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.