One of my resolutions was to rediscover music, and I did – in a big way. Normally I have anywhere from 25-35 favorite songs for a given year. In 2019, I had trouble narrowing it down to less than fifty! I listened to music on YouTube, Pandora, my ever-faithful iPod, CDs, the radio, and finally got my hands on a Spotify account. From January to December, I was cranking up the tunes and rocking out.
From 2012-2017, I edited my favorite songs together into a video; last year I posted a list, organized by genre, on the blog. Let’s continue in that tradition, but shake it up a bit.
- The song does not need to have been released in 2019, but acquired and listened/loved by me during this year.
- Only one song per artist – an exception will be made for collaborations or features.
- Rather than ordering the songs in their order of purchase or by genre, I’m going to put them alphabetically by artist.
- I’ll provide a memory, reason, or favorite thing about the song to explain why it’s made my list this year.
Without further ado, let’s begin!
- “break up with your girlfriend, i’m bored” by Ariana Grande. I spent a good chunk of the spring semester working to thank u, next and it was a close choice between this and “NASA” but, with more plays, this song comes out on top. Plus it’s an excellent song for midnight dance parties.
- “Eastside” by benny blanco, Halsey & Khalid. I’ve been feeling really nostalgic this year (since a huge chapter of my life is coming to an end, lots of transitions) and this song captures that feeling pretty well. I’m also loving this trend in chill beats.
- “bury a friend” Billie Eilish. It was difficult to pick which was my favorite song of her debut album because there were so many so I went with the first single, reminded of its haunting music video, the numerous choreographies I saw, and how it was so unlike anything else at that moment. She really had a great year and I loved bonding with my sister over her music.
- “hot girl bummer” by blackbear. Yes, I clicked on this song because I was fully in on the ‘hot girl summer’ trend and all its various forms and then did not expect what I actually got – this hit. (A quick aside: the radio version is absolutely stupid). I blasted this out my car windows, finger pointed at the chorus, and felt fully satisfied.
- “BOOMBAYAH” by BLACKPINK. I’m more of a casual listener to K-pop than a rabid fan, but this song is infectious in its rhythm. In some way it reminds me of “Bad Girls” by M.I.A. and, in the same way, is incredibly fun to drive to.
- “Take Me Home, Country Roads” by Brandi Carlile & Emmylou Harris. This cover of the classic John Denver song takes what was already great about it and just builds on top with powerful vocals. This is a favorite of mine for driving and singing.
- “Mother” by Charlie Puth. I really enjoy the beat of this song, but also the way the lyrics twist and turn. In many ways it reminds me, in a good way, of past relationships and the thrill of holding hands beneath a dining table.
- “Say About Me” by Chris Janson. I saw him perform in September—when this song was relatively new—and it was powerful. He’s a natural with crowds and built people up but, aside from that, this is a fun song that captures what makes his music enjoyable from a lyrical and musical standpoint.
- “Mama” by Clean Bandit featuring Ellie Goulding. Amazing how what sounds like a song about one thing could then, through a music video, become a song about another (seriously check it out). I love Clean Bandit’s unique sound and here it really stands out.
- “Love You Too Late” by Cole Swindell. Last year this artist essentially had my trying-to-feel-good-about-the-breakup-anthem. This year he provided the song every girl imagines in her head as she’s driving away, what she’s hoping her ex regrets, what she wants them to feel whether it’s true or not. This is a great wish fulfillment song, but it’s also literally a freedom song and was great for the various road trips I took this year.
- “Con Calma” by Daddy Yankee featuring Snow. You bet your ass that when there’s a Spanish rendition of a 90’s Canadian rap song that was inexplicably reggae-inspired I’m going to listen. And this is great! I’m not as much a fan of the later addition of Katy Perry because I feel like the English slows down the original flow.
- “My Girl” by Dylan Scott. This is one of those “you’re not like other girls” country songs I can get behind because it’s listing attributes about the girl that make her unique to the singer and that he loves about her – and they’re not all physical! I like that he notices what her drink is, how she raps along to Eminem, how she dances. Ideally, a partner loves us for all of our quirks, including the weird ones.
- “Down in the Willow Garden” by The Everly Brothers. You can thank Sharp Objects for this addition because its key use of the song was my obsession for a good three weeks and then I decided it fit a chapter of my book perfectly and listened to it even more. We all love a good murder ballad here and there, especially one sung in perfect harmony.
- “Pony” by Far. This cover of Ginuwine’s R&B classic gives it a hard rock twist that takes things from slow and seductive to fast and sexy. I found this thanks to a YouTube multi-horror fanvideo, and it’s one of the better finds of the year.
