There might as well have only been one song in 2019. The year will forever be Lil Nas X’s, as his “Old Town Road” redefined how chart ascendance can occur on its way to breaking countless records. But for most, the year was rich not only with hits from the likes of Billie Eilish, Post Malone, and Lizzo, but also lesser-known tracks from artists like Big Thief, Tierra Whack, and FKA Twigs. Be it in the worlds of hip-hop, pop, or indie, 2019 was an example of the wealth of great music, both highly visible and worth searching for. Here are our favorites.
For more of our year-end coverage, check out the Uproxx 50 Best Albums Of The Year.
50. Cardi B and Bruno Mars — “Please Me”
The first woman to win a Best Rap Album Grammy award, Cardi B didn’t spend 2019 resting on the success of Invasion Of Privacy. While some music fans thought Cardi B was a fluke, she yielded two songs inside the top 20 this year, including “Please Me.” “Please Me” helped build anticipation for Cardi’s sophomore album, and establishes Cardi as a mainstay in hip-hop, detractors be damned.–Joshua Kellem
49. Doja Cat — “Juicy” Feat. Tyga
While “Tia Tamera” basically resuscitated Doja Cat’s public standing when old, homophobic tweets surfaced after the meteoric success of her jokey track “Mooo!,” it’s “Juicy” that deserves the distinction of cementing her status as a bonafide pop rap star. With a bright, colorful music video that showed off a bubbly, magnetic personality and an appearance from Mr. Biggest Comeback Of [Insert Year Here], “Juicy” proved that “Mooo!” was no fluke and set Doja up for her own electrifying comeback album, Hot Pink.–Aaron Williams
48. Mannequin Pussy — “Drunk II”
On “Drunk II,” Mannequin Pussy roared out of the underground and into the mainstream consciousness with a rollicking breakup anthem that is a glowing example of the band’s unique placement at the apex of raucous punk rock and infectious power-pop melodies. Plus, it boasts a video so good that it would have sold a million records if MTV was still played videos.–Zac Gelfand
47. Tierra Whack — “Only Child”
Tierra Whack spends the first part of “Only Child” dolefully mourning an ex who makes her feel like, “every other day, you forget how to care,” before further delving into her discontent with a rhyme full of witty wordplay like, “used to arch my back for you and now I’m your arch-nemesis. Tierra Whack’s doleful “Only Child” is perfect for the heartbreak playlist, as well as a quintessential expose of the multi-talented Philly artist’s immense skill.–Andre Gee
46. Caroline Polachek — “So Hot You’re Hurting My Feelings”
Caroline Polachek has written songs for Beyonce — that’s how excellent she is at her craft. On her ostensible debut as a solo artist, following the dissolution of her indie-pop duo Chairlift in 2017, Polachek mixes witchy camp with psych-pop horniess on album standout “So Hot You’re Hurting My Feelings.” Adding this to my ongoing playlist of pitch-perfect female gaze anthems.—Caitlin White
45. Khalid — “Saturday Nights” (Remix) Feat. Kane Brown
Khalid has become a go-to collaborator since the success of his debut album American Teen, and the reason for that is that his vocals are both unique and compatible with a lot of other music partners. He recruited emerging country crossover star Kane Brown for his “Saturday Nights” remix, and the collaboration ended up showing off the versatility of both artists.–Derrick Rossignol
44. Dreamville — “Wells Fargo” Feat. JID, Earthgang, Buddy, and Guapdad 4000
There are a lot of great songs on Revenge Of The Dreamers III — which is to be expected, considering its creative process. But while “Down Bad” features in ad campaigns and “Sacrifices” tugged on listeners’ heartstrings, “Wells Fargo” is one of the true creative standouts of the project, featuring a wobbly hook sung by some of the album’s most off-kilter participants. It’s ultimately elevated by the chemistry between the two non-Dreamville outsiders Buddy and Guapdad, who have been batting 1.000 when it comes to their collaborations.–A.W.
43. Jonas Brothers — “Sucker”
Outrageously catchy, “Sucker” marked a triumphant return for the Jonas Brothers and placed them back in their rightful spot at the focal point of pop an impressive 10 years after their last release. The comeback single earned the group a Grammy nomination for Best Pop Duo/Group Performance and instantly soared to No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 charts, the first boyband to reach the top slot in over 16 years.–Carolyn Droke
42. Drake — “Money In The Grave” Feat. Rick Ross
Drake’s first song with a Rick Ross verse since 2016, “Money In The Grave” opened the door for a second collaboration among the artists on the latter’s “Gold Roses.” Released on the heels of the Raptors’ championship win, “Money In The Grave” symbolizes the end of a beef and unity, as the song also released after a long-standing feud between Drake and Meek Mill and two months after Nipsey Hussle’s death.–J.K.
41. Strand Of Oaks — “Weird Ways”
There aren’t many rockers in 2019 making music as emotionally forthright as Timothy Showalter. On his latest album opener, “Weird Ways,” he lays it all on the table, singing about being pushed to his own breaking point and somehow surviving it. At it’s best, music can help people push through their own traumas, and Showalter’s lyrics can feel like breadcrumbs to help him, and his fans, find their way home.–Philip Cosores
40. Blueface — “Thotiana”
The song that finally solidified Blueface’s spot in the limelight, “Thotiana” turned out to be not only Blueface’s first Billboard Hot 100 top 10, but a fan-favorite whose fans included Nicki Minaj, Cardi B, and YG, all of whom were either featured on an official remix or made their own during the song’s incredible run. Blueface’s “what beat?” style of rap may not be for everyone, but it seems everyone got what he was going for on at least one of his unorthodox hits.–A.W.
39. Boogie — “Silent Ride”
On the lead single from his major-label debut album, Everything’s For Sale, Boogie perfectly captures the essence of the aftermath of that long drive home after an especially egregious, potentially fatal relationship fight. “Silent Ride” proves that the Compton rapper has what it takes to hit the big time, even with his more melancholic approach to crafting catchy singles.–A.W.
38. Shawn Mendes — “If I Can’t Have You”
Shawn Mendes really is the whole package. The Canadian superstar is charismatic, he can joke about his high-profile relationship, and he can write and perform the hell out of a song. “If I Can’t Have You” was his most successful single at the time of its release, and it was bound to approach the top of the charts thanks to maybe the biggest, catchiest, and most epic hook of the year.–D.R.
37. Megan Thee Stallion — “Cash Shit” Feat. DaBaby
It made perfect sense that in both Megan and DaBaby’s first year of full-fledged rap stardom (which was largely ignored by the Grammys), they linked up to talk some “Cash Sh*t.” Both artists are as witty and charismatic as it gets in the rap game, and they took turns dropping quotables over a quaking 808 on the single from Meg’s Fever album.—A.G.
36. Carly Rae Jepsen — “Too Much”
Carly Rae Jepsen’s latest album didn’t have a hit like “Call Me Maybe” or an anthem like “Run Away With Me,” but that doesn’t really speak to the quality of the collection. On album standout “Too Much,” Jepsen finds a more mature and nuanced mode of expression, crafting a subtle, swooning bop that is anything but the titular concept.–P.C.
35. Nipsey Hussle — “Racks In The Middle” Feat. Roddy Ricch and Hit-Boy
Nominated for a Grammy and one of the last Nipsey Hussle tracks he personally advocated for according to publicist Brittany Bell, the world almost missed out on “Racks In The Middle.” But Nipsey believed in the song, the same way he believed in his $100 mixtape, and it’s hard to argue against a guy who did everything else he set out to do. It’s a fitting legacy for the LA rapper — and a beautiful way to pass the torch to Roddy, who will get the chance to run with it in the new year.–A.W.
