Bangers, Ballads & Bops: The 100 Best Singles Of 2018
2018 was a curious year for pop music. Other genres (most notably hip-hop and country) took over the charts, while the age of the all-conquering era seems to be well and truly behind us. With heavy-hitters like Beyoncé, Rihanna, Katy Perry, Taylor Swift, Lady Gaga and Adele technically off-cycle, no one dominated the scene. Instead, Ex-Acts battled Fifth Harmony alumni and the usual DJs for pop supremacy. And in the process, a lot of great music was made. You just had to look a little further afield to find it.
Much of the year’s best pop was imported from Europe and Australia, while Latin America proved to be a true powerhouse with an army of breakout stars. And then, there’s the rise and rise of K-Pop. (Here’s our list of 2018’s best K-Pop songs and albums). A little closer to home, a bunch of newcomers caught my attention with their manic disregard for genre and emotional honesty. Take a deep breath and dive into my list of 2018’s best singles below. Just don’t pay too much attention to the rankings.
100. “Tieduprightnow” — Parcels
The Berlin-based Aussies take us back to the ’70s with this disco-laced, blissfully mellow tune.
99. “Tongue” — MNEK
After conquering the world of songwriting, MNEK finally came into his own as a pop star with the sexy, slinky “Tongue.”
98. “You’ve Got Your Whole Life Ahead Of You Baby” — IDER
IDER’s breakthrough single is the perfect soundtrack to the emotional breakdown that inevitably accompanies your Return of Saturn.
97. “Me And Michael” — MGMT
MGMT kind of lost their way after the mega-success of their debut LP, but “Me And Michael” was an impressive return to form.
96. “First Impression” — Amanda Tenfjord
One of 2018’s most exciting newcomers, Amanda Tenfjord won me over with this biting account of an ill-fated initial encounter.
95. “Believer” — CYN
Signed to Katy Perry’s Unsub Records, CYN slinky “Believer” evokes her label head’s knack for pop hooks with a splash of something a little darker.
94. “Sunflower” — Post Malone & Swae Lee
Say what you like about Post Malone, but he has the Midas Touch when it comes to hip-hop/pop hybrids with mass appeal.
93. “Kream” — Iggy Azalea feat. Tyga
This raunchy banger will be playing in strip clubs for decades to come. Her mind.
92. “Shotgun” — George Ezra
The deep-voiced Brit landed a global hit with “Shotgun.” Surely, it’s only a matter of time before the US succumbs to the song’s summery charm.
91. “On Fire” — Morgan Saint
Alt-leaning, multi-layered electronica with angelic vocals and big hooks, “On Fire” cements Morgan Saint’s status as a pop force to be reckoned with.
90. “Mockingbird” — Ruston Kelly
Falling somewhere between Chris Stapleton and Bruce Springsteen, Ruston Kelly’s melancholy “Mockingbird” heralds the arrival of a major talent.
89. “Lay With Me” — Phantoms feat. Vanessa Hudgens
Vanessa Hudgens made a welcome return to pop music with a feature on Phantoms’ fun and fizzy “Lay With Me.”
88. “Ohio” — Andrew McMahon In The Wilderness
The veteran singer/songwriter documents an unusually bittersweet road trip on this moving anthem.
87. “Sugar & Spice” — Hatchie
Australian newcomer Hatchie shows real flair for ’90s-channeling shoe-gaze on “Sugar & Spice.”
86. “Ocean” — Martin Garrix feat. Khalid
A classy club anthem with a memorably mellow drop that deserved to be a whole lot bigger than it was.
85. “All The Ways” — Meghan Trainor
Sugary sweet synth-pop that would have been wildly praised by blogs and championed by The Gays in the hands of any other artist.
84. “Boo’d Up” — Ella Mai
Arguably the breakthrough artist of 2018, Ella Mai breathed new life into classic R&B with “Boo’d Up.”
