2020. So many different things come to mind when you hear those numbers: COVID-19, Australian and Californian wildfires, Alex Trebek’s passing, Kobe Bryant’s passing, Donald Trump losing the presidential election (this one is good news though), Black Lives Matter and its civil unrest, rioting, Beirut explosion, and The Raptors being eliminated by the Celtics.
That’s just some of the crazy stuff that happened this year. On a personal level, I’ve lived a whole year in a foreign country and new city and still found ways to survive. Landing a job, a home, and meeting some rad people, none of that would be possible without a soundtrack. Honestly, I’m so grateful for the opportunities that I’ve found myself in and haven’t regretted a second of it. I also haven’t regretted all the time I’ve spent listening to Spotify this year. And SoundCloud, YouTube, Mixcloud, and for a brief moment, Apple Music. And the concerts I DID get to go to. I started the year off strong with CRSSD Fest 2020 in San Diego, where I got to see 2ManyDjs, Charlotte de Witte, Myd, and Carl Cox. It was a simpler, more care-free time, ngl. But in a few short weeks after that, music relegated primarily to in-car and listening while working from home.
Here are the top 20 songs of 2020 that helped me survive.
20. The 1975 – Tonight (I Wish I Was Your Boy)
I don’t know what it is about The 1975. Sure, Spotify put my top genre for the year as Pop, but that was probably driven by Drake. But something about The 1975’s vibe, lyrics, and energy sits well with me. Their LP, however, didn’t hit all the right notes for me this year, though Tonight (I Wish I Was Your Boy) thankfully did.
19. The Avalanches – Where You Go (feat. Jamie xx, Neneh Cherry, & CLYPSO)
Wherever You Go’s slow, brooding build up is so eerie yet magical. Fit for a Wes Anderson soundtrack proper, this track oozes through my soul. The first time I heard it, I was like, damn, I need this on my Liked Songs list. Then to find out Jamie XX was featured, it makes so much sense. How it goes from different tempos throughout, it’s a thing of perfection. I’m actually surprised it hasn’t received a proper remix album yet.
18. James Blake – Do You Ever
Hipster royalty himself, James Blake, came back onto the scene STRONG this year. With an EP, an impending December release, and a fire Boiler Room mix, Blake put his genius front and center this year. His seamless melding of genres is still untouchable, and it was hard for me to pick a favorite from him this year. I ultimately went with Do You Ever as it sounds close to his earlier stuff, like CMYK and Limit to Your Love. I can’t wait to hear more from him this month.
17. Honne – No Song Without You
Honne is so cool. I can’t even sometimes with their music. I’ve been following this English electronic duo for years, and they never fail to impress me with their chill yet deep vibes, with on-point lyrics and thought provoking verses. I can’t wait to see their names pop up on my Spotify new music from artists I love emails.
16. Rhye – Black Rain
When I think of how Toronto sounds, honestly, Rhye is the last thing that comes to mind. His brand of funky soulful sounds clashes heavily with Toronto’s R&B-centric brand, but hey, I’m not complaining. Black Rain is a slight variation from Rhye’s other material, but it’s not a bad thing. We definitely needed more dancing in 2020.
15. Disclosure – Birthday
I dare you to tell me that Settle isn’t Disclosure’s best release. For me, when I heard Disclosure was dropping a new LP this year, I totally lost it… Until I started hearing the singles. Sure, Talk is fire, but other than that, what else? Oh yes, Birthday! I absolutely love the energy Kehlani brings to the track. Pair that with the lyrics that many of us think about on our special day, and it hits right in the electronic-feels.
14. The Weeknd – Snowchild
Moving to sunny California from the frozen winters of Toronto had me reminiscing this year, not even going to lie. Missing the way snow blankets a city at first snowfall, I yearn to see that. Then comes along The Weeknd’s Snowchild, with lyrics like “Walking in the snow before I ever made my wrist freeze… Cali was the mission…” it just resonated with me. Although Snowchild leans more towards The Weeknd’s poppier sounds, it really is the context here that is king.
13. Drake – Not You Too (feat. Chris Brown)
If there’s new Drake dropping in any given year, chances are he’s landing on my top songs list – it’s just science. And Spotify tends to agree as Drizzy has been my top artist for three years in a row. Okay, I promise to break the trend in 2021! The reason why Not You Too landed on the list is Drake returns to his heartbreak music in this number, and that’s what brought me to listening to his music in the first place. You can easily add this to the resume of Fire & Desire, Redemption, Marvin’s Room, Jaded, Jungle… You know the drill.
12. PARTYNEXTDOOR – BELIEVE IT
Toronto did it proper this year, eh? Wait till you get to number one. And speaking of number ones, it was so hard to pick a PND song this year. He brought so much good vibes, starting the year off with THE NEWS. But then once I put PARTYMOBILE on play, it started pushing THE NEWS to the side. Enter BELIEVE IT, with Rihanna’s strong vocals serving as an intro to the song, followed by PND’s R&B evolution. He no longer sounds like the deep sadboi from Brampton but an evolved musician on this track… And his vocal combo with Rihanna is soooo good.
11. Kehlani – Toxic
Kehlani’s It Was Good Until It Wasn’t is hella good. The LA native talks about stuff that we’ve all experienced in our relationships, and even digs into the stuff we aren’t proud of yet we still do. I think that’s why Toxic resonates so much with me. I’ve had my fair share of toxic relationships, and I actually can’t think of one song that perfectly articulates how it feels… until Toxic I suppose. I was really torn here as I wanted to put some Jhene Aiko on this list too – 10K, Triggered, None of Your Concern – let’s just put that all into number 11.
