An unsigned artist. A beat bought for $30. And a history-making run of 19 consecutive weeks atop the Billboard Hot 100 chart. In 2019, there was no bigger music story than that of Lil Nas X and his not-so-little breakthrough single. From the official remix with Billy Ray to the many that followed featuring the likes of Diplo, Young Thug, RM of BTS and Mason Ramsey (yes, the Walmart yodeler), "Old Town Road" was inescapable for much of the year—and for good reason. It's clever AF. Its length practically begs you to stream it again immediately after it ends. And that beat? Worth much, much more than it was purchased for.
What 17-year-old Billie Eilish and her older brother and sole collaborator Finneas O'Connell pulled off in just over three minutes with this song can't be overestimated. From the enigmatic singer's hushed delivery of her wry and taunting lyrics to the minimalist pop-trap production that you can't help but snap along to, it's no wonder this was the song that finally unseated "Old Town Road" at No. 1. And when the song transitions to that skittering, menacing outro? Perfection. Expect it to clean up big at the Grammys, where it helped make Billie the youngest person to ever receive each of the Big Four nominations in the same year (Record and Song of the Year for this track, plus Album of the Year and Best New Artist).
Few people had a year as huge as Lizzo, made evident by the fact that a song released way back in 2017 that went largely unnoticed at the time became, thanks to a viral moments both on TikTok and in the Netflix film Someone Great, the singer's first No. 1 hit in her career. Between the meme-worthy lyrics, including the A+ "I just took a DNA test. Turns out I'm a 100 percent that bitch," to that beat layered over the plunky piano loop, it's hard to fault the world for obsessing over the song, however late they came to it. It's that good. Here's hoping, though, that everyone discovering Lizzo by way of this older track this year also made time for her equally excellent and Grammy-nominated new album Cuz I Love You rather than waiting for 2021 or something.
There's a reason this song from real-life lovers Shawn and Camila became the second-fastest song to ever hit a billion streams on Spotify. And that's because the steamy Latin pop track, built entirely around a Flamenco-inspired guitar melody, is one of the sexiest pieces of music released this year. As the two trade verses before coming together in perfect harmony in the chorus, you can practically feel the beads of sweat dripping down the small of your back as you experience what can best be described as a tropical vacation in song form.
Only Ari and her frequent collaborators Victoria Monet and Tayla Parx, among others, could bridge the worlds of The Sound of Music and The Notorious B.I.G. (the former's "My Favorite Things" and the latter's "Gimme the Loot" are both interpolated here) into something that not only works, but finds the songstress at her freshest. Between the feminist lyrics celebrating both her successes and her female friendships and her surprisingly adept rapping, it was no surprise that the track gave Ari her second No. 1 debut and a nod for Record of the Year.
We stan a pop bop that finds one of the biggest artists of the decade throwing their weight behind a marginalized community (the LGBTQ+ community, in this instance) and advocating for real change (see the push to her Change.org petition for the U.S. Senate to pass the Equality Act at the end of the iconic music video). And fans did too. Debuting at No. 2, the song helped Tay tie Madonna as the artist with the most No. 2 hits on the Hot 100.
When this excellent and incredibly danceable power pop track debuted in March atop the Billboard Hot 100, it kicked off an incredible comeback year for the Jonas Brothers. (It also gave them their first No. 1 single ever, if you can believe it.) All these months later, we still find ourselves whistling that earworm of a melody. And that very campy video co-starring each of the brothers' wives? What a moment.
Peaking at No. 2 on the Hot 100, this dancehall-influenced track off Ed's album No. 6 Collaborations Project felt inescapable once it dropped in May. And it's not just because people were hungry for new material from both of the men singing on the track. Pop music powerhouses Max Martin, Shellback and Fred Gibson produced the hell out of the song, delivering just the sort of thing you want to listen to all summer long.
This track, off Posty's third album Hollywood's Bleeding, found the singer entering what felt like new territory, what with its infectiously funky melody, summery acoustic guitar and hand claps, and it worked out for him. The song became his fourth No. 1 and his first as the only credited artist.