83. “Take Cover” — Jordie Ireland
An Aussie teenager just happened to produce one of the best club tracks of 2018. Jordie Ireland is definitely One To Watch in 2019.
82. “Tequila” — Dan + Shay
Nashville duo Dan + Shay hits the sweet spot between country and pop on this boozy ode to lost love.
81. “Changed My Mind” — Tove Styrke
The Swede’s minimalist approach accentuates every beat, lyric and hook, proving (once and for all) that less is more. Listen to “Changed My Mind” for proof.
80. “Love You Most” — Laura Jean Anderson
LA songstress Laura Jean Anderson shows off her powerful pipes and knack for delivering emotional gut punches on this soulful ballad.
79. “Taki Taki” — DJ Snake, Selena Gomez, Ozuna & Cardi B
460 million Spotify streams and 850 million YouTube views. Imagine how big the Latin-club sensation of 2018 could have been with radio support and a couple of performances?
78. “Emotion” — Astrid S
Norway’s princess of pop hits a raw nerve on this introspective, vulnerable ditty about a dysfunctional relationship.
77. “Youngblood” — 5 Seconds Of Summer and Angus & Julia Stone
A song so catchy and universal that it works just as well as a stripped-back ballad (as Angus & Julia Stone’s artful cover proves).
76. “Lilo” — The Japanese House
Strikingly serene dream-pop about the warm cocoon of a new relationship.
75. “My My My!” — Troye Sivan
Troye Sivan channels Michael Jackson on the highlight of Bloom and delivers one of his best singles.
74. “Faking It” — Sasha Sloan
Going through the motions in a relationship has rarely been illustrated with such brutal precision.
73. “Be Alright” — Dean Lewis
Australia’s Dean Lewis wears his (broken) heart on his sleeve on this stripped-back, Spotify-conquering breakup anthem.
72. “Baby” — Bishop Briggs
Bishop Briggs reveals her obsession with bad boys on this rollicking, fucks-free jaunt. Radio dropped the ball on this.
71. “Love Lies” — Khalid & Normani
A star-making slow jam that proves Normani well and truly has what it takes to be a solo sensation.
70. “Light On” — Maggie Rogers
Maggie Rogers comes to grips with the pitfalls of fame on this lilting mantra doubling as a pop song.
69. “Accelerate” — Christina Aguilera feat. Ty Dolla $ign & 2 Chainz
Christina Aguilera’s whole Liberation era deserved better, but the hook-filled, rambling lead single was particularly slept-on.
68. “Lovely” — Billie Eilish & Khalid
There are two takeaways from this hit duet. Namely that Khalid is the undisputed king of collaborations and Billie Eilish is indisputably the real deal.
67. “Head Above Water” — Avril Lavigne
A deeply personal, faith-driven pop/rock anthem about overcoming Lyme Disease, “Head Above Water” kicked off Avril Lavigne’s comeback in style.
66. “Funny Business” — Alice Merton
Germany’s Alice Merton popped up on my best singles of 2017 countdown with the inescapable “No Roots.” In 2018, she proved it was no fluke by dropping the equally quirky (and catchy) “Funny Business.”
65. “Shallow” — Lady Gaga & Bradley Cooper
Raw, heartfelt and oddly operatic, “Shallow” was the breakout hit from A Star Is Born with very good reason.
64. “Wild” — Hugo Helmig
Good, old-fashioned Euro-Pop with a big, frothy chorus is what Denmark’s Hugo Helmig delivers on “Wild.”
63. “Phone Me” — Tia Gostelow
Indie-pop queen Tia Gostelow dropped one of the breeziest bops of 2018 with the refreshingly loose and casual “Phone Me.”
62. “1999” — Charli XCX & Troye Sivan
Most of the pop-culture references in “1999” have nothing to do with that specific year and the collaborators are at least two decades too young to be reminiscing about the 20th century. But who really cares when the song is this fucking good?
61. “All The Pretty Girls” — Vera Blue
Australia’s Vera Blue trades in alt-centric electronica for nostalgic synth-pop on this brilliant bop.
