Top 50 Songs of 2019

Tracks that kept us feeling sane and human in an exhausting and chaotic year

Top 50 Songs of 2019
Top 50 Songs of 2019

    After celebrating the best music, film, and television of the decade in November, we now turn to celebrating 2019. Previously we shared our picks for 2019’s Top Albums; today continue today with our Top 50 Songs of 2019.

    Welcome to 2019, where all the world’s a meme and all the songs are merely players in it.

    Despite this truth, there were a mass of tracks this year that broke through the bullshit, made us feel human, and held us while we dropped our online personas, let our phones slip to their lock screens, and truly vibed out like no one was watching.

    Those moments include Vampire Weekend coming back with “Harmony Hall”, complete with an all-grown-up Ezra Keonig officially vacating tales of a post-collegiate slump and sharing the keen observation that “every time a problem ends, another one begins” over an echoing guitar. Then there were love songs, like Local Natives‘ “Lose You”, that made you not only miss but welcome the pain of falling for someone. We were also beckoned to meditate on tracks like “Almeda”, where Solange revels in the mantra of “Black skin black braids” that can’t be washed away with Florida water. We were also pleasantly “led astray” to a teenage reverie with Sharon Van Etten’s “Seventeen”.

    (Read: Top 50 Albums of 2019)


    In defense of the meme-able, we should also mention that not all memes are created equal. Billie Eilish’s defiant “duh” might seem like a reply guy’s Twitter response, but in those three letters holds the self-actualization of someone defiantly aware of life on earth, someone who doesn’t mind playing the “bad guy” and making generations before her uncomfortable while doing it.

    And yes, we can blame Lizzo’s “Juice” for the captions of countless Instagram thirst trap photos, which, indeed, may have caused someone’s man to get quote “lost in your DMs,” but it also rang of timeless funk, self-love, and unshakable confidence.

    One of the most meme-able 2019 moments was brought by way of Megan Thee Stallion. As you may recall, the song and phrase “Hot Girl Summer” was not only co-opted by the headlines of every women’s site listicle but also by brands like Wendy’s, Maybelline, and even Forever 21. Thankfully, it was also co-opted by women with strong knees who were labeling themselves hot girls, whether or not society agreed.


    As the year comes to a close and we venture out into a new decade of territory, it might be worth mentioning that there’s room for us all. So, whether you’re a hot girl, sad boy, defiant person, or anything and everything in between, there’s some life out there for you, and we hope this list is made up of more than enough relatable moments to serve as your soundtrack.

    –Erica Campbell
    Music Editor

    50. Nilüfer Yanya – “In Your Head”

    Nilüfer Yanya - Miss Universe

    Sounds Like: An anxiety attack.

    Key Lyric: “I can think what I want/ I can feel what I feel/ Until you say it out loud/ How will I know if it’s real?”

    Why It Matters: Between the “fake news media”, impeachment hearings, and conducting too many of our social interactions through apps on our phones, life in 2019 feels like a bad episode of Black Mirror. In her breakout track, Nilüfer Yanya’s smoky vocals bend around fuzzy guitar riffs that embody a loosening of reality. What’s real? What’s fake? Does everyone hate me? Are we breaking up? Fuck it, let’s go dancing. –Johanna Gretschel

    Song in a GIF:

    49. The Regrettes – “I Dare You”

    The Regrettes - How Do You Love? Album Cover

    Sounds Like: The feel-good montage moment in a struggling teen series.

    Key Lyric: “I never wanted to get too close to you/ But now it looks like I’m getting too close to you”


    Why It Matters: You can always count on Lydia Night. The thoughtful storyteller behind The Regrettes brings a lived-in soul to each one of the band’s oft-vintage doo-wop jams. “I Dare You” is no exception, a swinging ditty that tears a page or two from the journals of young love. “You’re gonna fall, but I’ll catch you,” she pleads, and you can’t help but sing along. Not because it’s catchy, but because it’s all too easy to relate to the process of accidentally falling for someone — and learning to trust them. –Angie Piccirillo

    Song in a GIF:

    48. DaBaby – “Suge”

    Sounds Like: The most souped-up car in a high school parking lot after school gets out.

    Key Lyric: “Use the brain in your head ‘fore you lose it”

    Why It Matters: It’s been an incredible breakout year for DaBaby. The Charlotte-bred rapper was named one of this year’s XXL Freshmen, released two albums just a few months apart, and announced he’ll soon be welcoming his third child — all of which was predicated on the success of his single “Suge”. The song was most people’s introduction to DaBaby just as his career was taking off and has done so well in part because of its bass-heavy production and clever bars that hip-hop heads love. Be sure not to miss the remix with Nicki Minaj. –Chris Malone

    Song in a GIF:

    47. Beach Bunny – “Dream Boy”

    Beach Bunny Honeymoon album artwork cover debut

    Sounds Like: The movie John Hughes would have made if his career had started in the ’90s.

    Key Lyric: “Oh, I tend to keep my heart locked water-tight/ All you gotta do is meet me after midnight”


    Why It Matters: It’s far too easy to get far too cynical about romance. There are certain types of love songs that can only be written effectively at a very specific time in a young person’s life. Beach Bunny are right in the sweet spot for a track like “Dream Boy”, where they can still watch corny ’80s and ’90s rom-coms and think, “I’ll get my shot at that someday.” That innocent longing not yet worsted by one too many heartbreaks. Intimating that simple sentiment in such a charming song is a reminder that, no matter how jaded we get, it’s not always foolish to be optimistic about the heart. –Ben Kaye

    Song in a GIF:

    Beach Bunny Gif

    46. Chromatics – “You’re No Good”

    Chromatics - Closer to Grey

    Sounds Like: Getting your tongue stuck to an ice sculpture of the Pet Shop Boys.

    Key Lyric: “We watch the night fall on the ground and are we all alone?”

    Why It Matters: Ruth Radelet’s trademark frostiness is what makes this song work. Is she fighting her obsession, surrendering to it, or just bored by it? The repeated loops of “that’s all we ever do, ever do, ever do” reinforce the simultaneous captivation and tedium that feed the song. New wave-inspired synths build the song, but they always feel more like reverence than pastiche. –Erin Lyndal Martin

    Song in a GIF:

    black and white

    45. Freddie Gibbs & Madlib – “Flat Tummy Tea”

    Freddie Gibbs and Madlib - Bandana

    Sounds Like: The ghost of ’70s funk guitars goes full poltergeist on everybody’s asses.


    Key Lyric: “Took the sword and knocked white Jesus off of that white horse”

    Why It Matters: Imagine what a stack of ’70s soul records would sound like after they’ve been left in a hot car for too long and you’ve got some idea of what Bandana sounds like. On their latest collab, Freddie Gibbs spits on top of Madlib’s playfully warped take on soul music. “Flat Tummy Tea” is a high point, finding Gibbs’ lyrics widening like a gyre, going from drug talk to Malcolm X, white supremacy to the slave trade, and, of course, the lie that is White Jesus. And he does it on top of one of Madlib’s best beat changes as the producer deftly keeps pace with Gibbs’ expanding POV. –Ashley Naftule

    Song in a GIF:

    44. Purple Mountains – “All My Happiness Is Gone”


    Sounds Like: A final drive into the desert with two “mall margaritas” in the cup holders as the sun sets

    Key Lyric: “Mounting mileage on the dash/ Double darkness falling fast/ I keep stressing, pressing on”


    Why It Matters: What would’ve been viewed as a triumphant comeback album for David Berman now spins as a strange and tragic testament to the pain he must have been going through — and the attitude he maintained towards it. The jovial melodies of songs like opener “That’s Just the Way That I Feel” belie the desperation of lines like “When I try to drown my thoughts in gin/ I find my worst ideas know how to swim” and “The end of all wanting/ Is all I’ve been wanting.” Berman’s talent for wordplay and penchant for dark humor and ironies suggest an artist in control and a man hanging in there better than he actually was. To feel the chug and glow of a song like “All My Happiness Is Gone” now leaves us in this emotional no man’s land of wanting to dance and cry at the same time. A great talent lost. –Matt Melis 

    Song in a GIF:


    43. Megan Thee Stallion – “Hot Girl Summer”

    Megan Thee Stallion Nicki Minaj Ty Dolla $ign Hot Girl Summer stream single artwork

    Sounds Like: Summer heat, sand, a new swimsuit, three alcohols, zero fucks, and whole squad of bad bitches.

    Key Lyric: “Handle me? Who gon’ handle me?/ Thinkin’ he’s a player, he’s a member on the team”


    Why It Matters: A siren call to all those who see themselves as bad bitches, many of us are still balming our knees from failed attempts at twerking this past summer, not wanting to let Megan Thee Stallion down. “Hot Girl Summer” sparked a million tweets and countless memes, but more importantly the scorching bop was an anthem for those embracing their bodies despite the gaze of those who wish to police them. In her own words, via Twitter, Megan Thee Stallion explained, “Being a Hot Girl is about being unapologetically YOU, having fun, being confident, living YOUR truth, being the life of the party etc.” See? Real hot girl shit. –Erica Campbell

    Song in a GIF:

    42. FKA twigs – “Cellophane”

    FKA twigs Magdalene Artwork

    Sounds Like: Watching a car crash in slow motion

    Key Lyric: “Why won’t you do it for me when all I do is for you?”

    Why It Matters: Imagine writing such a heartbreaking song about a dying relationship. Then imagine being so tied to the visual idea that accompanied the writing process that you learn and perfect the art of pole dancing in order to capture it just right. For good measure, tack on the fact that FKA twigs spent the time before this release going through a major health crisis. By comparison, this track feels so simple. There’s nothing flashy standing in the way of her raw emotions. She lays it all out there, taking you with her on her descent from pursuing excellence to crashing back down to earth. –Paige Williams

    Song in a GIF:

    41. The National – “Light Years”

    The National - I Am Easy to Find

    Sounds Like: Love echoing in the insurmountable distance between two people

    Key Lyric: “Everyone was lighting up in the shadows alone/ You could’ve been right there next to me, and I’d have never known”


    Why It Matters: The National can break a heart like nobody’s business. As soon as Aaron Dessner’s fingers tumble over the keys on this closing track to I Am Easy to Find, the cracks start to form. Then in comes Matt Berninger, his voice an even more restrained hush than usual, and it’s like the organ just falls apart in your chest. There’s something so simple about the phrase “I will always be light years away from you” that almost feels like it’s not cerebral enough for a National cut, but it’s composed with such grace that it will make you cry like the best of their repertoire. –Ben Kaye

    Song in a GIF:

    Calvin and Hobbes

    40. Stella Donnelly – “Old Man”

    stella donnelly new debut album beware of the dogs

    Sounds Like: Skipping through an open field after getting creepy men fired from their jobs

    Key Lyric: “Your personality traits don’t count/ If you put your dick in someone’s face”

    Why It Matters: Stella Donnelly’s way of bringing attention to sexual assault is absolutely compelling — from the sonically catchy, playful atmosphere to the lyrical storytelling of a successful man who “grabbed [her] with an open hand.” Though it’s just a tale about one man, every line works on a universal scale. Donnelly’s fearless approach is inspiring, especially when she repeats, “Oh, are you scared of me, old man?/ Or are you scared of what I’ll do?” She is confident and unafraid when she concludes: “The world is grabbin’ back at you.” –Danielle Chelosky

    Song in a GIF:

    39. Tame Impala – “Patience”

    Sounds Like: A sunny day spent reflecting on your significance in time and purpose.

    Key Lyric: “I’m just growin’ up in stages”

    Why the Song Matters: While Tame Impala enjoyed riding the wave of the success of Currents, we patiently (*wink*) waited for the band’s triumphant return after the four-year break. The result? This laidback single swirling with a blend of synths, strings, and piano atop a steady, sway-inducing beat. Kevin Parker presents an ethereal gleam to the tune, thanks to breathy vocals and that signature psychedelic groove that fans and fellow artists alike have grown to appreciate. Also, anyone who can answer their own pressing life question (“So what you doin’ with your luck?”) with a self-assured, easygoing response (“Livin’ life in phases”) warrants our stanship. –Gabrielle Pharms


    Song in a GIF:

    38. Local Natives – “When Am I Gonna Lose You”

    Local Natives, Album Cover, 2019, Violet Street

    Sounds Like: Getting home after a perfect night and somewhere between sliding off your boots and slipping into bed you realize, Oh fuck, I really like them.

    Key Lyric: “And I knew that I wanted you”

    Why the Song Matters: The best songs come with the best stories, and this one’s got everything: ill-fated love, cutting off 14 inches of hair, the scenic backdrop of Big Sur, and (thankfully) a happy ending. When Taylor Rice was writing the lyrics behind one of the year’s biggest alt-rock love songs, he was convinced that his hairdresser who he was falling head over hills for, was just too good to be true. One wedding and baby on the way later, that proved false, but you can still hear the longing, worry, and ethereal nature of new love in every single word. –Erica Campbell

    Song in a GIF:

    37. Beyoncé – “Before I Let Go”

    Homecoming The Live Album

    Sounds Like: A neighborhood summer cookout

    Key Lyric: “I pull up to Coachella/ In boots with the goose feathers”

    Why the Song Matters: Beyoncé’s HΘMΣCΘMING album gifted us with powerful renditions of the superstar’s beloved classics, but it was a new bonus track that played during the credits of the accompanying Netflix documentary that stole the show. “Before I Let Go” is a Beyoncified re-imagination of Frankie Beverly and Maze’s 1981 single of the same name, and maintains the spirit of the original while unsurprisingly making it impossible to resist getting up and dancing. Even in a year when Beyoncé managed to curate and release a whole other album, “Before I Let Go” was the song that stole the hearts of fans everywhere. –Chris Malone


    Song in a GIF:

    36. Sego – “Neon Me Out”

    sego sucks album cover artwork

    Sounds Like: If Beck had time traveled to 2019 after releasing “Loser” in 1993 and shared his take on social media culture

    Key Lyric: “Your pictures are a crutch, your opinions are a crutch/ Your love, your hate, your sex, your drugs … oh, the drugs.”

    Why It Matters: For the opening bass riff alone! Shortly after the release of their 2016 debut, Once Was Lost Now Just Hanging Around, Sego moved from Utah to California, and they provide us a glimpse into that LA life on “Neon Me Out”. While songs navigating our current media culture often come across as condescending, Sego nail the vibe by balancing judgement and apathy. And no matter how you feel about the lyrics … damn, that bass riff. –Paige Williams


    Song in a GIF:

    35. Brittany Howard – “Stay High”

    Brittany Howard Jaime Artwork

    Sounds Like: Sharing the heartiest belly laugh with your favorite person

    Key Lyric: “Everything is everything and everything is beautiful”

    Why It Matters: Thanks to Alabama Shakes’ stellar catalog, we’re already very familiar with the strength and punch of Brittany Howard’s pipes. But there’s a certain quiet beauty and gorgeous simplicity to be found on “Stay High”, one of the standout singles on solo debut Jaime. The song is a dedication to her father, but Howard never once tries to do too much or get flashy. Instead, acoustic strings are paired with quaint piano that trickles in the background, while the musician revels in golden memories so purely informed by joy you can’t help but smile along with her. –Lake Schatz

    Song in a GIF:

    Brittany Howard

    34. Lucy Dacus – “Fool’s Gold”

    Sounds Like: The song playing as you stumble home drunk from a holiday work party — where you had a little too much spiked eggnog — smoking a cigarette and reflecting on how exactly you got to this point

    Key Lyric: “I can’t tell how big my heart is/ Let’s open the door, see how many fit”


