The Top 60 Songs of 2018
The year is almost over, and I still loathe lists. In fact, I sat down to do this about seven times and simply couldn’t do it. So…I won’t. And you can’t make me!
Instead, I’m choosing to take you through a very cool, urban and interesting journey through my favorite songs of the year in no real particular order. So please, don’t pay too close attention to how this is all laid out. There is a number one song, though – my favorite song of the year! – and the rest is just delicious musical gravy…and a whole lot of international pop.
Why 60 songs? 50 wasn’t enough. Just go with it.
Without further ado, here are (just some of!) my favorite songs of 2018. You would have already heard every single one of these songs if you were subscribed to MuuTunes, FOR THE RECORD.
Rita Ora, “Let You Love Me”
Do not let your commitment to the “Who?” jokes stop you from recognizing that Rita Ora consistently delivered in 2018.
Lana Del Rey, “Venice Bitch”
In a #NewMusicFriday, streaming optimized world where pop songs barely stretch past the 3-minute mark, Lana Del Rey, in her usual Lana Del Fashion, just said fuck it. No, but actually: “fresh out of fucks forever,” she casually croons in the song’s first few moments. Her 10-minute hazy end-of-summer opus is a promising sign of things to come from next year’s casually titled Norman Fucking Rockwell – real title. God, I love her so much.
That’s not the only album worth getting excited about: with this first taste of what’s to come last month, Dido provided stunning proof that her upcoming album, Still On My Mind, is an early contender for Top Album of 2019. (God, another list?!) One might even say this one…blew me away. (Sorry.)
Rita Ora and Liam Payne, “For You”
A phenomenal pop duet that, surprisingly enough, never got old for me, despite dropping at the very top of the year. 2018 was truly the reign of Queena Ora. Oh, and a cameo from Bear Payne‘s father.
MONDO GROSSO and AiNA THE END, “偽りのシンパシー (False Sympathy)”
One of Japan’s most prolific DJ-slash-producers, Shinichi Osawa, pulled through yet again in 2018 with his captivating and consistently fresh brand of electronic pop as part of his work as MONDO GROSSO. The song is a dream. The video is mesmerizing. It’s about damn time for J-Pop to feel exciting again.
Felix Cartal, “Stop Being Yourself”
A Reverse Warholian self-empowerment EDM anthem sung partly from the perspective of one’s Inner Saboteur that came at exactly the right time in my life.
Ariana Grande, “breathin”
Alright! I’ll be honest: I barely wrote about Ari in 2018 because I wasn’t nearly as enthusiastic about her musical output as so many gays and girls on my timeline were in 2018. (I know. Cue the “I’m weird” meme.) I’m not trying to tear Lady ʸᵘʰ down because she’s the current reigning Queen. I just don’t feel what “Touch It” did for me. Or “Into You.” Or “One Last Time.” I recognize “God Is A Woman” and “No Tears Left to Cry” and “thank u, next” were all big cultural moments – I just wasn’t as moved. I tried! Nevertheless, “Breathin” gave me the closest thing to what I loved about Dangerous Woman.
Bebe Rexha, “I’m A Mess”
As a lifelong Rexhar and a bad bitch, let me tell you something: Bebe knows her way around a mean pop hook. I mean, a record-breaking country record? Sure, why not! Better – or, at least, more attuned to my own taste – is “I’m a Mess,” a kind of 2018 take on Meredith Brooks‘ “Bitch.” Coming from the woman who gave us “I Can’t Stop Drinking About You” and “I’m Gonna Show You Crazy,” it’s clear that Bebe’s just at her best when she’s a mess.
Heize, “Mianhae (Sorry)”
In an industry dominated by cookie-cutter idols, Heize stands apart as a satisfyingly strange solo oddity. Her jazzy and warm Wish & Wind made for a pleasant escape in the beginning of the year, and “Mianhae” in particular – coupled with its seemingly bleak visual commentary on pop stardom (in the vein of Ayumi‘s “Alterna,” Miley‘s “Robot” and Britney‘s “Mannequin”) – provided a thought-provoking experience.
