Another year’s come and gone—and we have plenty of amazing music to show for it. From surprise viral hits from fresh-faced rookies to chart heavy-hitters from pop titans reasserting their chart dominance, here are the hottest songs of 2019.
Billie Eilish, “Bad Guy”
The roll-out of Billie Eilish’s debut album, When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?, started off strong with singles such as “You Should See Me in a Crown,” “When the Party’s Over” and “Bury a Friend.” But things truly reached a fever pitch with “Bad Guy,” which became an immediate success upon release and debuted at number seven on Billboard’s Hot 100. The song would clinch the top spot several weeks later, making the then-17-year-old the first artist born in the 21st century to do so.
“Bad Guy” deftly navigates a handful of genres, ranging from goth pop to trap to electronic, and manages to combine seeming opposites: a taut low-end with ASMR-esque vocal delivery, menace and cheekiness. While other pop stars play catch-up, Eilish has proved with “Bad Guy” and her debut album that she’s sitting pretty at the top of the pack. Duh.
BTS, Halsey, “Boy With Luv”
Coming off a banner 2018, BTS came into the last year of the decade with guns blazing. The South Korean boyband teamed up with Halsey—who was herself riding high off the smash hit “Without Me”—and what resulted was the wildly successful “Boy With Luv.” Upon release, the song broke the record for the most YouTube views within 24 hours, clocking over 74 million hits, while catapulting its parent EP, Map of the Soul: Persona, to the top of the Billboard 200 albums chart.
“Boy With Luv” has not only helped cement K-pop’s status as a cultural phenomenon to be taken seriously in the West, but also opened the floodgates for a slew of other high-profile East-meets-West collabs later in the year. For instance, K-pop acts such as Monsta X and AB6IX soon linked up with French Montana and Lizzo (“Who Do U Love?” and a remix of Lizzo’s “Truth Hurts” respectively). Meanwhile, BTS themselves have since recorded with other Western pop artists such as Lauv, Zara Larsson, Charli XCX and more.
DaBaby has enjoyed an astronomical rise this year, and “Suge” has proven a huge milestone in the North Carolina rapper’s career. A standout from DaBaby’s debut studio album Baby on Baby, “Suge” boasts infallible flows that ride effortlessly on Jetsonmade’s signature booming bass. Braggadocious and self-assured with the bars, DaBaby knows he is a boss.
The zany music video for “Suge,” which memorably features DaBaby in a muscle suit in a hilarious caricature of former Deathrow Records CEO Suge Knight, also went a long way to introducing the rapper’s vibrant, bizarre visual world to wider audiences. With the combination of his infectious talent and wit, there’s no doubt DaBaby has cemented himself as a rapper to watch for the foreseeable future.
Lil Nas X, Billy Ray Cyrus, “Old Town Road”
Originally released in 2018, “Old Town Road” became a global phenomenon after Billy Ray Cyrus co-signed the track and agreed to hop on a remix that put Lil Nas X on the map. The song melds a sample of Nine Inch Nails’ “34 Ghosts IV,” banjo strums and a bass-heavy beat, resulting in a bizarrely infectious country trap fusion that broke countless music records (it became the longest-running song to top Billboard’s Hot 100 chart for 17 consecutive weeks). It’s an enormous feat—and undeniably a hard one to top—for the 20-year-old rising star who has yet to put out his debut album.
Lil Tecca, “Ransom”
If there was one 2019 song that we would have to label an unexpected earworm, Lil Tecca’s infectious breakout hit “Ransom” would be it. Blowing up from seemingly out of nowhere, the 17-year-old New York rapper served up a banger of massive proportions as he flexed his Auto-Tuned flows over the catchy Nick Mira- and Taz Taylor-produced beat.
“Ransom” broke new ground when it ended “Old Town Road”’s 20-week reign as Spotify’s most streamed song of the summer in the United States. The track also got a second wind when the late Juice WRLD dropped a fiery verse on the official remix of the song in August. With Tecca’s debut mixtape We Love You Tecca under his belt now, it seems that the only way the young rapper can go is up.
