takes deep breath
Here we go…
How many lists like this have I seen and argued with the writer over in the last couple of weeks?
Hint: A lot.
Well, now it’s time to make my own list as 2018 draws to a close of my top 18 songs for the year (there will definitely be honourable mentions because I’m too indecisive for my own good) 2018 has been an interesting year for music. It’s been a genre-bending blurry explosion of faces we haven’t seen for a while and new kids on the block. It’s been a year of experimentation for music and the world as we all try and navigate this increasingly complex global scene that is 2018. The world turned upside down a few times and voices have been raised, in anger, fear, excitement, and hope.
With whispers of a few big name-releases on the horizon for 2019, music’s renaissance and rebirth of technicoloured brilliance where we feast on tune after tune is only a hair’s breadth away from hitting full speed. Who knows what could be around the corner?
We can’t look too far forward yet without recapping the year that was, so here we go (and these aren’t in order of best to worst by the way because my heart couldn’t handle that!)
1) Rainbow – Kacey Musgraves
Kacey Musgraves is one of those artists that as soon as I heard her music, I wondered how on earth I’d ever lived without it. I honestly could’ve put the whole of her gorgeous Golden Hour on this list. Many other year-end lists feature her disco pop yeehaw anthem High Horse as their pick or perhaps the dreamy album opener that is floaty Slow Burn but for me, it will always be this song that marks an album magic from start to finish. Maybe that’s because it’s the song my heart needed to hear the most.
2) Always Remember Us This Way – Lady Gaga
I know everyone is in love with Shallow and trust me, so am I. There was a real wrestle between the two songs as to which one would come out on top and be a part of this list. But the minute I heard the song in that darkened cinema, I felt a catch at the back of my throat. My eyes pricked with tears and I fell in love with the rawness of it, as well as its weighted meaning and message in what was a heartwrenchingly beautiful story. Plus I’m an absolute sucker for a piano ballad and there was just something gritty in Lady Gaga’s voice that had me leaning forward…
3) Getaway Car – Taylor Swift
To my mind, it is the greatest musical sin of 2018 that this song wasn’t released as a global single with the stunning visual masterpiece of a music video that I could imagine clearly from the very first time I listened to it. This is songwriting brilliance from start to finish. We will never meet a master of narrative and storytelling like Taylor Swift again, Luckily, Taylor kind of made up for the overlooking of this song by the world by releasing this as a promotional single for the Aussie and Kiwi leg of her worldwide record-breaking Reputation Stadium Tour for which coincidentally a concert film drops on Netflix tonight. New Years Eve sorted. Any haters out there – thank u, next…
4) In My Blood – Shawn Mendes
It felt like Shawn was inside my head with this one. It’s desperate and aching, something we’ve all felt whether we admit it or not. But it also marked a bombastic sonic foray, a glimpse of what crowds might scream and feel in their veins when he gets to stadium heights. It’s honest and raw, I always got the feeling he couldn’t have run away from writing this even if he’d wanted to…
5) Before You Called Me Baby – Caitlin Smith
It’s thanks to Ed Sheeran that I know Caitlin Smith at all. When he posted a screenshot of her song This Town is Killing Me with the simple caption of “Wow”, my curiosity was piqued. But it was this, the opening track of her killer heartpunch debut Starfire that bowled me over. Her vocals are absolute fire here and she has this way of singing combined with the story that makes you feel like you’re wonderfully soaring and hopelessly falling at the same time.
6) Consequences – Camilla Cabello
The first time I heard this song, I held my breath until it was over. It felt almost too personal, as though Camilla had just ripped the details from hard days of her life, poured them into her diary and then just hit record. I feel like it’s also relatable in many frames of heartbreak, not just romantically. The aesthetic of the music video where I feel Camilla channeled her inner Disney Princess and embraced orchestral magic just makes it all the better.
7) Speechless – Dan + Shay
Dan + Shay are one of my greatest musical discoveries of 2018. Their harmonies and blending of voices are absolutely heavenly. Once again, I could have picked any track from their self-titled album to put in this list. Speechless is a gorgeous ode for the hopeless romantic you take my breath away everyday kind of falling in love and the video is hella heart eyes as well.
8) Youngblood – 5 Seconds of Summer
This is one of those songs I regretted playing on my uni commute almost instantly. With just a pair of headphones on a public train and the beat in my bloodstream, I could not jam out to this as hard as it deserved me to. The slick pop direction of 5SOS’s return knocked me for six, but with the shifts of subtle balance between pop and rock in this track this is a full headbanging fist-banging head out the window of the car scream the lyrics anthem.
9) We’re Going Home – Vance Joy
Vance Joy’s music is honestly so soothing and always makes me feel like I’m frolicking by the seaside or sitting around a fire under the stars. We’re Going Home is no exception to this feeling, as a stellar singalong roadtrip tune from his sophomore album Nation of Two. He is one of the many artists here in Australia I absolutely love and I cannot wait because of his soulfood acoustic offerings to see his career explode into the sun.
10) Miss Me More – Kelsea Ballerini
Kelsea Ballerini’s second album Unapologetically is packed full of wonderful tunes but this anthem of self-love after losing yourself is one of the best. No one should ever make you feel as though you have to cut away parts of yourself or change who you are to earn their love. Its message is made more fiercely sweet when you consider the truth of her fairytale romance and marriage to Aussie country rising star Morgan Evans
11) Shotgun – George Ezra
I still don’t know what it is but there’s a sound in this song, a particular zany twang that instantly hooks me in every time. Ezra has proven he’s a master of funky sound, offbeat lyrics and odd vocal parts that just seem to work. That one jump into a high note, the lick of falsetto as he tells us he could get used to this tells me Ezra’s mastery and rise to success is only just beginning. I could get used to it.
