Beyoncé and Beyond: The Best Music of 2020—So Far

What a weird and wild first six months this has been.

By Billy Nilles Jul 04, 2020 7:00 AMTags
Related: Beyonce Releases "Black Parade" in Support of Black-Owned Businesses

What a weird and wild six months this has been.

We're only halfway through 2020 and, already, it feels like this year has lasted a lifetime, no? With everything that's been going on all around us, it's hard to keep track of all the music that came out last week, let alone all the way back in January.

Would you believe it if we told you this is still the same year that saw the release of Selena Gomez and Kesha's most recent albums? Because, released on Jan. 10 and 31, respectively, that's the honest truth. Like we said, wild.

But just because it's been one of the most unpredictable years in modern history doesn't mean that there hasn't been any good music worth celebrating. (It does mean that we're all listening to it in remarkably different ways, but that's a whole other story.) With that in mind, we thought we'd take a look back at the first half of this year and celebrate the releases that we've kept in constant rotation.

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The Most Memorable Music Moments Since 1990

Be they full albums or standout singles, these are our picks for the best music of 2020...so far.

Beyonce.com; Shutterstock; Getty Images/E! Illustration
Selena Gomez — Rare

Released: January 10

Must-Listen Track: "Vulnerable"

For her first new album in five years and after a whole lot of personal turmoil, Selena returned to the scene with this triumphant and self-assured LP of blissful bops. From the warm trop-house of "Vulnerable" to the chilled R&B of "Crowded Room," the infectious disco of "Dance Again" to the subtle pop of the self-loving title track, it's all so perfectly polished and cleverly cohesive. 

Normani & Megan Thee Stallion — "Diamonds"

Released: January 10

For this lead single off the Birds of Prey soundtrack, the two burgeoning superstars served a total flex, sampling Marilyn Monroe's iconic "Diamonds Are a Girl's Best Friend" for some heavy-hitting pop-rap perfection.

Georgia — Seeking Thrills

Released: January 10

Must-Listen Track: "24 Hours"

For her second studio album, the English singer-songwriter kept it on the dance floor, delivering a 12-track celebration of nightlife in all its glory.

Doja Cat — "Boss Bitch"

Released: January 24

Controversies aside, Doja delivered one of the most fantastically frenetic songs of 2020. Seriously, we dare you to listen to this badass anthem, released as part of the Birds of Prey soundtrack, and not get your whole damn life. It's not possible.

Kesha — High Road

Released: January 31

Must-Listen Track: "High Road"

Coming three years after Kesha's cathartic Rainbow, this album melded the more serious musicality of that LP with the lighter, sillier vibe of her earlier material. Not a total return to form, but a beautiful maturation and a reminder that the party doesn't have to stop just because we're growing up.

Tame Impala — The Slow Rush

Released: February 14

Must-Listen Track: "One More Year"

Kevin Parker's fourth studio album was created with summer in mind. It's just too bad that the summer it got was this one. Regardless, over a 12-track melange of disco, electro and psychedelic pop, the Australian one-man band delivered an LP that begs to be played loudly with the sun in your eyes.

Allie X — Cape God

Released: February 21

Must-Listen Track: "Life of the Party"

One of alt-pop's most consistent queens, Allie delivered an eminently danceable and deeply personal body of work for her second studio album. There's a deep sadness to the lyrics, and yet, the production is so incredibly infectious, you can't help but dance through your tears and fears. 

BTS — Map of the Soul: 7

Released: February 21

Must-Listen Track: "ON"

In what would become their fourth No. 1 album in the States, the kings of K-pop returned with this sonically diverse set of songs that somehow all work together thanks to their unimpeachable chops, superstar swag, and commitment to a reflective and introspective lyrical through line.

Christine and the Queens — La vita nuova

Released: February 27

Must-Listen Track: "People, I've Been Sad"

Over the course of just 22 minutes and some change, French singer-songwriter Héloïse Letissier delivered one of the year's best collections. Though each of the EP's synth-pop tracks are truly stellar—the Italian disco delights of "La vita nuova" are a particular highlight—it's the stark and intimate opener "People, I've Been Sad" that repeatedly takes our breath away. An unabashed exploration of ennui, it's the theme song of 2020. 

