2018 was long and punishing, no matter how you dice it. Pop culture offered us some — but not a ton — of relief. Musically, this year felt a lot like the last few years: Trap, Auto-Tune and pop seem as dominant today as they have been at any time this past decade.
There were some highs, including soundtracks from films like A Star Is Born and Black Panther that captured the zeitgeist (and earned commercial success) with two very different sounds finely attuned to the stories they were supporting.
We also witnessed a cascade of head-scratching lows, including practically everything Kanye touched. And does anyone remember that Justin Timberlake cowboy album? Yikes. Hopefully we can leave much of 2018 in 2018, but it’ll be hard to shake the following memories and moments — the good, bad and ugly — that defined mainstream American music this year.