It’s hard to brieflyencapsulate the brilliance of ‘This is America’, but remembering the weekend it was released helps. First there was surprise: that Donald Glover’s hitherto slightly jokey hip hop alias had birthed a profound statement on America’s fundamental race problem. Then there was the video, so carefully layered in references, symbolism, message and nuance that it sparked days and weeks of genuinely edifying social media discussion –a wave of insightful intellectualism that reminded people what they thought the internet wouldactuallybe like. Music fans studiously decoded the myriad allusions – from the panoply of underground dances, to racist depictions of the Jim Crow south, to gun crime and through to the final sequence of Glover running. Together, we listened and we learned. ‘This is America’ was not just the song of the year, it really wasthecultural event of the year, bar none.
In the way ‘Strawberry Fields Forever’ encapsulates everything great about The Beatles in one song, ‘Venice Bitch’ was kind of a perfect distillation of the Lana Del Rey project in nine romantic, complicated and utterly real minutes. A triumph.
Club music really went back to its roots in 2018, with gospel influences popping up everywhere. But nothing harnessed the power of the holy spirit like this disco moment, powered by the voices of Detroit trio Dames Brown.
Though technically from last year, 2018 was when this insanely talentedhip hopboyband got noticed beyond their fanbase. ‘Boogie’ was simply a banger for the ages and became the young group’s calling card.
Casting young Londoner JL as merely some jokes rapper is kinda missing the point. He’s a visionary, a young man of the times and the most fiercely tucked-in guy since Jerry Seinfeld. And yes, he is also a massively jokes rapper. BUT: his jams and videos are amazing and worth – to use his own phraseology – a million pounds.
The biggest banger from collaborative album ‘Everything is Love’, ‘Apeshit’ saw Beyoncé and Jay Z celebrate their incredible success over a grinding trap beat. The way Bey casually references buying her hubbie a private jet is iconic.
Built around a sample from boogaloo classic ‘I Like It Like That’, this Latin brag track drips with swagger. Best line: Cardi’s ‘I like texts from my exes when they want a second chance.’ Don’t we all!
Thanks to Rhian Daly, Tracy Kawalik, Nick Levine, Kyle MacNeil, James Manning, Kate Solomon, Emily Watson, Chris Waywell and Lisa Wright.