2018 is coming to a close, and that means it is about time to look back on the year as a whole. With this list, I am going through the best songs that the year had to offer, and boy, where there a lot to choose from.
This year was full of tons of new voices, as well as some veteran musicians bringing some entirely new sounds to the table, and even getting this list down to 50 was difficult.
As was the rule last year, I am going with no more than two songs per artist to leave room for some variety. Without any further introduction, here we go, the 50 best songs of 2018.
50.) High (ft. Elton John) – Young Thug
Any song that samples “Rocket Man” at least deserves a mention, and the fact that it is from Young Thug, and that he makes it work so well? It absolutely needed to be on this list.
49.) Look Alive (ft. Drake) – BlocBoy JB
48.) City Song – Daughters
47.) Recovery – Kimbra
46.) Mo Bamba – Sheck Wes
One of the party songs of the year, “Mo Bamba” is the definition of simple, yet effective. But who am I to judge? The simplicity is what works here, as does Sheck Wes’ weird flow and banger beat behind it.
45.) New Light – John Mayer
44.) A$AP Forever (ft. Moby) – A$AP Rocky
43.) STARGAZING – Travis Scott
42.) Never Be the Same – Camila Cabello
41.) WHO R U? – Anderson .Paak
40.) Only Acting – Kero Kero Bonito
Arguably the weirdest song I heard in 2018, but also one of my favorites, Kero Kero Bonito takes a page out of some horror films with this track. At first, it is another simple pop song from the group known for that genre, but as the song continues to travel more and more down the rabbit hole, it turns into something more dark and twisted. The distortion and stuttered production is superb in the final moments, and I can truly say there was no song I hear like this one all year long.
39.) The Mint (ft. Navy Blue) – Earl Sweatshirt
38.) Make Me Feel – Janelle Monae
37.) Lucid Dreams – Juice WRLD
36.) 44 More – Logic
Logic had a pretty busy 2018, and I found his second project, “YSIV,” to be the much better one of the two from this year. But, of all the individual songs from either project, “44 More” from “Bobby Tarantino II” is the one that shows the heights that Logic can reach as an artist. The beat is strong, but nothing all that special, but it is the flow and the lyricism that Logic shows in this hype-up track that I believe highlights the artist’s fundamental strengths. The second half of the song specifically stands out, and whether or not you like the “Ring x 12” verse or not, I do, and this is my list, so the song deserves it’s spot in the top of the year.
35.) Summer Days – A R I Z O N A
34.) I Might Need Security – Chance the Rapper
33.) OKRA – Tyler, the Creator
32.) In My Blood – Shawn Mendes
31.) Stay Safe – Tiny Meat Gang
Cody Ko and Noel Miller may be Youtubers turned joke rappers, but this song is unironically terrific. Excellently produced by Spock and running just under 100 seconds long, Noel and Cody exchange equally quick hysterical verses about safety precautions that need to be taken at all times. Both have great delivery and bring loads of charm, especially Cody, who has one of the best lines of the year with “This verse whack cause I don’t play with fire.”
30.) LIFE – Saba
29.) SWITCH IT UP – Denzel Curry
28.) Colossus – IDLES
27.) Duck Duck Goose – CupcakKe
Another song that made me laugh for all the right ways finds itself on this list, but CupcakKe’s “Duck Duck Goose” really holds a special place in my heart. These outrageously vulgar lyrics are the true selling point of the track as CupcakKe makes sure to hold back no details about what she is able to do sexually to whoever she is with. Her lyrics are equal parts disgusting and amazing, but it is her flow that makes it work so well, leaving the song as one of the most memorable of the year.
26.) I Like That – Janelle Monae
25.) thank u, next – Ariana Grande
Ariana Grande had a massive 2018, and there was no bigger song for her than “thank u, next,” a track showing her growth and her movement forward after a handful of ex-boyfriends. Grande’s year had serious highs and major lows, and this song encapsulates all of them, all while being incredibly catchy and worthy of all the hype.
