From the Intercom: The 50 Best Songs of 2019
“I Love You 3000”
Yes, “I Love You 3000” is a cheesy song. There’s no denying that. When Indonesian singer-songwriter Stephanie Poetri released “I Love You 3000” based on the highest-grossing film of all-time, it’s easy to believe that she didn’t think it would be a viral hit. But tens of millions of streams later, here we are.
Brimming with confessional, unconditional love, “I Love You 3000” is the superhero/fairytale love song that will help define a generation. Simple, relentlessly catchy, and undeniably memeable, it’s a song that flutters with wholehearted devotion. “Baby take my hand / I want you to be my husband / Cause you’re my Iron Man / And I love you 3000,” Poetri sings. There’s a sweet innocence here that makes the song instantly memorable. It’s no wonder that it became the hit that it is–it captures this specific moment in time with only a few simple words. Decades from now, when the Marvel Universe is gone and another franchise has taken its place, “I Love You 3000” will still be the go-to nostalgic karaoke song for many a current teen… reminding them of the good old days of 2019.
Ever know what it’s like to be completely entranced by a song? On “One, Two,” neo-soul singer (((O))) [aka Sundrop Garden] shows you exactly how it feels to be hypnotized.
Ironically, while (((O)))’s full-length project (((1))) is strongly tied to nature and the Earth, “One, Two” is mysteriously otherworldly. Tied to looped “yeah”s and a sparse, wavering R&B beat, “One, Two” has the power to completely captivate with a little more than a few words driving it. Mystical vocal layering allows (((O))) to leave her listener completely vibing off of droning signals that waver into nothingness. Though “One, Two” lasts only about four minutes, the resounding effect of the song feels like a bewitching eternity.
Vancouver-based bedroom pop artist Sydney Kwan makes sparkling pop songs that seem plucked straight out of the 80s. Throughout the three songs that she’s released so far, that glamorous era lives on and given a modernized twist through Kwan’s carefully inspired production. The best example of this is “Believin’,” Kwan’s dreamy love song that floats with desire and smitten devotion.
Glimmering with nostalgia, “Believin’” is the kind of song that emits the sheen and innocence of a bonafide hit. That’s not to mention Kwan’s versatile vocals, which hit lofty high notes with ease. As a producer, writer, and singer, Kwan perfects her reminiscent style and has the skills to back it up. Perhaps comparing her songs to pop artists of the past would be doing her a disservice–very few, after all, have the vision and skills to do what Kwan has achieved herself in so little time.
On Tim Atlas’s color-infused, dream pop song “Tangerine,” there’s good vibes all around.
Dripping with color references (seriously, the man knows a lot of descriptive colors), love-ridden anxiety, and a laid-back demeanor, “Tangerine” expertly describes the jittery, nervous feelings of a person in love. Passion blossoms in between the lines as Atlas admits his blushing feelings. “I’ve been running in a circle / In my mind’s eye, looking for rain / I’m breakin’ a sweat / Oh, I’m a mess,” he confesses amongst clouded guitar strums and a dialed back atmosphere.
As the emotional heart of the song rises to a steady heart-beating conclusion, there’s a relaxing tone that makes it seem that no matter the outcome, everything will be alright. “You’re my mint-green tangerine,” he concludes, once again adding an emotional color to the core of his message. There’s no telling what exactly that color-coded emotion consists of, but it has to be special. To Atlas, at least, he knows exactly what he’s talking about.
Toro y Moi
Chillwave master Toro y Moi (Chaz Bundick) has always been the artist who brought the good vibes, but “Freelance” is a song that brings the party to the… home studio. I don’t know how many musicians have made songs about working as a freelance artist before (despite about 62 million freelancers in the US), but it has now been done.
An anthem for a changing demographic, “Freelance” combines Bundick’s fresh, cool tunes with instantly quotable one-liners that could make great inspirational sticker slogans. Some of the song’s best? “Level up you got to make a bonus,” “No more shoes or socks I only rock sandals / I can’t tell if I’m hip or getting old,” and “People tend to listen when they see your soul,” Bundick ruminates throughout “Freelance.” Paired with some catchy syllabic word breakdowns and a steady, pounding beat that runs throughout the heart of the song, “Freelance” might be the only song that you can rock out to in your sandals.
“Always With Me” (ft. JANEVA)
No artist captured my attention in 2019 like Melbourne-based R&B singer Yeo. Long remaining one of Melbourne’s best-kept secrets, the singer returned this year with the exuberant Recovery Channel, an album filled with replayable jams tinged with personal memories and ever-collaborative songs. But it’s on the third track, the stunning high point “Always With Me,” where Yeo’s knack for somersaulting R&B and ear for pop really shines through.
