The end of the year can be fun, but also challenging. It’s a time of reflection, family drama, loneliness, and short, cold days (at least in the northern hemisphere). I have a couple tough days every December; I don’t like being reminded of how quickly time is passing. A few weeks ago, I missed a flight home, and was feeling frustrated with myself. Fortunately I knew what to do: It was time to make my top 10.
For more than a decade, I’ve been making top 10 lists of my favorite songs from each year. Music is what gives me the most joy in life, and putting together a list of songs every December is now one of my favorite annual traditions.
When I first started making my list, I felt a little silly. I am not a music critic; at the time, I wasn’t even a journalist. Still, I figured, why should the music critics get to have all the fun? I too wanted to share the songs I loved, at least with a few people. Now I share my top 10 list with most of my friends, and I ask them to share back.
This is not just a way to connect with old friends, but also a chance to get an intimate view into their life. I’ve found that a number of my friends listen to much darker, more aggressive music than I would have imagined. It’s expanded my vision of who they are. In other cases, I found out we both love the same obscure band. On each list, I almost always find a song to fall in love with, and I feel closer to that person for introducing me to it.
Streaming has made making top 10 lists immeasurably easier. A decade ago, my friends I relied on illegal YouTube to mp3 audio converters, and we would send the files to each other using Dropbox. Now, it’s as easy as looking at the songs you listened to most on Spotify, or whatever music application you use, and adding your favorites to a public playlist. Most-listened to is not always most-loved, so I always go through a few end-of-the-year picks by critics to make sure I’m not forgetting anything. Although it can be hard to leave songs off the list, the process of choosing always delights me. I get to listen to a song I was obsessed with in March, but hadn’t heard since then, and I feel the rush of experiencing a forgotten gem.
If you are not a big music listener, I suggest making a top 10 list of films, TV shows, books, or even TikToks. Whatever it is that you most love thinking about. Considering your favorite things will almost certainly liven up the end of your year.
And, of course, here are my top 10 songs of 2019: