The 75 Best Pop Songs Of 2019
2019 was a fascinating year for pop. Genre lines blurred to the point of obsolescence, while streaming services continued to level the playing field. Those factors resulted in a slew of hybridized bops (country-rap is now a thing) and an ever-growing number of crossover viral hits (think Tones And I’s “Dance Monkey”). The general sense of doom and gloom that hung over 2019 like a black cloud was also reflected in what we listened to. Mainstream pop became darker and more personal. This was a year for letting it all out.
That being said, there was no shortage of party anthems either. In fact, the need for escapism led to some truly head-scratching hits. None of which are included on this list. Instead, I focussed on songs that reflect the mercurial state of pop. There are ballads, bangers and everything in between. What they all have in common is a fresh perspective and/or jarring lyrical honesty. I tried to limit it to one song per artist, but a couple of over-achievers snuck in twice. Just don’t pay too much attention to the rankings. These are all exceptional.
It should also be noted that songs like Lewis Capaldi’s “Someone You Loved” and Lizzo’s two big hits (“Truth Hurts” and “Good As Hell”) have featured on previous year-end lists — otherwise they would have been included. Dive in below.
75. “Aeroplane” — Petite Meller
A world music-infused bop about being a frequent flyer (no, really), Petite Meller’s “Aeroplane” is that rarest of specimens — an art-pop experiment that never feels forced.
74. “Tutu” — Shakira, Camilo & Pedró Capo
Camilo & Pedró Capo’s “Tutu” was already a huge hit in most of the Spanish-speaking world before Shakira heard it and made it even bigger with her unmistakable vocals and lyrical nous.
73. “Undrunk” — FLETCHER
Reinvention is easy. Growth is another thing altogether. FLETCHER demonstrates both, however, on “Undrunk.” A painfully relatable anthem about shitty decision-making, the 25-year-old’s major label debut single made “War Paint” feel like a distant memory.
72. “One Thing Right” — Marshmello & Kane Brown
Country/hip-hop stole all the headlines in 2019 thanks to Lil Nas X’s “Old Time Road,” but twangy EDM is also having a moment. While some producers are content to throw in a little acoustic guitar and hope for the best, Marshmello finds the perfect foil in Kane Brown. Together, they create a genre-bridging bop for the ages.
71. “Win” — Nasty Cherry
Charli XCX put together a band of bad-ass women and, not surprisingly, struck gold. Every song on Season 1 demands your full attention, but the lead single stands out as Nasty Cherry’s defining moment. “Win” is a bold statement of intent that lays the foundation for much bigger things.
70. “The Way I Feel” — Keane
Veteran UK rockers Keane made a welcome return in 2019 with a synth-heavy track about living with depression. Simultaneously intimate and universal, “The Way I Feel” is the band’s best single in a decade.
69. “My Love Was Like The Rain” — Låpsley
Låpsley made us wait three years for new music, but “My Love Was Like The Rain” was worth every, excruciating second. The Brit delivers a poetic, widescreen breakup anthem that exudes the weariness and sudden clarity that only comes from being dragged to hell and back.
68. “Thinkin Bout You” — Ciara
One of the most rudely slept-on songs of the year. With “Thinkin Bout You,” Ciara gave us a feather-light R&B/pop hybrid about finding The One with the kind of chorus that lodges in your brain from the very first listen. It deserved so much more.
67. “Cross Me” — Ed Sheeran, Chance The Rapper & PnB Rock
No. 6 Collaborations Project was more miss than hit for me, but one song stands out as diamond in the rough. “Cross Me” finds the singer/songwriter in full teen-idol mode — singing his girl’s praises over bubblegum synths, which are winningly distorted and disrupted by his collaborators.
66. “Playing Games” — Anna Of The North
Anna Of The North doesn’t get the same attention as some of her Scandinavian contemporaries, which is absurd given the quality of her discography. “Playing Games” finds her flirting with a bigger, bolder pop sounds to startlingly good effect.
65. “religion (you can lay your hands on me)” — Shura
Hayley Kiyoko is pop’s self-proclaimed Lesbian Jesus, but I think the title really belongs to Shura. Listen to the drowsy disco daydream that is “religion (you can lay your hands on me)” for proof.
64. “Ride It” — Regard
There was a scarcity of crossover EDM hits in 2019, but Regard’s slinky house remix of Jay Sean’s “Ride It” was an exception. The Kosovo-based DJ’s update exploded on Tik Tok and went on to conquer the charts across Europe. With any luck, the US is next.
