100 – Kings & Queens by Ava Max
I was wrong. Ava Max stuck around. After a successful 2019, I thought her days were over, especially in a year where club music wasn’t going to make sense. But “Kings and Queens” feels like a throwback to 90s disco music. And apparently, that’s making a comeback in the pandemic. The only thing I hate about this song is how it needed a redo with Lauv and Saweetie, which if I’m being honest, was just unnecessary.
99 – What a Man Gotta Do by Jonas Brothers
I looked at “What a Man Gotta Do” in two ways. At first, I found it cute and thought it was a bubbly track that three handsome men cooked up so their fans can continue gushing over them. But once I saw the video, I remembered that they are adults in committed relationships. Music is their way to show their sustained affection and enthusiasm for their wives. Meanwhile, I’m just ageing and growing more bitter every day.
98 – positions by Ariana Grande
I was expecting a completely different sound for Ariana’s first single from her sixth studio album. I imagined a big ballad showcasing her vocal prowess, or another dance anthem ala “Break Free.” Instead, here’s a restrained R&B track showing us how much she’s grown (both in her vocal restraint and the song’s subject matter) and why reinvention always pays off.
97 – Wonder by Shawn Mendes
After listening to “Wonder”, I immediately feel guilty because Shawn Mendes is one of my go-to musicians to bash. And what’s worse is I get this sense that he’s not always in a good place (“In My Blood” is a track that comes to mind when thinking about his mental state). This song just highlights how powerful thoughts are and how much it can get to people, including someone as successful and as privileged as Shawn Mendes.
96 – Take Yourself Home by Troye Sivan
At this point, who doesn’t feel the same way as Troye Sivan? Being stuck in a city and questioning the reason you’ve uprooted yourself from your hometown is like the peak quarantine sentiment. And some of us have the luxury and/or courage to go back. But others can’t afford to and/or lack the will to do so. In the meantime, I live my crisis through his music.
95 – In Your Eyes by the Weeknd
Am I the only one that feels like I am being transported to Black Mirror’s episode of San Junipero when listening to this track? The song, and the Weeknd’s latest album in general, takes me back to some late night disco scene, or a drunk walk around the corners of a mysterious and dangerous city. Not that I’ve experienced either but music has that power to take me to places and situations I’ve never been to.
94 – BLIND by DaBaby featuring Young Thug
Even though hip-hop and I don’t exactly have the closest relationship, rap sung tracks like “BLIND” help bridge our gap. There’s the swag and flashiness I’m used to every time I’m listening to the genre. But DaBaby’s newfound awakening and transition to newer opportunities feel closer to home. It’s even more relatable than most of what I’ve heard on streaming services nowadays (including pop’s best offerings).
93 – Intentions by Justin Bieber featuring Quavo
Much as I do not like Justin Bieber, I can’t deny he is capable of making catchy music. And by catchy, I do not mean “Yummy” as that one is a clear disservice to all its follow-ups. “Intentions” is one track I can get behind when Justin Bieber complains that the Grammys wrongly classified his work as pop. “Intentions” is to Justin Bieber as “positions” is to Ariana Grande – a smooth transition to R&B that demonstrates growth and maturity.
92 – Stupid Love by Lady Gaga
After much experimentation, Lady Gaga has come back to the sound the general public fell in love with. “Stupid Love” could easily be a track from The Fame or Born This Way. Though I would classify it as inferior to most songs on either album, this should be taken as a compliment instead of an insult. The caliber her first records set were so high that even being mistaken to belong to them is an honour.
91 – Nobody but You by Blake Shelton and Gwen Stefani
Though Blake Shelton’s signature country sound pretty much dominates Gwen’s, anything that gets her back into creating music is a welcome development for me. There are better love song duets and this one is far from being a staple. But none have the real-life chemistry of the duo. And the narrative of their romance amplifies the experience of listening to the song.
90 – I Hope by Gabby Barrett
Even though I enjoy The Voice more than I do American Idol, there is no contest when it comes to which show produced the most stars. I’ve never heard of Gabby Barrett until “I Hope” started killing it. But for reference, she finished third in AI’s sixteenth season. She’s not holding back and is making a brutal wish for the one who cheated on her. I bet it occurred in the minds of many musicians. But only she has the balls to sing about it.
89 – Know Your Worth by Disclosure and Khalid
American Teen is one of my favourite albums from the last decade. The smoothness in his tone and the restraint in the production makes the output grand without trying. And if EDM is infused into Khalid’s signature sound (think Calvin Harris during his Funk Wav Bounces Vol. 1 era), the output would be “Know Your Worth”.
88 – Underdog by Alicia Keys
If “Underdog” was released a few years ago, I would’ve dismissed its artistic value. The song is a bit too preachy for my taste and borders on tacky. But in a year where Covid-19 has disrupted our lives and people around us continue to become everyday heroes, there’s no denying that they are due an anthem. The track from Alicia Keys is not the one I wanted but is what I needed.
87 – Prisoner by Miley Cyrus featuring Dua Lipa
There was a time when Miley Cyrus used to be a mainstay in the pop charts. However, the general public has lost interest in her. But I would argue thought that her artistic output hasn’t been compromised in all these transitions. And collaborating with Dua Lipa in “Prisoner” is a smart move that proves she still has what it takes to create a club banger in this decade.
86 – willow by Taylor Swift
I’m a proud Swiftie. But the relatively low placement of “willow” is partially due to the timing of its release and the limited period I can appreciate the track. Or it could be the absence of a transition in sound that her album releases are characterised by. Nevertheless, “willow” is a welcome addition to the first singles club, especially considering its inferior siblings “Me” and “Look What You Made Me Do”.
85 – Own It by Stormzy featuring Burna Boy and Ed Sheeran
In paper, the collaboration has British hip-hop and pop royalty all over it. And that’s the reason why I initially thought the sound would not work. But looking back at Ed Sheeran’s No 6 Collaborations Project, and its high point of “Beautiful People” with Khalid, then this fusion of different styles would start to make sense. I can safely conclude that something catchy can come out of something so random.
84 – Changes by LAUV
LAUV was officially my favorite new artist of 2019. In 2020, he continues to be the representation of how messed up my mind can get. He sounds like Charlie Puth with mental issues. And I see myself in Lauv without the vocal talent and the artistic vision. Last year, he summed up how tired I was and how I just wanted to go home. This year, “Changes” partners me in all the life transformations I’ve had to undergo through.
83 – Darkness by Eminem
20 years ago, Eminem was inescapable. Nowadays, everyone wants to escape his music and how outdated many of his world views are. But if you give his new record a chance, especially “Darkness”, you’d remember talent also brought him this far. Sampling “The Sound of Silence”, tackling gun control, and a storytelling that rivals “Stan”, makes the song a haunting reminder of how f***** up our world can get.
82 – Hollywood by Car Seat Headrest
I adore Hollywood and revolved a huge chunk of my time around it. As much as I want to reject it, the social validation and glorification it espouses are too tempting to ignore. But there’s a part of me that knows I need to kill my disease to please (and pop culture is its accomplice). Having a rock anthem like “Hollywood” helps me channel my inner rebel and I sing about how all this glitz and glamour are unimportant.
81 – Physical by Dua Lipa
I always thought that “Physical” would be a good track to work out to. But when the track was released, I wasn’t working out and I thought to myself, the single is okay. All that theory is wrong because when you practice it, the experience is actually GREAT. Dua Lipa outdid herself 10x in 2020. And while most of the world is exposed to “Physical”, the song is just the tip of the genius that is Future Nostalgia.