We’re halfway through 2019, so it’s time to look back at some of the best singles to be released so far this year! We’ve got pop bangers, emotional slow jams and hip-hop masterstrokes for you.
20: Anderson .Paak – King James
As you could probably guess, this song courtesy of neo-soul and jazz-funk singer Anderson .Paak is a nod to LeBron James. King James has obscenely slick production; using horn sections, 808s, snappy drums and even whistles to piece together a toe-tapping beat for the ages. Anderson’s performance is typically suave and confident as he sings and raps about the uplifting powers a positive thinker like LBJ has on black communities.
19: Tame Impala – Borderline
Tame Impala returned this year with huge anticipation and their second single of 2019, Borderline, fit like a glove into the group’s kaleidoscopic synth-rock discography. It details the limbo of a failing relationship and the feeling of being on the Borderline of turmoil, but it’s the joyous keys and production on this thing that really make it stand tall.
18: Octavian feat. Skepta & Michael Phantom – Bet
A banger in every sense of the term, Octavian’s Bet contains possibly one of the catchiest hooks we’ve heard from a UK rapper in years. It oozes charisma with ice cold deliveries from all parties involved, has a minimalist trap-style beat and is perhaps best demonstrated by the actions of the artists in the music video; with vacant expressions and head swaying. This absolutely slaps.
17: KAYTRANADA feat. VanJess – DYSFUNCTIONAL
Groovy throwback production with modernised wobbles is basically second nature to KAYTRANADA these days, so it’s no surprise to see him drop a song as fire as DYSFUNCTIONAL this year. Using chopped up vocal harmonies and distorted drums, he serves up the ideal foundation for guest singer VanJess to drop a silky smooth feature about a relationship which is on the verge of ending. It’s a summer anthem to die for and I really hope it’s the start of a sophomore album for KAYTRANADA.
16: Foals – Sunday
A touching, near six minute song about the end of the world from Oxford’s own Foals, Sunday has a stunning build towards crashing crescendos and an almost disco-fusion beat change. It feels like Foals at their absolute creative peaks, utilising the tools of uplifting instrumental melodies which, in the words of Yannis, feels “like a sunset at Glastonbury or it feels like an ice cream sunrise”.
15: The Chemical Brothers – Got To Keep On
They’ve done it again. Nearly 25 years after their introduction to the wider music scene, The Chemical Brothers have dropped another banger. Got To Keep On is a proper Block Rockin’ Beat if you will, with trendy disco chimes and layered drum patterns to keep you involved and dancing throughout the full five minutes of the song’s duration. Witnessing utter legends of the scene still manage to keep things fresh and interesting at this stage is wonderful to see, and long may it continue.
14: Dave – Black
Using subtle pianos and a tinny drum beat, Dave’s lead single from his debut album is a celebration of black excellence. The lyrical content is bordering on prophet level, it becomes hard to believe that Dave is just 21 years old as he raps about racial profiling, police brutality and discrimination with such energy and passion. It’s the ultimate statement anthem from a young man we should be immensely proud of.
13: Billie Eilish – bad guy
In recent weeks it has been more recognisable as the source of an Internet meme, but make no mistake about it; bad guy is Billie Eilish’s best song yet. It has the haunting whispered vocals we know her for but is also very tightly produced, using spooky riffs and synths to coincide with the bouncy delivery. Also, that last minute is pure heat.
12: James Blake feat. Travis Scott & Metro Boomin – Mile High
A combination that, on the surface of things, had people frothing at the mouth, James Blake & Travis Scott combined to create a dreamy soundscape of love and desire on Mile High. Metro Boomin’s lo-fi understated production with glitzy panpipes works wonders alongside the two vocalists in question, who obviously kill it with soothing tones and wondrous harmonies.
11: Bon Iver – Hey, Ma
A song the majority of us can get on board with, Bon Iver’s comeback single Hey, Ma looks at the relationship between a child and his mother. It is a glowing reference to the lo-fi brilliance of Justin Vernon and the poetic lyricism is just another string to the awe-inspiring bow of an artist we need to treasure. So listen to this song and give your mum a hug; she’s more often than not your biggest fan and greatest inspiration.
