Best Songs That Made Us Cry of 2018 (Staff Picks)

Mac Miller, Frank Ocean, Anderson .Paak, and more—these are the songs that made us cry in 2018.
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Best of 2018: Song That Made You Cry

Say what you like, 2018 has been a marked year for music. While critique is very serious business, we are also human and what we like is all the more special than the critical appraisal of an album. For the next month, every day, you will find our staff picks for our favorite facets of music from best features to worst songs and everything in-between, based solely on what strikes us as diehard music fans first, and critics second. It's been an incredible year for hip-hop.

These are the songs that made us cry in 2018.

"Come Back to Earth" — Mac Miller

“Come Back to Earth” reduced me to tears even before Mac Miller’s passing. As someone often held captive by my own lofty expectations and constant worries, I too would “do anything for a way out of my head.” But the track became even more crushing when we lost Mac in September. He had assured us, “I was drowning, but now I’m swimming,” but his fate proved that couldn’t have been the case. He was a troubled soul, gone too soon, and the lead track on Swimming gives devastating context to his tragic journey. —Stephen Barston

When I wrote earlier this year about how this song helped me grapple with my decision to start taking antidepressants, the lyrics “I’ll do anything for a way out of my head” had become somewhat of a guiding mantra for me. This phrase rang through my head constantly, whenever I got tired of pondering unanswerable philosophical questions, whenever I felt physically debilitated by anxiety, and on the many daily occasions when I felt overwhelmed by my internal monologue more generally. In moments like this, I’d put on this song, let my exhaustion wash over me, and find an ounce of comfort in solidarity. In the wake of Mac’s tragic passing this September, my emotional connection to this song has only intensified. I still tear up when I listen to it today, except now my tears are motivated by a different set of reasons entirely. —Hershal Pandya

"I Love You Dwayne" — Lil Wayne

There isn’t any music in the intro to Lil Wayne’s Tha Carter V. Only the sound of his mother professing her love for her son, proud of the man she has watched go through hell and back just to make another album. It’s a track I may never listen to again for the single fact that Wayne’s mother’s crying is so genuine, so visceral, that I don’t even need to hear it again to remember how it felt. —Matt Wilhite

"Moon River" — Frank Ocean

In 2017, when Frank Ocean’s blonded RADIO was an active series on Apple Music, I would have long talks with my friend Jarrod Milton about the music selected and the new single Frank would premiere after every episode. When Frank posted “Moon River” on Tumblr, his only new offering in 2018, I reached for my phone to text Jarrod in excitement. Unfortunately, he passed away the month prior. —Yoh

“Trippy” — Anderson .Paak ft. J. Cole

Apparently, I am the only member of the DJBooth team who actually enjoyed the new Anderson .Paak album, so let me fulfill my sworn obligation and ensure Oxnard earns at least one accolade on these year-end lists. I had a hunch that “Trippy” would be one of my favorites when a snippet of the song was posted to Instagram ahead of its release, but still, I was wholly unprepared for the waterworks brought out by the celestial choir and .Paak’s passionate crooning. With its heavenly arrangements, humorous intro, and added star power by way of J. Cole, it’s a highlight on the album, and a surefire way to make me tear up at a moment’s notice. —Kenan Draughorne

"YouAreMySunShine" — Flatbush Zombies

More often than not, it’s the hardest or steeliest of us who are hiding the most emotions. Meechy Darko of the Flatbush Zombies opened up in ways I’ve never heard before on Vacation In Hell standout “YouAreMySunshine,” his moving tribute to the late A$AP Yams. Over a simple piano chord progression and cooing choir, Meech lets out feeling of regret for not being strong enough to even go to his friend’s funeral: “In the studio, tryna fight tears and shit / I just wish my nigga Yams was here to hear this shit / He in the clouds, angels braiding his hair and shit / Just looking down like, "God, you hear this shit?" I do, but I’m feeling it, too. —Dylan "CineMasai" Green

“2009” — Mac Miller

I know, I know. There is no greater shame than hearing the resolve Mac arrived at on "2009." He was better. He was going to live. We were going to make it. The arrangement and piano, in particular, are immaculate on this track. Every step and misstep of his career led him to the delivery of this stunning and transcendent moment. So few people can give their heart in this way to another person in private, but to do so on wax for hundreds of thousands is beyond reproach and loving in its own right. This one just makes you say "Fuck" in the most biting tone. "2009" makes me cry, but it's also an imperative: nowadays, all we do is shine. There is no alternative. —Donna-Claire Chesman

On “2009,” Mac Miller was in a better place. After suffering perhaps the biggest setback in a long series of personal struggles, he’d somehow found a quiet sense of peace, strength and hope amidst the tornado of sadness and self-destruction: “They ask me what I’m smilin’ for / Well, because I’ve never been this high before / It’s like I never felt alive before,” he says, breathing a sigh of relief from within the eye of the storm. For the first month after Swimming’s release, “2009” was cathartic. Since that tragic night in September, it’s a heart-wrenching reminder of his death. Even Eric G’s production, which once felt like the weight of the world lifting off your shoulders, now yanks my heartstrings down to Earth. “2009” is—and probably always will be—a difficult listen for anyone who was moved to tears by Mac Miller’s passing, but there’s comfort to be found in the fact that he got one over on his demons before they snatched him away. The least we can do in his absence is take his advice, take a breath and take chances. —Andy James

Before Mac Miller’s death, I choked up almost daily to “2009.” The piano strikes me both as sunny and sad, a bright note on the most unforgiving days. Mac’s voice carries his sorrows with his strengths, taking them both perhaps not in stride but on a reflective stroll. After his death, the weight of “2009” became almost unbearable, prophetic in its ability to look back and choose to be okay anyway. Maybe someday we will, too. —Ben Taylor

After hearing the news that Mac passed, I spent about two hours finishing up some work and listening to a spur-of-the-moment “best of” playlist, stunned look on my face, reminiscing on his life and repeating the same “I can’t even believe it” comments to a room full of other stunned faces saying the same things. When I left, I walked outside, pressed play on “2009,” and made it through the opening minute of orchestration before breaking into tears as soon as the keys hit. I think about that moment every time I hear it. —Brendan Varan