24.) Uproar (ft. Swizz Beatz) – Lil Wayne
Lil Wayne and Swizz Beatz is often a deadly combo, and the duo may have found a new high with this song. This beat is one of the best of the year, and Wayne kills it on the verses and chorus. Simply put, this is a banger, and one stronger than anything I’ve heard from the veteran rapper in quite a long time.
23.) TONYA – BROCKHAMPTON
After losing a core member in Ameer Vann, America’s best boy band seemed to have an uncertain road ahead. BROCKHAMPTON’s return to the light came with a live performance of this song on Jimmy Fallon, which showed a emotional, somber side to the group that had not been fully seen yet. The studio version that arrived on their album improved on all of that and more, and became one of the most deeply moving tracks the group has ever made.
22.) Butterflies – Kacey Musgraves
Quite honestly one of the cutest songs that you will ever hear, “Butterflies” never fails to put a smile on my face. Kacey Musgraves’ voice is soothing and stunning, and the plucky instrumental does everything it can to keep up with her charisma. The entire track has such an innocence to it that it will truly make you fall in love from start to finish.
21.) Quorum – Low
There are barely words to describe what Low pulls off with this song, which opens their album. “Quorum” uses insanely impressive production to create a sound unlike any other, and the visceral, atmospheric experience it creates is one that easily stands out against any song in 2018.
20.) Don’t Come Out the House (ft. 21 Savage) – Metro Boomin
Have you ever heard a whisper verse? Better yet, have you ever heard a whisper verse this amazing? 21 Savage killed it on pretty much every feature he was on in 2018, but none more than his work with Metro Boomin on “Don’t Come Out the House.” 21 is funny, clever and seemingly more self aware than ever, and I don’t think any other artist could have pulled off the whisper rap he accomplished here.
19.) King’s Dead – Jay Rock, Kendrick Lamar, Future and James Blake
The “Black Panther” soundtrack was great for many reasons, this song being a large amount of them. I’d give credit to all the verses, because each of them are great for different reasons, but Future truly changed my life with one comment about slobbing on ones knob. The production? Great. Kendrick on the back end? Fantastic. But Future, and his way with words, is what I listen to this song for time and time again.
18.) Levitate – twenty one pilots
After coming off of their most mediocre release yet in “Blurryface,” Josh Dun and Tyler Joseph came back, and in a huge way, with their new album this year. No song showed that more, to me, than “Levitate.” This album had many songs that could be in this spot, but this track, that spans no more than two and a half minutes, shows the duo at its most improved. Joseph’s flow has never been better, and the production surrounding it is absolutely astounding, creating a sound truly original to twenty one pilots.
17.) Off Deez (ft. J. Cole) – JID
JID is one of the biggest up-and-comers in the rap game, J. Cole is one of the most established names, and the two both find themselves at their best on this track. JID brings an energy that he’s becoming known for, as well as his high-pitched voice, through a fiery verse, topped off b a lengthy Cole feature that is his best work of the year. Yes, better than his slightly above average album.
16.) It’s Not Living (If It’s Not With You) – The 1975
A fun, electrifying pop song on the surface with incredibly brutal undertones, The 1975 made huge waves with their most recent album, and “It’s Not Living” is one of its many highlights. Matt Healy has never been as vocal about his previous addiction to heroin as he is on this song, and combining that with a slick instrumental and a undeniably catchy hook, and this quickly became one of my favorites the group has ever made.
15.) Shallow – Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper
Songs from movies rarely would find their way onto my list, let along at No. 15, but this song is just that good. From the pivotal moment in “A Star is Born,” Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper both shine in this powerful folk song that perfectly wraps up the themes of the movie. Film aside, which is phenomenal, this song has Cooper showing off a terrific voice, but this is a Gaga song, and she erupts on one of the best choruses in recent memory. Her booming vocals are why this song lands here, and they never fail to disappoint.
14.) I Thought About Killing You – Kanye West
Kanye had a controversial year to say the least, and his solo album is widely considered to be his worst project yet. I agree, but it is still pretty great, and the opener had me thinking it was going to be his next masterpiece. “I Thought About Killing You” is half spoken word, half incredible rap verse, and this is the style I which Kanye went through with for the entirety of the record. This track is twisted, it’s depressive and it’s real, showing a self-destructive side to Ye that has not been shown on an album yet. It was a truly haunting start to his album, and showed the potential Kanye still has to surprise me, even after such an expansive career.
