At the time of publishing this, the most talked about songs in the world are a pair of diss tracks that, for a moment at least, makes the world seem a bit more unpredictable and vibrant. It’s not that music isn’t normally fun, but it rarely has to the power to transport the listener away from whatever real-world issues bog them down.
It isn’t just diss tracks from household names that hold this power. The following 50 songs all manage to do something close to this, be it in the desire to dance, to drive through the night, or to comfort a listener before laying down for sleep. Music is more than just entertainment. It is a tool, too.
50. A-Trak, “Ride For Me” feat. Young Thug and 24Hrs
Young Thug didn’t exactly set the world on fire with his last couple of full-length releases, but when he’s on, he’s on. In “Ride For Me,” we get a dose of peak, persona-shifting Thugger in all his tongue-twisting glory.–Corbin Reiff
49. Mike Will Made-It, “Aries (YuGo Part 2)” feat. Pharrell, Rae Sremmurd, Big Sean, and Quavo
Aries season has passed, but we can still bump this star-studded collaboration. Every artist is in their bag over Mike Will’s spacey, pensive synths, rhyming melodically about keeping the party going with braggadocious bars full of future IG captions.–Andre Gee
48. MGMT, “Little Dark Age”
These synth-pop smart alecks captured the pop zeitgeist in the late ’00s, but they’ve since matured surprisingly well into slightly grumpy middle-aged tunesmiths, as evidenced by this goth-tinged gem about the apocalypse.–Steven Hyden
47. Migos, “BBO” feat. 21 Savage
A trace of a glorious, golden horn kicks off a savage, icy hook from 21 Savage, who joins the Migos for the sharpest cut off Culture II. Several swathes of misogynistic lyrics aside — hit her for a minute then I passed her to the homies — the song is a flex anthem for the ages, and established Savage as a purveyor of hooks at least as catchy as this inimitable ATLien trio.—Caitlin White
46. Nine Inch Nails, “God Break Down The Door”
More than 30 years into their existence, Nine Inch Nails‘ leader Trent Reznor reveals that he does a mighty good Ian Curtis impression. But this isn’t mere imitation, just one of rock’s best showmen finding the right way to accent frenetic drums, droning synths, and weeping saxophones to create one of his most affecting compositions in years.–Philip Cosores
45. Lil Pump, “Esskeetit”
It’s only right Pump turned his signature phrase into a song. Mr. “Esskeetit” leaves the murky sonics behind for a fun, swirling synth fit for him to flex on. Even before he rhymed “ice on ice on ice,” he had demonstrated that he’s among the coldest in his lane.–A.G.
44. Haley Heynderickx, “The Bug Collector”
Haley Heynderickx is haunted by bugs. There’s a “centipede / naked in your bedroom,” “praying mantis / prancing on your bathtub,” and a “millipede / angry on your carpet.” Heynderickx is an excellent storyteller, deft at weaving interesting and unexpected imagery into pure emotion, and “The Bug Collector” is a gorgeous folk tune about hunting the demons that plague a loved one.–Chloe Gilke
43. Amen Dunes, “Believe’
Damon McMahon’s stunning transition from freak-folk outsider to mesmerizing heartland rocker on the great Freedom is epitomized by “Believe,” the album’s most anthemic moment, which builds subtly from a quiet confession to a hypnotic climax.–S.H.
42. Saba, “LogOut” feat. Chance The Rapper
Two of Chi-Town’s finest link up for Saba’s Care For Me album, unleashing their best double-time flows over a soulful bed of jazzy pianos and lush bass. Chicago’s on the rise, and these introspective, inspiring MCs show why.–A.G.
41. Royce Da 5’9, “Boblo Boat” feat. J. Cole
J. Cole rarely does features, but it’s impressive to see him link up with Royce, who barely anyone can keep up with lyrically. There’s no freestyle bars here though, as neither lyricist wastes a word while delving into their come-up over an arresting soundscape.–A.G.