The 20 best pop songs right now

September’s best pop songs, featuring Charli XCX, Slayyyter, Deaton Chris Anthony, Camila Cabello and more.

September 27, 2019
The 20 best pop songs right now

Every month The FADER brings you the best pop songs in the world. Subscribe to the updating playlist on Apple Music.

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1

Charli XCX — "Thoughts"

Sitting somewhere between Lil Peep and harsh, unadulterated noise, “Thoughts” is one of the most challenging songs Charli XCX has ever made. It’s also the best song Charli XCX has ever made. The lyrics are simple because there’s so much emotional work being done elsewhere — in Charli’s fractured, pained vocal, in A. G. Cook’s forcefully loud production, in the thrilling free-fall of a coda. Pop could use more of that kind of pathos.

2

Tove Lo & Kylie Minogue — "Really don't like u"

FADER editor Larry Fitzmaurice recently described Tove Lo as the “bloghouse-i[est]” pop star, which hits the nail on the head: “Really don’t like u” reminds me a hell of a lot of “Paris (Aeroplane Remix)” by Friendly Fires. It’s more than cheap pastiche, though: “Really don’t like u” extends Lo’s fondness for writing about complex or strange emotions not usually in pop’s purview. This song isn’t about a guy, it’s about jealousy and attraction and a strange kind of regret that can’t be pinpointed; that, plus the presence of Kylie Minogue, makes this the highlight of Sunshine Kitty.

3

Perfume Genius — "Eye in the Wall"

This humid and sprawling dance track will be used to soundtrack a contemporary dance piece over the coming months, but one hopes that it also signals a direction for Perfume Genius’ follow-up to No Shape. Since 2014’s Too Bright, Perfume Genius records have tried to convey a kind of ecstasy, seeking catharsis through bright, overwhelming sounds. “Eye in the Wall” is a natural progression of that, the kind of frenzied and hedonistic dance song that feels of a piece with, say, the soundtrack for Gaspar Noé’s Climax.

4

Vagabon — "Water Me Down"

“Water Me Down” steps away from the raw guitar of Vagabon’s debut Infinite Worlds, but the synths here sound no less organic. Vagabon’s vocal here is doing a lot of work that’s hard to clock at first — take it away, and you’d have a fairly slow-moving ambient track; the forcefully catchy vocal melody turns it into an all-out pop track.

5

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Mallrat — "When I Get My Braces Off"

Mallrat has more dynamite one-liners per-minute in her songs than most veteran pop writers, but “When I get my braces off, I’m gonna be a rock star” — so cheeky and charming in equal measure — takes the cake.

6

Post Malone, Ozzy Osbourne & Travis Scott — "Take What You Want"

Hollywood’s Bleeding isn’t exactly the perfect beerbongs & bentleys follow-up that I wanted; “Take What You Want,” though, is the ridiculous and chaotic single that I needed.

7

Kindness & Robyn — "The Warning"

Kindness’ third record shies away from obvious paths, instead choosing to pair distinctive vocalists with instrumentals more abstract than what they’d usually work with. “The Warning” is a highlight of this technique: Robyn’s vocal soars while Kindness’ production slowly simmers. The result is dazzling.

8

Yves Tumor, Hirakish, Napolian & Anthem — "Applaud"

Anyone who’s seen Yves Tumor in the past year or so knows that the enigmatic producer can, when they want, pull out a set that makes them seem like a popstar-in-waiting. “Applaud” sounds like a 90s sex jam recorded in a mine, a mood that hasn’t been explored nearly enough.

9

FKA Twigs & Future — "Holy Terrain"

FKA Twigs has the kind of magnetic presence that lends itself to making solo records. But Future holds his own on “Holy Terrain,” adding a propulsion and urgency to the latest Magdalene single.

10

Grimes & i_o — "Violence"

The melody in “Violence” is classic Grimes — hypnotic and unusual, wispy and vaporous but, on the whole, indelible. “Violence” is much more listenable than the gonzo “We Appreciate Power” but no less memorable.

11

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Charli XCX & Troye Sivan — "2099"

Charli was positioned, at least in part, as Charli XCX’s re-entry into the mainstream. Which makes it all the more audacious that it ends with “2099,” a sequel to last year’s Troye Sivan collab “1999” that’s clattering, abrasive and gleefully inaccessible. It also serves as a mission statement for Charli: “No one on my level, I play nice cos I’m too clever,” she sings. It’s true: it’ll probably be 3099 by the time mainstream pop has caught up to “2099.”

12

Okay Kaya — "Ascend and Try Again"

Ditching the dead-eyed humor of her debut record Both works surprisingly well for Okay Kaya. “Ascend and Try Again” is a calming, beautifully constructed song.

13

Kučka — "Drowning"

“Drowning” feels like it has little momentum until its last few seconds, at which points it catapults forward with shocking force. Kučka has made distinctive guest turns on records by Vince Staples and Flume, but “Drowning,” which was self-produced, is a strong display of her talents.

14

Charlie Puth — "Mother"

Good melodies clearly come incredibly easy to Charlie Puth. This low-key, non-creepy update to ABBA’s “Does Your Mother Know” is excellent.

15

Giant Swan — "55 Year Old Daughter"

Sure, this is an industrial techno track, but Giant Swan, with their theatrical performance style and subtle hooks, carry all the hallmarks of a great pop act. “55 Year Old Daughter” is short, sharp and eminently repeatable.

16

Charli XCX — "Official"

“Official” is supposedly the only one of the ballads on Charli that isn’t based on real life. Still, it’s a hell of a fake-out: Charli sounds great in this cozy, gooey-eyed mode.

17

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Elizabeth — "Beautiful Baby"

While it carries all the hallmarks of a torch song, “Beautiful Baby” is quite the opposite — a sombre track about the excruciating pain of saying goodbye to a true love. There’s no shortage of heartbreaking lyrics in “Beautiful Baby,” but “I could bring you flowers or sing you a love song / almost like I mean it” is something else.

18

Slayyyter & Ayesha Erotica — "BFF"

A lot of this kind of jacked-up rave pop tends to be featherweight, lacking enough low-end to give it any traction. Not “BFF”: the opening track of Slayyyter’s debut mixtape features a bass synth that buzzes like an idle chainsaw. “BFF” will undoubtedly be too much for some; others will, rightly, ask you to turn it the fuck up.

19

Camila Cabello — "Liar"

Of Camila Cabello's first two Romance singles, “Liar” is the obvious winner: like her breakthrough “Havana,” it’s the sort of song that only she could feasibly pull off. Balancing an Ace of Base interpolation and flourishes of Latin trap, it sounds terrible on paper but is remarkably great on record.

20

Deaton Chris Anthony, Clairo & Coco and Clair Clair — "RACECAR"

“RACECAR,” the latest single by Los Angeles producer Deaton Chris Anthony, is bizarre and brilliant. You can tell it was fun to make: beginning with an exuberant rap from Clairo and ending with chants from Atlanta weirdos Coco & Clair Clair, it’s tapped-as-shit and a complete joy to listen to.

The 20 best pop songs right now