2018 uncovered a plethora of artists yearning to make it big and others that reached their ultimate peak. From pop machine princess Ariana Grande to country queen Kacey Musgraves, pop music had the opportunity to flourish into something bigger and better. It was tough narrowing it down to a select few tunes—there’s still so many more we could’ve mentioned but here are our top 50 songs of this unpredictable year.
50. ‘Let Me’ – ZAYN
Former boybander Zayn Malik had been M.I.A. early 2018, with occasional song releases that hinted at a sophomore album. ‘Let Me’ is his lead promotional single off his highly anticipated LP ‘Icarus Falls.’ With a uniquely different light-hearted spin than his previous tracks from ‘Mind of Mine,’ it’s a step in the right direction that coincidentally works for the singer. Crooning about wanting to be in love and better himself for his significant other, Zayn shows off a gentler side to his usual broody persona.
49. ‘Last One’ – The Aces
The Aces are a pop-rock girl group that shows off range we’re envious of. Besties Cristal, Alisa, McKenna, and Katie have perfected the fun-loving sound that reverberates on their debut album ‘When My Heart Felt Volcanic’ just released this year. ‘Last One’ is a stand-out track that’s quick-witted, catchy, and unable to get out of our heads. About to embark on a headline tour of their own in 2019, we’re excited to see what the future holds for this dynamic band full of charisma and creativity.
48. ‘Sometimes’ – Cub Sport
After YouTubers Ethan and Grayson Dolan directed and starred in Cub Sport‘s music video for ‘Hawaiian Party,’ the band shot to viral fame quickly. Their latest single ‘Sometimes’ from their upcoming third album that’s set to be released early next year, is an emotional anthem about baring the soul and becoming completely vulnerable. It’s soft at first but quickly becomes a magnetic dancefloor jam that we’re automatically drawn to.
47. ‘Girl of the Year’ – Allie X
Ecceltic and full of new-wave energy, Allie X serves an 80s nightclub vibe in ‘Girl of the Year.’ She released a plethora of edgy tracks this year that debuted on her third album ‘Super Sunset’ but this one stands out the most. ‘Girl of the Year’ is heavenly, dreamy, and coursing with synthesized mannerisms. Not only does the beat make us want to tap our feet but Allie X’s vocals shine through, showcasing a talent that she’s always been capable of.
46. ‘Laugh It Off’ – Chelsea Jade
Chelsea Jade made a powerful debut with her album ‘Personal Best’ this year. ‘Laugh It Off’ is a satisfyingly disparate song that makes light of cutting toxicity out of her life. We’re entering an alternate dimension where there’s nothing but positive energy and self-love when we put this track on the highest volume. The artist is well-versed in personifying what it means to be a true synth-pop musician.
45. ‘Groceries’ – Mallrat
Grace Shaw, aka Mallrat, is an Australian powerhouse pop machine. After the release of her addicting dance-pop EP, there’s not much that can stand in her way. ‘Groceries’ is a sweet, lovey-dovey record for the people longing after their crush but not wanting to. The nagging pull of having any romantic feelings makes us queasy and Mallrat sums it up without a hitch.
44. ‘Make Me Feel’ – Janelle Monáe
Grammy-nominated artist Janelle Monáe made us feel all types of empowered with her album ‘Dirty Computer.’ Her groovy, Prince-inspired track ‘Make Me Feel’ is truly the bisexual anthem for years to come. The lyrics are sensual and full of flirtation, inspiring us to confess our love to the most attractive person in the room. Monáe manages to make us get on our feet, dance loud and proud, even if it makes us look ridiculous.
43. ‘Peach’ – Broods
It had been two years since the sibling duo Broods released any type of new music. Disagreements with their record label caused them to put their creativity on hold and eventually, reroute themselves down a different path. Now they’re bound to take 2019 by storm but it wasn’t until we heard the first beats of ‘Peach’ did we realize how bold their next chapter would be. It’s undeniably distinctive in sound and satisfyingly distinguished when it comes to pop music excellence.
42. ‘Youngblood’ – 5 Seconds of Summer
We couldn’t get enough of 5 Seconds of Summer‘s pop-punk melodic beats especially with the debut of their third album ‘Youngblood.’ It was the ideal summer LP to blast with the windows rolled down. The title track brings a high-energy feel to the list that no one else can hang with. With a booming chorus that ignites a fire deep inside us, ‘Youngblood’ is a song to cross off our list as one of the most catchy of the year.
