Today we are counting down our picks for the top 10 best songs of 2020. For this list we’ll be looking at the best songs that blew up in 2020 although some of them were technically released in some form or the other in 2019.
Breathe Deeper (Tame Impala)
Expectations were sky high for Tame Impala’s fourth album ‘The Slow Rush’. It was their first in nearly five years. ‘Currents’ was widely regarded as one of the greatest albums of the 2010s even making rolling stone’s updated list of the 500 greatest albums of all time. The Slow Rush didn’t disappoint and while it’s filled with great psychedelic disco music, breathe deeper is simply magnetic. The inspirations are many from Daft Punk to Mariah Carey to Pharrell and it conveys a feeling of pure ecstasy. No one else out there is writing music like team Impala.
South Korean boy band BTS is one of the biggest names in the current music landscape and they made their English language debut with 2020’s Dynamite. Much like Breathe Deeper, Dynamite takes heavy inspiration from 70s disco and funk complete with synths horns, harmonies and a pulsing bass line of course. The song is also imbued with mainstream pop sensibilities to ensure worldwide radio play and it was certainly successful in that regard. Dynamite became the band’s first number one song in the United States and the accompanying music videos set numerous world records including most viewed YouTube video in24 hours hitting 101 million. Their goal was to bring some happiness to 2020 and it seems like they succeeded.
Cardigan (Taylor Swift)
Taylor Swift surprised the world with her new album Folklore. Her eighth and arguably best studio album was written and recorded in quarantine. Swift completely does away with her recent pop bombast and delivers a delicate and emotional folk record, that both fans and critics eagerly lapped up. It’s filled with many great tunes including ‘Exile’ and ‘Cardigan’. The latter is particularly beautiful and the critics praised the song’s sparse production of piano and strings, Swift’s warm vocal performance and the stunningly beautiful and poignant lyrics. The themes are still very Taylor Swift but the songwriting is more mature and introspective.
Say So (Doja Cat)
2020 seemed to be the year of the 70s renaissance. Both Doja Cat’s ‘Say So’ and the accompanying music video are steeped in disco and it is glorious. Doja Cat saw her first truly massive single with 2020’s Say-So from the 2019 album Hot Pink. With it becoming her first number one in America and going platinum in nine different countries, the song performed with Nicki Minaj is a proud anthem to female sexuality and is backed by a nice disco beat.
I know the end (Phoeb Bridgers)
Phoebe Bridgers released her second studio album ‘Punisher’ in 2020. Filled with morose, emo folk Punisher was widely acclaimed by critics and contains both the excellent ‘Garden Song’ and ‘I know the end’, one of the best songs of the entire year serving as the album’s loud and proud finale. ‘I know the end’ makes a declarative statement for ‘Punisher’s’ sardonic themes. The song starts quietly before getting into into distorted guitars and melancholy strings and crescendoing with horn blasts. Symbol crashes and haunting scream sounds makes for both terrifying and gorgeous music.
Rain on me (Lady Gaga and Ariana Grande)
A collaboration between Lady Gaga and Ariana Grande is just what 2020 needed. Both artists released great songs throughout the year including Gaga’s ‘Stupid Love’ and Grande’s ‘Positions’ but ‘Rain on me’ proves the best of both artists. The song is empowering, urging its listeners to hold steady and accept difficult times with confidence and pride in order to come out a better and stronger person In many ways it’s the defining song of the chaotic year that was 2020. Positive message aside it’s also just a straight banger from two of the leading pop artists of our time. It’s pure pop enjoyment complete with a synthy beat from BloodPop and BURNS. Grande’s typically angelic vocals and Gaga’s sense of unimpeded fun. It’s just the song we needed.
Watermelon Sugar (Harry Styles)
Short and sweet, ‘Watermelon Sugar’ comes in at just under three minutes but contains more enjoyment than some entire albums. 2020 was a great year for Harry Styles as both this and ‘Adore You’ enjoyed major commercial success. ‘Watermelon Sugar’ was originally written back in 2017 but it wasn’t released as a single until may 15th, just in time to be the song of the summer and song of the summer it was. Reaching the top 10 in more than 20 countries around the world and becoming Styles’ first number one on the hot 100. Complete with the summer themed lyrics and funky production from Tyler Johnson and Kid Harpoon. ‘Watermelon Sugar’ much like its titular fruit proved irresistible in the summer heat.
XS (Rina Sawayama)
This Japanese-born British songwriter released her debut album in 2020. Sawayama was widely praised by critics and filled with some glorious 2000s nostalgia. Perhaps the song most indicative of the album’s success is ‘XS’ described by sawayama herself. ‘XS’ is about the hypocrisy of capitalism and selfish consumerism in a post-climate change world threatening us with possible extinction. To help get the doomed message across Sawayama employs musical sounds and motifs from the early 2000s which according to her quote reminds of a time when everything was all right. It’s a fiercely satirical and sharply critical song that blends elements of bubblegum pop, RB and crunching guitars.
Savage (Megan Thee Stallion)
This track cemented Megan Thee Stallion’s status as a major mainstream talent with the help of a tick-tock trend and an eventual remix with Beyonce. ‘Savage’ shot to the top of the hot 100 in the spring of 2020. Produced by J. White, ‘Savage’ features Megan Thee Stallion rapping over a smooth keyboard beat. Most of the credit goes to Megan’s rapping and the catchy chorus as the song proves instantly addictive. The Beyonce remix elevated ‘Savage’ to the stratosphere as the queen seamlessly rode the beat and reminded us all of her commendable rapping skills and added some welcomed flourishes to the track. This is a new funky classic.
Blinding Lights (The Weekend)
This Canadian artist released ‘After Hours’ at the beginning of the year and it proved just what we needed for such a tumultuous time. The album is filled with bangers but The Weeknd captured the world with ‘Blinding Lights’ released as a single in late 2019 but only achieving massive success in 2020. The song is dominated by a pulsing and piercing synth track that introduces elements of 80s new wave to the RB artist’s music. His smooth and sultry voice does the rest and propelled blinding lights to reach number one in 34 countries. It also spent a record 31 weeks in the top 5 of the hot 100 indicating The Weeknd’s complete command of his flourishing fandom with both a new look and a new sound. The Weeknd reinvented himself in spectacular fashion.
Here are a few honorable mentions
Good News (Mac Miller) : This posthumous release proved Miller’s most successful on the hot 100.
Gaslighter (The Chicks) : The group’s first single in over a decade was a welcome. The first track on their brilliant album.
The New Abnormal (The Strokes) : The Strokes’ sixth studio album.