Truth be told I’m not even sure how 2019 stacks up against other years in terms of music. I mean, it’s been good…I guess? I gave up on checking Spotify’s New Music Friday playlist this year because it’s all become so driven by algorithms that what is actually the best new music of the week is buried at the bottom or left off the playlist completely. I don’t have the time or energy to sift through countless songs that rehash the same tropical pop sound that just won’t die only to unearth just one or two songs that offer something different and refreshing!!! I don’t think it’s been an entirely bad year, but it hasn’t been a banner one either. I’m optimistic that as we enter a new decade things will improve, but then again I have been known to get it ridiculously wrong in the past. I guess we shall wait and see!

Anyways, I’ve listed what I thought were 40 of the best bops and bangers from the past year below and my favourite albums of the year will follow soon after. I’ve also put together a playlist of all 40 songs on Spotify, which you can listen to here.

Now let the rankings begin!

  1. Unperfect – So Jaded

Do you remember the early noughties Channel 4 teen drama As If? This song would sound absolutely PERFECT in an episode of that.

  1. Alexis Rose – A Little Bit Alexis

Annie Murphy, who plays the brilliant Alexis Rose in the equally incredible Schitts Creek, had no other choice but to do what the other girls shoulda did. ‘A Little Bit Alexs’ is basically a rehashing of Britney’s ‘Work Bitch’ that dials up the camp to 11 (never a bad thing tbh!) and if you haven’t listened to this while strutting down the Waterloo Station travelator then YOU HAVE NOT LIVED!!!

  1. Kano – Trouble

I’m not sure how many of you actually fuck with Kano but I feel like he doesn’t get the credit he deserves, especially as he’s one of the UK’s best MCs and all-round talents. ‘Trouble’, the lead single from Kano’s very good album Hoodies All Summer is less a song and more a commentary on the current situation around knife crime plaguing this clapped country. I’m aware this won’t be everyone’s bag, but just listen at the 2:12 mark and tell it’s not the most sobering part of any song released this year.

  1. The Veronicas – Think of Me

Unpopular opinion but The Veronicas have always been hit and miss for me – sorry ‘bout it! When they’re good (‘Untouched’, ‘4Ever’) they’re fucking brilliant. Thankfully, ‘Think of Me’ is one of those occasions. This feels like the type of song that if released by Carly Rae Jepsen it would become an instant cult classic. Though, only The Veronicas could really get away with that brilliant line in the song about giving head.

  1. Ariana Grande – 7 Rings

I feel as if I’ve aged tremendously since this came out in… JANUARY! Despite this being my second most played song of the year according to Spotify, ‘7 Rings’ isn’t my favourite Ariana single, it’s not even in my top 5. But clearly I was feeling myself enough to play it so much. I’m just I’m happy for everyone who got plenty of Instagram caption mileage out of it.

  1. Cheryl – Let You

It’s mad how Cheryl started this decade quite literally the Nation’s Sweetheart and is ending it a popstar in exile. Maybe it’s just me but I feel like if ‘Let You’ was released at the height of Cheryl’s popularity circa The X Factor then this would have been a decent sized hit. Lord only knows what’s next for Cheryl, but if ‘Let You’ is her last chomp at the bit as a popstar then I’d day she ended on a fairly decent high.

  1. Stormzy – Vossi Bop

Given the last couple of years Stormzy has enjoyed, I think he’s definitely earned the right to brag about just how good he is. Plus, any song that gets 100,000 people at Glastonbury to scream “FUCK BORIS!” is always going to have my full backing. 

  1. Ciara – Thinkin’ Bout You

Sure, Ciara isn’t the biggest or most powerful singer, but her gentle vocal delivery here is just so lush against the track’s sparkly production. An absolute delight of a song.

  1. Lil Nas X & Billy Ray Cyrus – Old Town Road

It took me so long to warm to this song and it was only after I saw how hilarious Lil Nas X is on Twitter that I realised that I love him and proceeded to stan. Forever.

  1. Zedd & Kehlani – Good Thing 

Being by yourself and enjoying your own company is a theme that isn’t explored enough in pop. I mean, my own company is so lit??? Anyways, Kehlani, as always, is on top form across one of Zedd’s more interesting productions. Also that key change is always such a pleasant surprise to my ears. More key changes in 2020!

  1. Madonna – Medellín (ft. Maluma)

I can’t say I got much out of the Madame X album, but I do appreciate just how batshit bonkers ‘Medellín’ is. I was unable to get the “1, 2, cha cha cha” bit out of my head for weeks. Also, HELLO MALUMA!

  1. Cardi B – Press

I swear, the “DINNNNNG DONNNNNG!!!” bit in this song will forever make me laugh. Only a person with bags of charm and charisma like Cardi B could get away with being both so goofy and so vicious on the same song.

