Top 25 Songs of 2020 (So Far)

These are the songs that kept us in good company during lonely and uncertain times


    As our Mid-Year Report continues, today we reveal the Top 25 Songs of 2020 (So Far). If you missed it, here are our Top 25 Albums So Far.

    I once argued that albums get us through rough patches, and songs help us through difficult days or moments. I’m not sure if all of that’s true or not. In fact, if 2020 has taught me anything, it’s that I know far less about the world than I ever imagined. It’s hard to look towards the future with confidence right now. As I write this introduction, COVID-19 cases are once again on the rise in most states, and police departments are giving us new reasons every day to keep taking to the streets in the movement for justice and reform. And that fella in the White House seems content to watch it all burn and reign as king of the rubble and ashes. In fact, he’s stoking the flames with any hateful fuel he can find.

    Given all of this, I need to believe that songs are helping us through. That we’re still seeking out music old and new to remind us that joy, comfort, and understanding exist there, even when it seems absent in the world around us. That we’re tuning in to live music online or clutching our tickets to a concert that’s been postponed until next year because we know that music brings people together and that there’s a powerful bond in that union. That artists are continuing to create the songs that make us cry in our bedrooms, dance involuntarily (even without a dance floor), and march in the streets for a better tomorrow.


    I hope there have been songs you’ve clutched and held close to you during the past few months. I hope they’ve made you remember or forget or feel whatever it is you needed to make it through that day and all that you’re facing: the pain of injustice, the loss of a loved one, or even just the despair of looking out the window and not knowing what tomorrow will bring or when it will come. Most of all I hope that there have been songs that have given you hope.

    Here are 25 songs that have done that for us so far in 2020.

    Thank god.

    –Matt Melis
    Editorial Director

    25. John Prine – “I Remember Everything”

    Sounds Like: A wise grandfather figure sitting you down and telling you the secret to life

    Key Lyric: “And I remember every night/ Your ocean eyes of blue/ How I miss you in the morning light/ Like roses miss the dew”

    Why It Matters: We extol the virtues of music all the time as music writers, citing how it unifies people, consoles those in pain, and somehow understands us when the rest of the world doesn’t seem to. John Prine’s final song might do all three. Sung from the vantage point of a weary traveler looking back, Prine doesn’t sugarcoat the fact that there will be loss and mistakes and pain down the line. However, he also reminds us that there will be comfort, often in memories of things as simple as a shady tree or a warm smile, when looking back at the entire journey. It’s a wise message and a fitting final word on a remarkable life. –Matt Melis


    Song in a GIF:

    Roses Breeze


    24. Polo G – “I Know”

    Sounds Like: Like a diary entry pouring out from its pages

    Key Lyric: “I know life is a bitch and she don’t fight fair/ How the fuck I wake up from a dream to a nightmare?”

    Why It Matters: Chicago rapper Polo G admits that he even surprised himself with how honest and vulnerable he gets on deep cut “I Know”. The smooth-flowing track finds Polo exposing his wounds — lost friends, sexual abuse, and a violent past — and how they’ve affected his ability to relate to others, be in a relationship, or even just find peace of mind. Luckily, music has always been there for him, even when others weren’t, and it’s that outlet that allows him to pour his pain into something positive. While rap has made significant strides over the years, a song as candid as “I Know” comes clean and makes the case that mental illness and trauma should be topics that are fair game in hip-hop. –Matt Melis 

    Song in a GIF:

    Polo G Gif

    23. U.S. Girls – “4 American Dollars”


    Sounds Like: The glint of light off golden dollars in a ’70s hustler movie

    Key Lyric: “You gotta have boots/ If you wanna lift those bootstraps”

    Why It Matters: We can always count on Meg Remy to slice up our societal shortcomings with the sharpened edge of her silver tongue. On “4 American Dollars”, her witty dismantling of wealth inequality is draped in a shimmering disco groove that is perhaps U.S. Girls’ most inescapable effort to date. The track’s glitz and glamour put a spell on the listener, just as the quest for the almighty dollar blinds a capitalistic culture from the ingrained inequity of the very system that drives its value. It’s a protest song that wholly reflects its subject, making it far more complex than it is catchy — and it’s damn catchy. –Ben Kaye

    Song in a GIF:

    Puppets Money


    22. 070 Shake – “Guilty Conscience”

    Sounds Like: Trying to turn off your mind when it’s racing a million thoughts per second

    Key Lyric: “Why you so close, but you feel so far?/ You look like the moon in the mornin’/ Jaded, faded, almost gone”


    Why It Matters: Cheatin’ songs are as old as the craft of songwriting itself, but rarely do we find both parties hiding illicit trysts from one another. More interesting, though, is that, like Polo G above, 070 Shake takes an old idea — infidelity — and goes someplace new with it. Sung from the perspective of a young man, Shake explores the fragility of masculinity and how, beneath a rough exterior, men have to wrestle with their emotions, including guilt and hurt, just as much as anyone. That turmoil feels all the more tangible as Shake shifts between flexing her voice (rising on choruses and grooving old-school between) and rap-singing, like a tortured mind trying to free itself from agonizing over every detail of a betrayal. –Matt Melis

