My Top Ten Songs of 2018

It’s that time of year for retrospection.

I’ve recently noticed a number of my friends posting on social media about their favorite music from 2018. I suspect this is partly because my friends are really into music and partly because it seems Spotify promotes this sort of posting, as a way to boost brand awareness and engagement.

In any event, I thought it might be fun to “play along.” But instead of basing these reflections on social media, I thought I’d start here: where I can provide more context and then (in the coming days) also segue into other “Top Ten” listings for 2018.

I’ll start with a simple listing. Here are my Top Ten Songs of 2018:

  1. 100 Ms (Dave)
  2. A Long and Happy Life (Delta Rae)
  3. Heavy (Birdtalker)
  4. I’ve Got to Learn without You (Larry Norman)
  5. Mr. Blue Sky (Electric Light Orchestra)
  6. We’re Gonna Make It (Danny Stimac)
  7. Done for Me (Charlie Puth and Kehlani)
  8. Down to Earth (Peter Gabriel and the Soweto Gospel Choir)
  9. Sentimental Guy (Ben Folds)
  10. Don’t Let Go the Sun Go Down on Me (Elton John)

And for those who would appreciate more context, my explanations for each selection are included with the listing (reverse rank-order), below:

#10 – Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me, by Elton John

This is definitely not a 2018 release (most of my Top Ten are not), but it somehow made its way onto several of my playlists for this year. I initially rediscovered it with my friends Gera and Dylan, on a car ride to Michigan at the end of 2017 — but it kept coming back around, as I eased into 2018, and it became one of the year’s Top Ten songs.

#9 – Sentimental Guy, by Ben Folds

This was also an old, familiar song — but such a good one that it got lots of play in 2018. I love the instrumentation, the syncopation, the vocals, and the lyrics. Ben Folds is probably one of my favorite musical artists of all time.

#8 – Down to Earth, by Peter Gabriel and the Soweto Gospel Choir

My kids watched this movie on a portable DVD player during our family’s long road trip out west in June. I didn’t see it (because I was driving), but I heard it — and I was reminded how much I liked this song, as it was played over the closing credits. The song made its way onto our “Yellowstone or Bust!” playlist, and it felt especially appropriate to be listening to it as we drove by snow-capped mountains and roaring rivers that corresponded to lyrics in the chorus.

#7 – Done for Me, by Charlie Puth (featuring Kehlani)

This was a big Charlie Puth year. My children regularly asked for me to play his songs on car rides and around the house, and I eventually came to enjoy his stuff. We made a playlist of our favorite songs and called it “An Oothing Pile of Puth” (meant to be said with a pronounced lisp, saying the artist’s last name with a short “u” sound instead of a long “u” sound). This song, featuring Kehlani, came to be my personal favorite.

#6 – We’re Gonna Make It, by Danny Stimac

Danny Stimac was a personal friend of mine in Amsterdam. I respect his personal character and his walk with God — but his music is also legitimately good! The title track from this album has become a sort of anthem in our household: something to sing whenever we feel hard-pressed or challenged. Instead of throwing in the proverbial towel, we sing “We’re Gonna Make It” and persevere. This song was especially helpful in the waning days of Marci’s graduate school last Spring.

#5 – Mr. Blue Sky, by Electric Light Orchestra

I mostly associate this song with our family’s trip to Yellowstone National Park. My son Elliot is the one who introduced this song to us, and we listened to it in a variety of settings before our vacation time in Montana. On one particular car ride, however, the kids all worked up an elaborate story to go with the instrumental section towards the end of the song — something about a grizzly bear chasing an elk that eventually grows wings and flies off into the sky to join a duck named Rufus, while being serenaded by a choir of mermen and mermaids. The song was fantastic to begin with, but the story made it next-level.

#4 – I’ve Got to Learn to Live Without You, by Larry Norman

I read a biography about Larry Norman this year (one of my Top Ten Books of 2018), and I was freshly impressed by the authenticity, faith, transparency, and vulnerability of his music. He wrote and recorded most of his best stuff (including this song) before I was born. I’ve been listening to his music (including this song) for almost 25 years. But the biography reminded me of this song, and I sort of “rediscovered” it this summer. It totally stands up to the test of time.

#3 – Heavy, by Birdtalker

This song came to me by way of the H2O Kent Life Group leaders I coached for the 2017-18 school year. At the end of the school year, they gave me a “mix tape” including some of my and their favorite songs. I don’t know which Life Group leader added this song to the “mix tape” (which was actually given in the form of a self-burned CD and a Spotify playlist) — but it quickly became one of my favorites. And I just love the way this song reminds me of those Life Group leaders. The “mix tape” was a very thoughtful gift, and all of the songs from that collection have become special to me this year.

#2 – A Long and Happy Life, by Delta Rae

My brother Jay makes the ultimate retrospective playlist every year. He gives it to me and my siblings every Christmas, and this particular song was one of my favorite tracks on “All Killer No Filler 2017” (which I received at the very end of 2017, though I didn’t really become familiar with its contents until 2018). Jay’s taste in music is impeccable, so I really trust him to give me the best of the best — but Delta Rae is exceptional because I’ve enjoyed their appearances on “All Killer No Filler” playlists enough to actually explore full albums of theirs. They’ve got good stuff.

#1 – 100Ms, by Dave

This song gets top billing for 2018 because it introduced me to a whole genre of music that I grew to really enjoy this year. My friend Dylan introduced me to Grime — a form of hip-hop coming out of the United Kingdom — and he’s kept me supplied with other good suggestions throughout the year. But this song will always have a special place in my heart and on my playlists. My son Elliot has also really gotten into this music and has in fact memorized all of the lyrics to 100Ms. I’m not that passionate about this song, but I really do love it. And I also love the fact that the artist’s name is simply “Dave.”

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