  1. Saweetie – My Type (ft. City Girls and Jhené Aiko) Remix

I’m still new to Saweetie but fuck, this is such an anthem. The Petey Pablo ‘Freek-a-Leek’ sample! The sex positivity of it all! Jhené’s absolutely filthy verse (“I just need good dick ayyyy!” #MOOD). Female rap is in such a strong and exciting place right now and I really love to see it.

  1. PJ Morton & JoJo – Say So

No guesses for what (or whom) piqued my interest for this song, huh? But guys! ‘Say So’ is an absolutely gorgeous little R&B jam and we haven’t had one of those – a proper decent one anyway – in forever. I’m not really familiar with PJ Morton’s work, but JoJo’s voice is like freshly made honey on this. That Grammy nomination for ‘Best R&B Song’ is so deserved.

  1. City Girls – Act Up

I know the general consensus is that “Hot Girl Summer” was the phrase of 2019, but I feel like there’s a good case for the word “Period” (or “PERIODT”) to take that title. City Girls have been around for a minute and yes, ‘Act Up’ was technically released in 2018 but it feels like 2019 is the year everyone properly latched on to them, thanks in part to a Drake co-sign on ‘In My Feelings’ and the use of ‘Act Up’ in memes across Twitter this year. Truth be told, since I learned that that Lil Yachty wrote 95% of this song I’ve just loved it so much more.

  1. Aly & AJ – Star Maps

“I sold my Sunday Best just to slip into this dress” is my favourite lyric from any song released in 2019.

  1. Jonas Brothers – Sucker

I’m gonna go out on a limb here and say ‘Sucker’ is the best song the Jonas Brothers have ever released (sorry S.O.S!). I can’t think of a more perfect song that could’ve launched the group’s big comeback. Big ol’ chorus? Check! High energy? Check! And just enough of their signature sound on the production to satisfy my nostalgia, but with a slick update for 2019? CHECK!!!!

  1. Zara Larsson – Don’t Worry Bout Me

Things are a bit ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ with Zara Larsson’s career at the moment, which is a crying shame as she should arguably be one of the biggest popstars on the planet right now. Fortunately, her skewed trajectory hasn’t ruined her ability to put out top-tier pop music. Of all the songs released in 2019 ‘Don’t Worry Bout Me’ is my winner. It’s the best thing she’s done since ‘Lush Life’.

  1. Miley Cyrus – Mother’s Daughter

Miley ditched the yee-haw aesthetics pretty quickly, huh?! That said, there’s no denying that ‘Mother’s Daughter’ is an absolute banger.

  1. Maren Morris – The Bones


  1. Aly & AJ – Don’t Go Changing

That bit after the middle-eight where they go ‘Dooooooon’t Gooooooo…. Dooooooon’t Gooooo’ and then the song crashes back into the final chorus – UGH, GOOSEBUMPS!!!

  1. Carly Rae Jepsen – Julien

Painfully sad songs dolled up as sugary synth-pop goodness is Carly Rae Jepsen’s specialty and ‘Julien’ slots in nicely among her offensively strong catalogue of sad bangers. I don’t want to labour the point, but Carly Rae Jepsen just really fucking gets it.

  1. DJ Spoony – Flowers (ft. Sugababes)

Having one of the country’s best girl groups cover arguably the most famous and cherished garage song of all time just makes all the sense in the world, doesn’t it? ‘Flowers’ is a proper testament to the talent of the Sugababes 1.0 and their voices still sound so rich and luxurious all these years later. Those fucking harmonies!!! I really hope this is all part of something bigger. A new song? A new album? A tour? I WANT IT ALL!

  1. Katy Perry – Harleys in Hawaii

Though this song seems to have just come and gone from people’s minds, it’s stayed with me because it’s fast becoming one of my favourite K-Pez jams. She sounds super comfortable on it and insanely catchy earworms that find themselves lodged into your head hours later are of course in Katy’s wheelhouse. After the chaotic energy that plagued the Witness era, I’m not mad for her sticking to what she knows and does best.

  1. Dua Lipa – Don’t Start Now

Dua’s rise to becoming one of the country’s biggest popstars has been such an interesting thing to witness, mainly because absolutely no one saw it coming. While her debut felt a bit of a hodgepodge of sounds and styles, ‘Don’t Start Now’ looks and feels like a proper statement of intent from an artist who finally knows who she is and what she’s all about. Also, added kudos for that random cowbell you can hear in the background throughout this song, I’m obsessed with it.

