Here it is. The end of 2019. And with the end of the year comes with it the superfluous opinions of those lucky enough to sit in front of a computer screen for hours on end. The opinions of those who have their headphones glued to their ears for eight hours a day to get them through the monotony of their daily work lives. The opinions of those who masquerade with mediocrity to only hide behind the façade of their keyboard, littering the internet with their self-proclaimed gospels otherwise known as THE TOP 50 [Insert Medium] OF 2019. But dear readers, you only need one Word to get you through the remainder of 2019. You only need one list to truly base your own self-importance from. You only need RADIO FRIENDLY’S TOP 50 SINGLES OF 2019. And if you have made it to the end of this flowery, overindulgent proclamation of nonsense, then I guess you care enough to continue.
Enough of that bullshit. Here’s a list of my favourite singles of the year. Fifty to be exact, because anything else would really fuck with people’s heads.
50. Phone Numbers – Dominic Fike, Kenny Beats
You know those douchebags that roll up to a streetlight, wind their windows down and blare shitty music and sing at the top of their lungs? Yeah, I did that with this song. Kenny Beats has solid production, and Fike knows how to write a catchy hook. It’s infectious, I doubt you’ll deny that.
49. Fear Inoculum – Tool
Tool’s return from hiatus was exciting. They released this ten-minute epic. I listened to it a lot when it came out, I got caught up in the hype of the moment. The last third is the best part of the song, but it takes seven minutes to get there. It’s not the best Tool track, but it’s a solid prog-rock tune.
48. Hero – Michael Kiwanuka
A soulful, folky ballad. Kiwanuka’s album is a fantastic blend of R&B, blues and soul, and Hero is one of my favourite tracks he’s released.
47. Does It Make You Feel Good? – Confidence Man
This song only came out a handful of weeks ago, and if it was released earlier it would have probably been higher on my list. I love Confidence Man’s blend of electro dance and new-wave house music. Does It Make You Feel Good is almost like a throwback to 80s dancehall with a splash of tropical house thrown in. It’s a subtle banger and shows Confidence Man’s prowess in their song writing.
46. Vacation Forever – Violent Soho
Another tune that has only recently graced my earholes. It’s Violent Soho. There’s nothing new to their formula, but they’ve been on a bit of a break over the past few years so it’s nice to hear them return. Their first single was a much more subtle, acoustic track. Vacation Forever is a higher-octane, infectious summer-rock anthem. Obviously, I like this one more.
45. Norman fucking Rockwell – Lana Del Rey
Lana Del Rey finally hooked me. After years of never really clicking with her music, Norman fucking Rockwell slapped me around the face and shook me by the shoulders yelling “wake the fuck up you idiot.” I love the melancholic ballad, her vocal melody in NFR is sweet yet heartbreaking as it moves from major to minor notes. It only took five albums, but I like listening to Lana Del Rey now.
44. Beta Male Strategies – JPEGMAFIA
This one is hard to describe. It’s glitchy, it’s rap. It’s soothing one moment, aggressively brash the next. Um, just go listen to it? JPEGMAFIA will feature more in this list, I’ll explain my love for him later.
43. Everyone Hides – Wilco
Wilco, the whitest whiteboy band. The instrumentation is what usually hooks me in a Wilco tune, Everyone Hides is no different. Jeff Tweedy’s compositional techniques are outstanding, elevating the alt-country/alt-folk genre Wilco falls into. The brief solo in the middle of the song is fantastic. It shows restraint yet prowess.
42. Violence – Grimes, i_o
Grimes is falling more and more into the Enya cyborg hybrid the internet has been calling her for years. Grimes has been teasing her next album since this time last year, and amongst the slew of singles she’s released in 2019, I like Violence the most. That, and So I Fell Heavy Through The Earth. Violence has that childlike, mystical charm that I’ve come to expect from Grimes. And with each single I fall more in love with her.
