Women musicians took centerstage in 2019. Billie Eilish topped the charts, Alabama Shakes frontwoman Brittany Howard released a critically acclaimed solo album and Chicago singer Jamila Woods finally got her turn in the spotlight.
From “Bad Guy” to “Boasty,” here are a few of her favorite songs from 2019.
“Old Town Road - Remix” by Lil Nas X (feat. Billy Ray Cyrus)
Lil Nas X’s “Old Town Road” went viral on the popular social media platform TikTok this year as part of the #Yeehaw meme challenge. But the song didn’t really blow up until it was pulled off of Billboard’s Hot Country Songs chart for not being country enough. That move prompted conversations about a lack of diversity in the country genre. That’s when longtime country star Billy Ray Cyrus jumped on the remix in support, and the rest was history. The song shot to the top of the Billboard Hot 100 and broke the record for longest time in the No. 1 spot, lasting 19 weeks.
“It’s Lil Nas X’s world, and we’re all kind of just living in it,” Hopkins said.
“Bad Guy” by Billie Eilish
When it seemed like nothing could dethrone “Old Town Road,” 18-year-old Billie Eilish’s spooky, synthy pop hit “Bad Guy” did just that. The first artist born in the 2000s to top the Billboard Hot 100, Eilish had a record-breaking 2019: 14 songs from her album WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP, WHERE DO WE GO? made the chart.
“There’s a part of me that shakes their fist at clouds and is like telling these kids to get off her lawn,” Hopkins said, “But then the other like 80% of me is like, ‘Damn, that’s a catchy ass song.’”
“Ibtihaj” by Rapsody (feat. D’Angelo and GZA)
On rapper Rapsody’s new album, Eve, each song is named after a woman the artist admires — with tracks ranging from “Oprah” to “Aaliyah.” On the song “Ibtihaj,” D’Angelo and GZA join Rapsody as she pays tribute to fencer Ibtihaj Muhammad, the first woman to wear a hijab while competing as part of the U.S. Olympic team.
“I think it might be my favorite track that came out this year,” Hopkins said.
“GIOVANNI” by Jamila Woods
Beverly native Jamila Woods — who was featured on Chance the Rapper’s “Sunday Candy” and “Blessings” — honors important figures on her new album LEGACY! LEGACY! The standout track “GIOVANNI” is named for poet Nikki Giovanni.
“The world is watching Chicago artists and … [she] finally has achieved this level of stardom that she’s worked so hard for and completely deserves,” Hopkins said.
“Boasty” by Wiley, Stefflon Don and Sean Paul (feat. Idris Elba)
“Boasty” is a remix of British rapper Wiley’s 2018 single by the same name, but this time he brought some friends along. The bouncy dance track features fellow Brit Stefflon Don and Jamaican singer Sean Paul, along with actor — and DJ — Idris Elba.
“There’s a line that he has that makes sure that you know that he wrote this verse himself,” Hopkins said. (“I write for myself, no ghosty,” Elba raps.)
“History Repeats” by Brittany Howard
Best known as the lead singer and guitarist of blues-rock band Alabama Shakes, Brittany Howard struck out on her own this year, releasing her groovy debut solo album Jaime in September with “History Repeats” as the lead single.
Popular among critics, Jaime was named the best album of 2019 by NPR.
“I think if I could steal the essence and voice of any one singer right now, it would Brittany Howard …,” Hopkins said. “I’m a fan of the Alabama Shakes, but I really think that when she’s just on her own like this, it’s so special and so powerful.”
Listen to the full playlist here: