Our Favorite Songs of 2018 So Far

Our Favorite Songs of 2018 So Far

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The year isn’t over yet, but we’re already swimming in impressive new releases. Here, we’re charting our favorite songs of 2018 so far, ranging from party jams and breakout singles to pensive compositions and political statements. Scroll through our list below (ranked in no particular order) and keep checking through the year for new additions.

Photo: Getty / Design by Perri Tomkiewicz

“Black Effect” by The Carters

In their surprise joint albumEverything Is Love, Beyoncé and JAY-Z freely boast of their wealth and success, express their love for each other and their family, and celebrate their blackness. On “Black Effect” they consciously place themselves in the pantheon of African American trailblazers while challenging the everyday struggles and prejudices the black community continues to face.”F*ck a false arrest,” they declare at the end of the chorus.

“If You Know You Know” by Pusha T

Don’t let Pusha’s explosive beef with Drake overshadow his album DAYTONA. The seven-song project, the first of G.O.O.D. Music’s streak of summer releases, kicks off with this staggering opener. It’s an obvious hat tip to the rapper’s former life as a cocaine dealer, laced over a Kanye-fied sample of Air’s “Twelve O’Clock Satanial.” The title, which also appears in the chorus, is a wink to his day-one fans. It’s the kind of song you’ll hear blasting through car windows all summer—and likely the rest of the year.

“Geyser” by Mitski

On the first single off of her upcoming record, To Be a Cowboy, Mitski delivers an eerie, haunting tone in an ode to her craft. She previously explained to NPR that this song is “all feeling,” and it shows in her impassioned lyrics and climactic instrumentation. “I will be the one you need / I just can’t be without you,” she repeats through the song. The finished product is a chilling composition that will leave you with goosebumps.

“Chun-Li” by Nicki Minaj

The Queen came through on her long-awaited return with not one comeback single, but two. However, “Chun-Li” soon became the standout with its blistering verses and tight rhythms, in classic Nicki style. The rapper likens her her reign in the male-dominated rap game to the first female character in the Street Fighter franchise.

“Bubblin’” by Anderson .Paak

Despite his well-placed features in the past year or so, it’s been a while since we’ve heard an original from .Paak, following his masterpiece album Malibu. On “Bubblin’,” he ushers in his next era of music with his signature suave take on hip hop, paired with a more aggressive beat (courtesy of producers Jahlil Beats and AntMan Wonder). .Paak’s flow is spry and melodic as he gloats about swimming in money while continuing to save up.

“I Do” by Cardi B feat. SZA

It’s fitting that a track with this much swagger arrives on the first collaboration between two women whose careers have skyrocketed in the past year. As the closing track for her debut studio album, Invasion of Privacy, Cardi saves her most unfiltered, most biting lyrics for last. Lines like “P*ssy so good, I say my own name during sex” and “Leave his texts on read, leave his balls on blue” left us gasping for air and our wigs on the floor.

“This Is America” by Childish Gambino

Amidst becoming a new Star Wars star and creating (and starring in) a new season of Atlanta, Donald Glover also had time to grace us with new music. And he didn’t settle for lightweight earworms; he went for sharp social commentary on the state of race relations, gun violence, and black culture in the country. Paired with its powerful (albeit disturbing) visuals, “America” exposes people’s fixations with petty pop culture and social media trends while ignoring the chaos that surrounds them.

“Nice for What” by Drake

Rap beefs aside, Drake knows how to craft a pop hit. This time, hip-hop’s sad boy puts the spotlight on the ladies with a girls’ night out anthem chock-full of Instagram-worthy lyrics and fitting “Ex-Factor” and Big Freedia samples. Drizzy even got a co-sign from Miss Lauryn Hill herself.

“Lost in Paris” by Tom Misch feat. Goldlink

At first listen, “Lost in Paris” sounds like an ode to a missed connection in one of the most romantic cities in the world. But, as Misch clarified on Twitter, it was actually inspired by his hard drive of songs that he literally misplaced in the French capital. The Brit instrumentalist, singer, and producer’s ability to turn the mishap into an exciting jazz/R&B/hip-hop crossover proves his pure devotion to music. It really is a love song after all.

“High Horse” Kacey Musgraves

The country darling said she was “on a Bee Gees kick” while making her newest album, Golden Hour, and her single “High Horse” is the perfect proof. Musgraves mixes disco and pop influences on the track, where she tells off a jerk who’s in over his head. (Her sugary voice helps soften the blow.) With the rest of the record, the Texas native shows her versatility as an artist while staying country at heart.

“Life” by Saba

Though he’s been on the come-up in recent years following his breakthrough with Chance the Rapper, Saba still shows that his story is not without struggle. The Chicago rapper gets real, and at times dark, when discussing how the deaths of his cousin, uncle, and friend affected him—all while alternating between a serpentine flow and a hard-hitting rhythm.

“Bad Bad News” by Leon Bridges

In 2015, we got an amazing introduction to Bridges, who perfectly honed in on vintage influences on his debut record Coming Home. (It even got a new life with placement on Big Little Lies two years later.) But if you though the Fort Worth, TX native would struggle to follow up his nostalgic-inspired debut, think again. His sophomore release this spring, led in by this jazzy confection, proved the doubters wrong.

“Make Me Feel” by Janelle Monáe

In April, Monae released her first album in five years: Dirty Computer, a sexually liberating album where she celebrated her true self, and inspired others to do the same. With that in mind, “Make Me Feel” was a fitting lead single, since fans were quick to praise it as a bisexual anthem (the music video featured multiple love interests). The late Prince didn’t write the song, but he did advise Monae on the sound of her album before he passed away. When “Make Me Feel” first dropped, listeners couldn’t help but compare it to Prince’s “Kiss.” Perhaps that was the singer’s way of keeping his memory, and music, alive.

“Nameless, Faceless” by Courtney Barnett

The Aussie indie rocker hits back at her biting, misogynist trolls in the lead single off her sophomore album. In the verses, she brushes off taunts from her online—hence “faceless”—critics: “Don’t you have anything better to do? / I wish that someone could hug you.” But she widens the lens with a paraphrased Margaret Atwood quote in the chorus: “Men are scared that women will laugh at them … Women are scared that men will kill them.”

“After the Storm” by Kali Uchis feat. Tyler, the Creator and Bootsy Collins

Before releasing her debut album in April, breakout star Kali Uchis linked up with her longtime collaborator, Tyler, the Creator, for a hazy, retro-cool collab brimming with affirmations. “If you need a hero / Just look in the mirror,” she sings in the refrain.

“D’Evils” by SiR

Following other TDE standouts like SZA and Kendrick, the label’s newest member made and stunning debut in January, including previous singles “Something Foreign” and “Something New.” SiR (born Darryl Farris) started out writing songs for other artists like Jill Scott and Anita Baker, but he proves he can handle his own on his first studio record, especially on smooth, memorable tracks like this one.

All the Stars” by Kendrick Lamar and SZA

Leave it to Kendrick Lamar to curate and produce a movie soundtrack and have it go platinum. The project shed light on some rising African talent and brought forth unexpected collaborations, but the standout track came from TDE’s two biggest stars, who put their spin on the pop-synth sound with Lamar’s sharp lyrics and SZA’s ethereal touch.

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