Me every year: Nope, fuck lists, I’m not doing it this year.
Also me every year: Here is my list.
Yes, there are several songs that I enjoyed in 2019. And like last year, I can’t settle on ranking those songs – partly because I feel like everyone deserves equal shine, Mean Girls Spring Fling Queen crown distribution style, but mostly because a numerical ranking is too frustratingly arbitrary to me. I also genuinely have no gut feeling about any one song this year as I did with, say, Sky Ferreira‘s “Everything Is Embarrassing” in 2012.
So, these are in no particular order. Additional recommendations in the comments section are welcome. Complaints go unentertained. I hope you discover something new, and/or rediscover something old.
A new decade is upon us: here’s to new beginnings in 2020.
Grimes, “So Heavy I Fell Through the Earth”
Leave it to the Canadian techno-punk-goth-pixie-singer-songwriter to bring this decade to an end, sitting passenger side in a Cybertruck next to a billionaire with Miss Anthropocene, early contender for Album of 2020, blaring from the speakers. “So Heavy I Fell Through the Earth” is six gloriously otherworldly minutes in limbo. It’s basically what I imagine will play overheard in the waiting room while waiting to be sorted between Heaven and Hell. (Spoiler alert: it’ll be Hell.) As Trinity “The Tuck” Taylor once said, I don’t know what the fuck she’s saying, but girl, I am living.
Grimes & i_o, “Violence”
If “Heavy” is too chill for your pop-oriented sensibilities, consider this fierce alternative: Grimes can do Main Pop Girl, too – and yes, she can out-dance the competition. (Granted, that’s not difficult these days.) It’s still the stuff of Grimes’ signature ethereal oddity, but “Violence” feels like a warning shot: she could dominate the pop scene – if, you know, she wasn’t busy crafting a concept album about artificial intelligence, futurism and climate change or whatever. Miss Anthropocene is coming!
Rosalía & J Balvin (feat. El Guincho), “Con Altura”
First of all: give Rosalía that Grammy next year. Second of all: “Con Altura,” like “Violence,” feels like a warning shot. Rosalía‘s pop potential is scary. She hasn’t even really tried to give us a blatant Top 40 hit yet, remaining faithful to her flamenco-gone-modern experimental art, and the world since caught on to her effortless cool in 2019. But with the help of the Bop King himself, J. Balvin, she gave us a less-than-3-minute taste of what more accessibly radio-friendly reggaeton-pop Rosalía sounds like…and the song took off in a blaze of memes (“…LA ROSALÍA!“) and instantly recognizable dance moves. Rosalía is the future. Tra, tra!
Paloma Mami, “Fingías”
Speaking of Spanish language smashes, I don’t think a song stayed on eternal repeat for me quite like “Fingías”: a perfectly moody, melancholy, melodic kiss-off with an air of icy cool that lets you know that you absolutely fucked up.
Allie X, “Regulars”
When it comes to pristine pop songwriting, I just think Allie X gets it. (I listen to CollXtion II relentlessly on repeat, still.) The songs from her upcoming album, Cape God, have a slightly more subdued tone in comparison to the high drama of her earlier work, but it’s all just as great. “Regulars” is the outsider anthem for those treks back home to where you grew up, twirling ’round the mall and the supermarket, getting nice and local. Wave that freak flag high in front of all the Karens and Sharons giving you the side-eye in the frozen aisle.
Mandy Moore, “When I Wasn’t Watching”
Against all odds, Mandy is back, on her own terms, over a decade later. She may never want to make a return to full-on bubbly “Candy” Mandy, but this song, as well as the equally wonderful “I’d Rather Lose,” sets the stage for a gorgeously sunny, laidback California indie-pop record true to her taste that will probably make for a wonderful, inevitably underrated listen in 2020.
Lana Del Rey, “The greatest”
Lana Del Rey, once a symbol of American decadence and vintage glamour, navigates the demise of it all in Trump’s America in a nostalgic ode to the end of the world as only she could provide. Few lyrics this year resonated quite like: “I guess that I’m burnt out, after all.” (Don’t worry, it’s not forever: she’s already got a spoken word album dropping at the top of January.)
Alice Chater, “Tonight”
Speaking of the end of the world, Alice Chater, one of my favorite bubbling-under pop princesses on the scene, made the apocalypse sound positively exhilarating with “Tonight.” I get early DIY Gaga-meets-Kylie vibes from this young Queen, at a time when this brand of Big Chorus, Big Choreography Euro-y Pop goes against the downtempo mainstream grain. Keep on dancing till the world ends, Alice.
Jax Jones, Martin Solveig & Madison Beer, “All Day and Night”
Madison Beer, who was part of K/DA‘s killer “Pop Stars” last year, found herself part of another rock solid collaboration, this time between Martin Solveig and Jax Jones. It’s an all-out club banger. Is she the glue that holds together dance-pop excellence? All hail Godison…
Sam Smith, “How Do You Sleep?”
Each “Ba…by…” Each squawking beat break. Max Martin Da God strikes again. I think, like Usher‘s “Climax,” this is one of those songs in time that people will file as “better than we realized at the time.”
