Unbelievably, this marks my 10th year of making an end-of-year top tunes list, and I’m not sure if that highlights a sense of diligence on my part or a sense of boredom while waiting for Christmas to come in.
This year I’ve again assembled a list of 40 tunes that have taken me through the year, one that’s had many ups and downs but altogether has been a good one, marking my last full year before finally admitting I’m in my mid-twenties. It’s always amazing how much of a year can be summed up by the songs that were shuffled through my Spotify in that time, and I hope it provides a sense of that as well as introducing some tunes that went under the radar.
40. YUNGBLUD & Halsey – “11 Minutes” (feat. Travis Barker)
Starting us off on a merry road with a dark tune about a romance turned bad, this track from YUNGBLUD and Halsey is very addictive. It tells the tale of a relationship where there’s not enough time for one another, but one where both realise the heartbreak it’s causing. Both artists do well in the vocals here, while the drums bring in a crescendo of emotion around it all.
39. Mark Ronson – “Late Night Feelings” (feat. Lykke Li)
Coming out with a new album towards the end of last year allowed Mark Ronson to show yet another side of his impeccable musical talent. These tunes, featuring heartbreak at every turn, were low-key, but very catchy and stacked with great vocal talent and Ronson’s intimate knowledge of making melodies to match that. This is one of the best on there, with a slightly dark take on obsession and the not too unfamiliar urge to call someone you’re thinking of and the battle within about whether it’s the right thing to do.
38. Sigala & Becky Hill – “Wish You Well”
British dance music has always relied on amazing female vocalists to drive home the emotional message behind the songs, and no-one has done better at this in recent years than Becky Hill. Here again she manages to deliver a stellar performance as Sigala’s unique talent at making melodies turns what could have been a very run-of-the-mill track into one of the catchiest and most successful of the year.
37. Billie Eilish – “all the good girls go to hell”
The first of a couple of appearances from Billie Eilish on the list, this one is perhaps the most simple single she’s released so far. It follows a somewhat ordinary structure, but with her unique vocal style it still sounds different from other songs you’ll hear on the charts. There’s notable comparisons to be drawn with Lorde, and in the same dark, broody teenage style from her first album “Pure Heroine”, but this message seems suitably refreshed for 2019, and in songs that appear later there’s a significant departure from that too.
36. 5 Seconds of Summer – “Youngblood”
Boyband tunes aren’t normally my thing, but there’s something so catchy about this stripped back song that makes it an exception. It’s not too gushy and still hits home with a message, and has a chorus that’s very memorable too. All-in-all it does it’s job well, and I played it enough to warrant its spot here on the list.
35. Little Big – “Skibidi”
The internet is amazing, as it allows you to discover tunes from around the world you’d never have dreamt of hearing, and courtesy of a viral video, “Skibidi” is one of those. It’s a pretty simple pop song, but coupled delightfully by a sense of fun and whimsy, delivered by a rather mean-looking Russian frontman. If you haven’t seen this video, it’s worth checking out for the Soviet-style Macarena, but also for a catchy-as-hell tune too.
34. Ava Max – “Sweet but Psycho”
The latest in Albanian diaspora making it big in pop music this year was Ava Max, whose tunes seem to be almost a perfect mix of Lady Gaga’s old catalogue but with a Eurovision flavour. “Sweet but Psycho” was her first big hit and has the benefit of having a chorus that’s such an earworm and incredibly simple to get that almost everyone will know of it. It’s fun and manages to tell a story as such, so in my book it’s a good pop song.
33. Ariana Grande – “breathin” (2018)
Coming from last year’s “sweetener”, this is a song that grew on me a lot. On the face of it, it’s a clear nod to the anxiety that Ariana felt after the Manchester bombings of 2017, but there’s more to it than just that – it’s a song about keeping on even though the world is sitting on your shoulders. Coupling this message with some great hooks and a drum beat that keeps on ticking through the whole song and it stands as one of her best releases.
32. Jax Jones & Tove Lo – “Jacques”
These two are almost the perfect collab, with Tove Lo’s raw delivery and Jax Jones’ ability to put a fun beat to almost everything. Playing out the story of one-night stand, it’s fun, it’s cheeky and manages to do quite a lot of different things for a pop song in terms of the musical styles featured. Really underrated and always worth a listen.
31. Steve Aoki – “Do Not Disturb” (feat. Bella Thorne)
Back in February I was able to indulge my younger self by going to see Steve Aoki at the Barrowlands, and despite the unmistakable feeling that I was too old for it I had a lot of fun. Of the new songs there, this one stuck out to me – featuring a Disney star in Bella Thorne following the Miley Cyrus path into pop culture – as one that is typical of his type of music but also shows a mellower side too.