The 50 Best Songs of 2019 (So Far)



“Morning” by Teyana Taylor ft. Kehlani

The perfect music video doesn’t exi— —Nerisha Penrose



“Lose You To Love Me” by Selena Gomez

Selena Gomez’s newest single shows a different side of the singer, a more personal and vulnerable element that we can all relate to. No love is worth losing yourself for, and it’s a liberating feeling when you claw your way out of heartbreak and fall in love with yourself a little more. —Nerisha Penrose



“Sue Me” by Wale

“Sue me, I’m rooting for everybody that’s black,” Wale proclaims on this album opener, which proudly celebrates black culture. There’s the Mississippi Mass Choir sample (“I’m Blessed”) faintly playing in the background, and he shouts out fashion label Pyer Moss, founded by Haitian-American designer Kerby Jean-Raymond, director Lena Waithe, and Issa Rae, from whom the term “rooting for everybody that’s black” originated. —Nerisha Penrose



“Die A Little Bit” by Tinashe ft. Ms. Banks

The world has been sleeping on Tinashe, but with the release of “Die A Little Bit”—the singer’s first single as a freshly independent artist—it’s time you all wake up. It’s a strong comeback for the artist, whose breathy, hushed whisper and sultry productions previously gifted us bops like “2 On” and “Throw a Fit.” But she didn’t go it alone: South London rapper Ms. Banks joins Nashe on her comeback track, as the ladies remind us that life is short and sometimes we just need to “drink, smoke, dance, vibe a little bit.” —Nerisha Penrose



“Sabotage” by JoJo ft. Chika

Because sometimes we block our own blessings in an attempt to protect our feelings from being hurt, and end up hurting ourselves in the long-run. —Nerisha Penrose



“Sugar Honey Iced Tea (S.H.I.T.).” by Princess Nokia

Welcome to Princess Nokia’s world, where European beauty standards are ignored and beauty pageants are filled with beautiful brown and black women. It’s also a world where Princess Nokia refuses to take “S.H.I.T” from anyone. “You talkin’ shit ’bout my music/But what the fuck have you dropped?/Now what the fuck have you done?/Accolades, you have none,” she raps over horns and finger snaps. Haters? She doesn’t know them. —Nerisha Penrose



“Highwomen” by The Highwomen

The Highwomen is made up of a country dream team including Brandi Carlisle, Maren Morris, Amanda Shires, and Natalie Hemby. Their collaboration represents a blending of the genre’s storied history with a new insurgence of female energy. “Highwomen” in particular paints the four women, along with a haunting Yola, as revolutionary forces. Sorry to the men of country, but this is the genre’s new order. —Savannah Walsh



“Stay High” by Brittany Howard

In September, Brittany Howard released her first album since gaining success as the lead singer of the Alabama Shakes. The record is filled with deeply personal gems, including this soulful song that has a breezy, dreamlike quality to it. It feels like a joyful antidote to the hellscape the outside world can be. Howard has compared the tune’s music to “sunlight.” If so, I’d like to be tucked into the warmth of this song forever. —Savannah Walsh



“When I Wasn’t Watching” by Mandy Moore

Mandy. Moore. She’s back after a decade-long hiatus from music with a single that proves she has lived some life since releasing “Candy” back in ‘99. In this folksy song, she sings, “My favorite version of me disappeared/Through longer days and shorter years.” Clearly, she’s on her way to finding it again—and I will be right alongside her for the ride. —Savannah Walsh



“You Can’t Save Me” by SiR

There’s nothing worse than losing a good girl. “In another time, in another place/You would be mine,” SiR pines on “You Can’t Save Me.” SiR has met the girl of his dreams but feels like she arrived at the wrong time, a time where he has his own demons to battle. And you know what happens when you let a good girl get away. —Nerisha Penrose



