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The 50 best pop songs of 2019: Lizzo, Billie Eilish, Lil Nas X, more

From superstars (Katy Perry, Miranda Lambert) to upstarts (Megan Thee Stallion, King Princess), here are our top pop tracks of the year.
Lizzo performs at the 93.3-FLZ Jingle Ball at Amalie Arena in Tampa on Dec. 1. [JAY CRIDLIN | Tampa Bay Times]

You couldn’t go anywhere in 2019 without hearing Lil Nas X’s Old Town Road. Some version of it, anyway. The song spawned a handful of hit remixes, all of which helped it become the longest-running No. 1 single of all time.

But did it reach No. 1 on our list of the best songs of 2019?

No spoilers, but it’s up there, right alongside singles by Lizzo, Billie Eilish, Miranda Lambert, Megan Thee Stallion, Post Malone, BTS, Vampire Weekend and many more.

Our usual caveats apply: Only songs released in 2019 were eligible (sorry, Lizzo’s Truth Hurts and Post Malone and Swae Lee’s Sunflower), and no more than one song per artist on the list (apologies, Billie Eilish and DaBaby). And still we had a hard time narrowing the whole thing to 50.

Scroll to the bottom for a Spotify playlist of all 50 songs. Otherwise, put your horses in the back, and let’s begin the countdown ...

50. Lana Del Rey, The Greatest: “The culture is lit, and if this is it, I had a ball.” Well, that’s one way to toast the end of the decade, and possibly the world, as we know it — and in Del Rey’s wistful, weary vision of California, it might be the best way.

49. FKA Twigs, Sad Day: FKA Twigs’ infatuation with choreography, particularly pole dancing, at times overshadows her ghostly music — but not this song, a soundscape in the vein of Kate Bush or Bjork that evolves from a trembling whisper to a noisy cataclysm and back again.

48. Dreamville, Wells Fargo: This posse cut off J. Cole’s summer Dreamville label mixtape pairs J.I.D., EarthGang, Buddy and Guapdad 4000 in one of the battiest, flexiest, most amphetamine-amped crime fantasies in a while.

47. Ex Hex, Another Dimension: The world was crying out for a modern indie-punk band to go full Heart/Benatar in 2019; it just didn’t know it yet. Thankfully Ex Hex read the room and delivered, riffs a-blazing.

46. Kelsey Waldon, Anyhow: This John Prine protege nailed the dusty prairie-highway ramble of alt-country forebears like Lucinda Williams and Steve Earle, pledging to stare down and plow through any roadblock that gets in her way.

45. Rosalia and J Balvin, Con Altura: Ascendant Spanish superstar Rosalia linked up with Colombian giant J Balvin for this whispery reggaeton flex about living con altura (“up high”) surrounded by flowers, diamonds and other extravagances.

J Balvin, right, and Rosalia perform during the Billboard Latin Music Awards on April 25 at the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas. [ERIC JAMISON | Invision/AP]

44. YBN Cordae and Anderson Paak, RNP: The title refers to “rich n---a problems," which in Cordae and Paak’s world include wearing Moncler coats on LeBron James’ boat, or feasting on blue cheese in South Beach. It’s a silly, bouncy ball of a time, suggesting Cordae Dunston will be a lot of fun to watch grow as a rapper in the years to come.

43. Catfish and the Bottlemen, Longshot: On their third album The Balance, the Welsh foursome followed in the footsteps of bands from Oasis to Muse to Arctic Monkeys in crafting one of the U.K.'s purest guitar-based rock songs in recent years. Britrock’s not dead, after all.

42. Denzel Curry featuring Kiddo Marv, Wish: ZUU, Denzel Curry’s second stellar album is as many years, proves the Carol City native is the best young rapper in Florida. This shimmering mix of vintage soul samples and Curry and Marv’s swaggering chemistry feels like ’90s hip-hop blasting from a drop-top on a sunny summer day.

41. Kim Petras, Clarity: “I know what I want, and I’mma go and get it,” the pop phenom sings on the title track of her debut album. Not since Lady Gaga has a rookie pop star seemed so hungry for superstardom, and sounded so confident that sooner than later, it’ll come.

40. Charly Bliss, Blown to Bits: Singer Eva Hendricks’ chirpy vocals counterbalance the propulsive New Wave synthesizers of this song about everything we know going boom. It’s ruthlessly efficient and powerful.