13.) Midsummer Madness – 88rising
A surprise hit, 88rising really came together with a gorgeous summer hit with “Midsummer Madness.” The Joji chorus is the clear highlight, as is the pretty instrumental, but the verses do a great job to go along with all of it. Rich Brian comes through with one of his best, and AUGUST 08’s opening lines brings a terrific energy to start it off. The chemistry and potential this group holds all comes together here for one of the most enjoyable sounding tracks of the year.
12.) Nice For What – Drake
Drake’s album sucked this year, no doubt about it, but that does not take away from the brilliance that is “Nice For What.” Everything that can make Drake a great artist is shown on this song, with the slick flows, catchy R&B chorus and amazing Lauryn Hill sample all infusing to one of the Toronto rapper’s best. I can’t understate how bad his album was in 2018, but “Nice For What” remains one of Drake’s most exciting and unique tracks.
11.) This Is America – Childish Gambino
Childish Gambino can do it all, but “This Is America” is up there for one of his most impressive feats as a musician. Yes, the music video is amazing, one of the best I’ve ever seen, but no, that is not the only reason this song is good. The production, the guest ad libs, the Young Thug feature at the back end and Gambino’s simplistic lyrics all build to the bigger picture of exactly what the title says: America. There is so much going on sonically that it would be a terrific song with or without the video, and if this is the path Gambino travels down with his next album, it’s about to be a classic.
10.) CLOUT COBAIN – Denzel Curry
Picking one or two songs from Denzel Curry’s insanely consistent album is difficult, but there is simply no topping the incredible “CLOUT COBAIN.” Curry is more subdued on this song than most of the album, but that doesn’t take anything away from his impressive lyricism and knack to make a catchy hook. The glitchy beat behind it all is simple but effective, all adding up to a highlight among a record of highlights.
9.) In My View – Young Fathers
I had never even heard of Young Fathers before 2018. I’m so glad I have now. The pivotal moment on a tremendous project, “In My View” is a terrific R&B/pop track from the Scottish trio, bringing together a terrific drum in the backdrop with smooth vocals that gets me singing along with it every single time. The group shows its range and diversity for genres all over this album, but as far as their ear for catchy songs, this is the best of the best.
8.) Bubblin – Anderson .Paak
Anderson .Paak released a pretty great album this year, but his best song of 2018 came from a single that missed the record all together. “Bubblin” is .Paak bringing a heightened energy to an absolutely fantastic beat, and this added excitement is all the track needed to be one of the year’s best. The peak of the song comes with a little more than a minute left on .Paak’s final verse, which arguably is my favorite moment of any song from this year.
7.) High Horse – Kacey Musgraves
Bop of the year everyone, bop of the year. Musgraves goes almost completely pop here, and with outstanding results, as this is truly the catchiest song of 2018. The lyrics and message are simple, but that just adds to the appeal of the track, with Musgraves’ voice being as truly irresistible as ever. I will never not sing this chorus when I hear it, and Musgraves’ move to a more pop sound has proven to be the right move, highlighted by this track, her best song to date.
6.) 4th Dimension (ft. Louis Prima) – KIDS SEE GHOSTS
Kanye was full of surprises this year it seems, and not all of them were good ones, queue his comments on slavery. But the KIDS SEE GHOSTS collab with Kid Cudi was a great one, and 4th Dimension proved that the classic Ye still exists. I mean, this song samples a freaking Christmas Song from 1936, who else would do that and pull it off? Kanye is it, and man does he pull it off, bringing together one of his best verses in years. I mean, “If I get locked up, I won’t finish the sent—” COME ON. But seriously, Kanye and Cudi both bring tremendous verses over one of the coolest beats of the year. KSG was a highlight of the year for both artists, and while all seven songs were pretty great, this was their masterpiece.