Charli XCX, “Focus”
Sometimes I don’t want to think at all…which is ironic, given the track’s title. But I have worked through hour-long gym sets listening solely to this song on repeat without even noticing or minding one bit. Charli is always a reliable source for a robot-pop romp sent from the future. Focus, focus, focus…
Billie Eilish, “you should see me in a crown”
Billie, to me, embodies youth culture (she’s what the teens like!) – but her talent is, cliché trigger warning, well beyond her years. I was at one of her first showcases at Soho House in New York City last year (or was it the year before?), and I remember clinging onto every syllable of her hushed voice in that tiny room. She has that intangible, electrifying something, and she’s still only 17 years old, which is insane, especially given how worldweary her music generally sounds. This song is just further evidence of her scary-good potential. (Then again, she’s already a superstar.)
Jolin Tsai, “Ugly Beauty”
Jolin, the original Queen of C-Pop, decided to wait until you all finished your “Best Of” lists to casually drop her own solid set, including title track “Ugly Beauty,” a clapback at all of the media criticism and fan forum hate she’s received over the past two decades. It’s a clever, cocky ass jam – and the “Look What You Made Me Do”-esque video is absolutely one of the year’s best.
Halsey, “Without Me”
Sure, I’ve thrown a little shade here or there on the podcast in the direction of the artist formerly known as Ashley Frangipane, but I genuinely could not stop listening to this. The true breakout star of A Star Is Born delivered – and, like “Make Me,” we partly owe its existence to G-Eazy. How great.
Lady Gaga, “Why Did You Do That?”
In keeping with the A Star Is Born theme, I will just say this: to write off Ally‘s pop career as laughable or cheesy is to conveniently forget that the actual Gaga has been singing lyrics like “bluffin’ with my muffin” and “got my ass squeezed by Sexy Cupid” since the start of her career. Bad parody of pop music how? This is just a good, catchy, dumb pop song – and that’s all it needed to be. (“Is That Alright?” might be the best of the Serious Stefani Songs on the soundtrack, though.)
MOMOLAND, “Bboom Bboom”
Nothing was more dumb fun, however, than “Bboom Bboom,” which kicked off the year on a silly, almost infuriatingly catchy note. JooE‘s dancing could be the one thing that saves us all.
K-Pop idols meet Western pop girls? Virtual reality meets IRL? League of Legends meets Justin Tranter? Everything about “Pop/Stars” seemed like personal fan-fiction – but it was real…and virtual. The song’s live debut in South Korea was surely one of the year’s most unique pop spectacles. What an absolute gaymer triumph.
Alice Chater, “Hourglass”
Alice came crawling out from her spiderweb in one of the more eerie and thrilling debuts of the year (a rare occurrence in the West), and I’ve been eagerly eating up everything she’s done since. She’s already off to a solid start: “Hourglass” is pure Madonna-slash-Kylie Minogue throbbing dance-pop deliciousness. Get familiar – she very well may be the one to Save Pop™.
Mariah Carey, Slick Rick & Blood Orange, “Giving Me Life”
Caution is one of the year’s best if you didn’t already know, dahling. “Giving Me Life” is a personal favorite, although there are many in the bunch. The references (Babs! Norma Jean!), the outro, it’s like buttah – and gave me life, funnily enough.
Hyolyn, “See Sea”
Yes, the music video is basically a, um…homage to Tinashe‘s “Superlove.” Potential copyright infringement aside, “See Sea” was easily one of the most refreshing summer songs of 2018 – and definitely one of my favorite choruses. I have vivid memories of listening to this on late night strolls around the city at its hottest – almost as hot as Hyolyn herself.
Christina Aguilera, “Deserve”
Liberation was not, admittedly, exactly (X-actly) the album I was hoping to hear from Legend X this year. I also had a bit of an existential (X-istential) crisis writing about Legendtina and her swivel chair and lip-shaped anal bead microphone stand in general. Regardless, “Deserve” is a stunner – MNEK nailed this one – and such a suitably crass-yet-vulnerable offering from the Lotus legend. “Sometimes I don’t think I deserve ya so I say some fucked up shit just to hurt ya” – what a line, and what a song. I listened over and over.