40. Mercedes Marxist – IDLES
Don’t take this as a fact, but I’m pretty sure Mercedes Marxist was a b-side to IDLES fantastic 2018 album Joy, As An Act of Resistance. It’s a slow building punky anthem that IDLES have perfected thanks to repetitive but infectious instrumentation and a stellar performance by front man Joe Talbot. The build is excellent in this track, and I wish that it stood in the track listing on Joy.
41. Paradise – Tropical Fuck Storm
A cacophonous, melodic mess that somehow becomes more listenable each time I play it. Gareth Liddiard’s performance is mesmerising, his distressed drawl crescendos into a passionate plea over thickly dissonant guitar licks. Backed up by the shrill harmonies of his bandmates, Paradise is a sunburnt, murderous single.
Jesus, I even impressed myself with that description. Fuck yeah.
39. Talking Distance – Sunbeam Sound Machine
This track reminds me of the indie rock I used to listen to when I was a prepubescent lad, so there’s an element of nostalgia riding with it. I love the layered, sun tinged guitar chords that almost ebb and flow into a hypnotic storm. The rhythm packs a punch, especially as the drums kick in and pound against the driving guitar chords. A solid track, from a pretty decent album.
38. Linked – Bonobo
I love Bonobo’s elemental sounds he mixes into his lo-fi house beats. Linked is a hypnotic, meditative tune. Just zone out, take in the world, and listen to a bit of Bonobo.
37. Better in Blak – Thelma Plum
On Better in Blak, Thelma Plum shows her maturity as a song writer as she composes a personal but catchy indie-pop ballad. I feel that Plum has finally found her voice in her own music and Better in Blak is one of her best tracks.
36. U-Say – GoldLink, Tyler, the Creator, Jay Prince
Fuck this song is infectious. The chill-house R&B beat, the sultry keys, GoldLink’s call and response refrain with Jay Prince. It’s great. And the Tyler feature isn’t too bad either – especially coming soon after IGOR where he manipulated his vocals – on U-Say Tyler is crisp and back to his usual growl.
35. Peach – Kevin Abstract
Kevin Abstract released his second solo record, and the teaser tracks before its release were filling a void that only a Brockhampton track could fill. But there was no news of new Brockhampton yet, so I had to take what I got. Peach is the best song Kevin Abstract has released, and my favourite off Arizona Baby, which ultimately let me down once it was released. Peach feels like a Brockhampton ballad; Bearface croons, Joba comes in with his falsetto, and Abstract features Dominic Fike in his intro and chorus. And that’s why I think this track works, it’s not just Abstract – I don’t think he can hold a song by himself. But Peach is good, give it a listen if you haven’t already.
34. With My Whole Heart – Sufjan Stevens
Sufjan Stevens experiments with some Bon Iver styled electronic techniques, but he does a better job that Iver. The melody in the chorus is uplifting despite Stevens melancholic vocals. The backing band do a great job elevating Stevens too, but who are we kidding, Stevens does a great job by himself too. There’s a clean, almost overproduced 80s pop feeling to With My Whole Heart. But it never feels too overdone. It’s a well-crafted song.
33. The Who – JPEGMAFIA, Eyas
The Who was the first taste of JPEGMAFIA in 2019. He skyrocketed to fame in 2018 with his glitchy, chopped production and his aggressive vocals. But on The Who, JPEG foreshadows what the rest of the year had in store for him with a laid-back approach to not only his vocals, but the production as well. Eyas’ backing harmonies are delicate and soft, and though the production is still choppy, JPEG shows a different, more mature side of his persona. And it turns out to be one of the best things to come out of 2019.
32. bad guy – Billie Eilish
I can’t deny the impact bad guy has had on 2019. Not only was it one of the best memes of 2019, but it also has one of the best produced beats. It’s a solid song. Eilish can write low-key pop bangers, and I think bad guy is one of her best. If you deny any of this, then you’re as stupid as Scott Morrison denying climate change.