60. “I Don’t Even Smoke Weed” — Empress Of
Empress Of is so comfortable in her new relationship that the usually straight-laced singer is open to getting stoned. Dating goals.
59. “GTFO” — Mariah Carey
Introducing a make-or-break album with an expletive-filled, low-key groove was a risk that ultimately paid handsome dividends for Mariah Carey.
58. “Delicate” — Taylor Swift
Reputation didn’t really do it for me, but “Delicate” is proof that Taylor Swift’s uncanny knack for penning perfect pop songs hasn’t deserted her.
57. “I Like It” — Cardi B, Bad Bunny & J Balvin
Cardi B made the leap from rap contender to throne-occupying Queen with this genre-mashing banger.
56. “Hunger” — Florence + The Machine
The biggest pop moment on High As Hope also happens to be the most honest and disarmingly poetic.
55. “Make Me Feel” — Janelle Monáe
Funk is alive and well (and sexier than ever) in the very capable hands of Janelle Monáe.
54. “Imaginary Friend” — MØ
Every song on MØ’s weird and wonderful Forever Neverland is a mini-masterpiece, but this oddball bedroom anthem is probably the most accessible.
53. “Paper Rain” — Andrew McMahon In The Wilderness
A last-ditch effort to climb out of debt via the tables in Las Vegas comes to life in Andrew McMahon In The Wilderness’ punchiest single to date.
52. “Heart To Break” — Kim Petras
Kim Petras dropped banger after banger in 2018. They were all good, but “Heart To Break” soars a little higher thanks to perky production and a killer chorus.
51. “Pictures Of Girls” — Wallows
The distinctly West Coast, blurry indie-pop of Wallows’ “Pictures Of Girls” stood out like a sore thumb in 2018 for all the right reasons.
50. “Better Now” — Cloves
A brilliantly-written track that captures the unstable dynamics of a fucked-up relationship in the most vibrant, realistic way possible.
49. “What Keeps You Up At Night” — Dan + Shay
A shamelessly romantic, pop-tinged tune with infinite replay value, “What Keeps You Up At Night” represents everything good about modern country.
48. “Ashes” — Celine Dion
10 years ago, “Ashes” would have been a worldwide number one hit. In today’s pop climate, it barely made a ripple. Which is criminal given that it stands toe-to-toe with Celine Dion’s best ballads.
47. “Bad Dreams” — Pete Yorn & Scarlett Johansson
If you told me at the beginning of 2018 that one of my favorite songs would come from Scarlett Johansson, I would have probably believed you. Because we are living in the Upside Down. The actor’s indie-pop reunion with Pete Yorn is a punchy, refreshingly weary look at very adult problems.
46. “Blue Sea, Red Sea” — Billie Marten
Dreamy folk-pop from one of the UK’s most underrated talents, Billie Marten’s “Blue Sea, Red Sea” washes over you like a warm bath.
45. “Nobody” — Mitski
With Be The Cowboy, Mitski was officially recognized as a pop genius. The perfect starting place for newcomers? Look no further than “Nobody,” a delicately-layered anthem about loneliness for the Forever Alone crowd.
44. “Body” — Loud Luxury feat. Brando
Just when you thought there was no escaping down-tempo electro, Canada’s Loud Luxury dropped “Body” and brought the fun back to dance music.
43. “Groceries” — Mallrat
Mallrat’s “Groceries” is the best electro-pop song about buying food. Yes, even better than Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Store.”
42. “Wonder Woman” — Kacey Musgraves
Kacey Musgraves speaks her piece with wit and homespun wisdom on this remarkably well-written buzz single.
41. “Focus” — Charli XCX
So prolific that it’s hard to keep track of her movements, Charli XCX dropped her best single since “Boom Clap” with the sexy, slinky “Focus.” If she ever releases another album, this should be on it.
