Grab your headphones for this read. Photo: Courtesy of RCA.
Reading Time: 5 minutes

The Fulcrum picks our top 10 songs of the year

1)  “This Is America,” Childish Gambino, Single (May 2018)

Childish Gambino’s densely symbolic “This is America” builds a stark portrait of gun violence in the United States, and its disproportionate use on Black Americans.. The song’s music video jolted YouTube with over 12 million views in just 24 hours. For days following its release, commentators analyzed its portrayal of sudden and unprovoked shootings, a galloping white horse, and Gambino’s yellow shoes. The video, directed by Hiro Murai (who has worked with Gambino on Atlanta), features a shirtless Gambino dancing as riots break out behind him and a group of school children.

The music moves between an ominous whirring effect to Gambino’s occasional monotone delivery. The heavier sounds are contrasted by its gospel-style chorus. At the end of the track, Young Thug sings, “You just a black man in this world/You just a barcode.”

Standing alone, the song doesn’t depict its themes as well as it does with the video, but I think the song and video act best as a pair. The project’s strength rests in how Gambino uses distraction and unprovoked violence to illustrate America’s relationship with gun violence and entertainment.

Sarah Crookall, News Editor.

2)  “Love It If We Made It”, The 1975, A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships (July 2018)

If there’s a song that summed up the state of the world in 2018, it’s the 1975’s “Love It If We Made It.” The track kicks off with a slow burning open before lead singer Matty Healy’s vocals explode unapologetically, sprawling out over a beautiful instrumental.  

It’s a somber tune for the ills of the world: The song explores the prison industrial complex, the opioid epidemic, the death of rising rapper Lil Peep, and even Kanye West and Donald Trump’s odd relationship. “Modernity has failed us,” Healy moans on the pre-chorus. The best part is as the song comes to a close, you aren’t left depressed but rather charged, hungry to make a change … or at least to find the bright side in anything.

Matt Gergyek, Features Editor.

3)  “Shallow”, Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper, A Star is Born (October 2018)

Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper’s duet from the soundtrack of their film A Star is Born, is a heart wrenching ode to the all-consuming nature of new love. The song is powerful both within and outside of the context of the movie, as proven by the radio play and chart success it has received.

Gaga’s inimitable voice is at its best in the ballad, and  Cooper surprises listeners with his vocal talent and emotion. Their voices work together wonderfully, and the song sets itself apart from other movie-musical tunes by being more grounded than theatrical. A sure-fire karaoke pick for years to come, “Shallow” is dramatic without being hyperbolic, emotional without being sappy, and just relatable enough to make it a definite hit.

Julia D’Silva, Fulcrum Contributor.

4)  “Better Not”, Louis the Child ft. Wafia, Kids at Play EP (April 2018)

Louis the Child’s “Better Not” is an embodiment of serotonin itself, overflowing with warmth and light. Australian singer Wafia sails across a sea of warm and wavy synths, building up to one of the catchiest choruses we’ve heard in ages. When the instrumental drops, it hits like a light breeze: After hearing it, chances are you might just have a huge smile across your face.

“Better Not” is the type of earworm you’re happy, even thankful, to have stuck inside your head.

—Matt Gergyek, Features Editor.

5)  “Totally Eclipsing”, The Charlatans, Totally Eclipsing (June 2018)

This ballad marked a comeback for the Charlatans, who have been making music since the late 80’s. A Manchester band issued from the Britpop scene, this is actually the first track I’ve ever heard from them and I absolutely loved the Arcade Fire-like riff that they mixed with lead singer Tim Burgess’s nasally vocals.

This was definitely a highlight for me this year when it came to new rock/indie songs.

—Charley Dutil, Associate Sports Editor.

6)  Mo Bamba, Sheck Wes, Mud Boy (October 2018)

Every year a single song, usually one that also dominates the airwaves, takes over college and university campuses across the country, echoing into the streets from house parties and downtown bars.