  1. Little Mix – Bounce Back

I’m still flabbergasted at the tepid response ‘Bounce Back’ got from fans, then again this is the same fanbase that thought ‘No More Sad Songs’ was a good single choice…Anyways, ‘Bounce Back’ slaps. The ladies ride the Soul II Soul sample brilliantly and while I’m willing to concede that the chorus doesn’t go off as much I want it to, they sound a lot more excited and refreshed on this than any of the songs on LM5

  1. Jorja Smith – Be Honest (ft. Burna Boy)

In the spirit of the song’s title, I’m going to be honest and say Jorja Smith as an artist does nothing for me. I saw her open for NAO back in 2016 and she was alright, but since then I’ve found her music dull and couldn’t even finish listening to her debut album. Why have so many ballads and slow jams?!! ‘Be Honest’ is different though, it’s got a bit of weight to it. Jorja oozes sex appeal and Burna Boy’s feature only elevates the song. Put simply: it’s a vibe. If this is the sound Jorja is going into album #2 with then consider me perched.

  1. Mark Ronson – Late Night Feelings (ft. Lykke Li)

From the title alone, I knew I was going to adore this song even before I heard it. What can I say? Crying while dancing is one of my most treasured pastimes. Mark Ronson does an impeccable job on production here, that bit where the entire song slows riiiiiiiight down only to spring back into action again…*chef’s kiss!* and of course Lykke Li gives yet another A-grade emotional vocal. It’s literally a match made in heartbreak heaven.

  1. Harry Styles – Lights Up

I’m as stunned as you are that Harry Styles has charted this high on my list because I’ve made no secret of the fact that I think a lot of you do The Absolute Most with him. He’s literally just wearing pastels and florals???? And don’t get me started on the queer baiting thing. But back to the point, I continue to be pleasantly surprised at how much I really adore ‘Light’s Up’, even at the time of writing this. I’m literally listening to the song as I type and it’s just so pretty! Despite it sounding like something Zayn tossed aside during his Mind of Mine sessions I’m willing to give Harry the credit where it’s due.

  1. Ashley O – On A Roll

One thing I didn’t see coming was Black Mirror being responsible for releasing one of the best pop songs of the year, but then again it’s the most 2019 thing that could have happened. ‘On A Roll’ definitely struck a chord with The Gays more than any other demographic because we will take any chance we get to scream “HEYYYY I’M A HOLE!!!” at the top of our lungs. There’s not much else to it, it’s just a big ol’ slab of camp fun! Ashley O quite rightly had all the other girls shaking.

  1. Kehlani – Nights Like This (ft. Ty Dolla $ign)

After spending much of 2018 featuring (and outshining) everybody else on their own songs, I was glad to see Kehlani back with music of her own. ‘Nights Like This’ sees the singer debate with herself on whether it’s worth getting back with her ex, with Ty on featuring duties adding another perspective to this R&B song. For it’s chaotic subject matter, the song is quite chill with Kehlani working through her emotions with an impressive level of patience and rationale. 

  1. Lizzo – Juice

Yeah, yeah I know ‘Truth Hurts’ was Lizzo’s big hit this year but I still think ‘Juice’ deserved to be her proper crossover moment. The song is packed with her trademark messages of self-love and instantly quotable lyrics that Lizzo is often praised for, which make listening to her feel like you’re at a pop concert that doubles up as a Ted Talk. It’s funny because Lizzo jumped right into 2019 singing about much she knew her own worth, even if at the time the rest of the industry didn’t and here at the end of the year she’s now one of the biggest popstars on the planet with 8 Grammy nominations and newly crowned TIME magazine’s Entertainer of The Year. If that isn’t cosmic ordering at it’s finest then I don’t know what is.

  1. Rina Swayama – STFU!

I am well aware that this song was only released a mere few weeks ago but I haven’t stopped thinking about it since. Are there other songs that have been out much longer that should be in its place? Maybe. But none of them are as fucking brilliant as ‘STFU!’. With all the sugary sweetness of an early noughties Britney track mixed with the headbanging aggression of a late noughties Good Charlotte cut, Rina Sawayama is done being polite and tbh it’s the energy I want to go into 2020 with. The world is a fucking dumpster fire and there just isn’t any time left to listen to people’s bullshit opinions on politics, queer rights, trans people and whether they should be allowed any rights at all, the climate change crisis –  the list is endless. If you’re not standing on the side that wants to support minorities and save the planet then quite literally shut the fuck up. Rina continues to be one of the most exciting newcomers in pop music and I can’t wait to see what she does next. 

  1. Sam Smith & Normani – Dancing With a Stranger

The words slinky and stylish come to mind when I think of this song. It sounds like I’m describing a sofa from the DFS New Years Day sale, but there’s something so modern and yet so timeless about ‘Dancing With a Stranger’ that I wish I could explain better. Both Sam and Normani’s voices complement each other gorgeously and it’s great to see Sam release something different (aka something with a beat and a bit of bass) to what they’ve done before and Normani landing a feature with one of the biggest pop acts in the world so early in her career is such a flex.

