Comet’s Top 10 Songs of 2018

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Comet’s Top 10 Songs of 2018

Jakob Decker, Staff

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One of the most hectic years in music has finally come to an end. After taking a few weeks to reflect on 2018’s musical offerings, the Comet staff has officially determined what they believe to be the best that the year produced. For the most part, the results mirrored many of 2018’s most prominent trends in music. For example, hip-hop dominated our list; 80% of the selections are considered to fall into the genre. Artists viewed as controversial were also very popular; Kanye West (who has the most placements on this list with three), 6ix9ine, and XXXTentacion all found spots on our list despite the very public controversies they’ve been mired in for much of 2018.

While many great songs weren’t able to earn a spot on our list, we of the Comet staff believe that the ten songs below represent the best of the best. Without further ado, here are the ten best songs released in 2018 (as determined by the Comet staff).

Note: these rankings were based on the votes of the Comet writing staff; as such, they may not be representative of the opinions of the author and the student body at large.  

10. “Africa” -Weezer

When Weezer decided to release their cover of Toto’s “Africa”, the song was a quarter of a century removed from its peak at the top of the Billboard Hot 100. Weezer had been similarly dormant from a commercial perspective in recent years; it had been nearly a decade since the band had a record even chart on the Hot 100. Inspired by a social media campaign run by 14-year-old Mary Klym, Weezer’s cover manages to both revive “Africa” and reinvigorate their own plateauing relevance in one fell swoop. While Weezer’s version still retains some of the synth-laden vibe of the original, the powerful electric guitar riffs added to the chorus makes give the song an alternative rock twist; coupled with intense vocals from front man Rivers Cuomo, Weezer transforms “Africa” into an anthem. The remastered instrumentation has a crisp, updated feel to it, and its modern sound is likely what made it accessible to high school students born decades after the original track’s release.  

9. “The Story of Adidon” – Pusha-T 

Pusha won. That much was clear the second “The Story of Adidon,” the third official chapter of the long-brewing feud between Pusha-T and Drake, was released to the masses. The scathing diss track is a devastating exposé, a feat of investigative journalism unforeseen in the history of hip-hop, and although Pusha-T preempts his lyrical onslaught with a smug “easy money,” it becomes clear upon further examination that the Virginia MC has carefully calculated Drake’s destruction for years; from his decades-long beef with Birdman and Lil Wayne to constant subliminal shots (see “H.G.T.V. Freestyle”), King Push has been patiently waiting for the opportunity to strike, and with “Infrared,” Drake finally took the bait and dropped the impressive “Duppy Freestyle.” No one, however, could’ve predicted the skeletons that Pusha-T managed to pull out of Drake’s closet. Not since “Ether” has a diss track so thoroughly dissected its victim; every single aspect of the track serves as yet another layered, devastating blow to Drake’s character. Yes, the bombshell revelation that Drake had fathered a secret child with an adult film star caused gossip blogs to go into a frenzy, but lurking beneath the surface is an even greater examination of Drake’s entrapment into the cycle of absentee fatherism. The cover art’s shocking depiction of Drake in blackface, the subtle parallels between Drake’s issues with his father (“your father walked away at five, hell of a dad thing”) and his own lack of presence in his child’s life (“you are hiding a child, let that boy come home”), the accusations of plans to exploit his child to sell clothes (“Adonis is your son / And he deserves more than an Adidas press run, that’s real”)—they all result in the most effective diss track of the decade, one that caused Drake to surrender and deliver the lackluster Scorpion. “The Story of Adidon” is mean, it’s vile, it’s overkill—and it is exactly what hip-hop has been missing for years.  