Bad Bunny — "Safaera"

Released: February 29

A standout on the Puerto Rican superstar's YHLQMDLG, given a surprise release on Leap Day, is chocked so full of references, flows, and beat changes that the Jowell & Randy and Ñengo Flow-featuring track is a frenetic, nostalgic masterpiece; a megamix of reggaeton's history done with effortless cool.

The Chicks — "Gaslighter"

Released: March 4

Fourteen years after the release of their last album, The Chicks (former of Dixie) returned with this scathing lead single off their forthcoming new album. With Jack Antonoff on hand as co-producer, the fiery piece of country-pop may be pointedly about frontwoman Natalie Maines' ex Adrian Pasdar, but it could be applied to so many men doing the world dirty at the moment.

The Weeknd — After Hours

Released: March 20

Must-Listen Track: "Too Late"

On his fourth studio album, Canadian sensation Abel Tesfaye incorporated elements of new wave and dream pop into his patented brand of pop-infused R&B for an album that's meant to soundtrack those early hours of the morning that are only seen when the party's gone on just a bit too long. It's a suitably moody and subdued affair, full of self-reflection from an artist who isn't done evolving.

Dua Lipa — Future Nostalgia

Released: March 27

Must-Listen Track: "Hallucinate"

All eyes were on Dua as she took her time readying the follow-up to her breakthrough and sensational self-titled debut album. And when she was finally ready, three years later, to share what she'd cooked up with the world, it did not disappoint. Over 11 tracks, she delivered a breathtaking vision of what disco can do in 2020. Not merely referential, the album more than lives up to its name, somehow sounding remarkably familiar—a good thing—and on the cutting-edge of what's next. A delirious dance record right when the world needed it most.

Troye Sivan — "Take Yourself Home"

Released: April 1

As the world was retreating inwards thanks to the coronavirus pandemic, the queer Aussie pop star decided he needed to drop the first single from his forthcoming third album a bit early. And we're so lucky he did. The moody synth-pop song carries a contemplative tone presciently suitable for the moment, downbeat but danceable. And that surprisingly warehouse party-worthy outro? Heaven. 

Empress Of — I'm Your Empress Of

Released: April 3

Must-Listen Track: "U Give It Up"

For her third studio album, L.A.-based singer and producer Lorely Rodriguez offers a reintroduction of sorts. Peppering dialogue recorded by her mother and Latin vibes throughout the sublime synth-pop, it's a stunning collection that finds her working her way through heartbreak the best way imaginable: on the dance floor.

Rina Sawayama — SAWAYAMA

Released: April 17

Must-Listen Track: "Bad Friend"

On her debut full-length album, there isn't a genre that the Japanese-British pop upstart is afraid to push though her own unique, Y2K-nostalgic prism. From the disco divinity of "Comme Des Garçons (Like the Boys)" to the subversive and startling capitalism-mocking "XS," the nu metal of "STFU!" to the sparkly sadness of "Bad Friend," it's a wild ride that shouldn't work, making it all the more impressive that it does so well.

Shea Diamond — "I Am America"

Released: April 23

Teaming with powerhouse pop writer Justin Tranter for what would come to serve as the theme song for HBO's powerful reality series "We're Here," the rising trans singer delivers not just an incisive and eminently soulful piece of music, but a potent reminder of all that make this country what it is. "Baby, I am America," she proudly proclaims. "Let me make it crystal clear—we're here."

Megan Thee Stallion & Beyoncé — "Savage (Remix)"

Released: April 29

Queen Bey didn't just stop by to drop a quick verse to tack onto this cut from Suga, Meg's 2020 EP. Rather, the two completely reinvented the track, hanging onto only the chorus from the standard version. A wise move leading to maybe the best song of the year and Meg's first No. 1 hit ever. Don't ever let anyone tell you Bey isn't one of the best MCs in the game right now.

Buscabulla — Regresa

Released: May 8

Must-Listen Track: "Vámono"

For their debut album, the duo of Raquel Berríos and Luis Alfredo Del Valle returned to their home of Puerto Rico, post-Hurricane Maria, to record this truly revelatory LP. Vacillating between rage and hope, lyrically, the album is a sonic dreamscape worth getting lost in.

