music / Columns

The Top 70 Tracks Of 2018: Lil Wayne, Childish Gambino, More

December 28, 2018 | Posted by David Hayter
Lil Wayne

So some ground rules: one song per artist and this list leans heavily towards singles rather than album tracks (we just did a best album list after all).

70. Apeshit by The Carters

The biggest, hardest and most obvious single the duo have released to date, but truth be told it was too hard for casuals, too entitled for the hardcores and too hard to access thanks to Tidal – it’s a shame, because “Apeshit” is banger.

69. OKRA by Tyler, The Creator

Free at last! Tyler, The Creator is no longer burdened by expectation, in the post-Flowerboy era he can do whatever the hell it wants and the insidious stream of consciousness bars of “OKRA” are the glorious result.

68. Party For One by Carly Rae Jepsen

Carly Rae continues to make perfect pop music so out of step with today’s trends that she finds herself appreciated by a random scattergun of older music fans and next to no actual teens – but who cares, if iGen want to miss out on “Party For One” it’s their loss.

67. “Me And Michael” by MGMT

The psychedelic indie stalwarts continue to prove their worth and refine their sound while releasing the kind of singles, like “Me And Michael”, destined to forged deep lasting connections with their audience – this isn’t a fleeting rush, its a lingering love.

66. Anna Wintour by Azealia Banks

Speaking of being liberated from expectation, Tyler isn’t the only one free to indulge his every impulse, Azealia Banks flits between Twitter outrages and soulful pseudo-dance bangers like “Anna Wintour”.

65. “In My View” by Young Fathers

Young Fathers have mastered the poignant banger: “In My View” is an expansive expression of an internal struggle carried by one of the year’s finest hooks.

64. “Work It” by Marie Davidson

Sharp, satirical, sexy, mechanical, alien and oddly intimidating, “Work It” demands the listener’s respect before it forces them to dance like sweat-soaked marionettes.

63. “Charcoal Baby” by Blood Orange

Dev Hynes production is beyond divine on this wonderfully subtle and laid backed reflection on the fragility of black beauty.

62. “Stir Fry” by Migos

Culture II was painfully transparent in attempts to game Billboard’s algorithms and while that bloated mess couldn’t help but disappoint, Migos collaboration with Pharrell Williams exceeded our wildest expectations.

61. “I Don’t Know” by Paul McCartney

He can still break hearts and he can still manipulate emotions taking an audience of thousands from their lowest to depth to their greatest height: Paul McCartney struck gold when he stop trying to chase his youth (“Fuh You”) by finally embraced the ageing process on the beautiful “I Don’t Know”.

60. “Night Shift” by Lucy Dacus

“The first time I tasted someone else’s spit/I had a coughing fit” – good God damn what an opening line and “Night Shift” only grows in self-recriminating strength from there.

59. “New Orleans” by Brockhampton

Did Brockhampton miss their chance to hijack the culture? Possibly, but whatever Iridescence lacked, it certainly wasn’t a brooding banger of an opening number: “New Orleans” is a bruising beast.

58. “Mona Lisa” by Lil Wayne

Lil Wayne and Kendrick Lamar join forces for a farcically brilliant two part narrative: Wayne drives Kendrick’s mark to suicide with a classic honey trap and stick up plot.

57. “Pain Killer” by Iceage

Don’t tell Iceage what they can and cannot do, they can be indie pop stars if they damn well please: “Pain Killer” is a magnificently sleazy single, just listen to those horns.

56. “Death & Life” by Jamie Lin Wilson

Jamie Lin Wilson delivers a harrowingly beautiful reflection on what it’s like to survive a husband and a father.

55. “Twentytwo” by Sunflower Bean

Sunflower Bean’s album might not have wholly convinced me, but there’s no arguing with the strength of their singles and “Twentytwo” might just be their most refined release to date – they will not go quietly into the night.

54. “Boys” by Lizzo

In the year when Justin Timberlake released the biggest dud of his career, thank god Lizzo showed him how it’s done with this sleazy, slinky, ode to fucking a fabulous far reaching variety of “Boys”.

53. “Never Fight A Man With A Perm” by IDLES

IDLES can’t spend all their time fighting the good fight and supporting the underclass, sometimes they get the urge to wind up and take an almighty swing at everything they loathe.

52. “Baby I’m Bleeding” by JPEGMAFIA

Spitting hard rhymes from inside a glitch in the matrix, JPEGMAFIA takes aim at everyone from Soundcloud rappers and Donald Trump to woman beaters and his societal oppressors.

