Albums that shone, songs that flopped in 2019
From Billie Eilish changing the face of pop music to Katy Perry making Hawaii sound boring, here's the best and worst records of 2019.
BEST ALBUMS OF 2019
1. WHEN WE ALL ASLEEP, WHERE DO WE GO - BILLIE EILISH
2019 was the year a 17 year old and her homeschooled brother literally changed the sound of pop music from their home studio. This is one subversively twisted record - and the year's biggest seller - that pushed pop forward by forging through dark corners. Like Lorde a few years earlier, it was a teenager sharing her inner dialogue, the authentic thoughts connecting hard. Nothing else sounds like Bury a Friend or Bad Guy. The brutally intimate modern folk of I Love You is what happens when you're raised on the Beatles and Tyler the Creator. What's more exciting is what comes next.
2. LATE NIGHT FEELINGS - MARK RONSON
Divorce on the dancefloor. It's impossible to compete with Uptown Funk, so a heartbroken Mark Ronson ditched the party for "sad bangers" - none better than the flawless title track. Ronson teamed pop queen (Camila Cabello) with indie weirdo (Kevin Parker of Tame Impala) for lost hit Find U Again, while King Princess channelled early '80s Madonna, Angel Olsen fired up intergalactic dismal disco and Yebba's Don't Leave Me Lonely was one of at least four songs on this record better than anything most A-list pop stars coughed up this year.
3. NORMAN F----ING ROCKWELL - LANA DEL REY
Big year for Lana. She came out well of Moby's binfire autobiography, not so well out of that binfire Charlie's Angels song and savaged a positive if flowery review of this album. It truly is stunning in parts - new creative partner Jack Antonoff also providing real cohesion. From the 10-minute Venice Bitch to the intoxicating romance of The Greatest, this is the album that justifies all those intense Lana "stans" who've been filling your feed for years.
4. GHOSTEEN - NICK CAVE & THE BAD SEEDS
Melbourne's favourite glum son started the year getting intimate at Q&A sessions, where nosy fans asked how he was dealing with grief after his son's death. He ended it with this intimate album that answered them. Cave continues to push himself musically and vocally, from the dazzling, lush, Leonard Cohen-esque Bright Horses to the ethereal electronica of Galleon Ship. And in a short attention span era, between them two songs, Ghosteen and Halloween take up 30 minutes of your time because some things can't be rushed.
5. CUZ I LOVE YOU - LIZZO
How ahead of the times is Lizzo? Her current hit, Good as Hell, was released back in 2016, her breakthrough hit Truth Hurts is two years old. Somehow the fresh Juice wasn't a commercial hit when released in January but it took those two older songs to finally introduce a patient Lizzo to the masses and make her the superstar she always knew she was. Even without those vintage gems tacked on to the "deluxe" version of this album (do deluxe versions of albums even mean anything in the streaming world?) it was a delight. Lizzo puts positivity and fun back in pop. It was her year and she's making up for lost time.
6. CHEAP QUEEN - KING PRINCESS
Last year's 1950 was an incredible first impression. New Yorker King Princess' first album hits that yesterday meets tomorrow sweet spot Amy Winehouse nailed, filled with tales of queer love and raging heartbreak. Retro suits her - Ain't Together a glorious '70s escapade, Homegirl is Lana Del Rey on the Grease set. And disco cracker Hit the Back is an S & M S Club 7 meets Robyn.
7. MADAME X - MADONNA
Still refusing to lazily slip into greatest hits mode, this is Madonna's most creative album in years. And she's realised that, not being 30, she doesn't need to pander to radio anymore (they should play Crazy, but hey). Back with French boundary-pusher Mirwais, Dark Ballet is Kraftwerk gone classical, God Control a gospel-tinged attack on America's obsession with firearms that sounds like it was made for Studio 54, while the Portuguese influence on refreshingly odd tracks like Killers Who Are Partying continue to distance her from the rest.