41. ‘Never Be the Same’ – Camila Cabello
Camila Cabello has had one hell of a start as a solo artist. Already an award-winning singer despite a rocky beginning following her controversial departure from girl group Fifth Harmony, Cabello made it evident she can hold her own. ‘Never Be the Same’ is a pop dream and a track that shows off exactly what her debut album is meant to be—the freedom to exercise her creativity.
40. ‘Sweet but Psycho’ – Ava Max
Amanda Ava Koci, aka Ava Max, is an international popstar and her single ‘Sweet but Psycho’ emanates the type of pop music we can only imagine in our wildest dreams. Max is nothing short of unforgettable, preening about the effects of becoming obsessed with love and wanting devotion in return. The comparisons to Lady Gaga are uncanny but the inventiveness of each artist is easily divided. But just like Gaga, Max can stand her ground.
39. ‘MJ’ – Now, Now
Now, Now is exclusively known for their emo-pop roots. But with the release of their new album this year, it took a sporadic turn down a path of a more mainstream electro-pop vibe. Frontwoman KC Dalager describes the song as a vent session to the late Michael Jackson, someone she’s idolized since she was young. She sings candidly about a failed relationship and all the downfalls of a painful situation.
38. ‘Heart to Break’ – Kim Petras
There’s no doubt Kim Petras is one of the new staples of all-embracing bangers. The German musician can concoct a pop-perfect dance hit without any problem and ‘Heart to Break’ only adds to that sentiment. It’s an ode to the hopeless romantics jumping headfirst into an unhealthy relationship without a care in the world. Only Petras can make us bop our heads while we’re undeniably bound to get our heart broken.
37. ‘Party For One’ – Carly Rae Jepsen
‘Party For One’ might be able to dethrone ‘Call Me Maybe’ as Carly Rae Jepsen‘s most catchy hit. An anthem about self-love and fiercely preaching independence, the song inspires us to take the reigns of our detrimental thoughts and kicking them to the curb. Upbeat, happy, and light-hearted, the track is everything we needed this year which was full of emotionally exhausting moments.
36. ‘Older’ – Sasha Sloan
Sasha Sloan can envision the most difficult predicaments with her lyrics in the simplest of styles. While her songs might be heavy, they address the concerns inside all of us. With ‘Older,’ Sloan warbles about the painful divorce of her parents—it’s dark, slightly disheartening but much needed for those feeling the same way. It’s full of raw emotion and complex moods, making it a tune that speaks so deeply to the soul, its inclusion in our list was a no-brainer.
35. ‘Lately’ – Wet
Slow jam band Wet are best known for their sultry tunes. They didn’t hold back with the release of their sophomore album ‘Still Run,’ every song catapulting us into a makeshift hazy dream. ‘Lately’ is seductive and silky—combined with frontwoman Kelly Zutrau’s elegantly quiet vocals and the band’s synth beats, the track takes on a journey through an R&B-like forest full of twists and turns we delightfully accepted from the newly established duo.
34. ‘Baby Don’t Talk’ – LÉON
Swedish songstress LÉON is a soon-to-be pop music dominator. ‘Baby Don’t Talk’ is her first single since 2017 and it’s one hell of a banger. She piles on the downfalls of a lack of communication in a relationship, relying more on the physicalities rather than the emotions. It’s a track we can undoubtedly picture taking over the charts and Top 40 radio—she has the star potential of a determined musician, ready and willing to take on the world. 2019 is sure to be her year.
33. ‘When I’m With Him’ – Empress Of
Lorely Rodriguez, aka Empress Of, allowed us to delve farther into her mind with her second LP ‘Us.’ Flooding with dancehall tracks that could move the most unlikely listener, ‘When I’m With Him’ is one that unquestionably stands out the most. Incorporating her Latin roots by gracefully singing lyrics in Spanish throughout, the song delivers a diverse spin on a traditional pop record.
