The Best Songs of 2019

Story posted December 24, 2019 in Arts & Entertainment by CommRadio Arts & Entertainment Staff.

CommRadio's Arts & Entertainment staff counts down its top 10 songs of 2019.

1. “Old Town Road” – Lil Nas X ft. Billy Ray Cyrus

When Lil Nas X’s “Old Town Road” broke the SoundCloud stratosphere and entered mainstream consciousness, there was a collective “what is this?” that captivated kindergartners and veteran music critics alike. The ambiguity surrounding the song caused controversy about whether it should be on the hip-hop or country charts, and right when that controversy was dying down, Billy Ray Cyrus was added as a feature to give the song some country credibility.

Lil Nas X mixed and mashed some stereotypical components of country lyrics with trap drum patterns that played on the curiosity of every person who ever listened to the song. Combine that with his infectious singing on the chorus and Billy Ray Cyrus’ memorable guest verse and there’s little question as to why the song spent a record 19 weeks at No. 1 on the Billboard chart.

Very rarely has a song caused so much conversation across different musical demographics. “Old Town Road” may have been overplayed because of how often one heard it at parties or on the radio, but that doesn’t change the fact that it was one of the most interesting songs released this year, and it introduced us to one of the more captivating characters in music.  —Jerome Taylor

2. “Truth Hurts” – Lizzo

Although originally released in 2017, “Truth Hurts” has become one of the defining tracks of 2019. As soon as the low piano begins, everyone can feel the anticipation building in the air until the iconic opening line: “Why men great ‘til they gotta be great? WHOO!”

As women continued to dominate the music industry throughout the year, Lizzo’s empowering track “Truth Hurts” became symbolic. 2019 has been nothing short of women discovering their personal value, and a lot of that is thanks to Lizzo herself. The track encourages women to drop any problematic men in their life in pursuit of their own perfection.

There’s no question that “Truth Hurts” is timely in a wave of powerful women, though what makes the song so groundbreaking is that it was influential of an entire feeling across the country. Lizzo was able to inspire an entire movement of individuality and self love.  —Jade Campos

3. “EARFQUAKE” – Tyler, the Creator

Tyler, the Creator is far removed from his former Odd Future self, as his music has changed along with his lifestyle. Tyler is now embracing his role as an artist, and his growth has been reflected in his music. Tyler still has the same distinguishable vocals, but the moods and content of his 2019 album “IGOR” are direct opposites to the projects released in his early career, to the point where someone from the past would not be able to recognize some of these tracks as work from Tyler, the Creator.

“EARFQUAKE” is a prime example of this. Tyler, along with background vocals from Charlie Wilson and Jessy Wilson, are featured on the intro to the song. In “IGOR,” along with previous works as early as “Wolf,” Tyler has put more emphasis on his singing voice, incorporating it into his studio albums.

Throughout “IGOR,” Tyler tells the tale of a broken relationship and expresses his search for romance. On “EARFQUAKE” specifically, Tyler’s character is making a last-ditch attempt to preserve a meaningful relationship. “Don’t leave, it’s my fault,” Tyler sings.

“EARFQUAKE” also features a verse from Playboi Carti, whose unique and sometimes incomprehensible delivery leaves fans to decipher the content of his verse. This highlights creativity and fearlessness to explore not only on this track but on the whole project, giving “IGOR” its own personality.  —Connor Trask

4. “Bad Guy” – Billie Eilish

“Bad Guy” is arguably one of the most recognizable songs of the entire decade. The instrumentation is complex and unique, marking Billie Eilish’s status in the music industry.

Among dozens of other songs by women dominating the music industry in 2019, “Bad Guy” is a sarcastic look at the way people view themselves with a tint of female empowerment. The lyrics are somewhat repetitive, but they are meant to play off of one another, as Eilish explained that “Bad Guy” mocks the way that people describe themselves to others.

You’re never who you really say you are. You’re the person of your actions.

Eilish has made herself a staple in the music industry with this track alone. She has an uncaring attitude and gets what she deserves. After dominating the charts, knocking down some Billboard favorites like “Old Town Road,” there’s no question as to why “Bad Guy” is one of the best tracks of the year. Duh.  —Jade Campos

5. “The Man” – Taylor Swift

There’s only one question that still lingers about Taylor Swift’s 2019 power anthem “The Man”: Why didn’t it come sooner?