If 2019 was anyone’s year, it was certainly Lizzo’s. After years spent grinding in the music industry, the Minneapolis talent finally saw the fruits of her labor this year, breaking through to pop’s top tier and sustaining her track record like no other artist. The world started taking notice of Lizzo thanks to the release of her sunny, sassy single “Juice,” which dropped with an equally playful video on January 4—right at the top of the year.
Not only did Lizzo snag a smash single in “Juice,” she also used it as a springboard to yearlong dominance. Not only did she effectively parlay its runaway success into hype for her debut major label album, Cuz I Love You, she even channeled it into renewed interest in her older, underrated hits. In September, “Truth Hurts,” which Lizzo released in 2017, became her first single to top the Billboard charts, and more recently, she’s been trying to work the same magic on her 2016 song “Good As Hell,” dropping an Ariana Grande remix and new music video. This year, Lizzo proved she got the juice—and the industry savvy, as well.
Megan Thee Stallion, DaBaby, “Cash Shit”
It’s hard to think of two other rappers who’ve ascended as fast and furiously this year as Megan Thee Stallion and DaBaby. And the two Southern talents have helped each other plenty along the way: “Cash Shit” is a perfect example of the sparks that fly when they collide. The streaming favorite off Megan’s Fever mixtape, “Cash Shit” is a swaggering showcase of the duo’s individual charisma and undeniable chemistry together. As far as filthy bars and sensual ad libs go, it’s hard to find another 2019 rap collab as good as this one.
Co-penned by her former tourmate Ariana Grande, “Motivation” could be considered as Normani’s official solo debut, and the Fifth Harmony singer’s chance to show off what’s she’s really got to offer on her own. While her previous single, “Waves” featuring 6LACK, is moody and R&B-focused, “Motivation” is sparkly stadium pop goodness that oozes cheeky confidence.
Against a brassy, energetic production courtesy of Swedish hitmaker Ilya, Normani belts flirtatious lines about pleasing her partner: “I’mma break you off, let me be your motivation / To stay and give it tonight / And, baby, turn around, let me give you innovation.” It’s fun and anthemic, but above all, the perfect introduction to Normani’s solo career.
Rosalía, J Balvin, “Con Altura”
In 2018, Rosalía released El Mal Querer, her sophomore album that blended the Spanish flamenco tradition with 21st century pop and R&B to stunning effect. The young Catalan star spent most of 2019 cementing her newfound pop supremacy: She toured the record in Europe and North America, dropped new singles (see “Aute Cuture” and “A Palé”) and recorded with friends and admirers (like James Blake and Harry Styles, to name a few).
One of those collaborations was “Con Altura,” which she cooked up with El Mal Querer producer El Guincho and Colombian star J Balvin. The impossibly infectious reggaeton bop marked Rosalía’s official entrance into the urbano arena, which was both splashy and successful: “Con Altura” is her most streamed song to date, and its vibrant music video is sitting pretty at 1.1 billion (yes, billion) views.
Taylor Swift, “Lover”
When Taylor Swift ushered in her new era, she introduced it with three songs. “Me!,” the cheery pop confection featuring Panic! at the Disco’s Brendon Urie, was followed by “You Need to Calm Down,” a bombastic pro-LGBTQ+ anthem. But it was her third single “Lover,” which also serves as the title track of her seventh studio album, that felt like a true return to the pop star’s storytelling country roots.
The romantic acoustic guitar stylings and delicate keys on “Lover” hark back to dreamy Swift cuts like 2008’s “Breathe” and 2010’s “Last Kiss.” It’s an intimate and tender love song that shows off Swift’s clever songwriting, making it an instant classic in the singer’s catalog. So if there’s anything Reputation-era Taylor got wrong, is that the old Swift never died—she was just waiting for the right time to strike back. And “Lover” is proof of that.
Which songs did you have on repeat this year? What would you name the best song of 2019? Peep our list of honorable mentions below and let us know.