Cardi B and Bruno Mars
Photo: Kevin Mazur / Getty Images

8 songs you couldn't stop listening to in 2018

There were a lot of bangers this year!

  /  12.20.2018

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of any other agency, organization, employer or company.

For many, music provides the soundtrack to our lives and helps mark pivotal moments in time, making it the ultimate time capsule that connects us all. And in 2018, there was an expansive list of options to choose from in order to create the background music for our respective travels and experiences. With every flip of the calendar, a new batch of songs caught the ears of listeners, keeping them captive until another song took over our mental real estate or top billing in our playlists. And the best aspect was that everyone got in on the fun; as rising stars, future legends and legacy acts all contributed to making the past twelve months one of the most exciting of the decade. Regardless of age or personal taste, there was something for everyone; whether it was brooding trap tunes, vintage boom-bap, melodic radio smashes or syrupy love ballads.

However, in an age where music has become as disposable as ever, having a song be able to withstand the sheer amount of songs that are thrown at us daily and still make a considerable impact — as opposed to just becoming “another record” — is an achievement in itself. This proved truer than ever this year, as hip hop and R&B produced some of the biggest tracks of 2018, a reminder of both respect genres’ dominance on the charts and the inarguable imprint they’ve had on pop culture, overall.

As the year comes to a gradual close, let’s look back at eight of the songs that you couldn’t stop listening to in 2018 and tell us your thoughts!

8. Bruno Mars & Cardi B: “Finesse Remix”

“They just don’t make remixes like they used to” is a sentiment shared among music fans that came of age during the ’90s and aughts, when some of the most pivotal records were a result of revamping the original. Bruno Mars must’ve got the memo, as the crooner helped kick off 2018 in a big way with the remix to “Finesse,” a cut from his 2016 album, 24K Magic. The track pairs Bruno with rapstress Cardi B. With production helmed by The Stereotypes & Shampoo Press & Curl — who evoke a New Jack Swing vibe with jittery percussion, searing synths, and an interpolation of “‘Cause That’s the Way You’re Livin’ When You’re in Living Color” by In Living Color — Cardi contributes a verse that’s equal parts playful and celebratory, instantly giving the track a carefree vibe. Despite Bruno Mars’ vocals remaining the same from the original, Cardi B, who bolsters the song with her exuberant ad-libs, takes “Finesse (Remix)” to a whole other level and made it feel like it was 1992 all over again.

7. Juice WRLD: “Lucid Dreams”

Each year in music, there is an artist who seemingly pops up out of nowhere with a song that becomes a monster of a record. This role that was filled by Juice WRLD in 2018. The highly touted newcomer, who first made waves via SoundCloud, went national with this ballad that captures the rapper/crooner in a vulnerable state when he belts out lyrics about love lost. Produced by Nick Mira, the track — which is powered by a sample of Sting’s 1993 classic, “Shape of My Heart” — evokes an impassioned performance from Juice WRLD. He bares his soul by singing lines like, “I still see your shadows in my room/Can’t take back the love that I gave you,” atop booming 808 drums and guitar licks. Released in March 2018, “Lucid Dreams” gradually caught fire, slowly rising up the charts before peaking at No. 2 on the Hot 100 and is my pick for the heartbreak anthem of the year.

6. Travis Scott ft. Drake: “Sicko Mode”

Some artists drop songs, others create events. One of the biggest spectacles of the year came courtesy of Travis Scott, who made listeners lose their marbles upon unleashing this single from his third studio album, ASTROWORLD. Produced by Rogét Chahayed, Hit-Boy, OZ, Tay Keith & CuBeatz; this three-pronged selection begins with an opening refrain from Drake, who uses his melodic slick talk to get the proceedings rolling. However, that intro proves to only be a teaser to the main course, as Travis Scott crashlands and goes into “Sicko Mode.” He delivers a pair of verses rife with punchlines galore and subtle nods to a bevy of classic rap hits (“Stomp” by Three 6 Mafia, “I Wanna Rock (Doo Doo Brown)” by Luke, “Gimme the Loot” by The Notorious B.I.G.). And just when you thought things couldn’t get any iller, Trav provides yet another change of pace with Drizzy swooping back in for the kill with a string of couplets that add to his grab-bag of standout verses. Featuring additional vocals from Swae Lee and a posthumous appearance from Houston rap legend Big Hawk — whose song “Hot Shit” is sampled for the hook — “Sicko Mode” captures Travis Scott at the height of his powers, serving up a heater that helps cap off one of rap’s more illustrious calendar years in recent memory.

5. Sheck Wes: “Mo Bamba”

Certain records create a level of pandemonium that incites riots and leave everyone within earshot possessed by the spirit of rage and youthful expression. Sheck Wes creates this perfect storm with “Mo Bamba.” This is the Harlem-bred baller-turned-rapper’s breakout single and a tune that thrives on style over substance. Lyrically sparse, the track — which is produced by Take A Daytrip & 16yrold — pays homage to Sheck Wes’ former teammate, NBA player Mo Bamba. It opens with a xylophone loop before hitting you in the face with 808 drums and a thunderous bass that makes you want to dive into a mosh-pit. Keeping up with Harlem tradition, Sheck Wes litters the track numerous ad-libs. The most prominent is the usage of the word “bitch,” which the rapper barks with such vigor that its become a calling card of the majority of his music releases thus far. In a time where unbridled fury is vital in captivating the listener, Sheck Wes excels in this arena on “Mo Bamba.” It’s a selection that sends the listener into state of euphoria and is one of the most boisterous songs of 2018.

