April 7, 2020

5 On It: TGS Picks the Best Music of 2019

Why not revisit the best music 2019 brought us as we watch the last days of the year dribble away? Members of The Tailgate Society selected their top five songs/albums that came out this year. These are their picks.

Nicole Gustafson

All in all, 2019 was a pretty good year for new music releases. Elder generations will have you believe that millennials don’t listen to albums, but I do. Below are my favorite songs of the year and every one comes from an album that I also consider one of the best of the year. An honorable mention goes to Lizzo, who had a phenomenal 2019 with Cuz I Love You. I like her sound and ethos quite a bit, but I’ve started to feel like I’m listening to commercials because of how much her music has been used in advertising.

  1. Taylor Swift, “Cruel Summer” (from Lover)

The standout song, in my opinion, on Lover is “Cruel Summer.” The album was released in the middle of the actual season of summer, so I had this endlessly catchy bop on repeat throughout the remaining warm months. Some of Lover fell flat, particularly on the back half of the album, but “Cruel Summer” is Taylor at her pop best.

2. Billie Eilish, “When the Party’s Over” ( from When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?)

I will admit that I was not immediately as enamored with Billie Eilish and her creep-chic aesthetic as the teens are. The horror film sound effects in her earlier singles definitely create a clear lane for her sound, but it wasn’t one I wanted to hang out in. Then I heard “When the Party’s Over.” I was won over by her careful pace, soaring high notes, and relatable lyrics. It got me to see Billie beyond the freaky vibes, and I began to enjoy some of her other songs, like “Bad Guy.” The video, as I’m just noticing now, is still extremely creepy.

3. J Balvin and Bad Bunny, “Odio” (from Oasis)

Oasis” is a really cool concept, a collaborative album between two Latinx artists who make fairly different styles of music. Both J Balvin and Bad Bunny get their own moments to shine, and “Odio” is all about Bad Bunny. Let me tell you how absolutely nuts I am about the tone and expressiveness of his voice. I would let someone with a voice like that ruin my life. Torch my credit,crash my car, just sing to me while you do it and it’s no problem. If “Odio” doesn’t do it for you, I also recommend the devastating “La Canción.” Google a rough translation of the lyrics and then cry yourself to sleep. Just don’t text your ex.

4. Lana Del Rey, “Cinnamon Girl” (from Norman Fucking Rockwell!)

When an album starts off with the words “God damn man-child,” you know you’re in for a treat. My choice from Norman Fucking Rockwell! could easily have been the title track, “Venice Bitch,” the perfect cover of Sublime’s “Doin’ Time,” or “Hope is a Dangerous Thing for a Woman Like Me to Have – But I Have It.” The whole album is truly classic Lana: it’s gorgeous, it’s sad, it’s California. The lyrics of “Cinnamon Girl” caught my ear the most, and so it is my favorite.

5. Bad Bunny featuring El Alfa, “La Romana” (from X 100PRE)

Technically, X 100PRE was released on Christmas Eve 2018, but that made it too late for any of last year’s lists so I’m counting it this year. Tracks from the album played all over the country as MLB players’ walk-up music in summer 2019. “La Romana,” named for the city in the Dominican Republic, starts off slow but invites the listener to dance. The song really hits its stride when El Alfa comes in, bringing with him a mesmerizing vocal cadence and an incredible beat. All of X 100PRE is great to listen to, but the addition of El Alfa on this track gives it that little something that grabs your ear right away.

Sylvia June

Is it just me, or is music getting progressively more weird? There were so many new songs I listened to this year that either sounded like jumbled/mumbled noise. As much as I enjoy “all the good girls go to hell,” I’m looking at you Billie Eilish and all the other kids putting out fuzz. And don’t get me started on EDM (I don’t understand it, but I am still checking out Vos’ picks). Get off my lawn! I still managed to find 5 albums that stood out among this year’s releases, and I’m including my favorite song from each one.

5. Mannequin Pussy, Patience

I am an old school 90s grunge/punk rock grrl, so Mannequin Pussy’s music checks a lot of boxes for me in that regard. Their third release, Patience, should have a broader appeal because it has more elements of pop punk in it than their previous, more hardcore sound. It’s good to know that punk’s not dead. The title track on this album is actually my favorite, but “Cream” is pretty good and it has a fun video.