51. “Everybody’s Coming To My House” by David Byrne

The best damn live show in the business would not have gone over too well without some A-grade material and “Everybody’s Coming To My House” is just that, a gargantuan, unifying banger from an artist who will never get played on the radio in 2019.

50. “Ghost Town” by Kanye West

Kanye West had a great year, it just didn’t seem like it. Along with producing Pusha-T’s Daytona, the Kids See Ghosts Project and Teyana Taylor’s wonderful K.T.S.E., Kanye stood on his own two feet with the dazzlingly underproduced stadium sized confessional “Ghost Town”.

49. “Mr. Tillman” by Father John Misty

After years of raging against bourgeoise society Father John Misty finally comes apart at the seams and loses touch with reality on this delicate and sumptuously sung ditty.

48. “Shoota” by Playboi Carti

I can’t sit hear and claim to be convinced by Playboi Carti’s album, but I was absolutely blown away by the singles and the effect that they had on dance floors whenever a track like “Shoota  dropped.

47. “Track10” by Charli XCX

Hidden away at the end of a bombastic assault of female future pop, Charli XCX snuck in this wonderfully fragile pop song that screamed “I love it when you need”.

46. “My My MY!” by Troye Sivan

Okay Charli might be killing it under cover of darkness, but there are popstars out there drawing millions of eyeballs and dominating the charts with brazenly odd pop music, case in point: “My My My!” by Troye Sivan.

45. “New Patek” by Lil Uzi Vert

God knows what to make of Lil Uzi Vert at this point, out of the blue he’ll drop the most perfect singles, but he still feels like a charlatan – but how can I accuse him of coasting when “New Patek” is so wonderfully unruly and energetic.

44. “The Mint” by Earl Sweatshirt

Enter the anti-“New Patek”. Earl Sweatshirt drifts away into a tragic world of firearms, prison sentences and desperate escapism on “The Mint”: a captivating artefact succinctly summed up in a single line: “Hit the showers, cleanse my soul, then crash”.

43. “Best Hugs” by DRAM

Okay after Earl I need to smile and who better to raise your spirits than DRAM – ironically, he’s literally singing about stealing my girlfriend (“you girl gives the best hugs”), but who cares when everyone is buzzing with a warm, joyous afterglow.

42. “1950” by King Princess

Talk about an impossible choice, but “1950” narrowly pips “Pussy Is God” to the post because, while the later is middle finger swinging anthem, the former is just a beautifulyl conceived and deeper reaching pop song that sacrifices no attitude in search of poignancy.

41. “After The Storm” by Kali Uchis

Another artist with far too many fantastic singles to chose between, luckily “After The Storm” had that little something extra, not only an ultra soothing arrangement, but humor as well as soul in its seduction.

40. “Bubblin” by Anderson .Paak

“I’ve been broke way longer than I’ve been rich, so until it levels out/I’mma take your momma to the Marriott and wear it out” – Anderson .Paak is enjoying the god damn moment and so he should, because who knows how long it will last – although, judging by “Bubblin”, he needn’t worry about falling off any time soon.

39. “Drunk In LA” by Beach House

2018 is the year it all came together for Beach House: they answered every question and passed every test from a start-to-finish album to stunning singles, they had it all, “Drunk In LA” is merely their haunting victory lap.

38. “Immaterial” by Sophie

How do you follow up the most brutal and divisive banger of your career (“Ponyboy”), well with “Immaterial” of course: a sweet 90s pop pastiche that both satirises and heartbreakingly details transition.

37. “When I’m With Him” by Empress Of

If only the eventual album could have been this good, because, for three glorious minutes, Empress Of fulfilled her unparalleled potential: this is painstakingly slight pop music that contrasts introverted understatement with huge swells of overwhelming emotion.

36. “Bite The Hand” by Boygenius

Sometimes, the right artist (or group of artists), stumble upon the perfect phrase and tie it to the most immaculately understated arrangement and transformative magic ensues: “I can’t love you/How you want me to”.

35. “It Makes You Forget (Itgehane)” by Peggy Gou

Peggy Gou’s decision to sing for the first time on record was a masterstroke. “It Makes You Forget” is already a wondrous interpolation of disco by a house producer, but her vocal gives the track a sense of distant longing that tips it over the edge.

34. “Unknown T” by Homerton B

Is the rest of the world moving on Grime? Quite possibly, and the USA will soon forget the UK scene without another wave of hungry and hard hitting artists, luckily that’s where Homerton B steps in with his heavily accented answer to Giggs that details a life under relentless suspicion.

