From Camila Cabello’s whispery register on “Never Be the Same” to Carly Rae Jepsen reminding us all how to dance with ourselves on “Party For One,” these are our picks for the 50 best songs of 2018. This year was a mixed bag for most pop songs, with a long list of refreshing and catchy jams as well as songs with honest lyrics about mental health and the realities of everyday life. It may be getting harder and harder to make songs that stick with people, but these artists have accomplished that much and more. Here’s to another year of great music.
“Never Be the Same” – Camila Cabello
Fresh off the success of her breakout hit “Havana,” Camila Cabello continued to showcase her remarkable vocal ability on her debut solo album (among other things), and proved to us on “Never Be the Same” with her whispery register that she can handle just about anything—and we were truly never the same again.
“My My My!” – Troye Sivan
2018 very well might have been the year of Troye Sivan—when people said he released one of the best pop songs of the year 11 days into January, they really weren’t wrong. “My My My!” is a dance-pop song like no other, with electro-synths and everything in between to strongly and freely convey the feelings of liberation in every sense of the word.
“Dancing” – Kylie Minogue
Some groaned when Kylie flipped on her cowgirl hat and released the lead single off her latest album Golden, but there are just enough dance and disco vibes to make anyone get on their feet and snap their fingers to this catchy country pop hit.
“Heart to Break” – Kim Petras
Kim Petras may be problematic, but she sure knows how to make an all-too-perfect pop song that’s an earworm you never want to leave—seriously, I’m still waiting for the day I’m sick of this song.
“WOW” – Victoria Duffield
After a few years away, Canadian pop star Victoria Duffield returned to the scene this year—without a label this time, but wow—she knows what she’s doing on her own as far as making perfect and refreshing pop songs.
“Make Me Feel” – Janelle Monáe
Legions of artists have cited Prince and Michael Jackson as influences, but no one has quite taken their vibe and put their own unique, empowering spin on it quite like Janelle Monáe. On “Make Me Feel,” she creates her own new, electric energy that makes lines like “no one does it better” seem thrillingly refreshing.
“Stop Me From Falling” – Kylie Minogue
Kylie may have tipped her cowgirl hat and led us onto the dancefloor for some country pop on “Dancing,” but that was only the beginning—with “Stop Me From Falling,” the crowning achievement from her latest album, Minogue confirms she is talented to experiment with whatever genres she pleases.
“Magic” – Sia
It may be a soundtrack song from A Wrinkle in Time, but Sia continues to deliver powerful pop songs laced with deep, emotional meanings that have me in my feelings every time.
“High Horse” – Kacey Musgraves
Kylie Minogue wasn’t the only one who brought together country and disco this year—Kacey Musgraves slipped on her bellbottoms and broke out of her country confines to perfectly balance sweet and sassy on a catchy, feel-good, happy-hour vibe that brings together the collective sigh for everyone who knows someone who kills the buzz every time they open up their mouth.
“Lost In Japan” – Shawn Mendes
Shawn Mendes achieved a great deal of praise this year for expressing feelings of anxiety on his latest self-titled third album, but the song that always stood out to me was “Lost In Japan”—the original version showcases an incredibly groovy acoustic pop tune, while the Zedd remix from this fall is even better when you need to dance it out.
“Flames” – David Guetta & Sia
Not one David Guetta and Sia collaboration has ever proven to be bad, and on “Flames,” they provide just the right amount of high energy mixed with confronting feelings of hopelessness—but don’t stop, tomorrow’s another day.
“Get Me High” – Victoria Duffield
From the killer EDM vibes, to the showcase of Duffield’s continued vocal ability, “Get Me High” truly does make me feel higher.
“2002” – Anne-Marie
If people weren’t so busy complaining that pop music is dead, they would have noticed that Anne-Marie’s “2002” had the potential to be the next Teenage Dream—on a throwback track to her youth, British pop sensation Anne-Marie sings oops, she’s got 99 problems, singing bye bye bye, and you better hit her, baby, one more time—none of these songs are from 2002 per-say, of course, but it’s just cute and catchy enough to not leave your head, signaling a grand pop music achievement.
“No Tears Left to Cry” – Ariana Grande
If Ariana Grande would’ve had a crystal ball when she recorded “No Tears Left to Cry,” I’d be willing to bet that there would be more to come based on how much unnecessary time she spent in headlines this year for reasons beyond her control—but she still managed to release a strong lead single from her fourth album Sweetener about letting go and dancing it out.
“Ferrari” – Bebe Rexha
If you had told me a year ago that one of the most deep and personal songs I would hear in a long time would be by Bebe Rexha, I would have gladly laughed in your face—but on “Ferrari,” and on her full-length debut album Expectations, Rexha gladly proves that she has the depth and songwriting ability to back up her list of Top 40 hits. It’s a shame the Grammys spends so much time gushing about how poetic Lorde songs are when they should be looking at ones like these.
“I’ll Be There” – Jess Glynne
With the success of “I’ll Be There,” the lead single off Jess Glynne’s sophomore album Always In Between, she achieved her seventh number-one hit on the UK Singles Chart—more than any other artist in history. And it isn’t any mystery how she got there: she may not have changed or progressed stylistically since her first studio album, but Jess Glynne knows exactly what works for her and she’s sticking to it—because it’s very satisfying.
“If You’re Over Me” – Years & Years
The best song from British group Years & Years’ second album, Palo Santo. Most of their music either falls into synth-pop or indie pop, but on “If You’re Over Me,” they show that they’re not afraid to conquer pure bubblegum pop.
“Back to You” – Selena Gomez
Part of me wishes this was the lead single from a new Selena Gomez album, but until that day comes, “Back to You” is a summery bop with strong production to hold us over.
“Bloom” – Troye Sivan
Both an empowering queer coming-of-age tale and a classically catchy love song, everyone should be playing Troye Sivan like a love song, every time he comes on, because we got that sweet desire.
“Fall In Line” – Christina Aguilera feat. Demi Lovato
If there’s any two pop girls who have never fallen in line, musically or personally, it’s definitely Christina Aguilera and Demi Lovato. How did the universe not implode when two of their respective generations’ strongest vocalists collaborated on one track?
“Solo” – Clean Bandit feat. Demi Lovato
Carefree pop songs with lyrics about partying might have been one of the warning signs that Demi was headed back down a dangerous path (we’ll get to that soon enough), but her standout collaboration with Clean Bandit remains as unique and as catchy as the day it came out.
“Colour” – MNEK feat. Hailee Steinfeld
And the award for most underrated song of 2018 goes to…surely anything by MNEK or Hailee Steinfeld, or in this case, both. Hailee manages to bring such a great vibe to every song she’s in, and with MNEK, they created the perfect song for summer—and any season, for that matter.
“My Mistake” – Victoria Duffield
Making every single one of your new songs catchy and refreshing isn’t easy—but Victoria Duffield reminds us in just two minutes and thirty-seven seconds that she will always be an underappreciated gem.
“Dance to This” – Troye Sivan feat. Ariana Grande
Two artists sounding so perfect together on one song doesn’t happen every day, certainly making “Dance to This” an achievement to dance to.
“Just Thought You Should You Know” – Betty Who
We should be more grateful for Betty Who, a.k.a. one of the only pop singers keeping ‘80s synth-pop alive. It will be interesting to see what she does next, given that she is free of her record deal with RCA and on her own again, which in Betty Who’s case, has always allowed for more creative freedom—just thought you should know.
“Growing Pains” – Alessia Cara
Did I ever recover from the way Alessia Cara just came up in here and put the horrible reality of entering adulthood into beautifully poetic words like only she can on the lead single from her second album? The answer is no.
“I’m a Mess” – Bebe Rexha
It’s easy to make a pop song about boy problems or a relationship gone wrong, but it’s another thing altogether to make catchy pop songs about feeling down and being a mess, which are apart of reality just as much as happy times. She may be a mess, but Bebe Rexha reminds us that it’s okay to not be okay.
“Sober” – Demi Lovato
Where were you when Demi announced she was releasing a surprise new song and then you pressed play and found out she had broken her sobriety after six years and you never stopped crying? All tears aside—it takes an unbelievable amount of strength and bravery to write and record a song about the fact that you’ve fallen off the wagon with the future uncertain, and for that Lovato deserves more praise than we can ever give her.
“God is a Woman” – Ariana Grande
During the early stages of creating Grande’s next studio album, her manager Scooter Braun stated that it was finally time for Ariana to “have her song”… well, she found it, and it confirms what everyone knew to be true in their hearts—god has always been a woman.
“Remember You” – Victoria Duffield feat. Sebastian Olzanski
Duffield even shows us that she can experiment with a Latin pop song—is there anything she can’t do? We need the full album in 2019!
“Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! (A Man After Midnight)” – Cher
Cher’s version of this ABBA classic will always be one thousand times better than the original. There. I said it.