34. Ed Sheeran — “I Don’t Care” Feat. Justin Bieber
Social anxiety is no joke, and when Ed Sheeran discussed his own battle with the condition earlier this year, it provided some solidarity with the many who also suffer from it. For “I Don’t Care,” we find Sheeran teaming with Justin Beiber to describe the anxiousness of social gatherings and how the right person can make you feel at home anywhere. Both men are at ease in the number, resulting in a pop gem that’s as comforting as the hand of lover at a party you don’t want to be at.–P.C.
33. Selena Gomez — “Lose You To Love Me”
Melancholy piano chords open Selena Gomez’s first released track in four years. While many fans speculated the song was about getting over her break-up with Justin Bieber, who married another woman shortly after they split, “Lose You To Love Me “ has layers. It’s less about ending a relationship and more a ballad about finding herself in the process, with Gomez’s soaring vocals highlighting the emotion of her sincere songwriting. Her vulnerability paid off as the song was her first No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 charts in the entirety of a 10-year-long music career.–C.D.
32. Post Malone — “Enemies” Feat. DaBaby
Post Malone is a hit-making machine, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see “Enemies” climb the charts in 2020. But while his kissoff to his titular enemies is delivered with a delightful wink, his post-script of “yeah it’s so sad” at the end of each chorus might be the most purely delightful musical moment of the year.–P.C.
31. YBN Cordae — “RNP” Feat. Anderson Paak
A surprise hit if ever there was one, “RNP” blends a lot of unexpected, polar opposites — the silky, laid-back style of Anderson .Paak contrasts nicely with the more percussive, lyrically-focused approach of Cordae, ten years his junior, on top of a funky groove that wouldn’t have been out-of-place on a compilation from twenty years ago. The back-and-forth flow — which is underrated and isn’t utilized nearly enough in this writer’s opinion — turns out to be the perfect glue to graft together this tight, seamless roller skate bop, which likely contributed to Cordae’s Grammy nomination for The Lost Boy as well.–A.W.
30. Maggie Rogers — “Burning”
The penultimate track on Maggie Rogers’ debut record Heard It In A Past Life, “Burning” boasts shining percussion, radiating synths, and a playful vocal hook. The song, as Rogers aptly wrote on Twitter, is an energetic “dance song about loving your life.” That energy captivated many who listened to her full-length release, including Barack Obama who positioned it fourth on his 2019 Summer Playlist.–C.D.
29. Polo G — “Pop Out” Feat. Lil Tjay
Not one, but two stars’ careers spun out of this party single, with Polo G and Lil Tjay both dropping well-received albums within the 12 months that this song ruled the playlists. It’s their chemistry, though, that allowed this song to achieve its dominance, as well as a universal sound courtesy of the Chicagoan and New Yorker’s willingness to embrace the borderless style of croon-rapping that has taken the internet by storm.–A.W.
28. Charly Bliss — “Capacity”
The lead single from Charly Bliss‘ bombastic sophomore album , “Capacity” utilizes synths and compressed drum sounds as Eva Hendricks critically evaluates her former understanding of her worth from the perspective of her newfound personal enlightenment. Across its nearly four-minute runtime, “Capacity” is a rallying cry for self-love and independence that will surely be a coming-of-age soundtrack for many young people for years to come. — Z.G.
27. Clairo — “Bags”
Following a string of Bandcamp releases, Clairo (real name Claire Cottrill) found her way onto a label and released her debut album, Immunity. The vulnerable lead single, “Bags,” is about one of her first romantic experiences with a girl and otherwise being comfortable with the unknown, a message that’s perfectly relatable in 2019.–D.R.
26. DaBaby — “Suge”
DaBaby solidified himself as hip-hop’s rookie of the year in 2019’s first six months. Months after Dababy’s major-label debut Baby On Baby arrived, lead-single “Suge” pushed the album into the top 10. The Grammys may have snubbed DaBaby for Best New Artist, but two nominations for “Suge,” a Nicki Minaj remix, an XXL freshman cover, and two albums in one year should suffice.–J.K.
