By Blake Wedding–
A new decade has begun and with it the promise of new music. If you want a clue of the sounds the music industry will be heavily investing in over the next ten years then look no further than last year.
Every year, Billboard compiles a list of the most popular songs of the year. Throughout much of 2019, trap rap largely reigned supreme as the prevailing cultural zeitgeist. It seems indefinite at this point that trap rap will carry on into the next decade (which is not necessarily a bad thing), though this past year did see some interesting new developments in the realms of electropop, pop rap, emo rap and R&B.
2019 was in many ways a turning point for the music industry. Artists that were once indie veterans began to see stunning levels of exposure. The best way to summarize much of what made 2019 such a peculiar year for music is by looking back at Billboard’s top 5 hottest songs of the year.
5. Post Malone – “Wow.”
It’s nearly impossible to discuss the modern trap-rap landscape without mentioning Post Malone. Over the latter half of the 2010s, Post Malone became hip-hop’s most unlikely shining star.
As it turns out, “Wow.” is a track that attempts to reconcile for the highs and lows of abrupt and massive fame. It’s a pop-rap song filled with predictable albeit catchy production, ranging from trap-inspired hi-hats, to booming 808s.
The instrumentation here adds character to Post Malone’s lyrics, which seek to answer the skeptics and critics who have been asking the same question for years regarding his place in the spectrum of modern hip-hop: “Why him?”
4. Billie Eilish – “Bad Guy”
No conversation surrounding music in 2019 would be complete without mentioning Billie Eilish. For a while, it seemed like you couldn’t go anywhere without hearing Eilish’s voice. Many have argued that Eilish’s place in the music business is unearned, but the creative spirit of her music speaks for itself.
She is an artist clearly indebted to her influences, however, she has also carved her own niche. Before her sudden rise to stardom, there was no one in the music world that sounded like Eilish.
Compare that to where we are at the beginning of this new decade, and it’s quite clear that Eilish’s unique form of hushed, moody vocals and downbeat production have already influenced countless new artists.
3. Halsey – “Without Me”
Halsey’s single “Without Me” is a perfectly serviceable example of pop music at its catchiest, but does that catchiness translate to it being one of the standout songs of the year?
“Without Me” does have an interesting message with relatable lyrics. However, it’s the musicianship, production and vocals on “Without Me” that disappoint.
Halsey is an admirable artist in pop music, but that doesn’t change the fact that her approach and style comes across so painfully average and tedious. Her nasally vocals don’t quite fit the caliber of what you might call one of the most noteworthy songs of the year.
Furthermore, there are more interesting and forward-thinking female voices in pop music: Lana Del Rey, Grimes, Charli XCX, Angel Olsen, Carly Rae Jepsen, Ariana Grande and Billie Eilish are all female artists doing more interesting things and propelling the genre forward in a more thought-provoking manner.
4. Post Malone & Swae Lee – “Sunflower”
The only artist with two contributions to this list, Post Malone, comes back firing on all cylinders with one of his best singles to date.
“Sunflower” is actually a song that released back in late 2018, coinciding with the Marvel animated film, “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse.” The fact that “Sunflower” managed to stay as relevant as it did should stand as a testament for how great this song really is.
Switching gears after getting famous from rapping about beer bongs and Bentleys, Post Malone proves that not only can he rap proficiently and play a number of instruments, but he can also sing.
“Sunflower” is the type of gloriously upbeat, seemingly carefree sounding song that we needed in 2019.
5. Lil Nas X featuring Billy Ray Cyrus – “Old Town Road”
It seems like most people spent 2019 either listening to “Old Town Road” on repeat, or they spent it praising Lil Nas X for having the bravery to attempt to bridge the gap between rap and country music. It’s easy for many people to write off “Old Town Road” as a simple, derivative and all-too-ordinary trap-rap ‘banger,’ but it is a song that accomplishes so much more than that.
It was a song that was able to get airtime on several traditionalist country music radio stations. Not only that, it effortlessly questioned many of the ties that bind us to particular genres of music. All of this goes without mentioning the incredible hook on “Old Town Road,” which helped shape it into one of the catchiest and grooviest songs of the decade.
It even brought Billy Ray Cyrus back into the limelight.
Love it or hate it, “Old Town Road” was 2019 in many ways. I don’t think anyone could ever argue that.
File Graphic // The Louisville Cardinal