Check out numbers 26-50 here
Listen to the top 50 here (only on Apple Music, sorry Spotify bros)
25. “The Omen” by Camp Cope – Camp Cope’s “The Opener” got a lot of attention for its rip-roaring take on the gender politics buried in the indie rock scene that they occupy. It’s a worthy song, but my favorite Camp Cope bits are the slowed down ballads that allow singer Georgia Maq to show off her gnarled sorrow.
24. “NICE” by The Carters – This song’s chorus (maybe more aptly described as a braggadocious refrain) runs through my head just about every other day, where I wish that I had just one-percent of the swagger that Jay and Bay do. And those Beyonce verses?! Oooh-weee.
23. “Happy Unhappy” by The Beths – This is kind of a stand-in for The Beths entire album which is a fantastic piece of guitar pop. “Happy Unhappy” is the most easygoing of the bunch, freely flowing from the opening’s “ohoh–ohohs” to the way Elizabeth Stokes so easily moves across each word, her voice prancing like a dance sequence in an old Astaire musical. It’s enchanting.
22. “APESHIT” by The Carters – The Carters introduced their collaborative album via an “APESHIT” music video set in the Louvre. It’s an anthem, celebrating their dominion over the kingdom that is pop culture in 2018; they strut about, blowing off the Super Bowl to take over a truer venue of cultural cache. The best part of it all is that Beyonce plays emcee here, reducing Jay Z to the role of Takeoff in Migos–a hypeman whose name you always forget.
21. “Cold War” by Cautious Clay – Just a gorgeous bit of alt-R&B from an underrated artist whose career feels on the brink of success. Watch out.
20. “When I’m With Him” by Empress Of – Pop songs with singer-songwriter flare, Empress Of’s best song is endlessly listenable, one of a few on her latest album to feature her singing bilingually.
19. “Never Recover” by Lil Baby & Gunna (feat. Drake) – It feels like Drake’s style takes over the Young Thug-inspired Soundcloud trap that people loved about Drip Harder–maybe I’m drawn to this song because of that or maybe Gunna and Baby were able to bring the best out of Drake. Regardless this is a jam.
18. “Me & My Dog” by boygenius – Between her Julien Baker and Lucy Dacus joint collaboration and my relistening to Stranger in the Alps across the beginning of the year, Phoebe Bridgers is quickly becoming one of my favorite artists. She takes the lead here as a part of what is probably the best supergroup of all time, offering her melancholy up for us to indulge in–it’s beautiful.
17. “Love is a Wild Thing” by Kacey Musgraves – I thought a lot of Golden Hour was hit or miss, but ultimately quite enjoyable. There was no greater moment than “Love is a Wild Thing”, an initially quiet and catchy piece of pop-country.
16. “Roaches” by Maxo Kream – Distorted pianos really had their moment in hip-hop this year, as did Maxo Kream, a kind of old-school Houston rapper. His album, Punken, is filled with stories about being poor, surrounded by and participating in violence, and coming to terms with his past. “Roaches” tells the story of growing up in cockroach infested homes, while simultaneously mourning this new world that’s becoming harder for him to understand (he takes a few shots at mumble rap). It’s Maxo’s knack for storytelling, backed by that distorted piano, that makes this song shine.
15. “I Like It” by Cardi B (feat. Bad Bunny, J Balvin) – Cardi was back at it again this year, not only proving she could rap, but also proving she could once again take over the culture, notching herself a bonafide song of the summer with her Latin-flared “I Like It”. Using Tony Pabon’s “I Like it Like That” as the basis, she comes in horns a blazin’, gets two fantastic Spanish verses from Bad Bunny and J Balvin, and proved she’s a star.
14. “Bartier Cardi” by Cardi B (feat. 21 Savage) – This was the first post-”Bodak Yellow” song I heard and I thought it was even better than her original hit. Critics didn’t appreciate it as much, but I appreciate the wordplay at work here, even if by the end of the year her Offset puns aren’t quite as charming. Add to that a verse by 21 Savage, whose low droll is one of my favorite voices to hear guest on a song and I couldn’t help but fall for it.
13. “Kings” Dead” by Jay Rock, Kendrick Lamar, Future, James Blake – There’s no better opening line in a song this year than Kendrick’s “me miss with that bullshit, you ain’t really wild you a tourist” in this star studded track originally released on the Black Panther soundtrack. It was so good that Jay Rock included it on his album, released later in the year. I’m going with the Black Panther version because I first heard this version and because there’s a cinematic sense to it that elevates the song’s internal stakes.