63. “Lover” — Taylor Swift
The title track from Taylor Swift’s 7th LP eclipsed everything else on the (very good) album. “Lover” has the romantic chops to become a standard. Expect to hear it at weddings, parties and proms for years to come.
62. “Solita” — Kali Uchis
No sophomore slump here. Kali Uchis introduced her second album with a bilingual banger about making better choices and cutting toxic people from your life. “Solita” is the energy we all need to bring into 2020.
61. “i need to be alone.” — girl in red
Norway’s girl in red makes sublime bedroom-pop songs about the mundane moments that comprise the bulk of our everyday lives. Like the sudden urge to block out the world and be alone with your thoughts.
60. “Open My Mouth” — Kiiara
At this point, Kiiara has successfully tried her hand at everything from hip-hop to electro-pop. She took a softer approach on “Open My Mouth” and it just might be the way forward.
59. “Satellite” — Ben Abraham
After carving out a reputation as a songwriter, Ben Abraham inked a deal with Atlantic and delivered one of 2019’s most beautifully-constructed pop songs. “Satellite” is pure emotion over refreshingly no-frills production.
58. “Rushing Back” — Flume & Vera Blue
Every now and again, Flume presses pause on mad-genius mode to give us an electronic anthem with a generous dollop of pop appeal. “Rushing Back,” a collaboration with Australia’s Vera Blue, is the producer’s most accessible since “Never Be Like You.”
57. “Put A Little Love On Me” — Niall Horan
56. “Are You Bored Yet?” — Wallows & Clairo
Nothing Happens, Wallows’ exceptional debut LP, is jam-packed with alt-rock/pop gems. The standout, however, is “Are You Bored Yet?” — a wonderfully glum rumination on ennui featuring Clairo.
55. “Callaita” — Bad Bunny & Tainy
Latin-pop continued to make inroads in 2019 thanks to crossover artists like Bad Bunny and Tainy. Together, they concocted a banger that bounces around your head with such velocity that brain damage is a possible side effect. “Callaita” should come with a warning.
54. “Hallelujah” — HAIM
The HAIM sisters blessed 2019 with a trio of very good songs. The last, a tender ballad about family ties, stands out as the best. This is the kind of heartfelt anthem that wraps you up like a warm blanket.
53. “Fall On Me” — A Great Big World & Christina Aguilera
Yes, I know this is a cover version and a very deliberate attempt to drain the creative well that birthed “Say Something.” That does nothing, however, to diminish the emotional impact or vocal virtuosity of A Great Big World and Christina Aguilera’s latest collaboration.
52. “So Long” — Diplo & Cam
To be honest, the idea of Diplo making a country EP was somewhat distressing. But then the songs started arriving and they were all staggeringly good. I’m very fond of “Heartless,” but “So Long” has a simplicity and sincerity about it that sets it apart. This is a sorely underrated gem.
51. “My Man” — Delacey
Another songwriter focussing on their artist project, Delacey made quite the first impression with “My Man.” Think of this as a modern, jazzy update of Dolly Parton’s “Jolene” — only with more cussing and drama.
50. “Take Me Home (I’m Ready)” — Tor Miller
Tor Miller is a Brooklyn based indie-pop artist, who has been making very good music since 2015. He reached a new creative peak, however, on “Take Me Home (I’m Ready)” — an intensely relatable anthem about party fatigue and the lure of doing nothing at all from the comfort of your home.
49. “Motivation” — Normani
“Love Lies” proved that Normani had what it takes to succeed as a solo artist, but “Motivation” confirmed that she is indeed that girl. This fiery throwback to Y2K-R&B sounds better with each listen.
48. “Look At Her Now” — Selena Gomez
A bookend to “Lose You To Love Me,” Selena Gomez’s second great single of 2019 is that euphoric moment when you realize that an ex has finally been relegated to the past. Ian Kirkpatrick deserves a special shout out for his wildly innovative production.
47. “Favorite Sound” — Audien & Echosmith
How did this fall between the cracks? Audien and Echosmith joined forces to create a banger that preaches acceptance and self-love. Clup-pop doesn’t come much better.
46. “Don’t Call Me Up” — Mabel
Mabel catapulted from One To Watch to international pop sensation thanks to “Don’t Call Me Up.” A fiery breakup anthem for the ages, this bop will be leading the newly-single to the dance floor for years to come.
