That we can listen instantly to music from everywhere remains the best thing about the internet. There was so much good music from all around the world this year that it was a monster task to try and come up with 11 cuts that felt representative of the state of music in 2018. The list includes music from a baile funk dude with crazy hair to a South Korean pop group to a transgender pop star—it shows that music is truly an open space, and that’s what’s good about a year when so much went wrong.
1. Lil Peep – “Awful Things”
The fourth wave of emo came with trap beats, and its leader was a skinny Angeleno-by-way-of-Long-Island face-tatted kid with a penchant for snotty lyrics and triumphant choruses. Lil Peep flamed out at 21, dying of an accidental fentanyl overdose, but his short career left a deep dent. “Awful Things” was the single from Peep’s only album, Come Over When You’re Sober, Pt. 1, and it’s perfect, from its angsty relationship drama to its nasally emo howl.
2. MC Bin Laden & MC Kekel – “Agrada o Papai”
Over the past few years, MC Bin Laden has established himself as one of the wildest Brazilian funk MCs out there. His 2014 banger “BOLOLO HAHA” is one of the greatest party starters of all time. The big-bellied Brazilian funkeiro with bleached streaks in his hair delivers crazy, minimal slappers, and “Agrada o Papai” is another notch in the belt. This track with MC Kekel, which translates to “Enjoy Daddy,” is simultaneously goofy, laissez-faire, funky, and infectious, like a footwork track from a tropical island. It is a necessary funk carioca cut.
3. Blackpink – “As If It’s Your Last”
Ya mans likes a little bit of Korean pop, okay? There’s just something about Blackpink’s hooks that are as contagious as tuberculosis and twice as deadly. It’s unbelievable that the foursome has only released five tracks—and “As If It’s Your Last” was the only one in 2017. The production on “As If It’s Your Last” is a potent mixture of Moombahton and house-y pop that simply will not let go as it goes through drastic key changes and heart-stopping genre-flips. It’s one of those songs that can feel like it’s 10 minutes long, but somehow it’s always too short.
4. Kendrick Lamar ft. Zacari – “LOVE.”
On the West Coast, we know what earthquakes feel like, and the first time hearing “LOVE.” was definitely an earthquake moment. “LOVE.” is many things, but mostly it’s an ode to vulnerability, and needing affirmation from those closest to us. It’s also K-Dot’s prettiest poem since “Poetic Justice.” There are few songs in history that will put you in your feels quite like “LOVE.”
5. Shenseea & Tommy Lee Sparta – “Bridget’s & Desert (Pon Foot)”
Everything Shenseea dropped in 2017 was a bop, including collabs with Vybz Kartel and Sean Paul. This track with Vybz acolyte Tommy Lee Sparta is an ode to Bridget’s sandals and Clarks Desert Boots—the most popular shoe styles in Jamaica. It’s definitely the best track about shoes in 2017, and one of the best overall.
6. CupcakKe “Quick Thought”
Chicago’s CupcakKe has had a phenomenal year—she popped up on Charli XCX’s album Number 1 Angel, and she dropped an uplifting track about being a big woman (“Biggie Smalls”). But her “Quick Thought,” which dropped in May, really announces her as a rapper that’s always had bars.
7. Lil Uzi Vert “XO Tour Llif3”
“Push me to the edge / All my friends are dead” is 1000% 2017’s most iconic line. This makes it on the list just for that.
8. Jlin “Carbon 7 (161)”
Jlin’s Black Origami album took the world by storm—a rhythmic album full of complex and abstract juke-work. “Carbon 7 (161)” is a crispy, fluttering spasmodic cluster of futuristic perfection. Everything works so well, pinging around your ears like an AI butterfly.
9. Davido “If”
This slick Nigerian smooth-out jam is perfect. The slow-tempo beat, the Lil’ Jon sample, the romantic lyrics—it’s unbelievably catchy.
10. Kim Petras “Faded”
Kim Petras is about to burst out in to the world, and this track produced by lil aaron is the perfect Friday night pre-game anthem. The vocal cut-ups and simple lyrics are perfect ear candy for 2017.
11. Natti Natasha x Ozuna “Criminal”
2017 was (like 2016) the year of reggaeton. It’s the truly international genre, played in nearly every country in the world. Natti Natasha x Ozuna’s “Criminal” is the best—like the best reggaeton, it chugs along at a sensual pace. Ozuna and Natti Natasha trade singsong lyrics about dangerous love, and I’m here for every moment.
Honorable mentions: Luis Fonsi & Demi Lovato “Échame La Culpa”; SZA “Drew Barrymore”; Tyler, the Creator “I Ain’t Got No Time”; Rae Sremmurd “Swang”; Mount Eerie “Real Death”; Yaeji “Raingurl”; Syd “All About Me”; Vybz Kartel “Mhm Hm”; WizKid ft. Drake “Come Closer”; D. Tiffany ft. regularfantasy “HOW RU PLUSH”; Mabel “Bedroom”; Bad Bunny “Tu No Metes Cabra”; J Hus “Did You See”; Saweetie “Icy Grl”; Stormzy “Big For Your Boots”; Cardi B “Bodak Yellow”; Becky G x Bad Bunny “Mayores”; “Despacito,” duh.