Song of the summer season is officially over in the Northern hemisphere, thank you all for coming. Now, as the nights draw in and people romanticize both the death of most outdoor plants and a hike in their energy bills, parts of the music industry are starting to account for the best music of the year. Enter the sweet sound of an Ed Sheeran ballad. Unsurprisingly, the godfather of UK mom-pop is up for "song of the year" for the third year running, at an industry gala tonight called the BMI London Awards—which, despite its name, acknowledges the track by a UK or European act streamed the most on American radio and TV. Obviously, Sheeran’s nominated for “Shape of You.”
Also up for the award are a load of songs you'll have heard playing in the background somewhere, without a doubt: James Arthur with “Say You Won’t Let Go,” Zedd and Alessia Cara’s “Stay,” Kygo and Selena Gomez with “It Ain’t Me,” and “I Feel It Coming” by The Weeknd and Daft Punk. But does this chart-heavy mix reflect what people in 2018 are actually listening to? From pop fans to those praying the never have to endure a Calvin Harris-engineered chorus again, we asked a bunch of you what you’ve had on repeat this year.
“I actually enjoyed the Eminem album—I had no idea it got such bad reviews”
Alex, 18, student: I'm not mainstream at all. Well, actually, I kind of am I suppose. I tend to listen to rap, hip-hop, gangsta rap and some pop, and my favorite acts are Anderson .Paak and Logic. I was chatting to my flatmates about what we thought probably got streamed the most, and they said “In My Feelings” by Drake because of the dance, and “One Kiss” by Calvin Harris and Dua Lipa, but I couldn’t tell you what the second one sounds like. I actually really enjoyed the latest Eminem album. My most played track at the moment is "The Ringer," the first one on the album, and I honestly think it’s really great. I had no idea it had got such bad reviews, actually. I’ve also listened to “God’s Plan” by Drake loads, NxWorries, Brockhampton and XXXtentacion, though not so much lately. I tend to find all of my music on Spotify and social media like Twitter—I don’t think I’ve ever bought or read a music magazine and I was a bit too young for the whole NME era. As bad as it sounds, me and my friends are just always on our phones.
"Ariana Grande’s ‘God Is a Woman,’ which is weird cos I didn’t really like her before this album"
Danielle, 20: I tend to listen to a lot of UK hip-hop, grime and drill, and my go-to artists are the alt-pop singer Abra and IAMDDB, a rapper from Manchester who is a bit like Marmite in that a lot of people wouldn’t get her. I feel like they both make quite varied music – they do a bit of party stuff I’ll put on when I’m pre-drinking, but they also make a lot of music you could listen to by yourself at 2AM, which is usually when I listen to most of my music because I go to sleep at 3AM every night.
I also really like Rico Nasty, who is a female US rapper, and Big Zuu, the grime MC. In terms of stuff that’s come out this year, I really liked the Ariana album, especially “God Is A Woman,” which is weird because I didn’t really like her before at all. I feel like over the summer pop wasn’t too unbearable, but maybe that was just because the weather was good. Now that winter's coming, there's probably going to be a lot more sad singles from people like Ed Sheeran. I feel like artists like him and James Arthur have had a great couple of years, so maybe they should give up the space now and let some other artists get their voices heard.
“I feel like I’ll listen to one song for a month, then completely ditch it”
Dan, 24, creative producer: Woah, how is James Arthur on that list? I didn’t even know he’d released anything this year! For me, I feel like I’ve had songs I’ve listened to for a month and then completely ditched, like “Breathin’” by Ariana Grande and “Soco” by Starboy. I also got into this Spanish artist called Bad Gyal, especially her track “Internationally.” I think the way I listen to music is that I always rinse a song until I can’t stand it anymore. I think this happens especially with sad dance-pop—it’s really addictive, you listen to it and it’s cathartic, and then once you've got over that, it doesn't do much to you emotionally anymore. That’s how I felt about the Christine and the Queens singles, “5 Dollars” in particular. With Twitter you can also end up in these intense standoms, with everyone listening to the same stuff and the next day no one cares. And sometimes stuff like the Nicki-Cardi beef blows up on social media which makes you go off those artists. People treat music like content, in the same way people were talking about those weird Johny Yes Papa videos a few weeks ago and now they’ve disappeared.