    Why It Matters: You know that pressure you feel around the holidays, but especially on New Year’s Eve? We aren’t even talking about the pressure to be at some elaborate party wearing the most sparkling outfit you can find, surrounded by people you hardly know or really even like; we’re more so talking about the quiet reflection that comes with the impending year’s end. “Fool’s Gold” serves as an ode to that New Year’s Eve feeling. The power lies in Lucy Dacus’ poignant lyricism, which is led by her keen knack for observation, as she sings: “I threw the party so I could stay put/ You brought the bottle like a promise I forgot/ A new year begins/ It ushers us in/ The knot in my gut is coming with.” Dacus said, “I started writing ‘Fool’s Gold’ the moment after the last person left a New Year’s Eve party I hosted in 2018. I did what I said — drank the last of the champagne alone, felt anxious, and locked the door behind everyone.” –Samantha Lopez

    Song in a GIF:


    33. BTS – “Boy with Luv”

    BTS Map of the Soul Persona artwork

    Sounds Like: Looking at your phone and seeing that person texted you

    Key Lyric: “I want something stronger/ Than a moment, than a moment, love”

    Why It Matters: Despite the years of success BTS had already seen the world over, “Boy with Luv” was their breakthrough crossover hit for many. With Halsey at their side, the track is able to translate all that makes K-pop great in a bubbly package of summer twilight hues. The dizzyingly smooth transitions from English to Korean, the impeccable swings from singing to rapping — it’s nearly flawless songwriting. Even if you only understand a third of the lyrics, the endearingly schmaltzy feelings translate easily, and that’s the mark of a truly perfect pop song. –Ben Kaye

    Song in a GIF:


    32. Julia Jacklin – “Pressure to Party”

    Julia Jacklin Crushing Artwork Pressure To Party New Music

    Sounds Like: Being young and heartbroken

    Key Lyric: “Pressure to not let the inside of my mind/ Spill onto the floor for our friends to find it”


    Why It Matters: Julia Jacklin has a knack for conveying the painful consequences that follow a breakup, and this track in particular perfectly describes the dichotomy between the societal expectations of a newly single individual and the more depressing reality. The song bounces with a jangly and upbeat ambiance much like a party, but Jacklin’s wistful words bring us back to the doleful place of her mind: “Nothing good can come from me drinking/ I would run, shoes off, straight back to you/ I know where you live, I used to live there too.” –Danielle Chelosky

    Song in a GIF:

    Julia jacklin

    31. Noname – “Song 31”

    Sounds Like: A cartoon dream sequence gone awry

    Key Lyric: “I sell pain for profit, and I feel prophet watchin’”

    Why It Matters: Noname recently declared that she’s sick of performing and that her upcoming album, Factory Baby, will be her last, so fans should be savoring every release from the Chicago native while they can. “Song 31” was just one of the unique tracks that Noname released this year, and her signature style of “lullaby rap” is on full display as she teams up with local producer-turned-rapper Phoelix. –Chris Malone

    Song in a GIF:

    30. Flying Lotus and Anderson .Paak – “More”


    Sounds Like: Bossa nova crashes a gospel rap battle

    Key Lyric: “But like a sample loop, around and ’round I move”

    Why It Matters: When a habitual embellisher like Flying Lotus announces a 27-track album (featuring David Lynch, George Clinton, and Solange, among others), there’s reason to feel apprehensive. But the space actually permits Steven Ellison to distill his concepts to greater potency. With the less-cluttered arrangements, the melody of Anderson .Paak’s rapping on “More” shines against all the best of FlyLo’s trademark funk-jazz. –Erin Lyndal Martin

    Song in a GIF:

    29. Little Simz – “Selfish”


    Sounds Like: Cashing a check you know your ass earned

    Key Lyric: “No validation, no applause/ You don’t have to prove you got it when you know it’s yours”

    Why It Matters: Hip-hop has always gone hand-in-hand with the idea of escaping harsh circumstances. Those who overcome adversity and make it to the top of the game, in theory, earn respect. However, female British rapper Little Simz finds herself facing a double-standard on her hit track “Selfish”. After pulling herself up from a humble upbringing, she catches flack rather than praise for the new lifestyle she’s earned. Coupled with a gorgeous pop chorus by Cleo Sol, Simz reminds herself that haters are going to hate and that nobody has the right to question what she’s earned through her own sweat and creativity. If that’s being “selfish,” fuck ’em. –Matt Melis


    Song in a GIF:

    Little Simz

    28. Briston Maroney – “Caroline”

    briston maroney indiana artwork

    Sounds Like: Counting down the days until graduation from your small-town high school

    Key Lyric: “But your name belongs in lights with all the constellations/ Change is hard/ But it’s gonna take you far”

    Why It Matters: Singer-songwriter Briston Maroney has lived a lot of life in 21 years, from a brief stint on American Idol to one in rehab. “Caroline” is an ode to the kid he was all those years ago with a pure love for creating music, and the song’s nostalgic lyrics and sparse folk-rock production makes its message relatable to anyone wondering what happened to their childhood dream. –Johanna Gretschel

    Song in a GIF:

    briston maroney

    27. Faye Webster – “Kingston”

    atlanta millionaires club album cover artwork faye webster

    Sounds Like: A sigh while floating down a lazy river with your daydreams being projected on the clouds


    Key Lyric: “The day that I met you I started dreaming”

    Why It Matters: Do you love pedal steel guitar? Of course you do, and Faye Webster knows that. On “Kingston”, the pedal steel reverberations massage your spinal nerve into a space of bliss, like you’re being warmed up by the sun again after the clouds hid it away. And when the saxophone hits? Oh, boy, you’re done for. Webster’s gentle and melodic vocals encircle that pedal steel to recreate the aching hunger for someone who loves you when you love them, too. She makes you feel like you’re taking a peek into her diary — or like you’re pouring your heart out into yours. –Caitlin Malcuit

