By: Emily Miller
It was another stressful year, yet these songs were the ones that got us all through it. The songs that my wasted heart will love until we all look like this:
Also check out a playlist of all these fabulous songs on spotify by clicking here.
Qualifications: All songs listed must have been released in 2019. Every genre had to be represented and only one song per artist.
40. Jonas Brothers, “Sucker”
At the end of 2013, in the midst of being one of the most successful boy bands of all time, the Jonas Brothers disbanded. As they went off individually to have successful families, solo projects and television series, it appeared the band would never come back. But one magical day in 2019, the Jonas Brothers suddenly announced they had returned and immediately released the song “Sucker.” No one, least of all the brothers, knew if their fan base would still be there six years later. But as it turned out, we were all still suckers for the Jonas brothers, and the song ended up debuting at number one. The iconic boy band was launched back into the stratosphere once more. This song represents the culmination of one of the most surprising and successful comebacks of all time.
39. William Tyler, “Fail Safe”
This guitar instrumental track is absolutely divine. The acoustic guitar takes us on an adventure. Then the miraculous strings are added in, subtly at first, but eventually growing to a beautiful crescendo. The song is exciting and inexplicably hopeful.
38. Jenny Lewis, “Wasted My Youth”
“I wasted my youth on a poppy.” Jenny Lewis was one of the biggest child stars of the late 80s early 90s. During that time her mother/manager stole her earnings to buy and sell drugs. After her mother’s recent passing, Lewis is finally dealing with her childhood traumas through music and humor as only she could do on a track called “Wasted My Youth.” While she sweetly oohs and ahhs over an upbeat tempo she teases eviscerating yet humorous lyrics like “Why you lyin? / The Bourbon’s gone / Mercury hasn’t been in / Retrograde for that long.” If only we could all deal with pain and sadness like Lewis.
37. Milky Chance, “The Game”
The kings of chill-out music, Milky Chance, have done it again. Combining their notorious relaxed vibe with reggae and a dash of rock, this song is in a genre and style all its own. Though the song is filled with restless, energized lyrics like “Everybody says that I’m dreaming / But I’m just tryna cope with the pain,” it compliments the laid back style, rather than contradict it. Managing a restless life has never sounded so mellow.
36. Better Oblivion Community Center, “Dylan Thomas”
No one knew anything about Better Oblivion Community Center, until Stephen Colbert introduced the mysterious band on his show as a new collaboration between country titans Phoebe Briders and Connor Oberst. The hidden band and album quickly became the darling of the alt country scene and for good reason. This song has a bliss and easiness to it that feels like it should be on the B side of an album, blasting from a convertible as summer is just about to begin. The song is simple (only bouncing between four chords) with a singable chorus “I’m getting greedy with this private hell / I’ll go it alone, but that’s just as well” but it’s all the better for it.
35. Yeasayer, “Ecstatic Baby”
It’s a hard job being a dedicated Yesayer fan for 12 years. The band creates beautiful music, but my god, do they break hearts with every track they create. But 2019, marks the first time they gave the world a song that could only be classified as pure joy. “I’m ecstatic, baby, when I’m with you / spinning circles, jumping over the moon.” I’m still afraid this song is somehow a trick by the band delivered with a sly evil smile, but until I hear otherwise, I will continue to enjoy this ecstasy with no questions asked.
34. Lucy Dacus, “Fool’s Gold”
New Year’s Eve is one of the most difficult holidays to celebrate single. Lucy Dacus encapsulates all of those hard emotions like no other artist has. With a beautiful piano at the start, Dacus enters strumming on a guitar, slowly but surely as she begins to pull apart one of the more shallow holidays. “He’ll blame the alcohol / And you’ll blame the full moon.” We’ve all been there. “You say that it’s all the same, all glittering fool’s gold.”
33. Kim Gordon, “Air BnB”
After co-fronting the prolific rock band Sonic Youth for almost twenty five years, Kim Gordon finally released her first solo album this year at the miraculous age of 66. She deftly proves why she is still one of the Queens of Rock n Roll with the centerpiece of her album, “Air BnB.” Her vocals are extraordinary, jumping between styles and genres as her guitar bristles and grinds. No one except Gordon could make this much garbage disposal like noise into music that is absolutely beautiful and thrilling.
32. Charly Bliss, “Capacity”
One of the hardest lessons I’ve had to learn is knowing when to put my needs first, in order to better help my friends. Lead singer Eva Hendricks bemoans, “I can barely keep myself afloat when I’m not saving you,” and it’s one of the most devastating, relatable lyrics I’ve ever heard. But despite its heavier subject matter, the song is nothing but euphoric. With an upbeat tempo, guitar riff, a constant thud and an easily chant-able chorus, (I’m at capacity, I’m spilling out of me), this song celebrates self care ironically and un-ironically in the most glorious way possible.
