Tuesday, January 5, 2021


I hope you guys got all of the laughs and chuckles out on those lasts two lists. Sometimes it hurts to tear into an artist's song or album but you know what, if you put out a song or project as bad as those, you deserve it. But enough of the bad stuff. Today, we are here to celebrate and honor what I believe to be the 30 best songs released between January 1, 2020, and today. It was tough to try and keep this list to just 30 songs and there were a bunch that I had to cut to keep the list at that number. Nonetheless, we are here now, so without further ado, let's get this train rolling. I want to also say that for songs 30-16, the writeups will be kind of brief, just getting out what I like and what makes the song good. 15-6 will have a little more explanation but maybe just by a few sentences, and 5-1 will be full breakdowns of the songs and why they're so good. 

Also before I start this list, I need to take a second to speak on a huge loss in the music world that happened in the middle of me writing this article and that is the loss of the legendary MF DOOM. Over the past year or so, MF DOOM has gone from someone I had never even heard of to my favorite rapper in the entire hip hop game, and in my opinion, he is the best rapper to ever grace a microphone. I've never heard someone who could flow so well and still pack in so many incredible bars that would make me have to go back and listen again just to make sure I caught it. If you haven't read my classic review of his collaborative album with Madlib entitled Madvillainy, you can check that out here. And if you haven't listened to the album either, I also highly recommend either that or MM...FOOD to listen to whenever you get the time. 

Daniel Dumile, professionally known as MF DOOM, was announced dead by his family on December 31. He was known for his trademark metal mask that he always wore on stage and in public appearances. 

Now let's count down the 30 best songs of 2020.

30. Freddie Gibbs - Something to Rap About (ft. Tyler, the Creator)

This is one of the slower songs off of this album but it leads to Freddie and Tyler having more time to bring some great flows and great bars while letting the beat go through a few different phases. Freddie's verse is, of course, about selling drugs and his life of crime before rap, but he has a humorous take on it, rapping lines like, "Lobster lollipops and crustaceans, ho, what you mad about?" or even funnier his lines about how dealing drugs and crime will fill your pockets big time but with all that money comes having to pay a crazy amount of money in taxes. The beat transitions up a note before Tyler's verse comes in and when his verse does come in, he captures that vibe of the beat behind him perfectly by rapping, "This sounds like the boat I haven't bought yet / This sound like the moment I jump off it
Sun shinin', cold water fillin' in my pockets." Tyler's verse is amazing with a lot of fantastic rhymes and a great flow throughout and these two pair together waaaaay better than I expected. 

29. HAIM - The Steps

This song is straight out of the 70s and I love that about it. It's almost like Come and Get Your Love by Redbone and Sugar, Sugar by The Archies had a baby, and that's not me complaining, I love that mix of sounds. The guitar licks that drive the song are super groovy, one is soaked in chorus and the other is super warm and fuzzy. The drums have that Zeppelin style compression on them that add a lot of nice textures and a little more energy to the song. I also really love the acoustic guitars that pop up throughout the song, And what really sells the song is the sisters' vocal performances on the song that really sell it. I love that line in the chorus where Danielle sings "Every time I think that I've been taking the steps / You end up mad at me for making a mess." It's such a feel-good song and it's always a great song to throw on in the car while the sun is hitting my face. 

28. American Aquarium - The Luckier You Get

In an interview with the Texas Music Scene TV show, singer BJ Barham said that "there's not too many sing-along moments on this record, [The Luckier You Get] is definitely our sing-along moment." He's right, I can't wait to stand in a crowd and sing along to it. It's classic American Aquarium through and through. The chorus on here feels like something out of an Alabama song with these huge harmonies and big snare drums hits all throughout. The lyrics on the song show singer and founding member BJ Barham looking back at his life and his career. Singing in the first verse about how at 13 his dad talked to him about his two ways out of town, either hopping on a Greyhound bus heading to Boot Camp or going to college to get his education. There are a few lines in the second verse that I love where Barham sings about how he'd "rather get to the top steady and slow / then get there too fast with nowhere to go." The band jam to close out the song is really good as well and I can already picture Barham stomping the hell out of the stage as it plays. 

27. GUM - Alphabet Soup

This song is, without a doubt, the best song off of GUM, side project of Tame Impala touring member Jay Watson’s 5th album, Out In The World. It's a psych-rock banger with some of the best drumming I've heard all year. The intro fill on here automatically transports you into his psychedelic world. I also love the little bit of studio banter before it kicks in where Jay asks someone in the studio, "Oh what tempo is this? Oh that's pretty fast innit?" On the lyrical front, it’s pretty lackluster, however, that "Alphabet Soup / I'll forget you" gets stuck in my head quite often. But it's the production and the instrumental that really make up for it. The break where the chorus is supposed to be is filled with horns, synths, some chimes, it all sounds amazing together. It just pulls my body higher and higher above the clouds as it keeps building up. If there's any other complaint that I have, it's just that I wish it was longer. 

