RANKED: 50 Best Songs of 2018

Updated: May 7, 2019

Year after year, it seems that the world of music continues to top itself. 2017 was a solid year, but 2018 said, "Watch this." It was a blockbuster year for acts such as Drake, Ariana Grande, Travis Scott, and Childish Gambino. It was also the year of the movie soundtrack (Black Panther, A Star Is Born, Creed II). Nicki Minaj attempted to take back her seat on the throne from Cardi, and almost did, but unfortunately lost. And dreams came true with collaboration albums from Beyoncé and JAY-Z (EVERYTHING IS LOVE) as well as Kanye West and Kid Cudi (Kids See Ghosts). Without further ado, here are my favorite songs from 2018:

50. "Call Out My Name" by The Weeknd

The Weeknd endured a pretty tough (and public) break up with now-ex Selena Gomez and he wasn't afraid to share it with the world on "Call Out My Name", a song that fits right in with his Trilogy era. And let's face it, some of his very best material stems from heartbreak and he knows how to use it to his advantage by the way of melancholic melody.

49. "After the Storm" by Kali Uchis (ft. Tyler, The Creator & Bootsy Collins)

I love a good unorthodox collaboration, and "After the Storm" is no exception. You have Uchis' seductive vocals, Tyler's gruff rapping, Collins' funkadelic intro, and BADBADNOTGOOD's jazzy production. Mix that all together with lyrics about self reliance and confidence and you get a solid track.

48. "Powerglide"by Rae Sremmurd (ft. Juicy J)

Not only did the Ear Drummers sample Three 6 Mafia's "Side 2 Side", but they got member Juicy J to jump on the single and deliver a verse as well. The trio flexes hard on "Powerglide" and wants you to know that they're cooler than you and that they will always be cooler than you.

47. "High Hopes" by Panic! At the Disco

The only rock song that gets to claim a spot on this list comes from Las Vegas natives, Panic! at the Disco. Brendon Urie demands that you reach for the stars and achieve goals beyond your wildest imagination. A positive message from a band that was once categorized as "emo." "High Hopes" marks Panic!'s highest chart topping single (peaking at #6) since 2006's smash "I Write Sins Not Tragedies", which peaked at #7.

46. "Electricity" by Silk City (with Dua Lipa)

Silk City may be a new name to most, but it's actually a super-duo consisting of big-name DJ/producers Mark Ronson and Diplo (who the latter also joined forces with Labrith and Sia this year to form another super group, LSD). Throughout the year, Silk City has dropped singles here and there, but none stood out like the get-up-and-dance sounds of "Electricity" featuring the overnight success, Dua Lipa.

45. "Psycho" by Post Malone (ft. Ty Dolla $ign)

Post Malone's second number one hit was also Ty Dolla $ign's very first and that's definitely something praise-worthy. They're already celebrating themselves on this track, as they sing and rap about how much expensive jewelry and fancy cars they have. It's completely unrelatable, but they make it seem so chill.

44. "Where Angels Fear to Tread" by Disclosure

It was nice to finally get some new music from the EDM duo in 2018 and "Angels" was a standout. It's a small step away from Settle, but it still has that Disclosure signature sound. They were able to somehow bring together house music and jazz, and they did so with masterful skill.

43. "'Til It's Over" by Anderson .Paak

One of .Paak's best songs just so happen to be used specifically for an Apple HomePod commercial that was directed by Spike Jonze and featured FKA twigs dancing to the trippy, hypnotic beat. The clash of .Paak's raspy voice and the smooth plucks of harp strings made for a near-perfect record.

42. "Nonstop" by Drake

Tay Keith is one of the best new producers in the game and the beat for "Nonstop" solidified that fact. Blend it with Drizzy's flow, his lyrics about making money moves, and how he'd do anything to remain a relevant success is just one of his many big moods on Scorpion.

41. "Feels Like Summer" by Childish Gambino

Released right in the middle of the 2018 summer season, you would think "Feels Like Summer" was a simple, fun-in-the-sun track upon first listen. Dive deeper into its meaning and you immediately discover that there are layers on layers. The song touches on serous subjects the world is facing today, including climate change, air pollution, and even the dying of bees. Count on Gambino to make political topics seem easy-breezy.

40. "Better" by Khalid

Coming off the success of his excellent debut album, American Teen, Khalid kept his momentum in 2018 by releasing a couple of promotional singles and the EP, Suncity, with "Better" being one of those things. The single is a step up from the content that could be found on Teen, in which he croons about being there for each other, even if it's about casually hooking up.

