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With the sheer output of artists this year alone, picking just 10 songs across the musical spectrum proved to be quite the challenge. It was a monumental year for hip-hop and pop music, and some of the greatest dance records broke into the mainstream in ways we didn’t really expect. It’s safe to say our list for Best Originals is the most diverse of our end-of-year superlatives (ever), and it’s a mix of songs that we felt were truly the best of the year, whether these songs ended up becoming mega-popular or didn’t see the light of day on a Billboard Top 100 list.

Check out our 10 best original songs of the year below, and come back tomorrow and Friday for our superlatives for Albums, Producers, and Who To Watch.


NEST HQ Best of 2017: Originals
*10 singles listed in alphabetical order by artist

Batu – Flash React

The relatively unknown British producer Batu really astounded us with his Rebuilt EP on XL Recordings from earlier this year. He first came on my radar after releasing a remix of Sampha’s “Plastic 100º C” for a limited 12″, and since has continued to impress with his spaced out, garage-tinged UK bass music. Our favorite single off of his Rebuilt EP, “Flash React,” is a powerful footwork bass tune that delivers a biting attitude via its sharp percussion and syncopated melodies. The production is seriously impressive, but more than anything it’s just a fuckin’ tune! One of the most fun, hard-hitting records we heard this year. — DN

FISHER – Losing It

Okay, hear us out — there’s something very important to be said about this straight-up tech house tune that just got nominated for a Grammy. We couldn’t escape Fisher’s “Losing It” this year no matter where we went: it was bumping in just about every club across the country, circulating all across social media (lest we forget the endorsement from Elon Musk via Twitter), and playing in our heads a little more often than we would have liked. But that bassline is dangerously addictive from the very first second, driving the listener through boat horns and blips that sound like your alarm clock on weekday mornings. “I don’t usually like tech house, but this is growing on me,” one YouTube commenter shared about this tune. This right here is the very reason why “Losing It” takes a coveted spot on our list: if Fisher’s pulling in sweet virgin ears, we’re here for it. — JM

Ivy Lab – Cake

North London production duo Ivy Lab was created with the intention to push the boundaries of drum and bass, and established a new age rooted in ‘90s hip-hop abstractions that became known as the halftime movement. Their ambition is limitless, and the lead single “Cake” from their debut full-length LP travels to the outer edges of the sonic universe, and then goes beyond. Full of analog noise and grit, the production features an aggressive vocal hook that can match the following low-end rapture before shifting to an underwater, fairy fountain aesthetic in complete opposition. Add in their general appreciation for negative space and technical sensibility, and it’s not hard to see why Ivy Lab took the cake in 2018. — CS

Jorja Smith – Blue Lights

Jorja Smith’s hometown tribute “Blue Lights” was released on her debut album Lost & Found back in June, and is one of the most absorbing productions we’ve heard in R&B in a seriously long time. In general, the use of atonal, chorused keys is historically out of place in the genre, but “Blue Lights” is built upon a hauntingly beautiful key line that really waves in and out of pitch. Further, the key change at the end of each chorus is so powerful and so unexpected (even hundreds of listens later); it’s a genuinely genius piece of writing from the musicians on the track. The vocal production is top-notch as well, and her voice wraps around you like silk as it points a light towards racial profiling in England and threads together a sort of dazed realization through a jazz-infused rhythm, all set against the backdrop of her English hometown of Walsall. Although she’s only 21, Jorja is clearly an old soul oozing wisdom and beautiful self and societal awareness well beyond her years. — DN

Kacey Musgraves – Slow Burn

Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine putting what is technically a country song on a NEST HQ Best Of list, but there’s a reason why Kasey Musgraves is at the top of so many end-of-year lists. “Slow Burn” is the first track off her record Golden Hour and this blissful, pop-leaning, elegantly simple song has such humanizing imagery in her lyrics, she manages to successfully capture an intimate, deeply personal, yet totally relatable portrait of being alive today. Even without the words, this song could be played anywhere in the world and connect — it’s truly timeless music with a melody that invites you to lie back and let the world do its thing while you do yours. — MH