32. ‘5 dollars’ – Christine and the Queens
French superstar Héloïse Letissier, aka Christina and the Queens, explored the feats and obstacles of gender identity with her summer infused album ‘Chris.’ As the third single, ‘5 dollars’ is a vulnerable viewpoint about buying any kind of love even if it’s painful. The lyrics are noticeably dark, words about grieving a love that hurt and felt a bit shameful despite giving up one’s entire self. It’s uncharacteristically different than the song’s upbeat nature.
31. ‘Crush Culture’ – Conan Gray
Conan Gray is a social media sensation; he speaks for all the Gen Z kids around the world. ‘Crush Culture’ is an ode about the sickening feeling inside all of us when experiencing our first tastes of an all-encompassing crush overtaking us. Gray somehow easily sums up how the idea of developing an infatuation for someone makes us almost feel nauseous. He’s relatable in every sense of the word.
30. ‘Lilo’ – The Japanese House
Amber Bain, aka The Japanese House, probably has one of the most anticipated debuts in 2019. So far, her latest single releases have left critics and fellow artists with their mouths agape. With help from The 1975’s George Daniels as a co-producer, Bain has shifted her momentum into an unconventional pop mega-storm. ‘Lilo’ is surprisingly touching—it’s a love letter of sorts about her ex-girlfriend Marika Hackman. Bain doesn’t shy away from the turmoil she and Hackman endured but overall, she finds peace at the end.
29. ‘Malibu Nights’ – LANY
There’s always a sigh of relief when an artist is refreshingly honest. LANY took the edge off and dove headfirst into an emotionally softer side with their second album ‘Malibu Nights.’ After lead singer Paul Klein and Grammy-nominated artist Dua Lipa ended their relationship last year, Klein clearly immersed himself in writing soul-baring lyrics. The title track is an anthem about heartbreak, loving too hard, and struggling to breathe after losing cherished memories. As the final song on the album, it speaks volumes of closure and coming full circle.
28. ‘Woman Like Me’ – Little Mix feat. Nicki Minaj
What would this list be without Little Mix? Empowering and independent, the girl group are striving for greatness with the lead single off their fifth album ‘LM5.’ ‘Woman Like Me’ is even more desirable with Nicki Minaj’s feature—not only is the beat addicting but Minaj’s appeal brings more to the table. The girls described the song as a space to accept all women in every shape and form. We’re hoping for more bountiful success for the pop supergroup—they recently left their management at Syco Music and can hopefully thrive a bit more fruitfully in the new year. There’s no doubt they deserve it.
27. ‘The Middle’ – Zedd feat. Maren Morris and Grey
Zedd demoed a handful of artists to collaborated with on the smash ‘The Middle’ but Maren Morris was a match made in heaven. With the DJ’s signature booming beats and Morris’ spectacular twang, the single is a gift from the depths of the pop music dungeon. It’s a slight step away from Zedd’s usual collabs—it’s his first time working with a country singer but we think it worked out swimmingly.
26. ‘Your Side of the Bed’ – Loote
If you desperately searched for a damning breakup banger, you probably stumbled upon Loote’s ‘Your Side of the Bed.’ The up-and-coming duo devoted themselves to conjuring up with an adamant jam that goes along well with moving on from that treacherous ex. It ignites confidence and strong willpower within us to put up our middle fingers and keep treading on, no matter how tough it might be.
25. ‘Ruin My Life’ – Zara Larsson
Zara Larsson gave us nothing but life with her new song ‘Ruin My Life.’ It’s a mystical pop haze that delivers all the elements of a hit in the making. She reminisces on a past love that left her broken but she doesn’t care—she wants them back with every fiber in her being, practically begging her ex to ruin her life once more. We all understand that wistful feeling of wanting love back from a potentially toxic person.
24. ‘I Like Me Better’ – Lauv
Lauv’s debut has been an unexpected one. ‘I Like Me Better’ is shockingly a self-released track, with no support from a record label promotion. Radiating a compelling sound that’s upbeat and full of hope, Lauv preens about the admiration he feels for himself when he’s around his significant other. If this song was dedicated to us, we would be overwhelmed with flattery.
23. ‘All The Stars’ – Kendrick Lamar feat. SZA
The Black Panther soundtrack was exploding with revolutionary tracks but it shouldn’t be a surprise—it was produced by hip-hop megastar Kendrick Lamar. The standout ‘All The Stars’ features the angelic vocals of SZA and we couldn’t get enough of it in 2018. Lamar’s innovative knack for rap excellence combined with SZA’s unbeatable talent makes for a killer radio chart-topper.
