pussy and cocaine. And let’s not even mention the Lolita fantasy.
With every new release, however, Del Rey strays further and further away from that intoxicating and darkly sexy good girl with a wild heart persona that first made so many people for in love with her. Stray she has but that old Hollywood lustre will never really die. It’s just growing and changing.
In this nearly 10 minute sweeping epic, Del Rey sounds the most mature she ever has. And though she and her love is still American made, her sadness now is one of a woman whose daddy-seeking, let’s-just-ride proclaiming inclinations are gone. She’s fresh out of fucks forever and it sounds so beautiful.
1. Woman – Cat Power feat. Lana Del Rey (from the album Wanderer)
All hail the goddess and undisputed queen of sadcore – Cat Power a.k.a. Chan Marshall. And what’s that? She’s teamed up with the genre’s ingenue, Lana Del Rey? I mean, this is a song made in Angasa heaven. The collaboration I’ve always known I needed arrived in an electric rock ballad played under Cat Power’s rich husky voice – now more weathered and steadfast than I’ve ever heard it – and Del Rey’s luxurious backing vocals. The track is something of an answer to the question, “Who is Chan Marshall?” We’ve always known she doesn’t play by our rules and she will, when all is said and done, do whatever she damn well pleases. She tells us she’s a woman. And it’s not a celebration, an outright condemnation or cry of plight – just a matter of fact. Chan Marshall is woman is Cat Power is Woman, and then some. I’ve stopped making sense, haven’t I? I think Pitchfork’s Sasha Geffen summed it up in the best way:
“I’m a woman,” Marshall insists as the song fades out, and as she repeats the words, she folds new meaning into them: not so much “hear me roar” as “watch me endure.”
All right lovelies, that there is my list. What do you make of my choices? What songs would you have added? Leave a comment with your thoughts below!