10. “Love Lies”- Khalid and Normani
“Love Lies” is one of those songs that seemingly came out of nowhere. Originally released as part of the Love, Simon soundtrack, this single skyrocketed to the top of the charts this summer and has remained there since. Individually, each singer commands their verses with prowess, but together, Khalid and Normani’s vocals blend beautifully. This sultry song was a great start for former Fifth Harmony member, Normani, and shows that the two young stars are here to stay.
9. “In my Blood”- Shawn Mendes
When it seemed that Shawn Mendes hit is peak of stardom in 2017, he proved everyone wrong with his third number 1 album and even two Grammy nominations. “In my Blood” is nominated in the coveted song of the year category for the 2019 Grammys. Shawn Mendes created a powerful and honest pop ballad with relatable lyrics about his personal struggles with hopelessness. Mendes searches for a kind of salvation as he urges himself not to give up. This seemingly “perfect” pop star gave very raw and heartfelt lyrics which gave his listeners a pleasant surprise. With this song, Mendes proved he isn’t just a superficial pop star and cemented himself among the top in the genre.1
8. “Cry Pretty”- Carrie Underwood
Possibly the most successful American Idol alum and most mainstream country pop crossover artists of all time, Carrie Underwood outdoes herself on “Cry Pretty”. Underwood’s vocals are better than ever as she sings this anthem about being strong enough to let yourself be emotionally vulnerable. She asserts that falling apart makes us human and we should embrace our emotions rather than letting them build up behind a “dam.” Even though we may put on a “pretty” face to convince the world that we are strong, sometimes the best thing to do is let your truth and your ugly out. She has a lot to say to the world, and although it may not be pretty to everyone, she wants people to know how she truly feels.
7. “Slow Burn”- Kacey Musgraves
“Slow Burn” by Kacey Musgraves is a lyrical masterpiece. It seems as if every time I listen to it, I hear a lyric in a new way. In this song, Musgraves takes listeners on a journey through her mind and life as she recalls bits of her past and present that make her who she is today. Widely known as the most “liberal” country artist, this single discusses dealing with traditional relatives (“grandma cried when I pierced my nose) and being an outsider in a mostly conservative Texas. Musgraves’ smooth voice and melodies takes you away from the present and into a world of pure ecstasy.
6. “Geyser”- Mitski
Mitski has the innate ability to make the complex seem simple. Legendary Iggy Pop calls her “the most advanced American songwriter that I know.” In the lead single of her critically acclaimed album, Be the Cowboy, Mitski lets everyone know exactly how she feels. Her haunting vocals fill this track with her longing for love. This track literally builds up musically and lyrically just as a geyser bubbles before it explodes. Mitski’s compares herself to a geyser as if her thoughts and emotions have been waiting just below the surface and are ready to explode. This metaphorical eruption of emotions in the form of a geyser is a beautiful transition for the rest of her album to be open and honest. Its rare for an artist to be this truthful, especially in a time of auto tune and mumble rap. “Geyser” has been an escape for me this year and helps give me the motivation I need to assert exactly how I feel and what I want.
5. “No Tears Left to Cry”- Ariana Grande
With “No Tears Left to Cry”, Ariana Grande gave us the song we didn’t know needed. It’s an extremely difficult feat to make a joyous song out of a tragedy. About one year after the Manchester tragedy, Grande released this single, a song about changing your mentality and moving on in the wake of horrific events. Although the song begins somberly, it quickly picks up and soars to the heights that only Grande’s pop diva vocals could take it to. While many expected the song to be a somber tribute, Grande turned the tables and created an upbeat work of art. She brings a powerful and important message; while moving on may be difficult, you can overcome it with love and positivity.
4. “My My My!”- Troye Sivan
Troye Sivan has blown away the expectations of many with the release of his second album, Bloom. The leading single off this album, “My My My!” is the perfect pop song. He blends important messages with upbeat tempos and a catchy chorus. It is a song full of confidence and exuberance; Sivan urges others to throw their worries away and be completely liberated. As a gay man with many LGBTQ fans, Sivan’s message is deeply important and even necessary. He is tired of people having to hold their true emotions inside and wants everybody to let them out and be themselves with the person they love. For such a beautifully romantic, inspiring and catchy song, its a shame it didn’t receive much public attention.
3. “Shallow”- Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper
If somebody told me in 2017 that Bradley Cooper would be a singer in one of my favorite songs of the year I wouldn’t have believed them. “Shallow” tells a story, like many songs made for movies, however, the style and powerful vocals of Lady Gaga turn this love song into a cinematic experience in itself. This song with a similar message to “My My My!”, about jumping headfirst into love, exceeds expectations. Cooper and Gaga’s individual verses challenge one another to be better versions of themselves as each of their unique vocals shine. There is not a better moment in any song of 2018 than when Gaga does her iconic run at the bridge. Lady Gaga’s chameleon vocal abilities triumph again as she takes on this country/pop/americana song. This song left me speechless at first listen and definitely ready for more Bradley Cooper music.
2. “Make me Feel”- Janelle Monáe
Janelle Monáe is probably one of those people that you recognize but don’t actually much about (which is a shame). In 2017 alone she starred in two Oscar nominated movies: Hidden Figures and Moonlight. She has even been nominated for 8 Grammy awards. In her 2018 single, “Make Me Feel”, Monáe’s true artistry is highlighted. This song is reminiscent of ’80s pop, most notably Prince’s “Kiss” and Michael Jackson’s “The Way you Make me Feel” (Prince is rumored to have helped produce the song as he was a friend of Monáe’s). Monáe poses a confident and powerful statement to her own independence and sexuality. This song is an answer to the many people who questioned her sexuality. Monáe essentially asserts that it doesn’t matter who she loves with her opening line “Don’t make me spell it out for you”. What only matters is that she herself is confident and happy with how she feels. Monáe creates a straightforward, unapologetic and timeless anthem of love and freedom that hooks you from the start.
1. “Love it if We Made It”- The 1975
If you haven’t heard this song, go listen to it now. The 1975 created one of the most genius song I’ve ever heard that pretty much sums up all of the problems with society in 2018. They take on so many issues including police brutality, the Me Too movement, the president and the opioid crisis. The song is beautifully fluid and urgent. The urgency in the voice of lead singer Matty Healy pervades through the song. While Healy is usually not vulgar, he turns to many obscenities in this song to emphasize the desperate state of our nation. Somehow, however, the feel of the song never ends up as bleak as its subject material due to the band’s brilliant and iconic synth sounds. The chorus even offers a bit of hope; “I’d love it if we made it.” Matty Healy wants us to turn to love in these trying times. He claims that the human spirit was not made to give up. The best song of 2018 is one that rages against the oppressors. It attempts to not only criticize the corrupt societal norms, but to offer hope that we can make a change if we choose love.