The music industry had every reason to grind down to a virtual halt over the past three months.

Sure, there’s an ever-present, seemingly insurmountable wave of holiday music mania that consumes the general public every year from November to December. But this year it was more than that. In 2019, it was the Grammys that put the quality of this year’s late releases in serious jeopardy.

Every year prior to 2019, Grammy nominations for the upcoming year closed on September 30th. As one might imagine, this was a predictably significant deterrent in the production of late-year, Grammy-worthy content. The deadline would often force major artists and their governing management to postpone end-of-year releases with the hopes that songs published after the new year would make a much bigger splash, have a much longer shelf life, and still be beloved by the time the following year’s award ceremony came around.

That being said, 2019’s Grammy nomination deadline was hypothetically more restrictive than ever. At the end of 2018, the deadline was rescheduled over a month earlier to August 31st for the first time in its history. With the new timeline, questions arose that should have heightened the anxiety of every artist, manager, and label with skin in the game. Why would the Grammys change their deadline? How will artists planning late releases accommodate this hurried schedule? If music is released in September or October, will anyone remember it by the time the 2021 Grammys come around?

With all of these challenges and constraints, the music industry must have experienced a markedly slower Q4, right?

Wrong. Despite those overwhelming odds, something triggered a major influx of significant mainstream hits the likes of which no one would have expected from 2019.  Where years past saw the winter months bring slow, morose music with them, 2019 was filled with plenty of high-energy bangers like Majid Jordan’s “Superstar”, Jake Bugg’s “Kiss Like the Sun”, and MUNA’s cover of Normani’s 2019 track “Motivation”. HAIM, Halsey, and The Weeknd all finished off the year with gorgeous, enticing singles meant to tease their highly anticipated 2020 albums. Other artists just wanted to close out the decade with one last stamp of greatness on their respective genre, such as Harry Styles’ dazzling pop album Fine Line, KAYTRANADA’s provocative dance album BUBBA, and Kanye West’s unexpectedly secular album JESUS IS KING.

No matter if some of these songs have crossed your path or if your playlists seem like an endless spiral of track-skipping tedium lately, let these songs serve as a final highlight to the decade’s unique ability to surprise us with great music when we least expect it. The following playlist contains 30 of my favorite songs released over the past three months. As always, the songs are in no particular order with a restriction of only one song per artist.

Need a recap of this summer’s fun, Grammy-closing greatness? Check out last quarter’s playlist here: FeenyFaves – Best Songs of 2019: Q3 (July-September)

With mainstream music on pause, some overlooked jams flew largely under the radar around this time last year. Check out what music snuck its way into the last quarter of 2018 here: FeenyFaves – Best Songs of 2018: Q4 (October-December)