25. FKA Twigs — “Sad Day”
There was a big gap between FKA Twigs’ first and second albums, but it was a wait that paid off. The latest single from the record is “Sad Day,” a song that’s both stunningly intimate and boldly striking. Co-produced with Benny Blanco and Skrillex (among others), it’s another example of FKA Twigs successfully toeing any line she comes across.–D.R.
24. Travis Scott — “Highest In The Room”
How powerful is Travis Scott right now? He released “Highest In The Room” as a mere preview of what to expect from his next project, and the track was so good that it made a best of the year list. With Travis, it’s rarely about the lyrics as much as the mood. On “Highest In The Room,” he pairs a guitar melody with characteristically thumping 808s to craft an immersive production that lifts listeners to cloud nine with him.–A.G.
23. Weyes Blood — “Everyday”
Natalie Mering may evoke ‘70s pastoral vibes on her near-classic fourth album, Titanic Rising, but even softie songwriters need bangers. ”Everyday” is that, a piano rocker in the style of the old greats that casually dismantles millennial demand for intimacy with a veiled sardonic chorus tender enough to be taken with a straight face, too. Pick your poison, it’s a long, strange trip either way, but Mering’s voice makes it worth the ride.—C.W.
22. Vampire Weekend — “This Life”
Of all the ways that Ezra Koenig has been compared to Paul Simon over the years, the most relevant is his ability to marry frisky, effervescent music to lyrics that weigh the philosophical burdens of trying to make it through another day. One of the best examples of this from Vampire Weekend’s winning fourth album Father Of The Bride is “This Life,” a ’50s-style rocker that marvels at the mysteries of long-term love even as the world outside appears to be falling apart.–Steven Hyden
21. 21 Savage — “A Lot” Feat. J. Cole
21 Savage and J Cole’s synergy was palpable on the standout track from 21’s coming of age I Am > I Was project. They took turns getting introspective over a gleaming soul sample, with 21 rhyming about the trauma of losing a brother and the toll of the streets, while Cole went meta about the collaboration and his place in the rap game before offering prayers for Tekashi, Markelle Fultz, and Dennis Smith Jr.–A.G.
20. Bon Iver — “Faith”
This highlight from Bon Iver’s fourth album, i, i, opens like a fractured folk song, with Justin Vernon’s warm vocal distorted by sci-fi squeals and discordant orchestral swooshes. And then it pivots unexpectedly to … an arena-rock song? Over a surging guitar line, Vernon hollers, “It’s time to brave!” like he’s rousing thousands of people up out of their seats.–S.H.
19. Young Thug — “Hot” Feat. Gunna and Travis Scott
Gunna is known for his Drip Or Drown, mixtape series, but the young ATLien is always floating on something. On this standout remix of the track from Thug’s So Much Fun album, he takes turns with Thug rhyming over a production that mashes Atlanta’s classic sound (triumphant horns) with the new school (a slinky synth). Whatever era “Hot” was released in, it’s going. And Travis is just icing on the cake.–A.G.
18. Ariana Grande — “NASA”
Fans were incredulous when Grande infamously dismissed this Thank U, Next favorite as the “worst” song on the album. Coachella merch stands rocked exclusive “NASA” merch anyway, and the beauty of having a shimmering, gentle song about wanting to be left the f*ck alone has rivaled a few night skies. More songs about self-sufficiency within relationships can only be a good thing for Ariana’s young fans, and those of still floundering through codependency issues in our thirties.—C.W.
