For the next week, Amherst Wire entertainment is bringing the best of the decade right to you. We’ve taken the best and most memorable songs of the decade to give you the ultimate nostalgia trip. Check out our picks from 2018 as we rewind last year’s best hits.
“This Is America” – Childish Gambino
Brianna Silva, writer
At the height of political unrest in the United States, Childish Gambino decided to bless listeners with the musical masterpiece that is, “This Is America.” Opening with distinct vocals and playful melodies, the song quickly transitions into a powerful social commentary. Childish Gambino effortlessly layers sounds, music and messages of both pain and truth.
Some of the most memorable lyrics include, “This is America (skrrt, skrrt, woo) / Don’t catch you slippin’ now (ayy) / Look at how I’m livin’ now / Police be trippin’ now (woo) / Yeah, this is America (woo, ayy).” While the song itself is a demonstration of the harsh reality in America, it’s the music video that resonated most with viewers. Its vivid imagery elegantly connects with the song’s lyrics, especially towards the end when Childish Gambino is being chased out of the warehouse.
“You just a black man in this world / You just a barcode, ayy.” The fear on his face says it all.
Other picks: “I Like It” – Cardi B ft. Bad Bunny and J Balvin, “Pink Lemonade” – James Bay
“thank u, next” – Ariana Grande
Julia Donohue, editor
“[T]hank u, next” defined 2018. Personally, it was a very interesting year but in the music world the cosmos collided on Arianna Grande. Grande faced personal heartbreak when her relationship with Mac Miller ended, then uplift with a surprise engagement to Pete Davidson and suddenly the death Mac Miller left her world in pieces.
When the world crumbles, one is faced with perilous decisions and obstacles. For artists, heartbreak usually is followed by a shattered, bitter hit. Yet, Grande took a different path. In a uniquely millennial move, Grande assessed the chaos of her relationship with only gratitude, both for the men she had been with and her parents contentious relationship that brought her here. “[T]hank u, next” is all about gratitude and what a beautiful way to walk into the end of the decade.
Other picks: “Ghost Town” – Kanye West ft. Kid Cudi & 070 Shake, “Ladders” – Mac Miller
“What Am I To Do” – Mick Jenkins
Jonathan Kermah, editor in chief
Chicago’s best kept secret Mick Jenkins had quite a year in 2018 while still remaining under the radar. Before releasing his sophomore studio album “Pieces of a Man,” he released one of the year’s most socially conscious singles with “What Am I To Do.”
The KAYTRANADA produced beat samples Jaye P. Morgan’s “Can’t Hide Love” to create a soulful atmosphere that sounds almost blissful under Jenkins steady, booming voice. Jenkins puts on a show flexing his lyrical and technical rapping abilities with lyrics like “delicate flows, under heavy metal bars but they still in tact,” but it’s the hook where Jenkins is at his best. He poses the issue of relations between black people and law enforcement in America in the form of a question that comes off as both simple, yet thought provoking.
“Yeah, what’s a n**** to do?
‘Cause I be streaming black they’ll beat me to blue
Put it on TV then tell you what’s true
What’s a n**** to do?” – Mick Jenkins
Other picks: “Sicko Mode” – Travis Scott ft. Drake, “Small Worlds” – Mac Miller
“If You Know You Know” – Pusha T
Trevor Wilson, editor
After dropping on May 25, and jumpstarting Kanye’s superb production run with his Wyoming project, Pusha T’s “Daytona” is the quintessential Pusha T album. From front to back, “Daytona” is an air-tight, focused and cocaine-fueled masterpiece filled with raps about pushing dope, luxury and flair. It all starts with the intro, “If You Know You Know.”
Pusha T doesn’t wait, in fact, he’s already ahead of you before you even hit play. “If You Know You Know” starts with Pusha painting a picture of his first career, slinging cocaine. “Pullin’ up in that new toy / The wrist on that boy rockstar like Pink Floyd / Waving at rude boy, I’m waiving at you boy / Ran off on the plug too like Trugoy,” he spits.
Once Pusha utters “If You Know You Know” on the hook, Kanye’s production kicks into overdrive and he sends the track into a frenzy of high-pitched guitar samples, chopped vocals, muddy drums and a driving bass. Pusha keeps up with the chaos as he illustrates his frantic, luxurious life right before your eyes. Kanye and Pusha hit the gas on “If You Know You Know,” and never take their foot off of it throughout the 21-minute “Daytona.”
Other picks: “Reborn” – KIDS SEE GHOSTS, “God’s Plan” – Drake
“Love It If We Made It” – The 1975
Nasya Blackshear, writer
After the success of “I lIke it when you sleep, for you are so beautiful yet so unaware of it” The 1975 released “A Brief inquiry Into Online Relationships” and on it was one of their best songs yet. “Love It If We Made It” is by far one of The 1975’s most creative songs they’ve released in the past decade. The way lead singer Matty Healy uses headlines from 2016-2017 to write a song that speaks on the social issues the world has been dealing with. On god, my favorite lyrics are ‘Selling melanin and then suffocate the black man / Start with misdemeanors then we’ll make a business out of them.” The lyrics are creative and inventive and allow for a new discussion about the state of our world.
Other picks: “New Light” – John Mayer, “Four out of Five” – Arctic Monkeys
“The Goddess” – Flatbush Zombies ft. Dave B
Astghik Dion, editor
In 2018, hip-hop’s most loved hippies returned after a two year hiatus to remind the world acid was not the only thing they dropped. “Vacation in Hell” is the second studio album from Flatbush Zombies, spanning 19 tracks and featuring fellow Beast Coast members such as Joey Bada$$, and Nyck Caution.
