“I’m gonna start a garden in my backyard
‘Cause making this song up is just as hard”
– Haley Heynderickx
How about we call this “Songs Corey Thinks Are the Best” and call it good?
In the spirit of sharing as much goodness as possible, I stuffed more songs onto this list and decided not to rank them. Most can all be No. 1s under the right circumstances.
I’m still missing like 162 songs, but I ran out of time. Enjoy!
Top Songs of 2018
(Excluding tracks represented in the 2018 album review)
“This is America” by Childish Gambino
This song dumps centuries of accumulated baggage upon a generation committed to forgetting any of it ever happened. The music video is a necessary companion.
“Graffiti” by CHVRCHES
CHVRCHES has emerged from this decade’s alt-pop uprising as the genre’s elite. Their maturity mixed with youthful longing are capable of making some artfully devastating tracks, such as this one.
“To the Sea” by Hey Ocean!
Genre: Mature Pop
“You’re a strong swimmer, but this time, the ocean, she won.”
“Lunar Addiction” by Hollie Cook
Genre: Cosmic Reggae
Gravity is just a construct. Become weightless.
“Teenage Fantasy” by Jorja Smith
She’s on another plane artistically. Smith has a couple more songs deserving of a spot on this list and her album almost cracked the top 10: give her a listen.
“All the Stars” by Kendrick Lamar feat. SZA
You most undoubtedly have heard this song and know of its magic. Not only does this song cover the cost of fame from a black man’s perspective, but it’s closely tied to Black Panther and showcases the stunning abilities of SZA. The rare triple win.
“Motion” by Khalid
Like giving birth to a sunset.
“You Say” by Lauren Daigle
A transcendent self-affirmation delivered with Adele-level vocals.
“Everything” by Nas feat. The-Dream, Kanye West
Amidst the chaos of baffling political views, music Kanye had a subtle yet tremendous resurgence. This track is peak Kanye no matter what era. Nas’ barz reign supreme (not that I agree with everything he says).
On an album depicting each of the seven deadly sins, this one addresses greed.
“Don’t Be Afraid if Nobody Loves You” by Suede
Genre: Alternative Rock
Rock music’s death is greatly exaggerated.
In my 30s, I vow to explore this band in its entirety because I love everything I have heard.
“Breathe” by Seinabo Sey
There are places in the world where you can just be who you are, unconditional, free of judgement. The comforts of walking down the street, sitting on a bus or eating at a restaurant – many Americans take this for granted. The other half has to worry about receiving hateful speech or someone calling the police.
Sey had some powerful words in discussing the story behind this song: “It’s an achievement to be sane, or even close to sane, in this society. It’s an achievement to be happy…and there’s something beautiful in wanting to be a good human being.”
“Me & My Dog” by boygenius
Julien Baker, Phoebe Bridgers and Lucy Dacus combine to form a formidable harmony of melancholy. Encapsulated in the live performance above, they are nothing less than sublime.
“Kids See Ghosts” by KIDS SEE GHOSTS
See, Kanye’s music really did make a comeback this year. As KIDS SEE GHOSTS, he and Kid Cudi seemed to, for the first time in a long time, have fun making music. Both rappers have lost their parents. Subsequently, Kid Cudi went to rehab for drugs and thoughts of suicide – he was emotionally damaged.
Kanye on the other hand has combated widespread criticism from the media, knocking his ego and attacking fame. But where this Kanye differs from, say, “I Am a God” Kanye, is that he’s merely just presenting facts here: He makes a lot of money! He makes more money on shoes than Michael Jordan! And these realities are a lot easier to palate when he’s keeping out of the news for his bigoted and hypocritical comments.
This song is the vulnerable manifestation of those realities.
“Love Can Only Heal” by Myles Kennedy
Somewhere along the way, America forgot what it means to care. Something has flipped – there’s a belief that separating parents from children and suppressing those with different backgrounds will lead to the betterment of this society. This is like trying to heal a wound with a bullet.
Above all, we all want to be happy and safe. Though that definition may differ between bodies, the process to get there, I’m sure, could be handled with humanity. To the White House representatives reading this, what is the direct cause of your joy: eating bacon when you’re hungry or slaughtering a pig? Do you see the difference? It’s not just means to an end – intent matters.
We have forgotten: Love multiplies when divided.
“Un4gvn” by Ruby Friedman feat. Two Beards
Genre: Blues Rock
An interesting song that never left me after I heard it. Friedman refuses to let evil forget about what it left behind, which sadly fits in this #MeToo era.
“Ethereal” by Rural Zombies
Genre: Alternative Rock
The pleasant riff you hear contrasts with the actual message of the song, accentuated by the sturdy hook: “Stay away from me and my fucking mess.”
“Youth” by Shawn Mendes feat. Khalid
Certain generations are not given the attention they deserve, leading me to wonder how they will shape the future once the older generation dies off. We’ll get more into this subject in the full-album reviews, but it’s something to chew on.
Also, I see you Shawn Mendes. Along with the likes of Ed Sheeran and John Mayer, he is more talented than his fanbase or major record labels deserve.
“Only Us” by Thrice
I get emotional listening to this song. That’s just where my heart’s at.
I have been told by loved ones that my views are being manipulated by the media. This is enraging as I don’t generally read or watch the news on my own accord.
However, I do listen to people. I listen to songs, I read books. I try to get a sense of how people live each and every day because that is what is. And at our fundamental core, we’re not so different. Not enough of us have realized it, so we keep fighting amongst ourselves, failing to see who the real enemy is.
“Letters I Wrote” by Viktor Taiwo
Genre: Indie Hip-Hop
First, you must be honest with yourself. Then, give them hell.
“Sanctify” by Years and Years
Genre: Dance Pop
“Oom Sha La La” by Haley Heynderickx
This isn’t the first time I’ve wondered if the energy I spend in the arts would be best used in more productive ways. But this is the first singer I’ve heard come to this realization in such a visceral way.
Also, I think she needs to start a garden.
“Nina Cried Power” by Hozier feat. Mavis Staples
Genre: Alt Soul
SONG OF THE YEAR from the ears of this reviewer. This is a masterclass on honoring the muses of the past through song. The words mean something. Sometimes, the words mean everything: “It’s not the waking, it’s the rising.”
Meanwhile, the people in the music video are activists from Ireland, which has had a year to forget. But still they fight. As the likes of Nina Simone, Joni Mitchell, Billie Holliday, Curtis Mayfield, Mavis Staples, B.B. King, Michael Jackson, John Lennon, Hozier and many others have proven, Music is the power of the human spirit.
And, by God, we are limitless.
Editor’s Choice: “My God is Dead” by Beyond the Black
Genre: Symphonic Metal
When some of the top songs in your rotation are “My God is Dead” and “Hangout in the Gallows,” that’s not a good reflection of your outlook! That said, I stand by this song, which absolutely shreds.
“My God is Dead” is all about giving power to something that ultimately betrays you and the air you breathe, be that a relationship or
a government some other entity.
Bonus: “Hangout at the Gallows” by Father John Misty
Genre: Indie Folk
Hey, I can’t just reference the song and not put it here! There were many, many, many good lyrics this year, but there is something comically helpless about “I’m treading water as I bleed to death.”
Music Video of the Year
Gotta end on a happy note: Regular dudes dancing!
Best Tracks of 2018 Playlist:
Didn’t put much of a number cap on this one either. Have fun with that.