Saturday, December 28, 2019

GLW 013: Tom Morgan


GLW 014: Shay Corbett
GLW 015: Ryan Joyce
GLW 016: Drew Ginther
GLW 017: Mike Brand
GLW 018: Carl Anderson


The art of capturing how a song can make you feel is so deeply personal and indescribable while at the same time a shared-experience with your closest friends dancing in your living room and screaming every word. The songs that stick with us take us to another place, whether it’s a peaceful solitary moment or a crowd of 100,000 people, and always have the ability to make us feel something. My top songs of 2019 made me feel elated, nostalgic, queer, connected, isolated, hopeful. But mostly they moved me. Hope they move you as well :)

1. Katy Perry - Never Really Over

Look. I didn’t think my favorite song of the year would be by the cookie-cutter queen herself, but Miss Perry snapped this summer! This song itself has its share of controversy (it’s essentially a remake of a 2017 bop by Norwegian singer Dagny) but its pop perfection in 2019 can’t be denied. The (over)production is crisp with rolling snares and bombastic synths throughout, building to the jump-up-and-down chorus that includes a descending scale harmony that gets me every time. We’ve all had someone in our life that keeps trickling back in despite our best efforts to draw the line, so we might as well dance in the kitchen with our friends and accept that some things are never really over. Extra points for Coco Montrese’ing the lyrics in the chorus!

2. Meek Mill (feat. Drake) - Going Bad

This track is the lead single from the Philly rapper’s first post-big house album and, to no surprise, Drake’s flow is the main draw. The track has southern trap production by way of Wheezy (Young Thug, Future) and the combination of factors here made for a lot face-scrunching and head-bopping with friends throughout the year. My favorite rap moment of 2019; “saw you last night but did it BROAD DAY”. Purist note: the album came out at the end of 2018 and this single was released in early 2019 - sue me!

3. BLACKPINK - Kill This Love

I saw a ton of live shows in 2019 but none melted my face in a way that I didn't see coming quite like BLACKPINK in the Sahara tent at Coachella (hard to beat production-wise). The song is a fever dream of regal horns, trap drops, Korean and English lyrics and paired with precise choreography (which, yes I’ve done in public many times in 2019).

4. Ariana Grande - bad idea

Ari is certainly my artist of 2019. thank u, next was my most listened to album and I saw her live three times (tied with miss Lizzo for most of the year!) including her star-studded Coachella headlining set (youngest artist in the 20 year run of the festival to headline!). “bad idea” is hard to nail down as a genre, but it has a sexy plucked-synths that echo throughout that take me to a sultry 80s Heart/Police-kinda place. The plodding bass synth and trappy hi-hats place it squarely in 2019 as Ari laments her poor decisions (“I know we shouldn’t baby, but we will”). She doesn’t want any strings and she wants it now! There’s a darker side to her tryst - she’s only after someone to numb her pain and to just give her something she can feel. If that ain’t 2019 right there! The song ends with a chopped and screwed breakdown that lets you know that the numbness has started working - Max Martin’s mind!

5. Beyonce - Diva (Homecoming Live)

A quick snapshot of what will truly go down as one of the greatest feats in live performance for a music artist. Bey brought the Southern HBCU halftime show to the entire world. I could write a dissertation about Homecoming itself (the musical arrangements, the constant interpolation of other hip-hop beats as backing to her songs, the choreography, the staging, THE OUTFITS, the vocals, the stamina, the Blackness of it all) and while the show certainly wasn’t for me, I was grateful that I got the chance to stand in that crowd for eight hours to see it up close and in person and witness her leave no questions as to where she stands in history.

“Diva” flawlessly works Drake’s “Headlines” and Hov’s “99 Problems” into the performance via the live backing band - an interesting comment on the macho braggadocio that the song itself flips upside down (“diva is a female version of a hustlaaaa”). But the sample that steals the show - and I mean the entire Homecoming - is the fairly unknown “Everybody Mad” by O.T. Genasis, giving us a milly-rocking dance-break that is full of so much swag that all 100K of us were left with no choice BUT to stan in perpetuity. 