39. Kelsea Ballerini, Homecoming Queen?: Nobody’s perfect. That’s the message behind Ballerini’s aching acoustic ballad about the insecurities we all carry under our skin, however unblemished it might appear on the outside.

38. Brittany Howard, History Repeats: “Wouldn’t it be amazing if Prince and David Bowie got together in 1979 and just jammed?" sounds like a fun conversation-starter at a bar. But that’s exactly what the opening track to the Alabama Shakes frontwoman’s debut solo album Jaime sounds like.

Brittany Howard of Alabama Shakes will perform at Jannus Live in St. Petersburg on April 21. [High Road Touring]

37. Stella Donnelly, Old Man: The #MeToo era has produced some visceral feminist singles, and this Welsh-Australian singer-songwriter made a great one. The juxtaposition of Donnelly’s yacht-rock breeziness and her threats to an unnamed abuser (“You grabbed me with an open hand, the world is grabbing back at you”) is wry and wonderful.

36. Great Grandpa, Bloom: “I get anxious on the weekends, when I feel I’m wasting time / But then I think about Tom Petty, and how he wrote his best songs when he was 39.” It’s a perfect sentiment about doing your own thing on your own time — and that’s before the song takes a left turn midway through, taking a minute to luxuriate in the lovely orchestration that runs throughout their album Four of Arrows.

35. Ariana Grande, Break Up With Your Boyfriend, I’m Bored: The seductive yet mildly creepy production fit the covetous obsession Grande sings about, but that only makes the song work more. You can hit it in the morning, in the evening — anytime you want, really.

34. Hiss Golden Messenger, I Need a Teacher: The gently rollicking guitar riff and shuffling rhythm that powers almost the whole song belies its thoughtful message of perseverance, of finding the “beauty in a broken American moment,” exemplified in part by striking educators in the band’s home state of North Carolina.

33. BTS featuring Halsey, Boy With Luv: Resist the K-pop machine at your own risk. It’s certainly difficult when it produces bilingual singles like this one, which glistens with a Chic-like sheen.

Halsey, fourth from left, and BTS perform during the Billboard Music Awards on May 1 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas. [CHRIS PIZZELLO | Invision/AP]

32. Solange, Binz: A sultry, funky blend of jazz and R&B, Binz showcases Solange (and guest vocalist The-Dream) crooning sweet nothings in sweet harmony. It’s the sexiest fun you can have in under two minutes.

31. Weezer, The End of the Game: Africa was kind of a joke, but you know what? Good on Weezer for not resting on their ironic laurels. They followed their ironic Toto tribute with a decent covers album (“Teal”), a decent real album (“Black”) and this stadium-rocking, finger-tapping Van Halen homage, the lead single from next year’s appropriately titled Van Weezer.

30. For King and Country featuring Dolly Parton, God Only Knows: For King and Country is one of the world’s biggest worship acts, but it took this Dolly Parton-assisted remix to turn their smash single into a true Christian-country crossover. Parton’s aching, trembling guest vocal is what keeps this thing rooted to terra firma.

29. Rod Wave, Close Enough to Hurt: Is the next Khalid lurking in our own backyard? St. Petersburg singer-rapper Rod Wave, 20, has earned attention from Rolling Stone, NPR and Pitchfork for the raw emotion of his voice and lyrics, laid bare on this soulful, blues-tinged track about the damage that makes him so guarded.

28. The Highwomen, If She Ever Leaves Me: Highwoman Amanda Shires and her husband Jason Isbell co-wrote this song for Shires’ supergroupmate Brandi Carlile, in the process crafting one of the year’s most classic-sounding country love songs. That the lovers in question are both women just makes it that much better.

Amanda Shires, left, Maren Morris, Brandi Carlile and Natalie Hemby of the Highwomen perform on April 1 at Loretta Lynn's 87th Birthday Tribute in Nashville. [AL WAGNER | Invision/AP]

27. Post Malone featuring Ozzy Osbourne and Travis Scott, Take What You Want: Post Malone’s Hollywood’s Bleeding is loaded with singable singles, but only one of them features Ozzy Osbourne, in a cameo that could have felt like a gimmicky bomb, but somehow feels totally natural. So it wins.

