Top 100 Songs of 2020

It goes without saying that 2020 turned out to be a year for the record books on so many levels. It started out well enough, but quickly went to hell beginning in March as the Covid-19 virus spread throughout the world, causing a global pandemic that resulted in a shut down of many countries’ economies, and nearly 1.8 million deaths as I write this at the end of the year. One of the hardest-hit sectors has been the music industry, particularly live music, which in these days of unlimited streaming, most musicians count on to make a living and promote their music. On the plus side – if there was one – many musicians had more time to write and record new music, blessing us with some really stellar works. The Rolling Stones used the lockdown to put out their previously-written but timely “Living in a Ghost Town”, their first new single in four years, while AC/DC thrilled fans with their surprise release of Power Up, their first new album in six years. The Pretenders, Bruce Springsteen and Paul McCartney also released new albums.

Like with every year, in 2020 we had to say goodbye to far too many legendary musicians – something that seems to be happening with greater frequency as music icons we grew up with pass away primarily due to having reached old age. Some of the notable passings included Bill Withers, Little Richard, Peter Green, Eddie Van Halen, Spencer Davis, Neil Peart, Kenny Rogers, Helen Reddy, Bonnie Pointer, Mac Davis, Ennio Morricone, Johnny Nash, Jerry Jeff Walker and Chad Stuart (of Chad & Jeremy). Sadly, we also lost John Prine, Charley Pride and Trini Lopez due to complications from Covid-19.

As a music blogger, I receive a lot of submissions from artists, PR reps and labels wanting me to review their music. I also follow a large number of music blogs, where I learn about music, and as a result, end up listening to a tremendous amount of new music over the course of a year. That said, I know I’ve heard only a fraction of all the singles and albums released in 2020. Some of the standout albums I had the pleasure of hearing were Taylor Swift’s Folklore, Run the Jewels’ RTJ4, Fiona Apple’s Fetch the Bolt Cutters, The Killers’ Imploding the Mirage, Tame Impala’s Slow Rush, Fontaines D.C.’s A Hero’s Death, Fleet Foxes’ Shore, Two Feet’s Pink, Haim’s Women in Music Pt. III, Bryde’s The Volume of Things, Kidsmoke’s A Vision in the Dark, Surrija’s brilliant eponymous album Surrija, and MISSIO’s Can You Feel the Sun. (The albums I reviewed are highlighted in blue, and if you click on those titles it will take you to my review.)

One of my favorite music genres is Dream Pop & Rock, which seems to be undergoing a major surge in recent years. The genre was well-represented in 2020 by numerous stellar songs, including “Are You Bored Yet?” by Wallows ft. Clairo, “Can I Call You Tonight?” by Dayglow, “White Lies & Palm Trees” by The Lovepools, “Lost in Yesterday” and “Is It True” by Tame Impala, “Can I Believe You” by Fleet Foxes, “Downs” by Roadkeeper, “Fire For You” by Cannons, and the entire aforementioned album by Kidsmoke. 

Obviously, my list of the Top 100 Songs of 2020 includes only songs I know. I’m certain there are likely other great ones that should be on this list, except that I’ve never heard them. Still, among the thousands of songs I did hear in 2020, there were many outstanding ones, and it frustrates me to have to cull my favorites down to only 100, omitting scores of tracks I really like and wanted to include. Furthermore, a song at #40 isn’t necessarily better than one at #60, but I had to rank them somehow.

Our music tastes are very subjective, so it’s guaranteed that not a single person reading this will agree with my song choices or their rankings. My list contains my favorite songs of the year, not necessarily songs that were ‘popular’ or influential. I’m now late middle-aged, so my song picks are going to reflect that, though I do still have my guilty pleasures.

Many bloggers and critics list songs in the year they were released, while Billboard and other charts generally place them in the year they were ‘hits,’ which is what I prefer. Many of the songs on this list were released in 2020, however, a number of them were released in 2019. Absofacto’s “Dissolve” was originally released in 2015, but didn’t chart until 2019. Because there are always a few songs that overlap from one year to the next, like Billboard, I include those songs on lists for both years if they spent enough time on the charts in each year. I always wrestle with how to rank them, as well as whether to list them in only one year or two. For example, Two Feet’s “You?” was #1 during the final week of 2019, and the first four weeks of 2020, so it would seem only fair to include it on the lists for both years. That song ranked #18 on my Top 100 of 2019, and ranks #3 on this year’s list. I suppose that at the end of the day it’s all silliness, but this is the way I choose to do it. The songs in this Top 100 that also appeared in my Top 100 Songs of 2019 are indicated with an asterisk *.

