When we started this decade, the digital music world was still growing. The iTunes Store still held the monopoly. But now as we’re finishing the decade, there are hundreds of platforms to stream music at the tap of a button. You can find almost any song old or new within seconds. And while it may seem overwhelming, it also makes for some great new songs and an easier and faster way for artists to keep in touch with their fans.
As we close out the 2010s and look forward on the horizon, it was definitely an overwhelming year for music. In the social media and streaming age, what’s hot today might not be hot by tomorrow morning. But if you pay close attention and keep an ear out, it’s nice to keep track of the year’s favorites. From Shawn Mendes and Camila Cabello insisting they are just friends on “Señorita,” to P!nk telling us there is so much wrong going on outside on “Walk Me Home,” to Normani showcasing her impeccable choreography skills on “Motivation,” these are my picks for the 50 best songs of 2019.
Listen to this playlist on Spotify and also check out my picks for the 100 best songs of the 2010s on Spotify or Apple Music.
“Don’t Call Me Up” – Mabel
In one of the year’s most prominent breakout songs, English pop singer Mabel delivers a sassy, empowering self-love anthem about ignoring the past and its negativity.
“I’m So Tired…” – Lauv & Troye Sivan
We too are so tired of love songs…but not when Lauv and Troye Sivan are singing them, since their voices go together so perfectly.
“Into You” – Julia Michaels
I will admit to only loving this song after seeing Julia Michaels open for P!nk on the Beautiful Trauma World Tour, but “Into You” has to be one of Michaels’ most captivating songs to date, from Part 1 of her Inner Monologue series. A standout achievement.
“Love Myself” – Olivia O’Brien
After releasing a series of singles throughout 2018, leading up to the release of her first full-length album, singer/songwriter Olivia O’Brien proves her immense songwriting ability on this powerful anthem about learning to love ourselves.
“Bad Habit” – Ben Platt
Speaking of immense songwriting ability—actor-turned-recording artist Ben Platt also shows that and more on “Bad Habit,” a heartwarming ballad touching on the themes of mental health and having one of those days—the lead single from his debut studio album, Sing to Me Instead.
“Bloodline” – Ariana Grande
Ariana Grande’s decision to release two studio albums within seven months of each other may have led to some of the catchier songs aside from “Thank U, Next” and “7 Rings” getting lost in the mix: “Bloodline” being a prime example. The ultimate bop for dismissing negativity, you really have to take it or leave it because I really don’t want you in my bloodline, TBH.
“Dumb Blonde” – Avril Lavigne
In what can only be described as one of the most underrated songs of the last decade, Avril Lavigne delivers her most powerful and catchiest songs in years about not letting labels or stereotypes keep us down. She also teamed up with Nicki Minaj for a duet version which doesn’t quite hold the same power as the solo version, but unfortunately the duet is the only version currently available on streaming services.
“Last Hurrah” – Bebe Rexha
In just two minutes and thirty seconds, Bebe Rexha sings about vices. “We all have them,” she explained. “It’s not just about smoking or drinking, it’s about love, food or any of our bad habits. It’s our final anthem to all our vices as we seek a new tomorrow and a better us. And then do it all again tomorrow.”
“You and I” – LÉON
In one of the year’s most underrated indie pop efforts, LÉON delivers an infectiously fun anthem about the power of dancing your tears away.
“Walk Me Home” – P!nk
For the lead single from her latest album Hurts 2B Human, P!nk teamed up with Nate Ruess—with whom she previously collaborated on the 2013 hit “Just Give Me a Reason.” The end result was not as captivating as their first collaboration, but “Walk Me Home” can definitely rank among P!nk’s best songs—in the same vein as her other socially conscious tracks.
“Now That I Found You” – Carly Rae Jepsen
Trying some EDM on for size, Carly Rae Jepsen said that she wrote this contagious and upbeat song at a time when she was “painfully single”—and the caution-to-the-wind energy is definitely evident.
“So Am I” – Ava Max
After her debut single “Sweet But Psycho” began to become the biggest sleeper hit in recent memory, Ava Max began to take the pop music world by storm this year, beginning with the release of her first follow-up single “So Am I”—the ultimate misfit anthem about the power of not fitting in.
“Thinkin Bout You” – Ciara
The fifth single from her seventh studio album Beauty Marks, Ciara is feeling herself on this up-tempo bop with a catchy chorus and a dance/disco beat.
“Enjoy Your Life” – MARINA
After a few years away, MARINA returned for her fourth studio album Love + Fear—this time without “the Diamonds” but still with her signature ability for dance-pop, which is especially evident on “Enjoy Your Life,” yet another empowering self-love anthem about overcoming our anxieties and quieting the voices in our heads.
