It shouldn’t really be a surprise that Shallow became Lady Gaga’s first UK number 1 single since 2010. What was a surprise was that much of what made up the Star Is Born soundtrack might as well have been from Gaga’s much maligned Joanne album, which didn’t see anywhere near the same success. Gaga and Mark Ronson found their way around a country leaning pop record on that album, so apart from the unlikely success of Bradley Cooper as a singer, Shallow‘s place on this list was more than certain. Plus it provided us with one of the best ‘Ahhhhhaahhhhhh’ moments of Gaga’s career.
39) Hands on You – Ashley Monroe
Probably the most obscure entry on this list, I imagine not a single person reading this will have heard this gem of a single from Pistol Annies star Ashley Monroe. Hands on You sounds like it’s being sung from a run down saloon in the old west, every verse teasing you a little more than the last as Monroe elongates every possible note just enough for you to want a tiny bit more. There’s layers of drama behind every word.
38) FRIENDS – Mashmallow & Anne Marie
Yes Anne Marie sounds like she’s spelling F R I E N D S incorrectly on the chorus. Perhaps if someone could go back to the recording session and get her to just emphasise the E a little bit more this wouldn’t be all people talk about when they listen to this song. For me, FRIENDS is the best example of Anne-Marie’s cutting edge as a performer, where she turns a relatively predictable dance leaning record into a punchy kiss off and the best anti ‘f’-boy anthem of the year.
The best single from Taylor Swift’s worst album works for all of the ways it goes against the grain of the rest of Reputation. It’s a subtle pop record, it’s delicate in fact, unlike the harsh noise and anger behind some of the worst songs on the album. Swift actually sounds great on Delicate too, with a whispered performance easing you through each chorus.
36) Say Something (Featuring Chris Stapleton) – Justin Timberlake
If you want to talk about great songs from terrible albums though, look no further than Say Something. Thank god something good came out of the Man of the Woods campaign, where Say Something stands head and shoulders above every single other song on Justin Timberlake’s worst album since his N Sync days. Capturing the magic of that first performance from Timberlake and Stapleton at the CMAs a few years ago, Chris manages to bring out the soul in Justin’s voice yet again. Neither performer sounded better in 2018, while the way the production blends the organic instrumentation with RnB sounds to create one of the year’s most welcome collaborations.
It’s appropriate that just about every song from Kacey Musgraves’ terrific 3rd album Golden Hour was a slow burn and no song grew on me more than Space Cowboy. So much more than a thinly veiled metaphor, the emotion heard on every word from Musgraves is thrilling here. There’s an atmospheric quality to the way the song is produced too, Space Cowboy manages to be such an expansive singular song and yet deeply personal. One of Kacey’s all time best ballads.
Ariana Grane released enough brilliant pop songs this year that she could have appeared here about 4 or 5 times, but in the end breathin stands as one of the best of the bunch. For me, Ariana is at her best when a song is allowed to grow before exploding into something truly spectacular. Each chorus of breathin ends bigger than the last and by the end Ariana is having to really push through the huge pop production that surrounds her. Singing from a real place makes breathin one of the highlights of her now long career.
Starring in the Fifty Shades series for 4 whole films and finally given her chance to sing the theme tune, Rita Ora delivered with For You. Rita Ora has moved so far past having ‘surprisingly good’ songs, her hit record is pretty high right now (though let’s just ignore Girls shall we) and For You is yet another brilliant pop song. Liam Payne is definitely still in the ‘surprisingly good’ category, but even he sounds great on one of his all time best performances. For You is a love duet that manages to sound exciting and exhilarating without edging into sickening. Fifty Shades bows out with one of the most ‘surprisingly good’ movie series soundtracks in history.
I want to include Ciara on an end of year list every single year until the end of time. Dose is HUGE.
It took me a while to truly appreciate Boo’d Up the year’s most unexpected international hit for a UK act. At first I just thought it was a relatively simple throwback RnB record and the funny thing is this opinion hasn’t changed all that much. Boo’d Up is a joy because it’s so effortlessly simple. It recalls an era in music where songs weren’t genre spanning masterworks that speak on socio-political topics to become a pop culture moment. Ella Mai brings a youthful magic to her performance and while Boo’d Up is just a fun love song, it’s one that I couldn’t get it out of my head for months.
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