    Song in a GIF:

    Faye Webster

    26. Cardi B – “Press”

    cardi b cancel indiana concert security

    Cardi B, photo by Natalie Somekh

    Sounds Like: The schoolyard bully who’s all bark and no bite

    Key Lyric: “Ding dong/ Must be that whip that I ordered”

    Why It Matters: Artists taking aim at the media isn’t anything new (remember Britney Spears’ “Piece of Me”?), and every time it happens, both journalists and fans are able to see the truth behind some of the artists’ emotions and actions. Cardi B’s braggadocious Bronx attitude is front and center on “Press,” making the song as intimidating as it is infectious, and it reiterates her status as someone you don’t want to F— with. Cardi clearly had a connection with the song, too, as she opted to choreograph the video and subsequent BET Awards performance herself. –Chris Malone


    Song in a GIF:

    Cardi B

    25. King Princess – “Prophet”

    king princess cheap queen single artwork

    Sounds Like: Unhealthy but addictive lusting

    Key Lyric: “Oh, no apologies, twisting your word and your prophecy/ Oh, and honestly, it’s the price of the prodigy you wanna be”

    Why It Matters: Even on her first-ever EP, last year’s Make My Bed, King Princess already flexed a cheeky sense of self-awareness. Her debut album, Cheap Queen, contains multiple examples of this kind of insight, but the pop wunderkind makes it sound especially savory on “Prophet”, which is said to be one of her favorites. King Princess sensually swaggers across a dusty R&B beat and electric guitar while lusting after both “prophets” and “profits” and reflecting on the price and consequences of fame. –Lake Schatz

    Song in a GIF:

    King Princess

    24. Big Thief – “Not”

    Big Thief - Two Hands

    Sounds Like: An emotional vortex pulling us down the drain of an old, wooden bathtub

    Key Lyric: “It’s not the open weaving/ Nor the furnace glow/ Nor the blood of you bleeding/ As you try to let go”


    Why It Matters: Each year there’s a “little indie band that could” that takes us all by surprise. And while we certainly knew about Big Thief going into this year from their promising 2017 effort, Capacity, none of us could have expected singer-songwriter Adrianne Lenker and band to take us through two unique full-length tours de force. For many, “Not”, with Lenker’s urgent twang, the cyclonic cataloging of her lyrics, and the gradual emotional build leading to a dire full-band breakdown and catharsis summarize so much of what there was to love about Big Thief this year while not sounding quite like anything else. These six minutes pass in a blink and stick with you long after the song ends. –Regan Bexler

    Song in a GIF:


    23. J. Cole – “Middle Child”

    Dreamville and J Cole - Revenge of Dreamers III

    Sounds Like: A heart-to-heart from one generation to the next

    Key Lyric: “What good is first class if my n*ggas can’t sit?”

    Why It Matters: A true collaboration between J. Cole and producer T-Minus+, “Middle Child” focuses on the difficulties of coming of age between hip-hop movements. The track makes use of a horn sample (from ’70s trio First Choice) with added reverb for ambience as drumbeats whiz by like bullets and hi-hats anticipate the beat dropping. All this makes for a hell of a podium for Cole’s tongue-twister litany of perils, caveats, and hopes for those about to rap. –Erin Lyndal Martin

    Song in a GIF:

    J Cole

    22. ROSALIA – “Aute Cuture”

    Rosalía - El Mal Querer

    Sounds Like: Owning the runway

    Key Lyric: “Esto está encendido, na, na, na, na.” (“This is fire, na, na, na, na.”)


    Why Song Matters: Energy should be able to defy language barriers, and the power behind ROSALIÁ on her worst days could demolish any wall. “Aute Cuture” is a celebration of confidence built on the strength of acceptance, strutting into the room like it would be empty without the presence of this sound. Yet, it’s also playful in that assertiveness, beckoning you to take the dance floor instead of pressuring you to stand back. ROSALIÁ has burst onto the international scene with that same aura, making this track something of a personal anthem even as it inspires the listener. –Ben Kaye

    Song in a GIF:

    teyana taylor

    21. Leonard Cohen – “Happens to the Heart”

    Album stream Thanks for the Dance by Leonard Cohen

    Sounds Like: A content man leaving the dance floor as the band plays on into the night

    Key Lyric: “I was always working steady/ But I never called it art”

    Why It Matters: Any reticence about Leonard Cohen not living long enough to supervise the album’s completion quickly fades away when we hear a somber guitar plucking joined by the master’s unmistakable voice on opening track “Happens to the Heart”. Poetic meditations like “There’s a mist of summer kisses where I tried to double park” remind us of how effortlessly Cohen could combine nature and concrete, sentiment and calculation, the sacred and the profane. To hear Cohen in such fine form suggests that while he may have been done dancing, he surely wanted the band to play on. –Matt Melis  

    Song in a GIF:

    leonard cohen

    20. Jamila Woods – “ZORA”


    Sounds Like: The eagerness to learn on the first day of school

    Key Lyric: “None of us are free, but some of us are brave/ I dare you to shrink my wave”