26. Childish Gambino - Algorythm

I'm still a little bit salty about this song given how different the studio version is from the version I heard live last October. Specifically, the vocals have a lot more effects on them and are sung in a much lower pitch, and the choir outro/band jam doesn't exist anymore but with that aside, this song is still solid. Gambino's flow through the verses is amazing and he drops a lot of amazing one-liners and zingers throughout both of them. I love the one in the middle of his first verse where he raps, "Where is the motivation? / Constant communication / Everybody wanna get chose like Moses / Came out Mother Earth smelling like roses." The beat on here is spacey and futuristic and it just makes you wanna dance, especially with that chorus, "Everybody, move your body, now do it / Here is something, that's gonna make you move and groove." I'm glad this song got released but I pray for a day when it's released or leaked in its full 7-minute long glory. 

25. Tame Impala - One More Year

When I first reviewed The Slow Rush I was pretty indifferent towards this song and said that I hoped it would grow on me. Now, I think this might be the second-best Tame Impala opener to date (nothing will ever top Let It Happen). There's this gated vocal line that's repeating the title over and over again throughout the song and as time has gone on, Kevin Parker's lyrics have only become more fitting for the times opening the song (and the album) by asking "Do you remember we were standing here a year ago?" He later sings lines about how "If there was trouble in the world, we didn't know it / If we had a care, we didn't show it." Instrumentally, this song has a lot more House influence with some sharp drum breakbeats driving the song. I also have to give Kevin props for writing a song in 14/4 time which is something I would only expect from Tool or King Gizzard at this point but hey, why not Kevin, throw your hat in the ring too. 

24. Royal Blood - Trouble's Coming

Once again, Royal Blood is proving that they are one of the most consistent bands in rock music, this time coming through with a song that sounds like it could've been on the latest Queens of the Stone Age Album Villains. Just a straight forward groove and thick bass. There's also this weird keyboard/synth thing that pops up near the end of each pattern, I can't really put a finger on what instrument it is or what sound it's making. When it comes to lyrics, well, do you know anybody who listens to Royal Blood for their lyrics? Mike Kerr, bassist and singer of this band, even said himself that this was supposed to be a groove-oriented song. But you know what, the groove is great so that's not a complaint. And I know I said the lyrics here didn't matter but I actually really do like the opening line to this song with Kerr singing, "I gave my knuckles a run for their money / Spider web cracks on the mirror / I see someone but not somebody." It's a really safe move for Royal Blood but it still bangs so I can't really complain. 

23. Thundercat - Dragonball Durag

If you've never listened to Thundercat, this is a great entry point into his music. Funky groove, something that'll make you feel good, and some beautiful singing. The lyrics on this song are hilarious with Thundercat trying to get acceptance from this love interest continually asking her, "How do I look in my durag?" There's also this amazing line in the third verse where he says, "I may be covered in cat hair but I still smell good." There's another hilarious few lines near the end of the next verse where he sings "Did you wear that dress just for me? / 'Cause I'm tryna smash / Baby girl, I'ma smash in my durag / 'Cause it's only right." I really love that "Stay with me and love me through the night, endlessly" refrain that pops up a few times throughout the song. There's also some fantastic saxophone solos courtesy of Kamasi Washington who slides into the song so perfectly. There's not a build up or anything just kind of sneaks into the song and makes himself known real quick. There's also a hilarious video directed by Zack Fox that's linked above, please watch it if you want a good laugh. 

22. Twenty One Pilots - Level of Concern (Live from Outside)

If you've known or followed me for any period of time, it should be no surprise that Twenty One Pilots made it onto this list. I do like the studio version of this song but since this got released as a single, this one is making the list. This version feels more lively, there's a little more energy here, and I honestly think that them playing outside just makes the song sound better and more "live." The song is one that singer Tyler Joseph's mom asked him to write when lockdown and pandemic restrictions hit for the fans. So he did that, turning it into a love song about the last time he was unsure about what was going to happen next, when he asked his now-wife Jenna to marry him. Instrumentally, it's a fun little dance number with Joseph playing guitar on a Twenty One Pilots song for the first time. And the themes of nervousness and confusion really reflect in the lyrics with Tyler repeatedly singing a refrain of "I need you to tell me we're alright, tell me we're okay." And honestly, this song would be further down this list if it weren't for the one "would you be my little quarantine?" line that I really wish got cut. Besides that, I am eagerly awaiting the next full album from Tyler and Josh. 

21. Khruangbin - Pelota

This Texas trio has been one of my favorite finds during these extended periods of isolation. Khruangbin is that sort of band that if you put on two headphones and turn it up loud, you'll be on another planet and while this isn't quite the ascension material that I love from them, this one just makes me want to dance. The production here is super airy, kind of psychedelic. It's a song that will either have you on your feet twisting and grooving or laying in bed just floating above the clouds too. The guitar work on here is incredible and licks are incredibly tasty. And the vocal harmony all throughout the song are amazing. Bassist Laura Lee and guitarist Mark Lee sing in different octaves throughout the whole song and it sounds great. Great enough to distract from the lyrics of the song which are sung in Spanish. The chorus roughly translates to Laura singing, "Now I / Now I can be a ball." The song is hypnotizing enough on its own to where I don't have to care about the lyrics. They fit on top of the song smoothly so the meaning of them doesn't really detract from the experience. 