Fans that know the Zombies well recognize the sound of ViH is nothing like the “Bounce” and “Palm Trees” Zombies they were acquainted with. The album is less gritty and chaotic, with crisper production and an overall cleaner sound. Yet, the psychedelic aura of every song and their powerful lyricism is something that the rap trio never fail to bring to every record.
The fourteenth track on the album, “The Goddess,” is a tribute to women from all walks of life, comparing them to divine beings. The Flatbush natives alongside Dave B. take a soft turn compared to the rest of the album, with all verses packing the same power.
Other picks: “F*** With You” – Tory Lanez ft. Kodak Black, “TABOO | TA1300” – Denzel Curry
“Dance Macabre” – Ghost
Adam Buckley, writer
Ghost’s mastermind Tobias Forge stands out from standard metalheads-a soft-spoken pocket-sized thrasher, a student of bands like ABBA and Roky Erikson just as much KISS and Morbid Angel. A vocal minority of metal fans criticize the band for abandoning Satanic doom metal sound yet the presence of tracks like “Faith” and “Rats” prove that the metal in Ghost has not died.
Instead, wholeheartedly embraced and built on it. “Dance Macabre” stands as the magnum opus of these influences and more; equal parts danceable and ghoulish cheese, with one foot firmly in the metal world of the 80s and the other tapping away to a funky inflected beat, the track is one of the most pop-ishly fun released by the band in their history. And for good reason; in an era of metal all too focused on self-seriousness and brutality, Ghost brings something truly chilling-disco.
Other picks: “Disillusioned” – A Perfect Single, “Zombie” – Bad Wolves
“lovely” – Billie Eilish ft. Khalid
Chloe Lindahl, writer
Billie Eilish and Khalid, two of the biggest breakout artists in recent years came together to write and collaborate on “lovely,” one of the most hauntingly beautiful tracks I’ve ever heard. The song echoes much of Eilish’s work with it’s delicate melody and heartbreaking, dark lyrics. Once again she sings of being lost in a world gone mad and in a mind that can’t take anymore.
Eilish found the perfect duet with Khalid as well to truly make this song one for the books. The duo’s harmony on the chorus gives way to a slow and steady rise along with the accompaniment of the violin in the background to add depth and deliberation. Right at its crest both Khalid and the music comes to an abrupt halt and give way to Eilish’s famously beautiful tone as she sings “Isn’t it lovely/ All alone/Heart made of glass my mind of stone.”
These two powerhouses encapsulate an entire generations feelings of helplessness, loss and the search for a better and brighter future.
Other picks: “Finesse” – Bruno Mars ft. Cardi B, “God Is A Woman” – Ariana Grande
“Long Time (Into)” – Playboi Carti
Shane Guilfyole, writer
Playboi Carti’s sophomore album, “Die Lit,” arrived in 2018 following periods of mounting hype and speculation regarding its release. On May 10, the slime savant made a tweet announcing that fans would have the record at midnight. Hours after, audiences would flock from Twitter to their repetitive streaming platforms, unexpecting of the slapper that sat ahead of them.
“Long Time” serves as an enthralling intro. Through its execution, the single interjects the ear into Carti’s atmosphere, comparable to watching the initial scenes of a movie. Seconds after pressing play the album’s energy is established. Art Dealer produced the track, delivering a sound that I’ll summarize as a melodic masterpiece. With an ingenious mix of chords familiar to a pipe organ, the beat manages a chaotically inducing bounce.
What persists so unique to this intro and its attached album is Carti’s performance in ad libs. Over-layed seamlessly, the ad libs coexist to add depth sonically. The song further reveals itself through playback, as I find myself following the individual layers – only to discover another ad lib in the haystack that is “Long Time”.
In the department of lyrics, Carti depicts his come-up while reflecting on his current state of mind. Notable verses include “No cap and gown, I ain’t go to class / I’d rather die before I come in last,” among others like “Wake up and smell the motherf*****’ coffee /I’m ’bout to put these boys in a coffin” and “Lil’ black jean jacket, yeah / Got Vlone on it, yeah.”
Other picks: “Rawlings’ – Chief Keef, “REEL IT IN” – Amine
“Shallow” – Lady Gaga & Bradley Cooper
Kacey Connolly, editor
In October of 2018, Bradley Cooper debuted his re-make of the classic film, “A Star Is Born,” sending yet another critically acclaimed version of the story into the film industry. However, unlike the others, Cooper’s rendition included a now well-renowned soundtrack, in particular the hit song “Shallow.” With Lady Gaga’s vocals matched with Cooper’s, this song sent strong waves of intense emotion so much so that it would go on to win awards like an Academy Award for Best Original Song, Grammy Award for Best Pop Duo/Group Performance and a Golden Globe Award for Best Original Song. With a shelf of achievements and the powerful chorus “I’m off the deep end, watch as I dive in / I’ll never meet the ground / Crash through the surface, where they can’t hurt us / We’re far from the shallow now,” it’s no wonder this hit racked up number one spots in countries all over the globe. And, let’s not forget the steamy, highly intimate performance Gaga and Cooper graced us with at the 2019 Oscars.
Other picks: “Youngblood” – 5 Seconds of Summer, “Mine” – Bazzi