Berklee's Favorite Tracks of 2018

Bryan Parys
December 20, 2018

Listen to the songs that got Berklee thinking, bobbing, and dancing this year.

Album art from Berklee's Favorite Tracks of 2018

The music in 2018 brought us a lot of hype and a lot of surprises. With "Bodak Yellow" ruling 2017, Cardi B's debut full-length could've suffered from all the hyped pressure, but when Invasion of Privacy dropped, there was no questioning her ascendance. Meanwhile, a song (and video) such as "This Is America" by Childish Gambino seemed to come out of nowhere, but immediately got everyone talking. In this playlist, Berklee faculty and staff look back at some of their favorite tracks of the year, offering their own takes on the hype and the surprises. Take a listen, then scroll below to read about why these songs climbed to the top.

1. "This is America," Childish Gambino

Chosen by Jonathan Bailey Holland, chair, Composition, Contemporary Music, and Core Studies; and Sean McLaughlin, assistant professor, Music Production and Engineering (MP&E):

Holland: "This is such a rich, timely, timeless, brilliant work, and that's even before we also consider the imagery used in the video. You can't take all of this work in with one listening, and the layers of reference go deep." 

McLaughlin: "This song is really enhanced by the video, which I think is the most visually arresting video in years, as well as being perhaps the most important social message any musical artist has made in longer than I can remember." 

2. "Havana," Camila Cabello

Chosen by Cecil Adderley, chair, Music Education:

"For me, as it gets colder here, the two songs [see also no. 7] I would add to keep the weather warm in our mind, and keep us heading to the dance floor."

3. "Aerosol," Georgia Anne Muldrow

Chosen by Jonathan Bailey Holland:

"Part of what I love about this track is all that is not there. It starts with just a four-bar chord progression and vocals on top, yet the groove is implied simply by her singing. The beat doesn't start until after the first verse, and the music continues to ebb and flow as it progresses. It ends just as we are getting comfortable."

4. "Curse of the I-5 Corridor," Neko Case

Chosen by Magen Tracy, director, Digital Marketing:

"Hell-On was far and away my top album of 2018; Case mines so many different themes and musical ideas, with incredibly lush and dynamic orchestration. This song is a stunning seven-minute epic right smack in the middle of the album that ranges from stark duet (with Mark Lanegan) to full-on noise-rock."

5. "Armor," Sara Bareilles

Chosen by Mark Shilansky, associate professor, Ear Training, Songwriting, Ensembles

6. "The Middle," Zedd, Maren Morris, Grey

Chosen by Prince Charles Alexander, professor, MP&E:

"This song has a powerful country vocalist singing emotionally over an EDM track. The overall production and mixing are stellar examples of modern music technology. I also appreciated the entrepreneurship that led to the placement of the song in a Target ad campaign. Great work overall."

7. "I Like It," Cardi B

Chosen by Cecil Adderley

8. "Best Part," Daniel Caesar (feat. H.E.R.)

Chosen by Jaritt Sheel, assistant professor, Music Education:

"This song is a favorite between my wife and me. It reminds us that love is about recognizing that we are each the best part of the other. We are dedicated to being in love and loving each other for the rest of our lives together."

9. "I Can't Help Myself," Liz Longley '10

Chosen by Stephanie Kellar, associate professor, Music Business:

"Longley transforms the Four Tops's 'I Can't Help Myself' from classic gem into contemporary marvel."

10. "Night Shift," Lucy Dacus

Chosen by Sean McLaughlin:

"The first song off my favorite album of the year. Beautiful lyrics and vocal and takes you on an unforgettable journey from beginning to end."

11. "The Murder of Alton Sterling," The Proletariat

Chosen by Margot Edwards, associate director, Media Relations:

"Seminal Boston area punk band from the early 1980s returned to release their first new songs in more than 30 years, and show they’ve lost none of their fury or relevance."

12. "Pristine," Snail Mail

Chosen by Bryan Parys, senior communications manager (and curator of this here playlist), External Affairs:

"As the first full track on her debut full-length, Lindsey Jordan's first word is the song's title, and that's exactly what the song is on many levels, from the warm guitar tones to the water-clear lyrics."

13. "After Bach: Ostinato," Brad Mehldau

Chosen by Jonathan Bailey Holland:

"Mehldau's playing has always led me to believe that he had a deep relationship with Bach's music. To fully appreciate this track, one should listen to the track right before, which is his interpretation of Fugue No. 16 in G minor from the Well-Tempered Clavier, which was the inspiration for 'Ostinato.'"

14. "Sunny," Nancy Wilson

Chose by Harry Skoler, interim chair, Woodwinds:

"Though this song was released long before 2018, Nancy Wilson’s passing was the loss of a gentle and brilliant soul, connecting profoundly with hearts for so many decades. Her stunningly beautiful voice and poignant messages were timeless and define truth in artistry, in my humble opinion."

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