31. DOPE & SMOKE – DOPE LEMON
Hey, remember when I saw Dope Lemon at Splendour in the Grass but I was too drunk to remember any of the set? Yeah, me neither, but I like to tell everyone that story. Especially because I listen to Angus Stone’s music more than is probably deserved to at this point. Dope Lemon is essentially an excuse for Stone to sing about drinking and doing drugs without ruining any record deals he currently holds with his sister and their aptly named Angus and Julia Stone. But it’s a guilty pleasure of mine. Dope Lemon’s smoky blend of blues and folk will always be a crux of mine, as it has been for many years. On Dope & Smoke, Stone and his band play with a bit more percussion and include some 60s style keys that feel ripped straight from the hands of Ray Manzarek (he’s from The Doors for all those Gen Zeds who read this). This is a good song. I hope I’ve persuaded you.
30. RICKY – Denzel Curry
Denzel Curry is good, and he gets the credit from the critics and those in the know, but he deserves much more praise and notoriety than he currently gets. Curry is a triple threat in today’s rap game, he can spit rapid fire bars, write profoundly funny and intellectual lyrics, and even croon for more of a radio friendly style tune like on WISH off his 2019 album ZUU. And he likes anime. RICKY was one of the better singles off that project, and that’s why it’s on the list.
29. What Am I To Do? – Ezra Collective
A solid jazz-hop tune from a solid jazz album. Check this one out. Lyrics aren’t that crash hot, but the tune is good.
28. Come Home ft Andre 3000 – Anderson .Paak
Ventura wasn’t as good as Paak’s 2018 album Oznard, but the opening track is one of his best songs. It’s an uplifting, jazzy rap song. The live instrumentation is well produced, but it’s Andre 3000’s verse that is stellar. It’s up there with one of the best verses of the year, and worth getting through Paak’s smiley, overtly happy performance which can get tiresome at times. Andre 3000’s flow is incredible. His wordplay is unmatched.
27. Jailbreak the Tesla – Injury Reserve
Just on production alone, this track is incredible. Injury Reserve continue to push their production skills by mixing a beat together with car screeches and mismatched sounds. Playful lyrics too, “Elon on them shrooms, and Grimes’ voice gon’ be the GPS.” Remember when Grimes and Elon were together? Fuck 2019 has been weird.
26. Old Town Road – Lil Nas X
It’s the biggest song of 2019. And yeah, it’s a good song.
25. On the Square – Mac DeMarco
Mac DeMarco slows it down a notch with On the Square, a piano ballad that mostly ditches his warped production for a stripped back song. Shimmers of old Mac appear with twisted piano chords, but mostly it’s up for Mac’s song writing and performance to carry this track. It’s not the most exciting DeMarco song, but it’s good for one of those days when you just want to chill on the couch and forget that Australia is on fire and we’ve got a bunch of fuckwits running the world.
24. Selfish – Little Simz, Cleo Sol
Little Simz is one of the best things to happen to hip-hop this year and Selfish shows her prowess as she mashes together soulful refrains, R&B instrumentals and solid bars. I do like her song Offence more, but that came out in 2018 and this is a gosh-darn 2019 list friend.
23. Turn to Hate – Orville Peck
I think I’ve said enough about the gimp-masked cowboy in 2019. Read my review of his debut album if you want to hear more. Turn to Hate is my favourite track off Pony, it’s a mix of classic country riffs, memorable choruses and a good old fashioned yee-haw. Just get in your ute, put your compact disc in and hit the old highway roads.
22. Straight Shot – Quelle Chris
Quelle Chris is one of the more obscure, eccentric MCs in the rap game and deserves more praise. His 2019 album Guns is his most assessible, the title track is a standout too. But it’s the reserved production and straightforward structure of Straight Shot that makes the 2019 list. Each verse serves as its own story yet fills the larger narrative on show within the song. There’s a great breakbeat holding everything together, and a fantastic jazzy piano solo towards the end. Quelle Chris ticks all the boxes for me.
