Entertainment’s songs of the decade: 2019

2019 featured the resurgence of pop stars and the rise of hip-hop artists backed by stellar production.

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(Shane Guilfoyle / Amherst Wire)

Amherst Wire Staff

Over the last few weeks, we’ve taken a look at some of the best tracks over the decade and brought them right to you. In the final installment, check out our favorite tracks of the past year.

“Juice” – Lizzo 

Brianna Silva, writer

Lizzo has finally made it into the spotlight she deserves. While all of her songs display her unique set of skills as a musical artist, it’s “Juice” that embodies Lizzo as a human being. She boldly starts the song, “Mirror, mirror on the wall / Don’t say it, ‘cause I know I’m cute (ooh, baby).” Filled with fun and lively beats, you can’t help but dance alongside the charming singer. She continues, “I was born like this, don’t even gotta try (now you know) / I’m like chardonnay, get better over time (so you know).” As the body positive movement has gained more momentum in the past few years, Lizzo’s music reminds listeners of the bodies at the center of the movement. From her music to her fashion style, Lizzo belongs to something greater. Not only is she changing the music industry, but Lizzo is normalizing fat bodies. “Juice” was one of her many songs that defined 2019, and it will certainly be remembered for years to come. Lizzo can only go up from here.

Other picks: “EARFQUAKE” – Tyler, The Creator ft. Playboi Carti, “How Do You Sleep?” – Sam Smith

“Venice B***h” – Lana Del Ray

Astghik Dion, editor

Nominated for Album of the Year at the 62nd Annual Grammy Awards as well as making a multitude of Top Albums of 2019 lists from publications such as GQ and Complex, Lana Del Rey returns after a two year hiatus with the release of her critically acclaimed, sixth studio album, “Norman F****** Rockwell!”

The record is largely composed of soft rock elements, with bits of folk and psychedelic pop woven in throughout the tracks. It is Del Rey’s most mature album to date, with not only growth in lyrics, but instrumentals more stripped down and raw than in past projects. 

“Venice B****” is the second single second from the record, following “Mariners Apartment Complex.” The track spans roughly ten minutes, the longest song released by the New York native. The first half of the song is a tribute to all the sweet, cinematic and nostalgic elements of America, “Ice cream, ice queen/ I dream in jeans and leather…” Del Rey’s ardor for her country is a common theme in a lot of her music, even the name of her album can be attributed to one of America’s most influential painter/author/illustrator, Norman Rockwell. 

Yet, as the song continues it is no longer enveloped by sweet, summer tones, but rather more pain and longing. She pays a tribute to “Crimson and Clover” by Tommy James and the Shondells as she reminisces on a lifetime spent with her lover. “If you weren’t mine I’d be jealous of your love,” she sings repeatedly as the song closes.

Other picks: “Cellophane” – FKA twigs, “Fun Girl” – Summer Walker

“Palmolive” – Freddie Gibbs ft. Killer Mike and Pusha T

Trevor Wilson, editor

Freddie Gibbs is perhaps one of the most genuine, unapologetic rappers alive right now. I mean, one look at the man’s Instagram story will have you either laughing or disgusted, there is no in between. On “Bandana,” Gibbs is just as unapologetic, raw and boastful as ever before. With outstanding production from legendary producer Madlib, “Bandana” soared to the top of many people’s rap album of the year lists.

On one of the album’s premier cuts, “Palmolive,” Madlib employs a bright, vocal-heavy soul sample to support Gibbs’ rugged, deep voice. The track itself has minimal drums, but the sample is so well cut and the rappers are so poised that you almost never notice.

“Palmolive” covers a lot of ground lyrically. One moment Gibbs is clowning Donald Trump with lines like, “We got a reality star in the goddamn office, quite like the Reagan days” and the next Pusha talks about the success of his days as a coke dealer when he spits, “Look, real bars are the ill bars / These scars are the only real proof they couldn’t kill gods / My coke hand is still sketchin’ out my memoirs / What I did to door panels on them Windstars.”