Allie X, “Focus”
Allie X consistently pens excellent, end-of-year-list-worthy pop, and “Focus” is certainly no exception. The lush, layered offering is one of most delicate ballads she’s ever done – and it was given a fantastic analog makeover as well. A standout, but be sure to check out her Super Sunset in its entirety, too.
Sabrina Carpenter, “Paris”
Of the newest pop princesses hailing from Disney and Nickelodeon, Sabrina is undeniably delivering some of the coolest pop of the crop. (See also: 2016’s “Thumbs.”) “Paris” is the kind of song I could see Britney breathily delivering in 2018 (if she would enter a damn recording studio ever again) – soft, sensual and sophisticated. Oui, oui.
Janet Jackson, “Made For Now”
An icon returns and proceeds to let loose: Janet shakes away her worries with the help of some Latin-slash-African rhythms in a summery, effortless smash that stresses the importance of YOLO-ing until the world ends. Easy, breezy, beautiful: Miss Jackson, if you’re nasty.
Kylie Minogue, “Lost Without You”
Kylie did the whole yee-haw thing, which wasn’t everyone’s cup of…whatever cowboys drink. But it wasn’t all that country in the end: “Lost Without You,” in particular, is a stunning ’80s-esque surge of wanderlust that shines bright – like glitter and tears in the moonlight.
BLACKPINK, “Forever Young”
BLACKPINK is the revolution, and “Forever Young” is the should-have-been-a-single of BLACKPINK’s Square Up. (Actually, the whole package deserved the works.) The way the track morphs into an entirely new song at the end? Pop art.
My music library is 95% dominated by stilettos and wigs, so it’s no small feat when a man winds up in my Most Played. MNEK is a prodigy, and has always been one of the exceptions to my mainly lady-dominated playlists. Tippy two, tippy tea, tippy ta-ta-tongue! “Tongue” is one of the year’s catchiest and tastiest tracks – the spoken-word chorus alone is sexual overload. And his whole debut, Language, is an everything-and-the-kitchen-sink display of his talent.
Troye Sivan, “My My My”
The LGBTQ community really supplied the good stuff this year, for that matter. Baby Troye got us moving and/or fashionably flailing with the fierce “My My My.” Bloom, including the title track (#BopsBoutBottoming – never forget) is also a solidly crafted, intimate pop set from start to finish. The gay future is bright.
Years & Years, “All For You”
And let us not forget Olly Alexander & Co.! The Years & Years boys dove deep into their Palo Santo fantasy and ambitiously carved out an entirely new society, providing some of their signature, yelp-along-friendly uptempo synth-pop bangers in the process.
Hayley Kiyoko, “Curious”
And Hayley Kiyoko, more commonly known by her birth name (Lesbian Jesus), delivered a bouncy bisexuality bop, along with some cute choreography to boot. Remember when it was a given that all pop stars should be able to dance?
Blair St. Clair, “Now Or Never”
Drag Race produces a wealth of music of varying quality – mostly of the unfortunate variety. At this point, it’s almost assumed that a queen will drop a track featuring their catch phrase of the season the same night they’re eliminated – but Blair St. Clair‘s “Now Or Never” is like…actually good (and completely camp, obviously), and a solid late ’00s-sounding dance floor ode to sobriety. I’ve listened to this more than any track from another Drag Race alum – except for Alaska, of course.
Kim Petras, “Heart To Break”
Speaking of the LGBTQ community at large, if you went out to a NYC gay bar at any point over the past year (especially in Brooklyn), you’d already know that Kim Petras is a staple in these queer DJ sets. The concept of a “perfect” pop song is subjective, but “Heart to Break” comes pretty fucking close.
Miley Cyrus and Mark Ronson, “Nothing Breaks Like a Heart”
Oh, a heart? Admittedly, it took me a few days to live with this. The video feels a bit like that “Gay Rights!” – Jennifer Lawrence meme. If it’s meant to provide commentary on Miley’s own celebrity obscuring the more serious issues in society (I read many different takes on it to try and ‘get it’), I’m not sure that landed with the general public. Still! What a damn superstar. And who better to slightly bite Dolly Parton‘s “Jolene” than her goddaughter?
Kacey Musgraves, “Butterflies”
Now taking applications to become the boy who makes me feel the way this song sounds. (You probably already know how I feel about this album.)