40. “Solo” — Clean Bandit & Demi Lovato
Demi Lovato had a rough 2018, but she somehow found the time to deliver one of the year’s best floorfillers. The mildly outrageous “Solo” goes harder than it has any right to.
39. “I Said Hi” — Amy Shark
Love Monster was one of my favorite albums of last year and “I Said Hi” perfectly sums up Amy Shark’s ballsy appeal — big hooks, a fuck-you attitude and one hell of a chorus.
38. “Meant To Be” — Bebe Rexha & Florida Georgia Line
Bebe Rexha really dropped one of the biggest country-pop crossovers of all time and then went back to recording R&B-tinged bangers like it never happened. Legends only.
37. “In My Blood” — Shawn Mendes
Shawn Mendes always had the talent, he was just lacking the signature song to nudge him into Grammy-worthy territory. The Canadian pop star finally found it with “In My Blood.”
36. “Without Me” — Halsey
Am I a down-low Halsey stan? The pop star dropped more than her fair share of memorable bops in 2018 including the radio-saving “Without Me.” She’s due for a massive 2019.
35. “Have It All” — Jason Mraz
Two Spirit singer/songwriter Jason Mraz unleashed the feel-good anthem of 2018. Unfortunately, we were all too depressed to enjoy it.
34. “Lost Without You” — Freya Ridings
Freya Ridings has the voice of Adele and pen of Joni Mitchell. Listen to “Lost Without You” for confirmation.
33. “La Cintura” — Alvaro Soler
Alvaro Soler conquered Europe with “La Cintura,” an absurdly catchy anthem about being a bad dancer. It should have done the same in the States.
32. “Zu Dir” — LEA
Germany’s LEA was really going through it on the moody “Leiser,” but she proves equally adept at loved-up pop on the soaring “Zu Dir.”
31. “Hearts Ain’t Gonna Lie” — Arlissa & Jonas Blue
One of the best songs of 2018 arrived in the first week of January and no one seemed to notice. This brilliant club-anthem should have been Arlissa’s calling card.
30. “1950” — King Princess
A queer love song for the ages and one of the best debut singles in recent memory.
29. “Wait” — Maroon 5
It’s time to put some respect on Maroon 5’s name! Decades into their career, and the Adam Levine-fronted band is still churning out sparkling radio fodder.
28. “Nothing Breaks Like A Heart” — Mark Ronson & Miley Cyrus
Folk-disco with flashings of country courtesy of Miley Cyrus’ unmistakeable twang, Mark Ronson’s “Nothing Breaks Like A Heart” is a post-genre gem.
27. “Jump” — Julia Michaels feat. Trippie Redd
Julia Michaels has never released a bad song. In fact, most of them are stone-cold bops with sultry vocals and killer hooks. “Jump” is Exhibit A.
26. “Diane” — Cam
It talks a bold soul to write a reply to the benchmark song for country music (i.e. Dolly Parton’s “Jolene”). Cam did just that, and gave some much-needed humanity to The Other Woman in the process.
25. “Sin Pijama” — Becky G & Natti Natasha
A sexy bop from two of Latin music’s biggest stars was always going to be big. I just didn’t expect it to own the summer (at least in LA) the way it did.
24. “Electricity” — Silk City & Dua Lipa
Dua Lipa confirmed her status as one of pop’s leading ladies by joining Silk City (Mark Ronson and Diplo) on this euphoric, ’90s-channeling club banger.
23. “Honey” — Robyn
“Missing U” missed the mark for me, but Robyn more than made up for it with “Honey.” This throbbing banger has an effect on you that can only be described as mildly obscene.
22. “Happier” — Marshmello & Bastille
Bastille reinvented themselves as club kings in 2018 with this unusually gut-wrenching EDM feature and another killer collaboration with Seeb.
21. “Peach” — Broods
New label, new sound. Broods threw multiple genres into a blender and came up with a tasty treat called “Peach.”
20. “Sentimentale” — Mylene Farmer
France’s Queen of Pop throws it back to her ’80s hey-day on this enchanting, lovingly-crafted piece of synth-pop.
