Making a “Songs of the Summer” list is always tricky. Do you go with the big chart hits, the underrated hidden gems, try to cover every genre, or have a balance of major and indie artists? For this year’s list, I tried to include songs that captured every shade and feeling of the summertime. The quiet moments, the sad moments, the party moments, and the angry moments. Here are the top 20 songs of summer 2018:
#20. Sheck Wes, “Mo Bamba”
Sheck Wes had a massive summer. Wes provided ad-libs on numerous tracks on Travis Scott’s blockbuster ASTROWORLD and Drake brought him out one of his Aubrey and the Three Migos tour dates. His sleeper hit, “Mo Bamba” was the perfect soundtrack to this slow burn of a summer. His legato flow above the menacing trap production coupled with his emphatic ad-libs make for a killer summer song.
#19. Florence + The Machine, “Big God”
Florence + the Machine’s fourth album, High As Hope, was inexplicably overlooked, but the second single from the album, “Big God” was classic Florence: haunting and vocally impressive. This song was perfect for the moodier and rainier days of the summer.
#18. 5 Seconds of Summer, “Youngblood”
This is exactly what pop-rock song should sound like in 2018. Chanting, finger snaps, hand claps, angsty lyrics about young adult romance… this one has it all. Also, “Youngblood” showed so much maturation of 5SOS. Can you believe this is the same boyband that made “She Looks So Perfect?!”
#17. Teyana Taylor, “Gonna Love Me”
Teyana and her most recent album, K.T.S.E., deserved so much more respect and recognition this year. One of the standouts on this short record is “Gonna Love Me.” Teyana’s husky and sultry voice duets with a pitched sample about longing, lust, and love. Perfect for hot summer nights.
#16. The 1975, “Love It If We Made It”
I featured this song in one of my Best New Songs of the Week entries earlier this summer. This track still remains the strongest offering from The 1975’s latest record so far. The way Matt Healey rips into that hook is perfect for a summer drive.
#15. Mac Miller, “Self Care”
Summer is easily the best season to focus on self-care, and as the title of the lead single from Mac’s Swimming suggests, it’s important. The atmospheric vibe of “Self Care” is perfect for those the moments when you randomly wake up at dawn in a haze of vices and wistfulness.
#14. Kane Brown, “Lose It”
Kane Brown has an incredible run of success with his eponymous debut album, and “Lose It,” a rock-inflected country part jam is the natural next step. Put this song on, and even the people who claim to hate country will start nodding their heads along.
#13. Ella Mai, “Trip”
In my book, “Boo’d Up” is the official song of the summer, but that track is a year and a half old! “Trip,” her first official release since “Boo’d” took off, follows the same formula with a bit more of mellow vibe and tighter production. If you’re currently boo’d up, this song will be a mainstay on your playlists. If you’re not currently boo’d up, you’ll still play it just to get a smidge of that feeling.
#12. Childish Gambino, “Summertime Magic”
Nothing was wavier in mainstream music this summer than “Summertime magic.” A splendid marriage of R&B, funk, and pop, “Magic” was the perfect addition to any summer kickback soundtrack. You can read my full review of Childish Gambino’s Summer Pack here.
#11. Troye Sivan, “Dance To This (feat. Ariana Grande)”
While a duo like this could have easily created a pop banger in the vein of “My My My!” or “Into You,” this laid-back and sensuous offering was the perfect collaboration. If the concept of flirting was turned into song-form, it would sound a lot like this.
#10. PRETTYMUCH, “Summer On You”
From The Carters (“SUMMER”) to Drake (“Summer Games”) and Childish Gambino (“Summertime Magic”), having the word “summer” in your song automatically raises the bar. For rising boyband, PRETTYMUCH, their Ed Sheeran-penned entry into the song of the summer race was ridiculously catchy and cute. It’s corny in the most endearing way and it sounds like how summer sunshine feels.
#9. Maluma, “Mala Mía”
Maluma stole hundreds of thousands of hearts with his performance of “Felices Los 4” at the MTV Video Music Awards. While his latest offering doesn’t quite reach those heights, “Mala Mía” is a worthy addition to your end-of-summer playlist. The trap-influenced reggaeton sound is far from played out, and “Mala Mía” is another worthy addition to the genre. See where Maluma’s performance ranked on my list of best and worst VMAs performance here.
#8. twenty one pilots, “Jumpsuit”
On their first musical release since their smash Blurryface album, twenty one pilots unapologetically and unabashedly leaned into their rock roots for “Jumpsuit.” This one is a surprisingly great summer song: for working out or doing housework.
#7. Drake, “In My Feelings”
Drake owned the spring with “God’s Plan” and “Nice For What,” and things were no different for the summer. Whether you’re using at background music, the soundtrack to jumping out of a moving car, or filler on your party playlist, “In My Feelings” was apart of your summer in some way. It deserved to be, but are we are to admit that City Girls washed Drake on this one? Read my full review of Scorpion here.
#6. YG, “Big Bank (feat. 2 Chainz, Big Sean & Nicki Minaj)”
I wish YG’s Stay Dangerous got even a tenth of the attention ASTROWORLD received because it is so great. The second single from Stay Dangerous was our token summer posse cut in the vein of “Mercy,” “My Hitta,” “Fuckin’ Problems,” or “I’m The One.” Everyone delivered with their verses, especially Nicki, and the lightweight production was a welcome alternative to the heaviness of trap music this summer.
#5. The Carters, “BOSS”
Sure, “APESHIT” was the radio single and got the breathtaking music video, but “BOSS” is better. With a swaggering rap verse from Bey and a thought-provoking verse from Jay over a meticulous vocal arrangement and brass instrumentation, “BOSS” should have been a bigger song this summer.
#4. Tyga, “Taste (feat. Offset)”
In all honesty, I never thought I’d see the day that Tyga got another hit, but who can resist that sample? “Taste” was tailor-made for sweaty summer dance floors and lusty romances. Kulture’s dad also provides a fine verse, but it’s really the hook and sample that make this song.
#3. Nicki Minaj, “Barbie Dreams”
I wonder if anyone thought that a Nicki Minaj remake of Biggie’s “Just Playing” would so quickly take the summer by storm. Nicki nails it with this track; she expertly embodies everything that makes New York rap so inimitable and excellent while also reminding us what makes her so inimitable and excellent with that rapid-fire last verse. As soon as you hear that four-count of closed hi-hats, you’ll start bopping along. Read my review of Queen here.
#2. Travis Scott, “Stop Trying To Be God”
While “Sicko Mode” is riding high off of the Drake clout, “Stop Trying To Be God” is still one of the best songs of the summer, the year, and of Travis’ career. With the angelic interlude sung by James Blake and Travis’ lethal verses and one-liners, “Stop” is beyond great. The song is a bit more mellow than most of the ASTROWORLD tracks, but who says summer songs have to be uptempo all the time? Read my review of ASTROWORLD here.
#1. Ariana Grande, “God is a woman”
Ariana has been holding it down for pop music this year, and “God is a woman” is another notch in her belt. The seductive track is the perfect summer song. It has guitar, a choir, trap-influenced production, rap-singing, belting, ad-libs, and everything but the kitchen sink. Summer is kind of the season for sexual empowerment and what better soundtrack for that than “God is a woman?” “God is a woman” makes anyone feel powerful while listening to it and it’s a perfect way to get things going. You can turn up at some parts and chill out to others. The key to a great summer song is versatility, and “God is a woman” nails it. Read my review of Sweetener here.