I love them all individually, but Lisa seems like the obvious Beyoncé of BLACKPINK (to me, anyway), so this was somewhat of a surprise. Still, Jennie held her own as the first to go solo from the group with her first aptly-titled solo offering. That “bichi” (“shining”) sounds like “bitch” exponentially adds to the fierceness of the chorus.
J Balvin, Jeon and Anitta, “Machika”
Yes, we also made (a little) time for straight men in 2018. As I’ve explained in my Top Albums list, Vibras proved irresistible, as Balvin continues to bring reggaeton to new heights. His concert at Barclays was also one of the year’s brighter memories, for sure. And with Anitta thrown into the mix, there was no escaping this all-star collaboration. A smash, indeed!
Speaking of: I got the honor of chatting with the Queen of Brazilian Pop for the first time in 2018, who warned me that this one was on the way. Banana the Snake invited a ton of his friends for a muddy, Spanish-language orgy. (Anitta’s Solo trio is a win, for that matter – this one’s my personal favorite of the three.)
Becky G and Natti Natasha, “Sin Pijama”
Since we’re on a Spanish kick, why not keep it going with the reigning Princess of (Spanish) Pop? In case “Mayores” didn’t make it clear enough in 2017, Becky G is genuinely coming for the throne, as she continued to do in 2018 with Natti Natasha in an oh-so-“Slumber Party”-esque romp.
Inna, “No Help
The ever-prolific Romanian Queen of Pop returned several times in 2018, and her glitchy bilingual banger “No Help” – a flawless tie-in with her Coca Cola sponsorship – supplied all the solo self-empowerment needed for the year.
Still in Spanish, but now in Spain: Rosalía is quite simply a game-changer. An innovator. The past meets the future – and a total delight to hang out with and chat about her career ambitions, for that matter. Tra, tra!
Chungha, “Roller Coaster”
Honestly, the soloists really did it for me in 2018. Chungha, I.O.I. member-turned-solo superstar, started the year off right with the euphoric, fluorescent “Roller Coaster.” The post-chorus (“aaah–AAA-ahhh!“) remained firmly planted in my brain all year long. And she’s a pleasure to talk to!
Kacey Musgraves, “High Horse”
Kacey showed all the other girls how to do glittery, gay country-pop just right. Yee-haw, bitch.
The Cheryl Tweedy Cole Fernandez-Versini Payne Just Cheryl “Fight For This Love” soundalike scandal. The jerky choreography. The milkshake sipping concept. In a world of girl groups and boy bands, Sunmi kept K-Pop weird and wonderful.
Seriously, though: Sunmi proved to be the best K-Pop soloist of 2018, hands down. I won’t hear otherwise.
Red Velvet, “Bad Boy”
“Bad Boy” is bad – in the sense of “bad” meaning good. It’s absolutely one of the slinkiest, sleekest girl group tracks of 2018. I got to see the girls debut the track’s English version live at KCON this year as well (and I believe I might have briefly attempted to learn it during a choreography class there too), which only further cemented it into my
Steve Aoki and Ina Wroldsen, “Lie To Me”
Like Sia, Ina Wroldsen is one of the top pop penners in the industry – and she can deliver just as well when she’s the one fetured on the track. “Lie to Me” is pure desperation on the dance floor – the spiritual sister to her other electronic smash, “Breathe,” with Jax Jones.
IZ*ONE, “La Vie En Rose”
Put 96 girl group hopefuls in a reality TV competition (Produce 48), whittle them down to a dozen, and what do you get? IZ*ONE – and also one of the most solid K-Pop offerings of the year, without a doubt. (Secretly, it’s possibly the best.) Edith Piaf is shaking.
LOONA, “Hi High”
Anyway, stan LOONA. But for real, “Hi High” is a good reason to stan! The massively hyped (to the point of meme hilarity/insanity), internationally adored girl group with a roster that was unveiled, girl by girl, over nearly two years made their big debut in 2018. This song sounds like what I assume playing Mario Kart’s Rainbow Road after drinking 10 cans of Red Bull must feel like.
