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Top 50 Songs of 2020

These are the songs that loved us back in a year that we really needed it

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    The 2020 edition of our Annual Report continues today with our Top 50 Songs of 2020. If you haven’t already, check out our Top 50 Albums of 2020, which came out earlier in the week. Also, be sure to tune in next week as we begin handing out our annual accolades and continue looking back on the strange year that was 2020.

    Upon being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame some years ago, Tom Waits said, “We love music, but what we really want is for music to love us back.” Believe it or not, it felt like music did that in 2020. For me, anyway. I know that it’s easy to see the world through pandemic goggles right now or strictly through the lens of racial injustice or political turmoil. Tragedy and frustration that keeps piling on can definitely cloud our vision or color our window on the world. But I think I’ll feel the same even after the dust settles and we hopefully find ourselves in healthier and more just and equitable times. It just felt like instead of having to reach for songs this year, songs sought us out instead.

    So many artists, whether it be Charli XCX putting out an album of “quarantine songs,” Phoebe Bridgers performing from a bathtub on late night, or Neil Young moseying about a campfire, delivered songs and performances that made us understand that none of us are suffering alone through these uncertain times. Acts like Run the Jewels, Public Enemy, and Beyoncé gave voice to our frustrations and help put purpose in our step as we marched in the streets. Hopeful songs from pop artists like Lady Gaga and BTS reminded us that it’s utterly human to dance and smile and toss our hair even in the wake of loss and during the process of grieving. The late John Prine even gifted us one last song before he died — one that somehow makes us grateful for life despite the pain and senselessness of this year’s devastation.

    As I get older, I start to suspect that I’m somewhat full of shit. I might be. Maybe music didn’t embrace us any more this year than it has in the past. Maybe songs have just been doing what songs always do and we’ve latched on a little tighter out of necessity, hearing our feelings in a chord change or seeing ourselves in the lyrics of a verse tucked away between choruses. If that’s the case, I’m fine with that, too. All I know is that as dark and bleak as 2020 felt, the songs that found their way onto my playlists and into my ears and heart helped keep hope alive, and if that’s not music loving us back, I’m not sure what is.

    These are the songs we loved, but, more importantly, the ones that loved us back in 2020. As always, be safe and take care.

    –Matt Melis
    Editorial Director


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