8. “Lucid Dreams” – Juice WRLD

While many of the artists featured on this list had career-defining 2018s, most were either already established veterans or had begun to break into the mainstream before 2018. Juice WRLD is an exception; he was a teenager for the vast majority of 2018, and he wasn’t even signed to a record label until March. Much like fellow “emo rap” titans Lil Uzi Vert and Lil Peep, Juice WRLD is most well-known for his ability to create earworm, melancholy melodies. “Lucid Dreams” is the optimal showcase for Juice’s melodic abilities; built around a stunning sample of Sting’s “Shape of My Heart,” which Sting himself called a “beautiful interpretation that is faithful to the original song’s form,” “Lucid Dreams” is a perfect of marriage of sample and voice. Sting’s twinkling guitar twangs contrast beautifully with Juice WRLD’s wistful musings on heartbreak, and the thumping bass gives the track a trap flavor that likely propelled it to mainstream success. If he can continue to make heartache sound as good as it does on “Lucid Dreams,” Juice WRLD may transform himself from one of 2018’s biggest breakouts to one of 2019’s biggest stars. 

7. “Mona Lisa” – Lil Wayne (ft. Kendrick Lamar)

After years of delays, Tha Carter V served as a long-awaited return to the mainstream for Lil Wayne. Weezy’s twelfth album delivered a litany of hits, but none were as thoroughly dissected and praised as “Mona Lisa.” Although the track was obviously recorded several years ago (Kendrick Lamar is clearly deep into his To Pimp a Butterfly cadence), the razor-sharp storytelling is timeless. The two emcees slide into their roles impeccably; Wayne is devious as a master criminal who uses women as double agents to rob wealthy men, while Kendrick expertly plays one of Wayne’s prospective victims. Over a gorgeous piano loop, Wayne regales his audience with tales of his deceptions, describing one of his robberies with startling imagery. Even while bombarding us with intense plot details, Wayne makes sure to uphold his gold standard of wordplay throughout (“What’s that you say? / Watch your mouth, Milli Vanilli” is one of the few printable gems); he’s so thorough that he holds his own against a phenomenal Kendrick Lamar verse that would have otherwise completely stolen the show. Lamar is often considered the greatest hip-hop storyteller of his generation, and he demonstrates this by not only his powerful, twisty narrative, but his constant changes in voice and flow. Every time Kendrick changes his inflections, he adds a new layer to his character, and his wailing conversation with his girlfriend at the song’s end brings the story full circle. Lil Wayne made a massive comeback in 2018, and “Mona Lisa” is a triumphant flex of his lyrical abilities. 

6. “I Like It” – Cardi B (ft. Bad Bunny & JBalvin)

The beginning of “I Like It” is pure adrenaline: a seemingly quaint sample of Pete Rodriguez’s “I Like It Like That” is utterly transformed into a behemoth by ear-shattering drums and bass. The song is a fitting tribute to Cardi’s Latinx roots; the classic boogaloo sample, the salsa-infused beat, and the exclusively Spanish verses from contributors Bad Bunny and J Balvin all added welcome diversity to the top of the charts (it hit #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 in July, making Cardi B the first female rapper ever to have two #1 hits). Each verse matches the energy of the trap beat; although the non-Cardi verses are almost entirely in Spanish, Bad Bunny and J Balvin’s kinetic delivery translates into a multicultural banger. Call it the “Despacito” of 2018. 

5. “Moonlight” -XXXTentacion

The controversy surrounding the life and tragic death of rapper XXXTentacion has been one of 2018’s biggest stories. While accusations of domestic violence and battery tarnish his legacy, the loss of the artistic growth and talent demonstrated on songs like “Moonlight” is a blow to the music industry as a whole. Much like “Lucid Dreams,” “Moonlight” is depressing, melodic emo rap created from an inconsolable mind filled with jealousy and heartache. Despite lyrics centering around betrayal and X’s own “damaged” state, its minimalist production is simultaneously glitchy and soothing, serving as a perfect backdrop for some of the finest melodic work of his career. Its short and sweet, but “Moonlight” still manages to fully capture a young talent with lost potential.  

