Music in 2019, especially hit songs, was what could be classified as a transitional year. While there still are reliable pop hitmakers (Ed Sheeran, Ariana Grande, Shawn Mendes), the cultural zeitgeist for music splintered into many different directions (emo hip-hop, the return of Spanish and Cuban-driven music and personality-driven pop of artists like Billie Eilish and Clairo).
When it came to the songs of 2019, there was a lot to love. Here are 10 that we especially enjoyed:
10. “Zulu Screams” Goldlink featuring Maleek Berry and Bibi Bourelly — A thumping beat, jittery riff and soulful chorus propel this dance hall/hip-hop track.
9. “Red Hearse” Red Hearse — An alt-R&B jam that shows off the best sides of producers Jack Antonoff and Sounwave with Taylor Swift as the songwriter and singer Sam Dew.
8. “Number One Fan” MUNA — Over some bouncing bass, this LA pop group lays it all out there: “I’m gonna die alone/In my bedroom/Looking at strangers/On my telephone.” But this ode to social media alienation ends up being an encouraging song about overcoming those feelings and, as the title suggests, becoming your own number-one fan.
7. “Death By A Thousand Cuts” Taylor Swift — For all of her soaring songs, this sparse, emotional post-breakup song stood out most on Swift’s seventh album, “Lover.” The restraint sounds great for both Swift and producer Jack Antonoff.
6. “Don’t Be So Hard on Yourself” Alex Lahey — Combine a monstrous rock chorus that references “The Mighty Ducks,” two sax solos and an encouraging message about supporting yourself during a tough time and you’ve got a great intro to the fabulous alt-rock sounds of Aussie singer-songwriter Alex Lahey.
5. “Misbehavin’” Aimee Leigh and Baby Billy — It’s rare that a genre parody from a TV comedy turns out to be not only listenable, but endlessly replayable. Featured in the HBO show “The Righteous Gemstones,” this old-timey southern gospel duet between Sugarland’s Jennifer Nettles and actor Walton Goggins will get stuck in your head for weeks.
4. “Down Bad” Dreamville with JID, Bas, J. Cole, EARTHGANG and Young Nudy — The ‘90s and ‘00s were rife with fantastic hip-hop posse cuts. While that art is saved mostly for BET Awards cyphers, this collaboration between some of hip-hop’s biggest new stars shows off their varying flows and rhyme schemes over an old-school beat.
3. “Bad Guy” Billie Eilish — While teenage pop sensation Billie Eilish made her name with ballads like “Ocean Eyes” and “When The Party’s Over,” she’s shown more charisma and character on weirder, more off-putting songs like “Bad Guy” and “Bury A Friend.” This short ditty, built around a simple bass riff, took over the world and rightfully so.
2. “Charlie” Mallrat — A syrupy sweet ballad about young love by Aussie singer-songwriter Grace Shaw, this hits all the right notes that you want from a love song and drips with honesty and affection.
1. “Alligator” Of Monsters and Men — Alternative music was lacking a battle cry in 2019 before this came out. A stomping, uncharacteristically rocking song for the Icelandinc folk band, this soared to heights I didn’t know the band could reach, and they did so with gusto.
— Andrew Gaug | St. Joe Live