Five years ago, it was far easier to keep a tab on the top albums of the year. One would go by record sales and TV exposure, and get a clear picture.
Today, with big retail chains shutting down and labels showing very poor physical sales, one has to depend on rough and inaccurate estimates drawn from audio and video downloads, and streaming sites like Spotify and Apple.
Hit songs keep coming and going. But how does one choose the biggest of them all? Yes, popularity on download platforms is one criterion. Then come TV visibility and rotation on radio or by DJs. Nominations and victories at award ceremonies also helps.
Keeping these in mind, we chose our top 10 international hits for 2018. Going by general trends, we stuck to commercially popular music – pop, rap, dance and radio-friendly rock. It may be different from the Billboard, Shazan and Vh1 lists, but they too have different methods of selection. Here goes:
1 God’s Plan – Drake
One of the year’s early hits, this song by Canadian musician Drake was clubbed in the pop-rap category. Initial response from critics was moderate but it soon picked up to become one of the year’s biggest hits with three nominations for the forthcoming Grammy awards in February.
2 Perfect – Ed Sheeran
English singer-songwriter Ed Sheeran is hugely popular in India, attracting mass audiences at his Mumbai show. Though this song was released in late 2017, its success was felt around the globe through this year. Sheeran followed up with ‘Perfect Duet’ with Beyonce and ‘Perfect Symphony’ with Andrea Bocelli.
3 One Kiss – Calvin Harris and Dua Lipa
Described as a tribute to 1990s house music, ‘One Kiss’ is the brainchild of Scottish producer Calvin Harris and British singer Dua Lipa. It was on top of the UK singles charts for eight weeks and eventually released on a flurry of remixes.
4 NoTears Left To Cry – Ariana Grande
A huge hit for the American singer Grande, this song falls in the dance-pop territory. The song, praised for its vocals, won the best pop song at the MTV Video Music Awards 2018.
5 All The Stars – Kendrick Lamar and SZA
Recorded by American rapper Lamar and American singer SZA, it was originally produced for the film Black Panther, for which it got a Golden Globe award. Slotted in the pop-rap category, the song was a rage in Australia and the Far East. It has four Grammy nominations.
6 Girls Like You – Maroon 5 and Cardi B
Fronted by singer Adam Levine, American band Maroon 5 has been popular in India since its 2002 album “Songs About Jane’. On the 2018 hit ‘Girls Like You’, it teams up with rapper Cardi B on a pop-rock beauty. The song is one of the biggest radio hits ever.
7 Shallow – Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper
The first single from the movie ‘A Star Is Born’, the song sees Lady Gaga and Cooper in their element. The dramatic composition, with its high notes and intricate guitaring, appealed to both young and new audiences, and fousr Grammy nominations have been set aside.
8 The Joke – Brandi Carlile
From the album ‘By The Way, I Forgive You’, this country-rock aria stuns with its sheer power, piano, strings and range. The video is first-rate too. Carlile is one of the most sought-after voices on the American folk-rock and country scene.
9 Disclosure – Ultimatum featuring Fatoumata Diawara
Malian singer Diawara has been known on the world music scene and has even performed in India. Here, house musicians Ultimatum draw a perfect blend between electronic dance music and world music. Perfect for a club setting with an African flavour.
10 Four Out Of Five – Arctic Monkeys
From the British indie-rock album ‘Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino’, this song has been huge on radio, and even compared to the David Bowie brand of glam rock. The song talks of war, natural disasters and space colonisation.
Narendra Kusnur is one of India’s best known music journalists. Born with a musical spoon (okay, doesn’t fit, but you get the drift), Naren, NK, Kusnur, Narender, Kaansen, Jahanpanna… however else many call him, is a late bloomer in music criticism. He was (is!) an aficionado first, and then strayed into writing on music. But in the last two decades, he has made up for most of what he didn’t do earlier. If ever there is an Ustad given for music writing, NK, would be among the first to receive one. Narendra Kusnur writes weekly on Xyngr. Don’t ask us when.