    Why It Matters: Black empowerment has become more important than ever in our post-Black Lives Matter world. “ZORA”, one of the lead singles from Jamila WoodsLegacy! Legacy! album, is one of the best examples of an artist using their voice to uplift their community. As a result, the song’s impact is felt not only because of its lyrical content and homage to Zora Neale Hurston, but because it incorporates these themes in a perfect neo soul package. –Chris Malone

    Song in a GIF:

    bobby hill

    19. Grimes – “Violence”

    Grimes - "Violence"

    Sounds Like: The song you’d hear playing in the scene where SVU detectives investigate a fetish club

    Key Lyric: “I’m, like, begging for it, baby”

    Why It Matters: Grimes told the Wall Street Journal she made her upcoming Miss Anthropocene to “make climate change fun,” and the jury is still out on if an album populated by avatars of human extinction will do the trick. But if you strip away the Jung and the global warming, “Violence,” with all its throbs and whispers, is a solid choice for any kinderwhore goth club worth its smoke machine. –Erin Lyndal Martin


    Song in a GIF:


    18. Charli XCX x Christine and the Queens – “Gone”


    Sounds Like: The freedom of ripping off your own clothes

    Key Lyric: “I feel so unstable, fucking hate these people/ How they making me feel lately/ They making me weird, baby, lately”

    Why It Matters: Although they’re two of pop music’s most exciting artists, Charli XCX and Christine and the Queens use “Gone” to show they have deep insecurities just like everyone else. And that they also deal with these anxieties the same way we do, too — first by suffering through impossibly knotty spasms and then by fully breaking down. The chorus, which is sung but might as well be a guttural scream, is a cathartic and blissful release. –Lake Schatz

    Song in a GIF:


    17. Carly Rae Jepsen – “Too Much”

    Carly Rae Jepsen Dedicated album new stream cover artwork

    Sounds Like: That moment cringe becomes assurance

    Key Lyric: “So be careful if you’re wanting this touch/ ‘Cause if I love you, then I love you too much”


    Why It Matters: Carly Rae Jepsen’s version of pop love songs have always felt candidly saccharine, handled just so they never get too sweet. It’s a refreshingly buoyant contrast to the mainstream inundation of lyrics about aggressive sexual agency or rising from heartache. For those who might find CRJ’s take overly sugary, she presents us with “Too Much”. The Canadian songstress freely admits that she can feel, think, drink, dance just too much for some people — and she’s not going to apologize for it. So often self-assurance is presented as being tough, but Jepsen knows there’s equal might in honest emotion. –Ben Kaye

    Song in a GIF:

    carly ray

    16. Charly Bliss – “Young Enough”

    Charly Bliss Young Enough Track by Track Album Cover Artwork

    Sounds Like: The scene in Legally Blonde when Elle realizes she’s too good for Warner

    Key Lyric: “We’re young enough to believe it should hurt this much”

    Why It Matters: The titular song off of Charly Bliss’ second record, “Young Enough” is cleverly structured around just “one chord that never changes all the way through.” Decorated only with a few twinkling synth riffs, the droning repetition never feels monotonous. Instead, it builds drama, which is fitting for a song that invites us to remember how it felt to believe in an epic romance powerful enough to conquer anything. As frontperson Eva Hendricks explores on this album, we too often discover that our knight in shining armor is actually a shithead. But “Young Enough” offers us a reprieve from our jadedness, allowing us to emerge reinvigorated and hopeful. –Amanda Silberling

    Song in a GIF:

    Lady and the Tramp

    15. Tierra Whack – “Wasteland”

    Tierra Whack - "Wasteland"

    Sounds Like: The background music in a Gen Z rom-com bedroom scene

    Key Lyric: “My presence is a gift/ Don’t you act surprised”

    Why It Matters: Tierra Whack stood alongside Megan Thee Stallion and Rico Nasty as the only women inductees into this year’s XXL Freshman class, which shouldn’t come as a surprise to fans of the Philadelphia-bred rhymesmith. Look no further than “Wasteland”: it’s an empowering track where Whack discusses all the men lining up to date her and her decision to put herself and her goals first. It wouldn’t be the first time a female rapper has prided herself on this independence, but it certainly feels like the most refreshing version of it this year. –Chris Malone


    Song in a GIF:

    tierra whack

    14. Maggie Rogers – “Light On”

    maggie rogers heard it in a past life album new

    Sounds Like: The sound of someone knowing their life is about to change forever

    Key Lyric: “Can you feel me now/ That I’m vulnerable in oh so many ways?”

    Why It Matters: Fame and all its spoils have been written and sung about forever, but what about the pressures and personal changes they can bring? Since Maggie Rogers first wowed Pharrell Williams in a songwriting masterclass, the spotlight has only grown brighter and brighter around her. The last song she wrote for her debut record, “Light On” combines a modern vibe with the natural sounds Rogers grew up loving and asks fans to strike a bargain with her that things will turn out okay if she embraces that spotlight. It’s a song acknowledging that a life is about to change forever. –Regan Bexler

    Song in a GIF:


    13. Vampire Weekend – “Harmony Hall”


    Key Lyric: “Anger wants a voice/ Voices wanna sing/ Singers harmonize/ ‘Til they can’t hear anything”

    Why It Matters: Many are still surprised not only by Vampire Weekend’s relevance in 2019, but by their dominance. “Harmony Hall” is all the proof one needs to stop questioning their staying power and embrace it. The track is this warm, open thing that feels like it’s shaking the starch off the collars, not changing the aesthetic so much as shifting the way it’s worn. It’s also one of Ezra Koenig’s most poignant and accessible lyrical exercises; it still has all that nimble eruditeness he’s known for, only now it’s matured to understand that simplicity can be just as effective. That sort of wisdom permeates the song, making it one of the most impactful releases of the year. –Ben Kaye

