Unlike the best movies and TV shows of the year, where the release of genuinely good entertainment feels finite, the amount of great, new music is endless. It’s just about finding it. So, after deep-diving across release platforms, scouring the charts, looking into the most interesting, emerging names, and returning to classic, fan-favorite artists, we bring you the best songs of 2019. Once you get sick of hitting repeat on the best songs of 2018, see below for the best new releases of this year, and be sure to check back, as we’ll be updating this list all year long.
“Morrow,” 070 Shake
New Jersey rapper 070 Shake seemed to come out of virtually nowhere just a few years back, still in her teens. Now 21, the artist, whose real name is Danielle Balbuena, produces woozy, alt raps that caught the attention of Kanye West, garnering a contract with his Def Jam imprint Getting Out Our Dreams and an appearance on 2018’s Ye, as well as a handful of other strong features, on top of her own even stronger singles. In 2018, 070 Shake released her debut EP Glitter, and is continuing her ascension into 2019 with the track “Morrow.” She described the single as “one to cry to,” which is a fair assessment, as the wallowing song explores the paranoia of focusing on a relationship’s fate (“I know it’s hard to swallow / I don’t know if I’ll be here tomorrow”). An interesting name in rap for her taste in sound, 070 Shake’s deep, radiant voice mixes well with the low, downbeat production and chilling sonic elements.
“King James,” Anderson .Paak
Recording artist and producer Anderson .Paak has been busy in the studio, firing out joyful, funkified R&B and hip-hop jams in the past several years. He’s nowhere near coming off this high, already onto his next release, Ventura, just several months after last year’s Oxnard. “King James,” the first single off his upcoming fourth record, is a jazzy, infectious track with rich percussion and brass that salutes basketball stud LeBron James for his philanthropy. Largely, though, the song refers to the current political climate (“If they build a wall, let’s jump the fence, I’m over this”) and suggests we join his sonic and ideological soul train of love and optimism, looking into the future at the “movement we’ve been groovin’ on” — which, if you have any sense of heart and rhythm, feels inevitable when listening.
“NASA,” Ariana Grande
Ariana Grande promised fans that six months after releasing Sweetener, she’d be back with more music, and the pop star came through with the recent, dropped overnight thank u, next. For many reasons (tragedy, public relationships, major albums), pop has really become Ariana’s universe that we’ve all just been living in, and “NASA,” her latest single off of thank u, next, takes us out of this world with a cheeky outer-space song about needing distance, but even its sound is too grand for this stratosphere. Its R&B production and the composition of synths and bass may not sound atmospherically cosmological, but it is her new signature and exemplifies the influence of her individual satellite on the industry. At the beginning of the track, you can faintly hear, “This is one small step for woman, one giant leap for woman-kind” — of “NASA,” of thank u, next, of Ariana and all that she’s been up to, it’s the truth.
“Dylan Thomas,” Better Oblivion Community Center
In January, modern folk favorites Phoebe Bridgers and Conor Oberst combined forces and surprised fans with a duo project titled Better Oblivion Community Center. Wrapped in their shared folk rock of empathetic songwriting, the project is entwined in their togetherness while exploring their individual experiences feeling unavoidably alone. One of these numbers is “Dylan Thomas,” an admittedly more up-beat track on the record with its bursting, twangy guitar solos and lyrics written in witticism about the gravity of feeling helpless in the current political landscape. In harmony they sing, “I’m getting greedy with this private hell / I’ll go it alone, but that’s just as well,” and despite how insular they sound, in the subtly humorous song there’s reassurance knowing many of us are fighting the same fight.
“Xanny,” Billie Eilish
Alt-pop prodigy Billie Eilish is an anomaly to anybody outside of Gen Z, but the 17-year-old has quietly become one of the biggest pop stars in the world with her depressingly dark music, while embracing an aggressively hypebeast/meme-able persona. This may seem like all the reason to write her off — but her young audience, who connect to her vulnerable and frank lyrics, is onto something. Eilish is a raw force, possibly the new voice of a generation. “Xanny,” off her debut record WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP, WHERE DO WE GO?, epitomizes her writing prowess in a song dissecting her weakness in the face of her peers’ drug use. Her hushed voice sways tragically with a reverberating bass that feeds in and out, and her brutal words (“I can’t afford to love someone who isn’t dying by mistake in Silver Lake”) will make you crumble. “Xanny” intoxicates, and shows there’s no blowing away the smoke around Eilish’s emerging popularity.
“Crow’s Perch,” black midi
London’s black midi are one of the buzziest bands in the UK despite having only released three songs. Their post-punk/noise/jazz/mind-altering music ignited an energy in the London underground, and on their latest trip to Austin, Texas, they raked in more than a few “best sets at SXSW” superlatives, positioning them to be one of the biggest breakout acts that only the coolest know about within the year. Their latest track, “Crow’s Perch,” walks the line of post-punk and art-rock, refusing to remain still. Anxious guitars bounce erratically under rapping, and as off as it all sounds, it’s extremely exciting. “Crow’s Perch” ends in a moment of insanity, which sounds a bit like the frenzy poised to develop around the band — because, as you can hear, they’re doing something more interesting than the rest.
“Silent Ride,” Boogie
After years of singing in the church choir and independently producing mixtapes under the moniker Boogie, Compton-based rapper Anthony Dixson and his viral successes warranted a co-sign from Eminem and a deal with Shady Records. The recording artist’s first official LP, Everything’s for Sale, features a number of mesmerizing rap tracks, led by the entrancing single “Silent Ride.” With a sing-song delivery that dynamically picks up in pace, Boogie talks about wrestling with inner demons and that ruthless voice that haunts your head. The stripped-down, Heaven-esque production feels on trend with rap’s recent gospel kick, which entered the mainstream thanks to the popularity of Chance the Rapper, but the song stands out next to the major label-produced trap flooding the airwaves, making the rapper one to watch.