Top 50 Songs of 2019

Tracks that kept us feeling sane and human in an exhausting and chaotic year

Top 50 Songs of 2019
Top 50 Songs of 2019

    After celebrating the best music, film, and television of the decade in November, we now turn to celebrating 2019. Previously we shared our picks for 2019’s Top Albums; today continue today with our Top 50 Songs of 2019.

    Welcome to 2019, where all the world’s a meme and all the songs are merely players in it.

    Despite this truth, there were a mass of tracks this year that broke through the bullshit, made us feel human, and held us while we dropped our online personas, let our phones slip to their lock screens, and truly vibed out like no one was watching.

    Those moments include Vampire Weekend coming back with “Harmony Hall”, complete with an all-grown-up Ezra Keonig officially vacating tales of a post-collegiate slump and sharing the keen observation that “every time a problem ends, another one begins” over an echoing guitar. Then there were love songs, like Local Natives‘ “Lose You”, that made you not only miss but welcome the pain of falling for someone. We were also beckoned to meditate on tracks like “Almeda”, where Solange revels in the mantra of “Black skin black braids” that can’t be washed away with Florida water. We were also pleasantly “led astray” to a teenage reverie with Sharon Van Etten’s “Seventeen”.

    (Read: Top 50 Albums of 2019)


    In defense of the meme-able, we should also mention that not all memes are created equal. Billie Eilish’s defiant “duh” might seem like a reply guy’s Twitter response, but in those three letters holds the self-actualization of someone defiantly aware of life on earth, someone who doesn’t mind playing the “bad guy” and making generations before her uncomfortable while doing it.

    And yes, we can blame Lizzo’s “Juice” for the captions of countless Instagram thirst trap photos, which, indeed, may have caused someone’s man to get quote “lost in your DMs,” but it also rang of timeless funk, self-love, and unshakable confidence.

    One of the most meme-able 2019 moments was brought by way of Megan Thee Stallion. As you may recall, the song and phrase “Hot Girl Summer” was not only co-opted by the headlines of every women’s site listicle but also by brands like Wendy’s, Maybelline, and even Forever 21. Thankfully, it was also co-opted by women with strong knees who were labeling themselves hot girls, whether or not society agreed.


    As the year comes to a close and we venture out into a new decade of territory, it might be worth mentioning that there’s room for us all. So, whether you’re a hot girl, sad boy, defiant person, or anything and everything in between, there’s some life out there for you, and we hope this list is made up of more than enough relatable moments to serve as your soundtrack.

    –Erica Campbell
    Music Editor

    50. Nilüfer Yanya – “In Your Head”

    Nilüfer Yanya - Miss Universe

    Sounds Like: An anxiety attack.

    Key Lyric: “I can think what I want/ I can feel what I feel/ Until you say it out loud/ How will I know if it’s real?”

    Why It Matters: Between the “fake news media”, impeachment hearings, and conducting too many of our social interactions through apps on our phones, life in 2019 feels like a bad episode of Black Mirror. In her breakout track, Nilüfer Yanya’s smoky vocals bend around fuzzy guitar riffs that embody a loosening of reality. What’s real? What’s fake? Does everyone hate me? Are we breaking up? Fuck it, let’s go dancing. –Johanna Gretschel

    Song in a GIF:

    49. The Regrettes – “I Dare You”

    The Regrettes - How Do You Love? Album Cover

    Sounds Like: The feel-good montage moment in a struggling teen series.

    Key Lyric: “I never wanted to get too close to you/ But now it looks like I’m getting too close to you”


    Why It Matters: You can always count on Lydia Night. The thoughtful storyteller behind The Regrettes brings a lived-in soul to each one of the band’s oft-vintage doo-wop jams. “I Dare You” is no exception, a swinging ditty that tears a page or two from the journals of young love. “You’re gonna fall, but I’ll catch you,” she pleads, and you can’t help but sing along. Not because it’s catchy, but because it’s all too easy to relate to the process of accidentally falling for someone — and learning to trust them. –Angie Piccirillo

    Song in a GIF:

    48. DaBaby – “Suge”

    Sounds Like: The most souped-up car in a high school parking lot after school gets out.

    Key Lyric: “Use the brain in your head ‘fore you lose it”

    Why It Matters: It’s been an incredible breakout year for DaBaby. The Charlotte-bred rapper was named one of this year’s XXL Freshmen, released two albums just a few months apart, and announced he’ll soon be welcoming his third child — all of which was predicated on the success of his single “Suge”. The song was most people’s introduction to DaBaby just as his career was taking off and has done so well in part because of its bass-heavy production and clever bars that hip-hop heads love. Be sure not to miss the remix with Nicki Minaj. –Chris Malone

    Song in a GIF:

    47. Beach Bunny – “Dream Boy”

    Beach Bunny Honeymoon album artwork cover debut

    Sounds Like: The movie John Hughes would have made if his career had started in the ’90s.

    Key Lyric: “Oh, I tend to keep my heart locked water-tight/ All you gotta do is meet me after midnight”


    Why It Matters: It’s far too easy to get far too cynical about romance. There are certain types of love songs that can only be written effectively at a very specific time in a young person’s life. Beach Bunny are right in the sweet spot for a track like “Dream Boy”, where they can still watch corny ’80s and ’90s rom-coms and think, “I’ll get my shot at that someday.” That innocent longing not yet worsted by one too many heartbreaks. Intimating that simple sentiment in such a charming song is a reminder that, no matter how jaded we get, it’s not always foolish to be optimistic about the heart. –Ben Kaye

    Song in a GIF:

    Beach Bunny Gif

    46. Chromatics – “You’re No Good”

    Chromatics - Closer to Grey

    Sounds Like: Getting your tongue stuck to an ice sculpture of the Pet Shop Boys.

