Required Listening: The Best Pop Songs of 2018

First name: Ariana. Last name: Grande.

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It came as no surprise when Fifth Harmony announced earlier this year that they were taking an indefinite hiatus so all five members can pursue solo projects. Camila Cabello—who rose to fame via the girl group—dominated the pop charts with her self-titled album, Camila. She wasn't the only musician who had a hell of a year: Ariana Grande, Drake, and a slew of artists new and old reminded us that pop can be cool. Besides, in this trash-fire of a world we live in, sometimes you just need a tune you can bop along to and forget your troubles. Here, our definitive list of 2018's top feel-good pop songs.

"Without Me" - Halsey

Halsey had herself a really, really great year, dropping several hit singles, including "Without Me," the first she's written under her real name, Ashley. Though fans thought she was referring to her ex G-Eazy in the lyrics ("Does it ever get lonely? / Thinking you could live without me"), she shut down rumors on Instagram and revealed the song was "a reflection of a combination of relationships I've been in, or watched the people I love go through."

"Missing U" - Robyn

Robyn is back and giving us the electro-pop feels we've desperately been craving during her eight-year hiatus. And, you know, maybe, just maybe, it isn't so bad we lost the love of our life because, well, Robyn is making us feel okay with this '80s-inspired bop.

"Eastside" - Benny Blanco, Halsey, & Khalid


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Like I said, Halsey had a pretty excellent year, collaborating with Benny Blanco and Khalid in the nostalgic "Eastside"—the kind of song you roll down the windows to when you're home for the holidays, reminiscing about high school matter how many years it's been since you graduated.

"Thank U, Next" - Ariana Grande

Forget 2018..."Thank U, Next" will go down as one of the best pop songs of our time. Throughout the certified bop, Grande fearlessly name-drops her exes as she meditates on her full-circle journey to self-love. And those were just the lyrics. Even more iconic is the music video in which she reenacted scenes from beloved 2000s movies Legally Blonde13 Going on 30, Mean Girls, and Bring It On. Through her grief following the death of her ex Mac Miller and her breakup with fiancé Pete Davidson, the 25-year-old has produced incredible art.

"High Horse" - Kacey Musgraves

Kacey Musgraves has us questioning the true definition of country music with songs like "High Horse," one of the hits on her highly-praised Golden Hour album, a wonderful, feel-good pop song that strays far from the classic country genre we're used to (except for Musgraves' charming slight twang, of course).

"Beautiful" - Bazzi ft. Camila Cabello

Bazzi, best known for his sexy 2017 single "Mine," originally released "Beautiful" last year, but Camila's incredible vocals were added to the remixed version that dropped in August. It's a refreshing addition to an otherwise breakup-inspired year of pop songs.

"Done For Me" - Charlie Puth ft. Kehlani

"Done For Me" is exactly what you'd expect from pop king Charlie Puth—a bold exclamation that he's nobody's pawn and deserves better. Kehlani's vocals add a nice touch to the electro-pop hit and confirms the singers' years-long chemistry, starting with their sultry cover of Drake's "Hotline Bling" in 2015.

"God's Plan" - Drake

Drake's "God's Plan" is a lot of things—brilliant, wholesome, a reflection of his good guy image. It's also a head-boppin' pop song that set the precedent for his 25-track fifth studio album Scorpion, released this summer.

"No Tears Left to Cry" - Ariana Grande

Ariana Grande's "No Tears Left to Cry" is the lead single from her fourth studio album, Sweetener. It's catchy (like, "Love Me Harder" catchy) and deserves all of the stars.

"FRIENDS" - Marshmello & Anne-Marie

There's nothing better than some good ol' lyrics like, "You're not my lover, more like a brother / I known you since we were like ten" to push someone into the friend zone. Marshmello & Anne-Marie released their single "FRIENDS" in February, which is a part of 27-year-old U.K. singer Anne-Marie's debut studio album, Speak Your Mind.

"In My Blood" - Shawn Mendes

In full transparency, I wasn't a huge Shawn Mendes fan at first, but "In My Blood" bumps. (If the song name sounds familiar, you're probably thinking of John Mayer's "In the Blood," which is completely different.) Mendes' passion is on full-display with his powerful vocals and a music video that's pretty empowering as he sings about not giving up.

"Growing Pains" - Alessia Cara

Add "Growing Pains" to Alessia Cara's list of really good hits, next to "Stay" and "Scars to Your Beautiful." Even if you aren't an avid listener of Cara, you'll immediately recognize the 22-year-old's powerful vocals and feminist lyrics that make her songs so great.

"Back to You" - Selena Gomez

How could we not include Selena Gomez's summer anthem, "Back to You" on this list? Roll the windows down and hit play on this feel-good single as you head to the beach.

"I Like Me Better" - Lauv

Same. If you keep up with our "best songs" lists, you know that we included relatively low-key Lauv in our roundup of the best love songs of 2018. The versatile 23-year-old artist made it to this pop list as well with his upbeat track from the same album, I Met You When I Was 18.

"5 Seconds of Summer" - Youngblood

Australian pop rock band Youngblood is back with its third studio album, 5 Seconds of Summer, which includes this top-rated single of the same title. Make it your pump-up song for the gym or the first day back at work after a long vacation.

"Havana" - Camila Cabello

God is a woman. God is Ariana Grande. The music video filled with powerful feminist imagery speaks for itself, and so does the song's sexy mix of slow and fast beats as Grande exclaims, "You love it how I move you / You love it how I touch you, my one."

"Heaven" - Julia Michaels

Although you may have first heard this catchy single last year, "Havana" made its official debut on Cabello's new album in early January. And no, we're still not over how good it is. The latin pop song is sexy and dance-around-embarassingly-in-your-room worthy.

"Heaven" - Julia Michaels

The "Issues" singer slows it down with her single "Heaven" from the Fifty Shades Freed soundtrack. We're very appreciative of a slow pop hit (they don't come around often), especially from a singer with Michaels' vocals.

"All the Stars" - Kendrick Lamar and SZA

The contemporary R&B/hip-hop/pop mix is exactly what we needed this summer. This collaboration is unlike anything we've heard from Kendrick, who's known for his quick-rap style.

"Never Be the Same" - Camila Cabello

Raise your hand if your roommate plays this song every morning while she's getting ready for work. (Not complaining, though.) It's the perfect mix of sexy, upbeat, and nostalgic—highly likely to get you thinking of the one that got away or your current partner, who you just can't get enough of.

Download our complete "Best Pop Songs of 2018" playlist below:


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Rachel Epstein

Rachel Epstein is a writer, editor, and content strategist based in New York City. Most recently, she was the Managing Editor at Coveteur, where she oversaw the site’s day-to-day editorial operations. Previously, she was an editor at Marie Claire, where she wrote and edited culture, politics, and lifestyle stories ranging from op-eds to profiles to ambitious packages. She also launched and managed the site’s virtual book club, #ReadWithMC. Offline, she’s likely watching a Heat game or finding a new coffee shop.