By Rachel Epstein published
When Drake dropped two new songs in the middle of the night back in January, we suddenly had a glimmer of hope that 2018 would be the year we all needed. That pipe dream quickly faded, but at least we had some great music!
From the bangers to the sad songs to the pop hits in-between, we've rounded up the best music this year had to offer. Grab your wireless speaker, incessantly blast the playlist below, and proceed to ignore your passive-aggressive neighbors. You deserve this.
"Shallow" - Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper
Was it even 2018 if you didn't shout, "I'M OFF THE DEEP END, WATCH AS I DIVE IN" for two weeks straight after seeing A Star Is Born? Lady Gaga has always been incredible, but her performance in this movie affirms her status as one of the best artists not just of our time, but of all time. Didn't see the movie? Give "Shallow" one listen and you'll see why.
"Mariner's Apartment Complex" - Lana Del Rey
Three MarieClaire.com editors, including myself, have concluded that "Mariner's Apartment Complex" is Lana Del Rey's best song of all time. The California sad girl vibes continue in this painfully good single from her upcoming album, Norman Fucking Rockwell, to be released early next year.
"Africa" - Weezer
Weezer blessed the rains the world and finally did a cover of Toto's 1982 "Africa" following a major push from fans on social media. Hitting play feels like you can tackle anything that comes your way, and that's enough to make it on this list.
"Pynk" - Janelle Monáe ft. Grimes
Two words: vagina pants. If you've kept up with this list throughout the year (or simply scroll down), you'll know that Monáe gifted the world her album Dirty Computer in April, which includes this self-love feminist anthem and a kickass music video to go with it (featuring said vagina pants). Monáe embraces her pansexuality with lyrics like, "Pink like the inside of your, baby / Pink behind all of the doors, crazy / Pink like the tongue that goes down, maybe."
"A Pearl" - Mitski
"A Pearl" can be found on Mitski's fifth studio album Be the Cowboy. The 28-year-old Japanese-American singer, who claims she "makes music for the outsiders," is rightfully praised for her relatable themes of identity and belonging. "Sorry, I don't want your touch / It's not that I don't want you / Sorry, I can't take your touch / It's just that I fell in love with a war / And nobody told me it ended."
"SICKO MODE" - Travis Scott ft. Drake
Shortly after his new daughter Stormi Webster was born, Travis Scott birthed Astroworld (sorry, had to!), which includes this epic collaboration with Drake. The artists team up without sacrificing their individual styles, so it feels like you're truly getting the best of both rappers. Let's also take a moment to appreciate the Clueless reference at 1:57.
"Consequences" - Camila Cabello
Camila Cabello had her biggest year yet, winning the MTV Video Music Award for Artist of the Year. "Consequences" really displays her talent while giving you All. The. Feels. Ten out of 10 do not recommend playing this on a Friday night at home alone unless you want an extra push to send that "I miss you" text.
"Missing U" - Robyn
Speaking of, after an eight-year hiatus, Robyn returned to her electro-pop roots and debuted her newest album, Honey. "Missing U" feels like a newer version of her 2010 hit "Dancing On My Own" that's full of growth and healing, but still nostalgic as hell.
"Who Hurt You?" - Daniel Caesar
I will say it over and over again: Do not sleep on Daniel Caesar. The 23-year-old Canadian singer produced brilliant work on his 2017 album Freudian (see: "Blessed" and "Take Me Away"). And this year's follow-up "Who Hurt You?" is one of the best singles to come out of 2018—namely for the soothing vocals and sultry beat you'll have no problem playing on repeat in the bedroom.
"Thank U, Next" - Ariana Grande
It would be a mistake not to acknowledge the perfectly-timed brilliance that is "Thank U, Next:" right after Ariana Grande broke off her engagement with Pete Davidson. The pop star iconically names all four of her exes in the song, and reflects on her relationship with each of them. She quickly said "thank u, next" to her Sweetener album that she released earlier this year.
"Nice for What" - Drake
Prepare to play this song at every single one of your pre-games. It's a certified head-banger, and makes our list of top music videos of the year for its star-studded cameos, including Yara Shahidi, Rashida Jones, Issa Rae, Tiffany Haddish, Olivia Wilde, Emma Roberts, Misty Copeland, and more.
"Thru Your Phone" - Cardi B
Cardi B shows off her sultry side on her debut album, Invasion of Privacy. Its 12th track, "Thru Your phone," is that slow jam you blast on repeat when your S.O. is quickly about to become your ex. "I went through your phone last night / Saw some things I didn't like / I went through your phone last night / It's killing me, killing me, killing me, oh."
"After the Storm" - Kali Uchis ft. Tyler the Creator
Colombian-American artist Kali Uchis finally started receiving the recognition she deserves in April, when she released her first album, Isolation. "After the Storm" is the epitome of good vibes, and the perfect combination of R&B/soul and rap that also features the inimitable rapper Tyler the Creator.