Kehlani — It Was Good Until It Wasn't

Released: May 8

Must-Listen Track: "Water"

For her second studio album, Kehlani wisely pared things back and focused squarely on a cohesive album of R&B slow jams that stands as the strongest argument yet that she's becoming one of the genre's defining voices.

Moses Sumney — græ

Released: May 15

Must-Listen Track: "Colouour"

On his expansive two-part, 20-track second studio album, the singer-songwriter delivered a bold exploration of genre that saw him literally attempting to do it all. Central to the whole majestic tapestry, however, are the one-of-a-kind vocals that beguile while cutting you to your core.

Rosalía & Travis Scott — "TKN"

Released: May 28

Worlds collided when the Spanish songstress and American rapper brought their very distinct styles together for this alt-reggaeton/trap heavy-hitter that proved when music crosses borders, very good things happen.

Lady Gaga — Chromatica

Released: May 29

Must-Listen Track: "Alice"

After the detours into folk (2016's Joanne) and rock (2018's A Star Is Born soundtrack), Lady Gaga's sixth studio album marked a true return to form. And a triumphant one at that. With flourishes of house and disco, the diva elevated the electro-pop sound of her earliest records into euphoric heights, giving us all the escape we needed right when we needed it most.

Run the Jewels — RTJ4

Released: June 3

Must-Listen Track: "JU$T" (feat. Pharrell Williams and Zack de la Rocha)

The material on Killer Mike and El-P's fourth studio album may have been written well in advance of the social uprising America found itself in at the start of the summer, but the very fact that the LP's commentary on the state of the country applies itself so well is all the reminder you need that there's nothing new about what's happening. Protest music for this new generation right when it needed it most, RTJ4 is elastic, incendiary and, most of all, teeming with vitality. 

Leon Bridges feat. Terrace Martin — "Sweeter"

Released: June 8

Coming in the wake of the senseless killings of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and George Floyd, to name but a few, the neo-soul singer delivered this stirring exploration of the Black experience in America. As Martin's saxophone floats through the air over a sparse beat, Bridges sings of what's been taken from him and his community. "Somebody should hand you a felony/'Cause you stole from me," he admits. "My chance to be."

Chloe x Halle — Ungodly Hour

Released: June 12

Must-Listen Track: "Ungodly Hour"

The Bailey sisters are all grown up on their second studio album. Playing with a more mature and seriously funky soundscape, the harmonies have only gotten tighter—a feat we didn't think was possible for these two. We've said it before, but it bears repeating: These two are the future of music. And the future is now.

Beyoncé — "Black Parade"

Released: June 19

A Juneteenth treat from the Queen herself, Bey's first solo release of 2020 is a swirling salute to Blackness at a pivotal moment in this nation's history. "We got rhythm/We got pride," she ebulliently extolls. "We birth kings/We birth tribes." Expectedly excellent, if this is kind of energy we can expect from Black Is King, her forthcoming Disney+ visual album, then we're all in for a treat. 

Teyana Taylor — The Album

Released: June 19

Must-Listen Track: "We Got Love" feat. Lauryn Hill

After her unexpectedly brief K.T.S.E. in 2018, Taylor made sure she did not hold anything back on her third studio album. And somehow, at a whopping 23 tracks, it all works. There's a track for every vibe, all buoyed by those singularly sumptuous vocals.

HAIM — Women in Music Pt. III

Released: June 26

Must-Listen Track: "I Know Alone"

For their third studio album, the Haim sisters (Danielle, Este and Alana) pushed themselves out of their comfort zone and into the future, experimenting with genre while still holding onto what makes the sister act work so well: those incisive and vivid lyrics.

Jessie Ware — What's Your Pleasure

Released: June 26

Must-Listen Track: "Spotlight"

Proving that disco is alive and well in 2020—not to mention, something we clearly can not get enough of—the English singer-songwriter devoted her fourth studio album to the throbbing basslines and shimmering synths of a once-bygone era. It's a luxurious LP, warm and opulent and practically beaded with sweat. We may not be able to dance together, but, like Dua Lipa and Lady Gaga before here, Jessie knows that doesn't mean we're not dancing. 

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