    Song in a GIF:

    070 Shake Gif

    21. Soccer Mommy – “Circle the Drain”

    Sounds Like: The opening song to a ‘90s high school rom-com

    Key Lyric: “I’m trying to seem strong for my love/ For my family and friends/ But I’m so tired of faking/ ‘Cause I’m chained to my bed when they’re gone/ Watching TV alone/ ‘Til my body starts aching”


    Why It Matters: Soccer Mommy (aka Sophie Allison) sings candidly in “circle the drain” about depression, what it’s like to struggle when nothing seems wrong. Musically, the track does a great job of what it feels like to be depressed, laying listlessly, wanting to be fine but not being able to find that peace. The “circle the drain” analogy has been used in songs before, but Soccer Mommy makes it literal here, with bubbles draining down a sink at the end of the track. –Annie Black

    Song in a GIF:

    Soccer Mommy

    20. Little Simz – “might bang, might not”

    Sounds Like: A rapid-fire typhoon of a dating profile that tells 99.9% of us not to bother

    Key Lyric: “Fuck that, I crashed the party/ Fuck that, I am the party/ Don’t get me started/ I am a one-woman army”

    Why It Matters: Little Simz knows it’s hard to get respect in the rap game, especially for women. Now, after 10 years of breaking down doors, she finds herself on the inside looking out. While relishing the fact that she made it through her own blood, sweat, and tears, she acknowledges that having something to lose and a burning desire to stay on top can make it really difficult to take part in normal, everyday things like relationships. One day things might change, but for now, it’s career first, and if she does let someone into her life, they best not fuck it up and waste her precious time. –Matt Melis


    Song in a GIF:

    TLC No Scrubs GIF

    19. Gorillaz – “Aries” (ft. Peter Hook and Georgia)

    Sounds Like: The beach between Joy Division and New Order

    Key Lyric: “I can’t play a happy tune on my own, so stay by my side”

    Why It Matters: Sometimes pop culture is just fated to work. Case in point: “Aries”. The song dropped weeks into a worldwide quarantine, a time when reality began to truly set in for everyone — that the things we love, the things we cherish, and the things we take for granted will be at our fingertips (or, rather, six feet away) until further noticed. So, hearing Gorllaz’s Damon Albarn hum, “‘Cause I feel so isolated without you,” hit harder than it would have any other time. But, we can connect through song, and Albarn does exactly that on “Aries” as he reunites with his UK brethren. Peter Hook, it’s been a while. –Michael Roffman

    Song in a GIF:

    t2 Top 25 Songs of 2020 (So Far)

    18. Waxahatchee – “Can’t Do Much”


    Sounds Like: A profession of love where you think she might also be kicking you to the curb

    Key Lyric: “We will coalesce our heaven and hell/ My eyes roll around like dice on the felt/ My mind turns to something useless and trite/ My uneasiness, materialized”

    Why It Matters: Katie Crutchfield (aka Waxahatchee) knows that there’s no better feeling than those first days of falling in love, but she also knows all the frustration and pain that 99.9% of relationships eventually bring. On “Can’t Do Much”, Crutchfield blends that initial euphoria with the inevitable realities ahead, ultimately concluding that there’s no getting out of going down that road. It feels like the perfect love song for 2020 — a time when all of us have our guards up even as good things come along — and Crutchfield continues to show her hard-fought growth as a songwriter, pushing her vocals and arrangements to new, irresistable places. –Matt Melis 

    Song in a GIF:

    Breakfast Club - Gif

    17. Yves Tumor – “Gospel for a New Century”


    Sounds Like: A demon’s love song played through the horn of the devil

    Key Lyric: “This ain’t by design, girl/ Take it softer/ You know I’m out my mind, girl”

    Why It Matters: Love is chaotic, a push-pull between past desires and learned lessons guiding future decisions. It’s so rarely the flowery, elegant fairy tale of sweet piano ballads. Yves Tumor acknowledges that lack of simplicity with “Gospel for a New Century”, both in their twisted, torn lyrics and the frenzied composition. Horns bashing against a rhythm that’s half-arena rock, half-grindhouse score create an organized cacophony trumpeting straight from Hell. Some might call it terrifying — particularly if heard alongside the music video from director Isamaya Ffrench — but that’s exactly what romance is, especially when it falls apart. –Ben Kaye

    Song in a GIF:

    Yves Tumor

    16. Charli XCX – “claws”


    Sounds Like: A roller coaster in a glitchy computer video game

    Key Lyric: “I’m not shy, make you sigh/ Slip and slide up my thighs/ Juicy just like clementines”

    Why It Matters: Charli XCX’s quarantine-recorded album, How I’m Feeling Right Now, captures the futurist pop star in the very specific present moment of the pandemic, a time when emotions are plentiful and span the entire spectrum of feeling. There are lows, obviously, but also intense highs, magnified by the vacuum in which we currently live. For the UK artist, spending lockdown with a loved one has led to something of a “rebirth” of their relationship. Remember what that’s like? A surge so thrilling you’re giddy, speechless, and can only muster up the word “like” to convey your adoration? 100 gecs member Dylan Brady matches Charli’s energy here with equally frenzied, excitable production that’s fractured and glitchy until pieced back together during a euphoric build-up flurried with hope — an especially coveted feeling during these very strange times. –Lake Schatz