“Motivation” by Normani

From the moment Fifth Harmony announced their hiatus, Normani has been gifting us collabs with fellow crooners Khalid, Sam Smith, and 6lack. But on “Motivation,” Normani proves she needs no help to conquer the pop world and the 19 million views the video garnered in its first days is proof that pop music has a new princess. —Nerisha Penrose



“Boyfriend” by Ariana Grande and Social House

“I’m a motherfuckin’ train wreck,” Ariana Grande sings in the first few seconds of “Boyfriend.” The sentiment perfectly capturing the chaos of modern dating. How do you allow yourself to fall in love without burdening your crush/boo/beau/bae with the issues your battling with yourself? What if you’ve already fallen but you’re afraid of commitment? Having a crush can suck, but at least we have a song to explain exactly how we feel when we just can’t find the words. —Nerisha Penrose



“Love Like That” by Snoh Aalegra

Megan Thee Stallion launched Hot Girl Summer, but with the arrival of Snoh Aalegra’s sophomore album Ugh, Those Feels Again, it’s about to be Sad Girl Fall. From the moment I played the album on my commute, “Love Like That” stood out from the bunch. It describes one of those toxic make-up-to-break-up situationship that doesn’t make sense to anybody on the outside but you just can’t seem to walk away from. Snoh finds a way to make the pain sound so beautiful. —Nerisha Penrose



“Looking For America” by Lana Del Rey

One August morning, Americans woke up to news that 31 people died as a result of two mass shootings in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio. “Looking For America” is Lana Del Rey’s response. In it, she dreams of a country she can be proud of: “I’m still looking for my own version of America/One without the gun, where the flag can freely fly.” —Nerisha Penrose



“La Canción” by J. Balvin and Bad Bunny

Bring out the sad bangers! Latin pop stars J. Balvin and Bad Bunny—of “I Like It” fame—did a Beyoncé and surprise-dropped the album Oasis one night in June. Their musical partnership keeps bearing lush, hearty fruit, like this track about a song (“la canción”) that reminds them of the great, drunken, sexy times shared with a former flame. —Estelle Tang



“Borderline” by Tame Impala

Emotions! How confusing. I’d have no time for them, except that they rule. Australian psychedelic rocker Kevin Parker, a.k.a Tame Impala, does their complexity justice with this swirling confection. “Will I be known and loved? Is there one that I trust?” he asks, but he’s got to let those questions ride—as we all know, nobody has any clue. —Estelle Tang



“Bad Guy” by Billie Eilish ft. Justin Bieber

As a kid, Billie Eilish loved Justin Bieber—like, really loved The Biebz. So what does she do? Recruit her childhood idol to hop on her hit song “Bad Guy.” Billie’s eerie whispers kick things off, then JB enters and sings about being “so icy.” A (childhood) dream come true. —Nerisha Penrose



“Simmer” by Mahalia ft. Burna Boy

Nothing screams summer quite like an infectious dancehall banger you’ll be glad to hear spin over and over at a day party. Adopting the current “song of the summer” formula—catchy lyrics and a dancehall-inflected beat—UK songstress Mahalia spiced up our #HotGirlSummer with “Simmer.” Per the title, this song is pure heat, and the addition of the self-proclaimed “African Giant,” Burna Boy, makes it hit even higher temps. —Nerisha Penrose



“Spirit” by Beyoncé

I don’t know what I did to deserve new music from Beyoncé, but I won’t question it. I’ll just keep replaying “Spirit” because it’s SO. DAMN. GOOD. Pegged to the upcoming release of The Lion King—which she stars in as adult Nala—“Spirit” is available on The Lion King: The Gift, an album curated by Beyoncé, and her “love letter to Africa.” The powerful ballad begins with a Swahili chant before Beyoncé’s angelic voice floats atop the melody and later meets with a gospel-esque choir. —Nerisha Penrose



“If I Can’t Have You” by Shawn Mendes

Shawn Mendes can sing the alphabet and I’ll play it over and over, as if it’s his personal love song to me. Luckily, he has a wealth of actual love songs in his discography—sadly, not about me—and “If I Can’t Have You” has not left the “recently played” section in my library. It’s an upbeat tune that feels like the honeymoon phase of a summer romance. —Nerisha Penrose