    Song in a GIF:

    Vampire Weekend - Sun


    12. Nicholas Britell – “Succession (Main Theme)”

    Sounds Like: The music added to a home-video/opening montage of an old horror film filled with spooky images that make you uncomfortable

    Why It Matters: The theme score for HBO’s critically acclaimed comedy-drama Succession has become a classic in the form; it’s up there with being as memorable and infectious as the intros for Twin Peaks, Deadwood and Mad Men. The score starts with a downbeat, followed by the 808s, dissonant piano chords, and dramatic strings. The show, which just wrapped up its second season, is a heightened drama that combines dry, sharp dialogue with a pointed critique of what it means to be rich and in power. It isn’t just the acting and writing that makes Succession stand out, but its distinctive theme by Oscar-nominated composer, pianist, and producer Nicholas Britell. The theme soundtracks the opening credits over a grainy film montage of the central Roy family’s earlier years, and its ominous tones offers insight to all the drama and dysfunction that’s about to unravel. –Samantha Lopez

    Song in a GIF:


    11. Lana Del Rey – “The greatest”

    lana del rey norman fucking rockwell

    Sounds Like: Slowly watching the world burn while smoking a cigarette you lit with the flames

    Key Lyric: “The culture is lit and I had a ball”

    Why It Matters: Lana Del Rey found her strength by infusing a bygone Americana Dream into modern releases, but with her sixth studio album, Norman Fucking Rockwell!, she set her sites on the present. The best example of that awareness is “The greatest”, which starts off with the same anthemic bent of many of her songs. However, word by word you’re brought to the realization that somewhere between proclaiming, “I wish I was dead” and writing they lyrics “LA’s in flames, it’s a getting hot/ Kanye West is blonde and gone/ ‘Life on Mars’ ain’t just a song/ Oh, the livestream’s almost on,” Del Rey had become the poet laureate for millennials dreading (and often, welcoming) the end of the world. –Erica Campbell


    Song in a GIF:

    lana del rey

    10. Angel Olsen – “All Mirrors”

    Angel Olsen New Album All Mirrors Artwork Stream

    Sounds Like: Mantras for the fatigued souls

    Key Lyric: “Standing, facin’, all mirrors are erasin'”

    Why It Matters: “All Mirrors” is the lead single and title track off Angel Olsen’s remarkable new album. The track is a big leap forward for the indie songwriter. It’s less haunting folk and more an attention-grabbing monochrome post-punk, synth-heavy, orchestral dream. There are sparse rhythms, and her vocals are wholly on display, appearing sleeker, and sensual like an elite nightclub performer in the 1940s. Her vocals also exhibit a range of emotions, from jaded after some deep introspection to gutted by sadness. In an interview Olsen said this about the title track: “I chose this one as the title because I liked the theme: the theme of how we are all mirrors to and for each other.” –Samantha Lopez

    Song in a GIF:

    ghost world

    09. Solange – “Almeda”

    Solange 2019 album

    Sounds Like: You and your best friends hyping each other up

    Key Lyric: “These are black-owned things/ Black faith still can’t be washed away/ Not even in that Florida water”

    Why It Matters: A standout track off the equally excellent When I Get Home, it sees Solange celebrating Southern black culture and the time she spent growing up in Houston (Almeda is the name of an area in the city). From the black skin and brown braids to the black molasses and brown liquor, there’s an untouchable power in not only recognizing one’s heritage, but owning the hell out of it. –Lake Schatz


    Song in a GIF:


    08. Bon Iver – “Naeem”

    Bon Iver - i, i Cover Artwork

    Sounds Like: Writing a love letter to the rain because nobody answers you anyway

    Key Lyric: “I can hear, I can hear crying”

    Why Song Matters: Justin Vernon gets choked up singing about mastodons and somehow that’s not the thing you remember about this song. Conceived of with a dance troupe, “Naeem” anchors itself with a simple piano chord progression. That grounding allows the rest of the song to expand with vocal distortion, gospel choirs, and vigorous drumming. Like a lot of Bon Iver songs, it’s hard to pinpoint the source of the emotion. But somehow it’s more convincing now that Vernon obscures the sentimentality with greater musical complexity. –Erin Lyndal Martin

    Song in a GIF:

    bon iver

    07. Ariana Grande – “7 Rings”

    Ariana Grande - Thank U, Next

    Sounds Like: The power anthem for all boss babes earning their own paper sans assistance from anyone (especially NOT a love interest).