    Song in a GIF:

    Charli xcx

    15. BTS – “Black Swan”

    Sounds Like: The father’s advice in Cat Stevens’ (now Yusuf) “Father and Son”: “For you will still be here tomorrow/ But your dreams may not”

    Key Lyric: “이게 나를 더 못 울린다면/ 내 가슴을 더 떨리게 못 한다면/ 어쩜 이렇게 한 번 죽겠지 아마” (loose translation: If this can no longer resonate/ No longer make my heart vibrate/ Then this may be how I die my first death”)

    Why It Matters: On “Black Swan”, the group question what it means to be an artist. According to a press release, “Black Swan” was inspired by the Martha Graham quote: “A dancer dies twice — once when they stop dancing, and this first death is the more painful.” The idea of a first death is directly referenced in the lyrics, in which BTS grapple with the potential that their passion for music and performing could one day disappear. The song itself is a beautiful blend of trap drumbeats and strings, rap and vocals, that creates an atmosphere of anxiety before you even read the lyrics. –Hannah Zwick


    Song in a GIF:

    BTS Black Swan

    14. Frank Ocean – “Cayendo (Side A – Acoustic)”

    Sounds Like: A sunrise after a rainstorm

    Key Lyric: “Si puedo soportar lo que siento/ ¿Por qué me estoy cayendo?” (loose translation: “If I can bear what I feel, why am I falling?”)

    Why It Matters: Hell is love by your lonesome. There are few things in life as torturous as being head over heels in love with someone who has either moved on … or never felt the same way. It’s hard to imagine anyone not loving Frank Ocean, but his conviction on “Cayendo” says otherwise. And by emoting in Spanish, Ocean creatively stresses how his feelings may be lost in translation, particularly when he asks: “Si puedo soportar lo que siento, ¿por qué me estoy cayendo?” It’s a question that’s left to interpretation: Does he admit defeat, or do his feelings grow stronger? For most, it’s all too often both. –Michael Roffman


    Song in a GIF:

    harrington Top 25 Songs of 2020 (So Far)

    13. Christine and the Queens – “People, I’ve been sad”

    Sounds Like: Slow-dancing in the era of self-isolation

    Key Lyric: “Adolescence contrariée par un millier de remords/ Maintenant quand je ressens quelque chose, tout est bien plus fort.” (Roughly translated from French: “Vexed adolescence because of a thousand remorses/ Now when I feel something, everything is even more intense.”)

    Why It Matters: Few in pop do vulnerability better than Héloïse “Chris” Letissier; never has the entire populace of the world felt as vulnerable as it does right now. So, for Christine and the Queens to deliver such a stirring ballad as “People, I’ve been sad” at this moment is a beautiful gift. Whether or not this song was intended as a soundtrack for our shared solitude is irrelevant. It has become a perfectly somber anthem for 2020, comforting in the acknowledgment that “If you fall apart, then I’m falling behind you.” You know the feeling. –Ben Kaye


    Song in a GIF:

    Christine Top 25 Songs of 2020 (So Far)

    12. Michael Stipe and Big Red Machine – “No Time for Love Like Now”

    Sounds Like: The first R.E.M. song we’ve heard in nearly a decade

    Key Lyric: “Whatever waiting means in this new place/ I am waiting for you”

    Why It Matters: Depending on your fandom, a voice can be as strong as a friend. So it is with Michael Stipe, the longtime orator of R.E.M. and alternative music, whose vacancy throughout the 2010s was felt each and every year after 2011’s Collapse into Now. “No Time for Love Like Now” isn’t the first time we’ve heard the great bard, but it felt like the first time nonetheless. Blame it on Justin Vernon’s string-like guitars or the Dessners’ arrangements — actually, yes, you can credit all of that — but it also boils down to the sentiment. As so many are locked away, stewing in rage, Stipe’s call for love has never felt more timely. –Michael Roffman

    Song in a GIF:

    vanilla sky Top 25 Songs of 2020 (So Far)

    11. Phoebe Bridgers – “Kyoto”


    Sounds Like: The type of song to listen to on a long drive with the windows down

    Key Lyric: “I wanted to see the world/ Then I flew over the ocean, and I changed my mind”

    Why It Matters: “Kyoto” is a song that makes you feel just the way it sounds, breezy and nostalgic, despite being about some potentially heavy subjects, like reflecting on someone who maybe brought you trauma. Off of Phoebe Bridgers’ second album, Punisher, “Kyoto” is a driving track that starts with a trip to Japan with her band and ends with her back home in America, full of dramatic skies and simple, purposeful imagery. The best part about “Kyoto” might be the instrumental bridge connecting the two settings with a jaunty trumpet, a bright spot within a complicated song. –Annie Black

    Song in a GIF:

    Phoebe Bridgers

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