Every year, WVAU asks its community about the music that moved them, the songs they listened to on repeat, and the albums they’ll never forget. This year, we’re once again highlighting what our community says is this year’s best. These are WVAU’s songs of the year.
10. Harry Styles – “Lights Up”
By Claire Daniel
With so much anticipation for his new album, the release of Harry Styles’ first single off his new album, Fine Line, was met with nearly impossible expectations. But in typical Harry style (no pun intended), the track toppled and even exceeded these expectations, every single one of them.
Styles delivers nearly everything we’ve heard in his lyrical and melodic arsenal thus far, all packed into the infectious “Lights Up.” From strained vocals, nearly impossible high notes, and incredible storytelling. He was also kind enough to include everyone’s favorite slap bass, choir backup vocals, piano breaks, and strong synths and went ahead and backed them with a visually rich and cathartic music video, making it destined to top charts.
The music video depicts some sort of cathartic release from negativity, a shirtless and sweaty Harry, a police barricade, as well as a divinely clad Harry riding backward on a dirt bike. It was ethereal and forced the viewer to process the sentiments sewn within the lyrics.
The single kicked off the release process of Harry’s new album Fine Line, which dropped on December 13th.
9. Billy Eilish – “ilomilo”
By Madee Sadozai
2019 was the year of experimental, genre-bending pop music. The mainstream saw a major overhaul with more exploration into the musical unknown. An icon in redefining what it means to be a musician, artist, and teenager, Billie Eilish took over the pop scene with chart-topping tracks off her debut album, WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP, WHERE DO WE GO? A hidden gem buried under a myriad of radio hits, “ilomilo” embodies Eilish’s aesthetic and is one of her most memorable, haunting songs. One of the shortest tracks on the album, clocking in at just over two and a half minutes, “ilomilo” personifies the existential mindset, disguising Eilish’s painful lyrical confessions with a catchy melody and bouncy instrumentals. The spliced vocals call and respond to layered harmonies, and each section of the song melts into the next with help from repetitive, synth-heavy instrumental loops. Thematic elements present throughout the album culminate within “ilomilo” as Eilish tackles the feelings of anxiety and loss that accompany the fear of separation. The track’s title references a computer game popular at the start of the decade, and this sense of electronic nostalgia brings the listener further into Eilish’s mind. It is the all too familiar, humanistic sense of yearning for times past that lingers long after giving a stellar track like “ilomilo” a listen.
8. 100 Gecs – “Money Machine”
By Morgan Bluma
“Money Machine” is the highlight from 100 gecs’ debut album, 1000 gecs, which is a mix between SoundCloud rap, rock, and brostep. I will admit this song was not on my radar until recently, and is definitely something different than what I normally listen to. But I did truly enjoy this song as it is different, but it has elements that everyone has listened to before. 100 Gecs is made up of Dylan Brady and Laura Les, and they make harsh, maximalist pop music that is fresh and unique. If you listen to this track, like it or not, you will definitely not forget it. The song and album very much pays tribute to internet culture, “Money Machine” is layered with lo-fi chaos and lyrical references to memes, insults, and ghosting. So, if you are looking for something new but not so new that it will scare you, I highly recommend listening to this song and honestly the rest of their album because it’s a wild ride.
7. Clairo – “Bags”
By Yen Dang
It is not an overstatement to say that “Bags” is THE official national anthem of every teenage bedroom of 2019. Over the lackadaisical and charming mishmash of the electric guitar, the drums, and the synth, Clairo walks us back to the insecurity, the tension, and the despondency of holding in an unspeakable affection for someone special in fear of ruining the current relationship. Sounds familiar? I say hell, yes, and so do you and everyone else who is reading this. “Bags” brings out the most heart-aching memories and emotions in each of us by pulling all the right strings and speaking out loud all the right thoughts and words which were either held back or buried deep down by ourselves at the time. And for that, “Bags” is the exact kind of warm comfort that each of us needs to hear before the year 2019 ends.
6. MUNA – “Number One Fan”
By Johanna Zenn
MUNA’s first single ahead of their sophomore album Saves the World captures the hyperbolic, irreverent, and ultimately genuine language that sweeps across the internet, particularly in fandom-based circles. “Number One Fan” is an ode to those who have built communities and spread love across the internet but have not quite managed to direct this kindness towards themselves. If you were anything like me in high school, then this is the song that you needed when you were 15 years old. The first line is a sucker punch as Katie Gavin sings, “so here’s the bad news/Nobody likes me and I’m gonna die alone in my bedroom.” Instead of submitting to this despair, MUNA encourages the listener to turn the deep, intense love that many reserve for their idols onto themselves by speaking their language. A song telling listeners to “stan” themselves could have easily fallen off the deep-end into the realm of corny, but MUNA delivers a funny yet poignant narrative about having the same care and investment in your own happiness as you do in your fandom Twitter account.