10: Denzel Curry – RICKY
A freestyle masterclass from one of the best doing it right now, Denzel Curry. RICKY is the lead single from his latest project ZUU and serves the exact purpose of making you want to turn the fuck up. The beat is loud and abrasive, while Curry’s verses are aggressive and his hook is outrageously memorable. It’s crazy to think he did this off the dome.
9: Mark Ronson feat. Lykke Li – Late Night Feelings
The title track to Mark Ronson’s newest album epitomised that heartbreak club night aesthetic he was shooting for, adopting the help of Lykke Li for an impossibly cool pop song. The synth and bass lines are so groovy while Lykke Li delivers an impeccable vocal feature, riding the song’s wave effortlessly.
8: Skepta feat. Nafe Smallz – Greaze Mode
Skepta is a UK grime legend and with good reason; the fact he can make songs this good at this stage of his career is proof of his talents. Working with a red hot hook courtesy of Nafe Smallz, Skepta serves memorable bars and nasty flows over a glazed futuristic beat. Mix all of this together and you have yourself Greaze Mode; one of the biggest British hits of the year so far.
7: Freddie Gibbs & Madlib – Crime Pays
The whispers we all knew for a while all became very real at the end of May, Freddie Gibbs & Madlib were making another album together. Crime Pays is a stunning trademark combination from these two, showing Gibbs’ seamless flows and cocaine bars over Madlib’s characteristic sample-heavy beat. It’s just an utterly mesmeric hip-hop track.
6: Loyle Carner feat. Jorja Smith – Loose Ends
There’s a case to be made that Jorja Smith is the best singer the UK has to offer right now, her voice is so captivating it transcends everything she works on at this stage. Naturally, she matches the subtle style of Loyle Carner beautifully on Loose Ends, a candid ballad about adolescence and the difficulty of it. Jorja’s chorus is stunning and Loyle’s verses are raw and emotive, making perhaps the best song of his career.
5: slowthai – Gorgeous
The best word I can use to describe the instrumentals on this song is to simply take a look at the song title; they are truly Gorgeous. slowthai absolutely crushes this beat with an honest and reflective performance about growing up in a working class environment. The song itself has colossal bar deliveries about Yu-Gi-Oh! cards and getting “snookered at cue club” as well as a quirky skit at the end.
4: Jai Paul – Do You Love Her Now
Seven long years. That’s how long it has been since we last heard an official single release from London-based singer-songwriter/producer Jai Paul; and it is a fitting return for one of modern music’s most polarising and intriguing figures. He is slowly recovering from the trauma of having his files leaked and thus stripping his dreams of a debut album; and Do You Love Her Now is a sleek, seductive and angelic ballad worthy of an artist so widely idolised and respected.
3: FKA Twigs – Cellophane
London’s finest abstract singer-songwriter FKA Twigs returned in 2019 with Cellophane, her first single in three years, and it is a hauntingly beautiful outlook on love and loss. The stripped-back piano instrumental allows for Twigs to flex her vocal muscles in the most stunning way; providing perhaps her best singing performance ever.
2: Tyler, The Creator – EARFQUAKE
Although not released before the album in typical single fashion, EARFQUAKE had a released music video and has gone onto generate mass appeal across the globe; becoming Tyler, The Creator’s fastest growing single to date. The shimmering synths in the beat are a slick 80s throwback with modern trap beats, Tyler’s vocals are obscure but incredibly catchy, and there’s even a typically bafflingly good Playboi Carti verse.
1: Injury Reserve feat. Amine – Jailbreak The Tesla
Picture how this song sounds based on the title and you’ll probably have a good idea as to how mental it is. Revving synths, clanging keys and skrrt’ing tyre squeals make up the beat, while the verses are fresh and hilarious; especially Amine’s who raps about Elon Musk taking shrooms and how quiet his engine revs. It is a truly phenomenal experimental rap track that placed Injury Reserve into the upper echelons of the genre almost instantly.