    Key Lyric: “We watch the night fall on the ground and are we all alone?”

    Why It Matters: Ruth Radelet’s trademark frostiness is what makes this song work. Is she fighting her obsession, surrendering to it, or just bored by it? The repeated loops of “that’s all we ever do, ever do, ever do” reinforce the simultaneous captivation and tedium that feed the song. New wave-inspired synths build the song, but they always feel more like reverence than pastiche. –Erin Lyndal Martin

    Song in a GIF:

    black and white

    45. Freddie Gibbs & Madlib – “Flat Tummy Tea”

    Freddie Gibbs and Madlib - Bandana

    Sounds Like: The ghost of ’70s funk guitars goes full poltergeist on everybody’s asses.


    Key Lyric: “Took the sword and knocked white Jesus off of that white horse”

    Why It Matters: Imagine what a stack of ’70s soul records would sound like after they’ve been left in a hot car for too long and you’ve got some idea of what Bandana sounds like. On their latest collab, Freddie Gibbs spits on top of Madlib’s playfully warped take on soul music. “Flat Tummy Tea” is a high point, finding Gibbs’ lyrics widening like a gyre, going from drug talk to Malcolm X, white supremacy to the slave trade, and, of course, the lie that is White Jesus. And he does it on top of one of Madlib’s best beat changes as the producer deftly keeps pace with Gibbs’ expanding POV. –Ashley Naftule

    Song in a GIF:

    44. Purple Mountains – “All My Happiness Is Gone”


    Sounds Like: A final drive into the desert with two “mall margaritas” in the cup holders as the sun sets

    Key Lyric: “Mounting mileage on the dash/ Double darkness falling fast/ I keep stressing, pressing on”


    Why It Matters: What would’ve been viewed as a triumphant comeback album for David Berman now spins as a strange and tragic testament to the pain he must have been going through — and the attitude he maintained towards it. The jovial melodies of songs like opener “That’s Just the Way That I Feel” belie the desperation of lines like “When I try to drown my thoughts in gin/ I find my worst ideas know how to swim” and “The end of all wanting/ Is all I’ve been wanting.” Berman’s talent for wordplay and penchant for dark humor and ironies suggest an artist in control and a man hanging in there better than he actually was. To feel the chug and glow of a song like “All My Happiness Is Gone” now leaves us in this emotional no man’s land of wanting to dance and cry at the same time. A great talent lost. –Matt Melis 

    Song in a GIF:


    43. Megan Thee Stallion – “Hot Girl Summer”

    Megan Thee Stallion Nicki Minaj Ty Dolla $ign Hot Girl Summer stream single artwork

    Sounds Like: Summer heat, sand, a new swimsuit, three alcohols, zero fucks, and whole squad of bad bitches.

    Key Lyric: “Handle me? Who gon’ handle me?/ Thinkin’ he’s a player, he’s a member on the team”


    Why It Matters: A siren call to all those who see themselves as bad bitches, many of us are still balming our knees from failed attempts at twerking this past summer, not wanting to let Megan Thee Stallion down. “Hot Girl Summer” sparked a million tweets and countless memes, but more importantly the scorching bop was an anthem for those embracing their bodies despite the gaze of those who wish to police them. In her own words, via Twitter, Megan Thee Stallion explained, “Being a Hot Girl is about being unapologetically YOU, having fun, being confident, living YOUR truth, being the life of the party etc.” See? Real hot girl shit. –Erica Campbell

    Song in a GIF:

    42. FKA twigs – “Cellophane”

    FKA twigs Magdalene Artwork

    Sounds Like: Watching a car crash in slow motion

    Key Lyric: “Why won’t you do it for me when all I do is for you?”

    Why It Matters: Imagine writing such a heartbreaking song about a dying relationship. Then imagine being so tied to the visual idea that accompanied the writing process that you learn and perfect the art of pole dancing in order to capture it just right. For good measure, tack on the fact that FKA twigs spent the time before this release going through a major health crisis. By comparison, this track feels so simple. There’s nothing flashy standing in the way of her raw emotions. She lays it all out there, taking you with her on her descent from pursuing excellence to crashing back down to earth. –Paige Williams

    Song in a GIF:

    41. The National – “Light Years”

    The National - I Am Easy to Find

    Sounds Like: Love echoing in the insurmountable distance between two people

    Key Lyric: “Everyone was lighting up in the shadows alone/ You could’ve been right there next to me, and I’d have never known”


    Why It Matters: The National can break a heart like nobody’s business. As soon as Aaron Dessner’s fingers tumble over the keys on this closing track to I Am Easy to Find, the cracks start to form. Then in comes Matt Berninger, his voice an even more restrained hush than usual, and it’s like the organ just falls apart in your chest. There’s something so simple about the phrase “I will always be light years away from you” that almost feels like it’s not cerebral enough for a National cut, but it’s composed with such grace that it will make you cry like the best of their repertoire. –Ben Kaye

    Song in a GIF:

    Calvin and Hobbes