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2018 in Review: Top 20 Songs

Alfred Taylor and Luka Berman

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Like every other year, 2018 featured new music from a plethora of artists. And with the rise of the indie scene, the amount of great new music coming out each week from all corners of the globe has become increasingly difficult to stay on top of. From artists new and old, there was a myriad of great singles and deep cuts, making this an extremely difficult list to craft. As a reader, there a few things you should keep in mind:

  1. This list was designed with the intent of reflecting music from a breadth of genres and styles, although some may appear more prevalently than others (and some may not appear at all).
  2. Popularity is certainly an essential factor, but above all, the quality of the song is paramount in these rankings.
  3. This list, naturally, is entirely subjective.
  4. For those wondering, “Mo Bamba” came out in 2017. ☹

Without further ado, here are the top 20 songs of 2018.

 

  1. Gunna and Lil Baby – “Drip Too Hard”
  2. 6LACK and Future – “East Atlanta Love Letter”
  3. Blocboy JB and Drake – “Look Alive”
  4. Frank Ocean – “Moon River”
  5. Brent Faiyaz – “Came Right Back”
  6. Jorja Smith – “February 3rd”
  7. Young Thug and Elton John – “High”  
  8. A$AP Rocky and Tyler, The Creator – “Potato Salad”
  9. The Carters – “SUMMER”
  10. Childish Gambino – “This Is America”

 

  1. Trippie Redd – “Topanga”

Few songs this year push their genre’s boundaries as much as “Topanga.” With its lush piano chords, vibrant percussion, and Trippie’s typically forcible performance, “Topanga” is one of the most inventive, expressive, and musically important singles of the year.

 

  1. Earl Sweatshirt – “Nowhere2go”

Drowned in sorrow by the death of his father, Earl pours his heart out in “Nowhere2go,” a song characterized by its avant-garde production, introspective lyrics, and monotone delivery. Surrounded by a hazy mix, Earl crafts a two-minute palette of despair with a dash of hope, and in the process creates one of the most emotionally compelling rap songs in recent history.

 

  1. Kali Uchis, Tyler, The Creator, Bootsy Collins – “After The Storm”

“After The Storm” harkens back to the smooth, buttery soul of the ’70s and ’80s. With poetic lyricism and exciting performances from Uchis, Tyler, and Collins, it speaks to the larger movement across the pop and R&B of today to bring back the warm sounds of the past by making music on more personal, natural terms.

 

  1. Lana Del Rey – “Venice B***h”

Lana Del Rey only released two songs this year, but one of them, “Venice B***h”, is perhaps the strongest of her career. The nine-minute track makes the most of every second with plaintive and provocative songwriting and production, courtesy of Jack Antonoff, that sounds like the lovechild of California pop-rock and Kanye’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy.

 

  1. Jay Rock, Kendrick Lamar, Future, and James Blake – “King’s Dead”

Taken from the eclectic Black Panther album, “King’s Dead” is an essential song for the hip-hop culture of 2018. It’s a fun and daring banger that sounds like what traversing the Wakandan landscape in a Range Rover would feel like, complete with a slapping beat, a delightfully-ignorant Kendrick hook, and Future reciting bars in crackly falsetto.

 

  1. Drake – “Nice For What”

Between the electro-pop of “Summer Games” and the lo-fi R&B of “After Dark,” Side B of Drake’s Scorpion is one of the best collections of tracks in his ten-year discography. But it’s the New Orleans bounce-inspired and Lauryn Hill-sampling “Nice For What” that stands out as one of the best singles this year. Catchy, unorthodox, and fun, it captures everything that works well about Drake’s music when he leaves the drama and paranoia on the side.

 

  1. Pusha T – “The Story of Adidon”

“The Story of Adidon” is less of a song than it is a headshot. What it lacks in structure, it more than makes up for in its investigative journalistic content, wordplay, and drama. In the age of cancel culture and increasingly intrusive fan involvement, this kind of diss track was exactly what the masses yearned for. It succeeded in creating an enthralling moment for rap—and all of pop culture, for that matter.

 

  1.  Ariana Grande – “God is a woman”

Across sweetener, Ariana Grande crafts catchy but meaningful songs that rely on creative production and impassioned performances in equal measure. “God is a woman,” with its thumping beat and thought-provoking take on romance, is the album’s centerpiece and demonstrates why Grande is a cut above the rest of the pop-music pack, both in ability and artistry.

 

  1. Kids See Ghosts – “Reborn”

Featuring mellow keys, a shuffling beat, and some of the best humming of Kid Cudi’s career, “Reborn” has a vulnerable yet empowering statement on moving forward with purpose in a broken world. 2018 was undeniably the worst year of Kanye’s career, but if there’s one thing that gives us hope for his future and the lasting importance of hip-hop, it’s his beautiful and expansive work on “Reborn” and the rest of Kids See Ghosts with Cudi at his side.

 

  1. Travis Scott and Drake – “SICKO MODE”

“SICKO MODE” epitomizes everything that is great about Travis Scott’s magnum opus, ASTROWORLD. Scott’s psychedelic trap slaps harder than anything else that came out this year. Across three beats, Drake makes napping sound like the most hype-worthy experience of all time, Swae Lee and Sheck Wes contribute explosive ad-libs, and Travis Scott is, as he says himself, “the glue” that holds it all together.

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2018 in Review: Top 20 Songs