Top 40 was a strange place in 2018 — a place where the year’s longest-running Billboard No. 1 hit had two chords and zero choruses or obvious hooks, and other No. 1s included a three-movement psych-rap odyssey, an Afrobeat-trap protest song and an R&B celebrity Burn Book ballad. The definition of pop music is always changing, but the last 12 months in particular felt like a transition year, a portent of a future where the music mainstream is close to unrecognizable from the perspective of where we were a decade ago.
Luckily, that also made this one of the most exciting years for singles on the charts and in our own personal playlists in recent memory — one in which the biggest hits were also some of the most challenging and rewarding, and in which the more conventional pop songs that did break through on a massive scale felt fresher than they have in a long time. And of course, below the surface, plenty of fringier artists were creating lesser-heard jams that called back to the since-forgotten past — or predicted an even more fascinating future.
From the “Shallow” to “The Middle” to the highest of “High Hopes”, music was captivating at all levels in 2018. Here are the Billboard staff’s 100 favorite songs of the year.
74. Justin Timberlake feat. Chris Stapleton, “Say Something”
Ever since Justin Timberlake appeared with Chris Stapleton at the 2015 CMAs to perform a medley of “Drink You Away” and “Tennessee Whiskey”, fans have been clamoring for more collaboration from the duo. Timberlake delivered on his Man of the Woods album with “Say Something”, and it’s everything a Timberton stan could want: Stapleton’s gritty vocals contrasting with Timberlake’s boy-band-honed croon, plenty of twangy guitar and a stellar sing-along chorus. Hopefully next time, we’ll get an entire album. — D.W.