“Sixteen” – Ellie Goulding
On the follow-up single to her largely successful collaboration with Diplo and Swae Lee at the end of last year, “Close to Me,” Ellie Goulding released one last picture-perfect pop song for this decade. On “Sixteen,” she channels Teenage Dream-era Katy Perry in a carefree and loveable bop about recapturing the recklessness of youth, even as we grow older.
“Just A Boy” – Olivia O’Brien
Yet another horrendously underrated bop, Olivia O’Brien shows her sassy side with this refreshing take on boy problems.
“ME!” – Taylor Swift feat. Brendon Urie
Some say that “ME!” ranks among Taylor Swift’s worst songs, but I’ve loved her glitzy self-love track from the moment it first hit the airwaves—as well as how well she and Panic! at the Disco’s Brendon Urie sound together.
“If I Can’t Have You” – Shawn Mendes
You can’t help but fall in love with Shawn Mendes’ charm and effervescent energy, especially on the deliciously catchy “If I Can’t Have You”—with an impressive high note that would make Justin Timberlake want to take notes.
“Too Much” – Carly Rae Jepsen
Carly Rae Jepsen brilliantly articulates the sentiment behind Feeling Too Much on this synth-fueled dance track about embracing your overemotional side.
“Fade Out” – Seeb, Olivia O’Brien & Space Primates
As if there wasn’t already enough Olivia O’Brien on this list, she also teamed up with Seeb and Space Primates for another sassy bop about not doing communication and knowing how to “ghost” someone—because baby, this is where she fades out.
“Find U Again” – Mark Ronson feat. Camila Cabello
On the strongest collaboration from his album Late Night Feelings, producer Mark Ronson teamed up with Camila Cabello for a dreary but catchy anthem about not being able to let go of someone—but hitting the dancefloor anyway. The melody will not leave your head for weeks.
“Never Really Over” – Katy Perry
In what should have been the number one single of the year, Katy Perry abandons her electropop pixie-cut for an old-fashioned return to her dance-pop roots on “Never Really Over,” a song you will want to blast on repeat and get up and dance—every single time.
“Call You Mine” – The Chainsmokers & Bebe Rexha
The latest collaboration from The Chainsmokers and Bebe Rexha will take you back to the careless abandon of your own youth, as well as the grand uncertainty that life brings, on this breezy summer track.
“Rollercoaster” – Jonas Brothers
If I hear “Sucker” one more time this year and it gets stuck in my head for the millionth time I will be filing a lawsuit—but on “Rollercoaster,” the most underrated track from Happiness Begins that wasn’t released as a single, the reunited Jonas Brothers get candid about the stormy waters that led to their reunion and how they reached a place of peace: all with super catchy production and strong vocals.
“The Way I Feel” – Keane
English alternative rock band Keane reunited after a lengthy hiatus this year and released “The Way I Feel” as their comeback single, a charming and eloquent mental health anthem about the way many of us feel.
“Number One Fan” – MUNA
The lead single from their second album Saves the World, alternative pop group MUNA tackles fandom culture in pop music on the synth track “Number One Fan” while also brilliantly lacing it with a double-meaning: that we all must also be our own number one fans.
“You Need to Calm Down” – Taylor Swift
“And I ain’t trying to mess with your self-expression but I’ve learned a lesson that stressin’ and obsessin’ ‘bout somebody else is NO FUN.” Taylor Swift delivered the lyrics of the decade right there with her LGBTQ-themed anthem “You Need to Calm Down,” which contains words to live by in the digital age of social media trolls.
“Señorita” – Shawn Mendes & Camila Cabello
I think everyone on the Internet has just about had it with seeing Shawn Mendes and Camila Cabello almost kiss during award show performances of their flirtatiously sexy single “Señorita”—but even I must admit that this song is catchy enough to warrant its status of overplayed. Building upon the strength of their duet abilities from their first collaboration, 2015’s “I Know What You Did Last Summer,” Mendes and Cabello prove that they work well together—in song and, apparently, in romance.
“Left Me Yet” – Daya
Building upon the success of her earlier singles “Hide Away” and “Sit Still, Look Pretty,” Daya sings about being difficult to love on “Left Me Yet”—and how maybe we are all a little hard to love, but worth it despite it all.
“All the Time” – Zara Larsson
In what would have been the song of the summer in a perfect world, Zara Larsson’s “All the Time” is another breezy, summery bop that will make you want to dance your troubles away.
“Higher Love” – Kygo & Whitney Houston
Breathing new, modern life into a scarcely-seen Whitney Houston track from the ‘90s seems like an impossible task—but Kygo accomplishes that and more on his remix of “Higher Love,” which reminds us that, even in 2019, they’re probably won’t ever be another Whitney.