21. Deal Wiv It – Mura Masa, slowthai
Fuck this song is so good. And I know that’s probably not most articulate way to open up a paragraph. I listened to it twenty times the first time I heard it. Mura Masa’s production on Deal Wiv It is quintessentially British, melding elements of Blur, Happy Mondays and 80s post-punk/new wave. And slowthai’s opening verse sounds like a homage to Mike Skinner from the Streets. Deal Wiv It makes me want to pack my bags and move to England.
20. Trip the Mains – Methyl Ethyl
I listened to this back in the early days of 2019. And it feels forever ago that I had it on repeat, but it’s still worth mentioning here in December. Methyl Ethyl continue to push their sound forward, and though it doesn’t always pay off, I can appreciate the risks they take. Trip the Mains is a psychedelic pop tune that has an 80s flair to it thanks to the lavish synth chords and distant drumbeats. To me it’s like a repurposed Whitney Houston song with a bit of Western Australia psych flair thrown on top. It’s risky, but I like it.
19. Dirty Laundry – Danny Brown
Danny Brown showcases some of his most witty material against some off-centric, but still very listenable beats thanks to production from A Tribe Called Quest’s Q-Tip. Brown’s lyrics feel as if he’s reciting a stand-up skit, showcasing the lyrical talent of the best MC in the bizz. Yes, I will go on record again and say that Danny Brown is the best MC alive.
18. In the Capital – Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever
RBCF’s 2018 album was one of my favourites of last year, and In the Capital continues their catchy blend of Australiana riffs and humble story telling. This song almost feels as if it’s a b-side to last year’s album and could easily slip into the track listing. It has all the elements we’ve come to expect from Rolling Blackouts: a slew of solid guitar lines, lackadaisical vocals, and a thick Aussie accent. There’s always a lot going on in a Rolling Blackouts song, but they mash it all together into a harmonious package.
17. Drained – The Brian Jonestown Massacre
Honestly, I’ve surprised myself this isn’t higher on the list. BJM were my most listened artist of 2019, and 2018 for that matter, and my artist of the decade. Which is interesting considering I didn’t start listening to them until early last year. Drained doesn’t stray too far away from Anton Newcombe’s usual style of song writing, but he does mix it up with alternating guitar rhythms instead of his usual formula of one chord for each bar of music. Of course, it’s hypnotising, it’s psychedelic, it’s the Brian Jonestown Massacre.
16. Boys in the Better Land – FONTAINES DC
It’s Irish punk with shades of pub rock and folksy story telling. FONTAINES DC are cheeky, they play infectious music and are one of the best bands of 2019. Boys in the Better Land barely stops for breath, it’s sharp witted and punky in its attitude. I start tapping my feet when this song comes on, and by the end I want to get up and dance. And I think that makes for a fookin damn good song.
15. Borderline – Tame Impala
2019 is the year I started to like Lana Del Rey, and the year that I’ve given Tame Impala another chance. In saying that, I haven’t really enjoyed anything else Kevin Parker has teased us with this year, but I can’t deny Borderline’s charm. Parker has included much more instruments into the mix this time around, more percussion, something that sounds like a pan-flute. But it’s the pre-chorus and chorus that get me hooked every time I thought about changing the song when it first came on. Parker can write a catchy hook, so maybe he should stop trying to pour his heart out with a poorly executed falsetto croon, and just make more psych-dance tunes like Borderline.
14. Dylan Thomas – Better Oblivion Community Centre
Conor Oberst and Phoebe Bridgers’ duo project turned out to be one of the most surprising acts of 2019. For me, at least. Dylan Thomas shows the duo’s knack for great folksy song writing. The lyrics are charming and satirical, and while the instrumentals are quite simple, it’s one of the best indie-rock songs of the year.