12) My, My, My – Troye Sivan
I’m not going to lie. It took a minute for this song to consciously grow on me. Subconsciously, it was stuck in my head the minute I heard it. The shift in perception for me came as this was the soundtrack to a particularly great scene from the 2nd season of Thirteen Reasons Why, an exploration of the love story between Tony and Ryan at the time. Seeing him strut down the catwalk to a stadium full of Taylor Swift fans just elevated this song and its experience to a whole other level. If you haven’t listened to Troye’s album Bloom, do yourself a favour and get on that.
13) The Middle – Zedd & Maren Morris
I know, I know. I think this song has been an earworm in my head since the ticking clock effect came over the radio for the first time and got into my skin. It’s a real banger that always leaves me chair-dancing and the cherry on top is the power of Maren Morris’s vocals. I absolutely love Maren. Her debut album Hero is full of singalong choices and I’m very excited because something tells me MM2 packed no doubt full of riffs, excellent songwriting and more killer vocals is not far away….
14) Curious – Hayley Kiyoko
They call her “The Lesbian Jesus” and with good reason. Her groundbreaking portrayal of romantic love and sexuality between woman has opened a whole new world. She has brought millions of LGBTQIA+ youth around the world to the promised land, a safe space, one that has brimmed with so much possibility already this year it’s hard to keep track. The slick pop production of Curious and its teasing narative are a perfect introduction to the power Hayley Kiyoko is growing to yield over the music world. 20GayTeen you were good to us. Long may Hayley’s rise and reign continue.
15) 1950 – King Princess
You might remember way earlier in the year that this was one of my recommended tunes you just had to hear. Well, I’m proud to say it’s aged like fine wine because 3/4 of a year later, it is still an excellent pop song. King Princess is another one to keep your eye on, that girl be going places we haven’t been before so hold on tight! Once again, thanks Harry Styles for putting this gem on my radar with an infamously cryptic lyric tweet. Long many those continue if they’re going to bring me songs as good as this one.
16) Be Alright – Dean Lewis
Anyone that can use the word ‘mate’ in a song as serious and straightfaced as this one is worth a listen. In fact, that perfect ‘it shouldn’t work but it does’ twist of Australian vernacular is what drew me to this song. It’s what put the chorus in my head and has made it a staple singalong track of 2018. Dean Lewis, I hope it is alright now mate. You can do so much better than a girl who treats you like that.
17) Back To You – Selena Gomez
The back-and-forth of toxic relationships really can’t be healthy or at all nice for the people involved but I’m hard-pressed to deny they give us some great songs. This is Selena’s artsy offering from the relationship merry-go-round she got on again and speaks to what she thought was the we’re never going to get out of this chase because it will always be you situation. Considering recent events, it’ll be interesting to see what Selena’s no doubt triumphant musical return will say and sound like. It’s one of the musical chapters I’m most curious about in 2019.
18) IDGAF – Dua Lipa
Hold onto the name Dua Lipa. I have a feeling it’s one we’re going to be hearing a lot more of. She’s proven to be a new tour de force in the pop world and this track just cements the success of her quirky catchy style we could see displayed in “New Rules”. Besides that, this song is relatable AF. Who doesn’t have a person in their life they’re sick of hearing from or that they have actually managed to cut loose because they don’t give a flying…
I know I do.
Saturday Sun – Vance Joy
The seaside summer vibes continue with this gorgeous acoustic offering. You meet someone. A spark flies. You have to go back to your normal life. And yet… you’re falling. I hope if he wrote this about someone specific, it had a happy ending. And I hope one day, I get a story like that too. Ah, a girl can dream…
Delicate – Taylor Swift
I see you Swifties, and I hear you. I did not want to put Delicate in my honourable mentions, it deserved a place on the big list but in the end, the production and storytelling of Getaway Car won out. I had to keep my tendency for Swiftian bias in check you see. Don’t shoot, please… This song is one of the many perfect sentiments you could use to describe the Reputation chapter. The breathy vocoder and switches between keeping a distance confidence and close vulnerability are so Taylor it’s hard to imagine it’s taken six albums for a song like this. The fact that now she chooses to ask Is it cool that I said all that? after so many years of detail-oriented diary sharing makes me laugh. Yes, Taylor it is. Please keep doing so, as soon as you can #BringOnTS7
Day Drunk – Morgan Evans
This song always puts a smile on my face. The infectious easy fun it’s inspired by just flows out of this track and makes it super catchy as well. 2018 has been a country renaissance and Morgan Evans is no exception. His debut album Things That We Drink To is a cracker – you can check out my review here
Tell Me It’s Over – Avril Lavigne
This was only released recently but had to go in the honourable mentions because I’m damn proud of Avril Lavigne. She’s back in a big way. Her powerhouse voice is on display like never before and the unexpectedness of this musical direction makes me really excited for her new album, out in February. The mark of a good song; when you’re listening to it for the first time and are already singing before it’s over. That’s what I was doing with this one.
Venice Bitch – Lana Del Ray
This is dreamy spaced out psychadelic Lana at her best. Whilst the length of this song draws memories of Floydian and Bowieesque epics, the production by Jack Antonoff, one of the greatest modern pop producers of now, evokes a space that is entirely nebulous, a bridge between two worlds of music where it stands proudly alone. This song is hazy poetic witchery, the album that boasts this track Norman Fucking Rockwell is set to be one of the most highly anticipated releases of 2019. Add to that, the announcement from Lana herself that she has a book of poetry in the works and it looks like the supernova magic of this coming year is set to blast us into new musical universes.