39. "Love Lies" by Khalid (ft. Normani)

Khalid kicked off this year by collaborating with former member of Fifth Harmony, Normani, which was also her debut as a solo artist. Used as the lead single from the film Love, Simon, "Love Lies" is a back-and-forth between two people who are just trying to figure out where they stand in their relationship. In the end, we're only left with mystery and more questions.

38. "Shallow" by Lady Gaga & Bradley Cooper

Despite being one of the most meme-able songs and films of the year, the standout "Shallow" shines as one of the climactic moments of A Star is Born. The song is essentially a conversation between the two main characters, Jackson and Ally, with Ally ultimately declaring that she wants to be true to herself, her music, and to pursue her wildest dreams.

37. "Stir Fry" by Migos

With one of the best albums of 2017, the three Migos went on to give the world the much-anticipated Culture II, snagged an undercard slot at Coachella, and joined Drake on an extensive North American tour. Quavo, Offset, and Takeoff trade in their usual Southern trap sound for a pop rap beat. "Stir Fry" may not be about food, but the production from Pharrell is tastefully done.

36. "Drinking Alone" by Carrie Underwood

The only country entry on my list goes to the one and only Carrie Underwood. Her sixth studio album gave us "Drinking Alone", a typical, dark country track about a breakup with a man. This then leads to drinking with another man who is more than welcome to buy Ms. Underwood a beer, but is not allowed to take her home (she made that clear from the jump). It's Carrie's heartbreaking vocals that make this one a highlight.

35. "Opps" by Vince Staples (with Yugen Blakrok)

The Black Panther soundtrack is possibly the best original soundtrack to have been released in the past decade or so. It contains multiple gems, one of them being "Opps", which combines LA/LBC and South Africa together, seamlessly. The high-speed, hip-hop/African beat fit in perfectly during the Busan car chase scene in the film as well. Kendrick Lamar (uncredited) and Staples' winning second collaboration means they need to work together more often, however, Blakrok is the real star with a fire verse.

34. "Barbie Dreams" by Nicki Minaj

Though the highly anticipated Queen was met with mediocre reviews, there were a couple of bangers, "Barbie Dreams" being one of them. Upon first listen, you wouldn't believe your ears. Was she seriously taking shots at 50 Cent, Drake, and her ex Meek Mill? Yes, but she later claimed she only called out artists that could take a joke. No wonder why she kept Cardi's name omitted on this one.

33. "The Middle" by Zedd (with Maren Morris & Grey)

As we keep waiting on Zedd's third studio album, he graced us with "The Middle", which shares commonalities to his previous single "Stay" with Alessia Cara. The DJ recorded a dozen versions of this song, all with different women like Demi Lovato, Carly Rae Jepsen, and Camila Cabello. He eventually chose Morris (the only country singer) for the final version and it worked out in his favor and became his biggest hit to date, peaking at #5 in the US.

32. "One Kiss" by Calvin Harris (ft. Dua Lipa)

I like where Calvin Harris is in his career right now. Not only has he become one of the biggest names in EDM, but his shift in sound was a risk that paid off. "One Kiss" wouldn't be what it is without support from one of the quickest rising pop stars, Dua Lipa, who knows how to make everything that much better.

31. "Better Now" by Post Malone

What I appreciate about Post Malone is that he's not afraid to show his emotions or vulnerability in the hip-hop heavy world that he's a part of where that's seen as a sign of weakness. He reflects on a past relationship where he and his partner let each other down, but that there also might be a possibility of getting back together. I kind of like a sad Posty.

30. "Midsummer Madness" by 88rising

"Midsummer Madness" is the perfect kind of song that you play at a bonfire while drinking with your buddies. It's cool to finally see an all-Asian, non-K-pop crew start to breakthrough into the American mainstream, especially in the hip-hop realm. Up-and-comers Joji and Rich Brian are crushing it right now and hopefully they continue that streak.

29. "Campfire" by Aminé (ft. Injury Reserve)

Underrated MC, Aminé, knows how to deliver tracks that will rattle and destroy your car's stereo system, and "Campfire" is no exception. With the support of Ritchie with a T (from Arizona trio, Injury Reserve), they both spit bars filled with references on references. Lines about E.T., Santa Clarita Diet, Oprah, and a callback to Aminé's standout "REDMERCEDES" can all be found on a short song that barely clocks in at two minutes.