For previous years’ Top 100 lists, I wrote little pieces for each of the top 20 songs, as well as embedded their YouTube videos, then simply listed the remaining 80. That always left me feeling a little bad for those 80 songs, as it made them seem like afterthoughts, which was certainly not the case. For this year’s list, partly out of fairness, and partly to save myself huge amounts of time, effort and stress, I’ve decided to forego with the individual descriptions and videos, and simply list the entire 100 songs.

As always, I’ve created a Spotify playlist for this list, which is included at the end of the post. Hopefully you’ll find some of your own personal favorites on it. Let me know what songs were your favorites of 2020.

  1. BLINDING LIGHTS – The Weeknd
  2. LEVEL OF CONCERN – twenty øne piløts
  3. YOU? – Two Feet *
  4. CAUTION – The Killers
  5. HALLUCINOGENICS – Matt Maeson
  6. FEEL YOU – My Morning Jacket
  7. EVERYTHING I WANTED – Billie Eilish
  8. HELL N BACK – Bakar
  9. DON’T START NOW – Dua Lipa
  10. MARIA – Two Feet
  11. BLACK & WHITE LOVE – Beating Hearts Club
  12. MIGHT BE RIGHT – White Reaper *
  13. ARE YOU BORED YET? – Wallows featuring Clairo
  14. IS IT TRUE – Tame Impala
  15. DOWNS – Roadkeeper
  16. HOW WILL I REST IN PEACE IF I’M BURIED BY A HIGHWAY?// – Kenny Hoopla
  17. CAN I CALL YOU TONIGHT? – Dayglow
  18. WHITE LIES & PALM TREES – The Lovepools *
  19. MY OWN SOUL’S WARNING – The Killers
  20. IF NOT FOR THE FIRE – The Million Reasons
  21. IT’S YOU – The Frontier
  22. LOST IN YESTERDAY – Tame Impala
  23. MARIPOSA – Peach Tree Rascals
  24. CAN I BELIEVE YOU – Fleet Foxes
  25. MONSTERS – All Time Low featuring blackbear
  26. BLOODY VALENTINE – Machine Gun Kelly
  27. NOVOCAINE – The Unlikely Candidates *
  28. BLACK MADONNA – Cage the Elephant
  29. USED TO LIKE – Neon Trees
  30. WARS – Of Monsters and Men
  31. CARDIGAN – Taylor Swift
  32. ORPHANS – Coldplay
  33. LEMON DROP – Absofacto
  34. THE BEST – AWOLNATION
  35. DISSOLVE – Absofacto *
  36. HONEYBEE – The Head and the Heart
  37. ADORE YOU – Harry Styles
  38. YOUR LOVE (DÉJÀ VU) – Glass Animals
  39. VISITOR – Of Monsters and Men
  40. MOOD – 24kGoldn featuring iann dior
  41. DELETER – Grouplove
  42. PSYCH FILM – Strangely Alright
  43. SOMEONE ELSE – Rezz & Grabbitz
  44. A HERO’S DEATH – Fontaines D.C.
  45. DANCE OF THE CLAIRVOYANTS – Pearl Jam
  46. BAD DECISIONS – The Strokes
  47. LOVE YOU FOR A LONG TIME – Maggie Rogers
  48. THE RUNNER – Foals
  49. VIRUS – Vanity Fear
  50. REWARD – Paul Iwan *
  51. THINK I’M CRAZY – Two Feet
  52. SHINE A LITTLE LIGHT – Black Keys
  53. 2ALL – Catfish and the Bottlemen
  54. VAN HORN – Saint Motel
  55. LIFE IN THE CITY – The Lumineers
  56. IDENTICAL – Phoenix
  57. GIANTS – Dermot Kennedy
  58. FIRE – Black Pumas
  59. LAY YOUR HEAD ON ME – Major Lazer featuring Marcus Mumford & Diplo
  60. OH YEAH! – Green Day
  61. UNEVENTFUL DAYS – Beck
  62. COME & GO – Juice WRLD & Marshmello
  63. BLIND LEADING THE BLIND – Mumford & Sons
  64. HOODIE UP – MISSIO
  65. HERO – Michael Kiwanuka
  66. PARADISE – Creeper
  67. WATERMELON SUGAR – Harry Styles
  68. UNCHAINED – Devon Gilfillian
  69. EXPECTATIONS – Katie Pruitt
  70. FIRE FOR YOU – Cannons
  71. HEAVEN IS HEART – Jaded Jane
  72. TEXAS SUN – Khruangbin featuring Leon Bridges
  73. OVER AND OVER – Amongst Liars
  74. HONEY – King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard
  75. LIVING IN A GHOST TOWN – The Rolling Stones
  76. HOW WE LIVE – Mandalan featuring Cadence XYZ
  77. MY FUTURE – Billie Eilish
  78. STRANGERS – Mt. Joy
  79. NOT OK! – Chaz Cardigan
  80. MARINERS APARTMENT COMPLEX – Lana Del Rey
  81. LETTER TO YOU – Bruce Springsteen
  82. HOLD ON – Noah Reid
  83. BE AFRAID – Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit
  84. FAULT LINES – Callum Pitt
  85. LET’S FALL IN LOVE FOR THE NIGHT – FINNEAS
  86. ME & YOU TOGETHER SONG – The 1975
  87. HALF YOUR AGE – Joywave
  88. SERAFINA – BAMBARA
  89. COLORS – Black Pumas
  90. THE LET GO – Elle King
  91. SWIMMING CLOSER – HAZY
  92. REAL LONG TIME – White Reaper
  93. NOTHING LOVE – Surrija, Albert Chiang, Christine Tavolacci & Matt Chamberlain
  94. MAN ON THE MOON – The Common View
  95. DO YOU FEEL THAT? – Ronnie the Bear
  96. RAINBOW RECORDS – Oceanography
  97. BURN THE VISION – Amongst Liars
  98. ZEN – X Ambassadors, K.Flay & grandson
  99. ROSE TINTED EYES – Seprona
  100. SKIN – The Ocean Beneath & Fran Minney