20. Blue October - The Weatherman

Definitely one of the sadder songs on the latest Blue October album, this song is a slow burner that I haven't been able to get over ever since it was released as a single. This is classic Blue October through and through. Justin Furstenfield's writing is top-notch here and his voice is soft but powerful. There's a sort of pain or anxiety there too that really makes this song great. In Furstenfield's words, it's a song about a marriage being taken for granted. The third verse here is the saddest with Furstenfield singing, "I know I just tore you down / And my words will come back around just like that / Just like that honeymoon I promised you, but you never got." The pre-chorus on here also cuts with Furstenfield singing "And the weatherman said / That the storm will clear / That this is our year / Maybe, just maybe, this time he'll be right." But the song ends with a hopeful tone with the lyrics in the post-chorus riffing on the idea that this couple is "right on the edge of a blue sky." It's probably the smoothest song on this album but it also cuts the deepest so if that's your thing, give this a shot. 

19. Deftones - Ohms

WOW! WOW! I did NOT expect Deftones to come back as strong as they did this year. This song is one of their best of the last decade and it just does not let up for the 4 minutes it's here. The guitar on here is super chunky and put through a Harmonizer pedal to make it sound even bigger, almost like something from a Smashing Pumpkins or Queens of the Stone Age song. And probably the most surprising part of this all is, Chino actually comes through with not just a solid performance, but also lyrics that make sense next to each other. It at times feels like a song of protest even though I know it's not, there are more themes about trying to fix something after it too late to have an effect. But those opening lines, "We're surrounded by debris of the past / And it's too late to cause a change in the tides," just capture the essence of the song perfectly. It's such an energizing song and I'm glad that Deftones bounced back the way they did. 

18. Slowthai - Feel Away (feat. James Blake & Mount Kimbre)

I didn't expect a slower song like this to be in Slowthai's wheelhouse but he and James Blake actually pair together really well here. I love the piano chords laced into the beat that make this song sound pretty sweet. There's a bunch of delay on top of them that make them hang around for longer than they should, there's also a little fuzz on them so it sounds a little lo-fi. I would put this song further down if there were real drums on here, rather than the trap drums that honestly feel kind of out of place but I can easily put that critique to the side. And while Slowthai might not have the best singing voice, his chorus on here is pretty sweet and kind of catchy. The James Blake feature on here is just what you would expect from him, his voice is incredible as it usually is and he sounds way better over this beat than I expected him to. I love his background vocals during the final chorus as well. It's just such a feel good song and I didn't really expect Slowthai to have a song like this up his sleeves. 

17. Taylor Swift - exile (ft. Bon Iver)

I'll be honest, I've never been a huge fan of Bon Iver. I think Justin Vernon is extremely talented but I've never been head over heels about the band's output. That's why I was intrigued to see how Vernon and Taylor Swift would pair up on a song but after listening to it many times, I am still shocked at how well it works out. Both Swift and Vernon deliver incredible vocal performances and when their voices collide it's like the sun finally shining after the clouds have been holding it back all day. Both singers also bring it lyrically with Vernon and Swift both singing from the view of ex-lovers seeing each other for the first time since splitting off. Vernon sings about how quickly things ended, singing about how it took the girl 5 minutes to pack her stuff and leave him "holdin' all this love out here in the hall." Swift on the other hand, takes a different approach, pretty much telling the ex "you should've seen this coming." I love that one line Taylor drops in the middle of her verse, "Second, third, and hundred chances / Balancing on breaking branches." This is definitely the best song Taylor has dropped this year and possibly the best she's dropped in the past 5 years. 

16. Dua Lipa - Levitating

I've never been to a disco, I've never been to a club, but I can imagine that this is the sound of being out on the dance floor having the time of your life, dancing your ass off without a care in the world. It might be my favorite pop song of the year and it honestly does hurt me to have it this low. It's such a complete package when it comes to what makes a great pop song. Instrumentally, it almost feels like something Daft Punk could've dropped on Discovery or Random Access Memories. There's these super sharp and sweet synth chords that pop in and out of the pre-chorus and chorus that really add that disco effect. There's also some super slick guitar leads, snappy drums, and the huge "YEAH YEAH YEAH YEAH YEAH" chant in the chorus is so fun to sing along to. I also love how the instrumental kind of pulls back in the bridge before dropping out to just Dua and all of the harmonies before the chorus comes roaring back in one final time. It's such a danceable song and I cannot wait to eventually hear it live. 

