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Top 50 Songs of 2020

on December 03, 2020, 1:00pm
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10. Pearl Jam – “Superblood Wolfmoon”

Sounds Like: Pearl Jam found their mojo again

Key Lyric: “I don’t know anything/ I question everything/ This life I love is goin’ way too fast”

Why It Matters: Pearl Jam are makers of moments. They do it every night on stage. It’s part of their calling. Yet, that energy isn’t always easy to capture in the studio, and all too often, their songs on record pale in comparison to how they explode on stage. There are immediate exceptions, though, and “Superblood Wolfmoon” is one of them. Not since “The Fixer” in 2009 have the Seattle rockers delivered a single with such immediacy and youthful cadence. Eddie Vedder is in top form at the mic, surfing over a bed of crunchy power pop that would make Robin Zander blush. “She was a stunner and I am stunned,” he screams, and, well, the feeling’s mutual pal. –Michael Roffman


09. Dua Lipa – “Don’t Start Now”

Sounds Like: A rebirth while wearing bell-bottoms

Key Lyric: “So moved on, it’s scary/ I’m not where you left me at all”

Why It Matters: As the lead single for Dua Lipa’s Future Nostalgia album, it quickly sets the stage for what’s to come — and that’s a whole lot of sexy, unabashedly confident pop that honors the dance music of the past (house, disco) while also sounding decidedly 2020. Besides, who could resist such an empowering shrug-off of an ex and those chunky, Daft Punk-esque baselines? –Lake Schatz


08. Megan Thee Stallion – “Savage Remix” (feat. Beyoncé)

Sounds Like: Strutting in your best outfit, owning the patriarchy

Key Lyric: “I’m a boss, I’m a leader/ I pull up in my two-seater/ And my mama was a savage, ni**a, got this shit from Tina [Knowles]”

Why It Matters: When Megan Thee Stallion released the original “Savage” on her Suga EP earlier this year, it instantly became a TikTok hit. It had all the makings of an IRL global anthem rallying for female empowerment and self-love, but its full potential wasn’t truly unlocked until Beyoncé, the Queen, dropped in with two additional verses and background vocals. Better yet, all proceeds from the remix benefited COVID-19 relief efforts in the two artists’ hometown of Houston. –Lake Schatz


07. Fiona Apple – “Under the Table”

Sounds Like: What it feels like to be a woman on a daily basis in a still male-dominated world

Key Lyric: “I would beg to disagree/ But begging disagrees with me”

Why It Matters: “Under the Table” is, sure, at face value, about going to a dinner party that you don’t want to go to and having to be polite and quiet throughout, but as a woman, it’s so much more. In society, we’re taught to let things happen no matter what we want or feel, and thankfully, to quote the movement spurred at the 2018 Academy Awards, time’s up on that. We don’t have to sit there and smile when we’re uncomfortable or uneasy, and we’re not going to. Fiona Apple truly understands and speaks for women everywhere throughout “Under the Table”. –Annie Black 


06. Lady Gaga – “Stupid Love”

Sounds Like: Exactly what we’ve wanted from Lady Gaga for a long, long time

Key Lyric: “I don’t need a reason, oh/ Not sorry, I want your stupid love”

Why It Matters: “Stupid Love” is the song you want to hear on the dance floor at your friend’s wedding, the song you blast with the windows down on the drive home from work, the song that you listen to at the gym while powering through whatever horrible exercise you’re doing. It’s a perfect pop song that, in a normal world, we might be sick of hearing by now from radio overplay, but in quarantine, it’s just a figment of something we’re all hoping for: dancing together with friends. –Annie Black


05. Waxahatchee – “Fire”

 

Sounds Like: Dappled sunlight filtering through green leaves

Key Lyric: “I’m a bird in the trees/ I can learn to see with a partial view.”