100 Best Songs of the 2010s – #91: “Superposition” by Young the Giant

The song at #91 on my list of 100 Best Songs of the 2010s is “Superposition” by Southern California alt-rock band Young the Giant. Their music has an instantly recognizable sound unlike no other, thanks in large part to their brilliant musicianship and front man Sameer Gadhia’s distinctive and arresting vocals. Their songs are melodic and often stunning rock compositions, with intelligent lyrics and lush instrumentation. Released in August 2018, “Superposition” was the second single from their fourth studio album Mirror Master, and is one of their most beautiful songs. Starting with a deep bass line and a rhythmic toe-tapping drumbeat as a foundation, the band layers moody synths, delicate piano keys and an enchanting ukelele riff to create a gorgeous backdrop for Gadhia’s captivating vocals, which are in turn backed by lovely vocal harmonies.

The term ‘superposition’ is used in physics to describe how things or items in nature overlap or interact. On their Twitter page, Young the Giant stated that the song is generally “about quantum physics that has defied odds.” For the song, they use the term to describe the strong pull or connection we feel to those we love, and how fate and inexplicable events can bring us together: “In any universe you are my dark star / I want you to want me / Why don’t we rely on chemistry / Why don’t we collide the spaces that divide us.

I had the pleasure of seeing them live at The Forum in Los Angeles in August 2019, in a double bill with Fitz & the Tantrums. (You can read my review of that concert here.)

100 Best Songs of the 2010s – #92: “The Sound of Silence” by Disturbed

The song at #92 on my list of 100 Best Songs of the 2010s is “The Sound of Silence” by heavy metal band Disturbed. It’s hard to believe anyone could do a respectable cover of this iconic Simon & Garfunkel song, but David Draiman and his band Disturbed accomplished the feat and then some. Wow, what a magnificent and emotionally raw interpretation it is! Some people I know hated it for reasons unfathomable to me, but I love it.

After seeing the band perform the song on the late-night talk show Conan, Paul Simon sent Draiman an email praising his performance, writing “Really powerful performance on Conan the other day. First time I’d seen you do it live. Nice. Thanks.” Draiman responded, “Mr. Simon, I am honored beyond words. We only hoped to pay homage and honor to the brilliance of one of the greatest songwriters of all time. Your compliment means the world to me/us and we are eternally grateful.” (Loudwire) That live performance on Conan is the most watched YouTube video ever from the show.

100 Best Songs of the 2010s – #93: “Riptide” by Vance Joy

The song at #93 on my list of 100 Best Songs of the 2010s is the delightfully upbeat “Riptide” by Australian indie folk-rock singer-songwriter Vance Joy (born James Gabriel Keogh). With his ukelele as the primary instrument, he adds piano, guitar and percussion, and combines them with with a breezy melody and lovely backing harmonies to create an incredibly pleasing track. His heartfelt vocals convey an endearing vulnerability as he sings the lyrics about being besotted with a girl. “I love you when you’re singing that song, and I’ve got a lump in my throat ’cause you’re gonna sing the words wrong.