On the hook, Killer Mike summarizes both rappers’ verses into a simple concept, money. But, the complexity of “Palmolive” could not be attained unless all four artists delivered, and boy did they.

Other picks: “Hey Ma” – Bon Iver, “Meet Again” – Maxo Kream

“Jesus Forgive Me I’m a Thot” – JPEGMAFIA

Jonathan Kermah, editor in chief 

Describing JPEGMAFIA’s 2019 album “All My Heroes Are Cornballs” as roller coaster would be an understatement. Experiencing “All My Heroes Are Cornballs” is more like walking a tightrope between the clouds of Olympus and the dark abyss. 

In the album’s opening moments, ears are greeted by chaotic noises reminiscent of a punk rock concert on “Jesus Forgive Me, I Am A Thot.” Just when I began to wrap my head around this audio anarchy, a glum piano takes over the track while JPEGMAFIA begins rapping about things he commands the listener to pray for including his enemies and haters. 

“Pray you get comfy in your disguise (Uh)

Pray for my thots on the other side (Side)

Pray for my children I can’t provide, I’ll feel 45

Pray when you shoot, it’s a homicide

Pray for my haters, they terrified” – JPEGMAFIA

Once again, as I began to find my bearings on this track, the aggression picks up mid-verse with the addition of bass, distortion and JPEG screaming like a madman with surprising control. And just like that, the storm passes; serenity enters; and he dials back his aggression to sing questions that I’ve never heard any other straight male rapper ask on the mic before. 

This is all within a minute and a half. 

“All My Heroes Are Cornballs” is one of the more unique hip-hop albums of the decade, which leaves me excited for the creative expansion of hip-hop in this incoming decade. One thing is for certain: JPEGMAFIA will be one of the artists stretching the borders of hip-hop in the 2020s. “Praise the mother f****** Lord.”

Other picks: “Make It Better” – Anderson .Paak ft. Smokey Robinson, “Hair Down” – SiR ft. Kendrick Lamar

“Anybody” – Lil Keed ft. Lil Duke and Gunna

Shane Guilfoyle, writer

Amongst the surge of new talent to emerge this year, Lil Keed remains my preferred choice. Originally from Atlanta, Keed found early inspiration from artists like Young Thug while growing up in the areas surrounding Cleveland Ave.  Currently signed to YSL, the rapper began making music in 2017 with his younger brother Lil Gotit. June of 2019 would see Keed debut his first studio-recorded album under YSL and 300 Entertainment, Long Live Mexico.

The album’s third track, “Anybody”, is a YSL trifecta. With the company of Gunna and Lil Duke, Keed talks to them in his trademarked cadence across an acoustic influenced melody produced by JTK.  

This track isn’t just my pick for single of the year, it also takes gold in the category of features. The hand-off between artists as they drop their respective verses is seamless, solidifying the song’s momentum in the process. And with a condensed run-time of four minutes and seventeen seconds, the lyrical structure of “Anybody” proves durable across numerous plays. 

“Anybody” remains notable to me in thanks to an impactful acoustic production, which carries a sound that’s becoming increasingly synonymous with YSL. Added features from Gunna and Lil Duke solidify the track, ensuring an ample supply of notable bars and adlibs such as “ If they shootin’ they shot, I became a target /  YSL at the top, we control the market / I called up SEX and said, “Look what you started.”

Other picks: “Sugar” – BROCKHAMPTON, “No Idea” – Don Toliver

“GONE GONE/THANK YOU” – Tyler, The Creator

Julia Donohue, editor

In his follow up to “Flower Boy,” which marked a serious transition for Tyler the Creator, “Igor” continues to shift the legacy of his once sophomoric artistry. While “Flower Boy” was precision at its finest, it allowed Creator to display his technique but “Igor” made a spectacle of Tyler, The Creator’s sense of art. There are mistakes, there are moments that don’t exactly fit but they fit in a way that is so deeply emblematic of Tyler. He doesn’t play by the rules and when he finally does, he can only be tempted to break them. “GONE, GONE/THANK YOU,” gently exposes Tyler as a vulnerable human being while other tracks are focused on his innate and interesting intensity. As the first soulful section gives way to the second, Tyler reveals the details of his broken relationship that likely was with a man who couldn’t accept his sexuality. 

