Year-End Top 100: 2019 – 30 to 21

30 – Rescue Me by OneRepublic

“Rescue Me” starts slow and slowly builds into a climax. I’m drawn to the rollercoaster ride of vocals, rhythm, and emotions. It begins subtly with mostly Ryan Tedder accompanied by minimal instrumentation. As the song progresses, the track bursts into full production and I hear the full glory of his range. It feels like I’m on a chase and I’m finally reaching my target. Or I’m on an escape and I’m about to be rescued (as intended).

29 – Nothing Breaks Like a Heart by Mark Ronson featuring Miley Cyrus

I hear the sound of 70s country in “Nothing Breaks Like a Heart”. Part of the appeal is the simplicity of the melody and the sincerity of the sentiment. The song utilizes Miley’s soulful and raspy voice to emphasize the pain and agony of heartbreak. If I glance at the production credits, the names of Mark Ronson and Jamie XX appear. But the single has Miley Cyrus written all over it.

28 – the greatest by Lana del Rey

I’m listening to a different period of rock and roll when I hear “the greatest”. The guitar riff solo, Lana del Rey’s disinterested tone, and the references in the lyrics scream throwback. But the nostalgia the song evokes makes our current living feel wasted and depressing. I’m a sucker for tunes that glorify the simpler times and are disappointed with how the human race has devolved and destroyed this planet.

27 – How Do You Sleep by Sam Smith

Sam Smith continues to sing about heartbreak. But their tone and beats have undergone a transformation. In “How Do You Sleep?”, I can see and hear their newfound freedom and liberation. The rhythm is danceable and hypnotic. The falsettos declare queendom. Their outfit and choreography in the music video are the projections most gay kids have. I  am proud to see how in touch Sam Smith has gotten with their own skin.

26 – I’m Not Alright by Loud Luxury and Bryce Vine

I screw up my relationships. I get into self-destructive behavior. And I’m an expert on the blame game. So… I don’t see myself in “I’m Not Alright”. But I aspire to have the attitude of sharing accountability and dealing with problems constructively. The song has the energy to make the mood of the situation light. It has a drop that noontime variety shows are made of. In the middle of a fight, I can break into a dance and twerk (not that I do).

25 – Harmony Hall by Vampire Weekend

It’s hard to resist an upbeat and cheerful song like “Harmony Hall”. But words like “I don’t wanna live like this, but I don’t wanna die” breeds intrigue and the urge to unpack its meaning. The single is about confronting the reality of how divided or disengaged we’ve become in today’s political climate. I can relate and I’m disappointed I’m part of it. I am happy they use their music to create discourse – a challenge many shy away from.

24 – Outnumbered by Dermot Kennedy

Songs about love and friendship have been around forever. But the ones that stand out can put into words what most of us struggle to. Outnumbered is an appropriate adjective to describe the isolation I often feel when I am overwhelmed with life and struggle to co-exist with everyone else. I find it amazing how a song or one person can make a difference in drowning out the noise and helping steer me back in the right direction.

23 – Don’t Give Up on Me by Andy Grammer

The guitar hook on Andy Grammer’s “Don’t Give Up on Me” gives me Phillip Phillips vibes. And before that reference is misinterpreted negatively, I’m describing the sound of finally reaching home or an awaited destination. The tune is perfect to listen to while on a flight back to Manila or on a road trip with my close buddies while this blasts on the car speakers.

22 – 7 Rings by Ariana Grande

I often hear male, hip-hop artists speak of guilt-free indulgence and extravagance. Often, women are treated as accessories or obstacles in these narratives. Hearing Ariana Grande hijack this theme and the genre’s signature sound is refreshing and deserves praise. More impressively, she managed to sample beats from The Sound of Music and made it contemporary. That’s a harder challenge than other less sacred tunes recycled.

21 – Lover by Taylor Swift

I stan Taylor Swift. She has gone against powerhouses in the music industry – Big Machine, Spotify, Apple Music, David Mueller, Kanye West, and Pitchfork. At the same time, she’s had continuous commercial and critical success. Despite all the action in her career, she’s never shied away from vulnerability. “Lover” is seven albums deep into her discography. Yet, her connection with her emotions (and mine) continues to strengthen.