“And I was standing in the gates of my hell
I was looking at myself like
“Girl, what you did? Take a look at yourself right now
‘Cause everything that you do, you do it for you”

4. Lizzo, Cuz I Love You

I agree with Nicole that Lizzo’s music has been too much of everywhere this year for me to feel like I can connect with it well anymore. But when I first discovered this album, I’m pretty sure I had it on repeat for a month straight because it made me feel fine as fuck. “Tempo” was one of the first songs that made it on my running playlist, because I am, in fact, a thick bitch who desperately needs uptempo tunes to move my butt. But I truly enjoyed all the tracks (I want to karaoke “Cuz I Love You” to filth) and I can’t wait for more.

” Get on this ride, baby, you gon’ have to buckle up
Thick thighs save lives, call me little buttercup”

3. Purple Mountains, Purple Mountains

I adore music that is more of a poem. After I heard the first lines of the opening track of Purple Mountains, “That’s Just the Way I Feel,” I couldn’t stop until I reached the end of the album. I had never read David Berman’s poetry, or listened to Silver Jews, the band he served as frontman for before this solo project, but I was struck by how his philosophical and at times bitterly sad lyrics juxtapose themselves with the upbeat indie rock instrumentals. I found out only after listening to the whole thing that Berman released it about a month before he killed himself this August, just as he was set to go on tour. As someone who has been in these shoes, all I can say is I understand and appreciate what he was trying to do. There is always beauty and hope, even through the end. This video for “All My Happiness is Gone” has a slow beginning, but after the 2 minute mark you can hear the song as it appears on the album in all its glory. I’ll be here clinging to life even if you couldn’t, Mr. Berman.

“Mounting mileage on the dash
Double darkness falling fast
I keep stressing, pressing on
Way deep down at some substratum
Feels like something really wrong has happened
And I confess I’m barely hanging on”

2. Maggie Rogers, Heard It In a Past Life

I first heard Maggie giving an interview on NPR earlier this year, and they played snippets of her music — I was instantly drawn in by every song. I love her sound, which is definitely poppy but it is still unique. I love her personality and that she’s willing to just white girl dance the hell out of every song she sings. I love everything about her. Do yourself a favor, buy this album NOW. Girl didn’t need Pharrell to make her go viral. “Alaska” is the song that put her on the map, but my favorite from this album is “Light On.”

“Do you believe me now that I always had the best intentions, babe? / Always wanted to stay / Can you feel me now that I’m vulnerable in oh so many ways / And I’ll never change”

Lana Del Rey, Norman Fucking Rockwell!

Lana is my musical side boo (because I’m musically married to Tori Amos, obvs). There’s no way I could have not picked her album as the top best most favorite wonderful of 2019. But let me tell you, she earned it. I know I said before that all her songs on Norman Fucking Rockwell! kind of sound the same, and after listening to it probably 58 more times I still feel that way. But you guys, there is no one else who can evoke beauty, despair and hope together as well as she does, and this album is perfect. Listening to it makes me feel like I am floating in a lake of feelings, where I can enjoy the magnificence of them all. I have 10 “favorite songs” out of 14 tracks, so at this point I’m just going with the song I shared earlier this year, “Mariners Apartment Complex.”

“You lose your way, just take my hand / You’re lost at sea, then I’ll command your boat to me again / Don’t look too far, right where you are, that’s where I am / I’m your man”

Emily Cornell

I measure the greatness of an album by how many times I can listen to the whole thing on repeat We’re so fortunate to be able to consume all genres to our hearts’ content, yet here I share that I spent 2019 constraining myself to a narrow scope of pop music. I am not sorry about this, these albums slap. No shame, I like what I like, maybe next year I’ll branch out and listen to less basic music. 

5. Taylor Swift, Lover
I almost didn’t include Lover, then Spotify told me I listened to this album a lot, so here we are. Swift is finally happy and she wants to share her love with the world. While there’s a time and place for her older “you hurt me, I’m gonna complain and cry” music, there’s also a place for her lovesick music. Say what you want about Taylor, this album was huge and won’t be the end of her pop reign. 

4. Billie Eilish, When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?
Moment of honesty: When I listen to this album I feel a little scared, but in a good way. The way I assume people who like scary movies feel when they see a good scary movie. Billie Eilish sounds both fun and a little menacing, a fresh take from a teenager who one would expect to be angsty (think, Avril Lavigne) or very clean (think young Taylor Swift). Billie Eilish does her own thing, resulting in lyrics that you question from a teenager but still listen because all of her songs are bops.

