The pop music landscape has indelibly changed over the past decade—in many cases for the better. With improvements in production values, more diversity in the music industry, and artists willing to tackle even formerly-taboo topics, the pop music scene has never been hotter. Whether you’re building a playlist for the gym or looking for a mix you can bop around your luxury condo to with your friends, these songs from the past year are sure to be staples on your music rotation for years to come.
“Thank U, Next” by Ariana Grande: Unless you’ve been living under a rock, it’s been pretty hard to avoid hearing about Ariana Grande this past year. The pop princess was constantly photographed spending time in New York with now-ex-fiancé Pete Davidson of Saturday Night Live fame, from shopping at high-end boutiques to getting matching tattoos, and their breakup after just a few months together made for nearly as many headlines as their relationship itself. However, her most important contribution to the media landscape in 2018 was undeniably “Thank U, Next,” a brilliant pop song cataloging her high-profile relationships (with a teen-movie-infused video to match).
“Havana” by Camila Cabello: You couldn’t go anywhere in 2018 without hearing the sultry sounds of Camila Cabello’s “Havana.” This Latin-inspired pop hit not only showcased the former Fifth Harmony member’s powerful pipes (and her ability to make hits as a solo artist), but made note of her Cuban roots, too.
“Shallow” by Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper: One of the biggest movies of 2018 produced one of the year’s most popular songs, as well. Still burning up the charts in early 2019, “Shallow,” a duet from A Star is Born stars Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper, is a stunning ballad that even folks who haven’t yet seen the movie can appreciate.
“In My Feelings” by Drake: If you want your playlist to be an accurate representation of the musical landscape in 2018, you have to make sure “In My Feelings” is on there. This hit from Drake is not only a cute, poppy love tune, it also spurred one of the past year’s biggest pop culture moments: the “In My Feelings” Challenge, in which fans of the tune lip sync and dance along to the track, often while following a moving car. And while we’d be happy to leave the more dangerous aspects of the challenge behind, the pop hit is well worth giving a few more plays to in 2019.
“Make Me Feel” by Janelle Monae: Looking for a fun song you can dance to for that perfect playlist? Look no further than Janelle Monae’s “Make Me Feel.” Drawing inspiration from artists like Prince and James Brown, this funk-inspired tune is a departure from Monae’s early work—but it’s every bit as fun.
2018 may have had its fair share of dark moments, but on the pop culture front, things couldn’t have been brighter. If you’re looking to infuse 2019 with a hit of great energy from the past year (or just want a bopping playlist to dance around to while you clean or do work), these songs are sure to put you in a good mood in an instant.