RAYE, “Please Don’t Touch”
Coming in just under the wire before the New Year, RAYE supplies a gorgeous burst of synth-pop for fragile souls.
Charli XCX & Christine and the Queens, “Gone”
Charli‘s had quite a prolific year – when she’s not graciously smiling through increasingly obscene photo requests at meet-and-greets – but “Gone” is unquestionably the best of her musical output this year, and a reminder that when she’s not veering too far off the deep end into noisy experimental territory, Charli gets good pop. (Keep your douches up your asses in 2020, twinks.)
Saweetie, “My Type”
I believe it was Mahatma Gandhi who once said: “Eight inch, big oof, that’s good pipe / Bad bitch, I’mma ride the dick all night.” Honestly, this could be my song of 2019, if I’m being honest with my streaming behavior. What an absolute anthem. Not having the Cock Destroyers in the music video, obviously, was a missed opportunity.
Agnes, “I Trance”
Swedish dance-pop icon Agnes returned with a dreamy, hypnotic ode to the dance floor. We don’t deserve her.
Madonna, “God Control”
Only the Queen of Pop would have the gall to tackle the subject of gun control with a solemn children’s choir-meets-disco ecstasy moment of politically charged mania. Not every idea landed on Madame X, and “God Control” surely had its critics, but damn it if she isn’t still eliciting a strong reaction – the true definition of art. Wake up, wake up, wake up…
Post Malone, “Circles”
Look, if you listen to the Legends Only podcast, you’d know that I’ve had a moment this song in 2019. I love a lot of Post‘s music – the vocal production alone is really crazy, as Grimes and Zane Lowe excitedly pointed out in an interview. He’s truly a talented pop songwriter, and this song is a solid example of that. The melancholy guitar, that chugging beat – everything comes together as a beautiful break-up anthem. “You thought that it was special, but it was just the sex, though…” So, yeah, dude. I fuck with Posty.
Kim Petras, “Personal Hell”
A trailblazing trans pop icon on the rise, produced by pop’s most problematic producer: “Personal Hell” couldn’t be a more appropriate title. It’s good. I’m sorry. I’m canceled. I know. (The way this could have been a brilliant Britney song…I can’t get into it right now.)
Kim Petras, “Sweet Spot”
Jake Germain, “Over U”
Speaking of Daft Punk, Jake Germain‘s “Over U” has probably one of the year’s most instant, endlessly replay-friendly choruses, a la “One More Time.”
Dua Lipa, “Don’t Start Now”
Dua‘s dua-ing it right with a dash of disco and a much-needed burst of uptempo energy from a Main Pop Girl in 2019, channeling shades of Sophie Ellis-Bextor and referencing Gloria Gaynor while doing so.
Robyn, “Ever Again – Single Mix”
Honey‘s sweet, sweet final offering got a little uumph with a new mix for its single release. Everything Robyn touches turns to gold – and her Prince fantasy of a music video, one of the year’s best, just proves that a true superstar only needs a mic stand to entertain.
Madonna & Maluma, “Medellín”
One, two, cha-cha-cha. Madge pops a pill and winds up in Colombia with the Pretty Boy, Dirty Boy himself, Maluma in the year’s most intriguing bilingual collaboration. The song is misleadingly vulnerable, but you wouldn’t know it with all the horny riding crop spanking and toe-licking. For the line “slow down, papi” alone, we give thanks.
As a professional insomniac, I’m thrilled to align myself with this anthem for the sleepless. “Insomnia” will always remind me of 3 AM summer strolls to the deli on the corner for a protein bar and coconut water.
Zara Larsson, “All The Time”
In a more perfect world, this should have absolutely been an inescapable Song of Summer 2019. What an instant and obvious smash.
Ashley O, “On a Roll”
Like Gaga‘s Ally Maine, Miley‘s at her best in a long while as a fictional pop star. Go figure. Not only is this Nine Inch Nails rewrite undeniable, if misunderstood (“hey, I’m a ho” – gays), but Miss Ashley and her purple wig were one of the most recognizable pop looks of 2019.
Cheryl, “Let You”
One of the year’s biggest pop injustices, no doubt: Queen Cheryl Tweedy Cole Fernandez-Versini Almost Payne Now Cheryl Just Cheryl deserved far better than a No. 57 placement for this perfectly fierce slice of ’80s-meets-Robyn-esque synth-pop. But hey, if middling returns on the charts as a solo star speed up the inevitable Girls Aloud reunion, then so be it…
Tove Lo, “Glad He’s Gone”
Tove significantly toned it down sonically with Sunshine Kitty as opposed to her more colossal choruses of the past, resulting in some more laidback, summer-y sounds. “Glad He’s Gone” is not only a highlight from the record, but a Grammy Award-nominated visual experience.
Hatchie, “Stay With Me”
This year’s best addition to the “Dancing On My Own” genre – and the whole album is a must, too.
