Before we get too far into 2018, here is my list of the Best Hit Songs of 2018! I meant to post this yesterday, but it just didn’t happen. And while I may have made music sound dismal on my last list, this was a better year overall and these songs will show that. You may notice my entries on the good list all falling under a similar umbrella, namely that they tend to be more upbeat. These all stood out amongst the doldrums of downbeat ditties that dominated in 2017. Off we go, with some notable titles that were great, but not quite enough for the Top 10:
11. “Humble” – Kendrick Lamar. While I thoroughly enjoy this and the beats given to support Kung Fu Kenny, he flubs more than a couple rhymes here and the chorus is overly repetitive, so it got knocked down to here.
12. “iSpy” – KYLE feat. Lil Yachty. This was originally my #10, as the juxtaposition between the lyrics and jovial beat provide a compelling narrative. However, pulling it back is the disastrous performance of Yachty. Like he did on last year’s “Broccoli” with Dram and the excellent Calvin Harris track “Faking It”, he has the uncanny ability to crap all over an otherwise fantastic song.
13. “Sign of the Times” – Harry Styles. By far the most promising 1D member gives us the best song of the bunch thus far. It does feel like a classic rock pastiche rather than a unique artistic vision, so he still had work to do to achieve greatness.
14. “Swalla” – Jason Derulo feat. Ty Dolla Sign and Nicki Minaj. I never thought I’d be putting a Derulo track here, but in a downcast year, this unapologetic romp was a highlight. Despite Nicki’s best guest verse of 2017 and some bananas production from Ricky Reed, the song is too gross and sloppy for me to give it the full endorsement.
15. “Water Under the Bridge” – Adele. This received no promotion or video and barely managed to become a hit. And it’s hardly her best work, but still great and a change of direction for Mrs. Atkins.
16. “Feel it, Still” – Portugal. The Man. I want to like this a lot more than I actually do, but in 2017, we have to grasp the meager alternative entries that end up on the Year End list.
THE TOP TEN BEST HIT SONGS OF 2017
10. “Malibu” – Miley Cyrus. I went back and forth on this for half the year and it’s not her best, but I a year where things could seem dismal, this sweet, stripped down ode to her man shows Miley at the rawest she’s ever been. She didn’t completely stick the landing with her new artistic direction, but this is pretty great.
9. “DNA” – Kendrick Lamar. If I judged this strictly on Kendrick’s performance, this would be very close to the top of the list. But pulling it back it the plodding production of Mike Will Made It. While it garnered praise from many, I find it tiring and exhausting and the midpoint key change is clumsily executed. It’s still awesome, but not quite where it could have been.
8. “That’s What I Like” – Bruno Mars. “Versace on the Floor” very well could have been #1 here had it become the hit it deserved to be. But that song floundered and this is somewhat of a consolation prize. But don’t be mistaken: This is still fantastic and contains the best bridge section of any big song I’ve heard this year. Bruno should stay in this lane and hopefully his success will lead to a full on revival of the New Jack Swing sound of the early Nineties.
7. “In Case You Didn’t Know” – Brett Young. Country music continues to struggle in adapting to the times and only managed five entries on the Year End. While its biggest entry was a disaster, its second biggest was a fantastically understated country ballad that has been largely overlooked. Young’s vocal is one that simultaneously conveys sorrow and love in one swoop. Brett shows promise in a genre that is desperately trying to find its footing.
6. “Love Galore” – SZA feat. Travis Scott. This is probably the most flawed entry on this list. The verses are repetitive and could use a rewrite. SZA’s vocal, while compelling, is a little crackily in parts. And Travis Scott, while passable, could have done more with his guest feature. But this song is mostly here for its content and potential. There was a drought in female breakouts this year, specifically ones willing to push their music into bold, and even unflattering, territories such as this, and SZA was a breath of fresh air.
5. “Castle on the Hill” – Ed Sheeran. Most of you probably assume I don’t like Ed. This is not true and this is proof of that, as he is the shining star. In a year where U2 released an album, I never thought the best U2 song of the year wouldn’t even come from them. This is reminiscent of their early work and shows Sheeran at his absolute best.
4. “I Feel It Coming” – The Weeknd feat. Daft Punk. An early contender for the #1 spot, this is an unapologetic Michael Jackson impression that is even better than “In The Night”. Besides an overly repetitive chorus, this song is near perfect. I hope an exclusive Weeknd/Daft Punk EP comes to fruition someday, because if its contents are anything like this, we would have something truly special.
3. “Slide” – Calvin Harris feat. Frank Ocean and Migos. I bestowed the honor of Most Improved of 2017 to Calvin Harris and this opening single also had a great shot of topping this list. The breezy, disco centered track sound like nothing else on the radio or in Harris’ discography and when one can name Frank Ocean’s sleepy but effective vocal as the weak point, then the song in question is truly a great one. Props to Offset of Migos as well for delivering the best verse here and showing why he’s the most promising member of his group.
2. “Praying” – Kesha. Originally my top pick, this is a triumphant return for Kesha and a magnificent piece of music on its own, utilizing the most of everyone involved, including a fantastic Ryan Lewis as producer. But the star here is Kesha with her best ever vocal performance that builds upon itself and eclipses with a bridge and final chorus that are breathtaking. This is likely to end up on most reviewers Best lists for good reason and will hopefully earn her a Grammy in February.
1. “Redbone” – Childish Gambino. As you all know, I like to be surprised and this internet meme/Get Out soundtrack theme/retro throwback was a slow burner for me. Never has Donald Glover sang like this or produced a track in this lane, but this is wonderful, not only in its sound, but in its lyrical complexity, first sounding like a cautionary lovers tale and soon dipping its toes into more socially conscious boundaries. Songs like this are not supposed to become hits and yet here we are. The most pleasant surprise of 2017 and the best hit song of 2017.
I promise this is the last list of 2017. Even though it’s now 2018. You have at least a month free of my rants. I hope you all are enjoying the new year thus far. Much love 💕