My Favorite Songs of 2018

15. Camp Cope
“The Face of God”
How to Socialise & Make Friends (Run For Cover)
Georgia MacDonald is a fucking fearless songwriter. Whether she’s taking on the death of a parent, mental illness, or suicide, the Camp Cope songwriter writes with rare insight, grace, honesty, and a dash of humor. All of that is on display on the heartbreaking “The Face of God,” a brutal account of an abusive relationship with a fellow musician. MacDonald chillingly captures her unique experience, while highlighting the grim reality that seems to await anyone brave enough to call out a famous abuser: the never-ending torrent of faceless stans, determined to tear the person down to defend the honor of someone they’ve likely never met.

 14. Troye Sivan
“Bloom”
Bloom (Universal Music Australia)
Though I wrote breathlessly about the Perth native’s potential back in 2015, I have to admit that I’m a little shocked at how far he’s come in just three years, especially without sacrificing one inch of his original mission. “Bloom” is kind of the life-affirming, big-room pop anthem that used to be reserved for establishment artists with little to say. Sivan is nothing of the sort. Though it’s impossibly fun, “Bloom” is so much more than that. From early on in his career, the out 23 year-old has long underlined how important it is to him to be clear and intentional about his language — both to give LGBT artists representation in the pop world and for young people to have songs that speak to their experience. Sivan has done that and so much more here.

13. How to Dress Well
“Love Means Taking Action”
The Anteroom (Domino)
Sometimes, songs come to you when you really need them. Tom Krell’s sparse take on a Croatian Amour ballad is a reminder that love isn’t enough. That we have a duty to the ones who really matter to us to work and to grow and to improve. That love is a feeling but also a process, an endeavor, a commitment. It might sound simple and trite, but it’s true.

“Love Means Taking Action” has become a mantra for me in the last few months, and I plan to take it with me for the rest of my life. And I can’t think of a sweeter voice to deliver that message and a more soothing melody to hear in my head. Thanks, Tom.

12. Empress Of
“When I’m With Him”
Us (Terrible)
The purer-than-pure pop song that I secretly always hoped Lorely Rodriguez would make, “When I’m With Him” is the kind of weightless swooner that makes you want to dance down the goddamn street and hug random strangers. The LA native has one of the most flexible voices around, and she stretches it to the stars over luxurious beds of 80s synths and stabs of Quincy Jones guitars. The way she shifts between English and Spanish — especially, on the top of the second verse — reduces me to amorphous goo. And though the lyrics are melancholy, there’s a palpable joy that seeps from every little pore of this song and fills me up every time I hear it.

11. Future
“Hate the Real Me”
Beastmode 2 (Epic)
Just when you think Future has plumbed the deepest, darkest corners of his psyche, he goes deeper. The show-stopping closer to his best project since his legendary 2014-15 run belongs right alongside genre benchmarks like “Codeine Crazy” and “Throw Away.” Gripped with paranoia and regret, Future lays his fears and failures bare, trying to outrun the demons who are gaining on him with every step.

Unsurprisingly, Zaytoven — his most important collaborator — plays an essential role here, crafting a devilish keyboard melody that never seems to resolve, mirroring the feeling of walls closing in. “Hate the Real Me” is claustrophobic, exhausting, thrilling, and exactly why Future is the most impactful, least repeatable artist of the last 10 years.

10. Mitski
“Two Slow Dancers”
Be The Cowboy (Dead Oceans)
Here’s the thing; I got engaged this year. So, unsurprisingly, I’ve thought a lot about things like long-term commitments, getting old with somebody, and (less so) slow dancing in public. So, while part of me really thinks the stunning “Nobody” will end up as my favorite song from Be The Cowboy, I had to go with its final track.

The first time I heard it, “Two Slow Dancers” sucked all the air out of my lungs. And I can’t even begin to count all the nights I walked through lower Manhattan this year, looking up at the skyline, wondering how I got here, why I got so lucky, what it all means, and how the fuck anyone could create a moment of music as beautiful the one just before the second chorus (timestamp 2:49). It is a simple, direct, unspeakably beautiful song about growing older that I hope to grow old with.

9. Sada Baby
“Bloxk Party” (f/ Drego)
Digital Single
There is something singularly joyful about dancing with a big group of your friends — everyone in a circle, wanting nothing more than to make each-other smile and let loose with the people you love. That’s what “Bloxk Party” is all about, and it’s the reason I kept coming back to the Detroit duo’s breakthrough single. For four delirious minutes, Sada and Drego go back-to-back  — there’s no real hook, no specific verses — just two dudes on the mic hellbent on showing out with their friends and keeping the party going. There are endless quotables (I’m privy to “I will fuck the party up with my dance moves”), and the sub-bass is just fucking filthy, but it’s really all about their chemistry. Just like any other great dance circle.

8. Drakeo The Ruler
“Impatient Freestyle”
So Cold I Do Em (Stinc Team)
Technically, this song came out in late 2016, but technically this is my list, and technically I’ve listened to this song about 45,000 times this year, so Imma let it slide.* One of the most unique stylists in the last 10 years, the LA native simply refuses to be constrained by anything: song structure, rhythmic patterns, the English language (“Hey Siri, what are Big Banc Uchies?”).

Drakeo’s loquacious bars live in the half-spaces between the beat; he’s all blue notes. And just when you think his relentless, run-on bars are veering too far off the road to get back, he’ll whip the steering wheel hard and Tokyo Drift his ass right back to the one. Everything about him is a one-off, and hopefully he’ll finally be able to get his dubious legal troubles behind him in 2019, so he can get on with taking over the world.

