The 10 Finest Songs of 2019

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2019 was a year of upheaval in the pop music world, with new voices rising to the fore by surprising pathways. Lizzo’s profession was jolted ahead by a Netflix trailer; Lil Nas X rode TikTok and Twitter to the highest of the charts. Stars emerged out of Brooklyn (Pop Smoke), Spain (Rosalía) and Nigeria (Burna Boy), expertly wielding social media and large streaming numbers to captivate audiences the world over.

And as new voices claimed the highlight, a few of pop’s largest names, from Charli XCX to Dua Lipa, continued to place out irresistible, important earworms, as nicely. Listed below are TIME’s greatest songs of 2019.

10. “Crowded Table,” The Highwomen

The truth that The Highwomen even exists is spectacular. The brand new supergroup brings collectively 4 of nation music’s most prolific ladies: Maren Morris, a country-pop star with highly effective vocals and mainstream hits like “The Middle”; Brandi Carlile, the Grammy-recognized folks artist whose work is marked by wry brilliance; Amanda Shires, a notable fiddler and nation mainstay; and Natalie Hemby, the heavy-hitting songwriter who’s been the key weapon for artists like Kacey Musgraves, Miranda Lambert and Girl Gaga on A Star Is Born. That every one 4 discovered the time to make an album collectively speaks to their dedication to claiming area for girls’s voices in a traditionally patriarchal trade. And that their music—as exemplified by the attractive ballad “Crowded Table”—weaves in political statements solely provides a layer of richness. “I want a house with a crowded table,” they insist, “and a place by the fire for everyone / Let us take on the world while we’re young and able, and bring us back together when the day is done.” The road works as a mission assertion for these 4 distinct artists: make nice music and complicate our definitions of womanhood, motherhood and femininity within the course of. They make that assertion over an unabashedly fairly melody, going out and in of duets and harmonies with seamless, beneficiant sweetness. (Bruner)

9. “Simmer,” Mahalia ft. Burna Boy

Ever since going viral for a Colors Studios performance in 2017, the British singer Mahalia has loved a gentle rise, scoring hits together with “I Wish I Missed My Ex” and the Ella Mai-assisted “What You Did.” On “Simmer,” she repurposes the burbling bassline of the 1997 dancehall traditional “Who Am I” by Beenie Man, utilizing it to anchor a love story through which a relationship verges on boiling over. A sultry and irrepressible look from the Nigerian singer Burna Boy, one of many yr’s breakout stars, turns the music from a B-side into a worldwide summer season anthem. (Chow)

8. “So Hot You’re Hurting My Feelings,” Caroline Polachek

Caroline Polachek has lengthy labored on the fringes of the mainstream pop world: she fronted the indie pop band Chairlift for a decade and racked up songwriting credit for Beyoncé, Solange, Charli XCX and Travis Scott. However she takes middle stage on this yr’s Pang, her main label debut album with Sony. The perfect of the bunch is “So Hot You’re Hurting My Feelings,” a cheekily named music propelled by handclaps and strutting muted guitars. However whereas the music sounds readymade for an evening out, it drips with lovesick anxiousness: “I cry on the dancefloor, it’s so embarrassing,” Polachek confesses. The music video—through which she skips and spins in cowboy boots throughout a barren, hellish panorama—completely displays the music’s paradoxically carefree efficiency. (Chow)

7. “Too Much,” Carly Rae Jepsen

Carly Rae Jepsen has constructed a cult following on the ability of her model of pure, heart-on-your-sleeve pop. (Her widely-praised third album was even nakedly referred to as Emotion.) “Too Much” synthesizes every little thing that makes the Canadian artist, greatest identified for her 2012 earworm “Call Me Maybe,” beloved. It’s bought relatable, on-the-nose lyrics; a dedication to catchy, candy melodies; all sung with Jepsen’s intimately breathy vocals. Most of all, “Too Much” feels intensely trustworthy. “When I feel it, then I feel it too much / I’ll do anything to get the rush,” she sings, then turns it round: “Is this too much?” Her means to swing from wild pleasure to insecurity—throughout a shimmering dance tune that’s as infectious as something she’s produced—is a triumph. (Bruner)