45. “Bad Guy” — Billie Eilish
Billie Eilish was everywhere in 2019, conquering streaming services — one morbid, minimalist anthem at a time. Which made “Bad Guy” stand out even more. Aided by a monster hook, Billie’s first number one hit was bigger, bolder and less-whispered than anything on her chart-conquering debut LP.
44. “Mother’s Daughter” — Miley Cyrus
We need to talk about Miley Cyrus. The superstar didn’t release one of the best EPs of 2019 just to flop. “Mother’s Daughter,” in particular, was everything pop needed. A raised middle-finger to the world, this feminist anthem crackles with defiance and contempt.
43. “Miracle Man” — Oliver Tree
A stilts-wearing weirdo with a bowl haircut, Oliver Tree is the antithesis of what a pop star is supposed to be. And that’s without taking his grungy pop/rock sound into consideration. However, through some sort of twisted alchemy, it just works. I submit “Miracle Man” as Exhibit A.
42. “Boy With Luv” — BTS & Halsey
BTS are The Kings of K-Pop for a reason. They just do it better. The septet took another giant stride towards world domination with “Boy With Luv,” an instantly hummable bubblegum-pop anthem featuring Halsey.
41. “Mess” — Noah Kahan
Noah Kahan is at the forefront of the singer/songwriter revival. He hasn’t had his “Someone You Loved” or “Be Alright” yet, but it’s only a matter of time. “Mess,” a relatable tune about throwing in the towel and going back home, found the breakout star at his most pop and melodic.
40. “Spirit” — Beyoncé
Instead of the sugary Disney ballad that many were expecting, Beyoncé took us on a guided tour of Africa on “Spirit.” She deserves the Best Original Song Oscar for this soulful, soaring gem.
39. “Look What God Gave Her” — Thomas Rhett
I guess this is technically country, but Nashville hasn’t blessed us with a ditty this brazenly POP since Keith Urban and Carrie Underwood teamed up for “The Fighter.” This is absurdly cute and instantly addictive.
38. “Clean” — Hey Violet
Hey Violet has already gone through multiple iterations in their brief history, but their current lineup (and musical direction) is easily the best. “Clean,” a euphoric, synth-drenched track about escaping a relationship without too many scars, is a revelation.
37. “A Little Bit Alexis” — Annie Murphy
Who said pop can’t be funny? Annie Murphy’s hilarious “A Little Bit Alexis” is somehow better than the material it mercilessly send up. Also, “I’m a Prada handbag, I’m a naughty elf” is the best lyric of 2019. I had no choice but to stan.
36. “Dancing With A Stranger” — Sam Smith & Normani
Sam Smith made a conscious decision to shake off their image as a balladeer this year. Instead, they served multiple bops — the best of which being a duet with Normani that soared to the top of the charts. From the evocative lyrics to their sublime vocals, everything about “Dancing With A Stranger” is just right.
35. “Love Me Back” — RITUAL & Tove Styrke
Full disclosure. I didn’t know who RITUAL were before “Love Me Back,” but the UK trio is now well and truly on my radar. They linked with the ever-brilliant Tove Styrke to conjure up my favorite club banger of 2019.
34. “Strange” — Celeste
Every now and again you hear a voice that makes your jaw drop just a little. That was my reaction to hearing Celeste’s “Strange” for the first time. The combination of her heavenly instrument and those razor sharp, melancholy lyrics heralded her as a star of the future.
33. “Almost (Sweet Music)” — Hozier
Hozier doesn’t really care about singles. He is the definition of an albums artist, which makes the breakout success of “Take Me To Church” and the instant hummability (not a real word but I’m going with it) of “Almost (Sweet Music)” outliers. The latter is a love letter to the Irishman’s idols that ranks as one of 2019’s smoothest listening experiences.
32. “Where Do You Go” — Yebba
Yebba really made us wait two years for the followup to “Evergreen,” but it’s hard to hold a grudge when the result is as exquisitely delivered and emotionally satisfying as “Where Do You Go.” We really, really need an album. I’m not too proud to beg.
31. “Nothing Breaks Like A Heart” — Mark Ronson & Miley Cyrus
Miley Cyrus and Mark Ronson turned out to be a match made in twangy-dance heaven. The somewhat unlikely collaborators gave us a track that bridged the divide between country and disco in a way that not only felt natural but somehow inevitable. “Nothing Breaks Like A Heart” will stand the test of time.