15. Hayley Williams - Cinnamon

It's songs like this that make you realize that Hayley Williams needed a solo outlet to get some of these songs out because this would never work out as a Paramore song. It starts off pretty bare, just some drums while Hayley is vocally riffing. There's also this weird synth swell before the verse starts. Through the song, Hayley sings about isolation and being comfortable alone in her home. Singing about how she talks to her dog and eats her breakfast "in the nude." I also love the phrase that repeats a few times throughout the song where Hayley sings, "I'm not lonely, I am free." When the instrumental finally kicks into full swing, the song goes from good to great. Funky bassline, this cool guitar lick, and the drums on this song are just fat and groovy. There's a little bridge after the second chorus where the instrumental transforms into something slower, a little moodier, almost like something off of Radiohead's In Rainbows. There's a drum fill soaked in phaser before the song transitions to its final leg which is magical. Just the band jamming away while Hayley riffs a little more. It's such a fantastically produced song and it's so off the wall. I never expected to get a song like this from Hayley but it's moments like this that make me so happy that 

14. The Weeknd - After Hours

The title track from this smash-hit album has slowly become my favorite song on this album and might honestly be my favorite song that Abel has ever released. The song starts with these soft synth chords and a guitar sample that makes it sort of haunting, it creates a dark vibe around the song. It almost calls back to his Trilogy, the same creepy atmosphere is present throughout the whole song. About 25 seconds in, the guitar sample gets transposed up one octave and there are these huge hits of bass that almost sound like a bomb going off over the song. The first verse lyrically is Abel pining over a failed relationship and shows a lot of desire about wanting her back singing about how without this girl he can't sleep and how he wants her next to him, promising not to leave next time. I love how when the song starts building up to the beat drop, there's a little bit of pushback, telling the listener, "just wait a few more seconds, it'll even better." And it is a fantastic release when it does drop. The second verse shows Abel as an open book admitting his mistakes and admitting that he turned into a man that he used to be and isn't proud of it. The chorus is sad but sweet, with Abel singing, "Oh baby / Where are you now when I need you most." I love how the song pulls back again for the bridge, just about everything drops out except for Abel's voice which is pained and regretful. I'm happy that this song actually fills out all 6 minutes of runtime and I get more out of it each time I come back to it. 

13. Billie Eilish - Therefore I Am

After a period of being a little indifferent towards Billie Eilish's new music, I'm glad this song came through and reminded me how good she is. Of course, I could complain and say it sounds like a When We All Fall Asleep... B Side but this style always suits her well and her performance and energy on the song really reflect that as well. The production here shows FINNEAS and Billie continuing to push themselves musically rather than just trying to coast on the fumes of their success. The beat is bass heavy with some nice string and synth embellishments but there’s also a lot of stuff buried in the mix that you won’t notice unless it’s turned up extremely loud or you have good speakers/headphones. Billie’s harmonies on the song are fantastic as well and the fact that she does all of them live rather than just pitch shifting them makes the song a lot more admirable. The song lyrically is about people who are trying to say they were close to Billie or claim that they were there before Billie became the superstar we know today and she doesn’t enjoy it one bit. Her vocals reflect that because she sings with anger and bitterness, especially on those “Get my pretty name out of your mouth / We are not the same with or without” lines. I really dig the chorus on this song, especially the title tie in where she sings, “You think that you’re the man / I think therefore I am.” I also love how seemlessly the song transitions from verse to chorus mainly thanks to how Billie will start a line at the end of a verse then finish it at the beginning of the chorus. It’s the same lines both times with Billie singing, “Did you have fun? / I really couldn’t care less and you can give them my best but just know...” then the chorus will drop in again. It's such a great arrangement and pacing and I hope that Billie and Finneas continue on this hot streak they're on and I hope this album comes out sooner rather than later. 

12. Tyler Childers - Long Violent History

Tyler Childers continues to be one of the most exciting artists in modern country music and it's good to see that real country music is still out kicking. His passionate, gravelly voice adds a lot of character to all of his songs and his writing style is sometimes sweet, but other times it’s haunting and dramatic, like this song, a song of protest. The song is just about as raw instrumentally as possible, just some fiddle, acoustic guitar, and banjos back Tyler’s voice, but that just adds to the experience. Knowing Tyler’s fan base, a lot of his fans probably won’t enjoy the lyrical content of this song, but he acknowledges that, saying that he understands that he’s a Kentucky redneck, and that he might be ignorant on the matter, but that part of his identity has never made him fear for his life. He then asks the listeners “Could you imagine just constantly worryin' / Kickin' and fightin', beggin' to breathe?” Tyler actually brings a lot of thought provoking and smart lyrics in this song, from the jump, the opening line “It’s the worst that it’s been since the last time it’s happened.” I also really love the second verse where Tyler sings, “Been passed off as factual, when actually the actual / Causes they're awkwardly blocking the way.” But the best part of this song is one of the final verses where Tyler sings, “How many boys could they haul off this mountain / Shoot full of holes, cuffed and layin' in the streets / ‘Til we come into town in a stark ravin' anger / Looking for answers and armed to the teeth?” It’s a really interesting and smart way to write a protest song. I think I’ll end this write-up with a bold claim, this is the most important song Tyler Childers has written to date.

