Happy New Year! Coming up with this top 10 list was tougher than any of the previous lists. The sheer amount of music that was released was insane — I mean, who didn’t drop in 2018? Virtually every name in music, from superstars like Jay-Z and Beyonce to underground favourites like Earl Sweatshirt and J.I.D., put out a body of work this year. Despite all this music, I found the cohesiveness of many albums this year to be seriously lacking — something that has become the norm in the quantity-focused streaming era we live in. For this reason, I didn’t really have a favourite album of 2018, but I’ve definitely got some favourite songs. Let’s get after it.
If you’re not into reading, click here for a playlist of the top 10 followed by honourable mentions
10. SHECK WES — MO BAMBA
I absolutely hated this song when I first heard it. The beat was as normal as they come, the vocals were so out of tune they were annoying, and it literally hurt my soul to listen to it. I accepted that I had finally gone off the old-head deep end — my musical tastes were now completely out of sync with popular hip-hop.
But then I went to a few house parties in the summer.
One quick gander through YouTube is enough to prove that the energy this song brought out of people in 2018 is undeniably unparalleled. Joe Budden used the phrase “brainwashing shit” to describe it, and I couldn’t say it better myself. Mo Bamba is an anomaly, the best worst song of all-time, and yet it was a fundamental part of some of the best moments I had in 2018.
9. J. COLE — KEVIN’S HEART
KOD was a fantastic album and, in my opinion, a vast improvement over 4 Your Eyez Only. I thought KOD was the perfect marriage between the lyrical content J. Cole fans clamour for and today’s trap-influenced production that any rap fan can vibe with. Kevin’s Heart caught my ear initially because of how well Cole’s singing complimented T-Minus’s production, and the music video was pretty cool too.
8. DRAKE — NICE FOR WHAT
Chances are, you’ve heard a lot of Drake songs. But chances are, you’ve never heard a Drake song like Nice For What. To be honest, I don’t think we’ve ever heard Drake flow over a sample so piercingly prominent, nor have we ever heard Drake chop his own vocals during a breakdown in his own song. The reaction to Scorpion may have been mixed, but Nice For What was Drake succeeding at bringing a fresh and exciting sound to his audience — especially after the mundane and predictable God’s Plan.
7. BLOCBOY JB — LOOK ALIVE (FEAT. DRAKE)
Speaking of bringing fresh and exciting sounds, Drake also helped introduce the world to Tay Keith in 2018 by the way of Look Alive. Tay Keith, like DJ Mustard before him, has succeeded at doing one thing really well: making extremely simple but catchy beats. Look Alive’s success paved the way for hits like Nonstop and SICKO MODE, and it was the final marketing push that the shoot dance needed before it took over the world.
6. CLEAN BANDIT — BABY (FEAT. MARINA & LUIS FONSI)
5. ANITTA — VENENO
Nobody believes that I liked this song before seeing the music video but I assure you, I did. I don’t speak Portuguese (or Spanish) and yet Brazilian superstar Anitta was probably my favourite artist of 2018. She’s been consistently putting out some of the best music in the over-crowded world of Latin music, and the replay value on her tracks is unmatched (as far as I’m concerned!!)
4. CHRISTINA AGUILERA — LIKE I DO (FEAT. GOLDLINK)
I’m just as surprised as you are to see Christina Aguilera on my 2018 top 10 list but man oh man, this song deserves it. Anderson .Paak comes through with one of best beats of 2018, GoldLink does his thing in his feature appearance, and Xtina gets to show off the full range of her vocals while keeping it all catchy and accessible. Like I Do is a perfect example of a legend adapting to the sounds of today without compromising their integrity — no wonder it earned a nomination for this year’s Grammys.
3. ANITTA — MEDICINA
Yes, Anitta gets 2 mentions on the list this year! I tend to gravitate towards music that makes me want to dance, and no song made me want to dance more than Medicina in 2018.
2. TRAVIS SCOTT — SICKO MODE (FEAT. DRAKE)
At over 5 minutes long, it doesn’t make sense for SICKO MODE to be the quintessential song of 2018.
And yet, here we are.
1. JUSTIN TIMBERLAKE — HIGHER HIGHER
Man of the Woods was an interesting album to say the least. JT has accomplished pretty much everything at this point, so I couldn’t fault him for taking a radical approach instead of just giving us FutureSex/LoveSounds 2. I think Higher Higher is the best display of what Timberlake intended to create with this album as it mixes folk music, Pharrell-helmed hip-hop production, and those nostalgic JT vibes perfectly. The song’s familiarity makes it sound like evolution — rather than something out of left field.
The lyrics, and Timberlake’s double-track vocal performance, is extremely vivid. I often found myself seeing the song play out like a movie in my head whenever I listened to it. The chorus refrain is nothing short of a mantra, especially in the last minute, and the entire track is honestly a pretty mesmerizing experience. If you haven’t figured it out by now, I’m a huge JT fan, and Higher Higher was definitely my favourite song of 2018!
Thanks for reading! See you next year! — Tesher