30. Cardi B, “Get Up 10” (from Invasion of Privacy)
If there was a female version of Meek Mill’s perennial “Dreams and Nightmares,” it would be this fiery and impassioned opener to Cardi B’s debut album. The track details Bardi’s astronomical rise to fame with lines like, “Look, they gave a bitch two options: strippin’ or lose / Used to dance in a club right across from my school,” and it also functions as a motivational mantra (“Man, I said we gon’ win / Knock me down nine times but I get up ten”). Cardi dropped one of the best albums of the year so far, and this is the best track on the record.
29. Jorja Smith featuring Stormzy, “Let Me Down”
Unfortunately, this single is better than anything on Jorja’s disappointing bore of a debut album. From the melancholy piano to Stormzy’s heartbreaking verse, this track is definition “tragically beautiful.” The section of the track where Stormzy lightly raps in a sing-song matter over Jorja’s hook is one of the most beautiful musical moments of the year. There’s an understated harshness to the piano chords that perfectly clashes against the soft soul of Jorja’s voice. Gorgeous.
28. Anne-Marie, “2002” (from Speak Your Mind)
Talk about a perfect pop song! With everything from Britney Spears and Jay-Z references to a ridiculously catchy hook and sugary sweet production, Anne-Mare nailed it with this one.
27. Khalid & Normani, “Love Lies” (from Love, Simon)
You can read my extended review here, but please check out this song. It’s the perfect r&b/pop song to vibe to while you’re boo’d up for the summer.
26. James Bay, “Wild Love” (from Electric Light)
A lot of people who were fans of James’ first album were not happy with the stark sonic change that led to this James Blake-inflected lead single. I, for one, loved this song instantly. James delivers this song with so much passion and grit and the instrumentation is as close to perfect as one can get. This deserved to be a bigger hit all around the world.
25. Shawn Mendes, “In My Blood” (from Shawn Mendes)
I reviewed this track earlier, but the Kings of Leon-lite sound works well on Shawn.
24. Kendrick Lamar & SZA, “All the Stars” (from Black Panther: The Album)
Also reviewed this one here, but my thoughts have changed a bit. The song is truly a gem, whether or not the film helped me reach that conclusion is debatable, but there’s one thing for sure: SZA’s hook is nothing short of anthemic. I’m honestly baffled as to why this song wasn’t a bigger hit in the states, it’s great!
23. Childish Gambino, “This is America”
Regardless of the video, which I had a few gripes with, the song is admittedly, great. “This Is America,” is a bombastic and aggressive record on being black in America, gun violence, and police brutality. The record is a complete departure from the Funkadelic-inspired sound of the 5x Grammy-nominated and Gold certified “Awaken, My Love!” Melodically, the song encapsulates being black in today’s America in less than four minutes. The song shifts between two chaoses, a “good” one symbolized by the choir and soft acoustic guitar, and a “bad” one symbolized by the menacing trap production and aggressive vocal inflection.
22. A$AP Rocky featuring Skepta, “Praise the Lord (Da Shine)” (from TESTING)
TESTING is easily a Top 3 rap album this year, and “Praise the Lord” is not only the best song, it is also the most fun song. Skepta completely stole the show here and the hook and production are sublime. “Praise the Lord” takes the best parts of East Coast rap, grime, and mumble rap to create a track that should definitely be on every party playlist this summer.
21. Billie Eilish & Khalid, “Lovely”
Most will recognize this from a pivotal scene in 13 Reasons Why (Season 2), but even outside of the show, this haunting ballad is absolutely gorgeous. The twinkling piano riffs and expert harmonization make this track great. Khalid and Billie don’t have the most expansive vocal ranges, but they know how to put on a vocal performance. They sound broken and in and out of love all at the same time, it’s great.
20. ZAYN, “Let Me”
ZAYN has been consistently churning out great music ever since he left One Direction and debuted with the smash single, “PILLOWTALK.” “Let Me” is soaked in ZAYN’s falsetto and a more mellow vibe than his previous offerings. “Let Me” is a sweet song, which is jarring after the decidedly raunchy Mind of Mine, it doesn’t quite reach the highs of “Dusk Till Dawn,” but it sure is great. It’s a shame ZAYN doesn’t promote his music, this deserves to be so much bigger.
19. Christina Aguilera featuring Demi Lovato, “Fall in Line” (from Liberation)
These two vocal powerhouses nailed it at the Billboard Music Awards; this dramatic and inspiring feminist anthem is a masterclass in beltings and proving that these two do, in fact, have the range. Whether it’s the belting battle during the bridge or that immaculate key change, Xtina and Demi don’t let the pertinence and message of the lyrics. They definitely were not made to “Fall in Line.”
18. Migos, “Stir Fry” (from Culture II)
Easily the best single from a lackluster and seemingly never-ending Culture II, “Stir Fry” was a musical match made in heaven. Pharrell and Migos created a track that’s both funky and grimy. The Migos’ energy on this track is reminiscent of their legendary “Fight Night” and the production feels distant enough to be a throwback but current enough for a lengthy stay near the top of the Hot 100. Also, “Stir Fry” has hooks for days.
17. Troye Sivan, “My My My!” (from Bloom)
Yet another track that soundtracked a scene of the latest season of 13 Reasons Why, Troye’s lead single from his sophomore album is pop perfection. The bass is slick and his voice is emotive; it’s a euphoric love song, what’s not to love?
16. YG, “Suu Whoop”
Is this still the best solo rap track of the year? Quite possibly. YG always drops heat (despite the disastrous “Big Bank”) and “Suu Whoop” is nothing less than that. Yes, the song is essentially an anthem for his gang and it glorifies gang violence, but hey! It bops!
15. Janelle Monáe, “Take A Byte” from (Dirty Computer)
It’s like “Make Me Feel” but a billion times better. “Take A Byte” is layered with sensuous vocals, a thumping bassline, and clever lyrics that connects the theme of black female sexuality with the post-apocalyptic ArchAndroid concept. Janelle absolutely nailed it with her spectacular album, and “Take A Byte” is one of many peaks.
14. Nicki Minaj, “Chun-Li” (from Queen)
I reviewed this joint here too, but simply put, Nicki is back to full force and proper form with “Chun-Li.” Yes, it’s King Kong!
13. Justin Timberlake, “Montana” (from Man of the Woods)
I reviewed this album of here, but this song is the true gem of the album. “Filthy” and “Say Something” are jams but “Montana” is a slick R&B tune that is some of Timberlake’s best work. It’s a shame the album imagery and promotion projected a country version of JT, the album is full of killer tracks like “Montana.” “Montana” is jazzy, funky, and pulsating with love.
12. The Weeknd, “Call Out My Name” (from My Dear Melancholy,)
This was the first taste of The Weeknd’s latest album, which I reviewed here. “Call Out My Name” is a decadent slice of the Weeknd getting to his his moodiest, most sunken, and most apathetic state. This is one of Abel’s best tracks since the mixtape days, he sounds broken and at odds with the world and himself. The way the production climaxes in time with his vocal performance is nothing short of great.
11. Chloe x Halle, “The Kids Are Alright” (from The Kids Are Alright)
Admittedly, this isn’t the best track on Chloe x Halle’s album, which I reviewed here, nevertheless, the track is stunning. It’s a perfect encapsulation of the ease and determination of Gen Z wrapped up in a pretty alternative R&B bow with mainstream pop melodic flourishes. Just listen, it’s a vibe.
10. Post Malone, “Better Now” (from beerbongs & bentleys)
Taylor Swit said it, and shockingly, I agree: I wish I wrote that hook. Post Malone is a just mustier Justin Bieber disguised in trap beats, but this song bangs. It’s the perfect song to sing along to somewhere between a chant and a belt. The production is pretty understated in comparison to the rest of the album, but it works especially well here. Post’s voice sounds incredibly raw and even breaks a bit at a certain point, it’s truly great.
9. Arctic Monkeys, “Four Out of Five” (from Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino)
Yes, Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino is incredibly hard to understand and get into, but the most accessible and best track in “Four Out of Five.” “Four Out of Five” is a study in dissonance. Organs against electric guitars and drums against slightly distorted vocals. The track is decidedly Bowie-esque and glam rock, and it’s magnificent.
8. Anderson .Paak, “Bubblin'”
If you’re looking for a jazzy and funky track with a slick bass and barrelling drums that you can get in your bag to, this is it. It’s a weird organic type of trap music, that only .Paak could pull off; it’s equal parts Tupac and Prince with a bit of Marvin Gaye thrown in. Get into it!
7. J. Cole, “Kevin’s Heart” (from KOD)
Honestly, on anyone else, the repetition in this song would’ve been corny and annoying, but Cole killed it with this. Using Kevin Hart’s infamous cheating scandal to create a broader narrative about love and betrayal was nothing short of genius. The hook has your typical trap era adlibs that backup Cole’s laser-sharp verses. The production, like most of KOD, is not the star of the show, it’s Cole’s delivery that really makes this song so good.
6. LSD, “Genius”
The latest supergroup, LSD, composed of Labrinth, Sia, and Diplo, has been making incredibly underrated music. Loose traces of dancehall and modern alternative pop pepper the track and Sia and Labrinth’s voices work beautifully together. The song mentions real-life geniuses over Diplo’s crisp beats and although teamwork seems odd, it works so well.
5. KIDS SEE GHOSTS, “Reborn” (from KIDS SEE GHOSTS)
I gave a bright spotlight to this track in my review of the album, but please listen to it. You won’t regret it.
4. Gallant, “Gentleman”
What a gem. This track is one of the most beautiful R&B tracks I’ve ever heard. Gallant’s falsetto is otherworldly and the production just drapes itself around his vocals, it’s heavenly.
3. Kacey Musgraves, “Space Cowboy” (from Golden Hour)
Kacey arguably dropped the best album of the year so far. “Space Cowboy” is one of the most beautiful ballads ever. Kacey’s gentle voice cradles every guitar strum and her incredibly intelligent lyricism sets the bar ever higher.
2. Ariana Grande, “No Tears Left to Cry” (from Sweetener)
I reviewed this one here as well. The best pop song of the year so far.
1. King Princess, “1950”
And here we have it, the single best song of 2018 so far. What makes it so great? Simplicity. A simple electric guitar, a delightful hook, a captivating vocal performance, and clean production make this track so incredible. It’s what I imagine beauty is in audio form.