“The Man” tackles, quite literally, the singer’s entire career in music, as she struggles to hold true to herself in a male-dominated field. Swift has been questioned about her romantic life, the clothes she wears and whether she truly works hard enough. So, this song has been a long time coming—not just for Swift but women throughout the industry—which is what makes it arguably the best song on her latest album “Lover.”

Swift juxtaposes every accusation that has been made against her as a woman with how the situation would be handled if she were a man. “I’d be a fearless leader/I’d be an alpha type/When everyone believes ya/What’s that like?” There’s no topic left untouched, as she calls out the toxic masculinity throughout the music industry, which Swift has said she’s been trying to figure out how to write for years.

The lyrics are incredibly biting and witty with a tint of sorrow as the listener can just hear the pure exhaustion in her voice as she wonders if she’ll ever be enough. And it’s all wrapped inside of an incredibly catchy pop song. It’s perhaps the most “Taylor Swift” that a Taylor Swift song has ever been.  —Jade Campos

6. “Suge” – DaBaby

Powered by suspenseful synths and speaker-rattling 808s, DaBaby’s “Suge” became one of the most recognizable songs of 2019. Carolina collaborators jetsonmade and DaBaby came together to blend just enough bounce to make “Suge” a fun party song while also maintaining a level of aggressiveness that can be appreciated by those who fell in love with trap music.

As jetsonmade’s beat puts listeners in a head nod inducing trance DaBaby delivers unforgettable one liners like, “I'll slap the s** out a n****/No talkin’, I don't like to argue with n*****.” In Genius’ “Deconstructed” series, jetsonmade summed up the song perfectly when he said “With the suspense of this song and [Da]Baby swaggin’ it out, it’s just the perfect blend.”

“Suge” was undoubtedly one of the best earworms of the year. From the first listen, the beat sticks in one’s head, and in every subsequent listen, the listener finds a DaBaby lyric more memorable than the last.  —Jerome Taylor

7. “Ballin’” – Mustard ft. Roddy Ricch

Roddy Ricch has had a breakout year in 2019. After releasing his mixtape  “Feed Tha Streets II” a year ago, the Compton rapper released a number of singles, collaborated with the late Nipsey Hussle and appeared as a featured artist on numerous albums, establishing a considerable online buzz in the process.

Five months before he would release his debut album, the West Coast crooner teamed up with Mustard for what instantly became a standout off Mustard’s “Perfect Ten” album this past summer.

“Ballin’” mines the same “rags to riches” territory that has been well-documented in rap music for decades, but the warm, inviting production and summer feel immediately make the track stand out.

Part of Roddy Ricch’s charm—when he’s not singing about the devastating effects of death, drug-dealing and economic desperation—is his commitment to rapping about affluence in a way that almost makes it tangible enough for the listener to experience the pleasures of his newfound wealth alongside him.

Like any student of Young Thug, Ricch can make every syllable that leaves his mouth sound catchy, turning flexes like “‘Cause I’ve been getting paid/Yellow diamonds on me look like lemonade” into rallying cries for anyone looking to better their current situation.

Even though his debut album was very good, this was the song that catapulted Ricch into the rap mainstream, and it already feels like a classic of its era.  —Caleb Wilfinger

8. “NEW MAGIC WAND” – Tyler, the Creator

“IGOR” is an endlessly inventive and exhilarating album, and Tyler, the Creator has gone on record multiple times to say “NEW MAGIC WAND” is his favorite track from his 2019 chart-topping album. He has also stated that he can’t quite articulate why.

This is a sentiment that is easy to understand. “NEW MAGIC WAND” is loud and grimy, even euphoric at times. The song, in which Tyler pleads to his now ex-girlfriend not to leave him, hits an emotional core like most of the album does. “NEW MAGIC WAND,” however, proves itself to be so much more raw, passionate and hypnotic than the rest of the album. In the music video for the track, Tyler is in the desert, dancing erratically and uncontrollably at the midway point of the song.