33. “Pick Up” by DJ Koze

I wasn’t as convinced by DJ Koze as most, but even my heart melted when faced with the slowly unfolding soul of “Pick Up”.

32. “Praise The Lord” by A$AP Rocky + Skepta

It’s hard to know what to make of A$AP Rocky’s 2018, he certainly didn’t reassert his dominance stateside, but he did deliver a single that took the UK club scene by storm.

31. “All The Stars” by Kendrick Lamar + SZA

How could the Black Panther Soundtrack possibly fail when it had to power the unite Kendrick Lamar and SZA for one pitch perfect pop single? Talk about exceeding expectations.

30. “Love It If We Made It” by The 1975

“Love It  If We Made It” is not a pop single, it’s a stab at immortality from a rock band who want to be the voice of their generation: remember when that was something rockstars actually wanted to do?

29. “Boo’d Up” by Ella Mai

Truth be told you never know what’s going to catch on and there’s something deeply endearing about the fact that this quirky little love song became such a tremendous smash.

28. “Cheyenne” by Pistol Annies

Stop fucking around and play this song on country radio. I’m happy to let music fans listen to whatever the hell they want, but seriously, have some respect and let this perfect song find its damn audience.

27. “If You Know You Know” by Pusha-T

Who needs shame anyway: King Push was fed up of finding critical acclaim in the shadows and came straight for the crown and Drake’s head in 2018: “I You Know You Know” was his irresistible battering ram of a lead single.

26. “Womp Womp” by Valee + Jeremih

Sometimes you just want to dance and, ideally, have a laugh at the same time with an escapist jam: “Womp Womp” was exactly that with it’s lines about pussy that tastes like peach cobbler and trying Chinese food (or women) for the first time. Ridiculously fun.

25. “Talking Straight” by Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever

Talk about a perfectly pitch rock song, from the immaculate guitar break to laid-back-and-yet-insecure verse, this single fires on every level without throwing its immediacy in listener’s face.

24. “Need A Little Time” by Courtney Barnett

It’s not you, it’s me – wait, hang on a minute – no it’s definitely you, we need a break: Courtney Barnett deftly disguised 2018’s most devastating break up anthem on “Need A Little Time”.

23. “May Your Kindness Remain” by Courtney Marie Andrews

Despite detailing destitution, Courtney Marie Andrews stays loyal to fundamental human dignity and decency with the kind hearted tragedy of “May Your Kindness Remain”.

22. “Elegance” by Kilo Kish

“When I think Of…” is the haunting half-uttered refrain that ties together this imposing slab of dance music: in the wrong hands “Elegance” would be a braindead banger, but Kilo Kish has crafted something devastatingly soulful.

21. “Honey” by Robyn

Pretty much every track on Robyn’s latest album could have made it onto this countdown, but “Honey” gets the nod because it encompasses every aspect of the album as a whole from the heartache and resilience to Robyn’s brilliant pop chops and inescapable dance floor obsession.

20. “Over And Out” by Nine Inch Nails

Trent Reznor’s devastating endnote is still chilling six months later: “time keeps running out, I don’t know what I’m waiting for”, this is Nine Inch Nails at their most profound and indirectly beautiful.

19. “Rose In Harlem” by Teyana Taylor

“I had to get it out the soil”, Teyana Taylor’s ode to rising up from the concrete is perfectly soundtracked by a classic Kanye chop-up-the-soul sample.

18. “Always Remember Us This Way” by Lady Gaga

I guess I’m sentimental. “Shallow” might be the booming anthem with the one singular scene stealing moment, but “Always Remember Us This Way” is just a perfectly observed 70s pop/rock ballad with modern production and an immaculate vocal performance.

17. “Make Me Feel” by Janelle Monae

This was the moment when Janelle Monae grabbed the world by the scruff of its neck and demanded attention, she was no longer going to be a mere respected artist, she was going to be a culture defining superstar.

16. “Venice Bitch” by Lana Del Rey

Lana has toyed with dreamy, hippy-ish aesthetics before, but “Venice Bitch” is the moment she wholeheartedly tipped her toes in the pysch-folk waters. Nine minutes of dreamy drifting delight ensued – who knows where this will lead on her next album.

15. “Wide Awake” by Parquet Courts

Parquet Courts not only grabbed the political bull by the horns in 2018, they shook off their at times stiff image and mastered funk on this barnstorming indie disco conquering single.

