Best pop songs of 2018 (weekend playlist)
What even is pop music anymore?
Considering rap has overtaken every other genre as the dominant popular music in the country, you could technically argue that it is pop music. And often enough it is! Drake? Pop music. Cardi B? Pop music! And you can pretty much attribute popular music to anything on a major label that's dominating the charts.
Me? I consider pop music anything that'll put me in a good mood. When I want to escape the existential dread of our current reality, I go for some Charli XCX, some Troye Sivan—anything that will trigger the pleasure centres of my brain rather than crippling anxiety.
Especially in 2018, it takes some pretty incredible musical talent to make anyone happy. So, practice some escapism with the best pop songs of 2018:
1 Beyoncé / Jay-Z – "Apeshit"
The Carters are pop music. On “Apeshit,” Beyoncé and Jay-Z analyze cultural institutions that fail to include black artists. The video places black dancers and the Carters in front of white artwork in the Louvre in Paris. They call out the Grammys, which invite black artists for ratings at the ceremony but don’t reward these musicians with actual trophies. As a combined force, the Carters are an establishment of their own, one that’s capable of challenging the likes of the NFL and the Recording Academy
2 Drake – "God's Plan"
Whether he means to or not, with every new release Drake is able to out-Drake himself. With "God's Plan," he played up his nice guy schtick with a truly touching philanthropic music video. And since this is Drake, fans took it and packaged the idea into the pervasive God's Plan Starts Playing meme. And plus, this might be the most Drake line of all time: "I only love my bed and my momma, I'm sorry." It's impossible not to love Drake, I'm sorry.
Cardi B, Bad Bunny, J. Balvin – "I Like It"
Latin music thrived in the summer of 2017, with Luis Fonsi, Daddy Yankee, and Justin Bieber's "Despacito" being the undisputed king of the season. This year, Cardi B has tapped Latin trap artists J Balvin and Bad Bunny for "I Like It," which brings combines nods of salsa and '60s boogaloo with modern trap. And the track arrives at the perfect time for the outdoor party season—and as these styles are becoming immensely popular in modern American hip-hop and pop.
J. Balvin – "Peligrosa"
J. Balvin's success stateside has been building since Beyoncé dropped vocals on a remix of "Mi Gente" last summer, since Blue Ivy was a fan of the song. Now, with his own album combined with Cardi B collaborations, Balivn is prepared to own Summer 2018. It comes at a perfect time, when his reggaetón style is at the forefront of popular hip-hop music. Even though his influence and genre can be heard all over mainstream American music, his sound, especially on the buttery "Peligrosa," will make everyone forget about "Despacito."
Let's Eat Grandma – “Falling Into Me”
Certainly best band name of the 2010s goes to Let’s Eat Grandma—a name that’s both weird and also speaks to a restless generation that’s disappointed in the one before it. Or it’s just weird, which is always refreshing in music. And this British pop duo brings a sound that is capable of providing some variation to Top 40 radio stations. On “Falling Into Me,” they find absolute clarity among the flashing synths and even a longing saxophone outro.
Kacey Musgraves – "High Horse"
If you played someone “High Horse,” it might take a few guesses before they identified it as a country song. That four-to-the-floor beat with the funky, Nile Rodgers guitar, that popping bass—none of these are elements of country that should be on a hit from one of the genre’s brightest stars. But the elements are all there: the middle-American lyrical imagery and references, the light slide guitar solo, the banjo, the background acoustic strings.
It’s like a winking scrambling of genres that creates a sound entirely Musgraves’ own. Some often compare her to Taylor Swift as a country artist with major crossover potential. But less a brand than her uber-famous counterpart, Musgraves has more in common with the likes of Sturgill Simpson or Chris Stapleton, who are crossing over based on musical ability alone.
Charli XCX – "No Angel"
Charli XCX is a genius at producing infectious glittering pop music. She has the power to turn off every nagging thought in the back of your head and just transport you to some euphoric late night party. "No Angel" exists as some sort of club identity crisis, where Charli comes to terms with some of her more party girl behavior. She's no angel, Charli admits, but she can learn. Hey, acceptance is the first step. Although let's hope Charli doesn't calm down any time too soon, because we need her to fuel those 4 a.m. nights.
Janelle Monáe – "Make Me Feel"
Janelle Monae can do anything she wants. She can act in a Best Picture-winning film. She can be a pop star. She can make Afrofuturist funk. She can make elastic electro '80s R&B like "Make Me Feel"—a song that embraces all the sexual energy of Prince that you can almost feel those mouth noises mixed into to the beat.
Troye Sivan – “My My My!”
It’s truly amazing to see a pop star emerge from relatively humble beginnings independent from the machine. That’s how Troye Sivan came into 2018: an openly gay 22-year-old Australian singer who had already built a dedicated online following through LGBTQ communities before even releasing his first single. “My My My!” is the first single from his upcoming sophomore album, which hints at what could be his first mainstream success. It’s an ‘80s-inspired pop exclamation full of life and synths. This is a refreshingly positive and simple message, and it’s a song that kicked off this music year on an all-around high. Things are gonna be good. Just keep this track on repeat.