“I listen to a lot of dancey stuff, but my top track is actually 'Good Intent' by Kimbra”
Sabrina, 25, writer: I listen to a lot of dancey music and Spotify seems to think I’m pretty turnt, but surprisingly my top track is by [R&B and jazz singer] Kimbra. I like a decent amount of pop, too. This probably sounds like a really old person thing to say, and obviously with shifts in pop there’s always a certain sound that rules, but right now it feels like it’s genuinely really hard to distinguish between different artists. I would say Jax Jones is making really fresh stuff though, I really like him because everything he makes is so danceable. “Havana” by Camila Cabello was released last year, but I feel the same about her—she’s bringing proper pop back. I’m also really enjoying Ariana’s return. It took me a while to warm to her but she’s fucking brilliant and a pop star in every sense, a triple threat who has this performer persona. It’s not just a set of vocals over a house beat. I think “No Tears Left To Cry” is probably my favorite. It’s really refreshing to see artists coming out and doing this sort of stuff. I’m kind of sick of the house-infused pop track now, and Calvin Harris just putting his dick on everything.
“I have the most generic taste, so have been listening to 'Kids in Love' by Kygo a lot"
Frank, 23, media sales: I have the most generic, standard music taste possible—I’m in the car a lot so I put Radio 1 on most of the time. Some of it I end up loving, some of it I hate, like “Shotgun” by George Ezra, I literally want to smash the radio every time it comes on. I’ve been listening to lots of Kygo – mostly his song "Kids In Love" – and Sigala, even though he's a little bit cringe. I'd say my most-played track by him has been "Ain't Giving Up." Drake’s one of the only artists I’d go on Spotify and actually search for, and listen to the whole album. I live with girls, and they insisted on teaching me the “In My Feelings” dance so that’s one of the reasons I love that song. Plus my housemate’s boyfriend sells Stone Island clothes and Drake connected with him on Instagram. He ended up flying him out to the US to hang out, and bought loads of stuff off him. So yeah, we’re probably a bit biased in our house.
“I’ve been really into the new Brockhampton album, Iridescence”
Isaac, 18, student: My older brother is a music journalist and he’s had quite a big influence on me, so I’m quite far away from all the chart stuff, really. What I listen to is quite broad but I’ve been getting into Death Grips massively this year, as well as Kendrick Lamar, Kanye and more abstract stuff like MF Doom, plus loads of older music—I know a lot of people my age on the alternative scene are really into The Kinks, The Doors and The Velvet Underground, all those 60s and 70s bands. In terms of stuff released this year, I’ve been really into the new Brockhampton album, Iridescence. I think with Kevin Abstract being so open about his sexuality and with that still being something of a taboo subject on the rap scene, they’ve managed to build a strong following really quickly. I think it was a similar thing with Tyler, the Creator—his early stuff was very aggressive and misogynistic but he's kind of grown up, and with Flower Boy last year he went straight into the mainstream.
“Mine’s a random one by Wolf Parade, from a documentary about rock-climbing in Yosemite”
Jolene, 24, retail manager: It’s weird to see Ed Sheeran on that list, because I remember seeing him at teeny little venues around 2010 as a support act and now he's playing at Wembley Stadium. But go Ed, I guess! It’s just not the sort of thing I’d listen to now at all. My most-played song this actually one I randomly heard on a documentary about the evolution of rock-climbing in Yosemite in California. I just thought the soundtrack was amazing, especially this one song called “I’ll Believe In Anything” by Wolf Parade. They’re an indie-rock band from Canada, a bit Arcade Fire-ish. Generally my taste is more indie-rock, a lot of band stuff from the 60s to now. Sometimes something else excites me though; I was in Lisbon this summer at NOS Alive festival and I saw Sampha, who was amazing even though he’s not typically what I’d listen to.
You can find Hannah on Twitter.
This article originally appeared on Noisey UK.