22. ‘lovely’ – Billie Eilish feat. Khalid
Sixteen-year-old Billie Eilish has been launched into mega-fame, a huge feat for a young songstress. While the pressure is most likely overbearing, Eilish doesn’t seem to let it phase her. She continued to release a handful of soft-spoken tracks that added to her dynamic discography and that includes her collab with Khalid titled ‘lovely.’ A wonderful mix of a classical piano and gentle vocals allows the song to come across as haunting but stands its ground as a transcendental success.
21. ‘1999’ – Charli XCX feat. Troye Sivan
Are you a 90s baby missing the early days when Sketchers were the latest fashion trend and the Backstreet Boys were still a thing? Charli XCX‘s ‘1999’ was able to launch us right back into those days faster than we could say “Throwback Thursday.” Alongside Troye Sivan, XCX is able to bring us the memories of a more innocent time in pop culture without actually having to travel back in time. ‘1999’ is a certified favorite in our books.
20. ‘Nothing Breaks Like a Heart’ – Mark Ronson feat. Miley Cyrus
Record producer Mark Ronson has worked with an unbelievable amount of talented musicians—Bruno Mars, Lady Gaga, Queens of the Stone Age, and Amy Winehouse, just to name a few. Now he can add Miley Cyrus to that never-ending list. In ‘Nothing Breaks Like a Heart,’ Cyrus serves her signature country-like vibe to a heart-wrenching track about the despairing response to disasters occurring in today’s society. Almost like a bandaid to the hurting communities around the world due to recent social and political climates, ‘Nothing Breaks Like a Heart’ brings comfort to those in need.
19. ‘Dance To This’ – Troye Sivan feat. Ariana Grande
Troye Sivan makes our list once again but with a track of his own off his sophomore album ‘Bloom.’ ‘Dance To This’ is a collaboration with none other than the 2018 Queen of Pop Music Ariana Grande. The real-life besties cranked out this 80s-esque high school prom dance smash and we can’t describe a better track to get up and boogie down to. The title pretty much says it all. We could ‘Dance To This’ all day—it’s what Troye and Ariana would want.
18. ‘Thingamajig’ – Miya Folick
LA-based singer-songwriter Miya Folick was nothing short of an indie-pop revelation. With her magnificent debut album ‘Premonitions,’ we heard a transcontinental shift in music and not just in the sound but in the lyrics as well. ‘Thingamajig’ is a broody, self-realizing piece of work that left us craving more. She unveils her weaknesses which isn’t the most pleasant thing an artist wants to delve into. Folick is the raw musician we need in this era of defining pop music.
17. ‘Nobody’ – Mitski
Mitski is so lonely, she just had to make a song about it. ‘Nobody’ adequately illustrates the empty atmosphere of being perpetually alone. No matter the number of people we have surrounding us, strangers or not, we’re all reminded of the only person we truly have—ourselves. Surprisingly the track takes us down a path of unexpected upbeat optimism in the vibrations while the lyrics deliver a different story. Either way, we’ve officially dubbed Mitski the voice of the loners.
16. ‘no tears left to cry’ – Ariana Grande
Billboard’s Woman of the Year Ariana Grande pulls no punches with her lead single from her iconic fourth album ‘Sweetener.’ ‘no tears left to cry’ is her comeback after the tragic bombing that took 22 victims’ lives at her Dangerous Woman tour in Manchester and it tells a tale of redemption. She’s done crying but never done trying to forget. Grande wants to uplift us despite the emotional turmoil she’s trudged through and if that’s not motivating us to do our best, then we’re just not listening.
15. ‘My My My!’ – Troye Sivan
When Troye Sivan served us the first taste of his new sound in January this year, it was entirely unexpected. ‘My My My!’ is a 90s dream-pop aesthetic we’ve been dying for. Chockfull of self-discovery, sexuality, and freedom, Sivan is revelling in the exploration of his true identity. The track sets us free emotionally with its synthesized pulses and catchy hooks. He set the tone for his second chapter as a musician and it’s bound to get even better.
