The 50 Best Songs of 2020

20. Phoebe Bridgers “Kyoto”

2020 • FOLK/ALTERNATIVE • DEAD OCEANS

Within Punisher, Phoebe delivers several sentimental and emotional songs, however, it is in “Kyoto” that she delivers a true hit. With the help of a lo-fi guitar, she begins her trip to the Japanese city almost If she was a teenager. “Day off in Kyoto/Got bored at the temple,” she sings. However, even though the song seems to be intended for an ex-lover, the track is actually for Bridgers’ father ― but that doesn’t mean it can’t work for the first case. She sings, “To park at the Goodwill/And stare at the chem trails/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’” ― one dad can call her brother, but also, a boyfriend gets attached to the family. As the track progresses, it funnels the context and a synthesizer appears playing like a cute, silly wind instrument and everything became even more fun, catchy and impressive. She makes us want to go to Kyoto. ―Leonardo Frederico


19. Taylor Swift“the last great american dynasty”

2020 • POP/ALTERNATIVE • REPUBLIC

Taylor Swift has always been a great songwriter. In folklore, however, she expands her literary efforts outside her comfort zone, telling, narrating and creating stories in her head about real and fictional characters. One of the highlights of this adventure ended up being “the last great american dynasty,” in which Swift narrates the life of Rebekah Harkness, an American songwriter and socialite considered rebellious by the social standards of her time. Beside a piano and complex-organic sample, Swift faithfully narrates this story that seems to be an extremely detailed movie’s summary. Death (“It must have been her fault his heart gave out”), luxury (“Filled the pool with champagne and swam with the big names”) and freedom (“There goes the most shameless woman this town has ever seen”) take on new meanings in the song. In the end, Swift relates to her and asks, “Who knows, if I never showed up, what could’ve been.” It hurts to even think about that possibility. ―Leonardo Frederico


18. The Weeknd “Blinding Lights”

2020 • POP/R&B • XO/REPUBLIC

“Blinding Lights” is not the best song in After Hours or one of the best songs simply because of its success, but because it sounds like a catalyst for another universe. Working around influences from the 1980’s ― bright synthesizers sounds like a remixed alternative-old video game soundtrack ―, “Blinding Lights,” in its first seconds, looks like a spaceship: it takes off and drags you into a stylized universe based on a retro past. When we get there, it’s a well-built universe that, although Abel doesn’t describe anything about him, his synthesizers deliver everything so that our brain emulates a complete image. While memorable samples appear and after he screams on the hook (“Hey, hey, hey”), he sings, “I said, ooh, I’m blinded by the lights/No, I can’t sleep until I feel your touch.” After getting to know this nostalgic and retro world, you won’t want to leave. ―Leonardo Frederico


17. Fiona Apple “I Want You To Love Me”

2020 • ROCK • EPIC

One of the first things you remember when you hear the Fetch the Bolt Cutters’s opener is the robot that puffs smoke over his head and makes rhythmic noises in the Woody Woodpecker cartoon. A comparison that I thought I would never see in a song, however, when we talk about Fiona Apple, we can’t expect anything else.

Despite being released in 2013, the album’s first track, “I Want You to Love Me,” is something unique and the best track on the entire album to start it off. With noises of tacky robots made by electronic keyboards, strikes on cymbals and stripped pianos, the track talks about the Apple path that she has traveled so far. She sings, “Next year, it’ll be clear/This was only leading me to that.” However, quickly, love invades the track with Fiona wishing her lover to love her back. “By that time, I hope that/You love me,” she sings while holding a note for almost 10 seconds. An incredible, relaxed track, free of any strings attached, but still, incredibly captivating and passionate. ―Leonardo Frederico


16. The 1975 “People”

2020 • ROCK/ALTERNATIVE • DIRTY HITS/INTERSCOPE

Right after Greta Thunberg spoke, “So, everyone out there, it is now time for civil disobedience/It is time to rebel,” in the intro of Notes on a Conditional Form, “People” appears as the faithful representation of that internal desire that we all have. As soon as Greta finishes, there are strong drums, violent guitars and Matty Healy screaming at the top of his lungs, “Wake up, wake up, wake up/It’s Monday morning and we’ve only got a thousand of them left.” This is the most incredible and well calculated transition of the year.

