The Best Songs Of 2018 So Far, According To Junkee’s Music Nerds
Which tracks made the cut?
The first half of 2018 may just have been the best six months of music we’ve experienced in a long time.
Think about it: in the last few months we’ve seen the rise of Cardi B, we’ve witnessed the momentous and controversial return of a couple of veterans in Pusha T and Kanye West, and we’ve watched Drake… well, just being Drake.
And that’s just hip-hop. Elsewhere, Kacey Musgraves came through with a modern classic in Golden Hour, Janelle Monáe proved once again she’s music greatest visionary on tracks like ‘Pynk’ and ‘Make Me Feel’, and Troye Sivan asserted his pop dominance on ‘My My My!’ and ‘Bloom’. We don’t have to talk about what happened with Arctic Monkeys.
So, as we’re now officially passed 2018’s halfway point, we asked Junkee’s most obsessive music writers to have a look back over the last six months and pull out what song they think is The Best. Their selections are wildly eclectic — some you’ll expect, others you may never have heard of — but they’re all among the best songs to come out this year.
Get stuck into the playlist at the bottom as well — we’ve included some additional tracks that didn’t quite make the final cut.
Kacey Musgraves — ‘High Horse’
From the trailer park to the roller disco, Kacey Musgraves has had a remarkable ascent over the last half-decade. To her credit, she’s evolved as a songwriter while still never losing sight of where it is she came from.
‘High Horse’ is not only the standout of Musgraves’ third LP, Golden Hour, it’s a strong contender for the best single of her career. A covert infiltration of the pop world, Musgraves drags spaghetti-western guitar and The Good, The Bad & The Ugly strings into her rhinestone kiss-off.
It’s incredibly compelling and undeniable in execution — best sung at full volume whilst picturing the know-it-all arsehole in our own lives.
Kanye West/Kid Cudi — ‘Ghost Town’, ‘Freeee (Ghost Town Pt 2)’
Say what you will about Kanye West’s recent album marathon, but two of the tracks that emerged from it — ‘Ghost Town’ and ‘Freee (Ghost Two Pt. 2)’ — affected me in some profound way. And I think that’s because it profoundly affected the artists, too.
The first half, from Kanye’s solo album Ye, sounds jubilant, but it’s full of desperation: Kid Cudi wants love, Kanye wants to be understood. But while they’re getting caught up in their stresses and darknesses, 070 Shake soars above with a goosebump-inducing melody about letting go and the numbness of pain — about feeling free.
When its sequel arrived a week later on the pair’s collaboration, KIDS SEE GHOSTS, Kanye and Cudi picked up where Shake left off. They’re feeling free too, and you can hear it in their voices.
‘Ghost Town’ is a therapy session — an especially powerful one at that, coming from two artists who have publicly struggled with mental health, not to mention their own long, tumultuous relationship. As a whole, the two parts feel like a real moment of healing, captured on record, right there in the music. And that’s what makes it so special.
G Flip — ‘Killing My Time’
No other artist this year has experienced a more rapid rise than Georgia Flipo.
Within two days of first uploading her debut G Flip single ‘About You’ to triple j Unearthed, the Melbourne artist had scored a premiere on triple j’s Good Nights and awarded Best New Track by Pitchfork. It was such a instant blow up that sceptics started to suspect there was an industry conspiracy at work.
For the record, there wasn’t — it was just a great song. Regardless, any doubts that may have hovered around her legitimacy were quickly cast aside upon the release of her excellent second single, ‘Killing My Time’.
‘Killing My Time’ does what any great pop song should do: boil big universal feelings of love and heartbreak down into punchy vignettes. G Flip is singing for herself, sure, but she’s singing for all of us as well.
Courtney Barnett — ‘Nameless, Faceless’
The last 12 months have been a hell of a time for women, with #MeToo and associated movements gaining serious momentum and powerful men around the world being taken to task. It’s been both exhausting and empowering, but in these turbulent times, we need outspoken female voices more than ever — and of course, Our Courtney delivers with ‘Nameless, Faceless‘.
With backing vocals from The Breeders’ Kim Deal, ‘Nameless, Faceless’ is a caustic feminist anthem that blends Barnett’s signature harmonies and jangle-fuzz guitars with a blistering chorus that paraphrases Margaret Atwood’s famous line: “Men are afraid that women will laugh at them, women are afraid that men will kill them.”
It’s both catchy and urgent, a battle cry for the marginalised and a pointed missive at dudes who somehow still don’t know better.
Barnett has fast become one of Australia’s most-loved recent exports, and tunes like this prove why she’s essential — she combines unapologetic political messages with a distinctly Australian attitude and sound.
Oscar Key Sung — ‘Club Mate’
Most songs about clubbing are hype songs, overcompensating with clichés. Too often, they sound as generic as their promises to will the best night of existence by repeatedly saying that it is — or will be, once their track comes on.
With ‘Club Mate’, Melburnian Oscar Key Sung goes in a different direction — written around one line, “Oh, I hope you love like you dance”, the song captures the moments of anticipation and possibility when people connect on the dance floor.
In lesser hands, it’d be creepy, but Oscar’s R&B is adept at centring sensuality without sleaze. Slow and gentle, the song pairs his fragile vocals with just a steady drum beat and a baseline piano — for now, things are simple.
It’s after the first few glances that things get complicated, but ‘Club Mate’ leaves that for another song.
Troye Sivan — ‘My My My!’
No pop song this year has quite matched the joyful, horny euphoria of Troye Sivan’s ‘My My My!‘.
With slinky synths, a spirited chorus and lyrics like “I’ve got my tongue between your teeth” (which Sivan practically purrs), the song is a perfect encapsulation of pure lust, and the feeling of completely giving yourself over to a new romance.
Sivan first found fame as a popular teen vlogger and actor before dropping his debut album Blue Neighbourhood in 2015. While hits off his debut were notable for their exploration of suburban teenage love, ‘My My My!’ and the songs that have followed — queer sex jam ‘Bloom‘, ‘The Good Side’ and Ariana Grande collaboration ‘Dance To This’ — feel purposefully grown-up, charged by a new sense of freedom, self-possession and confidence.
I waited eagerly for ‘My My My!’ to take over airwaves and dance floors, but it never materialised into the huge pop hit of the summer I thought it would be. Despite this, Sivan has become a household name in 2018 and Bloom, his new album out in August, will likely cement his status as a serious pop force.
Aliany Garcia – ‘Quiero Chapia Un Pelotero’
I started DJing at my gym this year. Is that the most 2018 line in this article so far?
The first few sets were rough but I’m getting the hang of things now, my number one rule is: keep things as Latin as possible. Something has unlocked in the minds of those who get up early to jump around in active wear every weekend. Maybe it’s Cardi B’s fault?
As I went on a tear to find as much reggaeton and Latin pop as possible (my gym sets are about 25 percent Bad Bunny and 40 percent Kali Uchis), I stumbled across this gem from Dominican artist Aliany Garcia, a re-appropriation of Madonna’s ‘La Isla Bonita’, which is secretly my favourite Madonna song.
You don’t have to be doing burpees to enjoy this song to its full potential, but it does help.