Together with power vocalist JANEVA, Yeo crafts a slinking, exhilarating love song that oozes with style. There’s a sense that the tumultuous song is both sensuously emotional and aching, but retains a wildly groovy atmosphere. That’s not to mention the blissful harmonies that JANEVA and Yeo manage to perfect–about halfway through the song, there’s a pitch-perfect musical breakdown that warrants repeating over and over again. Even through the tumbling rhythmic ups-and-downs of the song, Yeo and JANEVA are on the same head-bobbing wavelength, making “Always WIth Me” a jam that stands out a notch above the rest.
“Petals From a Rose” (ft. Kyle Reynolds)
Write a ballad, but make it a head-banging, fist-pumping bop.
This seems to be the sentiment reflected in Yetep’s single “Petals from a Rose”. Inspiration is clearly drawn from the French petal-picking game “She/he loves me, she/he loves me not”, as themes of uncertainty and unrequited love are lyrically expressed. A sweet melody effortlessly builds into a frenzied drop that’s sure to hit every EDM lover right in the feels. Beneath the electrifying beat, however, is the heartbreaking realization that the object of our affection may or may not feel the same. Oof. Hold on as I grab a box of tissues. – Clarissa Aben
Very rarely does a musician completely capture our attention with their first single, but Boston-based singer-songwriter yllwblly has somehow done it. On his debut bedroom pop single “Show Romance,” yllwblly proves that he’s a gifted songwriter with a knack for invigorating compositions to boot.
Featuring honest, poetic lyrics and backed by turbulent instrumentals, “Show Romance” flourishes with an aching gloom that signals the end of a haunted relationship. Bits and pieces of yllwblly’s musical identity immediately become apparent: the fazed out production akin to that of Jay Som, the folksy balladeering of a love lost, and prickly compositions. When he sings, “But it lingers still / I wash you from my skin / I’d rather paint you in strokes / Than sit with shadows you’ve cast,” there’s a vivid picture that makes tangible abstract feelings. “Show Romance” is beautifully bleak.
Yes, here yllwblly’s relationship might be over, but we’re going to gladly stick around.
Taiwanese indie rock band 愛是唯一 (Love_1) is not new to the indie music scene, but it wasn’t until this year that they finally released their self-titled debut album. In fact, the album’s rambling opener, “Everytime,” has existed online in demo form since 2016. However, there’s good reason for the band to have returned to their first-ever song–it immediately personifies the group’s punk spirit amongst a friendly indie rock background.
With the way that lead singer Ze-Sen Huang hits his notes, you’ll hear the tinges of frustration that anchor the song’s message. And perhaps that’s the reason why “Everytime” stands out so much amongst many of the releases that we came across this year–Huang isn’t afraid to let loose with his rapturous wails and self-reflective interrogations. Liberating guitar solos drift in and out when Huang pauses to catch his breath… only for him to come back in for more despairing lamentations. No, he doesn’t have the silkiest voice or a traditionally radio-friendly singing method, but why would he care what we think? “Fuck you!” he goes the chorus, and there’s no doubt that he completely means it.
Taiwan-born, New York-based musician 9m88 is starting to be a familiar name in the Asian pop scene–easily due to her enigmatic, numeric artist name. But while 9m88 already had a great few years popping up on featured roles throughout the Taiwanese independent music scene, 2019 saw the musician release her debut album Beyond Mediocrity to warm, glowing reception. Heavily influenced by jazz and modern-R&B vibes, 9m88 is due to make a big in the upcoming years starting with her soothing, sky-high single “Aim High.”
Switching between English and Mandarin, “Aim High” soars with 9m88’s swooning vocals and laid-back atmosphere. Packed with inspirational lyrics like, “I’m not perfect, yet I’m a determined soul / Every little step seems so slow,” “Aim High” aims to be comforting in all of its aspects–from its nostalgic pop instrumentation down to its high-shooting message. 9m88 also shows off that she has a ridiculously flexible range, hitting hard-to-reach notes with ease. If there’s an artist to watch within the Taiwanese R&B scene, you can bet that all eyes are on 9m88.
Listen to our 50 Best Songs of 2019 on our nifty Spotify playlist:
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Li-Wei Chu is the chief editor of From the Intercom. When he’s not editing drafts and searching for new artists to cover for the website, he loves watching cult films, cooking, and listening to his ever-growing collection of vinyl records. You can follow him on LetterBoxd and make fun of his taste in movies here!
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