NPR Music's Top 16 Songs Of August Missy Elliott reminded us just how vital and future-seeking she continues to be, Normani offered a late-summer dominator and Big Thief got raw.
NPR logo NPR Music's Top 16 Songs Of August

NPR Music's Top 16 Songs Of August

Hey majesty Missy Elliot returned with Iconology in August. Courtesy of the artist hide caption

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Courtesy of the artist

Hey majesty Missy Elliot returned with Iconology in August.

Courtesy of the artist

Stream: Spotify, Apple.

Missy Elliott not only justified the VMAs' existence but also dropped the Iconology EP in August, reminding us just how vital and future-seeking she continues to be. "Throw It Back" appears on NPR Music's monthly best-of list along with Normani's irresistible "Motivation" and a blistering rock song by Big Thief.

Below you'll find an alphabetized list of NPR Music's top 16 songs of August 2019. Be sure to check out our top 12 albums from the month as well.


Stream The List On Spotify

The 1975, "People" APPLE / SPOTIFY
Serious turn-of-the-millenium, white studded belt energy as Matty Healy's screaming street preacher exhorts, "Stop f****** with the kids!" — Lars Gotrich

Andrew Combs, "Born Without a Clue" APPLE / SPOTIFY
Written immediately after Tom Petty died, the Dallas native channels (and perhaps surpasses) his hero, with irresistible hooks and refined vocals urging us to be true to ourselves. — Tom Huizenga

Baby Rose, "All to Myself" APPLE / SPOTIFY
If this honest, majestic and controlled sonic heartache tells you anything about Baby Rose, it's that she' just getting warmed up. — Sidney Madden

Big Thief, "Not" APPLE / SPOTIFY
This is the rawest I've ever heard Big Thief. Gathered tight together in a room, no overdubs this is one fierce song! — Bob Boilen

Lillie Mae, "Love Dilly Love" APPLE / SPOTIFY
What even is country music? The Nashville singer's incredible album closer upends all conventions with a surreal twist on the you-done-me-wrong ballad. — Robin Hilton

Mariah the Scientist, "Beetlejuice" APPLE / SPOTIFY
When drama and betrayal are baked into a relationship from the start, spontaneous combustion is inevitable. Mariah the Scientist knows this reaction all too well. — Sidney Madden

Midland, "Every Song's a Drinkin' Song" APPLE / SPOTIFY
"Every Song's a Drinkin' Song" would have been a country classic in any year country music has existed. A sway-along barstool anthem, it infuses its simple truths with weary wit. — Stephen Thompson

Stream The List On Apple Music

Missy Elliott, "Throw It Back" APPLE / SPOTIFY
We missed Missy. Yes, that's the royal we for her majesty. Somehow, she returns with another pop-drop-and-lock-it bop that picks up where she left off and still leaves her heirs playing catch up. Rodney Carmichael

Normani, "Motivation" ♬ APPLE / SPOTIFY
You gotta see the video — a dance tour de force — but this breakout hit by the former Fifth Harmony member is itself a late-summer dominator, its bubbling bass line stepping up to an HBCU band-worthy horn as her vocal expertly blends pep and seduction. — Ann Powers

(Sandy) Alex G, "Near" APPLE / SPOTIFY
"All I want is to be near you," Alex Giannascoli repeats feverishly over chaotic percussion, a warped reminder of the experimental pop songwriter's knack for turning even the sweetest sentiments strange. — Marissa Lorusso

Sheryl Crow, "Cross Creek Road (feat. Lukas Nelson)" APPLE / SPOTIFY
Of the many (many) guests on Threads, Neil Young's rambling guitar solo and Lukas Nelson's verse light up a dusky sky like never before heard on a Sheryl Crow record. Did we mention Margo Price and Don Henley sing backup? — Lars Gotrich

SiR, "Hair Down (feat. Kendrick Lamar)" APPLE / SPOTIFY
If only life moved at this speed. SiR and Kendrick Lamar team up for the soundtrack to traffic lights and stop signs. — Otis Hart

Snoh Aalegra, "Find Someone Like You" APPLE / SPOTIFY
Between Snoh Aalegra's velvety vocals and that dewy, warm piano, this glimmering album standout could slot right into the end credits of a 2019 Brown Sugar sequel. — Sidney Madden

Taylor Swift, "Soon You'll Get Better (feat. Dixie Chicks)" APPLE / SPOTIFY
Taylor Swift's country ballad about facing her mother's cancer struggle is so effective because, as she sings, she makes it "all about me," communicating fear and loss in details as bravely honest as the songcraft is impeccable. — Ann Powers

Terri Lyne Carrington and Social Science, "Bells (Ring Loudly) [feat. Malcom-Jamal Warner]" APPLE / SPOTIFY
This anthem's poignant spoken word, snaking chords and haunting melodic lines rebuke the police brutality every black mother fears. Here's one line: "Blue lives splatter red on canvasses of brown skin as if black lives mattering is a game to them and not a basic right within all men are created equal." — Suraya Mohamed

Tinariwen, "Kel Tinawen (feat. Cass McCombs)" APPLE / SPOTIFY
Even among its Toureg peers, no one really makes music like Tinariwen. But here the band leans into a slick blues groove as Cass McCombs whispers through the rolling hypnosis. — Lars Gotrich