For her highly anticipated return to music after a few rather challenging years, Selena got more personal than she ever has on this stunning and evocative ballad about self-love that made several clear references to her former on-off relationship with the now-married Justin Bieber. As the lead single off her forthcoming album Rare, the track gave Sel her first No. 1 song of her career.
The Spanish singer earned her breakthrough moment this year with this track, a reggaeton collab with one of the biggest in the game meant to wake up all those who somehow slept on her remarkable second album El Mal Querer. The perfect marriage of Rosalía's Spanish flamenco sound with J Balvin's more island-influenced feel, the track still feels as massive as it did when it was released in March. And the eye-popping video? There's a reason it's been viewed over a billion times on YouTube. It's incredible.
For the lead single off her highly-anticipated forthcoming second studio album, Future Nostalgia, Dua made the very wise choice to link up with the team behind her mega-successful "New Rules." The result of those efforts? This wickedly groovy nu-disco kiss-off track that we haven't been able to get our of our heads since it dropped in November.
For the lead single off their sixth EP, Map of the Soul: Persona, the biggest boy band in the world teamed up with Halsey with this dreamy little piece of pop that debuted at No. 8 on the Hot 100, the highest in history for a K-pop group. In just four minutes, BTS delivered a track that highlighted everything that's made them the superstars they are: smooth vocals contrasted with slick rapping, earworm melodies, and beats that practically demand you dance along even if you have no clue what they're singing about.
Maren kicked off her second album era with the release this fiercely feminist anthem all the way back in January and we still are not sick of it. Between her promising her sisters she doesn't want their crowns because there's more than enough to go around and superstar producer Greg Kurstin's funky country-rock-pop production, "GIRL" only reinforced the idea that the "My Church" singer defied categorization and had so much to say.
When Harry dropped this track, his first new release in two years, back in October, it announced the return of an artist who knew exactly who he was. With an equally groovy and ethereal mix of '70s California rock and indie alt-pop, the former One Direction star gave us the ultimate coming out song, kicking off months of speculation over just what he was trying to tell us with lyrics like "Shine, step into the light/Shine, so bright sometimes/Shine, I'm not every going back." Accompanied by a sumptuously shot music video, it was a stunning moment that foretold an equally stunning new body of work, the just-released Fine Line.
This track, released off Charli's long-awaited self-titled third studio album, is hands down the most exuberant release of 2019. Building on the promise of "Track 10" from her 2017 mixtape Pop 2, Charli delivered a loved-up trop-house celebration that practically demands you get on your feet within seconds of hearing those introductory hand claps. By the time the chorus hits, it's pure dance nirvana. And then the audacity to tap Lizzo for one of her fiercest verses in a year crowded with them? We have no choice but to stan.
Released in July, this glittering slice of pop may have been described by Sam as a "ballad about trying to move on," but by the time the beat drops after the first chorus, you'll realize it's also one of the year's best dance tracks. This feels, to us, like Sam at their most fully realized; a slick and expertly-produced delight that's hopefully less an outlier and more a thrilling promise of what's to come.
When Normani tapped heavy-hitters like Max Martin, Savan Kotecha, Ilya Salmandadeh and Ariana freaking Grande for this track, it was clear she was hoping for a moment, the sort of thingthat would set her solo career ablaze. And boy did she get one. Reminiscent of the sort of early-2000s pop she grew up on, the track is as triumphant as its horn section would have you believe. It's a damn smash. And that next-level music video? We're still not over it and we may never be. Now bring on the album.
More shocking than Miley's split from husband Liam Hemsworth this summer was the fact that she had a breakup track seemingly referencing her situation ready to go within days. Released just months after her stellar EP She Is Coming, "Slide Away" was instantly more somber and sweeping, a heartbreaking confluence of skittering samples and swirling strings that let her voice shine with startling maturity.
No female MC in the game excited us more in 2019 that Doja. And it all began with the release of this audacious track, originally in solo form on the deluxe edition of her debut album Amala (dropped in March) before getting a remix with Tyga in August that served as the lead-in to her astounding second album Hot Pink. An ode to her naturally thick booty, the song is an absolute bop, bolstered by her sick flow, a surprisingly stand-out feature, and a beat that we can only describe as twinkle-trap. One listen and you'll know just what we mean.