Barack Obama completed his annual roundup of favorite arts moments of the year Monday with a list of his favorite music from 2019. As always, it’s an assortment that mixes obvious crowd-pleasers with commendably smart and obscure choices that leave you wondering how the former president has so much time to troll Spotify and/or critics’ picks.
“From hip-hop to country to The Boss, here are my songs of the year,” he wrote. “If you’re looking for something to keep you company on a long drive or help you turn up a workout, I hope there’s a track or two in here that does the trick.”
Besides a track from Bruce Springsteen’s “Western Stars,” also making the eclectic cut were leading Grammy contenders Lizzo and Lil Nas X, along with Rosalia, the National, the Highwomen, Summer Walker, Big Thief, Maggie Rogers, Mavis Staples, DaBaby, Frank Ocean, Joe Henry and sisters Beyonce and Solange.
Unlike his books and movies/TV lists, which he posted over the weekend, Obama’s music list comes with a bonus: a Spotify playlist.
As a culture vulture, Obama has been careful as always to hit just about every possible genre with his list of 35 tracks, including old-school R&B (Staples), new-school R&B (Walker and perennial listee Alicia Keys), country (the Highwomen, a side project of one of his previous favorites, Brandi Carlile), hip-hop (Young Thug, DaBaby, Goldlink, Wale), genre-crossing Latin music (Rosalia), folk-rock singer/songwriters (Joe Henry), indie-rock singer/songwriters (Sharon Van Etten) and mainstream rock ‘n roll (the Black Keys).
A song like “Old Town Road” may not need much of a boost from Obama. But performers who are on the cusp of greater awareness will benefit from their presence on the list, like the Swedish pop-R&B singer Snoh Aalegra, who, despite having considerable buzz, has “I Want You Around” as her only charting single up till now (it peaked at No. 19 on the R&B chart).
International artists placed well on Obama’s list — besides the Swedish Aalegra, there are Burna Boy and Rema, both from Nigeria, plus the Haitian-Canadian Kaytranada, the Puerto Rican Azuna, Koffee from Jamaica, the Beninese singer Angelique Kidjo, Prateek Kuhad from India and the Spanish Rosalia. Others are American performers of mixed heritage, like Lesthegenius, a North Carolina native born to West African parents.
For Obama’s top movies and TV shows of 2019, click here.
For the former president’s favorite books of 2019, click here.
In August, Obama offered a “summer playlist 2019” that mostly included breezy oldies or contemporary fare that leaned toward the lighter side, starting with Drake and Rihanna’s “Too Good” and the Spinners’ “I’ll Be Around” and continuing through 44 tracks that included everything from Maggie Rogers, Shawn Mendes and Lizzo to the Black Keys, Charles Mingus and SZA.
Last year at this time, Obama’s list of favorite songs from 2018 included such soon-to-be-Grammy-nominated picks as Brandi Carlile, Janelle Monae, H.E.R. and Ashley McBryde, as well as Cardi B, Lord Huron, Kurt Vile, Hozier, Chance the Rapper, Courtney Barnett, Khalid and Leon Bridges.