11. The 1975 - If You're Too Shy (Let Me Know)

I always enjoy going into The 1975's songs and albums with no clue what to expect but one of these days, they need to just make a straight 80s rock/pop album because every time they play around with this sound, it's incredible. The song has an almost psychedelic intro with what sounds like violin strings being plucked, there’s also some guitar in the distance while FKA Twigs hits some beautiful high notes. Then there’s a guitar lick soaked in echo and reverb before some drums and a saxophone bring us into the song. One of my favorite qualities of this song is that Matty Healy’s vocals aren’t annoying or hard to listen to, he actually brings a pretty solid performance. Throughout the first verse, it’s sort of unassuming, just Healy singing with some harmonies but when the chorus drops in, it’s beautiful. There’s a fantastic horn section, booming drums with a new wave flair to them, there’s also these little bell chimes that accent the horns, and it’s sooo catchy. That “Maybe I would like you better if you took off your clothes” hook is one of the best things to turn up on this album. There’s also this huge saxophone solo about 4 minutes in that takes the song up to another level. I didn’t expect a sax solo to ever fit so well in a 1975 song but you know what, 2020 is crazy so why not. The song slows down for a few seconds after the solo for Healy to sing the hook again before everything comes running back again. This song, in my opinion, will never get old and if I were to have done this list a few weeks later, this song might be even higher. I hope that one day Healy realizes that all he had to do to make me a huge fan is write an album of songs full of songs like this. 

10. Denzel Curry x Kenny Beats - DIET_

Without a doubt the hardest song from the 8 track EP from one of my favorite rappers Denzel Curry and one of the newest hot producers in the hip hop world right now Kenny Beats. I wish I could nail a single vibe that this song follows but it's hard to. There are tribal drums mixed with super loud 808s and different vocal samples popping in and out, the beat on here is honestly nuts. This whole song is one of Denzel’s best performances is a little while dropping clever bar after clever bar. In the first verse alone, there are so many great one-liners. Whether it’s the line where he says, “I don’t cry / Matter of fact I don’t lie like a bedside,” or that one line where he raps, “I get new jersey’s like I was a guido.” I also love the self-awareness before the chorus where he raps, “This next bar was bout to do some Logic sh*t / But now I gotta stop the sh*t and let me pop my sh*t.” The chorus is Denzel channeling his inner DMX, almost screaming the whole first half of it, but what really sells the chorus for me is the second half of it where he raps, “The shogun, came through with no gun / One man, Ichiban, fresh outta Japan, do as I command.” The second verse has a few more great one-liners but it’s really the sampling that makes the second verse great, with one line going “I am the master, came through like a...” then Denzel takes a breath while a sample pops in and says, “wait a minute” before Denzel finishes the line. Also that “If the game was a tooth, I’m a f*cking pair of pliers” line is amazing. I hope the two come together more often. It’s songs like this that beg the question, why didn’t this collab come together even sooner? 

9. IDLES - Grounds

When you click on an IDLES song and hear it being more mid-tempo, strap in because it's going to be a banger. I would say that this song is politically charged but come on, it's IDLES. As long as Joe Talbot is fronting the band, they'll always have that attitude. While a lot of IDLES more politically charged songs usually hide their views in funny or clear ways, there is nothing funny about the way they’re presented here, Talbot wants to get his point across and doesn’t want the message to get lost in translation. The song starts out with an interesting pitch shifted guitar delay thingy, there’s a breakdown of it in this video here. After 3-4 cycles of that there’s these huge drums and blaring guitars that come in and after that. The song is off to the races. I also really love the breakdown near the end of the song where the song turns into a cacophony of guitars and just, noise. Talbot’s voice is just what you would expect, he’s loud, he’s pissed off, and you can hear his face turning red as he sings. I love the short and sweet chorus here, the lines “Do you hear that thunder? / That’s the sound of strength in numbers.” Such a strong line in such a short amount of time. The second verse sees Joe talking about the bands homeland of England but not in a positive way, singing “Fee fee fie fie fo fo fum / I smell the blood of a million sons / A million daughters from a hundred thousand guns / Not taught by our teachers on our curriculum.” I also love the verses the song ends on with Joe taking a strong stance against Social Justice Warriors and people who cry for change but don’t work for it saying that “not a single thing has ever been mended by you standing there and saying you’re offended” and later singing, “There’s nothing brave and nothing useful / You scrawling your aggro sh*t on the walls of the cubicle.” If anything, this song is a good reminder that punk is definitely not dead.

