New music Fridays are a thrilling, yet daunting prospect for any music lover.
It's essentially a weekly holiday where fan-favorite artists and fresh faces alike drop their latest offerings for all the world to hear, flooding streaming services and digital retailers with an onslaught of aural goodies. But who has the time to sit there and listen to everything before updating their playlists? There's just too much good stuff! (And, if we're being honest, usually a few stinkers, too.)
As it turns out, we do. Welcome to The MixtapE!
We've nearly reached the finish line, friends.
And as such, we're doing things a bit differently around these parts this week. As we prepare to say goodbye and good riddance to 2020, we thought we'd take one last look back at the year in music. And what a year it was.
Beginning with the return of Selena Gomez with Jan. 10's Rare—no, we can't believe that came out in 2020 either—all the the way through the unexpected drop of her BFF Taylor Swift's second surprise album, evermore, on Dec. 11, our favorite artists have often been the only company we've kept. And though it might be a while still until we can all safely gather together to hear these songs played live in concert or simply dance it out in a club, there's no denying that these last 12 months would've been even darker without them.
Without further ado, here are our 20 favorite songs from 2020, presented in alphabetical order!
Bad Bunny feat. Jowell & Randy and Ñengo Flow — "Safaera"
This track, released in February off YHLQMDLG (Bad Bunny's first of three 2020 albums), is a structurally complex whirlwind tour of reggaeton's history. The way the song cycles through countless beats and flows in just under five minutes is staggering. It's chaotic in all the right ways.
Bree Runway — "LITTLE NOKIA"
Featured on the English artist's debut EP 2000and4Eva, this song put Bree's genre-bending style on full display. Pulling influences from rock, pop and R&B to create something wholly her own, the track soars on her wild wit. (When you figure out what the title actually refers to—and why she doesn't want it—you'll never hear the song the same again.) It's a dizzying delight from a promising newcomer.
BTS — "Dynamite"
The Kings of K-Pop hit the stratosphere with their first all-English single. Arriving in late summer, their piece of disco-kissed pop offered the sort of energetic buoyancy we all needed to stay afloat. And when they hit those high notes during that late-in-the-game key change? Perfection.
The August arrival of this collaboration between two of rap's fiercest femmes felt like a seismic shift. Unapologetically filthy and wickedly funny, the sex-positive romp was a cultural lightning rod. Everyone had an opinion and there were memes galore. Without question, when we look back on this wretched year a decade from now, it's this song that we'll all remember.
Chloe x Halle — "Forgive Me"
You could replace this track with any other off the Bailey sisters' sophomore album Ungodly Hour and we'd be just as satisfied. When the LP arrived in June, replete with their angelic and air-tight harmonies and slick trap-influenced R&B production, it signaled that these two were ready to stake their claim in the major leagues. On this song in particular, Chloe proves she can spit a bit of fire when she's not busy vocalizing with her sister. Between the lyrical maturity and the sultry bass-filled beat, this one need no apology.
Christine and the Queens — "People, I've been sad"
This synth-pop stunner from French artist Héloïse Letissier sees the singer struggling with an overwhelming sense of ennui, providing a staggeringly succinct theme song for 2020. Even more staggering? It was released back in February, before any of us had any inclination of just how things would get.
Doja Cat — "Boss Bitch"
We defy you to find a 2020 track more hype than this cut off the Birds of Prey soundtrack. Clocking in at just two minutes, this thing is just pure unadulterated energy. "Say So" may have been the song that took Doja to No. 1 this year (and deservedly so), but it's this one that we've been bouncing around to with reckless abandon.
Dua Lipa — "Physical"
This track off Dua's phenomenal second album Future Nostalgia is muscular power pop perfection. With elements of dark wave and Italo disco spicing up the sultry production, the song is a sinewy masterpiece. What else is there to say?
Empress Of — "Bit of Rain"
The only issue we have this this electro-pop banger off Lorely Rodriguez's third studio album, I'm Your Empress Of, is that we weren't able to get lost in it on the dance floor as she intended.