“Days Like This” by Goldlink ft. Khalid

It’s easy to forget Goldlink is reminiscing about his rough adolescent years on “Days Like This.” Over a cinematic instrumental, Khalid’s buttery vocals and Goldlink’s rapid-fire flow blend seamlessly, leaving us wanting more from these two. Full-length collaboration, please! —Nerisha Penrose



“Rich, White, Straight Men” by Kesha

Kesha’s activist banger is a middle finger to the shitstorm of new anti-abortion laws, posing the question: “What if rich, white, straight men didn’t rule the world anymore?” She uses sarcasm to address serious issues like immigration, LGBTQ rights, and women’s equality. Kesha, you’re doing amazing sweetie. —Nerisha Penrose



“Bags” by Clairo

If releasing a brace of viral songs even before your debut album comes out creates pressure, then only the good kind visited 20-year-old lo-fi pop singer Clairo. The first single from the forthcoming Immunity (August 2) is a startling, beautiful face-off between urgency and wistfulness: “Every second counts / I don’t wanna talk to you anymore.” —Estelle Tang



“Playground” by Steve Lacy

That sharp falsetto? That casually sex-drenched guitar? You’d be forgiven for thinking The Internet guitarist Steve Lacy’s “Playground” was a Prince outtake. And there’s plenty more where this sunshiny funk came from on the 21-year-old’s full-length debute, Apollo XXI. —Estelle Tang



“Aute Cuture” by Rosalía

Hello, song of the summer! Spanish singer Rosalía has given you everything you need for the club: a call for sangria and couture, leopard print and nails more decorated than Versailles. Esto está encendido, indeed. —Estelle Tang



“Simon Says” by Megan Thee Stallion feat. Juicy J

Megan Thee Stallion did not come to play this summer. From the moment she dropped Fever, Megan made it be known that Hot Girl Season is in full effect, and “Simon Says” was just the proof she needed. The rules of the game are simple: Put your hands on your hips, knees, and feet—and twerk. —Nerisha Penrose



“I Don’t Care” by Ed Sheeran and Justin Bieber

It’s been almost two years since Ed Sheeran rolled out any new music, so I’ll take anything my favorite ginger Brit has to offer. But he didn’t return solo; Ed Sheeran pulled Justin Bieber out of retirement for this sweetly sappy love song about how a special someone can turn your bad days into good ones. —Nerisha Penrose



“BMO” by Ari Lennox

I called it from the moment I heard Ari Lennox’s latest 12-track effort Shea Butter Baby: “BMO” is my Saturday morning tune. The groovy ’90s-inspired feel-good song is just as good a companion on the train during your morning commute. Lennox’s velvety rich voice over the nostalgic R&B beat makes this an instant summer bop. —Nerisha Penrose



“Julien” by Carly Rae Jepsen

Once again, Carly Rae Jepsen has put feelings and glitter into a blender and whipped up some upbeat pop for the gently fevered. Her new album Dedicated‘s lead song “Julien” possesses a spry ’80s electro beat but its gothic lyrics (“I’ll be whispering ‘Julien’ / Through the last breath that I breathe”) make it feel like Kate Bush wandered onto the dancefloor at Limelight. —Estelle Tang



“Cellophane” by FKA Twigs

FKA Twigs took some time out after laparoscopic surgery, and her return heralds a sonic shift for the typically trippy singer. Stripped all the way back to a simple piano line and her eerie voice, “Cellophane” showcases Twigs’ obsession with desire, repulsion, and the opaque spaces between two people. —Estelle Tang



“King James” by Anderson .Paak

One great tips his hat to another on Anderson .Paak’s “King James,” which celebrates basketball legend Lebron James—particularly his generosity and community spirit amid ongoing racism and oppression. “And we salute King James for using his chains / To create some equal opportunities,” sings the California rapper on the lead single from his fourth album, Ventura. —Estelle Tang