17. Summer Walker — “Playing Games” Feat. Bryson Tiller
Summer Walker sings all the words on “Playing Games” that need to be said when falling for someone in the beginning stages of a budding relationship, and that’s why it resonates with so many. Summer’s softly layered vocals on the song are a treat and Bryson Tiller’s addition confirms the feelings are mutual.–Cherise Johnson
16. Lil Nas X — “Old Town Road” Feat. Billy Ray Cyrus
In a vacuum, Lil Nas X’s “Old Town Road” is a fun track that deserved a viral moment. But the furor caused by the young artist’s ambiguous foray into country music made it the most important song of the year. It quickly spurred discussion on the music industry’s racially-motivated genre categorization. And Lil Nas X ended up benefitting from the hoard of publicity as the song eventually became the longest-running No. 1 single of all-time. That’s a pretty cool consolation for having the bulk of the country music community railing against you.–A.G.
15. Lana Del Rey — “The Greatest”
If life as we know it ends in the coming decades, and sometime in the distant future aliens visit earth, I hope that they listen to “The Greatest” and take “The culture is lit and I had a ball” as our lasting statement. On a song, and an album, full of pitch-perfect one-liners, nothing else better sums up the helplessness of continuing to survive in a world that appears to be burning around us. The fact that the song sonically functions as a technicolor first step into Oz is just icing on the cake.–P.C.
14. J. Cole — “Middle Child”
It doesn’t seem that long ago that J. Cole was viewed as the antithesis — if not an enemy — of trap music, but that was several bangers ago. Cole is all the way in his zone on “Middle Child,” employing a sing-songy flow to shout out his new watch from Drake, offering more guidance to rap’s younger generation and threatening to “slap the hate out your voice.”–A.G.
13. Normani — “Motivation”
It’s hard to think of a pop song that inspired more excitement this year than Normani’s self-assured, brassy “Motivation.” Co-written by Ariana Grande and accompanied by a dance video full of mesmerizing, classic hip-hop tropes, Normani’s declaration was heard loud and clear: she doesn’t just want to be a solo star, she wants to be a genre-shifting force. And on “Motivation,” she is.—C.W.
12. Juice Wrld — “Robbery”
Say what you want about Juice’s raw vocals and borderline mawkish, emo-inspired lyrics, but we have all been in the exact position described by “Robbery” — even those of us who try to act too tough to fall head-over-heels in love with an unwitting crush (actually, especially them). The ability to capture those teenage heartbreaks so succinctly is a rare one, but it’s one that has made Juice WRLD a musical force and justified Lil Bibby’s faith in signing him.–A.W.
11. The National — “Rylan”
For a song that’s been a live fan favorite for years before its release, “Rylan” somehow exceeds all expectations. The track showcases more non-Berninger vocals than the typical National tune, provided here by This Is The Kit’s Kate Stables, but incorporates them into the kind of anthem that has been the band’s calling card for more than a decade. The National is always at their best when they are at their most quotable, so lines like “Everybody wants to be amazing” find that right mixture of universality and specificity that will make people want to shout them back by the thousands.–P.C.
10. Big Thief — “Not”
With two incredible albums this year, Big Thief have countless incredible moments within their new material. Still, there’s this part in “Not” where most of the music drops away except for the drums and bass, leaving frontperson Adrianne Lenker’s voice to carry the song’s virtually perfect melody. She’s more than up for the challenge, trading the fragility of her voice for a guttural snarl once the music kicks back in. It’s remarkably moving, setting the stage for a ripping guitar outro that cements Big Thief as a band that is continually outdoing themselves.–P.C.
9. Lizzo — “Juice”
It’s tempting to rank “Truth Hurts” up high on this list, but plenty of music fans heard that one last year when it first began to rise in popularity. Instead, let’s celebrate the advent of “Juice,” a song that put Lizzo on the map in a huge way this past spring with a colorful, throwback video and the kind of earworm hook that permanently lodges itself in your brain upon contact. “Juice” introduced Lizzo as the over-the-top, self-assured fireball she is, and gave us all a dancefloor stunner in the meantime.—C.W.