26. Inna, Tu Manera: Look, don’t question the logic of a Romanian pop singer dropping the Latin disco banger of the summer on her excellent album Yo. Just embrace the rubbery bass and sexy glisten of this infectious single.

25. Bruce Hornsby featuring Justin Vernon, Cast-Off: Are you the type of person who wishes Vernon would keep making albums like Bon Iver? Then you should dig this track by Hornsby, one of that album’s primary inspirations. He and Vernon paired up on this delicate track that utilizes both artists’ gifts for moving melodies.

24. Khalid featuring Disclosure, Talk: It’s a sign of the times we live in that one of the year’s best slow jams is all about not knocking boots. But Khalid’s desire to “figure out where we’re going” before “moving too far” is a decidedly nontoxic approach to getting (consensually) busy. And that’s pretty sexy, too.

23. Tyler Childers, House Fire: Childers has a tour lined up next spring with Sturgill Simpson, and songs like House Fire are the reason why. It’s a runaway chuck wagon of a number, building its banjo and fiddle riffs into an emphatic, boot-stomping climax.

22. Freddie Gibbs and Madlib, Flat Tummy Tea: Over a chopped-up psych-rock beat, Gibbs unleashes on race, rivalries and his own incarceration on a sexual assault charge. (He was eventually acquitted.) The Gary, Ind., native always has something to say, and there are few better at spitting it out in confident fashion.

21. Chai, Fashionista: As the world lost its mind over K-pop groups like BTS and Blackpink, this Japanese funk-rock outfit turned out one of the year’s weirder party-punk jams, a blitzkrieg of Blondie and the Go! Team that is, dare we say, quite fashionable.

Chai will open for Whitney at the Orpheum in Tampa on Feb. 6. [Courtesy of Julien Kelly Gross]

20. Middle Kids, Real Thing: Rock is in hibernation, but this year saw a mini-boom among indie rock bands who can still write killer melodies. Australians Middle Kids proved this with their swooning, churning single about lying awake at night and wondering if this is all there really is.

19. Tyler, the Creator, Earfquake: Odd Future pot-stirrer Tyler, the Creator may not be the first person you’d picture writing a heartbreaking love song. But when Charlie Wilson’s voice pumps through the chorus, you start to wonder if Tyler’s really been a tortured soulman all along.

18. Jamila Woods, Zora: One of the great Florida writers, Zora Neale Hurston, inspired this smoky alt-soul tribute from poet and singer Woods about the multiplicities within us all. You will never know everything, everything, and you don’t know me, couldn’t possibly ...

17. Gary Clark Jr., This Town: Clark sounds like he wanted to write a song that solves everything, blending grunge, blues, reggae and hip-hop into a furious screed about the imbalance of power and racial inequity in America.

16. Carly Rae Jepsen, Happy Not Knowing: One of these days, Broadway will get around to producing the Carly Rae Jepsen jukebox musical we all deserve, and when it does, this track from Dedicated will fit right in alongside all the other effervescent, underappreciated gems she’s written this decade.

15. Midland, Mr. Lonely: Midland often pulls from ’80s influences, but this just-a-gigolo lament of a swingin’ bachelor on speed dial among all the “deubutantes and socialites and mamas from the PTA” is a pure ’90s-country hoot, borrowing DNA from Dwight Yoakam, Garth Brooks and Joe Diffie.

14. King Princess, Cheap Queen: With a performance on Saturday Night Live and a tour lined up next year with Harry Styles, King Princess is already looking ahead to bigger things. The restrained Cheap Queen proves the singer has the chops to become one of pop’s next big icons.

King Princess performs "1950" on "Saturday Night Live" on Nov. 23. [WILL HEATH | NBC]

13. Sharon Van Etten, Seventeen: Springsteen’s DNA is all over this wistful lament about all the years that pass, and the downtowns that change along with them. Van Etten called it a “love letter to NYC,” but it’s the sort of song that’ll register with anyone feeling just a little older than they used to.

12. Chance the Rapper and Knox Fortune, Let’s Go on the Run: At 26, Chance the Rapper is already such a dad, such an unabashed Wife Guy, that he built a song around the corn-tastic line, “I’ve got plans to hug and kiss you.” But this song is bursting with so much joy and melody you can’t help but give him a pass.