“Juicy” by Doja Cat

I’m asking everyone to say a prayer for me. There’s nothing wrong me per se—it’s just that I can’t stop listening to Doja Cat’s bouncy track “Juicy.” It’s three minutes of pure magic and the most important song in my Spotify Heavy Rotation library. The airy, bubbly synths and Doja’s flirty lyrics about her, well, booty, have the power to make me shake what the good Lord gave me. It also cleared my acne and gave me a healthy glow. —Nerisha Penrose



“Old Town Road (Remix)” by Lil Nas X ft. Billy Ray Cyrus

You can’t escape “Old Town Road”—not that you’d want to. The plaintive song first blew up on TikTok, then the Billboard charts, including the Hot Country Songs chart….before it was quietly removed. The move wasn’t enough to deter the burgeoning star, so what does he do? Recruit Billy Ray freaking Cyrus for a remix. The rap/country hybrid is built around a thick thumping bass and banjo strums, and begins with Cyrus singing the chorus; he also returns at the end with mic-drop worthy bars. —Nerisha Penrose



“Binz” by Solange

In the self-filmed video for “Binz,” Solange is all smiley and bubbly as she twerks to the groovy, jazz-inflected melody. So, of course, suddenly you find yourself all smiley and bubbly and twerking. On “Binz,” Solange dreams of the living a lavish life, like waking up “to the suns and Saint Laurent” and getting out of bed on “CP time.” Same, sis. —Nerisha Penrose



“Sucker” by the Jonas Brothers

Sorry, but this song is just really good. Harry Potter put a spell on me or something, because I’m totally powerless in the face of this pop comeback. What with its nostalgic boy-band appeal and impeccably catchy swagger (not to mention the adorable video starring IRL Jonas partners Sophie Turner, Priyanka Chopra, and Danielle Jonas), “Sucker” does what it says on the package. You got me, Jonii! —Estelle Tang



“Handmade Heaven” by Marina

Marina’s “Handmade Heaven” is a breath of fresh air. Expressing the desire to truly belong, in a time when it’s so easy to feel lost and overwhelmed, she tries to navigate her place in the world and it’s easy to relate to her honest lyrics. —Starr Bowenbank



“Riot” by Summer Walker

You can’t just listen to Summer Walker in any setting. A proper Summer Walker listening session requires Rituals’ Goji Berry candle burning, a glass (or two, or three) of Riesling, and tears—lots of tears. “Riot” is the haunting slow burner that tells the story of a dying relationship that’s “too routine.” Summer’s lover is content with doing the bare minimum (“And you think of roses and daisies”) but the unhappy singer requires a love more passionate than the typical. —Nerisha Penrose



“Please Me” by Cardi B and Bruno Mars

Last we heard of Bruno Mars and Cardi B, they had fans doing the old-school wop and Kid ‘n Play dance to their ’90s-inspired gem “Finesse.” For the duo’s sequel, “Please Me,” Bruno and Cardi leave the House Party and head straight to the bedroom. “Please me, baby / Turn around and just tease me, baby,” Bruno’s velvety voice purrs over a bed of swirling synths, balancing out Cardi’s brash, sex-drenched lyrics about her bedroom skills. —Nerisha Penrose



“Break Up With Your Girlfriend, I’m Bored” by Ariana Grande

The title alone is *chef’s kiss,* but the actual song—the horny kicker of Grande’s feverish post-breakup album Thank U, Next—is even better. Her voice dripping with assertive sensuality, Grande lays it on a hapless dude: “Took one fuckin’ look at your face / Now I wanna know how you taste.” Good luck getting away, guy! —Estelle Tang



“Bury a Friend” by Billie Eilish

“Bury a Friend” might seem like a sinister directive, but when you find out that 17-year-old Billie Eilish wrote this single “from the perspective of the monster under my bed,” that makes it better, right? No? I guess there’s no getting away from the fact that this downbeat single will get under your skin. “I might be the monster under your bed,” Eilish teased. Eep. —Estelle Tang



