Entertainment » Movies

The Year in Review: The 10 Best Songs of 2018

by Jason St. Amand
National News Editor
Friday Dec 7, 2018
Troye Sivan in his "My My My" music video.
Troye Sivan in his "My My My" music video.  (Source:YouTube Still)

Music has never been made more accessible to everyone at any point in human history. With a click of your mouse or the scroll of your finger, you can access millions of albums and songs. Music criticism, which up until a few years ago, served as a way to break new acts and let consumers know if an album was worth plunking down $9.99. Now, for that same price, fans can subscribe to the streaming service of their choice and listen to whatever they want, whenever they want for how long they want. Like in the Peak TV era, music has never been more fragmented and there's less a consensus among what qualifies as The Best.

Even so, some artists undeniably ruled 2018, like Drake, of course, who is one of the most-streamed artists ever. And then there's Ariana Grande, who returned with her album "Sweetener" and dominated with her new single "Thank U, Next," off her forthcoming album. Lady Gaga, too, pivoted from avant-garde pop star to classic Hollywood actress, thanks to her turn as Ally in Bradley Cooper's remake of "A Star is Born."

Below are just 10 songs that represent the best of the music in 2018. Some were big hits and others were tiny gems that deserved a larger platform.

10 . Troye Sivan — "The Good Side"

Out pop singer Troye Sivan broke out in a huge way this year. His album "Bloom" earned a lot of buzz, thanks to his excellent singles "My My My!" and "Bloom." But it's his tender ballad "The Good Side," released as a promo track, that ends up being the 23-year old's best song. The longest track on the album, "The Good Side" is a hypnotic and heartbreaking breakup song that's romantically specific ("I'm sure we'll meet in the spring / And catch up on everything"). It's not a spiteful song; it's positively melancholic and is elevated by incredibly smart production choices: Sivan's vocals are layered, an acoustic guitar drives the song until it erupts several times and rebuilds itself, culminating in a track that's both raw and spiritual.


09. Lana Del Rey — "Venice Bitch"

Lana Del Rey has transformed herself from the cringe-worthy descriptor "gangsta Nancy Sinatra" to a considerate and thoughtful pop star, who still likes to dabble in hip-hop but has doubled down on releasing stirring political ballads in the vein of Joan Baez. Teaming up with producer Jack Antonoff (Taylor Swift, Lorde, P!nk), she released two new singles this year off her forthcoming album "Norman Fucking Rockwell," one of which, "Venice Bitch," is a career highlight. There's no concern for radio airplay here; the track clocks in at nearly 10 minutes and is an impressively epic track. Full of the best LDR moments ("Fresh out of fucks forever... Ice cream, ice queen / I dream in jeans and leather), "Venice Bitch" is an atmospheric delight that swells with a stellar guitar solo, allowing LDR to transport you to another era.


08. Ariana Grande — "Thank U, Next"

To say Ariana Grande owned 2018 would be an understatement. She released her wonderful highly anticipated album "Sweetener" and had a whirlwind engagement with "Saturday Night Live" star Pete Davidson (that of course, went south). It's that relationship that sparked "Thank U, Next," a single off Grande's forthcoming album. Sounding like her Mariah Carey/R&B inspired debut "Yours Truly," "Thank U, Next" is a soulful and empowering breakup song, borrowing ripped from the headline lyrics a la Taylor Swift. Not only does Davidson get called out, but so do Grande's past boyfriends: Rapper Big Sean, backup dancer Ricky Alvarez, and the late rapper Mac Miller. "Thank U, Next" is as touching as it is funny, insightful and a delight — easily of the young singer's best tracks to date.


07. Robyn — "Honey"

Fans first heard Robyn's song "Honey" last year. A version of the track appeared in an episode of the final season of Lean Dunham's HBO series "Girls." The comedy is somewhat responsible for propelling the Swedish songstress's "Dancing On My Own" (arguably one of the best songs of the 21st century) into the zeitgeist back in Season 1. Like "DOMO," "Honey" is a dance floor banger; a hypotonic song that only Robyn is capable of creating. But unlike "DOMO," "Honey" is uplifting and sexy.