2015 gave us Drake’s “Hotline Bling.” while in 2016, the Chainsmoker and Halsey took the cake thanks to “Closer.” Last year Lil Uzi Vert came out on top with “XO Tour Llif3.”   In 2018, the song that destroyed hundreds of floors in student homes and caused at least a few mosh pits to break out was, without a doubt, Sheck Wes’s “Mo Bamba.” Named after 20-year-old Mohamed Bamba, up-and-coming Orlando Magic centre, the bass-heavy track is an adrenaline-fuelled celebration of success.

Matt Gergyek, Features Editor.

7)  “Dunno,” Mac Miller, Swimming  (August 2018)

It’s almost impossible to pick the best song off Swimming, and I would argue it’s one of those albums that’s meant to be listened to in whole from start to finish, but “Dunno” emerges as a standout. The track is entirely a love and thank you letter to his ex, Ariana Grande, radiating positivity, growth and perseverance.

Miller reflects on his time with Grande, not out of spite but out of gratefulness instead. “Let’s get lost inside the clouds,” he muses on the powerful chorus of the track. After Miller’s death, the outro is gorgeously haunting, a final message to his fans: “I think we just might be alright…”

Matt Gergyek, Features Editor.

8)  “H E X,” Rezz & 1788-L, Certain Kind of Magic (Aug. 2018)

Electronic music is in an interesting place in 2018. On the one hand the majority of electronic musicians are now stuck inside a silo of conformity. On the other hand, artists are experimenting with new directions and production techniques, and this is where things really get exciting.

Rezz, aka Isabelle Rezazadeh, a DJ from Niagara Falls, Ont., is perhaps one of the genre’s most exciting up and comers, and her song with 1788-L, “H E X,” proves this. The monster of a song manages to blend drum and bass with heavy dubstep wubs and even the grinding of an electric guitar with ease. Watching the jaws of thousands of people in the crowd at Ottawa’s Escapade Music Festival fall open when she played out this song in her headlining set sums up my reaction quite nicely.

Matt Gergyek, Features Editor.

9) “Trippy,” Anderson .Paak, Oxnard 

Since emerging and quickly rising to fame in 2016 with his epic Malibu, Anderson .Paak has become known as one of hip-hop/R&B’s most innovative artists. Channeling his background as a gospel singer, he raps and sings over jazzy and groovy instrumentals, his vocals warm and honest. His album from this year, Oxnard doesn’t quite live up to the standards of Malibu (which are admittedly hard to meet), but a number of tracks resonate Paak’s greatness. On “Trippy”, he joins forces with North Carolina rapper J. Cole to explore love, intimacy and romance. “Come meet me in the middle, right there where you always be,” Paak sings

Matt Gergyek, Features Editor.  

10) “Stir Fry”, Migos, Culture II (January 2018)

There’s no denying that Culture II, Migos’ follow-up to the album’s 2016 landmark predecessor, didn’t quite live up to expectations. The unique synergy between the group’s three rappers, Quavo, Takeoff and Offset, just isn’t there. But one of the album’s standout tracks, “Stir Fry,” collects the strongest elements of Culture, while also seeing the group looking forward to new horizons.

A collaboration with Pharrell, the trio ditches the trap beats they’ve become known for and opt for a mixture of whistles, bongos and fast drums instead, injecting just the right amount of ad-libs and triplets to remind listeners exactly who Migos are.   

Matt Gergyek, Features Editor.

Honourable Mention: “High,” Young Thug ft. Elton John, On the Run (September 2018)

The fact that Young Thug convinced Elton John to let him sample his 1972 staple “Rocket Man” on this song is enough to earn it a spot on our list. But Thug doesn’t just sample the track: he reworks it in unexpected ways, laying his auto-tuned vocals atop a distant John and bringing them back strong for a singalong course.

Thug harmonizes and pairs with John thousands of times better than anyone could have expected, and the two even have a budding friendship to show for it. The resulting product is a refreshing take on what Rolling Stone named one of the top 500 songs of all time.

—Matt Gergyek, Features Editor.