19. “Broken” — lovelytheband
The alt-pop crossover of the year came to us from lovelytheband . “Broken” will be bringing loners together for years to come.
18. “Clandestino” — Shakira & Maluma
Like Netflix and chill, Shakira and Maluma just belong together. While not as instant as “Chantaje,” this sexy slow jam proved to be the ultimate grower.
17. “Be Your USA” — EASYFUN feat. liris
Wild and wonderful PC Music with a big, bright pop-tastic chorus. What’s not to love?
16. “The Middle” — Zedd, Maren Morris & Grey
Every diva in pop auditioned to be on this song, which isn’t that surprising. From the first listen, it was clear that Zedd had something very special on his hands with “The Middle.”
15. “A No No” — Mariah Carey
“Snakes in the grass, it’s time to cut the lawn.” Enough said.
14. “Eastside” — Benny Blanco, Halsey & Khalid
Benny Blanco’s artist project got off to a flying start with “Eastside,” a song with such legs that it outran all the very-good singles that came after it.
13. “Tiny Dancer” — Florence + The Machine
No offense, but that Elton John tribute album was a bit of a bust. That is with one glaring exception. Florence + The Machine transformed “Tiny Dancer” into a sprawling, semi-orchestral ballad that holds its own against the original.
12. “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart” — Backstreet Boys
One of the catchiest songs of BSB’s long and iconic career. Legends only.
11. “Hold My Girl” — George Ezra
“Shotgun” was the global hit, but this soothing ballad is the ultimate showcase of George Ezra’s blissful baritone.
10. “Dancing” — Kylie Minogue
At first listen, “Dancing” is a kitsch country-pop track with a boot-scooting chorus. On closer inspection, it’s a defiant mantra about living life on your own terms.
9. “Clean Eyes” — SYML
SYML is known for his stripped-back grooves, but this uptempo synth-pop anthem is reminiscent of The Killers circa Hot Fuss. Starting over has never sounded so invigorating.
8. “APESHIT” — Beyoncé & JAY-Z
I wish I liked Everything Is Love more than I do, but The Carters really made some points on the rowdy “APESHIT.” Now if they would kindly return to their respective solo careers.
7. “Fast Slow Disco” — St. Vincent
I feel bad placing what is essentially a remix so high on the list, but “Fast Slow Disco” (the pragmatically-titled uptempo overhaul of St. Vincent’s “Slow Disco”) is so dreamy and intoxicating that I just couldn’t help myself.
6. “5 Dollars” — Christine And The Queens
According to the French pop star, this adorable synth-pop anthem is about paying for sex. Which makes it even better.
5. “People Get Old” — Lori McKenna
Lori McKenna writes songs about situations and experiences that would make other artists crumble. Like the gnawing realization that your parents are getting older and won’t be around forever.
4. “Back To You” — Selena Gomez
After stretching the boundaries of pop on songs like “Bad Liar,” Selena Gomez retreated to safer ground on “Back To You.” Or did she? This is a quirkily-structured tune with sprawling, confessional verses and a chorus that builds over the entire song. It’s also emotionally resonant in a way that most EDM-pop concoctions can only dream of.
3. “Space Cowboy” — Kacey Musgraves
A sad country ballad with non-annoying wordplay and enough insight and heart to fill any self-help book. “Space Cowboy” is the crowning jewel in Kacey Musgraves’ brilliant Golden Hour.
2. “Touchstone” — Laura Jean
Australia’s Laura Jean built a loyal following with stripped-back folk songs, but dabbles in kooky synth-pop on “Touchstone.” An unusually filter-free insight into a mind of a woman in love, this is equally soothing and terrifying.
1. “Venice Bitch” — Lana Del Rey
“Mariner’s Apartment Complex” was good, but “Venice Bitch” is great. No song in Lana Del Rey’s glorious discography better captures her much-imitated aesthetic or complete disregard for rules, like this 10-minute fever dream.