Why It Matters: As the legend goes, Katie Crutchfield was driving on a cross-country road trip with boyfriend Kevin Morby when they passed Memphis, TN. The setting sun caused the city to glow as if on fire, and in that instant, Crutchfield’s ears filled with a new and flawless melody. Unable to take her hands from the wheel and unwilling to bother her partner, she kept those soaring notes locked tightly in her head, running through them over and over again until gas tank or bladder gave way. The result is an effervescent ode to self-knowledge and the hope that such a thing might eventually lead to self-love. Crutchfield doesn’t quite get there by the end of “Fire”, but she’s closer, and that’s all any of us can ask for. Humans are flawed, but through melodies like this one, we can tip-toe closer to perfection. –Wren Graves


04. Run the Jewels – “ooh la la” (feat. Greg Nice & DJ Premier)

 

Sounds Like: A poppin’ Brooklyn block party pre-Corona

Key Lyric: “Fuck a king or queen and all of they loyal subjects/ I pull my penis out and I piss on they shoes in public/ People, we the pirates, the pride of this great republic”

Why It Matters: Although the stellar RTJ4 was written before the pandemic (and Trump’s fatal mishandling of it), plenty of songs such as this one grandiosely flip off and stand up to incompetent, oppressive authority figures. And here Run the Jewels do so all while cooly laughing and reveling in boom-bap fun, accompanied by Greg Nice from Nice & Smooth, veteran producer DJ Premier, and a well-timed sample of Gang Starr’s “DWYCK”. –Lake Schatz


03. BTS – “Dynamite”

Sounds Like: The party 2020 never got to have.

Key Lyric: “King Kong, kick the drum, rolling on like a Rolling Stone/ Sing song when I’m walking home/ Jump up to the top, LeBron.”

Why It Matters: Not that BTS could ever do wrong in the eyes of the Army, but releasing a party anthem in the summer of 2020 was kind of a ballsy move. “Dynamite” ended up being massive, of course, but just imagine where it could have gone if clubs were open. As it stands, it served as joyful escape in a year in desperate need of such ear worms. It’s full of nonsense couplets (“Ding dong, call me on my phone/ Ice tea and a game of ping pong”) over an inescapable beat, a carefree combo that gleefully rips any negative feelings from your grip. Just let go and groove. —Ben Kaye


02. Phoebe Bridgers – “I Know the End”

Sounds Like: Returning to your hometown after being away a while and reflecting on your mortality

Key Lyric: “The billboard said, ‘The End Is Near’/ I turned around, there was nothing there/ Yeah, I guess the end is here”

Why It Matters: “I Know the End” is the anthemic closing track of Phoebe Bridgers’ sophomore album, Punisher. The closer starts out subdued and tuned down before bursting into an explosive ballad. Bridgers saves the album’s spectacular shining moment for a song that looks out into the end of the world unfazed. The ominous ballad returns to the singer-songwriter’s narrative abilities and chronicles a bleak look at the world in step with references to American culture and recent happenings through orchestrated folk hymns and electric guitar. All of us were homesick for simpler times this year, but like the track suggests, you can’t ever really go “home,” and you really don’t want to. It was just as bad back then. –Samantha Lopez


01. The Weeknd – “Blinding Lights”

Sounds Like: A montage scene in Stranger Things 4

Key Lyric: “I’m blinded by the lights/ No, I can’t sleep until I feel your touch”

Why It Matters:  A great hook is one you know you’ll remember forever and one you hate to see end. Think back to the moment you stumbled upon MGMT’s “Kids”, M83’s “Midnight City”, or, hell, the opening bars of Robyn’s “Dancing on My Own”. When the hook works, it takes hold of you, it embalms you, and connects with you on a level that’s basically sexual. “Blinding Lights” does that. No stranger to a melody, The Weeknd waxes romantic over a blockbuster riff that probably belonged to Harold Faltermeyer in another life. This is gooey modern pop in the stickiest sense, loaded with sugar and glazed in whatever DayGlo food coloring gets our pheromones cooking when it’s half past midnight. It’s instantaneous, too, demanding to be replayed, which is probably why it’s already about to eclipse his 2016 single “Starboy” in Spotify streams … in a matter of months. –Michael Roffman

Click ahead for an exclusive Spotify playlist of our Top 50 Songs of 2020…


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