  1. Tinashe – Die A Little Bit (ft. Ms Banks)

THIS!!! This is what you get when you let Tinashe call the shots and have full creative control of her career. On the surface this might seem like your run-of-the-mill club track but did you know that the sample of the little boy speaking in the song is her little brother? Did you also know that the recurring voice of the man saying “Like…like…like…like to party” IS THE SAME BROTHER ALL GROWN UP???!!! There are levels to this song I tell ya! This newly independent Tinashe sounds recharged and refreshed on ‘Die A Little Bit’ and Ms Banks adds a dash of South London flavour to proceedings. I might even go as far as saying Ms Banks outshines Tinashe here, but only just. 

  1. Ariana Grande – breakup with your girlfriend, i’m bored

For the longest time I’ve wanted pop music to go back to being smug and bratty. Remember Dream’s ‘He Loves U Not’? That type of unfiltered energy is what I miss most from pop music. If you’re going to steal my man, say it with your chest and DO IT. I won’t be mad. Ariana seems to agree with me because ‘breakup….’, complete with a sample of N*Sync’s ‘It Makes Me Ill’, is the most obnoxious and shallow song I’ve heard all year and quite frankly I love it. 

  1. MUNA – Number One Fan

I turned 30 this summer and in the months leading up to it I got into my head a lot wondering if I had achieved enough in my life, what was going on with career, was my life moving in the right direction, will I live to see 40 what with the planet dying etc. I remember exactly where I was when I first heard ‘Number One Fan’ because it gave me the kick up the arse I needed to make me realise I was being so unnecessarily hard on myself – *insert Cheryl Hole ‘I’m a star’ meme here*. The theme of self-love has become such a commodity in music and it’s tricky to decipher who really means it and who’s just paying it lip service for the sake of a hit, but I’m inclined to believe MUNA are the real deal.

  1. Aly & AJ – Church

According to Spotify Unwrapped 2019 this is my most played song of the year and tbh this checks out because my algorithms don’t lie. The synth-pop route Aly and AJ have taken since their 2017 comeback continues to amaze me with every single one of their releases, I mean, this is the third song from Aly & AJ to make my list. The duo have such a way of making music that resonates with the vast spectrum of human emotions and in the case of ‘Church’ it’s guilt. Guilt for blocking your blessings, sabotaging your own happiness and admitting you’re a bit of a shitty person. The song’s opening line “I do bad things for the sake of good times I don’t, I don’t regret” has never made me feel so goddamn seen in my life. 

  1. Normani – Motivation

After smartly building up a strong following post-Fifth Harmony by featuring on songs with 6LACK, Khalid, Sam Smith and Calvin Harris, not to mention a cushy gig opening for Ariana Grande on the North American leg of her Sweetener Tour, Normani finally launched her bid to be the next big pop girl. Managing to sound both contemporary and throwback, particularly to Beyonce’s ‘Check Up On It’, ‘Motivation’ couldn’t have been a more perfect pitch for her candidacy. Written by Ariana, Max Martin, Savan Kotecha and Normani herself, there are so many brilliantly crafted melodies and double entendres that ‘Motivation’ is so ironclad in its writing that it’s scary. Any review of the song isn’t complete without a mention of the now iconic music video with Normani dancing with the agility and finesse of an Olympic athlete, while paying tribute to early noughties fashion and iconography from the likes of Britney Spears, J.Lo, Omarion, Ciara and Beyonce. As if that wasn’t enough, she taps into this generation’s thirst for nostalgia even further by bringing back BET’s 106 & Park. God, I love a pop girl who does her homework! With ‘Motivation’ Normani proved that playing the long game with her solo career wasn’t a stalling tactic, but a strategic move and now no one can possibly doubt her star power. Checkmate.

  1. Katy Perry – Never Really Over

The pressure was definitely on for Katy Perry to release something more than just good after her disastrous Witness era failed to do good her promise of an album of “purposeful pop” that ended up having no purpose or meaningful direction whatsoever. Produced by Zedd, packed with a ticking clock, piano keys, drips of synths and a drumline, ‘Never Really Over’ chucks everything at the wall, and smartly steers clear of any declarations of grandeur or political awareness and simply delivers one of the most charming tracks of Katy’s career and easily the best chorus of the year. Katy’s star may not shine as bright as it once did, but ‘Never Really Over’ proves she can still hold her own and turn out a brilliant pop song when given the chance. Everyone jokes that Katy is past her best and doesn’t have a place in pop music anymore, but based off of ‘Never Really Over’ I wouldn’t count her out just yet.


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