8. Phoebe Bridgers - Kyoto

When I first listened to Punisher, I wasn't too crazy about it, but this song really stood out to me. I think this song aligned with my tastes the most so I kept coming back to it. Then I looked into the lyrics which, I've seen a lot of memes about Phoebe Bridgers' music being easier and cheaper than therapy, and this song all but confirms that that is true because it cuts deep. And that's another thing I love about this song because this is the happiest production and instrumental on this album. It's a great piece of indie rock with these sweet horns and some great guitars, meanwhile, Phoebe's lyrics are sticking a knife into my chest and twisting it around. In the song, Phoebe is singing about her first trip to Japan, having a day off of the road in Kyoto. She sings about just walking around a Japanese 7-Eleven and being surprised that they still have payphones. And besides just singing about Japan, she also sings about her Dad who she isn't holding in a positive light, spending most of her time calling him out on his crap. Especially the chorus which kicks off with Phoebe singing, "I'm gonna kill you / If you don't beat me to it." There are also some lines where Phoebe sings about her relationship with her brother singing, "I've been driving out to the suburbs / To park at the Goodwill / And stare at the chemtrails / With my little brother / He said you called on his birthday / You were off by like ten days / But you get a few points for tryin'." I also like the little twist at the end where Phoebe sings about being a liar because it shows that she doesn't hate her dad but it also shows that she still doesn't love him. If you enjoy happy but sad songs, give this a shot, you won't regret it. 

7. Fiona Apple - Shamieka

Similar to Kyoto, Fetch The Bolt Cutters was an album that took a while to warm up to me but again, this song was a major standout, and as I've listened to more of Fiona's music and the more I enjoy Fetch The Bolt Cutters, there's not a doubt in my mind that this is one of the best songs she's ever laid to tape. This has to be the best piano-rock/baroque pop song of the year. Fiona's piano playing is on fire, the production is wild, and Fiona's voice has aged like fine wine. There's a bunch of weird sounds that fly around in the background that only show up once or twice. Like the sound of a plate that dropped but didn't break so it's just spinning around until it loses speed. Or the sound of a gong at one point. She even samples her dogs barking at the end of the song, really putting her home recording technique in full display. In typical Fiona fashion, the lyrics are super poetic and sung with a lot of character and charisma. The song is about an encounter with a "big girl" Fiona had while growing up. She talks about how at school, she had problems with bullies and she wasn't always in the best mood, singing in the second verse "I didn't smile, because a smile always seemed rehearsed / I wasn't afraid of the bullies, and that just made the bullies worse." She also has trouble making and keeping friends but this girl, Shameika, talked to her, telling her she sees potential in her. This moment has stuck with her for this long, but she recalls that she didn't know what potential meant at the time and that Shameika wasn't even her friend but says, "She got through to me and I'll never see her again." It's the closest thing this album has to a rager and if you want to check out any song from this album, let it be this one. 

6. Gorillaz - Momentary Bliss (ft. Slowthai & Slaves)

I still remember the day I found out that this was dropping and being super hype for it because not only were we getting new Gorillaz music, but Slowthai on a Gorillaz song was something I wasn't interested to hear. And I just want to tell you guys, this song absolutely slaps. I know it starts off slow and kind of vibey but let the song keep going. Once Slowthai starts rapping, the gloves are off and it's a wild ride. I love the punk energy on the song and how great the chemistry is between Slowthai, Slaves, and Gorillaz. They all bounce off each other super well, better than I expected. As I said before, the intro is polar opposite from the rest of the song, starting with a little guitar riff, some sweet singing from Isaac Holman of Slaves. There's a little transition where all of the synths swell up, almost like the song is building up to liftoff, then there's what sounds like a synth bass line before Slowthai drops in with some happy and uplifting bars. Singing about how compliments make him blush and singing yelling in the chorus "IT MAKES ME SICK TO THINK YOU AIN'T HAPPY IN YOUR SKIN." Another thing that I love about this song is how much 2D sounds like 2D, rather than Damon Albarn singing and saying it's 2D. He sounds much more animated and much more in character. It's a nice and very welcome surprise as I've felt that character in his voice was lacking for just about all of Humanz and parts of The Now Now as well. I also love the guitar work on this song especially in the pre-chorus where they have tremolo or some effect like that on it so as soon as a chord is hit it disappears. There's a lot of Ska and British rock flavor coming out of it that I really dig. If the Song Machine Live shows were any indication, this song is gonna burn arenas and festival stages down when it gets played live.     

