From “Old Town Road” to “Ieon Man” and beyond, these are the tracks that defined the year
The artists behind the year’s best songs were teenage pop superstars who came out of nowhere (Billie Eilish, Lil Nas X), established names looking at life and music from the cusp of their thirties (Vampire Weekend, Taylor Swift), and fan favorites making major career and personal breakthroughs (Lizzo, Ariana Grande). Meanwhile, Latin pop, indie rock, country, and hip-hop kept evolving like crazy and producing exciting new voices, from rising Atlanta titan Da Baby to Aussie truth-sayer Stella Donnelly. These are the tracks that defined 2019
Rema, “Iron Man
At a time when tens of thousands of new songs appear on streaming platforms every day, a memorable first impression is more important than ever. The Nigerian singer Rema nailed it with “Iron Man,” the lead track on his first official EP. The key here is the vocal delivery: Rema slathers his voice in Auto-Tune and drips come-ons — including the distinctive request to “be your Iron Man” — like warm honey over a plinking, pleasantly syncopated beat. Rema’s vocals bring to mind both classic T-Pain and pop from India; he’s almost smearing rather than singing. But when paired with the precise rhythms of Afrobeat, this becomes impressionism you can dance to.