Unlike the best movies and TV shows of the year, where the release of genuinely good entertainment feels finite, the amount of great, new music is endless. It's just about finding it. So, after deep-diving across release platforms, scouring the charts, looking into the most interesting, emerging names, and returning to classic, fan-favorite artists, we bring you the best songs of 2019. Once you get sick of hitting repeat on the best songs of 2018, see below for the best new releases of this year, and be sure to check back, as we'll be updating this list all year long.
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"Ni Bien Ni Mal," Bad Bunny
Puerto Rican trap/hip-hop/rapper/reggaeton artist Bad Bunny is an urban innovator, so it's no surprise that when the SoundCloud rapper blew up, became the world's papi, and dropped his first studio album, X 100pre, in late December, the highly anticipated release was a surefire hit. While the entire record features impressive Latin trap numbers, the opener "Ni Bien Ni Mal" is a statement from the recording artist: His sound is uniquely Puerto Rican, but an innovation nonetheless. Beginning with an acoustic guitar beneath the rapper's entrancing delivery, evolving at the drop of a bombastic bass, later embracing calculated production and a string section, it's as if the song takes many forms -- much like Bad Bunny himself. In the song, he's indicting his dependency on a lover; it's distinctively emo in its trap context, and you'll feel this passion burst in every bass drop.
Better Oblivion Community Center, "Dylan Thomas"
In January, modern folk favorites Phoebe Bridgers and Conor Oberst combined forces and surprised fans with a duo project titled Better Oblivion Community Center. Wrapped in their shared folk rock of empathetic songwriting, the project is entwined in their togetherness while exploring their individual experiences feeling unavoidably alone. One of these numbers is “Dylan Thomas,” an admittedly more up-beat track on the record with its bursting, twangy guitar solos and lyrics written in witticism about the gravity of feeling helpless in the current political landscape. In harmony they sing, “I’m getting greedy with this private hell / I’ll go it alone, but that’s just as well,” and despite how insular they sound, in the subtly humorous song there’s reassurance knowing many of us are fighting the same fight.
After years of singing in the church choir and independently producing mixtapes under the moniker Boogie, Compton-based rapper Anthony Dixson and his viral successes warranted a co-sign from Eminem and a deal with Shady Records. The recording artist's first official LP, Everything's for Sale, features a number of mesmerizing rap tracks, led by the entrancing single "Silent Ride." With a sing-song delivery that dynamically picks up in pace, Boogie talks about wrestling with inner demons and that ruthless voice that haunts your head. The stripped-down, Heaven-esque production feels on trend with rap's recent gospel kick, which entered the mainstream thanks to the popularity of Chance the Rapper, but the song stands out next to the major label-produced trap flooding the airwaves, making the rapper one to watch.
Through their dance-infused punk music, the four women who make up the Japanese band CHAI set out to redefine the concept of "kawaii," or Japan's perception of cuteness. To CHAI, which deviates from the increasingly internationally popular J-Pop style by embracing louder, art-rock sounds, everybody is cute in their own way, whether they're conventionally attractive or not (the latter being especially embraced). CHAI represents this vision both sonically and with their attitude, and the group's latest song, "Fashionista," is perhaps the greatest example of that. With its percussion, funky bass, and stylish tone, "Fashionista" literally sounds like music for the runway, but only if that catwalk were to feature the most avant garde fashions. Just as anybody can be cute, anybody can be a fashionista -- and CHAI's sweet harmonies on this fun single should have you feeling like anything's possible, too.
"Wasted Nun," Cherry Glazerr
There's been an absence of sticky, sweet indie rock in recent memory -- the kind that mixes harsh, danceable guitar riffs with a harsh crunch. Cherry Glazerr, the fiery, garage L.A. output, fills that void, and recent single "Wasted Nun" finds frontwoman Clementine Creevy singing about feminine exhaustion over red hot, exuberant guitars. The song personifies the wasted feeling of being a young woman -- overlooked, but with expectations thrust upon her. It's maddening, but in a dynamic way that feels all too familiar.
"Sky So Blue," Hot Flash Heat Wave
On "Sky So Blue," Bay Area indie pop group Hot Flash Heat Wave sounds brighter than ever, crafting a sonic representation of finding yourself in a lovelorn daze. With its varied psychedelics, the track transitions from sprawling synthesizers to fast-paced beats resonant of energized heart palpitations, chronicling falling deeper and deeper into feelings that can only be explained as lost in love. Over five and a half minutes, you'll lose yourself in their glistening, late afternoon daydream.
Jamila Woods, "ZORA"
Like she sings on the single “ZORA,” Chicago-based soul artist Jamila Woods' "weaponry is [her] energy." Her music creates a universe of its own, expanded upon her poetry about the beauty in blackness and inhabits a sound that spans R&B to go into a dimension parallel to Afrofuturism, growing in R&B since her 2017 debut and catching the attention of other Chicago names like Chance the Rapper. On this year's forthcoming LEGACY! LEGACY!, she pays homage to the black artists that inform her work, naming each track after them, like author Zora Neale Hurston on "ZORA." The track glistens with keys entwined with strings, as so does Woods, singing with warm confidence as if she's taken on the unapologetic spirit of the late-great writer. When she delivers the line, "I dare you to shrink my wave, I'm on a new plane," it's as if she's singing from the elevated plane of existence that she and Hurston exist on, and one can only imagine how enchanting it must be if it sounds this good.