14. “Nice For What” by Drake

So Drake might have a secret son, but he’s still the king of charts. “Nice For What” remains his standout 2018 single, not only because its so damn danceable, but because by embracing New Orleans bounce Drake legitimately added a new string to his bow.

13. “Doesn’t Matter” by Christine and The Queens

God now this was an impossible choice: “Girlfriend”, “5 Dollars” or “Doesn’t Matter”? Well “Girlfriend” is “more important”, but “Doesn’t Matter” is the peach of pop song that’s been wedged in my subconscious since release.

12. “Slow Burn” by Kacey Musgraves

This isn’t getting any easier. “Space Cowboy” was the immaculate break up song, “High Horse” was disco dynamite, but “Slow Burn” is the single that captures both Kacey’s progression in 2018 and all the lyrical quirks that made her great in the first place.

11. “Your Dog” by Soccer Mommy

Even the most understated of slackers can kick up one hell of a fuss when the time is right and, while “Your Dog” may be full of self-recrimination, it explodes with righteos disgust laden rage when the time is right. This, ladies and gentleman, is a proper alternative anthem.

10. “Nobody” by Mitski

411’s Album Of The Year just so happened to spawn some brilliant singles, but none was more surprising than the disco tinged dancing queen glory of the doom laden “Nobody”. The entire track is a despairingly hopeful contradiction and I love every second of it.

9. “Falling Into Me” by Let’s Eat Grandma

Hey, so they might have taken silver in album of the year ranking, but Let’s Eat Grandma finally get to best Mitski with the sprawling psychological synergy of “Falling Into Me”.

8. “Sicko Mode” by Travis Scott + Drake

There’s something strangely marvellous about the fact that this muddy, oddly suppressed, ever-so-slightly aimless, head-trip of a single became the biggest street level banger of 2018.

7. “Pristine” by Snail Mail

“Is there any better feeling than coming clean?”, amid all the conflicting teenage angst, that is the central question that gives “Pristine” its power. Snail Mail is learning to love herself as she rises above the muddy and mundane insecurities of teenage love.

6. “Four Our Of Five” by Arctic Monkeys

Bad reviews are a bitch and songwriting is much like building a hotel on the moon and then launching the perfect taco restaurant atop it – I know, I know, it’s sounds utterly bonkers, but it makes for the most alluring pop music imaginable – just press play and come, take it easy for a little while.

5. “This Is America” by Childish Gambino

“Black man, get your money” and there in lies the trap. The gleaming escape route from the struggle only reinforces your woes, so what is a black man to do but throw up his hands…oh wait, that probably won’t end well either, damn. Never has so much been said so succinctly as on Childish Gambino’s “This Is America”

4. “Mo Bamba” by Sheck Wes

I don’t understand it, I shouldn’t like “Mo Bamba” at all: this gibberish, half arsed, one take, self-produced freestyle should be a transparent mess, but instead it’s the biggest and most brazen club conquering anthem of the year. This ready made riot is as impossible to resist as it is to understand on any kind of intellectual level.

3. “Thank U, Next” by Ariana Grande

Another artist with far too many great singles to choose from, but “Thank U, Next” takes its place on this list for two reasons. Firstly, it has absolutely consumed the pop culture like a transcendent pop single should (only “This Is America” had a bigger reach, thanks largely to its video). Secondly, “Thank U, Next” is the perfect rebuke to Taylor Swift’s vision of post-break up pop – where that singer was consumed by her obsession with her exes and flopped hard with a series of revengeful singles, Ariana skipped to the top of the charts by turning the other cheek and embracing a sense of perspective and kindness – and that’s a lesson we could all do with learning headed into 2019.

2. Malamente by Rosalia

Flamenco is back and better than ever thanks to Spanish superstar Rosalia. “Malamente” is a head trip: it’s futuristic and utterly imbedded in the past, it’s as alien as Bjork and as catchy as Justin Timberlake at his peak. Rosalia defies comparison and “Malamente” tramples all “Latin pop” pretenders underfoot.

1. M.A.H. by U.S. Girls

While some artists are busy raging against Donald Trump, Meghan Remy still hasn’t forgiven (or forgotten) Barrack Obama. For you see, it’s one thing to be disgusted by a political opponent, its another thing entirely to have your illusions shattered by someone who promised so much. “M.A.H.” is a masterful distortion of classic 60s girl group pop used to devastatingly dissect the broken promises and slow withering of even the most appealing of politicians.