Who makes better music: women or Drake? Judging by the 2018 Billboard Hot 100, it's a draw.
Eleven songs made it to #1 on that chart this past year. (I'm not counting "Perfect" by Ed Sheeran and Beyoncé, which started 2018 in the top slot after first landing there the previous December, and which I discussed in last year's roundup.)
Three of those charttoppers are by Drake, and he appears uncredited on a fourth. By comparison, there were three #1 songs from women (and Cardi B is featured on a fourth). Will women ever play as great a role in pop music as Drake? We can always dream, my friends.
To bide the time until that day comes, I've ranked all 11 of the year's #1's, from worst to best.
11. Maroon 5 ft. Cardi B, "Girls Like You"
Nice little tune you've got started there, guys. Lyrics are still kinda rough, but I'm looking forward to hearing what it sounds like after—wait, what do you mean it's finished?
10. XXXTentacion – "Sad!"
Four years ago we had “Happy,” “Rude,” and “Fancy.” Now we’ve got “Sad!,” “Nice for What,” and—um, I’m not really sure where I was heading with this joke.
9. Post Malone feat. Ty Dolla Sign – "Psycho"
The word “earworm” majorly icks me and the old-fashioned term “hook” better describes my experience of most pop anyway: I’m snagged, not infested. But for once that grubby metaphor wriggles all too aptly. Post Malone doesn’t reel you in—he just murmurs in that mnemonic monotone till your brain’s a maggoty patch of dank Posty-ridden turf. The tunes crawl in, the tunes crawl out.
8. Drake – "In My Feelings"
Aubrey Graham, sentimentalist.
7. Drake – "Nice for What"
Aubrey Graham, feminist.
6. Drake – "God's Plan"
Aubrey Graham, Calvinist.
5. Childish Gambino – "This Is America"
The former (slightly underrated) joke-rapper Donald Glover and the current (slightly overrated) culture hero Donald Glover actually have a lot in common. Each creates with the peculiar glibness of a polymath for whom invention comes far more easily than expression. Listened to purely as music, without its much-pondered video in sight, what sounds most significant about “This Is America” is its refusal to explicitly signify anything specific.
4. Camila Cabello ft. Young Thug – "Havana"
Yeah, I know the groove is what made it a hit, but there’s a moment in just about every Cabello song where a slight vocal shift snaps the whole track into focus, and here it’s when her humid slur scrunches into “I loved him when I left him.”
3. Travis Scott – "Sicko Mode"
The way Drake's yoinked from the mix a minute in and the track jump-cuts to a jarringly unmatched beat had critics reaching for some heady artistic precedents—everything from John Zorn to Psycho (Hitchcock’s, not Post Malone’s). Thing is, there's already a name for this kind of rhythmically disjunct avant garde music: hip-hop.
2. Cardi B, Bad Bunny, and J Balvin – "I Like It"
Like T.S. Eliot said: Immature poets imitate; mature poets run this shit like cardio. Sorry Pete Rodriguez—your boogaloo classic's been Cardi-jacked.
1. Ariana Grande – "Thank U, Next"
Rather than indulge in Swiftian subtweets, Ari named names, ticking off famous beaux with methodical gratitude a la Alanis (this song, not that) only to Kelly Taylor ’em all. This 21st century celebrity shit is a tricky business, but damn if Grande’s not a whiz at figuring it out on the fly.