“Simple Things” – Alexander Cardinale feat. Christina Perri
It’s been a few years since we’ve heard from Christina Perri, but she’s back and teaming up with Alexander Cardinale for a new adult contemporary hit about embracing the simple things in life—even as we continue to overcomplicate.
“Ready” – Alessia Cara
Barely a year since her last album, Alessia Cara wrote and recorded a new EP out of the blues called This Summer, with her gorgeous vocals and R&B production shining through most on its lead single, “Ready.”
“I’ll Be Back Someday” – Tegan and Sara
With the lead single from their ninth studio album Hey, I’m Just Like You, Tegan and Sara remind us how they will never fit into one set category: “I’ll Be Back Someday” is a bit indie rock, a bit indie pop, and a bit pop rock—all at the same time, encompassing the grand ambiguity and thus the grand appeal of Tegan and Sara.
“OMG” – Gryffin & Carly Rae Jepsen
Teaming up with DJ and musician Gryffin, Carly Rae Jepsen shows us once more her penchant for dance tracks with breezy, captivating vocals.
“F*ck, I’m Lonely” – Lauv feat. Anne-Marie
We too are lonely, but Lauv and Anne-Marie are here to tell us that it’s okay—they’re lonely, too.
“Lover” – Taylor Swift
On her best love song in years, Taylor Swift has returned to her roots in a way that feels like a warm hug from an old friend.
“Motivation” – Normani
Normani didn’t have to snap this hard on her debut solo single “Motivation,” but she did that. She did that for all of us.
“Torn” – Ava Max
From the ABBA sample to the comic book-themed music video, just all around pop perfection.
“Not 20 Anymore” – Bebe Rexha
Written in response to a music executive who told her she was getting too old to be dressing provocatively, Bebe Rexha poignantly and unabashedly addresses ageism in pop music on “Not 20 Anymore.” Honestly, who would still want to be 20?
“Liar” – Camila Cabello
On one of the standout lead singles from her second album Romance, Camila Cabello continues to take Latin pop by storm with trumpet solos, extravagant music videos, and edgy vocals.
“Slow Dance” – AJ Mitchell feat. Ava Max
I would watch AJ Mitchell and Ava Max slow dance, TBH. It looks and sounds like they definitely know what they are doing.
“Hey, I’m Just Like You” – Tegan and Sara
On the title track from their latest album, which consists of reimagined songs originally written by the duo in high school, Tegan and Sara have pinpointed what can make music so relatable—an artist or band singing about a feeling, emotion, or experience that a listener has also experienced, and it makes them feel seen and understood. “Hey, I’m Just Like You” doesn’t mince words, it means exactly that: Tegan and Sara have been there, done that, and are here to tell you it’s going to be fine.
“Good Thing” – Zedd & Kehlani
An introvert anthem for the ages. Don’t tell us that you’ve got a good thing for us, because we’ve already got a good thing with us! (Alone, separately, in our own houses.)
“Lose You to Love Me” – Selena Gomez
A perfect comeback song if there ever was one, Selena Gomez achieved her first number one single on the Billboard Hot 100 with “Lose You to Love Me”—a ballad about losing someone, or something, in order to love ourselves. The subject of the song is largely assumed to be Justin Bieber, which hasn’t exactly been denied, but it doesn’t seem to matter, since “Lose You to Love Me” is about putting ourselves first, for which Gomez now knows herself better.
“Raising Hell” – Kesha feat. Big Freedia
The lead single from her upcoming fourth studio album High Road, “Raising Hell” serves as a return to the campy, fun-loving, and self-described “cheesy bitch who loves pop music” that lived on Kesha’s earlier albums. And we are obviously here for it.
“Now I’m In It” – HAIM
On this candidly poetic new single, HAIM member Danielle revealed she wrote “Now I’m In It” after a bout of depression and figuring out how to keep going, describing her state of mind as being “not OK with [herself].” But sometimes you just have to shake off the negative voices, dance it out, and remember that life goes on—all of which comes to mind while listening to this song.
“Don’t Start Now” – Dua Lipa
Setting the stage for her next album (allegedly titled Future Nostalgia), Dua Lipa is back and ready for a new chapter of exciting dance-pop.
“Kissing Other People” – Lennon Stella
Since her days as a star on the television series Nashville, Lennon Stella has made her way into the pop music world with her debut EP from last year (Love, Me) and continues to make herself a name to watch with “Kissing Other People,” a fun breakup tune.
“Regulars” – Allie X
On one of her latest singles from her upcoming new album Cape God, indie pop songstress Allie X champions the beauty of not fitting in—and how there’s no real meaning in pretending to go with the “regulars.”
Listen to this playlist on Spotify and also check out my picks for the 100 best songs of the 2010s on Spotify or Apple Music.