All Songs Considered: The Year In Music 2018 : All Songs Considered The All Songs gang looks back at this year's anthems and unmissable milestones, from Kendrick Lamar's Pulitzer to Childish Gambino's mind-blowing video for "This Is America," Rosalía, Mitski and more.
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All Songs Considered: The Year In Music 2018

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All Songs Considered: The Year In Music 2018

All Songs Considered: The Year In Music 2018

All Songs Considered: The Year In Music 2018

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  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/671982350/672787445" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">

Childish Gambino (left) performs onstage during the 2018 iHeartRadio Music Festival. Rosalía speaks onstage during the 19th annual Latin GRAMMY Awards. Janelle Monae performs in Los Angeles in June and Kacey Musgraves performs at the 2018 Stagecoach Festival in April. Kevin Winter/Getty Images for iHeartMedia; David Becker/Getty Images for LARAS; Kevin Winter/Getty Images; Christopher Polk/Getty Images for Stagecoach hide caption

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Kevin Winter/Getty Images for iHeartMedia; David Becker/Getty Images for LARAS; Kevin Winter/Getty Images; Christopher Polk/Getty Images for Stagecoach

Childish Gambino (left) performs onstage during the 2018 iHeartRadio Music Festival. Rosalía speaks onstage during the 19th annual Latin GRAMMY Awards. Janelle Monae performs in Los Angeles in June and Kacey Musgraves performs at the 2018 Stagecoach Festival in April.

Kevin Winter/Getty Images for iHeartMedia; David Becker/Getty Images for LARAS; Kevin Winter/Getty Images; Christopher Polk/Getty Images for Stagecoach

Well, kids, it's been another year of holograms, headlines and big human messes here in Orbit City. At least music brought us together again and again in 2018, whether in the crowd to see Mitski, Janelle Monáe or Brandi Carlile, or surrounded by strangers in bed at Max Richter's SLEEP concert. This Year in Review edition of All Songs Considered is built like a little time machine to move us chronologically through 2018. And although we can't predict the future, many of the songs selected by hosts Bob Boilen and Robin Hilton, joined by NPR Music's Ann Powers and Stephen Thompson, sound a little like dispatches from a moment just around the corner.

One of the year's biggest albums, Janelle Monáe's Dirty Computer came heralding the marriage of sound and visuals, a trend we're seeing in the work of an incredibly talented new class of artists. Artists like Mitski, Tierra Whack and Childish Gambino are thinking about music as spectacle, as theater, as video and as a showcase of the moving body.

New rappers, like Compton's Buddy, are using recordings as a tool for world-building, taking us to the cross streets of their neighborhoods. All this in a year when Kendrick Lamar made history by winning the Pulitzer for his 2017 album DAMN.

That moment, in April, was one of a pair of events in 2018 where it felt like the attention of the world was drawn to music. The other arrived with the death of Aretha Franklin in August, and mourning the Queen of Soul gave us good reason to celebrate her music.

This is just the beginning of our look back at the best music of 2018. This week, we'll share NPR Music's lists of the best albums and songs of the year, and we'll have personal lists and picks for the best of many different genres too. We want to know what you loved this year too: You can vote for your favorite albums of the year right here. Stick with us — 2019 (the actual future!) is almost here.

Songs Featured On This Episode

Cover for Superorganism

Superorganism

  • Song: The Prawn Song

This eight-piece band comes together into a great sandbox of visuals and sound, with members from Japan, South Korea, New Zealand and all over the world, packed into in a U.K. house that's become Superorganism's musical playground.

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Song
Superorganism
Album
Superorganism
Artist
Superorganism
Label
Domino
Released
2018

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Cover for By The Way, I Forgive You

Brandi Carlile

  • Song: The Mother

What does a rock star look like in 2018? Maybe a little like Brandi Carlile, performing "The Mother" with her daughter in her arms (like she did this year in Philadelphia). In a year where we're fighting the impulse to disengage, Brandi Carlile has brought emotion, power and politics under the same roof.

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Song
By The Way, I Forgive You
Album
By The Way, I Forgive You
Artist
Brandi Carlile
Label
Low Country Sound/Elektra
Released
2018

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Cover for Golden Hour

Kacey Musgraves

  • Song: Space Cowboy

The country singer took a welcome left turn with this album, using her confined yet powerful voice to tell a memorable story with the smallest inflection.