8. KIWANUKA - MICHAEL KIWANUKA
The guy who sang the haunting theme from Big Little Lies to some, but the British soul man just continues to refine his craft. Album No. 3 digs even deeper, from psychedelic wig outs to breathtaking piano ballads (This Kind of Love), while the epics Hard to Say Goodbye and Light instantly transport you elsewhere, the way only truly great music can.
9. BETTER IN BLAK - THELMA PLUM
Robbed at the ARIAs (from her cruel abbreviated performance - throwback puppet Agro got more airtime - to a lack of awards), Plum still left a major imprint on 2019. The title track is what you can an instant classic and if we had a supportive commercial radio world they'd have found a home for it. You want personality from your pop albums and this album delivers - from the sly groove of Don't Let a Good Girl Down to the better not bitter Not Angry Anymore, the ultra 2019 Woke Bloke and Nick Cave and Ugly are the extremes of her lyrical prowess.
10. HYPERSONICE MISSILES -SAM FENDER
Young British rocker delivers a debut inspired by a diet of Bruce Springsteen and the Killers. That's a healthy menu. Sure it's familiar, but Fender's plaintive vocals and way with words push him beyond pastiche - he even tackles Brexit and white privilege.
11. Lover - Taylor Swift
12. When I Get Home - Solange
13. Assume Form - James Blake
14. Complex - Montaigne
15. Western Stars - Bruce Springsteen
16. Run Home Slow - Teskey Brothers
17. Magdalene - FKA Twigs
18. All Mirrors - Angel Olsen
19. Keepsake - Hatchie
20. Hurts 2B Human - Pink
1. STEEL PANTHER - HEAVY METAL RULES
The Darkness do hard rock with a sense of humour. Five albums in Steel Panther keep acting like Spinal Tap wasn't a comedy, music was freezeframed in 1984 and the #metoo movement never happened.
2. RINGO STARR - WHAT'S MY NAME?
The selling point was 'finishing' a John Lennon demo with Paul McCartney on bass. This album charted at No. 127 in the US, so … Even ignoring the use of vocoder his duet with Joe Walsh included the OK Boomer lyric "everybody's on the internet - what's up with that?"
3. LIAM PAYNE - LP1
Liam was the sensible one in One Direction. Now he wants to be R Kelly, lyrically, that is. The horny, porny lyrics here create instant dryness. And musically he wants to be, well, whatever is selling the most right now. Algorithm pop even more manufactured than 1D was.
4. IGGY AZALEA - IN MY DEFENCE
The Australian rapper seemed to disown this album soon after she released it. Unsure where she fits in the post Cardi B world, nothing works here. Like James Blunt, she's better on Twitter than in a recording studio.
5. EMMA BUNTON - MY HAPPY PLACE
So Australia not only missed out on the Spice Girls reunion tour, Beige-y Spice managed to render her dire cover of Madison Avenue's Don't Call Me Baby a dancefloor clearer. Bunton is incredibly nice, but her music is incredibly unspicy.
BEST SINGLES OF 2019
1. Late Night Feelings - Mark Ronson ft Lykke Li
2. Bury a Friend - Billie Eilish
3. Juice - Lizzo
4. Don't Start Now - Dua Lipa
5. Gone - Charli XCX ft Christine & the Queens
6. Don't Leave Me Lonely - Mark Ronson ft Yebba
7. Bad Guy - Billie Eilish
8. Sucker - Jonas Brothers
9. Incapable - Roisin Murphy
10. All The Time - Zara Larsson
11. So Caught Up - Teskey Brothers
12. Motivation - Normani
13. Lover - Taylor Swift
14. Circles - Post Malone
15. Dancing With a Stranger - Sam Smith & Normani
16. Narcissus - Roisin Murphy
17. Arabesque - Coldplay
18. Find U Again - Mark Ronson ft. Camila Cabello
19. Hit the Back - King Princess
20. Choir - Guy Sebastian
WORST SINGLES OF 2019
1. The Git Up - Blanco Brown
2. Me! - Taylor Swift
3. Bad Guy (remix) - Billie Eilish ft Justin Bieber
4. Harleys in Hawaii - Katy Perry
5. Cattitude - Miley Cyrus
Do you agree with the list? Let us know in the comments below.