5. The Strokes - The Adults are Talking

Possibly my favorite opening song of 2020, this song really makes me wonder where the hell The Strokes went for all of the 2010s. They really had this kicking around but decided to drop Comedown Machine instead? Come on. This song is one of the most off-the-wall Strokes songs since the release of Angles which is almost 10 years at this point. And there are so many good aspects to it as well to the point where I don't even know where to start talking about it. I think I'll start at probably my favorite part of the song and that is Julian Casablancas's vocal performance here because nobody told me he had this range. Usually, when you turn on a Strokes song, Julian's voice is muffled or distorted to the point where his voice is pretty much just another instrument in the song but here it's front and center, he's singing in a pretty soft tone until after the 3-minute mark where he starts pulling out these insane falsettos that I didn't know he was capable of pulling off. I also like his writing on this song quite a bit even though it's never been the high point of The Strokes music. I like the tongue in cheek look back at the bands beginning, singing "
They've been sayin' you're sophisticated / They're complainin', overeducated." There's also a lot of political undertones in the song especially in the second verse where Julian sings "No more askin', questions, or excuses / The information's here / Here and everywhere." Pretty much saying that in the digital age, no one can really get away with anything, especially those with positions in power. I also have to talk about the guitar playing on this song because it is amazing. If you ever have the chance to listen to this song in a stereo setting or with both headphones on, do it because there's nothing more enjoyable than the guitars panning from channel to channel while they solo. The first solo here is Albert Hammond Jr. and Nick Valensi going lower and lower on the fretboard to the point where the solo reaches a climax. The second is a weird, fuzzy, octaved solo that ends the song well. It's hard to explain the tone of it through words. But wow, I don't know what fire got lit under The Strokes ass but I hope it keeps burning.

4. Run The Jewels - walking in the snow (ft. Gangsta Boo)

If there's one song you need to listen to off of RTJ4, let it be this one. I want to say from the jump that Killer Mike's verse on this song might be the best rap verse of the year. You can hear the pain and the anger in his voice as he just drops bar after bar. But before I go into what makes his verse great, I don't want to discredit El-P's verse because it's just as good. He raps about oppression and indirectly raps about ICE rounding up illegal immigrants and American citizens just letting it happen. I love the line where he says, "
The newest lowest on the totem, well golly gee, you have been used / You helped to fuel the death machine that down the line will kill you too." There's also his lines right before this about being caged up where he raps, "Funny fact about a cage, they're never built for just one group / So when that cage is done with them and you still poor, it come for you." There's another powerful line after these where he says, "Pseudo-Christians, y'all indifferent, kids in prisons ain't a sin? Sh*t / If even one scrap of what Jesus taught connected, you'd feel different." And while his verse is super serious and heavy, he ends it on a lighter note rapping, "I'd say y'all lost your god damn minds if you possessed one to begin with." Then, enter Killer Mike. If you know anything about him, you know he's never afraid to speak his mind and stand up for what he believes in, so when the verse starts, it's not really too shocking. Mike starts off his verse by rapping about our educational system in America, saying, "They promise education, but really they give you tests and scores / And they predictin' prison population by who scoring the lowest / And usually the lowest scores the poorest and they look like me." But it's right after these lines where the shock factor comes in. Before you read these lyrics, bear in mind that this song was recorded in November 2019. Mike raps, 

And you so numb, you watch the cops choke out a man like me
Until my voice goes from a shriek to whisper, "I can't breathe"
And you sit there in the house on couch and watch it on TV
The most you give's a Twitter rant and call it a tragedy
But truly the travesty, you've been robbed of your empathy

It feels like he ran into the booth the second George Floyd was killed but like I mentioned, it was recorded in November 2019 and he was referencing Eric Garner But his verse doesn't even end there, he keeps going rapping about how he said something on behalf of his people and popped up on Wikileaks or his amazing closing line where he raps, "All of us serve the same masters, all of us nothing but slaves / Never forget in the story of Jesus the hero was killed by the state." This is the lyrical peak of this album and I really don't think Mike and El will ever write a song as timely as this again. 

3. The Killers - My Own Soul's Warning

I had a tough time choosing between this song and Dying Breed as which Killers song I wanted to include on this list but I had to go with this one. Production-wise, performance-wise, and lyrically, this song is one of the best songs the band has dropped post Sam's Town which is a bold statement considering it opens the album. Sort of like with The Adults Are Talking, I don't know where I need to start talking about this song because there are so many good aspects to it. I guess I can start with Brandon Flowers in general because I love the man so much. I can say without a doubt that he is the best frontman in modern rock music. His vocals are always super passionate and whenever he writes a great song or writes something poetic, it's amazing. This song is a case of that. It's about an inner struggle, trying to go with his gut even though his soul is telling him no. The first verse alone is some of his best writing in a long time with Flowers singing: 

If you could see through the banner of the sun
Into eternity's eyes, like a vision reaching down to you
Would you turn away?
What if it knew you by your name? 
What kind of words would cut through the clutter of the whirlwind of these days?

The chorus is super dramatic too and you can hear Flowers pushing his voice to its limit while he sings. The production on here is huge and arena-sized. I love how the guitar lick and strings collide on the intro, there's also an acoustic guitar strumming away in the back that adds a little bit more texture. With the verses, everything drops out except for the drums and bass. There's a little synth swell before the pre-chorus kicks in too. The chorus brings in the strings again with some distorted guitar chords before it goes back to the same pattern in the intro except with some glockenspiel accenting the strings and guitar as well. There's also a cool guitar solo at the end of the song too. There's so much great imagery from the song too and I can picture so many music videos or scenes in my head when I listen to it. Whether it's horses running through a field or burning up asphalt driving into the sunset. It's such an incredible song and dare I say, it might be the best song they've released in the past 5 years.  