30. “Lead Me Back” — San Holo
A heady mix of crashing guitars and dreamy synths, San Holo’s “Lead Me Back” is an example of everything that is good about the post-genre world of pop. The fact that it also oozes emotion and hurt makes it a career best for the Dutch DJ.
29. “Con Altura” — Rosalía, J Balvin & El Guincho
The Latin crossover hit of 2019. “Con Altura” introduced El Guincho to a whole new audience, cemented J Balvin’s status as a global hitmaker and made Rosalía a superstar. A song this catchy and effortlessly cool only comes along once or twice a year.
28. “Something To Believe” — Weyes Blood
Weyes Blood finally started to find an audience outside the cool crowd with Titanic Rising. The album is a miracle of songwriting and emotional intimacy, but one tracks stands out. “Something To Believe,” an old-school sad song that finds our heroine channeling Karen Carpenter, is just under five minutes of gloomy bliss.
27. “Don’t Let It Break Your Heart” — Louis Tomlinson
Louis Tomlinson took a while to find his feet as a solo artist. Those first few singles were a little iffy, but the 1D survivor has really hit his stride of late. The positively anthemic “Don’t Let It Break Your Heart” is an example of what can happen when an artist takes their time to develop.
26. “July” — Noah Cyrus
If “July” was recorded by literally any other artist it would have been bandied about on every year-end list. Noah went alt-country on this gloriously depressing breakup anthem and proved that she’s a creative force to be reckoned with.
25. “Doin’ Time” — Lana Del Rey
Lana Del Rey initially covered Sublime’s seminal “Doin’ Time” for a documentary, but ended up putting it on Norman Fucking Rockwell when the song took off on radio. Her version stays remarkably true to the original, while also becoming very much her own. Every time it blessed the airwaves, I turned the volume up.
24. “Miss U” — Charli XCX
I know, I know. “Gone” was a bop, as was most of the Brit’s third LP. However, Charli XCX’s best song of 2019 was relegated to the 13 Reasons Why soundtrack. “Miss U” found the prolific diva at her least obtuse, delivering a perfectly crafted synth-pop song that oozes charm with every beat.
23. “What A Time” — Julia Michaels & Niall Horan
On any given day, Julia Michaels could have had half a dozen songs on this list. She released two perfect EPs and a seemingly endless stream of collaborations in 2019, but the song that I keep coming back to is “What A Time.” A lovelorn duet with Niall Horan, this tune is all hear.
22. “Ice Cream Sundae” — Inhaler
Irish pop/rockers Inhaler burst on to the scene this year with a giddy track called “Ice Cream Sundae,” which is a rollicking mix of jangly guitars, shoe-gaze romanticism and pop nous. They are truly an act to watch in 2020.
21. “Glad He’s Gone” — Tove Lo
Tove Lo hasn’t given a single fuck since breaking big singing about sex clubs and drugs on “Habits (Stay High).” “Glad He’s Gone” finds the Swede cheering up her newly-single best friend, reminding her — in glorious detail — that he wasn’t worth the time, money or blow jobs. An anthem.
20. “Dance Monkey” — Tones And I
Aussie teenager Tones And I became an international sensation thanks to “Dance Monkey.” A viral sensation on Spotify, the unstoppable bop is more than just a gimmick. There’s thought behind the lyrics (it’s about her refusal to be an industry puppet) and the quality of Toni Watson’s voice is undeniable.
19. “Grow As We Go” — Ben Platt
Ben Platt’s debut LP was one of the unexpected delights of 2019, proving that you could still create an album of love songs for adults without falling into easy listening pap. The highlight of the album was “Grow As We Go” — a desperate plea to embrace change together instead of parting ways to “find yourself.”
18. “Number One Fan” — MUNA
God bless MUNA and their infinite supply of perky indie-pop anthems. “Number One Fan” is particularly notable because it’s an internal pep talk set to music. Imagine not only being kinder to yourself, but actively stanning your entire being. It’s a radical thought in 2019.
17. “Red Bull & Hennessy” — Jenny Lewis
Jenny Lewis might be the only person on earth who could make a song called “Red Bull & Hennessy” sound sexy, but that’s the miracle the velvet-voiced legend pulls off on track that walks the line between lust and desperation with ease.
16. “Love Me Anyway” — Pink & Chris Stapleton
Pink dabbled in country on Hurts 2B Human by linking with Chris Stapleton. Country/pop duets are becoming increasingly common, but few hit as hard as this heart-wrenching ballad. It deserved Grammys, radio airplay and a top 10 birth.