14. ‘Curious’ – Hayley Kiyoko
The immersion of LGBTQ media is all around us recently but there’s always room for more. Hayley Kiyoko tries her hardest to shift that stereotype as an openly gay female artist, proudly crooning about her same-sex lovers like every other straight musician. ‘Curious’ is exactly that—she sings about dating women who pretend to be someone they aren’t because of societal norms. While it might be heartbreaking, Kiyoko depicts it as a revenge tune and doesn’t dwell on it. She knows it’s not her fault, it’s the other way around.
13. ‘In My Blood’ – Shawn Mendes
What can we say about Shawn Mendes that would adequately sum up how powerful of a musician he is? If we listen to ‘In My Blood’ on repeat we might be able to figure out an answer. Mendes was able to nitpick his sound with his third self-titled album and the lead single shows off his range, talent, and everything in between. He possesses all the qualities to become one of the most popular stars of this era and he’s already halfway there. Not to mention he can add Grammy-nominated artist to his list of achievements.
12. ‘High Horse’ – Kacey Musgraves
Everyone has their opinions on country music—love it or hate it, there’s no in between. But with Kacey Musgraves, we can safely say she made us irrevocably fall in love with it. Her album ‘Golden Hour’ is one of the most highly-acclaimed of 2018 and we’re not astonished, it’s full-on cultivation of country-pop heaven. ‘High Horse’ is a fun, disco-reminiscent track that calls out the arrogance in that smug individual we’ve all come to despise. ‘High Horse’ takes the cake as one of our all-time favorite diss records.
11. ‘breathin’ – Ariana Grande
When a famous celebrity speaks out on issues like mental health, it becomes a worldwide epidemic. The call-to-action is almost immediate and rightfully so—Ariana Grande helped spark a massive conversation about what it means to take care of ourselves. ‘breathin’ takes the reigns as Grande’s coping mechanism for her anxiety. While the song is extremely catchy, with the pop-perfect melodies and heavy beat-driven rhythms, it delves into an area people never really dare to address. Her openmindedness towards the normalization of mental health issues has sparked the concept that topics like anxiety can be put into a piece of radio-friendly pop music and be widely accepted.
10. ‘Me & My Dog’ – boygenius
Julien Baker, Phoebe Bridgers, and Lucy Dacus are known for writing sad songs so when they came together to form boygenius, it never came as a shock that the EP they recorded was overwhelmingly sad as well. ‘Me & My Dog’ speaks to the soul—we’re all crying over something even though we don’t want to be. We’re lonely, longing for some kind of connection but don’t care for the burden of losing that potential relationship. The only thread we want to remain strong is the one with our beloved animal friends—in this case, it’s a furry, four-legged dog—because we know they’ll always stay loyal, no matter what shitty situation we find ourselves entangled in. ‘Me & My Dog’ holds us tight and never lets go, making us feel like we’re flying in the air without a care and then fastly falling until we realize we’re already on the ground.
9. ‘Hunger’ – Florence + the Machine
Florence Welch experienced a cauldron of emotions before she reached her ultimate calling to peace in her album ‘High as Hope.’ ‘Hunger’ pulls back the curtain on a more vulnerable and revealing Welch—she sings about her struggles with an eating disorder and finding her place in this cruel world. The song is a typical Florence + the Machine record—it feels like traveling through the furthest mystical forest until the very end. ‘Hunger’ speaks to the desire hidden away in all of us; we all crave something a bit deeper, whether it’s for a spiritual higher power or an all-encompassing love. Welch calls upon us to reach inside ourselves and discover our purpose—who are we to deny her that?
8. ‘1950’ – King Princess
Mikaela Straus’, aka King Princess, popularity sparked when heartthrob Harry Styles tweeted the lyrics to her debut single ‘1950.’ Mark Ronson’s latest prodigy is fresh, young, and exciting–she exudes all the qualities a brand new baby popstar would need to succeed in this cold, dark society. ‘1950’ pays homage to the pressures in the past, present, and future against queer media. It wasn’t very often that we heard girls singing about loving girls as life-long partners but Strauss crosses that ever-growing boundary of being countlessly bold. She’s unequivocally herself in many ways and her advocacy as an openly gay woman brings a peace of mind to many others struggling through the same dilemma.