“All I Am” – Jess Glynne
One of the catchiest songs of the year? Possibly. One of the catchiest songs of the decade? Very well might be.
“Sweet But Psycho” – Ava Max
In a perfect world, this song should have hit number one on the Billboard Hot 100. One of my personal favorites from this year. Pop newbie Ava Max needs an album ASAP.
“I Don’t Exist” – Olivia O’Brien
She’s only 19, but Olivia O’Brien has mastered her own deep and raspy trip-hop voice to continue singing about not fitting in, falling apart, and feeling empty—three things that, again, we must also include in our pop songs.
“Breathin” – Ariana Grande
A dance tune about anxiety and remembering to keep on breathin’ with an infectious beat that never gets old? Yes please!
“Head Above Water” – Avril Lavigne
Five years since her last album, Avril Lavigne finally rose from the ashes with new music this year—after saying it was coming soon on social media for literally years—and remains just as talented as the day we first met her. Few artists can deliver emotional ballads like Avril, especially with scenic music videos.
“Dance With Me” – Nile Rodgers & Chic feat. Hailee Steinfeld
Do we really have the privilege of being alive at the same time as when Hailee Steinfeld has a disco funk song with Chic? The answer is YES.
“Sucker Punch” – Sigrid
Norwegian pop star Sigrid truly hit us with a sucker punch with this one, so hopefully we won’t kill her vibe.
“Trust My Lonely” – Alessia Cara
A flawlessly blended R&B and pop song that seems to be about a toxic relationship with someone but is really about a toxic relationship with yourself and your own bad habits? Now that’s what I like to see.
“1999” – Charli XCX & Troye Sivan
Charli XCX and Troye Sivan were both under the age of 10 in 1999 but that doesn’t mean we don’t all want to go back, take a ride through our old neighborhood, and sing hit me baby, one more time.
“I’m Still Here” – Sia
Sia doesn’t even have to be recording songs for her own albums and she still manages to deliver such emotionally charged songs about depression and anxiety. I’m not crying you’re crying.
“Ruin My Life” – Zara Larsson
Did Zara Larsson ruin my life when she released this extremely satisfying song that I still haven’t stopped listening to on repeat? Yes. Yes she did.
“Expectations” – Lauren Jauregui
I was hesitant to listen to any of the solo music of former Fifth Harmony members after they announced a hiatus to focus on solo projects—which appeared all too hypocritical following their public bashing of Camila Cabello in 2017 after she left the group to launch a high-profile solo career. But hypocrisy aside, Lauren Jauregui is a talented girl (not to mention her voice and high notes are easily recognizable in any number of Fifth Harmony hits), and her debut solo single “Expectations” has a sexy, mellow vibe somewhat reminiscent of Demi Lovato, Selena Gomez, or even Avril Lavigne, and I’m now invested in her solo music because I think she’ll do well. I’m still working on excusing the hypocrisy of it all, but I’ll enjoy what she’s offering until then.
“Party For One” – Carly Rae Jepsen
Did Carly Rae Jepsen really wait until November to release the ultimate emergency dance party anthem about being by yourself and loving it? She DID. Not to mention it is so unbelievably refreshing to hear Jepsen’s beautiful voice with new production that isn’t ‘80s synth and dance-pop.
“Baby” – Clean Bandit feat. Marina & Luis Fonsi
Studies have shown that life gets better when you listen to Marina’s flawless high notes. Satisfaction guaranteed or your money back.
“Back to Life” – Hailee Steinfeld
It’s only a soundtrack single from her latest major motion picture Bumblebee, but it’s good enough to distract us until Hailee finally releases her debut studio album which better be coming in 2019 or I am officially filing a lawsuit.
“Voices in My Head” – Ashley Tisdale
Ashley Tisdale releases her first song in 9 years and it’s an energetic bop about anxiety and depression? Sign me up. She also has a new album called Symptoms coming soon.
“Not Today” – Alessia Cara
Will I ever be over how Alessia Cara did it again and put feelings of hopelessness and depression into words to make us all feel a little bit better about not being up to the challenge some days? Surely not today.
“Forget You Not” – Little Mix
The best song from Little Mix’s new album, LM5. Don’t @ me.
“Tell Me It’s Over” – Avril Lavigne
Did Avril really release this exceptionally mature song with exceptionally beautiful production and lyrics and set the stage for 2019 with her upcoming and highly anticipated sixth studio album Head Above Water? You bet your sweet behind she did!
Listen to my picks for the 50 best songs of 2018 on Spotify! Which were your favorite songs from this year?