31. Vagabon, “Water Me Down”
This electronic track has become my anthem. Vagabon, aka Laetitia Tamko sings about freeing oneself from other people’s expectations and not allowing someone to water you down. The song is heavy, yet simultaneously easy and breezy. As the stylized keyboard comes in, her rich voice becomes the focal point of the song lamenting “Never meant for all of this / Never meant for you to love / Never meant for you to trust.” By the end of the song however, she showcases her inner strength and beauty, proudly singing “I wanted to flex a muscle I haven’t shared yet.” Get. It. Girl.
30. Solange, “Stay Flo”
“Hold Up!” And thus begins the best hip-hop song of the year. Solange takes us on the journey of growing up in Houston. It abstractly features men throwing stones, playing games and girls getting down every day. The song is heavily influenced by jazz music and a Motown like chorus, as she rattles off different ad libs throughout the song. It’s gentile yet rough, as she she reminisces about an abstract childhood. It’s a difficult balancing act, but Solange handles it perfectly.
29. Angel Olsen, “Lark”
This isn’t a song, it’s six minutes of beauty. Angel Olsen takes us on an epic, moving journey about looking back at the past while doing the best to move forward. She’s straddling two worlds, a painful past, while bounding towards a new beginning. “Hiding out inside my head, it’s me again, it’s no surprise I’m on my own now / Every time I turn to you, I see the past, it’s all that lasts and all I know how.” The song is truly, haunting.
28. Clairo, “Bags”
It might be a little early but, this song is going to be an indie pop classic. Clairo is wistful and vulnerable as she tries to figure out what to do with her boy. With a kaleidoscope of synths, a dreamy guitar riff and earnest vocals, the song soars to dizzying heights. At the climax, she figures out that it’s better to tell someone how you feel, and both she and the listeners are better for it.
27. Stella Donnelly, “Old Man”
Starting off with an immediate gripping guitar hook, Stella Donnelly commands attention. She exudes power, confidence and humor as she takes down an old man who was harassing women. She teases, “Oh are you scared of me old man, or are you scared of what I’ll do?” She turns the scared defenseless woman trope on its head by taking down all sorts of men. It’s a powerful fun romp that hits all of the right levels in a post #MeToo era. “You grabbed me with an open hand. The world is grabbing back at you.”
26. Jay Som, “Superbike”
“Superbike” is all about moving on, literally and figuratively. Jay Som sings, “I pick up the superbike / Going 80 in the night / Said you wanted something else / Something new for show and tell” It’s a fun play on words in this dream like pop world she’s created. Just when it feels like the song can’t get any better, about halfway through comes an insanely good guitar solo that is out of this world, adding even more to the dream like state Jay Some has created.
25. Laura Stevenson, “Living Room, NY”
Laura Stevenson wrote this song in Australia as she longed for a human in New York City. It’s one of the most hauntingly beautiful songs about longing and loss I’ve ever heard.
24. Kevin Morby, “No Halo”
Though Kevin Morby’s latest album “Oh My God” is not a religious one, he does his best to fool us all. He never directly references a higher being, but it has all the ingredients of what makes that genre so successful. With a casual organ and sweeping claps throughout the song, it sounds like we’re all back in church and Morby is our preacher. He sings, “When I was a boy / no rooftop on my joy.” His youthful wonder, and this song is nothing short of miraculous. Oh My God, indeed.
23. HAIM, “Summer Girl”
Danielle Haim wrote this song for her partner when he was diagnosed with cancer. She said she wanted to be his hope, and give him a light on a dark day. This song is the clear end result. It’s infectious, it’s cool and it’s happiness personified. “I’m your sunny girl / I’m your fuzzy girl / I’m your summer girl.” The real star of the song though, is the stunning saxophone solo, that dips in and out of the song beautifully.
22. FONTAINES DC, “Too Real”
When listening to “Too Real” it’s hard to believe the song is off their debut album. The punk rock band from Ireland have such a clear understanding of what makes music work. Their fiery single builds these intense garage rock, post punk guitar riffs that swell until it feels like they can’t possibly go on. That’s when lead singer Grian Chatten cheekily asks, “is it too real for ya?” At that point, it’s unclear if he means the song or life itself, but the answer remains the same. Yes, it is.
21. Bon Iver, “Hey, Ma”
I’ll never forget the first time I listened to the prolific album For Emma, Forever Ago. It was otherworldly and beautiful and made me fall for the band Bon Iver. They’ve had some ups and downs since, but not quite the triumph like “Hey, Ma.” It’s a return to form that showcases the classic Bon Iver, while highlighting the subtle intricacies and nuances they’ve picked up in the last eleven years since their debut album. The shimmering electronics have never felt so alive and melancholy and perfect.
