Miracles never cease! Not only do I have ten songs this year, I have fifty. So why not do a full-fledged post? As usual, there are a few points of housekeeping:
- I only feature one song per artist per year, although features don’t count. Dua Lipa is this year’s beneficiary of the feature rule, and Ariana Grande loses what probably would have been another two tracks on the list.
- Chart positions are for the Billboard Hot 100 except where noted.
- If you haven’t noticed already, PMN is about more than just pop, but this is a personal, partial list and is not meant to be definitive.
- You can find all the tracks here on a Spotify playlist.
A couple of callouts:
- Biggest pop song injustice – How Niall Horan’s “On the Loose” didn’t hit the Hot 100 and only got into the mid-90s in the UK
- Song that should be a hit in 2019 – Lauren Jauregui “Expectations” (although it looks like she may have moved onto the next single)
- Song that should have been on Top 40 in 2018 – Toni Braxton “Long As I Live”
- Song that would have been higher if it hadn’t been played non-stop – Zedd “The Middle”
So, without further ado…
50. Zhavia “Candlelight” (did not chart)
49. Troye Sivan “My My My” (#80)
48. Dierks Bentley “Burning Man” (#45)
47. Panic! at the Disco “High Hopes” (#4)
46. Calum Scott “No Matter What” (did not chart)
45. Midland “Burn Out” (#111)
44. Kiddy Smile “Be Honest” (did not chart)
43. 5 Seconds of Summer “Want You Back” (#61)
42. Kylie Minogue “Dancing” (#1 Dance Club Songs)
41. Rita Ora “Let You Love Me” (#34 Top Pop Songs to date)
40. Lauv “I Like Me Better” (#27)
39. Charlie Puth “Done for Me (Feat Kehlani)” (#53)
38. Khalid & Normani “Love Lies” (#9)
37. Keith Urban “Parallel Line” (#25 Hot Country Songs)
36. Foster the People “Sit Next to Me” (#42)
35. Little Big Town “Summer Fever” (#32 Hot Country Songs)
34. Luke Combs “She Got the Best of Me” (#34)
33. Zedd, Maren Morris & Grey “The Middle” (#5)
32. Ella Mai “Boo’d Up” (#5)
31. Dua Lipa “IDGAF” (#49)
30. Lauren Jauregui “Expectations” (did not chart)
29. Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper “Shallow” (#5)
28. Drake “Nice For What” (#1)
27. The Chainsmokers “Side Effects” (#66)
26. Mitchell Tenpenny “Drunk Me” (#53)
25. Halsey “Without Me” (#2 to date)
24. Cole Swindell “Break Up in the End” (#49)
23. MNEK “Tongue” (did not chart)
22. Dan + Shay “Speechless” (#24 to date)
21. Calvin Harris “One Kiss (Feat Dua Lipa)” (#26)
20. Silk City “Electricity (feat Dua Lipa)” (#93)
19. Maggie Rogers “fallingwater” (did not chart)
18. Bruno Mars “Finesse” (#3)
17. Janelle Monae “Make Me Feel” (#99)
16. Ava Max “Sweet but Psycho” (#35 to date)
15. Bright Light Bright Light “How I Feel” (did not chart)
14. Backstreet Boys “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart” (#63)
13. Janet Jackson “Made for Now” (#88)
12. Niall Horan “On the Loose” (#22 Top Pop Songs)
11. Kim Petras “Heart to Break” (#40 Top Pop Songs)
And now the Top 10 songs:
10. George Ezra “Shotgun” (#21 Adult Top 40 to date)
Time flies by in the yellow and green
Stick around and you’ll see what I mean
There’s a mountaintop that I’m dreaming of
If you need me you know were I’ll be
“Shotgun” may be my sing-along song of the year, as that chorus is impossible to resist when the windows are down. This song has been number one all around the world, and yet it’s finding resistance in the US (of course). I love the quirkiness of George’s music, and that there’s a through-line between “Budapest” and “Shotgun.” Here’s hoping that the song breaks through in 2019 here and that people are singing along once it warms up enough to roll down the windows.
9. Meghan Trainor “Let You Be Right” (#28 Top Pop Songs)
Baby, don’t hate me
You probably think I’m crazy
And it’s stupid and foolish
The way we’ve been behavin’
The inability of Meghan to fully catch fire with her now-delayed third album is kind of baffling to me. Single #1 (“No Excuses”) limped to a mediocre #46 in the States despite a lot of airplay, and it didn’t get much further anywhere else. “Let You Be Right” didn’t chart ANYWHERE, and barely made it into the Top 30 at pop radio in the States. The worst part of “Right’s” failure is that it’s EXACTLY what you’d expect the marketplace to want right now. Part of the reason that “All About that Bass” was so massive was because it was totally different from anything else at the time, and maybe they need to revisit that strategy. Meghan’s label was supposed to give releasing Treat Yourself another go this month, but without an active single at the moment, I didn’t see that happening.
8. LSD “Thunderclouds” (#67)
You’re sayin’ those words like you hate me now
Our house is burning when you’re raisin’ hell
Here in the ashes your soul cries out
But don’t be afraid of these thunderclouds
“Labrynth, Sia and Diplo walk into a bar…” I thought that this was a joke when I heard that these three artists were joining forces and recording together, but it was absolutely a real thing, and it was no joke. The songs I’ve heard so far (EP is on Spotify) seem to be an eclectic mix of Sia-penned songs with Labyrinth adding a cool vibe and Diplo helping hold it all together with his production. Add to that the cool videos accompanying the music (yes, Sia still is not showing her face), and this is looking like a very cool full-length album when it finally drops in 2019.