Lil Baby & Gunna – Drip Too Hard

As the lead single from Lil Baby and Gunna’s debut collaborative record Drip Harder, “Drip Too Hard” is the magnum opus of both artists’ respective “Hard” and “Drip” series of mixtapes and albums. Though it’s not the first time Lil Baby and Gunna have collaborated on a hit track, “Drip Too Hard” showcases each artist at their best with the help of Turbo on production. Beginning with the broken electric guitar riff at the introduction, the guys craft a quip that tells the listener to watch out for their (for lack of a better word) swagger, as the metaphorical drip will cause you to slip and fall. Sure, it’s just a *little* silly, but it’s so damn hard to get this tune out of your head once you experience it for the first time. There’s a reason “Drip Too Hard” became the highest-charting song for both artists — for now. — JM

Peggy Gou – It Makes You Forget

Undeniably, Peggy Gou has had one hell of a year. From becoming a rep for major fashion imprints like Louis Vuitton (in part thanks to her blooming friendship with fashion mogul Virgil Abloh), to amassing almost half a million Instagram followers, to playing some of the most coveted sets that dance music has to offer, and all of it began with the simple hit record “It Makes You Forget (Itgehane).” Much like her half-digital, half-vinyl DJ sets, the house track is a really clever, pop-leaning acid tune that fuses her expertise as a party DJ perfectly with her profound knowledge of underground, historic dance music. Its foundation relies on a slightly opening filtered 303 bassline that teases its biting artifacts from time to time before shutting closed again into a bouncy, smooth line. This one’s one of the year’s strongest dancefloor igniters. — DN

Playboi Carti – Shoota feat. Lil Uzi Vert

We made room for one of the most engaging rap songs of the year that managed to keep us at the edge of our seats. Both Playboi Carti and Lil Uzi Vert made the most out of 2018, to say the least, and their collaborative tune “Shoota” off Playboi Carti’s record Die Lit represents the most satisfying side of hip-hop. A warm piano melody breaks the silence as Lil Uzi Vert comes into view with plucking harps, blending a soul-cleansing instrumental with an effortless flow that reels the listener in close. Waiting for the beat to drop is one of the most exciting experiences on “Shoota” (it happens at 1:08 and it’s perfect), and it’s even better when you’ve got a quality speaker system or headphones for your listen. It was a huge year for hip-hop, and “Shoota” represents some of the best we’ve seen. — JM

Post Malone – Better Now

A lot of people wrote Posty off after the release of Stoney in 2016. There was truly very little faith that he’d be able to back up such a wildly successful album, and to the surprise of many, beerbongs & bentleys not only backed it up but ferociously surpassed it. The record includes so many hit songs (we included “rockstar” in last year’s Best Originals list), it was really hard to choose the best one of 2018. We ultimately came to the conclusion that “Better Now” is the track that fully encapsulates Post Malone’s crossover success and overall talent. Its hip-hop, pop, rock-infused production is the perfect stage for Post’s cigarette-burned, country-autotuned vocals to shine, and the track’s heartfelt lyricism connected massively with this generation’s sadboi aesthetics, making it a perfect storm of a record. He’s done such an amazing job of not only presenting himself as an icon, but also backing it up with carefully selected records, visuals, and styling. Post is an icon, and arguably in the top five biggest artists in the world at the moment. — DN

RAT BOY – Internationally Unknown

The lead single off RAT BOY’s forthcoming album, also titled Internationally Unknown, was produced by Rancid’s Tim Armstrong and you can hear it in every note of this song. We’re just not used to punk productions sounding so robust, where every little sound is so pronounced the mix almost sounds clean, but then it’s as if it’s being played through speakers with just a little bit of beer spilled on them with just the right amount of gritty distortion that keeps “Internationally Unknown” in the gutter where it belongs. Enjoy this majestic marriage of sunny SoCal and rainy UK punk stylings as we anxiously await the drop of RAT BOY’s debut album, also produced by Tim Armstrong, which is due out January 25th. — MH


Words by Sadye AurenDani NogueraMolly HankinsJordan Mafi, and Cassie Sheets

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