Well that's quite enough waiting for Rihanna to get her act together so, as 2019 wheezes its final breath, thoughts must turn to the 45 best songs by artists who actually release music.
We will begin at Number 45, before moving forward to the song positioned at 44. From there it's just a short trip to 43 — then who could forget Number 42? After that we'll consider song number 40… But not before we've listened to 41!
Things will continue in that manner until we get to the Top 10, which this year comprises TEN songs. The tenth best song is listed in tenth position, the ninth in ninth and, quite literally, so on.
PLAYby Betta Lemme
A song that proves the Vengabus is not only very much still coming but as we approach 2020 is somehow more powerful than ever. The Vengabus is more substantial than we could ever have imagined; its arrival an inevitability. Can we therefore regard the Vengabus as an allegory for the climate crisis? THE VENGABOYS WARNED US 21 YEARS AGO AND WE DID NOTHING.
HELLO HAPPINESSby Chaka Khan
Precisely the sort of finely tuned legend comeback that would have made a decent impression on the charts in almost any other pop era. In the streaming age Hello Happiness came and went without very much fuss at all, having committed the sin of Not Sounding Like Lauv.
MINE RIGHT NOWby Sigrid
This song's strange video was, shall we say, 'very Sigrid', but there's no mistaking the thumpy pop majesty of this "HEY!"-strewn wobbler. This song has become something of a live favourite, ie when she did it while supporting someone else at the O2 earlier this year people seemed to pay quite a lot of attention.
MAD LOVEby Mabel
Did you see Mabel's Christmas Top Of The Pops performance? It was pretty good actually, although a) it wasn't of this song and b) the BBC haven't bothered to put it on their YouTube channel, so if you missed it you'll just have to imagine old Mabo banging out Don't Call Me Up with some dancers in Bacofoil delivering some highly 2002-esque choreography.
GONEby Charli XCX and Christine
It's definitely been a busy year for Charli XCX, what with all that 'saving pop' and 'reinventing the girlband' and 'totally and absolutely defining the future of all music', not to mention all the tweeting that goes with it. Gone's her best song of the year.
BOY WITH LUVby BTS and Halsey
Not to pour cold water on all the 'fastest-viewed video in YouTube history' business but there is absolutely no way a normal yellow sofa could be dropped from that height without sustaining at least some damage to its legs. We think increasingly about the unrealistic and unachievable standards popstars set for their fans, but bringing furniture into it is a whole new level of egregiousness.
"I could write a book about the things that you said to me on the pillow," sings Dan 'Dan' Smith, making Another Place the first and only pop song to have been written about being in love with a pillowcase. In the Alessia Cara version of the song, Alessia assumes the role of the pillow.
PLEASE DON'T TOUCH
This song could have done better but Spotify's algorithms misidentified the artwork as being from 1979, meaning that the song didn't make it into the all-important new releases playlists. A lesson there for any graphic designers getting carried away with retro sleeve design.
You could definitely do a good conga to this one.
DANCING WITH A STRANGERby Sam Smith and Normani
If Sam so-called 'Smith' really cared about their fans they'd have done a Christmas version called Dancing In A Manger. 0/10 for attention to festive detail, significantly higher marks for this perky blub-banger.
by Stefflon Don and Lil Baby
Well done to Stefflon Don for going to the bother of posing in a phonebox for the single sleeve. Also for these lyrics: "Why you always got your phone in your hand? I swear it's feeling like I ain't got a man. I just want to take it, run it over with a van."
I'M SO TIRED
by Lauv and Troye Sivan
Clearly not all popstars should be seen as role models and they can and should not be held responsible for what fans get up to while trying to emulate their heroes but there were some severe health and safety problems in this song's video and that cannot be forgiven.
by Taylor Swift
This year Christmas came early to the world of music journalism when Taylor Swift gave a load of 'rock scribes' an excuse to write about Mazzy Star.
by Charlotte OC
(The "looking in all the wrong places" bit is the best bit.) (When this first appeared on New Music Friday it was a really strange acoustic track that was pretty much just the vocal: brilliantly sparse and jarringly different from everything else. Turns out this was a mistake and the proper version was swiftly added in its place, but the wrong version was actually really brilliant.)
by Clara Mae
Clara closed 2018 by covering Robyn in an acoustic 'stylee' but absolutely stormed it in 2019 with an original song modelled on Robyn in full-on electronic mode which, let's be honest, is the Robyn we all want.