2. Mac Miller - Blue World

It really hurts to realize that Mac is gone because songs like this would've been incredible to hear live. The vibe of this song, the way the beat kicks in, the beat in general. There's not a single bad aspect of this song, maybe just the fact that it ends so abruptly but that's not even something to complain about. I think from the jump, I want to say that this is the best beat in all of rap and hip hop in 2020. The production is handled by Guy Lawrence, 1/2 of the amazing EDM duo Disclosure. There's this really great chopped up vocal sample that drives the song with some heavy sub-bass and some sharp percussion as well. Instrumental and production alone, this song is fantastic and it would easily fit onto any Disclosure album, but Mac comes through with a certain swagger and delivery on this song that makes it uniquely his. Listening to this song, you can hear the smile on his face while he's rapping, there's just so much positive energy on the song that it's hard not to also have a smile on your face while you listen to it. The song starts off with this really cool sample from The Four Freshmen, pretty much just setting the stage for the song. There's an effect that makes it sound like the sample gets sucked away before the beat hits. Mac slides into the song so well, wasting no time starting the chorus, I love the one line where he raps, "I ain't politickin' / I ain't kissin' no babies." The song is full of a lot of great one-liners, like right at the beginning of the first verse where Mac says that he's "cool as fall weather." He also reaches out to the listener in a cool, sort of "breaking the fourth wall" moment when he raps, "F*ck your bullsh*t I'm here to make it all better with a little music for you." I love the bass that builds up behind him in the verses, it's a nice little touch. There's a cool break right after the first verse where the beat transitions into some claps, some bells, and Mac singing a bunch of harmonies. The second verse shows Mac dropping a few more great bars rapping at the end of the verse, 

No, I ain't God, but I'm feelin' just like Him, ooh, don't trip
See, I was in the whip, ridin', me and my b*tch
We was listenin' to us, no one else, that's it
That's a flex, just a bit, let me talk my sh*t
Say my head got big, yeah

It's so great to see Mac in such a fun and positive headspace even though we all know how the Mac Miller story unfortunately ended. The outro to this song is pure bliss with Mac sort of riffing over the chopped up vocals even though they're more sporadic, they're almost getting played like a keyboard. I can't imagine there's anyone who doesn't like this song. Anyone who doesn't like this song probably also doesn't like smiling or sunny days. And as I said earlier, I'm so glad that we got to hear Mac in a positive headspace even though his loss is still relatively fresh in every rap/hip hop fan's mind. 

1. Chris Stapleton - Watch You Burn 

If you have yet to listen to Chris Stapleton, let this be your queue to do so. It's songs and performances like this that make him stand out in a country scene filled with people just trying to get the next big hit or just trying to be relevant. Stapleton takes an opposite approach, he doesn't care about the fame or recognition, he just wants to write the best songs possible and craft the best albums possible. For someone at his level of fame, his pen game is still unmatched. His lyrics are always full of honesty and very relatable and his voice is just huge and thunderous and hits me in all of the sweet spots. His new album, Starting Over, was one of my most anticipated albums of this year and it lived up to all of the hype (more on that soon.) There was one major standout track though through my first listen and it was this song. It's a beautifully haunting song condemning mass shootings and acts of terror in our country, focusing mainly on the Las Vegas shooting a few years ago. But it's not just a song saying "we need to stop the violence" and "we need to be better." No, Stapleton takes another stance instead calling the shooter a "coward" and singing in the chorus that he can't wait to watch him burn in hell. The first verse features those coward lines and also touches on the fact that Las Vegas didn't get scared and the citizens kept living their life, showing that the shooter had no effect on the cities lifestyle. The second verse is the one that continually gives me chills because of how blunt it is with Stapleton singing at the end: 

"If I could snap my fingers, if I could flip a switch
I'd make that last bullet first, you son of a bitch"

I also don't know how long I can go without talking about the instrumental and the production here because it's just as fiery as the lyrics on the song. There's this loud, driving guitar riff courtesy of Mike Campbell from Tom Petty's band The Heartbreakers and it fits the vibe of the song perfectly. It's creepy, sort of sinister, I love it. There's also an instrumental break before the bridge where there's a sample of the crowd running from the shooter and the chaos of it makes the song even creepier. There's also a choir that turns up for the last chorus and the outro that just keep harmonizing higher and higher and to be honest, I don't want the song to end, I just want them to keep harmonizing for 30 more minutes because of how great it is. Stapleton also sings another verse before the final chorus with a more cautionary stance asking those "evil ones" to take a step back and think about their actions for a second before they "mail out [their] bombs or pull a trigger in a synagogue." This song still gives me chills every time I listen to it and I'm not sure if that's because of the subject matter or just because of how well it's performed and produced. And there is no doubt in my mind that it is the best song of 2020. 

If you want to listen to all of these songs, here is a Spotify playlist for you guys:

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