13. Old Man – Stella Donnelly
Stella Donnelly’s Old Man is a bittersweet mix of bright summery guitar riffs against a fair, yet distressing, comment on unjust behaviour of men in society. Donnelly’s lyrics cut through her uplifting and harmonious instrumentation, with phrases such as ‘your personality traits don’t count
if you put your dick in someone’s face’ and ‘boy, if you touch her again I’ll tell your wife and your kids about that time. ‘Cause this is not ’93, you lost your spot on the team, you’re out of line.” It’s a fantastic piece of song writing, showing maturity in her craft as she balances her subject matter amongst truly fantastic instrumentation. The harmonious are lush, the various guitar riffs are clever; I love this song.
12. Planet B – King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard
King Gizz’s venture into thrash metal was always a pipe dream for fans of tracks like The Great Chain of Being and Road Train. Planet B was their first tease of what would eventuate on Infest the Rats’ Nest. The crashing cymbals, the rapid hammer ons and screeching guitar wails, taking the best elements of thrash greats like Slayer and Metallica, and adding a little bit of King Gizz flair. Stu Mackenzie’s attempt in a thrashy groan is commendable, but it’s the fast paced and electrifying performance that makes Planet B a great song.
11. Cattails – Big Thief
Big Thief have had one helluva year after releasing two new records. I didn’t care much for the second release, it was the first album U.F.O.F that caught my attention with singles like the title track and Cattails. I enjoy Big Thief’s folksy charm, especially the unique performances by Adrianne Lenker. Cattails triumphs with a repetitive, hypnotic structure, almost like a medieval ballad. I enjoy the instrumental build towards the end, I find more nuances with every listen.
10. Juice – Lizzo
Juice is one of the best pop songs of the year. And though Truth Hurts might be more popular now, Juice is what started it all off. At least for me. I love Lizzo’s infectious persona, it’s impossible not to want to get up and dance along. There’s a reason why Lizzo is on top of the world right now. And it all started with Juice.
9. Almeda – Solange
Almeda is my favourite song off Solange’s 2019 album When I Get Home, and though I haven’t listened to the whole album as much as I used to, Almeda is always creeping up in my regular playlists. I love Solange’s fusion of trap beats and glitchy edits, almost creating a marching band style beat that enters regularly though the track. Solange’s soulful refrains are captivating, holding together what is a very minimalist tune. Playboi Carti’s verse holds up, though it’s near impossible to understand what the fuck he says. Almeda shows Solange’s technique in building a single from a barebones drumbeat and creating almost a lifeforce that ebbs and flows as different harmonies and instrumental passages enter in, and ultimately fade out before the next wave. Also, Solange’s lyrics are a nod to traditional African American culture. It’s the full package.
8. Gorgeous – slowthai
Slowthai’s Gorgeous was the first song that got me into slowthai. It’s unlike most of the material that’s on his album that the track comes from, but that’s why I like it. Slowthai raps over a lo-fi triphop beat. Piano arpeggios twinkle against a deep bass thump. Slowthai’s geezer drawl is hard to decipher at first, but the tone of his voice is captivating. I still don’t know what the fuck slowthai is saying throughout most of the song, but I love it.
7. Crime Pays – Freddie Gibbs, Madlib
Remember when I said Danny Brown is the best MC in the rap game? Well now I realise how much of an idiot I look when Freddie Gibbs sits at number seven on my list. I flippin love Freddie Gibbs. He is a perfect amalgamation of the new school and old school of hip-hop. He sounds like a thug, who could easily stand amongst the greats of the 90s hip-hop scene. On Crime Pays, Gibbs teams up once again with the beat conductor, Madlib. It’s a soulful mix of R&B and hip-hop, Madlib’s production is tight while Gibbs’ flow changes from verse to verse showing the prowess of a true MC.
6. Jesus Forgive Me, I Am A Thot – JPEGMAFIA
JPEGMAFIA comes in at number six with the first single he teased off his 2019 project All My Heroes Are Cornballs. Peggy shows his dynamic range as an artist on Jesus; his production is chaotic and confusing on first listen as it moves from aggressive beats to angelic falsetto croons. He spits consistent bars over methodically chopped beats to the point that it’s too good to sound messy. No one is producing beats like Peggy or has the chops to rap over the shit that he produces. He’s a one-man-show, and I love it.
