Top Music 2020

By staff members

Link to spotify playlist so you can listen along:

10) Arca and Rosalia – KLK

            Sounds like: reggaeton in a space prison

My obligatory “song of the future” for the year comes in at number 10. I wish there was more of it. It’s chameleony and warped and metallic and crunchy, morphing in a way that definitely isn’t normal song structure and never settles anywhere long enough for you to grow comfortable. There’s a plosive nonsense-rapping part around 2 and a half minutes in that reminds me of Korn (which is now dadrock, isn’t that crazy).

9) Adele – Skyfall

            Sounds like: the theme song to a couple james bonds ago

Hey, the best musics of 2020 didn’t necessarily have to come out this year. As you likely know, in this one Adele does a buncha neat sultry vocal twirls without going “max power” – that she leaves ample breath in the tank (lungs) makes her performance even more impressive. Plus the orchestration has just enough Bond Motifs to make me want to listen to the n64 goldeneye 007 soundtrack again.

8) Conway the Machine, Westside Gunn, and Benny the Butcher – George Bondo/Front Lines/Shoot Sideways

            Sounds like: Well-worn NY Boom-Bap

The Griselda boys double-knotted their Balenciagas this year and got grimy, dropping approx. 200 songs across the three of em. These three trax are my fav (and heavily feature Conway) but the consistency across the various albums and producers they work with is very impressive. Dark piano loop beats and noir street stories pair well.

7) Jessie Ware – Remember Where You Are

            Sounds like: Disco revival reminiscent of the Sonic R soundtrack

I would love to go to somewhere with a ton of asphalt (Mall parking lot?) and listen to this (Car trunk speakers?) and dance as the sun sets and the temperature drops by 20. Makes me nostalgic for clubs I’ll never go to and life stories far disconnected from mine. “Evocative.”

6) Stevie Wonder – Another Star

            Sounds like: Stevie concocts a funky pop groove in 1976 and rides it for 8 minutes

Stevie Wonder and I actually hung out once, no lie. (he was awarded an honorary doctorate at my college graduation, so we were in the same football stadium for a couple hours and I was once only like 50 feet away from him) I’ve been working my way through his discography this year, and every album of his has at least one magic song. This is my magic one off of Songs in the Key of Life. Multiple times I’ve started humming along to this song in my dreams and woken up with it in my head. I wonder if Stevie is still heartbroken…

5) TroyBoi – Afterhours (featuring [NAME REDACTED] and Nina Sky)

            Sounds like: very very slow dance music

Every time I listen to this song, I wonder how it would function at an actual concert, cuz it’s SO SLOW. It’s molasses! It’s an incredibly sensual 92 BPM, and dance music usually goes at ~130. How would you mix this into your set? Other than the speed, it’s got a few nifty bloops and bleeps that put it a cut or so above similarly composed EDM from 2015. Shoutout to my roommate Aaron for showing me this song.

4) DaBaby – ROCKSTAR (featuring Roddy Ricch)

            Sounds like: rap you hear on the radio

The hook on this one is golden. I also can’t remember the actual words in the hook for my life, so I keep singing stuff like “This is my guitar bitch I’m a cop” to my plants as I water them. Roddy Ricch’s song The Box is similarly earwormy and gets an honorable mention here. Pop rap has gotten super catchy, a double edged sword (as all swords are, right?). One edge: good hooks. Other edge: so so verses

3) Tame Impala – Borderline / Posthumous Forgiveness

            Sounds like: Synth-heavy Psych Rock

I was initially disappointed by this album (The Slow Rush) until I reframed it as a collection of singles – there are a handful of wonderful one-off ideas here. Borderline has an MSG (the food additive, not the arena) salty bass lick and is super well-contoured, beginning and ending exactly where/when/how it wants to. Posthumous Forgiveness gets me all sad about mortality and my parents, which means you KNOW im mentally hitting my 30s a couple years early

2) Pop Smoke – Dior

            Sounds like: Wormy wiggly bass under the deepest imaginable rap voice

The dude was so young yet worked like a legend around this beat, leaving precise amounts of empty space to syncopate with the 808s. Would his voice, somehow, have gotten deeper had he lived longer? Would 50 have adopted him as a son? Would he and Skepta have done a cross-atlantic collab mixtape? Lotta unanswered questions.

1) Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion – WAP

            Sounds like: there’s some whores in this house

This was so obviously the song of the year that you didn’t have to even read this list. In a barrage of double- and single- entendres, Cardi and Meg are so confident, so alpha, so clear in what they desire and what they want from you (sexually and otherwise), that it’s alluring and very intimidating. The effect is magnified by their clear chemistry, a perfectly flipped sample, and absolutely no dead weight in the song’s 3 minutes. What’s not to like?