Barack Obama’s favorite songs of 2018 revisited

By Peter Zemeske

Former President Barack Obama has once again proven his youthful hip nature by continuing his tradition of sharing a list of his favorite books, movies and songs of the past year. It’s nice to see someone of such stature giving a shoutout to authors, directors and artists they enjoy. It’s not often someone with such influence directs attention on things other than themselves. The music side is a fantastic area to focus on, and how the songs stack up. Here are all songs on Obama’s end of 2018 list reviewed.

  1. Apesh*t by The Carters – Definitely a song from 2018 with its heavy trap-inspired beats and features. The track features Migos members Offset and Quavo and showcases their signature ad libs more than Beyoncé’s vocal range or Jay-Z’s bars. A decent song overall.

  2. Bad Bad News by Leon Bridges – The R&B singer/songwriter had a killer album in 2018, “Good Thing.” Obama’s favorite pick off the album “Bad Bad News” is absolutely impossible to turn off once starting. The flowy bass and jazzy guitar licks are irresistable.

  3. Could’ve Been by H.E.R. – H.E.R. is another R&B artist who keeps her voice on the sultry side of things and uses it beautifully on this track. The slow tempo and sparse production makes for a soothing listen.

  4. Disco Yes by Tom Misch – Tom Misch is a breakout artist of 2018 with his debut album “Geography.” His shot to fame now has him at 2.5 million total Spotify listeners. His song “Disco Yes” off the album is funky as it gets and is groovy as can be.

  5. Ekombe by Jupiter & Okwess – Jupiter & Okwess are an afropop/rock group from the Democratic Republic of Congo, whose reputation has expanded outside of their home country. “Ekombe” is frantic and energetic, yet a danceable song. The layers of bass, guitars and percussion prove impressive in both technique and quality.

  6. Every Time I Hear That Song by Brandi Carlile – Carlile’s 2018 release “By The Way, I Forgive You” is a sentimental album revolving around heartbreak. The Americana harmonies and rustic quality of “Every Time I Hear That Song” reminisces of days of country glory.

  7. Girl Goin’ Nowhere by Ashley McBryde – Another country song on the list, “Girl Goin’ Nowhere” is a serene ballad sure to lift the spirits of the listener. The calm tune has McBryde’s voice at the helm and appeals to both country and non-country fans alike.

  8. Historia De Un Amor by Tonina – “Historia De Un Amor” comes from Tonina, a singer hailing from St. Louis but sings in both Spanish and English. Her voice has a touch of rasp and the nylon string guitar melodies complement the tune nicely.

  9. I Like It by Cardi B – Love her or hate her, Cardi B had an incredible year. While “I Like It” may get too much radio play, it is a staple in songs released in 2018 The latin vibe under Cardi’s rapping is an interesting mix and works well for her.

  10. Kevin’s Heart by J. Cole – “Kevin’s Heart” is a lower energy song off of “KOD.” Cole raps about both drug addiction and cheating; the latter ties into the title’s reference, Kevin Hart who has admitted to cheating on his wife. The song is decent, but doesn’t inspire too many repeat listens.

  11. King For A Day by Anderson East – What’s unique about East is he listened to rock and pop bands to add to his influence, not strictly gospel music. This song is soulful and heartfelt at its core. East’s deep and powerful voice carries the brass and keyboards to new heights.

  12. Love Lies by Khalid & Normani – “Love Lies” is another song that dominated radios in 2018. Khalid’s smooth delivery and layered chorus makes it clear why. Normani’s command of her dynamic voice adds to the experience.

  13. Make Me Feel by Janelle Monáe – 1980s sounds run rampant on “Make Me Feel.” Monáe crafts the song to sound like a Madonna B-side in the best way possible. The vintage synths and bright guitars take the listener on a trip to the past and the future at the same time.

  14. Mary Don’t You Weep (Piano & A Microphone 1983 Version) by Prince – While this isn’t a new song per se, “Piano & A Microphone 1983” was officially reissued and remastered for an insight into Prince’s ability to perform stripped down to just his voice and a piano after his passing in 2016. “Mary Don’t You Weep” is a cover of Aretha Franklin’s 1972 gospel tune and Prince does it justice with astounding ease and grace. Prince’s dynamic and melodic range on this track is just stunning.

  15. My Own Thing by Chance the Rapper – “My Own Thing” was the second to last single released in 2018 by Chance and features Joey Purp. There isn’t anything ear grabbing about the song, perhaps Obama was giving a shout out to a fellow Chicago native.

  16. Need a Little Time by Courtney Barnett – Indie rocker Courtney Barnett is sure surprise to see on Obama’s list, whose songs have been leaning towards R&B and hip-hop until “Need a Little Time.” Barnett’s songs aren’t a whirlwind of instrumentation or ambience, but her talk-sing voice and guitar strums are more impressive than the sum of its parts.

  17. Nina Cried Power by Hozier – Hozier has had a relatively quiet career since his debut album in 2014, but has been making waves with his recent releases. “Nina Cried Power” is a protest song in essence, but what it’s protesting has yet to be seen. There are no hooks to be found and demonstrate Mavis Staples and Hozier’s voices more than anything.

  18. Nterini by Fatoumata Diawara – African artist Fatoumata Diawara is one of the most prominent artists from the continent and combines modern sounds with traditional song structures, resulting in fresh pop music. “Nterini” is in the Bambara language, but that shouldn’t deter audiences from giving it a listen.

  19. One Trick Ponies by Kurt Vile – Another indie rock artist who has coincidentally collaborated with Barnett mentioned earlier on the list, is Kurt Vile. Vile is far from being what his name suggests, with electric guitar riffs which lean towards hazy and sweet. “One Trick Ponies” is folky and sounds like summer.

  20. Turnin’ Me Up by BJ the Chicago Kid – The album this song is featured on was released in 2016, but Obama seemed in necessary to add it to his 2018 list. The song is just as great two years later. The live instruments and delivery from Bryan Sledge makes for a wonderful R&B jam.

  21. Wait by the River by Lord Huron – “Wait by the River” isn’t a bad song, but its slow and sparse instrumentation just isn’t enough to draw the listener in close. There’s nothing new or original about it, and one listen is good enough.

  22. Wow Freestyle by Jay Rock – The song comes off of Rock’s album “Redemption” and features fellow TDE labelmate Kendrick Lamar. While both artists are proficient in their craft, the bars given by Rock and Lamar just don’t land on the ear as well as they do on paper.