We had two different blueprints, but understood her fluent

She opened up early on, I thought I had a permit

You started building a bridge and turned it into a fence

Then my building got tore down all because of your new tenant

I’ll just buy up some new shit, never down with a lease

You never lived in your truth, I’m just happy I lived in it

But I finally found peace, so peace” – Tyler, The Creator

This is not a bitter Tyler, The Creator, but an honest one. A human version that hopefully will continue into future albums.

Other picks: “Sucker” – Jonas Brothers, “ghostin'” – Ariana grande

“Slide Away” – Miley Cyrus

Nasya Blackshear, writer

From make ups to breakup, Miley Cyrus and Liam Hemsworth have been through it all. Cyrus has wrote her fair share of songs for Hemsworth including: “Wrecking Ball”, “Adore You” and “Malibu.” Now, Cyrus debuts “Slide Away” as the final addition to the Miley-Liam love saga, proving their love to be no more. “Move on, we’re not 17 / I’m not who I used to be / You say that everything changed / You’re right, we’re grown now” are lyrics that resonate with anyone who’s fallen in love at a young age. This song, like the others is a milestone in Miley’s life as she continues to evolve into a new woman. Cyrus’ music allows for fans to grow, learn and love with her and “Slide Away” is no exception.

Other picks: “bad guy” – Billie Eilish, “Sugar” – The Hails

“Adore You” – Harry Styles

Kacey Connolly, editor

After coming out with his debut album back in 2017, ex-boybander Harry Styles gave the world a newly refined version of himself that strayed far and wide from his previous One Direction image. Just two years later, he released three new singles, including “Adore You” that dropped just a few weeks ago. Styles took fans on another trip with this new single, creating an entirely fake island named “Eroda” as secret promotion that was revealed in his quirky yet profound music video. With a leap of faith and a fresh heartbreak, Styles created another beautiful song that invites vulnerability and hard hitting emotions to party with hints of happiness and maybe even nostalgia as he begs his listener to just let him adore them.

Other picks: “Circles” – Post Malone, “Nightmare” – Halsey

“Motivation” – Normani

Chloe Lindahl, writer

Although Normani has been featured on several successful tracks since her split from 5th harmony such as “Dancing With a Stranger” by Sam Smith and “Love Lies” by Khalid, “Motivation” stands as her first single debut. Fans we were not disappointed as the song held all of the classic and talented aspects of Normani that we’ve come to know and love.

Her vocals are truly incredible and her range is demonstrated beautifully in this song, something that was harder to showcase in a group scenario. Her accompanying music video is reminiscent of some of the early Destiny Child’s work. “Motivation” gives us insight into what we can expect from the talented break out artist. I have no doubt her music career will continue to soar as he raw natural talent and performance skills are showcased.

Other picks: “Truth Hurts” – Lizzo, “The Greatest” – Lana Del Ray

“Planet B” – King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard

Adam Buckley, writer

For a band with as varied a discography as King Gizzard, perhaps thrash metal is their final frontier. But hardly anyone could have predicted an old school thrasher dripping with classic garage rock grit. “Infest the Rats Nest” on the whole harkens back to classic 80s thrash records like “…And Justice For All,” depicting a dystopian near future Earth, with humanity taking to the stars as it is torn apart by global warming and rampant societal inequality.

The band’s lead singer Stu Mackenzie takes on a Lemmy-like wail, light-years away from his soft-spoken warbling on earlier records. While the record owes a debt to the early days of thrash metal, it adds layers of doom-like atmosphere with fuzzed out guitars and effects. Equal parts Slayer and Radio Birdman, this right hook from the edges of space is one for the history books.

Other picks: “Invincible” – Tool, “Crucifire” – Desert Sessions

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