Winner: Billie Eilish
For this year's awards, more than 150 songs were nominated to be put on our shortlist, before over 1000 people voted for their favourite. We've counted down our favourite tracks from 25th to 2nd and we finally have a winner. Owen White explains why Billie Eilish is our 2019 Song of the Year.
There isn’t really a fresh angle to approach Billie Eilish’s internet-conquering, chart topping breakout single bad guy from and believe me I’ve given it some thought. Aside from certain, ahem, Wild-West themed bangers, bad guy has been the one certifiable staple of 2019’s musical landscape.
Inescapable from every angle the song has managed to be everywhere while simultaneously appealing to everyone. It’s a song just as at home in a full throttle club setting as it is in a lowkey hipster house party; music you can play both before going out and after. As a result of this all-encompassing, zeitgeist defining status just about everything that could, should and probably should not has already been said about the song, as well as it’s 17 year old songstress as music publications, mainstream news sources and have all been in pure frenzy attempting to draw fresh hottakes from bad guy like water from a stone. So, I’m thankful that here, I really don’t have to: the songcraft of bad guy speaks for itself. Its now-iconic slippery sub-bass manages to avoid the pitfalls of repetition and simplicity with its undeniable hookiness and it’s the strangely hypnotic quality.
Billie’s delivery has probably been spoken on enough at this point to get its own linguistics book but I’ll give it a shot: she sings in a breathy, barely audible way that forefronts her vocal blemishes just as much as her strengths and the result feels shockingly authentic for mainstream pop vocals, as well as being completely unique to Billie Eilish. Love it or hate it, you’d struggle to find anyone else who sings like her let alone sounds like her (and if you hate it, you’re uh, wrong). One aspect of her voice that hasn’t been commented on nearly enough in my opinion is her dynamics which can be heard in the contrast between the reverent, creeping ominousness of the verse and the impertinent “DUH” she scoffs to open every chorus which is the nearest thing to a perfect distillation of teenage petulance every put to wax. The chorus is wordless and, ironically, speaks for itself. That deceptively simple synth lick has been bouncing around my head since I first heard it like the answer to a question, I never knew I was asking.
bad guy is a lot of things: a number one single, a breakthrough moment in mainstream pop, a mission statement from one of modern music’s most talented young artist, a viral sensation, but it’s important not to lose sight of what it really is at its core, context be damned. It’s just a really, really good song.