7. Ashley McBryde “Girl Goin’ Nowhere” (#55 Country Airplay to date)
And then the lights come up
And I hear the band
And where they said I’d never be is exactly where I am
I hear the crowd
I look around
And I can’t find one empty chair
Not bad for a girl goin’ nowhere
If you don’t click on any other link in this post, please click on the link for this video. To watch Ashley perform at the Grand Ole Opry for the first time is very cool, but to see her do so as she plays her ode to the haters and the doubters is truly powerful. I love the simplicity of the production, which gives “Girl” the feel of someone playing this song quietly back in the hotel after a successful gig. This album is in my top three of the year, and her performance opening for Little Big Town at Red Rocks was a clear musical highlight for me, so it shouldn’t be a surprise that she gets a song on the year-end list for the second year in a row.
6. Ariana Grande “no tears left to cry” (#1)
They point out the colors in you, I see ’em too
And, boy, I like ’em, I like ’em, I like ’em
We’re way too fly to partake in all this hate
We out here vibin’, we vibin’, we vibin’
The first thing a lot of people heard about this song was people trying to figure out the lyrics, which only goes to show just how anticipated this single was. Ariana’s life seems to be the number one target for the tabloids, but she’s just living her life like any other immensely successful and famous 25-year-old. The vibe of the song is cool, the lyrics are both wise and self-aware, and the timing of this song, combined with the rise and fall of her relationship with Pete Davidson added up to an unstoppable song and album (if you haven’t checked it out yet, sweetner is really a solid listen).
5. Kacey Musgraves “High Horse” (#36 Hot Country Songs)
‘Cause everyone knows someone who kills the buzz
Every time they open up their mouth
Yeah, everyone knows someone who knows someone
Who thinks they’re cooler than everybody else
There has been a contingent of music fans that have been trying to tell people about how great Kacey Musgraves is over the past five years, and 2018 was the year that people decided to pay attention. It didn’t hurt that Golden Hour was easily Kacey’s most eclectic release, serving up sounds as diverse as the folky “Slow Burn” and the Coldplay-ish closer “Rainbow.” But the standouts on the album were “Space Cowboy,” a dramatic country track that is NOT about astronauts wearing Stetsons, and “High Horse,” which barely has anything to tie it to Country radio. I like to think that this is an ode to the radio format that has largely ignored Musgraves, but you can dedicate this one to anybody who has that holier than thou attitude.
4. Taylor Swift “Delicate” (#12)
This ain’t for the best
My reputation’s never been worse, so
You must like me for me
In the ten years that this blog has existed, a Taylor Swift song has only made my top 10 songs once (“Blank Space” in 2014). I won’t lie…I have some underlying biases against some of her more recent releases, as they have felt more calculated than organic. But then I got to “Delicate,” and I was unable to resist any longer. You can feel her anxiety as she confronts a potential relationship at a less-than-ideal moment. I’m hopeful that the future Taylor releases more of this type of song and less of the tabloid/headline-making ones.
3. Robyn “Honey” (#26 Hot Dance/Electronic Songs)
And the waves come in and they’re golden
But down in the deep, the honey is sweeter
(Ooh, it is sweeter, baby)
And the sun sets on the water
But down in the deep, the current is stronger
FINALLY! Aside from a few dalliances with the likes of Royskopp and La Bagatelle Magique, we’ve been waiting for eight years for new Robyn music. In my eyes, the wait was worth it, because Honey was one of my top-five albums of 2018. I’m a sucker for that old-school house music, and Robyn embraced that vibe whole-heartedly on a large chunk of Honey, including its title song. The track, a showcase for Robyn’s slinky vocal delivery, is top-notch.
2. Toni Braxton “Long as I Live” (#1 Adult R&B Songs)
I can tell by the look on your face
You really like her that way
And now I’m trying not to lose my mind and start crying
But I can tell
That you love her, you really love her
I mean, say whatever you want about her life, the reality show, her finances, bla bla bla. At the end of the day, Toni Braxton is a star, and the fact that she can still garner material like this when most of her contemporaries rely solely on their back catalog to get any attention is a big deal. She sings about heartbreak and enlightenment like she’s BEEN THERE, and I will always be here for that. The fact that she found a song with a killer hook to display that on made her the comeback of the year in my eyes.
- Kendrick Lamar “All the Stars (feat SZA)” (#7)
This maybe the night that my dreams might let me know
All the stars are closer, all the stars are closer, all the stars are closer
It was love at first listen with this song…the vibe, the vocals, the track. And the love continued to grow upon multiple listens. In a perfect world, there wouldn’t be a deafening chorus of “preordained” winner talk for Gaga’s “Shallow” at the Oscars and the Grammys, because this track should be considered a strong contender. Kendrick’s performance is true to his gritty, intelligent flow while offering something a little more accessible to the pop masses than usual, and anything that gives SZA more mainstream visibility should be held up for high praise, especially when her vocals soar as high as they do here.