6. ROSALÍA - Aute Cuture

7. Maggie Rogers - Fallingwater (live on SNL)

Roger’s debut album Heard It in a Past Life is another album that I listened to on repeat throughout the year but something really special happened on the SNL stage when she was musical guest. Her first performance was “Light On” and it was...well, it was a disaster in which she picked the wrong starting note out of the air and never really got in key again. But then - THEN - she returned in all of her witchy-woman glory for a perfect performance of “Fallingwater.”  

From an NME article about the song: It’s here that Maggie, reliving the moment as she looks out the window, is moved to tears. “Ever since I performed ‘Falling Water’, I’ve felt a real shift in my life. Something’s changed. Sorry, I’m getting kind of emotional,” she says dabbing her eyes…. “In a way, it felt like I was saying goodbye to [‘Heard It In A Past Life’], she says. “It’s about to not be mine anymore. I care so much about this work, and really… things have changed. At a certain point you have to let go.”

8. Carly Rae Jepsen - Want You in My Room

Miss Jepsen, if ya nasty! It’s hard to follow-up a perfect album like E*MO*TION - and Carly sure took her time doing so (casually dropping one of the best pop songs ever in the off-album cycle in-between, but I digress!) - but Dedicated was fun and “Want You in My Room” was the most fun. On the bed! On the floor! Girl!

9. Charli XCX and Christine & the Queens - Gone

Another insane A.G. Cook production for Charli. She brings in Chris to help with this synth banger that has one of my favorite lines from 2019: “I feel so unstable - fucking hate these people, how they’re making me feel lately - they’re making me weird baby!” because who amongst us in 2019, amirite? The music video features an INSANE amount of sexual chemistry between the two and the breakdown in the end of the song is *chefs kiss*

10. Dua Lipa - Don’t Start Now

She’s going to serve us disco and we will deal! The funky bass and whip smart post-breakup lyrics (“walk away - you know how”, “if you wanna believe that anything can stop me - don’t show up”). I’ve stomped many an imaginary runway to this one since its release.  Can’t wait to see more of Dua Lipa's Future Nostalgia era in 2020.

11. Ariana Grande - ghostin

This ethereal moment on thank u, next may be Ari’s most vulnerable song in her discography, which is saying a lot when you think about how much the poor woman has been through (“a girl with a whole lot of baggage”) and how open she has been about it all. “ghostin” is a heartbreaking song about being with one person and caring for them deeply while at the same time missing the phantom of a past relationship - with the current love very much aware of it (“I know you hear me when I cry”).. To make the moment even heavier, one could easily apply the construct of the song to Grande being with her fiancé when her recent ex-boyfriend died from an accidental overdose. Crying for a lost love into the arms of a current one who is slowly starting to disappear - UGH! *sobs*

12. Harry Styles - Adore You

This 1D’er is all grown up and making bops dripping in sex! This song gives me big Peter Gabriel energy - I think partially because Harry singing “I get so lost inside your eyes” immediately reminds me of Gabriel’s “love, I get so lost sometimes” from “In Your Eyes” - this can’t be accidental, right?  It even is sung in a similar cadence. Anyway - Fine Line is an incredible album and I truly love to see it. Oh, and ROSALÍA delivers a monologue in the music video so, yeah.

13. Taylor Swift - Death By a Thousand Cuts

Ever since Taylor talked about her affinity for Fall Out Boy and how their twist of phrase whimsy influences her own style, it’s all I can think about when I listen to her music. “Death By a Thousand Cuts” is a textbook example of that - I mean just look at the title. Sonically, Jack Antanoff is imprinted all over this track - flipping between folksy guitar picking and harpsichord of the verse to the deep riding bass synths of the pre-chorus and then melding them all throughout - their minds!