28. "Chun-Li" by Nicki Minaj

Minaj goes gamer-girl with "Chun-Li", a J. Reid-produced track about how she's one of the first female rappers to dominate hip-hop and will continue to do so. After nearly a four year hiatus since The Pinkprint, Nicki came back with this one (as well as"Barbie Tingz") and proved to the world that she's still got it.

27. "Plug Walk" by Rich the Kid

Who would have ever thought that rapping and trapping would make for some of the best music? Rich seemingly has so many plugs, even possibly outside of US territory, that he can't event understand what language they're speaking. Sure, it sounds illegal, but the spacey beat and Rich's slurred lyrics are hypnotizing.

26. "FUN!" by Vince Staples

Vince Staples is undeniably one of the best rappers in the game right now and he holds it down on his third album, FM!. "FUN!" is a song about just that, but it also stands for "fuck up nothin'", which is repeated throughout the chorus. An uncredited feature from OG wordsmith, E-40, also amplifies the fun-ness of the record.

25. "Pray For Me" by The Weeknd (ft. Kendrick Lamar)

To close out the Black Panther soundtrack, "Pray For Me" was the right choice. The Weeknd and K-Dot working together again over banging African drums is a dream. This track is all about the loyal hero's journey and how they'll go so far as sacrificing themselves, even if they weren't asked to do it. It's okay, guys. You're both superheroes to me.

24. "Look Alive" by BlocBoy JB (ft. Drake)

You can always count on Drake to successfully kick start a young hopeful's career, even if he was fairly quiet for almost all of 2017. He did newcomer, BlocBoy JB, that very favor on this ode to his hometown of Memphis, Tennessee. This would also be one of the first real tastes of what producer Tay Keith could cook up. JB would also become the inspiration for the "Shoot", aka "that one Fortnite dance."

23. "2002" by Anne-Marie

Who doesn't like a little bit of nostalgia? Anne-Marie's solo single about a year from 16 years ago brought back all kinds of memories and feels to when I was a seventh grader. There are bits and pieces from songs by Britney Spears, *NSYNC, Nelly, and a misnomer of JAY-Z's "99 Problems" that was actually released in 2003, but we'll let it slide. She perfectly captures what it was like to be young in the year of fedoras and Juicy track suits.

22. "Playinwitme" by KYLE (ft. Kehlani)

Don't let the fun, happy, playful piano melody fool you. "Playinwitme" is all about how games in relationships are a complete waste of time. The chemistry between these two young artists are undeniable and the tune is impossible not to sing along to.

21. "Lost in Japan" by Shawn Mendes

Mendes has gone on the record stating that Justin Timberlake is one of his inspirations and that's apparent on his grooviest song to date. "In My Blood", released the day before this one, fared better on the airwaves, but "Lost In Japan" is the superior song. How can you now appreciate the dude's dedication to a relationship, even if it's just fictional for the sake of music?

20. "WIN" by Jay Rock

Give Jay an award for casually saying "boop" twice in a rap song. Only he could get away with something like that. The regal blares of trumpets plus heavy braggadocio equals major success. This is the victory song sports teams and professional athletes will start playing when they get the dub (if they haven't already). I mean, who wouldn't and how could they not?

19. "Girls Like You (Remix)" by Maroon 5 (ft. Cardi B)

It seems that Adam Levine & Co. always get away with collaborating with some of the biggest rappers of our time (see: Wiz, K-Dot). That's definitely not a bad thing because it always works to their advantage and 2018 is no different. They got the biggest female name in hip-hop to rap with ease over an acoustic guitar. Let that sink in.

18. "Make Me Feel" by Janelle Monae

Janelle Monáe quietly sneaked her way into this year with one of the best albums, Dirty Computer, so it's only fitting that one of those singles made it to this list. One of the original modern day afro-futurists (that comes immediately to mind) channeled her inner Prince to give us a reincarnation of his classic "Kiss". A near impossible task that only she could pull off and truly make her own.

17. "God is a woman" by Ariana Grande

One of the few tracks from sweetener that wasn't produced by Pharrell Williams was actually one of Grande's best. The evolution of her music has been intriguing to watch over the years and she's shifted from sweet for sexy very quickly. It takes a confident woman to claim that her sex is so good that you'll this she's a God herself, and we're okay with that.

16. "I Like It" by Cardi B (ft. Bad Bunny & J Balvin)

As of the week of July 7th of this year, Cardi B is the first female rapper to top the Billboard Hot 100 twice. A feat that not even Ms. Lauryn Hill, Missy Elliott, or Nicki Minaj has ever accomplished. Not only that, but "I Like It" proves that Americans are in love Latin-inspired music. It's the "Despacito" of 2018.

