Mainstream pop radio is pretty good these days. “Radio” might be kind of an outdated distinction. Lots of us fill our cars with Spotify playlists or podcasts, and the some of the biggest bands and artists aren’t even the ones you’d ever hear on KIIS FM. (Although, radio stations, if you’re reading this please play The 1975.) But even in the streaming age, there are those songs you hear everywhere — at clubs, in the grocery store checkout line, in your mom’s car, pumping through your little sister’s headphones. Listeners have more choice than ever, but some songs still get massive.
These are the best of them, from spring smashes (Zedd and Maren Morris’ “The Middle”) to songs that are on the way up (Little Mix’s “Woman Like Me.”) Some of these are already smash singles, and others are album standouts that are prime for single choosing (please, please make “LA Girls” your next single, Charlie Puth). Mainstream pop radio is pretty good these days. Queue up Spotify and take a listen.
5 Seconds of Summer, “Youngblood”
“Youngblood” is the Aussie pop punks’ first massive radio hit. Since the band’s third studio album was released in June (the same week as Beyoncé and Jay Z’s, even outselling them), “Youngblood” has been unstoppable. It’s currently number seven on the Billboard Hot 100, and inching higher week by week. It’s high-energy and fun, and Luke Hemmings’ voice is electric.
Ariana Grande, “Breathin”
“Breathin” is determined and danceable, and listening to it, you feel like you’re capable accomplishing of anything. It’s one of the biggest highlights of Sweetener, an album where every track is a highlight.
Kacey Musgraves, “High Horse”
If most country radio stations are too stodgy to spin Musgraves’ honest depictions of small-town life or progressive celebrations of love and difference, it’s their loss. Musgraves conquered pop radio this year with “High Horse,” the best country-disco since Miss Dolly herself.
Charlie Puth, “LA Girls”
Just as Charlie Puth is helpless to the seduction of women from Los Angeles, I am helpless to the seduction of this song’s bassline.
Cardi B, Feat. Bad Bunny and J Balvin, “I Like It”
With a couple months of distance, we can all agree this was the song of the summer, right? And make it the song of the fall, too — I’ll never get tired of hearing Cardi kill those verses.
Drake, “In My Feelings”
“Summer Games” is still my favorite song off Scorpion, but somewhere in the middle of its radio domination this summer I grew to love “In My Feelings.” Drake had better make “Summer Games” his next single, though.
Little Mix, Feat. Nicki Minaj, “Woman Like Me”
Little Mix have been massive in Europe for years, but “Woman Like Me” will be the song that makes them blow up in the States. Listen now and be weeks ahead of radio (and your friends).
Selena Gomez, “Back To You”
“Back To You” is simultaneously sad and danceable, with folky acoustic and EDM dance-pop elements that somehow coexist and sound great together. I will forever be grateful that 13 Reasons Why got a second season, if only because this song was released for the soundtrack.
Post Malone, “Better Now”
It took until I heard Troye Sivan’s Spotify Singles cover of the song for me to realize it, but “Better Now” is a perfect pop song. The lyrics are genuinely heartbreaking, and Post’s voice conveys all the melancholy and longing.
Silk City, Feat. Dua Lipa, “Electricity”
2018’s biggest pop princess, Dua Lipa, teamed up with legendary DJ-producers Mark Ronson and Diplo (recording under their new joint project Silk City) for a ’00s house music throwback. “Electricity” is electric and so, so fun.
Shawn Mendes, “Lost In Japan”
“Lost In Japan” is bouncy and infatuated, a perfect showcase for Mendes’ sweet falsetto. Zedd’s remix of the song was released as a single, but I prefer the album version, which lets the complex production and slinky bassline shine.
Niall Horan, “On The Loose”
“Slow Hands” was everywhere last summer, and “On The Loose” deserves to be everywhere right now. It’s sexy and catchy as hell, and sounds a little like “Dreams” by Fleetwood Mac (and “What A Feeling” by One Direction).
Camila Cabello, “Never Be The Same”
Camila Cabello’s album is dramatic and intensely felt, and “Never Be The Same” is the album at its most stunningly dramatic. From the quiet synths at the beginning to the comparisons of her lover to “nicotine, heroine, morphine” to the soaring chorus, Cabello perfectly conveys the earth-shattering feeling of falling in love.
Zedd, Feat. Maren Morris and Grey, “The Middle”
Maren Morris has one of the most powerful and stunning voices in country, and it translates perfectly to pop. Zedd has a golden touch and a knack for picking the perfect pop singers to be featured on his songs, and Morris absolutely kills that chorus. “The Middle” was everywhere this spring, but it’s the kind of song you never grow tired of hearing.
Lady Gaga And Bradley Cooper, “Shallow”
Jackson Maine was right when he said this song was incredible. Once you see A Star Is Born and the stunning scene this song is featured in, it’s impossible not to play that scene over in your head when you listen to the song. But even apart from the movie, the song fits perfectly on pop radio.