These are the 15 songs that gave me more life, this year. It was pretty easy to put together this list of 15, which speaks highly of the kind of year in music we had. I could quite easily have added another ten. Check out the list, and let me know in the comments what you think I missed.
Black Spiderman – Logic
Black Spiderman is what you want a “woke” anthem to be. Logic’s lead single from his most recent album is a bouncy celebration of inclusion that is a genuine bop. It builds and builds until it explodes into Damian Hudson’s falsetto sing-song chant of “Black Spiderman can he save a brother now” settling into a refrain of “Let your soul glow” from Coming To America. The Black Spiderman title refers to Donald Glover’s appeal to get to play Spider-Man because why not? Why should it matter whether Peter Parker is black or not?
Bodak Yellow – Cardi B
Bodak Yellow was easily the most unpredictable hit of the year. We’ve really only had one and a half bankable female rappers for the last decade: Nicki Minaj and Remy Ma, who is always the best part of whatever song she’s featured on but from whom no one has ever once requested a full single. To have this hit song come from a female rapper, who was Instagram and reality show famous and to have it seem to establish her career as someone on par with Nicki and Remy is something I don’t think anyone saw coming. “Got a bag and fixed my teeth” is still one of the best lines of the year.
Feels – Calvin Harris Ft. Katy Perry
What a relief this song was. Thank you, Calvin Harris, reminding us that Katy Perry could be cool and fun. We’d had a steady stream of meh pop songs from Katy Perry’s album, when Calvin Harris’ album dropped, bearing this retro-flavored summer jam featuring Katy. Speaking of Calvin Harris’ album, it was the perfect summer BBQ playlist. If you haven’t listened to it, yet, check it out.
Feel The Same – Bully
I think it’s nostalgia, more than anything else that powered my love for Bully after hearing this lead single from their new album. I loved grunge and riot grrl voices from the mid-90s. Courtney Love is an all-time favorite vocalist, and in the early days of video on the internet, I use to use Helium’s XXX as a test of whether a video site had depth. Bully’s Alicia Bognanno is the modern manifestation of those voices, and Bully’s music is a nostalgic nod to the “alternative” music I loved, which makes it difficult for me to tell whether I like the song for its own sake. At some point, though, I just stop trying to figure that out and go with it.
Finding You – Kesha
I’m a Kesha fan. It’s never been cool to be a Kesha fan, but with the release of her latest album it’s become more acceptable to acknowledge that Kesha is a talented songwriter and performer. Songs like this one are the reason why. It’s a love song that feels defiant and proud, which is an uncommon combo.
Goosebumps – Travis Scott ft. Kendrick Lamar
If you see my driving around and listening to this song, please don’t try to get my attention. You see, there’s a high likelihood that I’ll be wilding out to the chorus, singing it at the top of my lungs, and I’d rather we not make eye contact during that time. There’s a part in this song where Travis sing-raps “They gon pull up on you – Brrrrrrrrt brrrrrrrrt brrrrrrrrrt!” and I really don’t want to have to explain to you why I’m making finger guns in the air.
I Spy – Kyle
I love, love, love this song despite Lil Yachty’s presence on it. I feel bad for Kyle because he doesn’t fit the profile of a successful rapper, and if he does eventually blow up, he’ll be the kind of person Rolling Stone will champion for making “smart” rap songs (read: rap songs that white people can feel good about enjoying), which will make him the bane of the rest of the hip hop world’s existence.
Location – Khalid
Khalid was eighteen when he released Location. He sings this song with the maturity of someone twice his age. Of course someone twice his age would probably be unaccustomed to sending their location. There aren’t a lot of songs like this on my list because I don’t really go for R&B ballads, most of the time. This song is just kind of gorgeous. The remix featuring Khelani is also great. Kehlani is the new Jhene Aiko, the go-to when you need a smooth R&B vocal for a hook or a verse.
Molly, percocet. Admit it, you read that and started chanting “Molly, Percocet” because you love it. You know you shouldn’t, but you do.
There’s no Despacito on this list, but this J Balvin song was my Latin jam of the summer. Yeah, I know there’s a version with Beyonce. Don’t need it. This version is the jam.
This soulful Donald Glover hit was released late last year. It feels like a classic unstuck in time, like Dr. Dre should’ve sampled twenty-five years ago. It was released last November, but Get Out powered it through this year. In fact, the song had fallen off the Billboard charts and returned to the charts this summer, peaking in August.
If you are immune to feeling like you want to go Luke Skywalking on your haters, you’re a better person than I am. I like “Don’t Sleep – you gotta stay up” as a spiritual corollary to Donald Glover’s “They gon find you, gonna catch you sleeping – now Stay Woke!”
Sorry Not Sorry – Demi Lovato
This was the moment Demi Lovato found her voice. She’s had all the vocal tools in the world, but she has spent the past nine years searching for her zone. Power pop with strong R&B undercurrents and trappy instrumentals gave Demi Lovato her edge she’d been missing since being a Disney Channel standout so long ago. “I’m out here looking like revenge” is a classic line.
XO Tourlif3 – Lil Uzi Vert
Let’s be honest. This song is an inkblot. You get what you want out of it. The song’s haunting melody and the cryptic “All my friends are dead” chorus can trick you into thinking there’s more there than there actually is. All I know is Lil Uzi was feeling something, and the passion he poured into the song came through in his performance, which made me want to sing along to “Push me to the edge/ All my friends are dead.”
10 Minutes 10 Years
Tennis is one of my favorite bands, and this is just an exquisite song.