20. Lil Nas X feat. Billy Ray Cyrus, “Old Town Road”
This song does not have the best lyrics. It has a simple cheap beat and the overall style is essentially one big joke. So why is it here? Truly, there is no acceptable answer. It simply defied the odds and became the song of the summer. It’s irresistibly fun and catchy and Billy Ray Cyrus is the perfect addition to this remix. So in conclusion, don’t fight it. Yeeeeeeehaw.
19. Caroline Polachek, “So Hot You’re Hurting My Feelings”
There are many reasons to love this song. The silly yet completely accurate, we’ve all been there, title. The irresistible beat that makes this a pop bob. Or maybe it’s Caroline Polachek singing while auto-tuned the line “show me your banana” over and over again. Whatever the reason is, one thing is apparent. Caroline Polachek is the future of pop.
18. Morningsiders, “Not Your Lover”
This bouncy song makes me happy in ways I can’t properly articulate. The sweeping chorus of violins and hand clapping just make me feel as if everything is going to be okay.
17. The Black Keys, “Lo/Hi”
Every time The Black Keys create a new album, they also create a new sound. Their previous album was all about the funk. This time around they’ve channeled something much more psychedelic. Part southern rock, part blues and part gospel, “Lo/Hi” is unparalleled in sound, even for the Black Keys. This track is scorching.
16. Sudan Archives, “Confessions”
The song opens with a literal and figurative somber note for the first twenty seconds. Then it’s instantly cut off with a thumping violin beat. Then Sudan Archives adds a striking synth to weave together the strings and the result is dazzling. “Confessions” becomes an anthem when Brittney Parks triumphantly sings, “I fell down / and started / back up then seal the feeling / I’m too unique to kneel.” She later sings “Watch me frolic through the fields, bitch,” and we all know that we will.
15. Brittany Howard, “Stay High”
Brittany Howard, lead singer of Alabama Shakes, finally released her own solo album and the result is magic. The genius of the song is it’s simplicity. It’s a toy piano, a strumming acoustic guitar and a bare-bones percussion section. There are no backing vocals or giant hopped up chorus; just Howard’s bluesy, smooth vocals that has marked her as one of the best vocalists of her generation.
14. Big Thief, “Not”
“Not” is an intoxicating mixture of two contrasting forces, a hard textured electric guitar and the wispy vocals of lead singer Adrianne Lenker. The whole song Lenker struggles to articulate something singing, “[It’s] not a rouse / not heat / not the fire lapping up the creek.” But before she can answer her own question, the song shifts into a three minute guitar solo and a resounding ten seconds of silence.
13. Mannequin Pussy, “Drunk II”
This is one of the greatest breakup songs of all time. Striking the perfect balance between strength and vulnerability, lead singer Marisa Dabice has an emotional restlessness that’s unparalleled. This song also contains the most perfect lyric out of any song on this list, “I still love you, you stupid fuck!”
12. Carly Rae Jepsen, “Want You in My Room”
Carly Rae Jepsen is just a single girl looking for trouble with an insatiable saxophone solo. Coincidentally, those are all of the ingredients for the greatest pure pop song of 2019.
11. Hozier, “Almost (Sweet Music)”
In 2014, Hozier took us all to church. Five years later, he finally gave us a followup. While his lead single off his Wasteland, Baby! album was “Nina Cried Power” the true star and heir to “Take Me To Church” is “Almost (Sweet Music).” It has some of the same elements that made Church such a hit, a soulful organ and choral vocals. But unlike the grand, haunting Church, “Almost (Sweet Music)” is a tender love song, in the mellowest of fashions. He brilliantly references and pays tribute to all of the great jazz artists like Duke Ellington, John Coltrane and Ella Fitzgerald. He sings, “Let “Smoke Rings” from this “Paper, Doll / Blow sweet and thick ’til every thought of / “It Don’t Mean A Thing”” giving us one of the smoothest tracks of the year.
10. DaBaby, “Intro”
Dababy does not breathe on this track. He flies through every lyric every word, to the point where he almost interrupts himself. His rhythm, speed and emotion is unparalleled as he deals with his newfound stardom and the sudden death of his father. “How the fuck I make it to the top same day I lost the nigga that had me?” What’s perhaps more deafening though, is the silence that DaBaby allows in the song. His fast raps fill most of the song, so when he does pause for a breath, the silence is defeaning.