5.) The Story of Adidon – Pusha T
The “Back to Back” of 2018 ironically enough went against the artist who made that very song. Drake was sent to a temporary graveyard thanks to this perfectly executed diss track by Pusha T. Drake’s freestyle from a few days prior was a pretty good punch, but Pusha’s was a gunshot to his sternum by comparison. Going after Drake’s father for lack of commitment, not being black enough, having a child who he resents and, oh yeah, saying his producer is going to die soon from MS are the topics that Pusha decides to go after, nothing too scathing right? Pusha T made his mark with this track, bringing a tremendous flow and clearly impressive lyricism to the most “oh shit” moment of the year.
The line of the song for me comes when Push says, “If we all go to hell it will be worth it.” Pusha T was going to ruin his entire career to bring down Drake, and if that is not dedication to the craft of the diss track, I don’t know what is. It is that commitment to destroy his reputation that, for me, makes “The Story of Adidon” a top five song this year.
4.) J’OUVERT – BROCKHAMPTON
Oh yeah, BROCKHAMPTON is going to be fine without Ameer Vann, and songs like “J’OUVERT” show exactly why. This is a song unlike any I’ve ever heard, with Matt Champion, Bearface and Merlyn Wood all killing it on their respective verses in front of a demented beat that truly makes me uneasy. Who did I forget? That’s right, JOBA, who has the verse of the year here, showing a level of energy and anger that makes this track so truly exceptional. “J’OUVERT” is a wild downward spiral sort of song that is hard to pin down as anything other than exceptional.
3.) Baby I’m Bleeding – JPEGMAFIA
There are no 152 seconds more exciting or more intense than the 152 seconds of “Baby I’m Bleeding” by JPEGMAFIA. The flow Peggy brings is one thing, which is amazingly visceral and lyrically impressive, but it’s a whole other thing when you combine it with the beat that makes this song so amazing. The glitchiness and the in-your-face attitude of both the production and the performance work so beautifully as one that they mine as well be married. Peggy has a full album of anger and insane production, but “Baby I’m Bleeding” is his clear magnum opus, the clear song that makes me want to be in a mosh pit immediately.
2.) Love It If We Made It – The 1975
Coming in one spot away from the top is The 1975’s emphatic statement on today’s society. This song, brought together by a terrific drum line and Healy’s impressive vocals, this song brings together everything that is wrong in the world and everything that is right about the group. The 1975 infuse alternative rock and pop all the time, but never as successfully as they do here, all while touching on subjects from Donald Trump to Lil Peep to protests and everything in between. This song has the energy and the clear passion from the group to make the grand statement it is looking for, and the sound of it all is absolutely jaw dropping.
The 1975 had a huge year, and this huge-in-scope ballad is the perfect encapsulation of it all, and shows again that they sky is truly the limit for this band.
1.) SICKO MODE (ft. Swae Lee, Drake and Big Hawk) – Travis Scott
When looking at every song that I loved in 2018, there was none that made a bigger impact, and none that dropped my jaw to the floor more than “SICKO MODE.” This track was made by some of the biggest names in the business in Travis Scott and Drake, sure, but there is nothing conventional about this song in the slightest. From the weird Drake intro that doesn’t even lead into his verse to the multiple beat switches along the way, the bizarre samplings and the Swae Lee feature that is pretty much three words, all of it is just so strange.
And yet, it all works in a symphony of insanity, in a way that perfectly lives up to a title that is simply about going insane. This is the peak of trap music, this is what can be done when risks are taken, and for Travis Scott and the many producers that worked on this song to go this route on “ASTROWORLD”’s biggest moment is exceptional.
This is arguably the biggest song of 2018, and this time, the biggest means the best. This is a groundbreaking moment for trap music, and a song that has yet to get old for me even after hearing it pretty much every single day. Travis’ verses are terrific, Drake’s verse is one of his best features of the year, Swae Lee’s vocals are gorgeous, the sampling is top notch and the beat switches are, as I said before, jaw dropping. It might feel like the easy pick, but that’s because it’s the right one, as “SICKO MODE” made waves for all the right reasons, and is the best song of 2018.