20 – Gaslighter by the Chicks
It’s an open secret that the Chicks are not ready to make nice. So if you are married to one of them, be careful. I never expected them to put a cheating husband on blast. But I should not have been surprised. The takedown in “Gaslighter” is just savage. And once you hear what Natalie Maines went through, you might just think the guy deserved nothing less.
19 – Watermelon Sugar by Harry Styles
Listening to the music of Harry Styles is a pleasure for the senses. It gets your imagination running and your stomach craving. The song almost doesn’t make sense. And I can say the same for the music video. I normally hate choruses with a verse that just repeats endlessly. But it takes a genius to create something so absurd yet catchy and addictive.
18 – Blinding Lights by the Weeknd
I have to give it to the Weeknd. After Hours is art. He had a vision and a sound that he saw through the album cycle from start to finish. And no track better embodies the dark mysterious retro vibe he was going for than “Blinding Lights.” It’s a modern day “Take on Me” that will surely survive for decades to come. That’s better than any Grammy he missed out on.
17 – Savage Remix by Megan Thee Stallion featuring Beyonce
Megan Thee Stallion and Beyonce did not come to play. “Savage Remix” is topnotch spunk, sass and energy. Megan held her own opposite Beyonce and it was a collaboration between equals. And despite the fact that Bey is the ruling queen, she’s not resting on her laurels. She raps, makes references to Tiktok and OnlyFans, and finally puts light to that feeling of having to jump to put our jeans on. There is nothing to not love here.
16 – Kids Again by Sam Smith
In the last few years, Sam Smith has showed us a more experimental side to their music as they ventured into dance territory. And while I love that actualised persona of them, I also miss the ballads that used to cause more heartache than a breakup. There’s something different with “Kids Again.” It feels familiar and it’s slow. But it’s also the first time they’ve used their voice to its fullest extent and the pain seems stronger this time.
15 – Lilacs by Waxahatchee
There’s always that folk / country song I need every year that takes me away from the busy city life. And this year that distinction belongs to “Lilacs.” And making the case stronger is me seeing myself in the negative thought patterns that Waxahatchee writes about. And breaking out of them is a constant battle that has to be waged every time. And much like the song, there is always a light at the end of the tunnel.
14 – exile by Taylor Swift featuring Bon Iver
I have been doing One Man Anthem since 2016. And there are times I contemplate on quitting. But when I listened to a Pitchfork podcast that had editors saying “exile” was the worst track from folklore, I felt my resolve to represent a consumer of mainstream music got stronger. The collaboration is perfect. Bon Iver’s deep voice contrasted with Taylor’s delicate soft one just blend well. The back and forth between the two captures how complicated, nuanced, and intricate opposing views are in the context of a failed relationship.
13 – Kyoto by Phoebe Bridgers
I remember I was in high school and I was listening to the Salteens, a Canadian band that didn’t seem capable of producing anything but upbeat and cheerful tunes. I got the same vibe from “Kyoto,” except the melody masks up the sentiment of anger and empathy that complicated relationships are made of. “I’m gonna kill you if you don’t beat me to it” are some pretty harsh words that we reserve for the ones we love the most.
12 – Under the Table by Fiona Apple
Fiona Apple is bada**. Most of us wish we were. But no one is at her level. Have you ever gone to a social occasion that you wish you had skipped? And if you were coerced to go, then most of us will just our frustration in. But not Fiona Apple. She won’t shut up. She begs to disagree but begging disagrees with her. She’s #goals when it comes to honesty. And she played out in music what only happens in our imagination.
11 – On the Floor by Perfume Genius
If my life had the same adversities and challenges as Perfume Genius, then I don’t know how I can create such beautiful music and have this much will to fight. But here he is with the dopamine you need to get you out of that rut. Don’t get me wrong. It’s not all good as the infatuation eats him up. The energy required to turn it around doesn’t seem to be available. But all this happens in the backdrop of such an infectious beat that would put a classic like “Buttercup” to shame.
10 – Dynamite by BTS
I don’t have to say much. 2020 was a great year. But it was full of s***. And maybe everyone thought it’d be a good idea to release music that fits with the time. But when you are in need of some positive vibes, then maybe it’s worth creating it yourself. And I feel BTS did that and caught us all at a good time. This is no “Imagine.” But our spirits are just as uplifted by the Korean boys who finally broke through worldwide.