12. “God’s Plan”/”Nonstop” by Drake – Honestly, the only reason these two are placed together is because I somehow missed putting “Nonstop” on this list and didn’t want to have to go back and fix the whole thing. Regardless, both of these fit the bill as the Drake singles that did well, but not as well as his others (“In My Feelings”/”Nice For What”). I personally prefer both of these, each of which features Drake at the height of his game. Say what you want about his talent or his lifestyle, but he has a flow I could listen to for about half as long as his albums are (which is a long time).
11. “No tears left to cry” by Ariana Grande – I get the “thank u, next” hype in all it’s meme-y self empowerment and the way Grande paid tribute (?) to 00s rom-coms in the video for it, but it’s Grande’s sincere ballad that really does it for me. She combines her powerhouse vocal abilities with pop sensibility and when both are fully utilized they show her at her best.
10. “It’s Okay to Cry” by SOPHIE – SOPHIE begins this song slowly, telling the story of a relationship gone wrong, with quiet chaos verging in the background. It’s a story filled with great pain, but tenderness (“Just know whatever hurts, it’s all mine”), by the time the song fully explodes, it’s as if the tears SOPHIE has been sanctioning have finally broken through. IT’S OKAY TO CRY might be the line we all need to hear most.
9. “So Afraid” by Janelle Monae – Monae is the queen of melding genres together, using pop, R&B, hip-hop, funk, and rock to tell elaborate stories. There were a lot of great moments in her latest album, Dirty Computer, that make use of those genres, but it’s two slowed down ballads that most affected me. Here she sings over a slowly strummed acoustic guitar, before an electric guitar soloing in the background rises to the front as she sings “I, oh, I, I’m afraid, afraid of lovin’ you”.
8. “Pristine” by Snail Mail – I really don’t know what it is about this song (and really Snail Mail generally), but there’s something utterly perfect about it. It’s a pretty straightforward guitar-lead indie rock song, but everything comes together with such excellence that it became one of the best songs of the year, incessantly in my playlist.
7. “Night Shift” by Lucy Dacus – Dacus chooses to open her album with what feels like a closing opus. “Night Shift” is a six-minute plus epic about self-sabotaging tendencies and trying to move beyond a first love. It ends exactly as you’d hope it would, with Dacus belting out “You’ve got a 9 to 5, so I’ll take the night shift” as guitars chug along, pushing her past her former amor.
6. “Ghost Town” by Kanye West – When ye was first released I actually thought I really enjoyed it. What was actually happening was the album was short enough that I kept hearing “Ghost Town” and it made me think I really liked the whole thing. The album is okay, eventually Kanye’s perspective becomes so frustrating that it kind of diminishes the rest of the production. “Ghost Town” however, holds up as a transcendent piece of music. From PARTYNEXTDOOR’s surprisingly prescient opening to Kid Cudi nailing his “I’m just trying to make you love me” line to 070 Shake making herself ye’s MVP, entering into the fray and absolutely delivering.
5. “In the Evening” by Half Waif – Half Waif’s electronic dirge absolutely drips with sorrow. Is there a truer line post-breakup than “Don’t expect me to be happy to see that you’re happier than me, I don’t owe you that”? Oh this song’ll gut you regardless of your relationship health.
4. “Back For More” by Justine Skye (feat. Jerimih) – A singer that got almost no buzz at all but whose song is one I returned to nonstop. “Back For More” is the best R&B song of the year, catchier than just about everything else you’ll hear.
3. “Persephone” by Sidney Gish – A quiet little track at the back end of Gish’s debut album, it’s full of conviction, softly plucked strings backing Gish’s soft-spoken wordplays and quips about Greek gods that are at first innocuous, but take on a quiet weight to them.
2. “This is America” by Childish Gambino – Much has been said about this song, as it took over the zeitgeist upon its post-SNL release. The images of its music video drew some criticism and ultimately Glover was accused of ripping off Jase Harley’s “American Pharaoh”. That being said, I (obviously) enjoy Glover’s song immensely. It’s a highly politicized jam with a pure danceability juxtaposed against a dark undertone of Glover’s views of black life in America. It’s a song full of contrasts, between money and poverty, success and violence, the American dream and the America we live in.
1. “I Like That” by Janelle Monae – It’s kind of a minor song on Dirty Computer, but it’s one I find continually affecting. Dirty Computer is Monae’s first foray into personal songwriting, having spent the last two albums spinning intricate tales about robots and forbidden love, she finally lays herself bare, expressing who she is without the metallic metaphors. “I Like That” is all about finding confidence in oneself, within it she tells two stories, one from her past where a classmate mocked her for her lack of style and her haircut, and the one she is currently telling where she’s “a little crazy, little sexy, little cool”. This is also about Monae coming to terms with her sexuality, finding the confidence and freedom to express it. Ultimately it’s a song that I find the most enjoyable listen, it’s touching, it’s catchy, it’s one that lifts me up whenever I hear it–and for those reasons, it’s the song of the year.