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Song
Golden Hour
Album
Golden Hour
Artist
Kacey Musgraves
Label
UMG Recordings
Released
2018

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Cover for Arrival Soundtrack

Jóhann Jóhannsson

  • Song: Heptapod B

Icelandic composer Jóhann Jóhannsson died in February at the age of 48. We remember his captivating, original work with this score for the film Arrival, where Jóhannsson built in little humanoid vocal accents to imagine what it would sound like if we made contact with alien life.

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Song
Arrival Soundtrack
Album
Arrival Soundtrack
Artist
Jóhann Jóhannsson
Label
Deutsche Grammophon Classics
Released
2116

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Cover for Dirty Computer

Janelle Monáe

  • Song: Make Me Feel

On Janelle Monáe's third studio album, Dirty Computer, the Afro-futurist universe that's been incubating in her music reached a hand out into 2018. On stage this year, Monáe was a blend of funk and theater that proved medium and genre are powerless to box her in.

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Song
Dirty Computer
Album
Dirty Computer
Artist
Janelle Monae
Label
Bad Boy
Released
2018

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Cover for Whack World

Tierra Whack

  • Song: Pet Cemetery

This album is a series of 15 even slivers — polished, 60-second songs that each show a totally different side of the the artist's sonic imagination. The debut of Philadelphia rapper and spoken word poet Tierra Whack features stunning visuals, some R&B, a little mumble rap and an incredibly unique form for telling stories.

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Song
Whack World
Album
Whack World
Artist
Tierra Whack
Released
2118

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Cover for This Is America (Single)

Childish Gambino

  • Song: This Is America

Choreographer Sherrie Silver turned the video for Childish Gambino's powerful song into proof that music in 2018 is intertwined with politics, dance and the moving, mortal body.

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Song
This Is America (Single)
Album
This Is America (Single)
Artist
Childish Gambino
Released
2018

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Cover for DAMN.

Kendrick Lamar

  • Song: DNA.

Kendrick Lamar was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in April for his 2017 record DAMN. which continued to prove that no genre has been more potent or influential in American culture, speech or thought in recent years than hip-hop.

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Song
DAMN.
Album
DAMN.
Artist
Kendrick Lamar
Label
Aftermath/Interscope
Released
2017

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Cover for soil

serpentwithfeet

  • Song: whisper

No one would call experimental musician Josiah Wise a gospel artist. But this slinky, sexy orchestral pop record probes the conventions of song structure, while remaining tied to his church-choir background. He's just one of multiple artists whose music in 2018 sounded like the future.

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Song
soil
Album
soil
Artist
serpentwithfeet
Label
Secretly Canadian
Released
2018

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Cover for Be the Cowboy

Mitski

  • Song: Nobody

After the booming, Puberty II anthem "Your Best American Girl," conservatory anti-darling Mitski Miyawaki was poised to become a rock powerhouse. But with the jaunting, eclectic album Be The Cowboy — and a new live show focused on movement and visuals — Mitski continues to take the artistic risks fans have fallen in love with.

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Song
Be the Cowboy
Album
Be the Cowboy
Artist
Mitski
Label
Dead Oceans
Released
2118

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Cover for Take Me to the Disco

Meg Myers

  • Song: Tear Me To Pieces

NPR Music's Robin Hilton is a bottler, and what he's bottled most this year is pure, unadulterated rage. We're scraping Robin off the ceiling after he plays this track by Meg Myers, which sounds like the cork blowing off the bottle.

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Song
Take Me to the Disco
Album
Take Me to the Disco
Artist
Meg Myers
Label
300 Entertainment
Released
2118

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Cover for re:member

Ólafur Arnalds

  • Song: re:member

The percussive textures in this piece were recorded deep in the bowels of a piano by Icelandic artist and producer Ólafur Arnalds. In a noisy year, this ambient, blood-slowing music for strings and keys has been a form of self-care and a soothing balm for the mind.

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Song
re:member
Album
re:member
Artist
Olafur Arnalds
Label
Mercury KX
Released
2018

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Cover for Harlan & Alondra

Buddy

  • Song: Trouble On Central

Harland & Alondra is named for the intersection Compton rapper Buddy, a.k.a. Simmie Sims III, grew up on. An ode to the smoky beauty of Los Angeles, Buddy's tour in vignettes takes us to the cross streets and, at times, the less-than-sunny side of his home city.