- “Can’t Take My Eyes off of You” by Frankie Valli. Obviously I was super familiar with this song but lacking it in my library. It’s a great song to play loud, vaguely creepy and romantic, and has been used in recent media that I’ve liked so I’m happy to add it to my collection at long last.
- “If You’re Gonna Lie” by FLETCHER. It was hard to pick which song by this artist was my favorite so I decided to go with the first one I played on repeat. She has so many songs that speak to heartbreak and crappy relationships that she was one of my favorite ‘new’ artists of the year.
- “Get Some” by Ghosted featuring Kamille. This song has a fantastic music video that needs to be seen to be believed. But it’s also a song that’s unashamed about female desire, catchy in its beats, and easy to sing along to.
- “dead girl in the pool.” by girl in red. This popped up on Spotify and, oh jeez, I love it. It’s so mellow and dark but catchy? Some say it’s a song that accurately captures disassociation, which I can see, but I’m also in favor of a literal dead girl in the pool.
- “Graveyard” by Halsey. Continuing her trend from last year, Halsey keeps ripping my heart out with her accurate captures of my feelings in song form. Even though the song is a bit overplayed by now, I can’t not listen to it and be reminded of where I was going and what I was willing to do for a bad relationship. I’m calling it now: Manic will be one of my favorite albums of 2020.
- “Watermelon Sugar” by Harry Styles. The downside of living on separate hemispheres is that when Australians release summer jams it’s winter up here, but this is still an excellent song no matter how freezing I am. This was the year I finally understood the appeal of this former One Direction member. Other close contenders for song were “Kiwi” or “Carolina.”
- “Imported” by Jessie Reyes & 6LACK. I like how underplayed the music is in this song and how it allows the lyrics to take center stage for a bit. Their voices work well together and create a singular song that, while not unfamiliar territory as a subject matter, becomes something new as a duet.
- “Dirt on My Boots” by Jon Pardi. While Pardi may not be the strongest male vocalist, I think what makes me like him so much are his relatable lyrics and the danceable rhythms in his songs. I also love the way the beat in this song fades out and then builds back up into the chorus.
- “Medusa” by Kailee Morgue. This electro-pop jam uses the Greek gorgon as a metaphor for a crush and it just works so well. It’s incredibly catchy and also gave me a short story idea which great songs tend to do.
- “Raising Hell” by Kesha featuring Big Freedia. It was difficult to choose from the few singles released so far from High Road since they’re all my favorite, but I went for what came first because it had the most listens and lifted my spirits. I’m looking forward to this album in 2020 and, as always, continue to be inspired by and love Kesha.
- “Love Lies” by Khalid & Normani. I really like the music video for this song (probably one of my favorites of the year), but this is another one of those generally chill beats that is fun to dance to.
- “Old Town Road [Remix]” by Lil Nas X featuring Billy Ray Cyrus. As if I wasn’t going to have this song-of-the-summer, glorious country hit on my list. I love all the debates it created in our music world this year and how it stretched the limits and understanding of what country music could (and should) be according to some.
- “Truth Hurts” by Lizzo. If some of my breakup playlist was designed to make me sad then this song was intentionally put on there to hype me up about how much better off I am. Her entire album is great (and I was tempted to put “Juice” on here instead) but this song has been playing on repeat since summer.
- “Writer in the Dark” by Lorde. I was tempted to put “Sober” as my choice because it’s more upbeat, but I think this encapsulates a mood I was in for a bit of the year and, honestly, should be a warning for anyone interacting with a Creative. We do use others for inspiration and fodder for our art – in the case of a horror writer, beware.
- “Glorious” by Macklemore featuring Skylar Grey. I knew about this song when it first came out but had to distance myself from it because of the awesome and emotional music video starring Macklemore’s actual grandmother. This year I fully embraced this song, but it does still make me cry from time to time.
- “Teacher’s Pet” by Melanie Martinez. I was sliding between this song and “Nurse’s Office” up till the last minute because I love them both so much, but, ultimately, this one takes the cake. It keeps up with her unique oeuvre of generally innocent sounding beats, although this one is darker than usual, with heavy lyrics—here analyzing an illicit affair between a student and teacher. It’s deeply aesthetic and reminiscent of this endless cycle of power play that we often see in our media.
- “GIRL” by Maren Morris. It was hard to pick a single song by Maren Morris because I’ve enjoyed so much of her work this year, but this song encapsulates so much of the female experience into one song and encourages a carry-on mentality that I needed sometimes. It was also great for housework.
- “Tequila Does” by Miranda Lambert. This is a fun song! I knew from the first time I heard this it was going to be a favorite because it’s weighing the casual fling at the bar with the relief alcohol brings and the twang of the guitar is just perfect.