“Riptide” was first released as a track in 2013 on his debut EP God Loves You When You’re Dancing, and is also featured on his 2014 debut studio album Dream Your Life Away.  The single has sold over 7 million copies (both physical copy and digital download) worldwide, and holds the record for the most weeks in the top 100 of the ARIA (Australian Recording Industry Assn.) Singles Chart – 120 consecutive weeks. It also spent several wees at #1 on the Billboard Alternative Chart.

Here’s the official video for the song:

And here’s a nice acoustic performance by Joy:

100 Best Songs of the 2010s – #94: “Dreams” by Beck

The song at #94 on my list of 100 Best Songs of the 2010s is “Dreams” by Beck. Born Bek David Campbell in Los Angeles in 1970, the eternally youthful singer-songwriter, musician and producer has been making great music ever since the unexpected success of his breakout single “Loser” in 1994. Over his long, innovative and prolific career, he’s recorded and released an astonishing 14 studio albums, continually experimenting with an eclectic myriad of genres including alternative rock, folk, country, hip hop, soul, funk and electronic.

“Dreams” was released in June 2015, a few months after his Album of the Year Grammy win for Morning Phase. Beck stated he wanted to make a record that “would be good to play live“, and did he ever! The song is exhilarating, with a fantastic guitar-driven groove, cool psychedelic synths and the kind of strong thumping drum beat that I adore. The song was ultimately included on his 2017 album Colors.

100 Best Songs of the 2010s – #95: “My Type” by Saint Motel

The song at #95 on my list of 100 Best Songs of the 2010s is “My Type” by Los Angeles-based Saint Motel. I loved this song the moment it first hit my eardrums back in late 2014, and it turned me into a big fan of the band. Their rousing, sophisticated sound is a nod to the brassy exuberance of the Big Band era, but delivered with a fresh, contemporary indie pop approach. “My Type” is a deliriously catchy song with a powerful driving dance beat and an exuberant horn-driven hook that make for a joyful and fun listen. It also has one of the best tongue-in-cheek lyrics ever: “You’re know you’re just my type. Oh, you’ve got a pulse and you are breathing.”

Band front man A.J. Jackson, who has a terrific singing voice, produced and directed the stylish video for the track, which was filmed in a cool Mid-Century Modern house in L.A.

100 Best Songs of the 2010s – #96: “Wander” by Vox Eagle feat. Pierre Fontaine

The song at #96 on my list of 100 Best Songs of the 2010s is “Wander” by Vox Eagle, featuring rap vocals by Pierre Fontaine. Vox Eagle is the music project of Australian-born and now Colorado-based singer-songwriter, producer and multi-instrumentalist Andy Crosby. One of the tracks from his outstanding 2018 album TriumAvium, “Wander” is an enchanting mashup of melodic dream rock and hip hop, and when those magical keyboard and string synths wash over us like a shower of tiny diamonds, it’s absolute bliss. Eventually, a trip hop beat ensues as Andy freestyles about how communication has broken down in his relationship, his vocals going from sultry to falsetto as he sings: “We don’t talk no more, baby girl, we just wander.” Guest vocalist Pierre Fontaine’s smooth rap vocals take over on the last third of the track, adding another wonderful textural element to this stunning track. I love this song so much I’ve probably listened to it five hundred times.

100 Best Songs of the 2010s – #97: “Loving You is So Easy” by Wide Eyed Boy

The song at #97 on my list of 100 Best Songs of the 2010s is the gorgeous “Loving You is So Easy” by Liverpool new wave/indie pop band Wide Eyed Boy. The UK has a thriving music scene today, perhaps the best since the late 1970s, and Wide Eyed Boy are among the best acts I’ve come across. I’ve featured them several times on this blog, beginning in March 2017 with my review of their superb debut single “Wolves”. That song is so good that I didn’t think they could top it, but I was wrong, as “Loving You is So Easy” is absolutely magnificent. The swirling guitars, sultry bass line, crashing percussion, and lush, sweeping industrial synths are all breathtaking, creating a stunning backdrop for singer Oliver Nagy’s beautiful and electrifying vocals. And then there’s that xylophone, adding a dash of enchanting magic to the track!

The song lyrics are fairly straightforward – “I don’t care the way you care. I can see it in your stare. But the way that we collide, it’s getting harder every time. Loving you is so easy. Easy when I’m down, down, down” – but Nagy delivers them with a smoldering seductiveness before launching into a soaring falsetto in the chorus that raises goosebumps.

