The 28 Best Songs of 2019 (So Far)

Here are the best songs 2019 has to offer so far, from pop comebacks to gorgeous ballads and irresistible dancefloor bait.

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1 “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

2 “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

3 “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

4″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

5 “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

6 “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

7 “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

8 “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 TangADVERTISEMENT – CONTINUE READING BELOW

9 “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 seventh album, Oxnard—Estelle Tang

10 “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 PenroseADVERTISEMENT – CONTINUE READING BELOW

11 “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

12 “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

13 “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

14 “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

15 “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

16 “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

17 “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

18 “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

19 “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

20 “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

21 “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

22 “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

23 “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


24 “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

25 “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

26 “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

27″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

28 “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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