"Hope Is a Dangerous Thing for a Woman Like Me to Have, But I Have It," Lana Del Rey
It may seem as if Lana Del Rey, plagued by loneliness, feels like no one understands her besides the literary icons she prays to, but in reality, the songwriter knows she mirrors the timeless experience of the melancholic modern woman. Like the subjects of Sofia Coppola movies or Sylvia Plath's writings (the latter's name dropped in the track), her latest single, off the forthcoming Norman Fucking Rockwell, is an ode to this side of her and the unsatisfied, emotive woman yearning for more out of life. But as somber as the self-referential piano ballad is, she has hope that this apathy isn't everlasting, and as desperate as she sounds, you believe her. Simply put: This is pinnacle Lana Del Rey, and that's a beautiful thing.
Self-love anthems are a mainstay of pop music... but no one does self-love quite like Minneapolis-bred rapper Lizzo. In her first single of 2019, "Juice," the sing-song hip-hop artist unapologetically touts how incredible she is, and she makes the case to give you every reason to believe she's telling the truth. Over a nostalgic, soulful funk beat, her track takes you back to the most indulgent of eras with its '70s stylings, further informing its decadence and convincing you, too, to let go. Like Lizzo, leave the boys in the DMs and instead fall for the woman in the mirror, and parade her out on the dance floor. With quips like "I'm not a snack at all, baby, I'm the whole damn meal," she may well inspire this kind of confidence in us all.
Maggie Rogers, “Burning”
Maggie Rogers, a folk-pop phenom who ascent into the ether with her viral success over the past three years, it seems wants to reclaim her narrative. Her name has been attached to Pharrell’s since the virtuoso played the recording artist one of her songs at an NYU workshop in 2016 and he adopted her as a mentor. But the singer, who dances with the cosmos in her lyrics like a 21st century Stevie Nicks and plays with electronic production with an ear for streaming success, should be heard as her own. And on her debut album Heard It In a Past Life track “Burning,” she’s on fire. The back track of jovial percussion feels primed for a festival finale song, but its in Rogers’ joyous delivery of being woken up, in a conscious state of living, that she’s heard as the bright name in pop that she is. In “Burning,” she’s lit a spark, and you’ll feel it too.
"Lasting Friend," Samia
It’s a self-destructive habit women often have: measuring their self-worth based on their relationships with men or their sexual history. While some women take ownership of their choices, as well they should, for others it's more complex, like something to make light of or mask. Brooklyn-based singer-songwriter Samia, going by the lyrics to "Lasting Friend," a '90s-Liz Phair-ish number about how she used to let boys touch her boobs at lunchtime in middle school, wavers somewhere between the two. "Lasting Friend," meanwhile, is just one of the up-and-coming artist's anthems; she has been breathing energy into the Brooklyn rock scene of late with her vivacious, witty personality and poeticism. I strongly recommend that your remember her name: Samia is positioned to be one of our next great songwriters.
“Everyone Is a Bad Friend," Sir Babygirl
Sir Babygirl, the self-produced solo project from gender queer bubble-gum-pop visionary Kelsie Hogue, makes wonderfully erratic beats doused in glitter, a la Charli XCX and A.G. Cooke, out of their New Hampshire bedroom. Their latest single, “Everyone Is a Bad Friend," documents poor decision-making with sneering and wickedly cute cynicism. It's like an episode of Girls incarnate: a hilariously honest treat.
SWMRS, "Hell Boy"
It’s hard not to feel sick when listening to pop punk band SWMRS’ “Hell Boy.” But beginning with the shock-factor line, “Charlie Manson is alright,” that’s the point. They may go on to sing, “At least old Charlie took the blame for all the violence we committed in his name,” but in the lyrics the Oakland-based band grown out of the collaboration between Cole Becker and Joey Armstrong (yes, son of Green Day's Billie Joe Armstrong) proclaims there's always been a virus of toxic masculinity infecting American boys, and they feel ill that it finds remedy in blaming victims rather than themselves. The track is the loudest deep cut on their album Berkeley’s On Fire, a pop-minded commentary on gentrification and politics in their hometown, and being in touch with their punkish roots, it’s damn good. Amidst the devilish guitar solos and aggressive lyrics, you may want to hurl, but just dance though the pain like people have done for decades and hope SWMRS’ self-awareness permeates the culture.
"Harmony Hall" and "2021," Vampire Weekend
After a five-year break and lots of speculation, Vampire Weekend is finally back (sans founding member Rostam Batmanglij -- he's only producing this time around) with two new tracks from the forthcoming album Father of the Bride. Despite the group's absence, you'll be transported back to the more innocent days when you first fell for them as soon as you hear the gentle, glowing guitar strum at the start of "Harmony Hall." Fittingly, both "Harmony Hall" and "2021" are about the passage of time -- the effects of the ideologies they were raised on, and how they'll affect the future -- but one thing remains constant, even after all this time waiting: Vampire Weekend is a comfort.
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