3. Lizzo, Cuz I Love You
There’s not a white girl in America who doesn’t know the words to  “Truth Hurts.” When I think about 2019, I think of Lizzo and how every other song on the radio was her. This woman dominated 2019 with no plans to stop. She’s incredibly talented, motivating, empowering, and fun. Cuz I Love You highlights all of these attributes of Lizzo in a variety of song styles: rap, hip-hop, and pop. We stan a queen. 

2. Ed Sheeran, No. 6 Collaborations
The range of musicians Ed Sheeran collaborated with for this album is amazing. I love Ed Sheeran to begin with, so for him to create an album with the likes of Chance the Rapper, Camilla Cabello, Cardi B, Eminem, Khalid, and Travis Scott was a treat, as were the songs with artists like Yebba, Stormzy, and H.E.R. Sheeran displays the range of these artists and leans into his ability to compliment these artists. 

  1. Hozier, Wasteland, Baby

I love Wasteland, Baby the most of any album I listened to this year. Not only are the songs beautifully composed, but they cause feelings. Few albums poke my soul like Wasteland, Baby (other musicians who have achieved feelings include George Ezra, Twenty One Pilots, Ed Sheeran), which probably contributes to me still listening to this album on repeat. The instrumentals on this album are fantastic and paired with Hozier’s beautiful voice, he’s created a delightful compilation of songs. In broad strokes of music, this album is underappreciated.

Jake Vos

This is the first time I’ve ever actually sat down to attempt making a top 5 song list for a specific year and let me tell you it was rough. I came up with at least 15 songs that were probably worthy of making my list. 2019 presented some real gems, introducing me to some new artists such Sturgill Simpson as well as furthering my love for other artists such as Luke Combs and Weezer. Before getting to the real list I feel like I need to include the following list of honorable mentions (I told you only choosing 5 was difficult):

  • Kesha & Sturgill Simpson, “Resentment”
  • Brantley Gilbert, “Man That Hung The Moon”
  • Luke Combs, “Houston, We Got a Problem”
  • Weezer, “Take On Me”
  • Luke Combs, “Even Though I’m Leaving”

5. Marshmello x Flux Pavilion w/ Elohim, “Room to Fall”

It just wouldn’t be a top songs list without a song from my favorite EDM artist Marshmello. I don’t have too much to actually write about this one, it’s just a classic Marshmello banger that I blasted in my headphones countless times at the gym this year.

4. I Prevail, “Breaking Down”

This song was by far my favorite song off of I Prevail’s latest album that would be in the running for one of my favorites of the year. This song has everything I look for in the the genre of modern hardcore/metalcore music. It talks about dealing with inner demons, which makes its very relatable and a great work out song.

3. Kygo & Whitney Houston, “Higher Love”

This song was everything I had no idea I wanted. Kygo worked with a previously recorded version of Higher Love by the late Whitney Houston. It’s a beautiful blend of the modern pop EDM style and a great classic song. Very likely would be my choice for my overall favorite song of the year.

2. ILLENIUM w/ Jon Bellion, “Good Things Fall Apart”

Here we have another great example of a very recent trend of the EDM style featuring a fantastic vocalist. This song had one of the highest play counts on my Spotify this year due to its fantastic drop and chorus. I blared it in my car, on the treadmill, and on my stereo while I was working around the house. 

  1. Luke Combs, “Dear Today”

This song makes the list of songs that have brought me to tears at least once. Luke Combs has a habit of doing that to me. This song graced my ears for the first time shortly after my father was in the hospital, and it hit me right in the heart. He talks about how tomorrow isn’t guaranteed and we would all be better served to appreciate what we have right now, not assuming it will just be there tomorrow. This song also has one of the most unique audio devices I’ve heard in a while, it starts out sounding very raw and acoustic and part way through it switches to a more studio produced sound.

What You See Is What You Get would also likely make my top albums of the year.

We’re looking forward to new music in 2020 from artists like Kesha, Green Day, Tame Impala, The Killers, and Run The Jewels (Sylvia personally cannot wait for a new album expected from Miss Lana Del Rey). Peace out!

Sylvia June
Sylvia June 17 Articles
Staff Writer

I'm Vee. I live in a cute little house with my cats. I grew up in Northwest Iowa and graduated from Iowa State (where, btw, I first met the notorious Ted Flint over a game of flip cup). Other totally random facts about me: I like goats and I am turned on when people make literary references in everyday conversation.

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