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Song
Harlan & Alondra
Album
Harlan & Alondra
Artist
Buddy
Label
Cool Lil Company, LLC/RCA Records
Released
2118

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Cover for Amazing Grace

Aretha Franklin

  • Song: How I Got Over

The televised memorial and a revisiting of her long and extraordinary catalog weren't enough for a world that needs to celebrate the Queen of Soul, who died this August at 76. Near the end of the year, fans were gifted the long-delayed documentary Amazing Grace, a chronicle of the making of Aretha Franklin's iconic album of the same, recorded at the New Temple Missionary Baptist Church in Los Angeles in 1972.

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Song
Amazing Grace
Album
Amazing Grace
Artist
Aretha Franklin
Label
Atlantic
Released
1972

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Cover for Honey

Robyn

  • Song: Missing U

When the Swedish dance-pop titan released her first album in eight years, it was a relatively spare and restrained follow-up to 2010's Body Talk. Yet it instantly resonated with something primal in its fans: a dose of self-care on the dance floor that made this record a welcome taste of oblivion.

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Song
Honey
Album
Honey
Artist
Robyn
Label
Cherrytree Records/Kierszenbaum
Released
2018

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Cover for El Mal Querer

Rosalía

  • Song: Malamente

The Catalonian artist is bringing flamenco into the 21st century, melding elements of hip-hop and electronic music with historical forms. Ann Powers names Rosalía the most striking new voice of the year for the ways she shapes it all into a thoughtful concept album based on a 13th century romance novel called Flamenca.

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Song
El Mal Querer
Album
El Mal Querer
Artist
Rosalía
Label
Sony Music Entertainment
Released
2018

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Cover for Double Coda

The Glands

  • Song: Possibilities

When Athens, Ga. songwriter Ross Shapiro died in 2016, fans' hope for a long-awaited third album by The Glands died with him. But this surprise, posthumous double album was worth waiting for, blending melancholy with glimmers of hope and the wisdom that even if your life is unremarkable, it's still worth living.

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Song
Double Coda
Album
Double Coda
Artist
The Glands
Label
New West Records
Released
2018

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Cover for boygenius EP

boygenius

  • Song: Me & My Dog

Lucy Dacus, Phoebe Bridgers and Julien Baker joined forces for the perfect collaboration we didn't know we needed this year. When the three bright young songwriters come together on this self-titled EP, their distinct and explosive voices roll into a powerful six-pack of acoustic catharsis.

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Song
boygenius EP
Album
boygenius EP
Artist
boygenius
Label
Matador Records
Released
2018

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Cover for This Is Not The End

MILCK

  • Song: Black Sheep

In a divisive year of entrenched tribalism in American politics and culture, Connie Lim, who writes and records as MILCK, gave us this deeply moving pop anthem. "Black Sheep" is a potent and simple reminder that it's okay to be different.

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Song
This Is Not The End
Album
This Is Not The End
Artist
MILCK
Label
Atlantic
Released
2018

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Cover for Songs of Resistance 1942-2018

Marc Ribot

  • Song: We'll Never Turn Back

Guitarist Marc Ribot has dipped his toes into no-wave, free jazz and Cuban music, so a protest album for the Trump era was just another surprising addition to his discography. This song features Justin Vivian Bond & Domenica Fossati.

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Song
Songs of Resistance 1942-2018
Album
Songs of Resistance 1942-2018
Artist
Marc Ribot
Label
Anti/Epitaph
Released
2118

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Cover for Historian

Lucy Dacus

  • Song: Night Shift

Historian is only the second album from singer-songwriter Lucy Dacus, but she's already a powerhouse. Lucy Dacus throws her heart and the force of her unconventional mind into this song about leaving a relationship behind and moving forward.

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Song
Historian
Album
Historian
Artist
Lucy Dacus
Label
Matador Records

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Cover for You're Not Alone

Andrew W.K.

  • Song: Music Is Worth Living For

We end our year in review with a singular message from musician and motivational speaker Andrew W.K. You're not alone! In this insanely buoyant anthem, the party never dies! And music is (unquestionably) worth living for.

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Song
You're Not Alone
Album
You're Not Alone
Artist
Andrew W.K.
Label
Bee & El/Sony Music
Released
2018

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