Kendrick Lamar & SZA
All The Stars
SZA comes through with the most anthemic pop chorus of the year and a honey-dripped delivery beholden with power; full of yearning, drama and spark. Paired with a production that has remained effervescent and glowing since it was released in January, this Black Panther highlight, goes for big builds and release with strings, brooding synths and Kendrick providing genuine pop hooks to boot. A celestial triumph.
One of the biggest dancefloor fillers of 2018. DJ Koze’s ‘Pick Up’ has never made heartbreak sound so good. While navigating the many sub-genres of dance music can be a bit tricky, pedantic even, this is a clear-cut disco house banger, melancholic yet uplifting, built from an often-used Gladys Night sample.
Saint Sister’s ‘Twin Peaks’, is true to its name and takes inspiration from the surreal tones of the David Lynch TV series alongside their own, more personal influences. The track does plenty in showcasing the phenomenal musical chemistry the duo share, filled with airy vocal harmonies.
Christine & The Queens
Héloïse Letissier really produced some glamorous 80s synth-pop on her second LP Chris. ‘Girlfriend’, with production by boogie-funk maestro Dâm-Funk is the perfect example. An irresistible beat plays host to Letissier’s powerful vision of empowerment on a lustful slice of magnetic pop music.
Travis Scott feat. Drake
2018 is very much the year in which Travis Scott firmly established himself among the most popular and respected hip-hop acts in the world. The sharp lyricism, fluid production and shapeshifting beat on ‘Sicko Mode’ was both his, and Drake’s 2018 apex. A psychedelic rap triptych that still feels as fresh and surprising months later.
1010 Benja SL
‘Tragic X’ features a moving hypnotic vocal over billowing crystalline synth lines about a slipping relationship. 1010’s vocals are deep and moving, even if paired with a somewhat trivial spoken word part that appears like a radio ident throughout the track. You can’t obfuscate emotional connection and this song kept me company in tough times during this year.
This year, Robyn finally broke her eight-year silence with Honey, ‘Missing U’ is a song that fits right into the classic Robyn mould, co-written by long-time collaborator Klas Åhlund with Joseph Mount of Metronomy. “This is empty space you left behind / now you’re not here with me,” she sings while cascading synth notes fall around her. Robyn has always used the vernacular of dance music to push through that pain, to find a breakthrough in heartbreak. “I keep digging through our waste of time / but the pictures incomplete / cause I´m missing you,” she admits. Dancing can only do some much. The pain is still there, the loss is still present, beneath the red lights and disco ball. We dance, but it still hurts.
It Makes You Forget (Itgehenae)
‘It Makes You Forget (Itgehane)’ was a constant in 2018. A tropical sojourn with air-filled rhythm, brightly-coloured melodies and Korean vocals by Gou herself. It never got old and was never far away from the play button, at home or in the club.
The dance song of the summer is a hotly-contested accolade, crowned by an unspoken agreement across cultural, national and societal divides but ‘Neutron Dance’ was certainly a big contender. Dubliner Dec Lennon’s propulsive and jaunty electro-stomper has crowds across Europe singing its instrumental hook and was just one in an embarrassment of riches of great tunes for Krystal Klear this year.
Flamenco music isn’t recognised globally for its contemporary releases, but Rosalía Vila has started to change that. The 25-year-old has increased her scope and vision to take on R&B and pop sounds that were totally absent in her work so far. ‘Malamente’ is a big highlight from her breakthrough second album El Mal Querer, a flamenco-inflected R&B song, with production from El Guincho, that features handclap and fingerclicking percussion and a rhythmic vitality that transcends the language barrier.
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Of course, there’s a Spotify playlist and a general one: