With the year almost over, it’s already about time to reflect on all the great music that was released in 2019. So with that in mind, and with no beating around the bush, here’s one writer’s look back on 10 of the year’s best pop songs from UK artists.
10) “Don’t Let It Break Your Heart” – Louis Tomlinson
As noted by Pinkvilla, this song was actually just recently released as Louis Tomlinson gears up for his first solo album (which is expected toward the end of January). If you haven’t heard it yet, go ahead and give it a listen. The One Direction veteran shows quite a lot of personal growth on this track, sprinkling an almost Ed Sheehan-like approach into his verses with a chorus that sound very much like something out of One Direction. I suspect Tomlinson will have even better songs for us on the solo album, but in the meantime this one makes my 2019 list.
9) “Beautiful People” – Ed Sheeran (feat. Khalid)
Ed Sheeran’s single “Beautiful People” speaks to those who don’t prioritise fame or fortune. Not only are Sheeran’s lyrics completely charming (as usual), the melody is also mesmerising. It’s not as much pure fun as some other pop hits from the year, but it’s a high-quality blend of singer-songwriter talents and modern DJ sounds, with a good message to boot.
8) “Ladbroke Grove” – AJ Tracey
Perhaps the most distinct track on this list, AJ Tracey’s hip-hop/pop fusion “Ladbroke Grove” has wound up sticking with me more than I thought it might. There’s an aspect to the song that’s a little bit of a letdown, which is basically that it sets up drops that don’t really come. At the same time though, AJ Tracey has a perfect tone and flow for laying hip-hop verses over pop sounds, so for the most part this is a fun listen.
7) “Hold Me While You Wait” – Lewis Capaldi
Lewis Capaldi may be more in the singer-songwriter category than he is strictly a pop artist. But those lines are always blurring, and the 23-year-old budding star has just been too good in 2019 not to have a few songs on my list. This is a slow, thoughtful song, but its raw emotion moves it along and stays with you long after Capaldi has stopped singing.
6) “Hate Me” – Ellie Goulding & Juice WRLD
I love Ellie Goulding because she somehow manages to sound exactly the same and completely different every time she puts out a new track. “Hate Me” is undeniably, distinctly, Ellie, but it’s also exploring new territory. There’s a jumpy, almost restless quality to the song, which might be jarring in other hands. But Goulding’s trademark tone softens the melody just enough to make it intriguing. It’s a song I feel like I’m exploring a little more every time I hear it.
5) “Yesterday” – Himesh Patel
I realise this is an unconventional choice. I do in fact mean “Yesterday” by The Beatles. But I also have to acknowledge that Himesh Patel’s rendition in the film Yesterday (which had its flaws, but was fun) was one of the more beautiful pieces of music I heard in 2019. So, while it may not represent anything new on the pop charts, I would encourage people to give it another listen. Anytime someone revives a legendary pop song (even a low-key one) this successfully, I’m going to be on board.
4) “Lights Up” – Harry Styles
The 1970s-inspired song “Lights Up” further solidifies Harry Styles as a pop icon unto himself. Some might consider it blasphemous to say so, but one can listen to this soulful pop tune, and watch the video for it, and come away with the impression that Styles is turning into something of a David Bowie of his generation.
3) “It’s Coming Home” – Little Mix
Like Himesh Patel’s rendition of “Yesterday,” this is more of an old, lovable pop favourite brought back to life in 2019. During the Women’s World Cup this past summer, a piece at the online sports betting site ExpatBets listed this tune (also known as “Three Lions”) as one of the best football songs ever written. That piece noted that the song dates back to 1996, when David Baddiel, Frank Skinner and the Lightning Seeds turned it into a lighthearted classic. An updated version of it was also the theme song at the 1998 World Cup. But I’m crediting the catchy girl group Little Mix with having resurrected “It’s Coming Home” in 2019. The girls performed it in support of the British women at the World Cup, and all of a sudden it was everywhere again.
2) “Someone You Loved” – Lewis Capaldi
Outside of the UK, the music awards for the year that was seem likely to focus on the likes of emerging American artists like Lizzo and Billie Eilish. However, Lewis Capaldi’s breakthrough should have him in the mix for significant honours, particularly where “Someone You Loved” is concerned. In fact some of the UK betting apps that post odds for annual award shows are virtually certain to give this track competitive odds in the Best Pop Solo Performance and Record Of The Year categories at the coming Grammys. It’s a haunting, gorgeous, yet catchy track that will always be one of my favourites from 2019.
1) “How Do You Sleep?” – Sam Smith
Sam Smith has been relatively quiet of late, for him, but “How Do You Sleep?” still registers as the top UK pop song of 2019, for me. Reviews of the track quoted Smith discussing how free he felt while making it, and it shows through in a slightly loosened-up style. Rather than delving into what makes the song good though, I’ll just note the obvious: Smith’s vocal skill is still just about unmatched in he modern pop genre. It’s always great when talent can simply overwhelm you as a listener.
What about you – what do you think is the best song of 2019?