7. ‘Light On’ – Maggie Rogers
Maggie Rogers could be the next Joni Mitchell, a woodsy, romanticized popstar for the ages. Her songs are bursting with hope and pride even though they take on the begrudging issues of change. ‘Light On’ is a track off her soon-to-be-released debut ‘Heard It In A Past Life’ and it’s brimming with all the emotions we could only expect from the unconventional singer. It goes into detail about her terrifying feelings about her quick shot to fame after the video of Pharrell Williams listening to her track ‘Alaska’ during a masterclass at NYU. The pressures of being absolutely perfect crept up on her and the effects of viral notoriety scared her senseless. But she begs her fans to give her a chance and if they do, she’ll be by there side.
6. ‘Electricity’ – Silk City and Dua Lipa feat. Diplo and Mark Ronson
What happens when Silk City, Dua Lipa, Diplo, and Mark Ronson work together? We get the electric dance hit ‘Electricity.’ There’s so much we could say about this song that’s been said already—the beats, the urge to dance nonstop, Lipa’s raspy vocals, its nightclub rhythms—the list is still piling high and we can’t pinpoint what we like about it most. Perhaps when all these megastars come together, the product is almost a crime because nothing should ever be this fantastic.
5. ‘Delicate’ – Taylor Swift
Taylor Swift could no wrong in our eyes. Her sixth studio album ‘Reputation’ was an ode to her independence and not taking shit from anyone anymore. ‘Delicate’ was perhaps one of her best tracks—it’s soft but just hard enough to leave us wanting more. She’s practically whispering over the beat-driven track, asking her potential lover if it’s alright she says the most vulnerable things. We’re all scared of being hurt whether it’s by a friend or detrimental crush—Taylor Swift gets that and she’s capturing it with the ease of a gentle angel, soothing our lost souls in the dead of night while we lie awake waiting for that certain someone to text us “goodnight.”
4. ‘I Like It’ – Cardi B feat. Bad Bunny and J Balvin
Cardi B let us know exactly how she likes it in 2018. ‘I Like It’ is an infectious banger infused with the Latin roots the rapper flaunts without a care in the world. Alongside Bad Bunny and J Balvin, the song made for the perfect summer hit we played on repeat. Cardi B had one hell of a year with the debut of her album ‘Invasion of Privacy’ that left critics in awe of her epic rap skills especially as a woman infiltrating a mostly male-dominated genre. Cardi empowers and encourages us to keep reaching until we’re at the top.
3. ‘God is a Woman’ – Ariana Grande
With the third entry on our list, Grande has no qualms about being the most dominating female in the pop music industry. ‘God is a woman’ is a lusciously devilish track about sexual empowerment—a quality women are shamed for. The artist has been through hell and back, the unnecessary comments made by the peers surrounding her, making her feel inadequate no matter what she does. But with ‘God is a woman’ we catch a glimpse at an unexplainable pop phenom. Grande doesn’t want our pity, she wants to be worshipped like the pop music queen she is.
2. ‘Love It If We Made It’ – The 1975
Matty Healy just wants us all to make it to the end of the tunnel—he craves it and desires a sweet victory. 2018 was a year that called out the misogyny, racism, homophobia, and sexism. But it’s far from being over. The 1975 seem to know that with ‘Love It If We Made It,’ an ode about trying to survive even though the world’s social climate is one never-ending catastrophic mess. The lyrics mention political and social issues that overtook the headlines this past year; it’s eye-opening just how much we’ve endured and that we’re still alive to tell the tale. As our #2 pick, the song holds so much weight as a powerful anthem for the millennial generation and what we stand for.
1. ‘thank u, next’ – Ariana Grande
If 2018 taught us one thing, it was to keep trekking on. Ariana Grande has been through it all—loss, grief, and everything under the sun. It made us care for her like she’s the sister we wished we had. ‘thank u, next’ is a self-love anthem for the ages where Ariana proclaimed compassion for herself and all she’s endured. Whether it’s a failed relationship or a hardship we never thought we’d get over, she’s right there reminding us we’ll finish strong and with a newfound love for ourselves. In a world where powerful women taking pride in themselves can be seen as shameful, Ariana Grande has made it the norm—that’s why ‘thank u, next’ is her fourth entry in our top 50 list and our #1 track of the year.