9 – The Steps by HAIM
Let me first say that I’m happy this track is up for a Grammy. Women rocking out is so underrated. But what attracted me to the song is just the frustration and endless attempts we make at fixing a relationship that doesn’t want to be fixed. And while the resolution isn’t clear, and the saga continues, having a jam to listen to always makes the journey less lonely. To some, it’s alcohol. To me, it’s this kind of music.
8 – Lifetime by Romy
I’ve been a fan of the xx for years now. But I never thought Romy creating a solo record would be this satisfying. “Lifetime” is an homage to 90s disco music (and it feels like nowadays everything is.) But this one seemed less focused on getting the words right. And instead devoted all its energy in getting the beat and the vibe right. And if you’re in need of a rush, it doesn’t really matter where you get it as long as you do.
7 – Rain on Me by Lady Gaga and Ariana Grande
Too many times, divas collaborating together result in an output smaller than the sum of its parts. Think of Shakira and Rihanna, or Mariah Carey and Nicki Minaj. But we all had a sigh of relief when the Lady Gaga and Ariana Grande single dropped. And in no time, relief was replaced by obsession. Don’t they just capture what this year was all about? We all wish we were in different circumstances. But we are where we are. And there’s still a lot to be grateful for.
6 – Adore You by Harry Styles
I’m delighted Harry Styles is finally getting the commercial success and critical recognition he’s always deserved. And he owes a lot of that newfound interest to “Adore You.” What can I say? The world can never get enough of a great vocal from a man professing all the ways he’s willing to go over and above for his partner.
5 – WAP by Cardi B featuring Megan Thee Stallion
If men can get nasty, so can women. This is probably one of the most divisive tracks of 2020. But you’ve got to hand it to these two. They are unapologetic and confident about their sexuality. They rap the most explicit and most clever sexual references I have heard in a long time. They co-opt a narrative that’s mostly sung from a man’s perspective. And most of all, it’s just damn catchy!
4 – If You’re Too Shy (Let Me Know) by the 1975
The 1975 is a genre in itself. The lead single “People” could not be more rock. And now you have an 80s pop tune with sax. This is easily the best track from the 1975’s latest album. They continue asking questions around internet relationships. And no one does this job better than Matty Healy. Who else has discussed what nakedness online means? The answer is a lot more complicated and is nowhere to be found in this track. But you can be assured that even with this uncertainty, the song is a sure bet for a mood booster.
3 – Hallucinate by Dua Lipa
Who isn’t in need of a high? Well, if you’ve listened to “Hallucinate,” it’s like Dua Lipa made you eat space cookies, dragged you into a club, and all your perceptions of reality disappeared. Except, it’s not the kind that puts you into a blackout. It’s where all your senses are amplified and there’s no way a good time will escape you. Most tracks of Future Nostalgia are good. This one is f****** great.
2 – the 1 by Taylor Swift
It’s a year of saying yes instead of no. And the same applies not just for Taylor Swift, but for myself as well. A lot of her new songs aren’t autobiographical. But this one feels personal and shows you how much more at peace she is with her previous relationships. And I guess all of us can learn a thing or two from that. And the theoretical scenarios in our head are endless. But she puts it so well. If one thing had been different, would everything be different? This wasn’t my original favorite from folklore. But it’s the one that consistently stuck.
1 – People I’ve Been Sad by Christine and the Queens
I don’t even know where to start. But it’s true. I’ve been sad. We all have been. And it’s striking how direct she is and how much the listener experience changes immediately once she proclaims it.
I could almost hear 90s radio making a comeback. And if the track had been a little more gimmicky, I swear some would dismiss this as a comeback by Larusso. But this one has the timelessness of a simple beat backed by a universal sentiment that plagued our year (and our lives in general.)
At some point, the song breaks into French. While I have zero clue about what she is talking about, the experience of listening to her vocal is so heavenly and haunting. She puts it in the best way possible. Despite the language barrier, I just know the feeling.
Many have probably never heard of this track. But I feel the cult following behind it will only increase as time passes by. It has the qualities of what made “Dancing on My Own” a cultural phenomenon. So if you haven’t heard it, give it a listen!