“Nights Like This” by Kehlani ft. Ty Dolla $ign

“But all that glitters isn’t gold, I was blinded / Should have never gave you my heart on consignment,” Kehlani sings out the gate on her new song “Nights Like This.” It sounds like Kehlani’s having one of those nights. She’s thinking about a dishonest someone who “took my feelings and just threw ’em out the window” and now she’s left to pick up the pieces of her broken heart. The mommy-to-be brings Ty Dolla $ign into the mix, and the west coast crooners’ voices blend seamlessly until the song’s end. Nerisha Penrose



“Dancing With a Stranger” by Normani, Sam Smith

There’s a lot to love about “Dancing With a Stranger.” For starters: Normani and Sam Smith. Two soulful, passionate voices harmonizing about an enchanting stranger over a colorful, upbeat rhythm. You can’t help but get up and, well, dance—whether by yourself, with friends, or with the cutie you just swiped right on. Nerisha Penrose



“Almost (Sweet Music)” by Hozier

Hozier returned at the top of the year with his first song in almost five years, and everything you loved about the singer who gifted us “Take Me to Church” in 2013—his rich, throaty vocals and addictive soul-flavored instrumentals—remains intact. Nerisha Penrose



“Song 31” by Noname ft. Phoelix

“I sell pain for profit, not propaganda” Noname says matter-of-factly on her newest single “Song 31.” She also silkily raps about the consequences of capitalism, factory farming, and staying independent. Close collaborator Phoelix joins in for a chorus as smooth as it is sharp. Nerisha Penrose



“Hope Is a Dangerous Thing for a Woman Like Me to Have, But I Have It” by Lana Del Rey

The start of the new year usually finds most people in a contemplative state, and Lana Del Rey’s solemn ballad fits right in. The singer’s wistful vocals pour over a delicate piano melody; although she battles with her own demons (“Don’t ask if I’m happy, you know that I’m not / But at best, I can say I’m not sad”), Del Rey forges ahead towards happiness. Even though having hope is dangerous, it’s not as bad as living without it. Nerisha Penrose



“Juice” by Lizzo

Sometimes you just need to scream “I’m goals” to yourself. Even if you’re not quite there yet, Lizzo’s “Juice” is there to give you the boost you need. “Ain’t my fault that I’m out here makin’ news”? The self-love queen sure came out strong in 2019. —Estelle Tang



“Snowblind” by Tanya Tagaq

Inuk throat singer Tanya Tagaq’s forthcoming EP, Toothsayer, was actually created as an accompaniment to an exhibition at London’s National Maritime Museum. Its first single, “Snowblind,” is full of thrumming echoes not dissimilar to flurries of snow; its pretty eeriness is perfect for the winter. —Estelle Tang



“Anti-Lullaby” by Karen O

Per the title, don’t listen to this one before you go to bed. Yeah Yeah Yeahs frontwoman Karen O channels the darkness in this “anti-lullaby,” which comes from the forthcoming Amazon Prime series Hanna. “Do not sleep / She waits for you to sleep,” she sings: very chill, not scary at all. Estelle Tang



“Wasted Nun” by Cherry Glazerr

“People want girls to be strong, I want to be strong, but I just feel angry, and those are two very different things,” said Cherry Glazerr’s Clementine Creevy in a press release. That’s the feeling driving “Wasted Nun,” a kind of primal scream that is terrifyingly relatable. Wind down all the car windows and get it all out. —Estelle Tang



“Seventeen” by Sharon Van Etten

Five years after she released her last album (she went back to college and had a baby in the meantime), Sharon Van Etten follows in the tradition of art devoted to New York City with this bittersweet tribute, which she calls a “love letter” to the city. It’s just one of many raw, knowing, and loving tracks from her 2019 album Remind Me Tomorrow. —Estelle Tang


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