8. Saweetie — “My Type”
Hip-hop’s fervor for breathing new life into classic moments has firmly caught up to the early ‘00s, and Saweetie’s “My Type” is one of 2019’s best offerings in that regard. The fun track reintroduces Petey Pablo’s “Freek-A-Leek” to a new generation, cleverly flipping the pendulum. While the original was Petey’s ode to his favorite kind of woman, Saweetie riffs about the ideal men for her.–A.G.
7. Taylor Swift — “Cornelia Street”
Taylor Swift shows many sides on her great new album Lover, but the nostalgic specificity of the glorious “Cornelia Street” is Swift at her absolute best. Recalling an actual Greenwich Village apartment that Swift rented some years back, the song allows fans to feel what it’s like in Swift’s skin, something she’s always done in her strongest moments, slowly transforming her world into ours. Ultimately, the song reminds of how places and people become deeply associated in our memories, inextricable from each other, giving each other meaning. It’s a lesson that Swift knows well, delivered here with a crafty melody and gentle hand.–P.C.
6. Mark Ronson — “True Blue” Feat. Angel Olsen
Of all the features on Mark Ronson’s excellent album Late Night Feelings, none is more unexpected than Angel Olsen. The two teamed up to write the song and it transforms Olsen into an anthemic pop force that she’d never really hinted at in the past. Olsen’s mournful vocals are a perfect fit for the brokenhearted disco that Ronson is exploring throughout the collection, with each bringing out the best of each other for a song that sits among the greatest that Ronson has ever been involved in, and that opens doors for Olsen to go in any future direction she damn well pleases.–P.C.
5. City Girls — “Act Up”
Lil Yachty’s last few projects may have had their detractors, but it seems that the former teen star may have a second life in him as a hit songwriter. Penning Yung Miami’s verses and the hooks for “Act Up,” City Girls’ unexpected smash hit, Yachty, Miami, and JT had the world taking part in their Act Up Challenge in the most unusual places — including, in one instance, at church. That’s a sure sign of a hit, even if the Lord is frowning upon us all for these shenanigans.–A.W.
4. Sharon Van Etten — “Seventeen”
“Seventeen” is likely to mean more the farther you are away from that actual age. When you are a teenager, it’s hard to be nostalgic or wistful or even reflective about the present moment, because you can’t really imagine what it will feel like to no longer have your whole life ahead of you. Van Etten’s mammoth tune serves as a reminder of that, and of both what has and hasn’t changed in the years in between. When she takes her voice all the way into the red during the song’s final verse, it might as well be each listener mourning the years they lost, and grateful for how far they have come.–P.C.
3. Tyler The Creator — “Earfquake”
They say when the universe closes a door, it opens a window. Being turned down by both Rihanna and Justin Bieber would have discouraged anyone, but Tyler The Creator managed to turn their “nos” into the biggest “yes” — and the biggest hit — of his career. All it took was some silk curtains, an ill-fitting suit, and the most outlandish wig this side of Sia to turn the onetime rabble-rousing rap rebel into one of the biggest pop stars in the world.–A.W.
2. Lil Tecca — “Ransom”
It was almost impossible to go out in public without hearing the refrain from the 17-year-old New Yorker’s breakout hit, which launched him into the spotlight and helped drive his debut project to a top-five placement on the Billboard 200. Tecca may be reluctant to embrace stardom, but his debut single will likely still be remembered as a big-deal favorite long after the rising star loses those signature braces.–A.W.
1. Billie Eilish — “Bad Guy”
Billie Eilish doesn’t fantasize about a boyfriend, she daydreams about dumping one. At least in the universe of “Bad Guy,” Billie, and subsequently every other girl who listens to it, get to try out of the role of powerful villain instead of damsel in distress. Dead-eyed goth-pop with a trap beat didn’t seem like the road from teenage girl to pop star to me, but I guess that’s what separates Billie Eilish from the rest of us. Cue the breakdown and the cackling demons, it’s time for the pop divas to retire their tutus and get a little gruesome.—C.W.
Some artists covered here are Warner Music artists. Uproxx is an independent subsidiary of Warner Music Group.