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"Ball for Me" - Post Malone ft. Nicki Minaj
"Ball for Me" is one of the best tracks on Post Malone's new album, Beerbongs & Bentleys. It's smooth, catchy, and Nicki Minaj is featured, so obviously it's great.
"Back to You" - Selena Gomez
Selena Gomez is long-overdue for a new album (she hasn't released one since 2015), and if "Back to You" is any indication of what's coming from Gomez, expect her to bring all the summer jams and more.
"I'm Upset" - Drake
Soon after Drake released his fiery single "I'm Upset"—which includes lyrics like, "Every month, I'm supposed to pay her bills / And get her what she want / I still got like seven years of doin' what I want / My dad still got child support from 1991"—Pusha T claimed Drake has a child nobody knows about (he wasn't wrong), which has slightly tainted his good guy image. The song is a reflection of emotions that weren't expressed as clearly in his last two albums, Views (2016) and More Life (2017).
"Wasted Times" - The Weeknd
Oh, you thought the Weeknd was over Bella Hadid? Even though the pair broke up in 2016, he references the supermodel in the sultry "Wasted Times" from his mini-album, My Dear Melancholy. The pair reconnected in Cannes earlier this year and are officially back together.
"This Is America" - Childish Gambino
The incredibly talented Childish Gambino, a.k.a. Donald Glover, wrote "This Is America" to highlight the gruesome reality of gun violence in America, and it's a poignant contribution to cultural conversation on what it means to live in this country, especially as a black person. Listening to the song alone doesn't do it justice—watch the music video, above, and see for yourself.
"New Light" - John Mayer
John Mayer has come a long way from his "Slow Dancing in a Burning Room" days, and now he wants you to see him in a new light. Hence, the name of his retro-sounding new single. Fun fact: John Mayer shot his music video for "New Light" with a production company that usually makes bar mitzvah videos, so there's that.
"Bad Bad News" - Leon Bridges
Enter: a genius mix of jazz and R&B from artist-with-the-voice-of-an-angel Leon Bridges from his new album, Good Things.
"OKRA" - Tyler the Creator
Reminder: Tyler the Creator can rap, and he can do it really well. He released his single "OKRA" in March and described it as a "throwaway song," though it's anything but that with its smooth flow and bass-heavy ring. He also references Call Me By Your Name's Timothée Chalamet, which is reason enough to listén.
"Slow Burn" - Kacey Musgraves
Kacey Musgraves is that artist you never think you're going to "get into," and suddenly you're listening to her entire album on repeat. Musgraves' "Slow Burn" has a soft melody with incredible vocals that will put you straight in your feels.
"God's Plan" - Drake
Scary hours, indeed. As soon as the clock struck midnight on the one-year anniversary of Donald Trump's inauguration, Drake took our minds off the misery with two brand new tracks from his EP, Scary Hours. The best part? This iconic verse from "God's Plan:" "She say, 'Do you love me?' I tell her, 'Only partly' / I only love my bed and my momma, I'm sorry." The song has the same hip-hop vibe as "Free Smoke" and definitely doesn't disappoint.
"All the Stars" - Kendrick Lamar and SZA
Kendrick and SZA dropped their first original song from the Black Panther soundtrack—reminding us they're the duet we didn't know we needed. This isn't the first time the artists have paired up. They worked together on SZA's 2017 song, "Doves in the Wind." "All the Stars" goes in a different direction with a more upbeat vibe—but it's still equally as amazing.
"Heaven" - Justine Skye
"Don't think I'll ever be angel / I'm floating in the sky / I might have never been this high." "Heaven" is a major sit-in-your-feels song from the 22-year-old, whose debut album Ultraviolet was released on January 18.
"Pray for Me" - The Weeknd and Kendrick Lamar
The Weeknd is known for his sultry mixes and Kendrick Lamar for his quick-rap style. Pair the two together and you have the genius collaboration that is "Pray for Me," featured on the Black Panther soundtrack.
"Make Me Feel" - Janelle Monáe
You may know Janelle Monáe from the hit movie Hidden Figures, but she's been a singer since long before you spotted her on-screen. This sexy R&B ballad is part of her third album, Dirty Computer, released in April.
"Look Alive" - BlocBoy JB ft. Drake
Before he dropped Scorpion this summer, Drake released plenty of singles—"God's Plan," "Diplomatic Immunity," "Nice for What," and "I'm Upset"—as well as this new hip-hop song "Look Alive," which feels like Drake's own even though he's technically a feature.
"Love Lies" - Khalid & Normani
Tell me where your love lies, Khalid. The 20-year-old singer is gaining even more momentum this year with his hit single, "Love Lies," with former Fifth Harmony singer Normani. And he doesn't plan on stopping—proof in his newest hit, "Better."
Download our complete "Best Songs of 2018" playlist below:
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Rachel Epstein is an editor at Marie Claire, where she writes and edits culture, politics, and lifestyle stories ranging from op-eds to profiles to ambitious packages. She also manages the site’s virtual book club, #ReadWithMC. Offline, she’s likely watching a Heat game, finding a new coffee shop, or analyzing your cousin's birth chart—in no particular order.
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