9. Sharon Van Etten, “Seventeen”
Sharon Van Etten has been kicking around the industry for almost two decades now with varying degrees of success. This song, should change her career. Van Etten looks back at her life when she was just seventeen and reflects on her hopes and dreams. She sings “I used to be free / I used to be seventeen,” as she revisits all the pivotal places in New York City that made her into the human she is. While she has achieved the success she yearned for, she has since relocated to Los Angeles, and you can’t help but hear the darkness subtly seep into the powerful rock and roll track. As the song reaches it’s crescendo, Van Etten belts out “I know what you’re gonna be” to her seventeen year old self, and it’s one of the most powerful musical moments of 2019.
8. Weyes Blood, “Movies”
Weyes Blood wrote this song to analyze our relationship with and consumption of dvds, videotrapes and Spielberg. The result is this breathtaking masterpiece. Cinematic in nature, this sweeping epic puts all listeners on a journey. The song opens with an eerie electronic sound that feels right at home with Stranger Things. Then Natalie Mering starts with her otherworldly vocals, and the combination makes the listener feels as if they are in some dreamscape. Then about halfway through the song stops to make way for a sharp violin solo, and it’s absolutely breathtaking.
7. Charli XCX feat. Christine and the Queens, “Gone”
The best collaboration of the year. The two bring out the best in each other creating one of the biggest, brashest and catchiest songs of the year. Both women are angry and confused over the industry and what it takes to make it. “Am I smoke? Am I the sun? / And who decides?” While the song is about anxiety and searching for validation, the song is anything but weak or sad. Rather, it showcases these two incredibly strong women who use a pounding synth and infectious beat to get across their point. These women are dripping with power.
6. Vampire Weekend, “Harmony Hall”
From the opening guitar riff, this song soothes the soul. It’s hypnotic and relaxing melodies puts the listener into a trance like state. The guitar and groovy piano create an upbeat sound that feels as if they are producing sunshine. Yet, it’s contrasted by their lyrics filled with dread. Lead singer Ezra Koenig sings, “And the stone walls of Harmony Hall bear witness / Anybody with a worried mind could never forgive the sight / Of wicked snakes inside a place you thought was dignified / I don’t wanna live like this, but I don’t wanna die.” This song is truly absurd, but in the most magnificent way possible.
5. FKA Twigs, “Cellophane”
In 2015, FKA Twigs wrote the incredible song, “Glass & Patron.” Four years later she followed up with a song describing her emotional heartbreak, where the climax of the song features glass being shattered. It’s a striking moment in the song, and an even larger moment for her as an artist. While she’s accompanied by a devastating piano, her voice sounds as if it will break any moment. Each time she can barely get out the chorus, “And didn’t I do it for you? / Why don’t I do it for you? / Why won’t you do it for me? / When all I do is for you?” Yet when the glass shatters, she sounds stronger than ever.
4. Priests, “Jesus’ Son”
When they released the song “Jesus’ Son,” Priests described it as “an apocalyptic sci-fi tale of epic proportions.” What seems like an impossible feat for a four minute song, Priests somehow achieves that and more on this eviscerating track that imagines what would happen if Jesus ascended to Earth and was really just an entitled scumbag. Lead singer Katie Alice Greer cheekily sings as if she were the messiah rocking out “I am Jesus’ son, I think I wanna hurt someone / I am Jesus’ son, I’m young and dumb and full of cum.” Truly, the most perfect rock song to represent 2019.
3. Nilüfer Yanya, “Heavyweight Champion of the Year”
Equal parts gritty and soulful, I’ve never heard anything quite like this song. Every moment, every sound is so raw it sounds unplanned. The guitar riffs practically stab with how sharply they cut in. Keyboards ripple in throughout as Nilüfer Yanya slowly oohs and ahhs in an eerie fashion. When she finally does start to sing, it’s about everything a twenty something can relate to, emotionally unavailable partners, and still dreaming despite being so mentally and physically exhausted. “I’m tired / From all these dreams
Lack of sleep / I’m still wired / To want these things, don’t bring him.” With one minute left in the song, Yanya takes it to another level. It becomes bigger, more painful, yet more beautiful. The exhaustion in her voice is palpable, but all the more powerful.
2. Billie Eilish, “bad guy”
Billie Eilish is probably the most polarizing musician on this list. While critics loved the song, many were quick to point out that it’s a lot for a seventeen year old minor. She brags about having bruises on both of her knees, and is the self proclaimed ‘might seduce your dad type.’ However one thing is absolutely clear, that regardless of how anyone feels, Billie Eilish is in control. She forces everyone to look at the over sexualized women in this industry and she does it in a provocative manner that grabs everyone’s attention. This song is as important as it is catchy.
1. Lizzo, “Juice”
2019 was the year of Lizzo. This song is simply irresistible. The 80s inspired jam is an infectious, cocky, feel good song that leaves anyone ready to love themselves. It’s truly perfection personified.