15. "In My Feelings" by Drake

When Drake released his Scorpion track list prior to the album drop, we all thought a song called "In My Feelings" would be an emotional one. We were wrong to assume. It was the complete opposite of sad and it turned out to be a shout out track to the female hip-hop duo from Miami, City Girls. The track also inspired a viral dance challenge that everyone (including dogs) participated in thanks to social media star, Shiggy (@theshiggyshow). There was no escaping "In My Feelings", or Drake himself for that matter, in 2018.


14. "Mo Bamba" by Sheck Wes

The song doesn't make much sense, if at all, but you can't not say "I GOT HOOOOEEEESSSSS CAAAALLLLLIIIINNNNN" or "Fuck! Shit! Bitch!"every time this one comes on. It's unadulterated fun. Honestly, that's all it takes to make a song go from good to great; the dumb one-liners. Fun fact: Sheck Wes and Mo Bamba actually grew up together in Harlem back in the day.



13. "Reborn" by Kids See Ghosts

I almost bawled when I heard the news that Kanye West and Kid Cudi were finally giving the universe a collaboration album. After Cudi confirmed that Man on the Moon 3 was never going to happen, Kids See Ghosts came out and slapped me in the face. "Reborn" is the centerpiece of it all and it was enough to make me forget all about the MOTM3 stuff. That's how powerful this one song has. It's 2009 Scott and Ye reunited and I wish they'd do it more often.

12. "APESHIT" by The Carters

I actually bawled when I heard the news that Beyoncé and JAY Z were finally giving the universe a collaboration album. I have literally tweeted on multiple occasions that this should happen for years and 2018 listened. As soon as the beat drops on "APESHIT", you knew it was something special. Bey spits hot bars, JAY delivers lines that give off Watch the Throne vibes, and the music video they shot at The Louvre in Paris makes it even better. It was also the perfect closer on their On The Run II Tour.

11. "All the Stars" by Kendrick Lamar & SZA

The first tease that we got for the Black Panther soundtrack featured the two biggest names on the label, Top Dawg Entertainment. Sold. Lamar was then set to produce and curate the entire soundtrack. Double sold. The award-winning, visually stunning music video also dropped. Triple sold. When it started playing as the credits started rolling at the end of Black Panther? It's over. They win. Take all my money, TDE & Marvel. Take it all.

10. "Ghost Town" by Kanye West (ft. PARTYNEXTDOOR, Kid Cudi & 070 Shake)

Though poorly received by many critics (myself not included), ye made a huge impression on Gen Z and Millennials, especially "Ghost Town". It's almost unbelievable that this song was completed the day it was released and it's shiny new star, 070 Shake, that really makes the song what it is. Her extensive outro is what most fans remember as it ends on a seemingly optimistic note despite some of the deeper, darker themes throughout.

09. "God's Plan" by Drake

Released at the top of the year as one side of a two-side EP, Scary Hours, "God's Plan" exploded. He wanted the world to know that he still had it in him after his Views/Summer Sixteen era. All of his success he owes to the Big Guy Upstairs, but he also mentions giving back to others and communities (as seen in the music video he shot in Miami). It makes you wonder what more it is Aubrey can do.

08. "thank u, next" by Ariana Grande

No one's had a rough year like Ariana Grande's had, and she's extremely aware of that. But she didn't let that eat her alive. She decided to turn back to her music and give us a surprise drop of "thank u, next", which is said to be on her quickly upcoming fifth studio album. She name drops all of her exes, but instead of tearing them down, she thanks them. If not for them and the craziness she's been experiencing, she would not be who she is today. Her self-acceptance and growth turned into the biggest hit of her career so far. You can't help but root for her.

07. "Big Bank" by YG (ft. 2 Chainz, Big Sean & Nicki Minaj)

This song makes me feel poor, but it's so entertaining that you can't help but rap, dance, and go dumb to it. Each of the four artists on the track have great verses, one better than the next. It's always the hip-hop songs we can't relate to that are the best (see: "N*ggas in Paris" by Watch the Throne). Also, it's funny every time 2 Chainz says, "big shit like a dinosaur did it."

06. "Boo'd Up" by Ella Mai

Ella Mai has probably had the biggest breakthrough year and the London native came in hot and gave us a tune that immediately became every other couple's song. It's cute, sweet, and describes exactly what it feels like to be in the early stages of any relationship. I didn't know there's be a time where there'd be actual lyrics to the sound of a heartbeat. It's an excellent start to a promising career for the DJ Mustard protégé.