06. Let's Eat Grandma — "It's Not Just Me"

The epic "It's Not Just Me" is a soaring and epic highlight off the latest album "I'm All Ears" from the super young U.K. electro duo Let's Eat Grandma (Rosa Walton and Jenny Hollingworth). Produced by Sophie and The Horrors' Faris Badwan (quite the combo!) "It's Not Just Me" is a stunning electronic anthem about coming to terms with having a crush. Walton and Hollingworth's dueling vocals dance over an array of vibrant synths, handclaps, and drums: "It's not just me, I know you're feeling the same way," they sing. The song is the perfect summation of everyone's talents, crafting Let's Eat Grandma's most vibrant and best song to date.


05. The 1975 — "Love it if We Made it"

The U.K. band The 1975 have never held back with their sound or their lyrics: "We're fucking in a car, shooting heroin / Saying controversial things just for the hell of it," the band's lead singer Matty Healy sings in the opening of "Love it if We Made it." The song is a sociopolitical anthem that takes on Internet culture, racism, and even the loss of rapper Lil Peep. It's all too much but handles those topics with care and uplifting positivity. The song glides over 80s sophisti pop beats that echo The Blue Nile and a dash of disco. It's unlike anything you'll hear in 2018.


04. Sophie — "Immaterial"

"Immaterial" is the kind of song people know producer and musician Sophie for — a super saccharine and highly addicting bop that sounds like it was sent to us from another planet. It's like she took Madonna's iconic "Material Girl" and baked it inside an Easy Bake Oven. The song features vocals from musician Mozart's Sister and though it's a high energy club track, it's a powerful song, possibly detailing Sophie's journey as coming out as trans: "Without my legs or my hair / Without my genes or my blood / With no name and with no type of story / Where do I live? Tell me, where do I exist?" the epic breakdown goes.


03. Kacey Musgraves — "Space Cowboy"

Kacey Musgrave's "Space Cowboy" is mind-blowing in its simplicity. On this tender breakup song, the country star is singing some of her most clever lyrics: "You can have your space... cowboy / I ain't gonna fence you in / Go on, ride away in your Silverado / Guess I'll see you 'round again," goes the chorus. It's wild that no one in the history of music has created this song before Musgraves but that's a testament to her ability as an impeccable songwriter. "Space Cowboy" is unassuming but packs a powerful punch. Musgraves knows the exact words to emphasize, where to take pauses and let "Space Cowboy" breath and overwhelm you.


02. Nicki Minaj — "Chun-Li"

Nicki Minaj had a messy 2018. She feuded with Cardi B, Kylie Jenner, and Travis Scott's baby, and went on rants during her Apple Music radio show that ended up going viral in the worst ways. Her album "Queen" did not go to no. 1 on Billboard and her single "Chun-Li" peaked at no. 10. It may not have been a smash hit, but the song, named after the first female character in the video game series "Street Fighter," is a career highlight for the rapper. A minimal beat allows Nicki to do what she does best, spit freestyle and her rapping her is incredibly playful and fun: "Oh, I get it, huh, they paintin' me out to be the bad guy / Well it's the last time you gonna see a bad guy do the rap game like me," she grunts during an interlude.


01. Lady Gaga & Bradley Cooper — "Shallow"

Months before "A Star is Born" hit theaters, the Internet was quick to latch on to "Shallow." The power ballad was featured in the film's trailer — most notably its epic climax where Lady Gaga unleashes a tremendous bellow during the electrifying chorus: "I'm off the deep end, watch as I dive in / I'll never meet the ground / Crash through the surface where they can't hurt us / We're far from the shallow now." The iconic AHAHAHAAAAH moment quickly became the single defining moment of the movie and nearly dominated conversation around it. Cooper holds his own on "Shallow" but it's Gaga's time to shine; she's intense and throbs with a blissful energy that is so infectious, allowing her voice to sound as perfect as it's ever been. "Shallow," co-written with Andrew Wyatt, Anthony Rossomando and Mark Ronson, is a show-stopping pop classic.


Pop Culturing

This story is part of our special report titled "Pop Culturing." Want to read more? Here's the full list.


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