4. “Reborn” – KIDS SEE GHOSTS

Longtime collaborators Kanye West and Kid Cudi, the members of long-gestating duo KIDS SEE GHOSTS, have both had highly public battles with mental health in recent years. “Reborn” is a public therapy session, and it is utterly mesmerizing. “Reborn” features Kid Cudi’s best vocal performance in almost a decade; he delivers a stellar hook over subdued yet gorgeous production, and his repeated mantra “keep moving forward” is therapeutic and encouraging for both him and the listener.  Kanye is similarly on point, delivering a focused, impassioned verse on the struggle and shame resulting from his bipolar disorder diagnosis (“I was off the meds, I was called insane”). 2018 put a much-needed spotlight on mental health, and “Reborn” is a beautifully performed contribution to destigmatization.  

3. “breathin” – Ariana Grande

Speaking of mental health destigmatization, Ariana Grande has her own message of encouragement to share with her anti-anxiety anthem “breathin.” Just as Kid Cudi repeats “keep moving forward” on “Reborn,” Grande’s repetition of “just keep breathing” celebrates overcoming the challenges that anxiety can thrust upon you at any moment. The production’s progression from minimalist to upbeat and anthemic serves an apt analogy for Grande’s journey from fighting for her life to loudly celebrating it. She certainly isn’t wasting any of her breath, either; Grande’s vocal performance is powerful, showcasing her ridiculous vocal range and control. People may “tell [her] to medicate,” but if Ariana’s performance is any indication, “breathin” is all it takes to turn a song about dealing with anxiety into a commercial hit. 

2. “Ghost Town” – Kanye West (ft. KidCudi, 070 Shake & PARTYNEXTDOOR)

Simply put, this song is a triumph. As the climax of Kanye West’s bipolar odyssey ye, “Ghost Town” is euphoria distilled; the passionate vocal performances and searing guitar riffs form a beautiful snapshot of West’s mania. The song’s confessional nature is reminiscent of classic ye cut “Runaway,” and “Ghost Town” joins it as one of Kanye’s most thorough moments of self-reflection of his career. Kanye uses his all-star cast of vocalists to portray his mental travels through his bipolar disorder: the journey from Kid Cudi’s depressive, belted chorus (“I’ve been trying to make you love me / but everything I try just takes you further from me”) to 070 Shake’s manic star-making outro (“And nothing hurts anymore, I feel kinda free…I put my hand on the stove, to see if I still bleed”) is the perfect embodiment of ye’s theme of duality. Calling Kanye West’s 2018 chaotic would be an understatement, but just as he did on magnum opus My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, “Ghost Town” harnesses that chaos and turn it into perfection. 

1.“KANGA” – 6ix9ine (ft. Kanye West)

In all honesty, “KANGA” is almost certainly not the song of the year from a musical perspective. In fact, many would argue that it is an objectively bad track. How, then, did The Comet staff vote that an obscure trap banger was worthy of being referred to as the best song in all of 2018? The answer is relatively simple: it’s a meme. “KANGA” may not be the best of 2018, but it is far and beyond the most “2018” song on this list. Highly controversial artists dominated music discussion in 2018, and no two artists had more newsworthy exploits than 6ix9ine and Kanye West. 6ix9ine is a rainbow-haired SoundCloud rapper that caught the attention of the American public with his many gang-related feuds and accusations of use of a 13-year-old in a sexual performance; “KANGA” was released while 6ix9ine (whose real name is Daniel Hernandez) was imprisoned on racketeering charges—charges that he is still awaiting sentencing for. And while Kanye has a had prolific year musically (this is his third placement on this list), the oft-controversial artist may have reached his lowest public approval rating ever with his vocal support of President Donald Trump and ignorant comments on slavery. It’s not all too surprising then that Kanye has taken a liking to 6ix9ine, and together they denounce their many critics on a comical back-and-forth. Kanye is clearly enjoying poking fun at his detractors (“They tried to say I wasn’t black no more / About as black as Macklemore”), while 6ix9ine joins him in throwing some unprintable shots at radio host Ebro. “KANGA” is just another masterstroke in a long history of trolling from both artists, and it’s the most apt summation of a chaotic, controversy-driven year in music.