*”Flu Flamming” would be in my Top 15 for sure

7. Sade
“The Big Unknown”
Widows Soundtrack (Sony)
Though she’s an intensely private person, the great Sade Adu has always opened up through her music, and this stunning comeback ballad is no exception. “The Big Unknown” sifts through the wreckage of the bitter end of a long-term relationship and underlines her resolve to keep moving forward. At 59 years old with her legendary status locked up, Adu could be forgiven for sitting back and reveling in her past achievements, but that’s not who she is and that’s not what makes her great.

Music is about moments, and very few in 2018 top this final chorus. After spending much of the track vocally in 2nd gear, she breaks free and rises along with the doleful, spare arrangement. “I will rise, I will rise again” she sings defiantly. You’d have to be a fool not to believe her.

6. Young Thug
“Offshore” (f/ Rae Sremmurd)
SR3MM (Interscope)
Though it’s technically on the Rae Sremmurd record, make no mistake, “Offshore” is a Young Thug song. And probably the best Young Thug song since the ageless classic, “The Blanguage.” After a bit of friendly, but forgettable foreplay from Swae Lee, the *insert GOAT emoji* steps up to the mic and blows the top off a friendly, but forgettable Mike Will beat.

Fuck a 16, fuck a hook, fuck a narrative, Thugger treats us to three gloriously free associated minutes of that specific thing that only he can do, smearing his voice in fascinating, unexpected ways and dancing between Will’s warm synths. The Jackson Pollock of music tops it off with one of the lines of the year, nonchalantly reminding us that he’d “slap the shit outta D**ald T**mp any day.” In a year where there wasn’t much in pop culture to feel good about, that line still feels incredible every damn time I hear it. Thugger4ever.

5. Kacey Musgraves
“Space Cowboy”
Golden Hour (UMG)
Kacey Musgraves has already written a great wedding first-dance song, now she’s got one to listen to on the ride to sign the divorce papers. This gorgeous, windswept ballad is the sound of realizing that the person you’re with is never going to grow into the person you need them to be, and it is dripping with both the freedom and forlornness of this conclusion. You can feel every inch of the exhaustion, resignation, and relief — you know, the actual emotions you feel when you break up with someone — in her voice, as she opens the gate and lets her Space Fuccboi free so he can roam aimlessly around someone else’s pasture. Of course, it won’t be long before he’ll be back sniffing around, but her defiant last chorus has me feeling like she won’t be around to answer.

4. Ella Mai
“Boo’d Up”
Ella Mai (10 Summers)
Even though I graduated like 47 years ago at this point, this ooey gooey, ubiquitous slice of 90’s R&B nostalgia still makes my high school heart skip a beat. “Boo’d Up” sets off all the same pleasure centers that folks like Brandy, Mya, and Boyz II Men hit in my teenaged brain, and the track’s inch-perfect execution forgives the way it liberally borrows from its source material. Ella also gets bonus points for not including a superfluous rap verse from A Boogie or someone (Nicki’s verse on the remix, yikes).

3. boygenius
“Me & My Dog”
boygenius (Matador)
Forget Chance the Rapper, Phoebe Bridgers’ bars are so hard on the centerpiece of the wonderful boygenius EP that there’s not one gosh darn line that my tweenage heart didn’t want to tweet. In classic Phoebe fashion, “Me & My Dog” is simultaneously hilarious and heartbreaking. A song about how love can turn the best of us into pathetic, embarrassing weirdos, the 24 year-old opens with a pair of lovely, mushy verses about early infatuation before descending into a flood of tears in a sea of teens (we’ve all been there, sister).

She drags herself together in the final stanza by imagining a life that is blissfully free of such entanglements. She paints a stunning picture of herself, a friendly pooch, and a peaceful view of a planet she’ll no longer has to inhabit, backed by a chorus of her best friends. Its breakneck pace mirrors the way modern relationships work when you’re young, and it’s yet another reminder that nobody is writing more incisive, confessional, impactful guitar music right now than Phoebe Bridgers.

2. 03 Greedo
“Neva Bend”
The Wolf of Grape Street (Alamo)
The most exciting new voice since Young Thug and Future now sits in a Texas jail-cell, serving a 20-year bid for a non-violent crime. 03 Greedo’s tragic plight highlights how our broken system can turn even our brightest, rarest talents into cold, lifeless numbers.

Due to his looming sentencing, the 30 year-old poured his heart into his music like he was trying to fit a 10-year career into 12 months. His output was an unpredictable and unique as the man himself, but nothing dug deeper than this crushing street rap ballad. He once described his sound as “like emo music for gangbangers,” and “Neva Bend” is the perfect distillation of that idea. Over spacy synths and spare percussion, Greedo tells you everything you need to know about him — his pain, his struggle, his joy, and crucially, his unbreakable will. That spirit gives me hope that we’ll one day see the man back on top; it’s unlikely but he’s used to beating the odds.

Nobody has chronicled Greedo’s story better than Jeff Weiss did, here. If you care about music or how our society works, it’s a must-read.

1. The 1975
“Love it if We Made It”
A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships (Dirty Hit)
Not since Future’s classic “March Madness” has a song so captured how it feels to be alive in a present moment. “Love it if We Made It” is your Twitter feed set to intoxicating power-pop — an insatiable, overwhelming stream of information with no discernible pattern, no logic, no end in sight. Each message delivered louder than the next.

Matty Healy is the sharpest pop-rock songwriter to emerge in years, and this is his magnum opus. Swaggering and insecure. Insightful and idiotic. Triumphant and terrified. Gorgeous and ghastly. Hopeful and miserable. It’s everything you need to know about 2018 all wrapped up in a tight, little package. What you make of it all is up to you.

Posted on by TP1.COM in Best of '18, Columns

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