05. "King's Dead" by Jay Rock (ft. Kendrick Lamar, Future & James Blake)

The best song from the Black Panther soundtrack is easily "King's Dead", which focuses mainly on the events of the film. SPOILER: It mainly refers to the scene where T'Challa and Killmonger fight it out for the throne as king of Wakanda, and Black Panther himself loses and is thrown off the top of a waterfall. The heavy bass and supersonic verses make this one of the best songs of the year. The hella LA music video is also incredible.

04. "The Story of Adidon" by Pusha T

I didn't think there was a person in the world who could potentially hurt Drake's career, but Pusha T proved me wrong. As a response to a response, "Adidon" is the most vicious and one of the best to ever exist in a very long time. The beef gives off JAY Z vs. Nas vibes. Push took it personally after Drizzy mentioned his fiancé on his respective diss track, so he went off. On top of the shocking single artwork that Push was somehow able to dig up, he also dropped a bomb on the world and revealed that Drake had a secret child with a porn star. No one was ready for all of that. Amazingly, Drake was able to bounce back and still have major success in 2018, but for a minute, it was unclear.

03. "SICKO MODE" by Travis Scott (ft. Drake)

Scott's first number one on the Billboard Hot 100 doesn't get enough credit where it's due. The production is top notch, especially from Tay Keith. When has a song with three different beats ever charted? Someone fact check me, but I think the answer is "never." Not only that, but La Flame shows off his skills as a rapper. He's not just another Southern mumble rapper that relies on Auto-Tune to make a hit, but he's 100% pure talent. Match him up with Drake (who supposedly turned in his part three verse the day ASTROWORLD dropped) and you have an indisputable banger. 2018 was Scott's year and he deserves all the success.

02. "Nice For What" by Drake

There's nothing more Drake than a song about empowering women and hyping them up in the golden age of social media. It's dedicated to all the female hustlers out there, but it was meant for all to enjoy. Murda Beatz gets the gold star for producing here. He sampled Lauryn Hill's "X Factor", who sampled Wu-Tang Clan, who sampled Gladys Knight and The Pips, and then turned it into a New Orleans bounce-inspired monster. Drizzy even went the extra mile and released a "girl power" music video that starred numerous female celebrities in random settings, including Rashida Jones, Tiffany Haddish, and Tracee Ellis Ross.

01. "This Is America" by Childish Gambino

It's hard to say who had a more successful year. Donald Glover or Childish Gambino? On one hand, Glover had the best TV show of the year with season two of Atlanta. On the other, he released the best and most important song of the year, "This Is America." Even on SNL, he was billed under both names as host and musical guest, respectively. The extraordinary production value by Ludwig Görannson (who also scored Black Panther) is definitely worth highlighting. Görannson masterfully interpolates ad-libs from some of today's best, such as Quavo, 21 Savage, and Young Thug. Also, the polarization in sounds between the refrain and the chorus/verses is commendable.


The track gives us a look into what the Black experience is like in the United States and it's frightening. The music video (directed by Atlanta collaborator, Hiro Murai) is also filled with endless metaphors that force non-Black Americans to feel empathy for a group of people that seem fun and cool on the surface, but fear just being alive in this country. Leave it to the multi-hyphenate Renaissance man to bring it all together with finesse in under four minutes.


Listen on Spotify:

BONUS

Worst Songs of 2018 (or Songs So Bad, I Actually Loved Them):

01. "I Love It" by Kanye West & Lil Pump - Extremely vulgar and completely unnecessary, but admittedly, it's catchy AF. I also don't understand why Pump loves that she's "such a fucking hoe" and that McLovin line is cringey. Don't even get me started on one of Ye's worst verses of all time. ("Lift Yourself" is in another realm, which is why it's excluded from this list.)

02. "Freaky Friday" by Lil Dicky (ft. Chris Brown) - Chris Brown singing about his dick, the awful Kendall Jenner feature, and the key to switching back is...loving yourself? Dumb. That whole n-word controversy, too. That's rough.

03. "Mooo!" by Doja Cat - Obviously not a serious track, the music video is hilarious, and it immediately went viral with hundreds of thousands of people tweeting, "bitch I'm a cow." Also, I respect Doja for openly claiming that she's a farter. Many women wouldn't do that.

© Justin Recio 2019