- “Sweet Caroline” by Neil Diamond. Ever popular at weddings but somehow lacking from my music library until this year, I adore the horns, the vocals, and the build to the chorus. Another great song to blast and sing along to.
- “July” by Noah Cyrus. Who would have thought Ponyo would have such a lovely voice? This acoustic number really gets what it’s like to stay in a relationship where you feel like you’re not good enough, and then maybe find that elusive freedom. It’s a simple but powerful song.
- “Take What You Want” by Post Malone featuring Ozzy Osbourne and Travis Scott. With as obsessed as my sister is with Post Malone, I figured I’d have at least one of his songs on the list and I’m happy it’s this song. I think the use of Ozzy is a fun touch that brings darkness to the material and heaviness to the song.
- “Death of Me” by PVRIS. This band’s unique sound (a synthetic combination of rock and pop without leaning too hard in the latter direction) is always fantastic. There’s this quiet ramp up to the chorus and then it explodes and I just love that.
- “I’m Not The Only One” by Sam Smith. Weirdly late to the game and thanks to YouTube, I finally paid full attention to Sam Smith. Their music, as a whole, is evocative and lovely and I think this song captures their voice and sound so well. Plus it’s just overall a mood.
- “Dancing with a Stranger” by Sam Smith & Normani. First off, the music video for this song is gorgeous and has lovely choreography. Secondly, this song captures that hollow loneliness where you don’t want to be alone but you’re still thinking of a particular someone.
- “Gaslight” by Snow Tha Product. If you’re confused about what “gaslighting” is then look no further than this informative, fun, and catchy song. I love the break in the middle where she straight up calls out manipulative behavior. Her song, “Butter”, was a close second for the list.
- “Lover” by Taylor Swift. My best friend and I were super hyped for the new album and it didn’t disappoint and this title track happened to be my favorite of the whole. While others may find it singularly a love song, I think the use of rhetorical questions in the chorus (similar to The Paper Kite’s “Bloom”) makes it more reflective and possibly melancholic. This is a relationship that may not work out, but we’re hoping it could. It’s ultimately optimistic, but I think it leaves room for disappointment.
- “Glad He’s Gone” by Tove Lo. In many ways, I felt like this song was sung to me or could imagine my friends saying some of these things to me. As usual, Tove Lo speaks truth.
- “bitches” by Tove Lo, Charli XCX, Icona Pop, Elliphant, & Alma. You have to admire this straight forward approach by these notable women of pop to the subject matter (and the video is even more so). Not since Khia’s “My Neck, My Back” have women had such an anthem.
- “Hurt People” by Two Feet featuring Madison Love. Two Feet is generally a vocal minimalist in his music, preferring to let the bass and his guitar do most of the work. So bringing in a female vocalist for the chorus here adds some depth to the song and also makes this a great duet.
- “Machine Gun (Fuck the NRA)” by YUNGBLUD. While there were a lot of tongue-in-cheek songs on this album I could’ve picked, this one really stands out. In a similar, yet completely different, way to Foster the People’s “Pumped Up Kicks”, YUNGBLUD discusses gun violence in an infectious way designed to stick inside people’s heads but also for critical analysis.
- “11 Minutes” by YUNGBLUD & Halsey featuring Travis Barker. They say that the most valuable thing you can give someone is your time, and this song pushes that idea toward that direction. I really enjoy the rhythm of this song and the way it builds; the music video is also worth a watch.
- “Ruin My Life” by Zara Larsson. This song has an easy, screamable chorus and continues her tradition of catchy lyrics. A great song to blast in the car.
- “Teeth” by 5 Seconds of Summer. I’ll admit that I wasn’t really into the 2010’s boyband craze. On occasion a song hits me here and there, and, holy Hannah, this is a jam. It builds and builds and then explodes and screams and bites into your neck and rips. If this is what boy bands in the 2020’s will be capable of then I’m on board.
This year is notable because I’ve also listened to an unusual number of albums, rather than just singles. So I’d like to give a few shout-outs to those albums that I played on repeat or found to be particularly outstanding.
- Ariana Grande, thank u, next
- Billie Eilish, WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP, WHERE DO WE GO?
- Brandi Carlile, By the Way, I Forgive You
- Clean Bandit, What is Love?
- Maren Morris, GIRL
- Maren Morris, HERO
- Melanie Martinez, K-12
- Miranda Lambert, Wildcard
- Lorde, Melodrama
- Sam Smith, In the Lonely Hour
- Sam Smith, The Thrill of It All
- Taylor Swift, Lover
- YUNGBLUD, 21st Century Liability
This has been a banner year for my discovery and enjoyment of music. I can’t wait to see what 2020 will bring to my speakers.
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