Last post, I presented my top six albums of 2019. But I wanted to share additional songs not on those albums that you should check out, so I made a mix. 2019 featured a bumper crop of socially-conscious songs, probably more than any other year since the late 60s, and I included some of my favorites in the playlist. I left off Billie Eilish and Lizzo, however, because they seemed omnipresent already. Here’s a Spotify playlist and some brief comments about each track (in no particular order):
- Ariana Grande: “NASA” from thank u, next – My favorite album from Grande’s quick Sweetener follow-up. Also, space exploration as metaphor is up my alley.
- Molly Tuttle: “Take the Journey” from When You’re Ready – Tuttle is the reigning Bluegrass guitar virtuoso. Check out her flying fingers playing this song here.
- Avril Lavigne: “Bigger Wow” from Head Above Water – Did you know that Avril Lavigne is still writing some decent music? Here’s an example.
- Jamila Woods: “BETTY” from Legacy! Legacy! – Each song on Woods’ sophomore album is inspired by a historical figure, many of whom were black. This one is inspired by funk musician Betty Davis, who was “not your typical girl.”
- Santana and Buika: “Bembele” from Africa Speaks – Yeah, Santana’s still making music, too. He worked on this album with Afro-Spanish singer Buika.
- Tacocat: “Hologram” from This Mess Is a Place – My favorite palindrome-named pop-punk band put out a great album this year mostly addressing the politics of 2019 and this is probably the best song on it; the message is that power can be an illusion.
- Sheryl Crow and St. Vincent: “Wouldn’t Want To Be Like You” from Threads – Yes, Sheryl Crow put out music this year, too (this time with a bunch of collaborators), and this great song sounds like classic Crow and reminds me of Veronica Mars.
- MUNA: “Number One Fan” from Saves the World – Maybe the most catchy and danceable song of 2019, it also is self-affirming.
- Common Holly: “Joshua Snakes” from When I Say to You Black Lightning – The first line of this all-over-the-place song about an abusive relationship got my attention. The flute solo is a plus.
- Kathryn Tickell and the Darkening: “O-U-T Spells Out” from Hollowbone – A combination rock folk song and magic spell with a Northumbrian bagpipe solo/dance break.
- Coldplay: “Orphans” from Everyday Life – I am usually not a Coldplay fan (they don’t really know how to write bridges), but this song is pretty good—and it is written from the perspective of war refugees, who are normal people, too. The song even has a bridge—sort of.
- Twice: “Fancy” from Fancy You – You have probably heard of BTS, but Twice is another K-pop idol group you should know about. The form is fun—I’m not sure if the song has two pre-choruses or just a long two-part chorus. Also, definitely a bridge.
- Karine Polwart and Seckou Keita: “Heartwood” from The Lost Words: Spell Songs – A group of folk musicians read Robert Macfarlane’s book The Lost Words about many nature-related words dropped from the 2007’s Oxford “Junior” Dictionary, and were inspired to create a companion album of songs; this song comes from the perspective of tree inviting the lumberjack to give up.
- Taylor Swift: “The Man” from Lover – Swift’s first album tackling social issues includes this great song, probably my favorite from the album, addressing sexism in the music industry.
- Amanda Palmer: “A Mother’s Confession” from There Will Be No Intermission – Looking at my top music from this year, I am apparently a fan of 10-minute story songs, and this is an expressive one from Amanda Palmer about being a new mother. I went to Palmer’s tour, which featured her performing this song (with a sing-a-long section), plus a version of Little Mermaid’s “Part of Your World” figuratively sung by an unborn fetus. The part-standup show was almost four hours long; luckily, there was an intermission.