5. Gone – Charli XCX, Christine and the Queens
This is the best pop song of 2019. Charli XCX has redefined what a pop banger should sound like moving into 2020. Thick synth chords bounce in my ears against a myriad of percussive claps, the hook is catchy and triumphant, somehow empowering. Charli’s vocals are strong and emotive, meanwhile Héloïse Adelaïde Letissier of Christine and the Queens embodies a Michael Jackson-esque performance as she spits her lyrics out with power and affection.
4. Blood of the Fang – clipping.
You will not hear a better display of wordplay or technical skill in hip-hop. Blood of the Fang is the apex the genre in 2019 as Daveed Diggs, the vocalist for clipping, spits bars faster than bullets from an AK. Which is an apt comparison for all those who have seen the video clip. Not only is Blood of the Fang a technical marvel, but it’s also a hard-hitting, powerful single off clipping’s 2019 record There Existed an Addiction to Blood. Diggs ramps up his pace after each verse, but not only does he spit faster, he switches his flow in an almost percussive like manner. It’s like listening to the best jazz drummer solo, Diggs showcases a technical skill unmatched in today’s hip-hop. And not only that, the lyrics are witty and political, once you catch up. Clipping’s production is an excellent fusion of noise and rap but understated enough to let the vocals shine. It’s an excellent song.
3. NO HALO – BROCKHAMPTON
NO HALO is probably the best Brockhampton song. It’s not my favourite, no, but it is their best in terms of composition and consistency. No longer do Brockhampton songs feel like a bunch of different verses thrown together over a solid hook. And though that formula worked well for them in the past, the group have matured and grown since the early days of Saturation. NO HALO is the personification of this maturation. Matt Champion’s hook with Merlyn and vocalist Deb Neber is emotive but catchy, meanwhile Merlyn delivers his best verse in the band’s history. The gently finger picked guitar strings against the trap beat shows retrain from a band whose production is usually as energetic as that pink battery bunny on cocaine.
2. Hope – (Sandy) Alex G
I loved every single Alex G released this year. So, I’m cheating with my second place position and adding Gretel and Southern Sky to sit alongside Hope. But I’ll give Hope an extra nudge purely because I played it on my guitar more times than my neighbours would like to have heard. I love Alex G’s use of dissonance in his guitar tone. His twangy strings ring above the harmonious chords and add extra depth to what could easily be another indie-folk song. I love Hope’s rolling structure; the chords continually move, G’s vocal melody tumbles with the strums of his guitar. Meanwhile eerie synthetic keys lightly wail. It’s a beautiful piece of music.
1. EARFQUAKE – Tyler, The Creator
There’s no surprise here for those who read enough of Radio Friendly this year. EARFQUAKE is probably the best single off IGOR, but it’s hard to say. I’m still undecided, because I also love I THINK. But, have you listened to EARFQUAKE with a decent set of headphones? Yeah, I’ll stick with EARFQUAKE. Tyler’s production has gone from strength to strength, on EARFQUAKE he mixes in elements of G-Funk against jazzy vocal harmonies that elevate Tyler’s heavily manipulated chorus. I like to think of this song as a puzzle that’s been put together from other puzzle’s pieces. Tyler has grabbed pieces of music, different pieces of his own career, and fused it together like a mechanic from Mad Max. Solange’s angelic harmonies sit perfectly against Playboi Carti’s inaudible verse, and Tyler’s thickly layered refrain, ‘don’t leave, it’s my fault.’ And Tyler’s final verse when he strips back, showcasing his naked voice, void of the edits previously used in the song; it’s a soulful plea, a heart aching final moment. It’s my favourite song of 2019.
And there you have it. Fuck I hate list articles. Microsoft Word tells me this is 4569 words, so thanks to all those who read all of that. Or skipped to the end, I don’t really care.
Stay tuned for Top 50 Albums of 2019 when I get enough energy to do this all again.
PS. Here’s a link to a playlist I made with all these songs.