Sasha Sloan, “Normal”
The introvert-at-the-party anthem, for those of you dying on the inside while raging on the outside. #Relatable AF.
Terror Jr, “Heaven Wasn’t Made For Me”
Speaking of sadness, the purveyors of my Top Song of 2016 – Terror Jr (“3 Strikes”) – are still at it in 2018, escaping Bop City and confronting the hypocrisy of the institution of religion and promoting free thinking in these most scary times. Plus, it’s Lisa’s music video debut! (No, it was never Kylie Jenner.)
Empress Of, “When I’m With Him”
Empress Of gave me the “Everything Is Embarrassing” moment of 2018 I so desperately needed.
Lykke Li, “better alone”
The standout of so sad, so sexy beyond the singles – and the newly released haunting live rendition only further seals the deal.
Robyn dances her way through depression: this is “Dancing On My Own,” all grown up, somber and wiser.
BLACKPINK, “DDU-DU DDU-DU”
What’s there to say? BLACKPINK are the Ones To Watch to actually crossover in the West. They already snagged an excellent Dua Lipa collaboration (“Kiss & Make-Up”), after all. The disco tank. The breakdown. All of it. All of it! This is a prime example of a music video I’d show to someone who doesn’t ‘get’ the whole K-Pop thing, and how they’re running circles around Western pop stars. I feel bad for anyone who can’t get over the language barrier. Quite simply, the girls ddi-did what they had to ddu-du.
Dua Lipa and Calvin Harris, “One Kiss”
Speaking of Dua: “One Kiss” is as undeniable as it was inescapable in 2018. The official Song of Summer ’18? Perhaps, yes.
Azealia Banks, “Anna Wintour”
That said, “Anna Wintour” was surely a Song of Summer ’18 as well – and the simple, yet effective video is one of the year’s best visuals. (Judging from all the rave reviews, the butthole soap is good, too.)
Janelle Monae, “Make Me Feel”
Actually, there were plenty of Summer ’18 contenders! Janelle Monae‘s “Make Me Feel” is pure funk-tastic pleasure – and the Kaskade Sunsoaked Remix especially had me hair-flipping in the shower.
Janelle Monae & Zoe Kravitz, “Screwed”
Post-election depression, Gloria Steinem, Zoe Kravitz, “Sex Is Power,” Prince – Janelle really stuffed this one to the brim with references, and it all works so well in this fuck-it-all sunny pop anthem: “You fucked the world up now, we’ll fuck it all back down.” Perfect.
Clean Bandit & Demi Lovato, “Solo”
Dear God, how many “Solo” releases were there in 2018? Regardless, this one’s my favorite. Originally a Song of Summer ’18 contender, this sad, sexually frustrated self-stimulation dance floor anthem went the distance as an overall Song of 2018. “I wanna fu -woop, woop woop! – but I’m broken hearted” is one of the best lines of the year. Much, much love to Demi.
Marlene and Ji Nilsson, “Ear Candy”
Okay, actually, this was definitively my Song of Summer ’18 – and absolutely one of my favorite songs of the year. (Naturally, it’s not available on YouTube.) Marlene only comes ’round about once a year or so, but every time she does, it’s pure Swede-pop magic. A team-up with Ji Nilsson once again (they previously collaborated on “There”), the two supplied the year’s most romantic dance floor escape. Marqueen forever.
1. Toni Braxton, “Long As I Live”
I knew where this song would end up from the moment I first heard it.
Toni knows a thing or two about heartbreak. (Check out her little known ’96 deep cut, “Un-Break My Heart,” sometime.) All these years later, nothing’s changed – bad news for her emotional state, but good news for our ears.
“Long As I Live” is both soothing and sad all at once. The production is perfectly melancholy in a Drake-like, pensive-after-midnight way. But the true star of the show is that inimitable, unmistakable voice. The way Toni delivers those lines, as a storyteller and a songwriter (“I can tell…that you love her, you really love her!“) is unmatched. This was my song, no doubt, long as this year was.
And oh, how long it was.
There you have it. Here’s a playlist!
And now, 2019 is just around the corner. Hours away! So while you’ve got some time to kill before the ball drops, here are my Top 10 favorite albums of 2018.
See you soon…
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