ALL DAY AND NIGHTby Europa
Vocals come from Madison Beer who hops on this lager-than-life track and turns in a stella performance that really fosters a [THAT'S ENOUGH OF THAT THANKS — ED]
I COULD GET USED TO THIS
by Becky Hill (and Weiss)
CRAP PEOPLE WITH HALF AS MUCH TALENT
THINKIN BOUT YOU
2005: "Ciara's in the house."
2019: Ciara depicted, in the Thinkin Bout You video, quite literally in a house.
YOU AND I
by Barns Courtney
The video for this was absolutely off its tits and serves as a companion piece to the BTS video in that it also includes an unrealistic depiction of sofa usage. Watch out for this worrying trend as we enter 2020.
There's no way a world-class popstar should be putting those text effects on their artwork in 2019, but for some reason this single didn't suffer from the same artwork-related algorithm penalty as the Raye one.
by Oscar Scheller and PAWWS
"We've got to keep dancing towards a destination unknown." WISE WORDS. Because in a sense are we each not dancing, in our own way, towards an unknown destination?
FIND U AGAIN
by Mark Ronson and Camila Cabello
The vocal production on this! Jesus Christ!
by Josef Salvat
There is so much great music on its way from this chap in 2020. What a year it's going to be for the man they're all calling 'Josef Salvat'.
by Dua Lipa
One can't help but feel too little has been made of the fact that this song is — in the best possible way, on the whole — absolutely fucking ridiculous.
NEVER REALLY OVER
by Katy Perry
Interpolated the wrong Dagny song; as has been clearly explained on numerous occasions Fools Gold is the best Dagny song and that's just a pop fact. Actually, listening to it now, it would have made an extremely acceptable Katy Perry song. Given a bit of a Walking On Air treatment. Which in turn brings us to: WHY THE FUCK WAS WALKING ON AIR NOT A SINGLE?
ALL THE TIME
by Zara Larsson
"Are you in your house? Are you going out?" An anthem for anyone who's ever contacted a neighbour while attempting to redirect a Yodel delivery due to being stuck at the office.
THE HUMAN STONEby KDA and Angie Stone
Didn't exactly end up being the chart-demolishing summer megasmash some fools predicted but still amazing and — you've already noticed this haven't you — isn't the artwork nice?
by White Lies
Not quite sure how this happened but here we are. If you find yourself thinking, "oh, this is quite good, maybe I'll go and listen to White Lies' new album", you are advised to approach said album with EXTREME CAUTION.
by Astrid S
A Charli XCX co-write although Noonie Bao also co-wrote it (along with Astrid and a couple of other people) so who knows who did what? It's hard, sometimes, for one's mind not to wander in the direction of a site a bit like Genius.com, except instead of each portion of the lyrics being annotated with obvious bullshit like "this line about being on a phone is about being on a phone", every single part of the song is broken down into WHO DID WHAT.
RITUALby Tiesto, Jonas Blue and Rita Ora
The best of all the good things about this song (and there are LOTS of good things about this song) is the way it holds off on the all-guns-blazing chorus until right near the end. Twice — TWICE! — in this song you get a chorus without proper drums under it and then just when you're losing hope of it ever happening, there it is. More edging in pop for 2020, please.
