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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.