15. “Sad Day” — FKA Twigs
FKA Twigs channels Kate Bush on this hauntingly beautiful synth-pop ditty, which anchors the Brit’s very good sophomore LP. The fact that she follows in such big footsteps but somehow adds her own flavor is a credit to the pop auteur’s mind-boggling creativity.
14. “Love You For A Long Time” — Maggie Rogers
Maggie Rogers delivered one of the best albums of 2019 in January and then closed the year out by dropping one of the best singles. A thank-you note fans, “Love You For A Long Time” is a sweet dose of Cali pop that is best played driving along a sun-scorched highway with the windows down.
13. “Break My Broken Heart” — Winona Oak
Yet another Swede making big moves is Winona Oak. Signed to Neon Gold, the newcomer served full femme fatale on this electronic torch song, which showcased her powerful pipes and knack for sweeping production.
12. “Crave” — Madonna & Swae Lee
If any other woman in the industry recorded “Crave,” it would have been a number one hit. Instead pop has turned its back on Madonna. Again. Which is a shame because Madame X was stacked with delightful oddities and this stone-cold bop, which stands toe-to-toe with anything in the Queen of Pop’s iconic discography.
11. “About Work The Dancefloor” — Georgia
A blissful synth-pop anthem that popped up out of nowhere, “About Work The Dancefloor” immediately heralded Georgia as One To Watch. If Body Talk era Robyn created demos on her laptop, it would sound a little something like this.
10. “Never Really Over” — Katy Perry
I liked all of Katy Perry’s 2019 offerings (including the Zedd-assisted “365”), but “Never Really Over” felt the most her. It shares the emotional honesty of the second half of Prism and packs the kind of pure-pop chorus that made Teenage Dream a phenomenon. More of this, please.
9. “There Goes My Miracle” — Bruce Springsteen
I don’t know what I expected from Bruce Springsteen’s Western Stars album, but it wasn’t a gorgeous ’60s pop-inspired ditty about losing The One. This is The Boss’ most charming and instant single in several decades.
8. “Holy Roller” — CYN
CYN likens falling in love to joining a cult on “Holy Roller,” which ranks as her most experimental and frankly best single to date. It is a rush of serotonin that mimics the emotional overload of new love.
7. “Circles” — Post Malone
Say what you want about Post Malone, but the tattooed genre-bender has way more hits than misses. “Circles,” a deceptively profound tune about not knowing where you stand, has a timeless quality that raises it above previous very, very good offerings like “Better Now.”
6. “Dancing With Your Ghost” — Sasha Sloan
A sparsely-produced lullaby about being haunted by the memories of love isn’t typical pop fodder, but Sasha Sloan has always done things differently. Her razor-sharp pen and subtle vocal delivery combine to make “Dancing With Your Ghost” a career-best single.
5. “The Piss, The Perfume” — Hayley Mary
Formerly the lead singer of The Jezabels, Hayley Mary went solo in 2019 and instantly struck gold with “The Piss, The Perfume” — a love letter (of sorts) to Sydney that unfolds over a rush of jangly guitars. Falling somewhere between The Go-Betweens and Paul Kelly, this was the most exciting pop song to arrive from Australia in 2019.
4. “The Barrel” — Aldous Harding
Aldous Harding’s “The Barrel” is the kind of perplexing pop oddity that only comes around every so often. A song about everything and nothing (it is maddeningly obtuse), “The Barrel” still manages to tug at your heartstrings. This is pop poetry at its best.
3. “Lose You To Love Me” — Selena Gomez
A moment. Selena Gomez did the impossible in 2019 by releasing a stripped-back breakup song that was wholly concerned with healing and self-growth. This isn’t a clap-back as it has often been falsely described. Instead, “Lose You To Love Me” is a celebration of finally learning your lesson and moving forward.
2. “Seventeen” — Sharon Van Etten
The Queen of highly depressing singer/songwriter fare veered perilously close to pop on “Seventeen” and delivered a howling warning to the Young & Dumb. Sharon Van Etten manages to combine nostalgia with a weariness and whiff of bitterness that sets this apart as a modern classic.
1. “Don’t Start Now” — Dua Lipa
We knew she had bops, but I don’t think many of us expected Dua Lipa to come through with the best pop song of 2019. “Don’t Start Now” is a blast of future disco with as much emotional force as Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive.” It’s a banger that drips in bile and perhaps a little self-delusion. Which makes it a refreshingly honest and vital breakup anthem.