4. XXXTentacion: “Sad”

In a year full of highs for the hip hop community, one of the lowest moments was the murder of rising star XXXTentacion, who had made a lane for himself as the torchbearer for emo-rap of the alternative variety. However, before his untimely death, XXXTentacion released his sophomore album, ?, which was led by this lead-single, which finds the controversial figure wallowing in his sorrows. Produced by John Cunningham and XXXTentacion himself, “Sad!” finds the pair borrowing from his own catalog with interpolations of past releases like “Find Me (Intro),” “Jocelyn Flores,” and “Ayala (Outro)” woven into the fabric of the beat. Powered by bombastic drums, keys, and synths; this track captures the fragility of one’s psyche that can come as a result of heartache. Initially released this past March, XXXTentacion’s death would coincide with “Sad!” topping the pop charts. This made the first song since “Mo’ Money, Mo’ Problems” to achieve that feat posthumously. With key lyrics like “Suicide if you ever try to let go/I’m sad, I know, yeah, I’m sad, I know, yeah” that draw you into his world of melancholy, “Sad!” helped ensure that XXXTentacion’s music and message will continue to live on, even in death.

3. Cardi B: “I Like It”

Of all of the artists to make an impact in 2018, Cardi B’s winning streak may have been the most impressive. Completing her evolution from captivating reality TV drama queen to bonafide rap star with the release of her debut album, Invasion of Privacy, the Bronx bombshell exceeded all expectations by winning the mainstream over with her bubbly personality and succession of smash singles. One of those hits, “I Like It,” saw Cardi embracing her Latin roots. She sampled boogaloo great Pete Rodriguez’s 1967 release of the same name, and bridged the gap between trap and salsa in the process. Delivering a performance full of sass; Cardi B sashays all over the festive backdrop with producers J. White, Tainy, Craig Kallman and Invincible crafting a layered composition. Featuring appearances by breakout Latin-Trap star Bad Bunny — who kicks a bilingual stanza — and reggaeton maven J. Balvin, “I Like It” gave Cardi B her second chart-topping single as a lead artist and even nabbed a Grammy nomination for Record of the Year. It was an inescapable jam throughout the latter half of 2018.

2. Drake: “In My Feelings”

Life, death and taxes are three things that are guaranteed in this lifetime. But, for anyone who’s walked this earth over the past decade, Drake delivering a hit record might as well be added to the list. The Canadian megastar’s dominance on the charts has become predictable and expected. One record that stuck to our ribs is this infectious jam from Drake’s Scorpion album. It showcases the most endearing aspects of his artistry, namely his melodic delivery and penchant for quote-worthy one-liners that turn into cultural mantras. Produced by TrapMoneyBenny, Blaqnmild, and Noah “40” Shebib; “In My Feelings” finds Drizzy drawing from New Orleans’ “bounce” scene for inspiration. This results in a party-hearty selection that gives you no choice, but to migrate to the dance-floor or sing along. Boasting additional lyrics from Miami female rap duo City Girls, as well as samples of Magnolia Shorty’s N.O. classic “Smoking Gun (Acapella Version)” and “Lollipop” by Lil Wayne; “In My Feelings” sparked a dance challenge for the ages and was more than a hot song. It was a cultural moment.

1. Ella Mai: “Boo’d Up”

In an era where the line that separates a singer from a rapper has become as blurred as ever, the death of what listeners consider traditional R&B has been lamented ad nauseam. This death of new faces in R&B, who are capable of moving the needle without assimilating to the rap-centric sound currently dominating the genre, has led fans to thirst for a vocalist in the vein of hip hop soul legends of yesterday. That thirst was quenched in a big way this year with the emergence of British star Ella Mai, who became R&B’s breakout star with “Boo’d Up.” Without a doubt, the song encapsulated what it feels to be like to be in a whirlwind romance. Written by Mai, Joelle James, DJ Mustard and Larrance Dopson; it was also produced by the latter two. “Boo’d Up,” which was featured on Mai’s February 2017 Ready EP, caught legs this past spring. This is thanks to Mai’s sultry vocals and the song’s catchy refrain, which made it an instant hit. Regardless of age, gender or sexual orientation, the song had everyone crooning their hearts out without shame. This is a testament to the single’s universal appeal and songwriting. Peaking at No. 5 on the Billboard Hot 100 and garnering Ella Mai a pair of Grammy nominations — one for Best R&B Song and the other for Song of the Year — “Boo’d Up” helped breath new life into R&B and had us all in our feelings for the better part of the year.

Plus, be sure to check out “REVOLT Rewind” on Dec. 24 – Dec. 28 at 10:00 p.m. – 11:00 p.m., and then, all weekend long on Dec. 29 – Jan. 1 only on REVOLT TV! Find out where you can watch the channel here! And be sure to join the conversation using #RevoltRewind.

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