Sunmi is, like, the Björk of K-Pop at this point, supplying a weirdness to her solo work that is more thought-provoking than your usual love song or cutesy burst of choreographed glee. “Noir” is a deliciously dark exploration of stunting on the ‘Gram, armed with somewhat shocking, bleak imagery in the accompanying music video. Don’t forget to like, comment, share and subscribe! :)
Lana Del Rey, “Doin’ Time”
LDR does Sublime – and coos my first name in a song for the first time, a truly powerful feeling. A Song of Summer ’19, for sure – and the Attack of the 50 Foot Woman-style video proves that just when you think you’ve got Lana’s mood figured out, she’s got a surprise waiting for you at the drive-thru theater. (Remember when she whipped out that bazooka in “High By the Beach”?) Just, you know, don’t piss her off.
Look, you can’t just release a song inspired by t.A.T.u‘s “All the Things She Said” and expect me not to stan a little.
Lizzo (feat. Missy Elliott), “Tempo”
Somewhere between the rest of the world catching on to ancient Lizzo bangers (truly, between her and Mariah, this was a year of America playing chart catch-up), she managed to squeeze out a sick tribute to being thick alongside living legend herself, Missy Elliott.
Katy Perry, “Never Really Over”
There’s something ironic about Katy calling a song “Never Really Over” at the exact moment her chart reign would no longer be a guarantee in this Brave New #NewMusicFriday streaming bop world. That mile-a-minute speak-sung chorus is fun, and at the very least, she does not rhyme “hula-hula” with “jeweler, jeweler” in this one. I’m eagerly awaiting the transition to a more Serious Katy – I know it must be coming.
Lolo Zaouï, “Ride”
Lolo made one of my favorite records this year in High Highs to Low Lows, and “Ride” is a highlight – and by far the horniest offering from the record. The panting alone really does it for me.
Tiësto, Jonas Blue & Rita Ora, “Ritual”
Hmm, what’s that? Rita Ora selflessly saving pop yet again? Doing hair flips in jeans? An immense chorus? Big House-y piano chords? What do we say to Rita Ora, kids? Thank you, Rita Ora…
Chung Ha, “Gotta Go”
This song dropped just seconds after the ball did in 2019, and yet, it’s endured as one of the best K-pop offerings of the year.
Normani busts a move on her own with an Ariana Grande-ish breezy R&B-pop jam, complete with a video homage to the ’00s Queens of Pop, from Bey to Britney, in her quest to become one of her own. Her “1996” outfit, and that basketball hip bump, will endure as iconography from the year 2019. Let’s keep the momentum moving in 2020, yes?
Carly Rae Jepsen, “Too Much”
A highlight from Dedicated, and a gentle reminder that when it comes to all things CRJ, too much is never enough.
BLACKPINK, “Kill This Love”
BLACKPINK aren’t in our area all that often, but when they are, they shake up K-pop culture and beyond, every damn time. No other girl group causes this kind of global panic.
Billie Eilish, “bad guy”
ionnalee, “SOME BODY”
Tinashe, “Save Room For Us”
Tinashe finds her groove again – and all it took was years of creative differences, a termination of a major label record deal, and a trip to Japan. She’s undoubtedly at her best when she doing it herself.
R. Tee & Anda, “What You Waiting For”
Somehow, this was my most-streamed song of 2019 according to Spotify. It’s not my actual favorite song of the year, but it’s an absolute banger, that’s for sure. Originally intended for BLACKPINK, YG relaunched Anda‘s solo career with one of the fiercest K-Pop offerings of the year. The dance, the beat breaks – this one should even appeal to those afraid of dipping their toes into music not in their native tongue. What you waiting for?
STAN LOONA. No, but really: “Butterfly” gave the world plenty of reason to do so – even if they kind of dropped off the planet relatively soon afterward. Their staging and dance formation for this song in particularly is mesmerizing (it must be exhausting to orchestrate twelve members at once), as is their culturally diverse music video. It never got old for me this year. Wings, wings…
Oh me, oh my…it was love at first snippet.
Mabel, “Don’t Call Me Up”
Sam Smith & Normani, “Dancing With a Stranger”
One of the year’s best mainstream pop collaborations, with more vocal chemistry between its participants than certain other ex-members of Fifth Harmony and their partners. I digress. This is a subtle, sublime duet.
Dido, “What Am I Doing Here”
The whole Dido album is fantastic (Still On My Mind), if you’re in the market for warm, worldly, wistful electronica. This particular track, included on the re-release of the record at the end of 2019, is a gut-punch for anyone who has someone living far, far away, who they will likely end up marrying one day in the long run. It resonates. ‘Nuff said.
Billie Eilish, “everything i wanted”
Honestly? It’s her “Lucky.”
MUNA, “It’s Gonna Be Okay, Baby”
Someday, when you feel like you’ve truly fucked up, and you’ve made the worst decisions, repeatedly, never learning, and life just keeps happening at you, and you’re at the end of your rope, you’ll need reassurance – something that isn’t a cheesy “live, love, laugh” platitude. Something real. Some reminder that we are all just relentlessly fucking up and moving on in spite of everything, anyway. Put this song on. Trust me. Repeat it like a mantra. It’s gonna be okay, baby.
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