    Key Lyric: “You like my hair?/ Gee, thanks, just bought it/ I see it, I like it, I want it, I got it”


    Why It Matters: First, Ariana Grande blessed us with “thank u, next”, highlighting her newfound self-love and personal growth post-breakup. Then, just in case anyone was wondering how Ari was doing without Pete Davidson or *any* man for that matter, she made her upgraded mindset loud and clear on this bop. Plus, who can resist a trap-y twist on Rogers & Hammerstein tune “My Favorite Things”? The classic might have been made famous by Julie Andrews in The Sound of Music; however, it was resurrected and revamped in true sultry and sassy Ari fashion. Featuring instantly quotable lyrics, we too agree that “happiness is the same price as red-bottoms.” #friendsandfunds –Gabrielle Pharms

    Song in a GIF:


    06. Denzel Curry – “Ricky”

    Sounds Like: A G.I. Joe “Knowing Is Half the Battle” segment reimagined as a sunburnt Miami battle rap

    Key Lyric: “My daddy said, ‘Trust no man but your brothers and never leave your day one’s in the gutter'”


    Why It Matters: Rapping on top of a woozy beat that sounds like a music box playing inside a washing machine, South Florida’s finest sounds like he’s ready to take on the world. On “RICKY”, Denzel Curry plays wisdom’s middleman — passing down the life lessons he got from the people who helped make him one of Miami’s fiercest and most inventive rappers. His voice nimbly weaves through FnZ’s beats, each syllable dripping with assuredness. He’s able to keep his knowledge-dropping from being patronizing by spitting it out with urgency, like his and yours and everyone’s lives depends on it. Unsolicited advice never sounded so good. –Ashley Naftule

    Song in a GIF:

    gi joe

    05. Strand of Oaks – “Weird Ways”

    Strand of Oaks - Eraserland

    Sounds Like: A diary entry written on an Almost Famous DVD case

    Key Lyric: “The more I burn the less I’ve got to show”

    Why It Matters: Eraserland, Timothy Showalter’s latest offering as Strand of Oaks, begins with a mission statement — “I don’t feel it anymore” — which Showalter delivers with such conviction that the aching resonates in your bones. It’s the foundation for the album’s opening track, and the juxtaposition isn’t lost here: The fact that a narrator who’s staring down the barrel of apathy can elicit such a visceral response from listeners is precisely what makes “Weird Ways” the album’s biggest triumph. With help from a backing band comprised of My Morning Jacket’s Carl Broemel, Bo Koster, Patrick Hallahan and Tom Blankenship, this mid-tempo rocker-turned-reverie is a phoenix rising from the ashes. –Desiré M.

    Song in a GIF:

    Strand of Oaks - Sad Dog

    04. Tyler, the Creator – “EARFQUAKE”

    Tyler the Creator - Igor

    Sounds Like: The moment you realize she’s out the door, it’s all your fault, and nothing else matters


    Key Lyric: “I just need to know what’s happening ’cause I’m for real.”

    Why It Matters: A breaking heart can feel as devastating as a natural disaster in the moment. And leave it to this next-level Tyler, the Creator to coin the line “you make my earth quake” as yet one more way to say I can’t go on without you. But more so than the brilliant mix of blushing keys and distorted drums, we’re moved by the sincerity invested by Tyler and guest Charlie Wilson in that simple plea of a refrain to stay (“Don’t leave/ It’s my fault”). It’s coming from as real a place as a song can, the fear of loss as palpable as it can be. –Matt Melis

    Song in a GIF:

    Tyler the Creator - High Fidelity

    03. Lizzo – “Juice”

    Lizzo Cuz I Love You

    Sounds Like: An 80-year-old’s idea of what Bruno Mars’ music sounds like

    Key Lyric: “I be drippin’ so much sauce/ Got a bitch lookin’ like Ragù”

    Why It Matters: This was supposed to be the year Lizzo had her big break, and “Juice” was meant to be that big pop hit — before her older music ended up taking the spotlight. “Juice” strikes a perfect balance for mainstream success at the turn of the new decade: an upbeat pop sensibility combined with R&B influences — along with the time-tested theme of self-love — to create a song that everyone, regardless of age, can enjoy. Even the Obamas gave it their stamp of approval. –Chris Malone


    Song in a GIF:

    Lizzo Juicy

    02. Billie Eilish – “Bad Guy”

    billie eilish when we all fall asleep where do we go album art

    Sounds Like: The montage music playing while the rebellious and unconventionally hot girl stomps her Doc Martens down the high school hallway in a coming-of-age dramedy.

    Key Lyric: “duh”

    Why It Matters: The menacing track is a drop-down list of a very specific personality. So who is this “Bad Guy,” this self-proclaimed “bad type” that’ll make “your mamma sad” and “might seduce your dad?” According to Eilish, the one-of-a-kind pop-trap nu-goth track from her debut album, When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go? is about making fun of everyone and their personas of themselves, even hers, because as she told 102.7KIISFM: “You will never catch a bad bitch, telling everyone she’s a a bad bitch.” It resonates because, truly, we’re all the bad guys. Duh. –Erica Campbell

    Song in a GIF:

    Billie Eilish Gif

    01. Sharon Van Etten – “Seventeen”

    Sharon Van Etten - Remind Me Tomorrow

    Sounds Like:  City lights reflecting the past on damp pavement

    Key Lyric: “Sure of what I’ve lived and have known/ I see you so uncomfortably alone/ I wish I could show you how much you’ve grown”


    Why It Matters: New York City, for all its hard living and insurmountable highs, is a microcosm of the world. Ever rolling onward, we love to watch it grow, but so often struggle to keep up, longing for the sense of stability we’d denied was fleeting. And so we turn to those that come behind us, realizing the only thing knowable is that they have no idea what’s coming. It’s an aching sense of belated prescience that Sharon Van Etten paints in stirring new wave notes on “Seventeen”. By avoiding nostalgia and honing in on life’s transience, she creates something utterly, hauntingly timeless. –Ben Kaye

    Song in a GIF:

    city block


    Below you can listen to the full list of top 2019 songs via Spotify.


Around The Web