5. Jamila Woods – “FRIDA”
By Maria Gramajo
“FRIDA” is featured on Jamila Woods’ second LP, LEGACY! LEGACY!, which she used to pay tribute to legends like Frida Kahlo, Eartha Kitt, James Baldwin, and Muddy Waters. Each song offers an eye towards the struggles of the past and how their legacies have affected her personally.
In the song, she mentions doing it like Frida and building a bridge, paying homage to the fact that Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera’s homes were separate but linked by a bridge. This quote in particular highlights the importance for all of us to give ourselves the time to process and have time that is our own and solely that. This doesn’t mean that you are stepping out of a relationship but instead allows you to take the time to strengthen a relationship by maintaining a sense of self.
I particularly liked “FRIDA” because it is a song about relationships – whether that be romantic or not – and the balance that is needed from them. She sings: “Don’t get me wrong, I’m not scared of lovin’ ya…A savior is not what I’m seeking. I’m God enough.” I think it’s easy to collapse our identities onto others, especially those whom we love, but we must take the time to remember our individuality and how that makes us special – Woods reminds us to do that in this song. Overall, LEGACY! LEGACY! is great and deserves a listen!
4. Vampire Weekend – “Harmony Hall”
By Morgan Bluma
I have been listening to Vampire Weekend for as long as I can remember. “Harmony Hall” is off of their fourth album called Father of the Bride. To say this song is upbeat and happy is an understatement. It gives you sun-rays-through-the-blinds-on-an-early-morning vibe. The song is a mix of acoustic guitars led by a piano groove and provides a friendly warm greeting to their new album. However, what’s truly great about this song, and what sets it above others, is how deep and dark the lyrics are compared to the melody. Harmony Hall represents a space we all once thought was sacred. The instrumental makes the song appear happy and light while the words take you deeper, like “I don’t wanna live like this but I don’t wanna die.” Interestingly, that lyric is also reused from an old 2013 track called “Finger Back” from Modern Vampires of the City. It’s a very creative way of connecting to the past while also pushing for the future.
3. Lauv ft. LANY- “Mean It”
By Yen Dang
Lauv and LANY are both no strangers to writing songs, which dive through all the multiple complexions of love and heartbreaks, and it simply means that “Mean It” is really meant to come to break your heart (again). With the soothing vocal harmonies on top of the catchy and upbeat instrumentals, Lauv and LANY capture and console all the broken hearts who either just walked away from or are still caught up inside their unrequited love for someone indecisive who only sees them as the second choice. Yet, “Mean It” is never written to only confront us about the heartbreak or the frustration of being shoved to the side, but it is also for us to learn to love ourselves in return and to know when to stop being selfless and leave. In fact, this message is precisely something that we all need to hear as well as to remind ourselves and others more often every day.
2. Tyler, The Creator – “EARFQUAKE”
By Shannon Durazo
“For real, for real, for real this time..” is the inescapable intro into a cascade of sweeping piano and synth in Tyler, the Creator’s moving ballad “EARFQUAKE.” Not only does “EARFQUAKE” shake the music industry to its core in true Tyler fashion by positioning itself on the charts despite its lack of a tradition pop backbone, it also encapsulates his remarkable progression as an artist over the past decade. Long gone is the brash teenage Tyler, the Creator of 2009 that rapped about gore; he has evolved into a more sensitive, but ultimately just as creative behemoth who most importantly has always stayed true to himself. The lyrics of “EARFQUAKE”are purposefully sparse, primarily taking the back seat to the production Tyler has meticulously perfected over the years. But the ones that are there certainly pack a punch. The hook “Don’t leave, it’s my fault” is an anthem on its own, somehow vividly compacting all the hardships of falling in love and the tragedy of heartbreak into one simple line.
1. FKA Twigs – “Cellophane”
By Jalen Lesly
The last few years of this decade have proven that multimedia is the future of artistic expression. In the wake of visual albums by Beyoncé and Frank Ocean and short films crafted around records by Thom Yorke and the National, songs like FKA twigs’ “Cellophane,” which felt inseparable from its lavish and heartbreaking music video upon its release this April, seem to find their place naturally in a new industry of technological and artistic convergence. As the lead single for her new album Magdalene, “Cellophane” was the perfect comeback song for an artist like FKA twigs – like many songs on her new album, it is sparse and quiet yet absolutely explosive and magnetic in its emotional intensity, proving the artist’s ability to paint masterpieces with few words, and once again solidifying her status as one of the most unique and irreplaceable in the modern R&B landscape. (And it makes me cry pretty much every time I listen to it.)