14. Lana Del Rey - California

Norman F*****g Rockwell! is a stellar album (my favorite of hers) that is full of ~MOODS~ as always. “California” is a song about being able to be yourself and coming back to America and California to hit up all of the old favorite places, having a party and dancing til dawn - so, it me.

15. The Highwomen - Highwomen

A country supergroup comprised of some of the best ladies doing it in the industry, including Brandi THEE Carlile. The entire album is great, but this introduction to their concept positions the women as representations of the “daughters of the silent generations” - women unjustly killed for following just causes.  Immigrants fleeing dangerous situations for the sake of family, spiritual leaders flying in the face of the patriarchy, Freedom Riders riding south.  They return “as tiny drops of rain” despite the violence they faced and will keep “singing the stories still untold.” While Brandi is of course the baddest in the game vocally, the pain in British guest star Yola’s voice steals the show for me here.

16. Bon Iver - U (Man Like)

I typically have zero idea what Justin Vernon is talking about in these songs, but appreciate the beauty nonetheless and this is no exception. There are a few guest vocals that add to the layers here (Bruce Hornsby and the Brooklyn Youth Choir) and the lyrics have some nods to American inequality, homelessness and opiods that lend to the song’s distorted gospel ennui.

17. Megan Thee Stallion feat. DaBaby - Cash S**t

2019’s most exciting rappers together on one track. Megan keeps Pimp C’s Houston flow alive and DaBaby has a special place in my heart for being the next big thing out of my home state of NC. “Yeah I’m in my bag but I’m in his too!”

18. Billie Eilish - i love you

I was quite skeptical about miss Eilish when “bad guy” starting picking up steam (well after we first heard “ocean eyes”) and wrote her off as another marble-mouthed singer, but after really getting into WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP WHERE DO WE GO? I was fully proved wrong and hooked.  Eilish and her brother/producer Finneas created a masterpiece of a debut album and “i love you” features him vocally more than anywhere else, creating some real magic (especially if you see the captivating SNL performance). The song is about a moment when someone says “i love you” and you’re not sure if you’d rather it have been a joke or feel the real impact of it since you yourself love that person, even if you don’t want to. Maybe it’s just easier if “nothing has to change today.” It’s a vulnerable moment from the young hell-raiser which is represented vocally by her teetering on the edge of a whisper. That delicate touch combined with the bass that washes over you in the chorus is just *double chef’s kiss*

19. Normani - Motivation

Sigh. Outside of Ariana - and maybe because of her affiliation - this was my most anticipated release of the year. And we all let it flop! Perhaps it sounds too much like “Check Up On It” or other horn-driven pop girl songs in past years, but I’m still adding it here! The video was my favorite of the year which added a lot to the song. Hopefully a sign of the ascension of Normani in 2020.

20. Sam Smith & Normani - Dancing With a Stranger

A relatable “I wasn’t even going out tonight” and now “I’m with somebody new” moment from these two hot names that has led to many a runway stomp in 2019.

21. ROSALIÍA & Ozuna - Yo x Ti, Tu x Mi

Second entry and another infectious song by the year’s most exciting international superstar.

22. Maren Morris & Brandi Carlile - Common

There’s a weird thing where this song sounds like two different Alicia Keys songs (“In Common” and “Diary”) but I want to draw the focus to the second verse, sung by Carlile. It is, in my humble opinion, the best recorded pop vocals I heard this year. Perfect delivery.  

23. Kim Petras - Do Me

Problematic as her career has been, I’m all about supporting this trans artist and her super queer songs. “Do Me” is exactly what it sounds like - nasty and grimy, building to some final chorus ad-libs that shocked the shit out of me when I saw them live (“make me wanna be BAAAAD”).

24. Khalid - Right Back

A delightful and breezy bop. Khalid has a voice made for recording these kinds of songs and is continuously picking up steam. Free Spirit got a lot of spins from me in 2019.

25. Saweetie - My Type

Pure fun to round this list out. Try not to twerk.

Honorable Mention in fictional singer category: Ashley O - On a Roll

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