The video produced for the track is visually stunning, with a minimalist set and subdued lighting, accentuated with background fluorescents, creating the perfect mood for this charismatic band’s dramatic performance.

Top 30 Songs for September 27-October 3, 2020

  1. FEEL YOU – My Morning Jacket (1)
  2. MONSTERS – All Time Low featuring blackbear (3)
  3. CARDIGAN – Taylor Swift (2)
  4. MY OWN SOUL’S WARNING – The Killers (5)
  5. HALLUCINOGENICS – Matt Maeson (4)
  6. IT’S YOU – The Frontier (6)
  7. CAN I CALL YOU TONIGHT? – Dayglow (7)
  8. DOWNS – Roadkeeper (8)
  9. WATERMELON SUGAR – Harry Styles (10)
  10. IS IT TRUE – Tame Impala (11)
  11. MY FUTURE – Billie Eilish (13)
  12. BLACK & WHITE LOVE – Beating Hearts Club (9) 21st week on list
  13. BLOODY VALENTINE – Machine Gun Kelly (N)
  14. BACK TO HIM – Soricah (15)
  15. HOODIE UP – MISSIO (16)
  16. SOMEONE ELSE – Rezz & Grabbitz (12)
  17. WHAT YOU GONNA DO??? – Bastille featuring Graham Coxon (20)
  18. GIANTS – Dermot Kennedy (21)
  19. FOR SURE – Future Islands (22)
  20. FAULT LINES – Callum Pitt (23)
  21. FRIDAY NIGHT – Heist At Five featuring Francesca Confortini (25)
  22. HERO – Weezer (27)
  23. ARE YOU BORED YET? – Wallows featuring Clairo (29)
  24. MARIPOSA – Peach Tree Rascals (30)
  25. ZEN – X Ambassadors, K.Flay & grandson (14)
  26. HONEYBEE – The Head and the Heart (17)
  27. PSYCH FILM – Strangely Alright (18)
  28. HEAVEN IS HEART – Jaded Jane (19)
  29. I GOT YOU – Michael Franti & Spearhead (24)
  30. COME & GO – Juice WRLD & Marshmello (N)

100 Best Songs of the 2010s – #98: “Love on the Brain” by Rihanna

Rihanna (born Robyn Rihanna Fenty in Barbados) is an international music superstar, fashion designer, actress and businesswoman who emerged on the music scene in 2005 at the tender age of 17. Since then, she’s racked up an impressive string of monster hits and earned numerous awards and accolades. I love many of her songs, especially “Only Girl (In the World)”, “Stay”, We Found Love” and her duet “Love the Way You Lie” with Eminem, but my favorite of all is “Love on the Brain”.

The song is from her eighth studio album Anti, and features a sultry doo wop/R&B vibe in the style of many great R&B songs of the late 50s and early 60s that strongly appeals to my mature music sensibilities. It’s a stunning torch song that beautifully showcases her considerable vocal talents. Though it was a sizable hit, “Love on the Brain” peaked at only #5 on the Billboard Hot 100, a relative disappointment considering how many of her singles reached #1.

The song was originally written by Norwegian songwriter and producer Fred Ball and American songwriter Joseph Angel in late 2013. They wanted an old school soul feel with modern lyrics, and did not write it with Rihanna in mind. After hearing the song, however, Ball’s manager Jay Brown loved it and thought it would be a great song for Rihanna. He sent it to her and she loved it too, adding some additional lyrics to make the song her own. The explicit lyrics speak of a romantic obsession with another person who treats her poorly, but her feelings are so intense that she’s willing to endure whatever hurt and pain he doles out so long as he loves her. Some believed the song referred to Rihanna’s tempestuous relationship with Chris Brown, though she’s never confirmed it one way or another.

Oh, and, babe, I’m fist-fighting with fire
Just to get close to you
Can we burn something, babe?
And I run for miles just to get a taste
Must be love on the brain
That’s got me feeling this way (feeling this way)
It beats me black and blue but it fucks me so good
And I can’t get enough
Must be love on the brain, yeah
And it keeps cursing my name (cursing my name)
No matter what I do
I’m no good without you
And I can’t get enough
Must be love on the brain

Baby keep loving me
Just love me, yeah
Just love me
All you need to do is love me yeah
Got me like ah-ah-ah-ow
I’m tired of being played like a violin
What do I gotta do to get in your motherfuckin’ heart?