10. Jamie XX – Idontknow
You made it to the halfway point! Similar to Drizzy, if Jamie XX is releasing new music in any given year, chances are he’s going to be on my top songs list. I have an XX tattoo after all. With Jamie XX’s 2020 release, Idontknow, he puts on showcase an energetic, eclectic, yet danceable, number that sounds so good as an introduction to another song (the garage influences are strong in this one). With Jamie XX doing an Essential Mix, releasing a new single, working on features with other artists, there’s bound to be a new LP on the horizon. My body is ready.
9. Skin on Skin – Save Me
Toronto is strong on this list. But equally as strong is Australia. Their brand of house music is untouchable right now. For me, it started with this. And through that, I discovered the electronic genius that is Skin on Skin, Mall Grab, and Logic1000. These are hands down my favorite electronic artists this year. And to an extent Partiboi69. Skin on Skin channels really deep R&B vibes and combines them with a sound that is similar to 90s house. It saved me.
8. Mall Grab – Sunflower
It was honestly so hard to pick a Mall Grab track as a favorite this year. It was tied with TAKE DOWN ENEMIES, but since that’s not on Spotify, I chose the equally as good Sunflower. It’s a bit of a departure of the gritty techno Mall Grab has evolved into, and instead delivers a quality euphoric, happy house track that progresses so well. This is one of the songs I’d go nuts for if I were to hear it played live. Put that on God. I was literally discussing flying to the Netherlands just to see Mall Grab spin. I also put that on God.
7. Shlohmo – Looking at Plants
Mood music for reals. LA’s Shlohmo dropped an EP full of bonafide Shlohmo classics, just enough to hold everyone over until he drops a new LP. Whenever that will be. While watching Shlohmo’s release party on Twitch, he dropped an absolutely disgusting remix of a Popcaan track and, well release that shit dude! The comments section blew up when you previewed it – know your audience. That or get the politics with the record labels straight. But hey, the exaggerated guitar string plucks on Looking at Plants is to die for – literally yo.
6. Breakbot, Delafleur – Be Mine Tonight
If there’s something we need more of, it’s disco. Thank God for Breakbot, eh? His brand of funky discotheque is on full display in Be Mine Tonight, cementing it as a classic for me from this Ed Banger resident. I can’t wait for his upcoming LP. It will be mine all night.
5. Caribou – Ravi
What?! Another Toronto artist?! Well, kind of. Dundas, Ontario to be specific. Caribou’s brand of eccentric dance music makes a return for 2020 and I couldn’t be any happier. Although it was tough to pick a single song off of Suddenly, I ultimately went with Ravi for its infectious danceability. Frenetic pace, awesome vocals, and uplifting tempo, it will get bodies on the dance floor – whenever that is.
4. Bryson Tiller – Things Change
Slight left turn there, but Pen Griffey himself dropped a new album this year – after five years, he finally graced us with A N N I V E R S A R Y. I’m the biggest Tiller fan, but I’ll be the first to admit his latest doesn’t land as strongly as T R A P S O U L. It can be argued that Tiller tries to mimic the success of that album on A N N I V E R S A R Y, but tbh, nothing will ever touch how good that album is. It has easily transcended time and is R&B perfection. Not to mention he dropped both albums on my birthday, so extra brownie points there. I chose Things Change though because it’s the closest he gets to recreating the vibes of Don’t and Exchange, and also because it has two kinds of songs melded into one.
3. Myd – Together We Stand
2020 has been a straight up Myd year. Not only is Together We Stand one of Ed Banger’s best releases in recent years, it was also the year I got to meet Myd at Bang Bang, San Diego. The girl I’d been dating at the time was like, “That’s my-d!” And I was like, “Holy shit! I’m going to go talk to him.” And like an utter nob, I said to him, “My-d! Wait, is it My-d or Mid?” He responded with his cool Parisian accent, “It’s Mid (mid).” Sigh in my eye. He was still a really cool guy and we even enjoyed a few drinks with him. Thank goodness for Together We Stand, as it’s served as an absolute banger and anthem this year.
2. Logic1000 – Perfume
Those Australians are onto something when it comes to tapping into old school R&B. Logic1000’s Perfume uses vocals from Avant’s Separated and absolutely elevates it into another galaxy. When I first heard Perfume in an essential mix, I was instantly captivated by it, like the infectious Marc Jacobs Daisy. I legit Googled the song weekly to find out when it was releasing. Not only does it tap into a fresh sound, but Logic1000 is absolutely cute and to think she produces bangers like this, ouu la la – #womancrushwednesday for real. With only a few songs under her name, and a few DJ sets, Logic1000 is still primed to be a big name in dance music. I also put that on God.
- DVSN – No Cryin’ (feat. Future)
This was my number one song for 2020 according to Spotify. And for good reason. First, Toronto, again. Two, DVSN’s R&B showcase this year exhibited a sophistication, a maturity, that no other Toronto R&B artist displayed this year. Put them up against Roy Woods, K.Forest, PARTYNEXTDOOR, The Weeknd, and Drake, and DVSN stands in a category of their own. Honestly, I could have put any song from A Muse in Her Feelings, as they’re all strong contenders. I definitely put DVSN in R&B royalty with that album – it’s in a league of its own.
There you have it! My year in music. I really hope you like the selection of music I shared with you. If you want to hear the whole playlist, go here.
If you’ve made it this far down into the post, thank you. I hope you had a great 2020 and I hope you have an even greater, and safer, 2021.