Travis Scott, "Sicko Mode" - Rolling Stone
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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.  

Travis Scott, “Sicko Mode”

Travis Scott, “Sicko Mode”

David LaChapelle

10

Travis Scott, “Sicko Mode”

Travis Scott invites everybody to the Astroworld theme park inside his head, with a cameo from Drake — it’s a typically eccentric track that skips from beat to beat, while the Houston MC riffs on Clueless, Jamba Juice, Biggie, Bonnaroo and 2 Live Crew. Scott’s voice holds all the different pieces in line — like he says, “Who put this shit together? I’m the glue.”

Janelle Monae “Make Me Feel”

Janelle Monae “Make Me Feel”

JUCO

9

Janelle Monae, “Make Me Feel”

Lots of artists cite Prince as an influence, but no one channels his radiant purple truth quite like Janelle Monae. Her sexiest song ever is crackling with electric energy — she’s so tuned-up and turned-on that she makes even an old line like “No one does it better” feel like a shocking new thrill. And as much as it sounds like the gorgeous love child of “Kiss” and Kraftwerk, this song also marks the moment when Monae truly claimed her own power as an original visionary. Forget the past and the future: This is pop’s right-the-fuck-now, in all its glory.

Paul McCartney, "Come on to Me"

Paul McCartney, "Come on to Me"

Mary McCartney

8

Paul McCartney, “Come on to Me”

Co-produced with hitmaker Greg Kurstin, this stomping Wings-style rocker was cut part at Abbey Road Studios: swaggering brass, hammering piano, and hollering that tilts towards “Helter Skelter” territory. It’s is a cruising anthem that makes consent both a priority and a chorus, ‘cause Sir Paul is a gentleman. And it’s great not ‘cause he’s a legend, but ‘cause he’s a working musician who still knows how to write a pop song better than nearly anyone.

Courtney Barnett, “Charity”

Courtney Barnett, “Charity”

Mia Mala McDonald

7

Courtney Barnett, “Charity”

After making the jump from Australian indie up-and-comer to international rock & roll semi-star, Courtney Barnett decides she’d rather sleep late and let the world pass her by. “Meditation just makes you more strung out,” she drawls in “Charity,” the pick hit from her sophomore album Tell Me How You Really Feel. She’s got no urge to be anyone’s next big thing, yet she has a blast playing this crunchy guitar riff, snickering, “You must be having so much fun!”

Lana Del Rey, “Mariners Apartment Complex”

Lana Del Rey, “Mariners Apartment Complex”

UMG

6

Lana Del Rey, “Mariners Apartment Complex”

The ghost of Leonard Cohen lives in the strong whisper of Lana Del Rey’s “I’m your man” on what was the first taste of her forthcoming LP Norman Fucking Rockwell. “Mariners Apartment Complex” is the strongest representation of Del Rey’s songwriting and nostalgi-pop style; she tells an engagingly wistful story about a conversation outside said mariners apartment complex while asserting that how who she is negates exactly who he thinks she is. A metaphor for Del Rey’s own image and career, languidly complementing one of Jack Antonoff’s finest pieces of production work.

Drake, “Nice For What”

Drake, “Nice For What”

Caitlin Cronenberg

5

Drake, “Nice For What”

Drake gets his roll on, somewhere along the Toronto/Louisiana border. “Nice For What” is his first great tribute to New Orleans bounce, complete with an invocation from Big Freedia. He speeds up a Lauryn Hill hip-hop soul sample (“Ex-Factor”) as he salutes all the hard-working party girls snapping selfies on the dance floor, even if they’re wearing less and going out more. “Nice For What” hit Number One for 8 weeks — by his 2018 standards, that merely made it a medium-size Drake blockbuster.

Camila Cabello, “Never Be The Same”

Camila Cabello, “Never Be The Same”

Dennis Leupold

4

Camila Cabello, “Never Be the Same”

After the slow-burning piano grind of “Havana,” Camila switches gears for a gigantic electro ballad that proves this girl can handle any kind of song. In “Never Be The Same,” she’s an infatuation junkie who can’t stop going back to the wrong lover, because she just can’t get enough. For the big climax, Camila gasps for breath over the classic “Be My Baby” drum hook — somewhere, Ronnie Spector must be proud.

Cardi B, “I Like It”

Cardi B, “I Like It”

Jorda Frantzis

3

Cardi B, “I Like It”

What makes Cardi regal isn’t just her smart mouth — it’s her appetite for every style of pop music. “I Like It” is where she really gives it up to her Latin heritage, with Puerto Rican rapper Bad Bunny and Colombian reggaeton star J Balvin, over a trapped-out sample of Pete Rodriguez’s 1967 boogaloo classic “I Like It Like That.” While Cardi hits the timbale beat like a pinata, she gives the guests room to shine — this has to be the first Number One hit in history to namecheck Celia Cruz, Jimmy Snuka and Lady Gaga in the same verse.

Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper, “Shallow”

Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper, “Shallow”

Warner Bros. Pictures

2

Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper, “Shallow”

“Shallow” is the comeback hit where Gaga basically says, “Hey, pop stardom? I just wanted to take another look at you!” After nearly capsizing her career with Joanne, she gets it right here. Oscar contenders Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper team up for an edge-of-glory power ballad, holding the spotlight with just acoustic guitar and their voices. (Mostly hers, but he holds his own.) Like the rest of A Star Is Born, “Shallow” is a classic-rock fantasy where the Nineties never ended, yet somehow that’s why it fits so perfectly into 2018.

Drake

Drake

Caitlin Cronenberg

1

Drake, “In My Feelings”

The ultimate summer hit, right after the music world decided we had entered a post-summer-hit era. With typical smoothitude, Aubrey Graham breezed into the Number One spot in July and parked there for two damn months — his second hit of the year to spend ten weeks on top. “In My Feelings” continues his fascination with New Orleans bounce, with an assist from City Girls along with 40, Blaqnmild and TrapMoneyBenny. Drizzy shares his feelings for a very special girl who thank-u-nexted her way out of his life, sampling Lil Wayne and Atlanta, inspiring a viral dance craze along with a few colorful conspiracy theories about the identity of his mystery muse “KiKi.” But as always, Drake gets everybody all up in his feelings, the way only he can.

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