This makes complete sense, as “NEW MAGIC WAND” is erratic and uncontrollable, as many people are at the early stages of a difficult breakup, and if “IGOR” is the story arc of a breakup, “NEW MAGIC WAND” is the mental breakdown had within it, but Tyler, The Creator has a unique ability to make that mental breakdown sound beautiful.  —Jim Krueger

9. “Almeda” – Solange

Solange, Playboi Carti and The-Dream isn’t a trio that many would expect to collaborate on a song, but on “Almeda,” the three voices combine to create one of the most fun and free-flowing songs of the year. On top of a dream-like soundscape created by Pharrell and John Carroll Kirby, Solange delivers an outstanding performance, paying homage to her southern black American roots.

Solange’s homage to the chopped and screwed music of Houston (“Pour my drank, drank/ Sip, sip, sip, sip, sip”) can give the listener a reference of where she is coming from, and her soothing singing complements the soundscape perfectly. The-Dream’s “We just in her fooling around” refrain prepares the listener for Carti’s standout showing when he performs his patented baby voice as he bounces across the beat.

Carti complementing the vibe of the song so well was an unexpected surprise, but it provides a new level of enjoyment to the song and truly takes the song over the top and makes it one of the best tracks of the year.  —Jerome Taylor

10. “Free the Frail” – JPEGMAFIA

“Free the Frail” is unlike many JPEGMAFIA songs, which feature heavy production and a darker, almost metal sound. While Peggy retains his glitch-hop style, “Free the Frail” has an almost dream-like quality to it with Peggy singing the catchy chorus, showing his vocal chops and breaking out of his comfort zone. The instrumental is like an Italian chef kiss: the best way to describe its quality. That’s how amazing it is.

Peggy really outdid himself on this one. Peggy uses this song to show his vulnerability with his overnight success and his struggles with it. The beautiful outro by Helena Durand is the icing on the cake with this wonderful track.  —Owen Paiva

 

Jade Campos is a sophomore majoring in print/digital journalism. To contact her, email jmc7727@psu.edu.

Jim Krueger is a senior majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email kruegerjim19@gmail.com.

Owen Paiva is a junior majoring in film-video. To contact him, email owenpaiva@sbcglobal.net.

Jerome Taylor is a senior majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email jerometaylor91697@gmail.com.

Connor Trask is a senior majoring in telecommunications and minoring in business liberal arts. To contact him, email cst5140@psu.edu.

Caleb Wilfinger is a senior majoring in print journalism and political science. To contact him, email caleb.wilfinger@gmail.com.

About the Contributors

Owen Paiva's photo

Owen Paiva

Junior / Film-Video

Owen Paiva is a Writer and Contributor for the Arts Department at CommRadio. Owen is one of the co-hosts of CommRadio’s Movie, Television, and Video Game Discussion Talk Show, Reel Talk, along with Lilly Adams, airing Tuesdays from 7:00 - 8:00. To contact, Owen, feel free to send a message to .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

Jerome Taylor's photo

Jerome Taylor

Senior / Broadcast Journalism

Jerome Taylor currently serves as one of two Arts & Entertainment Managers for CommRadio. He currently serves as a host for the department’s flagship radio show, “The Nittany Record Club.” He has also written several album reviews and has contributed to several lists that the department has produced. Jerome has also served as a beat writer and producer for several Penn State sports including, lacrosse, volleyball, and basketball. After graduation Jerome hopes to work in the broadcast journalism field covering sports or entertainment. Follow him on twitter (@ThatGuy_Rome) or email him at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

Jade Campos's photo

Jade Campos

Sophomore / Journalism

Jade Campos is a sophomore from Caroline, Virginia. She is a Director of the Arts and Entertainment department of CommRadio and a co-host on the talk show “The Nittany Record Club.” Along with CommRadio, Jade has written for the Daily Collegian, College Magazine and The Virginia Connection. Currently, she is a social strategy intern with CommAgency. To contact her, email .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

CalebWilfinger's photo

CalebWilfinger

Senior / Journalism & Political Science

Caleb is a writer and contributor for the Arts Department at CommRadio. He is an avid lover of music and film, and spends way too much time listening to music and watching movies. To contact Caleb, send an email to: .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)