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50 Best Songs of 2018

Highlights from a year full of heart-rending pop smashes, trunk-rattling hip-hop hits and unforgettable moments in reggaeton, country, singer-songwriter indie-rock and woke post-punk

year end list singles

It was an excellent year for women with a sense of humor and ingenious ideas about how to remake classic styles in their own radiant image (Cardi B, Pistol Annies, Courtney Barnett), and a fine one for pop songs that questioned worn out sexual and social identities (Janelle Monae’s “Make Me Feel,” Hayley Kiyoko’s “Curious,” Christine and the Queens’ “Doesn’t Matter”); artists from Latin America (Karol G), continental Europe (Rosalía) and Asia (BTS) made the music scene feel like a global conversation; Sheck Wes fuck-shit-bitched his way into our heart; Carly Rae Jepsen kicked ecstatic self-care; and everyone from Lucy Dacus to Ariana Grande to Troye Sivan had us catching feelings we couldn’t shake.  

Robyn, "Ever Again"

Heji Shin


Robyn, “Ever Again”

The finale of her warmest LP yet caps a virtual mixtape of ecstatic dance floor melancholy. Over a bubbling funk bass line, the Swedish godmother of modern pop vows she’s “never gonna be broken hearted ever again…. that shit’s out the door!” The steely zen-master determination in her voice is more important, of course, than the plausibility of the claim — a determination that was resonant in a moment where a sustained push towards change couldn’t be more urgent. It’s the feeling of dawn after a long, hard night of the soul.

Hayley Kiyoko, "Curious"

Hayley Kiyoko, "Curious"

Amanda Charchian


Hayley Kiyoko, “Curious”

During her post-teen-pop phase, Hayley Kiyoko has transformed herself into a queer-pop auteur, directing and starring in her own videos for pulsing anthems. “Curious,” from her first proper album, is exploratory and flirtatious, its bouncing-ball bass keeping up with Kiyoko’s charmingly neurotic lyrics about her place in a love triangle — and her sighed “I’m just curious, is it serious?” on the chorus makes it clear that she’s not above upending the whole structure (musical, romantic, social and otherwise) should things come to that point.

Lil Baby feat. Gunna, "Drip too Hard"

Lil Baby feat. Gunna, "Drip too Hard"

Tor Derricotte


Lil Baby feat. Gunna, “Drip Too Hard”

Lil Baby and Gunna are the princes who were promised. The Drip Harder duo was groomed under the tutelage of their Atlanta forefathers, Migos and Young Thug, toiling for years until they built a formidable roadmap to the mainstream. The Turbo produced song is a tumbling, Western that features Baby and Gunna rapping about dripping and drowning and waves. Stylistically, Baby and Gunna are no-nonsense workman and “Drip Too Hard” is the logical endpoint for this generation of trap stars. It taps into the monotonous rhythm of streaming’s playlist culture, while shaving away at some of the polarizing idiosyncrasies of their predecessors. It’s low stakes, high reward rap that went pop.