NUMBER ONE FAN
Opening line/s of the year: "So I heard the bad news, nobody likes me and I'm gonna die alone in my bedroom looking at strangers on my telephone." An excellent line(/s) because:
1. Uses 'telephone' instead of 'phone'.
3. Look, nobody's going to pretend that songs about phones aren't getting a bit boring at this point, but this isn't a song about a phone so just wind your neck in.
by Billie Eilish
Using the Bieber remix artwork to illustrate this, even though the Bieber remix is 40% worse than the Total Billie version. ("Duh" is the lyric of the year.)
by Shawn Mendes and Camila Cabello
It still seems hilarious that Shawn's "me" very pointedly drops out in the chorus. Poor old Shawn.
by Otto Knows
As a sidenote, Otto Knows' big song Million Voices seems to have had its artwork replaced on Spotify after landing itself on what appears to be one of those bizarre major label compilation playlists The Fader reported on a couple of months back. The playlist in question is called Songs That Get Drunk Girls Excited and this is how pop music ends. That's it, everyone. No more to see or hear here, it's all over. Don't even bother reading this list to the end, music has ceased to exist and now we all just need to get into football.
BREAK UP WITH YOUR GIRLFRIEND, I'M BORED
by Ariana Grande
A billion-stream behemoth.
DIFFERENT THINGSby Gracey
A 1.3‑million-stream behemoth.
ANY OTHER WAY
THE THING IS, you listen to the first twenty or so seconds of this and you think: "This is v pleasant even if it sounds like 40% of New Music Friday flotsam." But THE OTHER THING IS: the second half of Any Other Way is absolutely extraordinary. The final thirty seconds, where the song introduces a whole new element along with an avalanche of ad-libs — an adlibalanche if you will (you won't) — is one of popular culture's most amazing I‑must-experience-this-again-immediately endings since The Sixth Sense.
This brings us back to the writing credits point above. Like, in theory, Max Martin co-wrote this song, but so did Ilya and Savan and Normani and Ariana Grande and a couple of others. Which bit did Max do? Will we ever know? Did he… Not do very much? As mentioned in this year's Readers' Poll roundup, Motivation popped out, everyone when Normani Bonkers for a fortnight, then that was that, although 'in these turbulent times' (ie times when artists are just hurling hundreds of songs a year into the streaming ether and hoping for the best) there's something quite appealing about the defiance and robustness of an annual 'one single, one duet' release strategy from a major artist.
ABOUT WORK THE DANCEFLOOR
The year's best British pop single came out on independent label Domino, a label not exactly well known for its swashbuckling synthpop output. WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?
With Truth Hurts and Good As Hell not strictly qualifying for the 2019 rundown (let's not get into the fact that they weren't featured in the rundowns for their respective release years) Lizzo's Pretty Good 2019 is represented on the list by Juice, which is fitting as it was released in the very first week of the year.
SPIRIT IN THE SKY
The true winner of Eurovision 2019, Spirit In The Sky has a secret bit of magic at its core: each and every appearance of the chorus is exciting for a slightly different reason. First time round you're halfway through the chorus — and wondering if the song might be a ballad — before it all goes off. Second time, the chorus takes you by surprise by smashing in with full force straight away. Finally, coming out of the middle eight, you get that epic switch in the delivery of "niiiiight". Each chorus is an event in its own right.
In the ordinary run of things you'd worry that a new artist had shot their load by releasing such a special song so early in their career but that doesn't feel like a concern for Naaz, a popstar bursting with bold and brilliant ideas.
SO HOT YOU'RE HURTING MY FEELINGS
by Caroline Polachek
About 40% of this song's power is found in the intake of breath at 2:33. The remaining 60% is divided equally between: "not like I'm counting the days, but it's been 25", everything else in the song, everything else in the production, everything else in the performance, the video's 4:3 aspect ratio and the best traffic cop dance routine since the heyday of The Village People, and the fact that the single comes with 2019's best (and only) single artwork to depict a popstar walking an elephant and a dog at the same time. If you're interested in albums, Pang is also probably the album of the year.
And that's the best pop music of 2019. Here's that playlist:
At the end of last year's Top 45 were these words: "Fancy meeting up at the same place twelve months from now to find out where Rihanna, Madonna, Marina, Carly, Selena AND FUCKING ABBA end up on the list? Great, see you then."
Well, that didn't really pan out as hoped, but Rihanna, Selena and Fucking ABBA could still pull it out of the bag for 2020, so shall we just agree to meet again in a year and see how things have ended up?