11. Sara Bareilles, Poetry by Dead Men: Bareilles paints a lovely portrait of a couple in love — almost, maybe, potentially — over a delicate bed of pianos, strings and snares. And it makes you really want a cinnamon stick for your coffee.

10. Georgia, About Work the Dancefloor: The 2010s brought about an electronic dance revolution in America, but it already feels over. That’s not to say there isn’t great dance music out there, though. London singer Georgia Barnes proved this with About Work the Dancefloor, a pulsing synth-pop jam with nightmarish, post-apocalyptic undertones lurking just beneath its sugary surface.

9. Maggie Rogers, Retrograde: Several of the best songs on Rogers’ brilliant Heard It in a Past Life were released before 2019, but not this sublime, finely calibrated cut co-written and produced by pop svengali Greg Kurstin. It’s a propulsive crescendo that never feels over the top, which is a rare thing in mainstream music nowadays.

8. Miranda Lambert, Bluebird: Lambert’s career-best Wildcard is loaded with wonderful singles, but it’s tough to love any of them harder than Bluebird, a penetrating yet optimistic song about moving on and getting on with your life. May we all keep a bluebird in our hearts, and may each one sing a song as hopeful as this.

7. Billie Eilish, Everything I Wanted: Billie Eilish’s blockbuster debut album When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go? sounds like the soundtrack to a haunted day care. This followup single, ostensibly our first taste of what’s next, is much more poignant, as she wrestles with her sudden notoriety and thanks her older brother and producer Finneas for sticking by her side through the chaos of her sudden rise to fame.

Billie Eilish performs during the first weekend of the Austin City Limits Music Festival at Zilker Park in Austin, Texas, on Oct. 5. [Invision/AP]

6. Caroline Polachek, So Hot You’re Hurting My Feelings: Polachek’s ethereal warble recalls Annie Lennox and Sarah McLachlan, and so does Pang, her first proper solo album following the dissolution of her excellent indie band Chairlift. So Hot You’re Hurting My Feelings is yet another effervescent pop gem that’s bound to be overlooked by the masses, but it shouldn’t be.

5. Vampire Weekend, Harmony Hall: After six years, the indie rockers returned with this looping, five-minute vibe jam, which features sonic cap-tips to Madchester-style Britpop and the Rolling Stones’ Sympathy for the Devil. Everyone can pick their own personal fave from Vampire Weekend’s sprawling Father of the Bride (mine is Stranger), but it’s hard not to embrace this one.

4. Megan Thee Stallion and DaBaby, Cash S---: It may have been a Hot Girl Summer, but the jam that kicked it off was Cash S---, the profoundly swaggering (and extremely NSFW!) duet between two of the year’s hottest new rappers. You could definitely get a van rockin’ to this one.

3. Katy Perry, Never Really Over: All is forgiven from the Witness era. Nearly a decade after her brilliant Teenage Dream, Perry needed a big, fat hit to close out the 2010s, and this euphoric Zedd ditty qualifies. Her breathless, upper-register chorus delivery is something special; just try to mimic it in the shower.

2. Lil Nas X featuring Billy Ray Cyrus, Old Town Road: It’s a country-rap song by a gay African American that took off on TikTok and is beloved by grade-schoolers. It brought Billy Ray Cyrus back to No. 1, won Trent Reznor a CMA Award and set Billboard chart records that may stand for years. God bless you, Lil Nas X, for writing the perfect anthem for the era we live in.

Lil Nas X performs "Old Town Road" at the BET Awards in Los Angeles on June 23. [Invision/AP]

1. Lizzo, Juice: We just administered a DNA test to Truth Hurts, and it turns out Lizzo’s first No. 1 single actually came out way back in 2017. Juice, on the other hand, dropped in January, and has been jiggling booties ever since. Lizzo’s scene-stealing 2019 wouldn’t have been possible without this whole damn meal of a song, a glitzy disco-rap hybrid dripping with swagger and sauce. Sometimes the best singles are the ones you can hear being hits in any decade. You’d have to go back more than 40 years to imagine a time when Juice wouldn’t have filled a dance floor. Just like Lizzo promised, like chardonnay, it’ll get even better over time.

Lizzo performs during the KIIS-FM Jingle Ball concert at the Forum on Dec. 6 in Inglewood, Calif. [Invision/AP]

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