James Blake — "Are You Even Real?"
Arriving as it did in July, this existential slice of electronica from the English artist carried us through some dark moments of quarantine as only a good song can. As life began to feel more and more surreal, nothing felt more relatable than when James sang, "I spend the day/dreaming of connection/just to feel/how you feel." A song so perfectly of its moment.
This high-wattage collaboration between two of pop's biggest stars—a bombastic, '90s-influenced dance track off Gaga's Chromatica—kept us dancing through the tears since it debuted atop the Billboard Hot 100 in May. A song about submitting yourself to devastation, "Rain on Me" offered us an unintentional credo for 2020: "I'd rather by dry, but at least I'm alive." Amen to that.
Megan the Stallion feat. Beyoncé — "Savage (Remix)"
Queen Bey didn't just lend a quick vocal to this remix off her fellow Houston native's March EP Suga. She helped to practically reinvent the damn thing, while reminding everyone that she's got flows slick enough to rival anyone else in the rap game. The result is a brilliant bit of bravura, delivering Meg her first No. 1 on the Hot 100 and a trio of much-deserved Grammy nominations.
Miley Cyrus — "Midnight Sky"
To kick off this latest, '80s rock sound of hers, Miley went full Stevie Nicks on the lead single of her new album Plastic Hearts. With a bit of Stevie's "Edge of Seventeen" thrown in for inspiration, the song puts the singer's raw and always powerful vocals to perfect use, backing them with a slick, synthy nu-disco production. Throughout her career, Miley's always been a chameleon, shape-shifting her way through trap-pop, experimental pop, and country pop. But this felt like she's finally found her way home.
Rina Sawayama — "XS"
The way the Japanese-English artist confronts our penchant for materialistic consumerism in the face of a dying planet by juxtaposing a peppy dance-pop production with punctuations of shredding rock guitar riffs remains the cleverest thing any pop star did all year. A bop that makes you think? We love to hear it.
Selena Gomez feat. 6LACK — "Crowded Room"
Featured on Selena's excellent new album Rare, this slinky deep cut finds the star dabbling in breathy R&B. Between 6LACK's laid-back verse and the unexpected interpolation of Cassie's hit "Me & U," this one makes quite the impact.
Shawn Mendes — "Wonder"
Serving as the title track off Shawn's latest LP, this power ballad is an explosive force of nature. The production is a testament to the sheer strength of sound. By the time the song arrives at its explosion of instrumentation, with Shawn's aching vocal supported by a chorus of voices, it delivers as close to a religious experience that any music can.
Taylor Swift — "mirrorball"
Featured on folklore, the first of Taylor's two breathtaking surprise albums dropped in 2020, this slice of dream pop just may be one of the most devastating things the superstar's ever written. Though she's said she was literally examining the existence of a disco ball, it's not hard to extrapolate an introspection of her own fame and the heartbreaking lengths she's gone to keep the show going.
The Chicks — "Gaslighter"
For their first new single in nearly 15 years, the newly christened Chicks (formerly of Dixie) went full scorched earth. With superproducer Jack Antonoff in the mix, the fiery piece of country-pop finds frontwoman Natalie Maines reading her ex-husband Adrian Pasdar the riot act, giving everyone who's ever been made to feel crazy by an ex an anthem in the process. (Seriously though, what did he do on her boat?!) It was a welcome return from a trio of legends.
The Weeknd — "In Your Eyes"
At first listen, this post-disco delight off The Weeknd's After Hours presents merely as a synth-soaked romance. But true to form, the story Abel Tesfaye's telling is a bit more twisted than that. How this—or anything else released by the superstar in the last year—was ignored by the Grammys is beyond us.
Troye Sivan — "Take Yourself Home"
Arriving in early quarantine, this lead single off Troye's EP In a Dream offered an electropop anthem to the anxieties we were all feeling. Though, in retrospect, the line "If I'm gonna die, let's die somewhere pretty" was maybe a bit too real. Downbeat but danceable, the track lives right in the Australian star's sweet spot. And that unexpected techno outro? Everything.