6. “Crime Pays,” Freddie Gibbs & Madlib

Bandana, the extensively acclaimed album from rapper Freddie Gibbs and producer Madlib, was cast in attempting circumstances: Gibbs says he wrote a lot of the document in an Austrian jail whereas awaiting his eventual acquittal from sexual assault prices. Given this preliminary disconnect between the pair, it’s astonishing how completely Gibbs’ gravelly rhymes coalesce with Madlib’s sun-bleached soul manufacturing. “Crime Pays,” particularly, completely toes the road between their aesthetic sensibilities: Madlib reveals a pristine pattern from jazz fusion artist Walt Barr that conjures each nostalgia and limitless chance, whereas Gibbs confronts the darker realities of chasing the American dream: “Diamonds in my chain, yeah, I slang but I’m still a slave / Twisted in the system, just a number listed on the page.” (Chow)

5. “Don’t Start Now,” Dua Lipa

On her 2017 debut album, Britain’s Dua Lipa established herself as a honey-voiced rising star of mainstream pop. On “Don’t Start Now,” the debut single off her sophomore mission, she proves she has one thing so as to add to the dialog. And that one thing is a propulsive, infectious disco sensibility. Made with juicy synths, bubbly percussion and bouncy vocal twists, it’s a tune that celebrates independence and guarantees pleasure within the course of. Lipa made her identify on the cheeky breakup empowerment hit “New Rules”; “Don’t Start Now” follows in that breezy, forward-thinking custom. “Though it took some time to survive you,” she sings, “I’m better on the other side.” It’s the sound of a brand new pop period. (Bruner)

4. “Juice,” Lizzo

Lizzo’s “Juice” is a funk-soul self-love dance anthem constructed to encourage confidence. That’s no fluke; her long-gestating profession as a singer, songwriter and flutist has taken off this yr because of her dedication to the purpose of constructing listeners discover assurance in her feel-good, fun-loving lyrics and danceable beats. She kicks issues off by turning a fairy story trope into an affirmation: “Mirror, mirror on the wall, don’t say it, ’cause I know I’m cute,” and ends the music with a daring giggle. With a retro-sounding melody that resonates throughout generational tastes, the music has already change into a dancefloor mainstay. “Juice” sounds prefer it was perfected in a take a look at kitchen, equal elements pleasure, cheeky lyricism and timeless attraction. (Bruner)

3. “Welcome to the Party,” Pop Smoke

Whereas mainstream rap remains to be dominated by entice—the crawling subgenre from Atlanta—artists have additionally been wanting north and taking parts from drill, Chicago’s a lot sooner and frenetic type. “Welcome to the Party,” which was inescapable in Brooklyn this summer season and fall, manically races ahead, with the 20-year-old rapper’s syllables spilling out in terrifying, clipped bursts. Pop Smoke growls each his threats and boasts in unruly, unpredictable clusters—however much more jarring is producer 808Melo’s bassline, which appears to bubble out of the deepest recesses of the American psyche. (Chow)

2. “Con Altura,” Rosalía x J Balvin

“Con Altura” is a record-breaking collaboration between two Spanish-speaking artists with distinct backgrounds however highly effective influences: Spain��s Rosalía is making a reputation for herself with flamenco-inflected alt-pop on works like her Grammy-nominated, poetically impressed second album El Mal Querer, whereas J Balvin reigns as one in every of Latin America’s reggaeton kings and one of the vital common artists on the planet, because of his worldwide chart-toppers like “Mi Gente” and “I Like It.” Collectively on “Con Altura,” they discovered a candy spot that mixes numerous musical traditions, from dembow to hip-hop to reggaeton, whereas nonetheless flexing their particular person powers. Over spare, particular percussion, Rosalía’s voice rings out with lilting, sing-song precision; Balvin gives a balancing, secure counterpoint. The mix is potent and haunting, hinting on the variety of Latin music and the inventive future it’s inevitably heading towards. (Bruner)

1. “Old Town Road,” Lil Nas X

“Old Town Road” comprises many opposing truths. It’s each underdog and behemoth; eye-rollingly trivial and slyly progressive; radio-ready hit and oddball meme. This summer season, it was each a distraction and the factor you couldn’t escape.

And it was this shapeshifting means that made “Old Town Road” the ideal cultural artifact for 2019, in its endlessly iterative and argumentative nature. Whether or not individuals went on-line to criticize it, dance to it or remix it, everybody interacted with it a way, constantly pouring gasoline because it set document after document.

And as Lil Nas X added to the fireplace by releasing a stream of remixes, the music grew to become much less a single document and extra a fluid canvas for transgression. Every new model ruptured a brand new boundary or norm—whether or not it was Billy Ray Cyrus singing about his Maserati or BTS member RM delivering bilingual wordplay. As soon as scorned as outsider—each to Nashville and the music trade at giant—Lil Nas himself grew to become the gatekeeper, after which opened the door as huge as potential for everybody else. (Chow)

Write to Raisa Bruner at raisa.bruner@time.com.



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