However, that is not all that keeps “People” standing and in the middle of one of the best of the year. In general, the track has an impeccable production and excellent vocal delivery from Healy that scream the lyrics, which is very well written and talks about the current problems, such as conservatism and monetary crisis. In addition to all this, the track is still captivating, energetic and very memorable ― a unique piece on The 1975’s discography. ―Leonardo Frederico


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

2020 • POP • BECAUSE MUSIC

The opener of Christine and the Queens’ newest EP, “People, I’ve been sad,” can be considered one of the best songs she has released to date. This is not only due to the very clever, well-dosed and well executed mix that she does by uniting French and English, but also because the lyrics that are very well written and structured and the instrumental, which is something almost out of the ordinary. While she mixes several synthesizers ― beats in the background, her voice remixed through the air and generic samples come together to create this complex sound ―, she sings a lyrics full of striking phrases, “It’s true that people, I’ve been sad/It’s true that people, I’ve been gone/It’s true that people, I’ve been missing out.” In other words, complete and complex but organic and spontaneous hit. ―Leonardo Frederico


14. Yves Tumor “Kerosene!” (feat. Diana Gordon)

2020 • ROCK/EXPERIMENTAL • WARP

In “Kerosene!,” Yves Tumor joins Diana Gordon to compose a kind of daring sound experiment where the essence of everything is love. The bigger question is, if Tumor already manages to make simple things complex and totally interesting, what will he do with love? Something that no one can describe due to its natural complexity. Well, “Kerosene!” it is a good proposal to represent what that feeling is. On the track, Tumor and Gordon play with classical guitars, fantasy strings and psychedelic synthesizers. With a great division of lines, they create a vocal harmony where the duet flows easily and you witness everything with a certain curiosity. He sings, “Tell me what you need,” and she adds, “I can be your baby in real life, sugar.” You will probably want to have your own kerosene after that. ―Leonardo Frederico


13. Sufjan Stevens “America”

2020 • FOLK/ELECTRONIC • ASTHMATIC KITTY

Although for many Sufjan Stevens’ new album, The Ascension, was somehow a disappointment, the final track and lead single of the album is one of the best songs Steven has ever produced and composed. The track, which was written about six years ago, comes from a rage that Stevens had been harboring for years. He wrote on his Tumblr shortly after the Trump administration began, when the president began to lean on racist and xenophobic speeches, “Christ would be ashamed of us all.” If at that time Stevens was already losing his hope in America, now, with the whole situation much worse, his hope seems to disappear entirely. “America,” despite being six years old, fits perfectly into the current context, faithfully representing all of Sufjan’s hopelessness in the country.

It can be said that “America” is much more than a song. It can be said that “America” is a complete experience. The track is over 12 minutes long, which is completely filled with a deep sound and metaphorical lyrics that demands too much from the listener. In other words, it’s a smart track, but it makes it worth the hard work of listening to it, experiencing it and understanding it when you finally get what it is talking about ― unfortunately, it’s worth remembering that it’s not an easy song and a song for everyone.

One of the most impressive things about the track is how Sufjan works with all his social criticisms around religious themes. At the beginning of the song, he asks himself, “A sign of the flood or one more disaster,” referring to Noah’s biblical passage. In the chorus, there is a prayer from him to God, with him pleading, “Don’t do to me what you did to America.” Without a doubt, the song lyric is a classic literary piece. However, all the sound of the track is excellent too, being responsible for dragging you to all the universe that the music creates. In the beginning, there is an extremely complex atmosphere: keyboards play bright and dreamy pianos while synthesizers create deep beats and strengthen a synthetic background that gives a “bigger than life” feel, however, nothing sounds exaggerated, but rather magical and mystical. The track evolves slowly and, at the end, something more hopeful appears: everything becomes clearer and calmer. Chaos is gone. At least that’s what Sufjan wants us to understand. ―Leonardo Frederico


12. Mac Miller “Good News”

2020 • POP/RAP • WARNER

Mac Miller’s Circles lead single, “Good News,” is one of the most painful and sad songs Miller has ever released ― or rather, one of the saddest songs of the year. In front of a guitar that rarely varies its few stylized chords, Miller gains prominence by singing a sentimental lyrics with his unmistakable voice. He begins, “I spent the whole day in my head/Do a little spring cleanin’/I’m always too busy dreamin’.” However, over time, the track seems to stop being just one of those tracks where the singer talks about the fact that the world always tries to put him down ― “Good news, good news, good news/That’s all they wanna hear/No, they don’t like it when I’m down,” he sings in the chorus ―, and it starts to sound like a farewell. “Well, maybe I’ll lay down for a little, yeah/Instead of always tryin’ to figure everything out,” he sings in a moment. As he draws these well-written poetic lines that make anyone who hears them sad, the instrumental becomes his best friend, understanding the need for his words to be heard and remain imperceptible. It is one of the tracks that you will cry at least once in your life as in the others, you will get the best of yourself so as not to drop a single tear. ―Leonardo Frederico


11. Moses Sumney “Cut Me”

2020 • ROCK/ALTERNATIVE • JAGJAGUWAR

On the second track of his second album, Moses Sumney plays the most poetic lyrics of the entire album. Beside harps, high-pitched pianos, falsettos, basses and opaque drums, he sings, “Masochistic kisses are how I thrive.” That’s basically what the song is about: the need to get hurt in order to thrive in life. Unlike the other tracks that sometimes have more complex lyrics that make you struggle to get to the essence, “Cut Me” is more direct, but delivers vital and vivid scenes of violence. “A stiffness inside my neck, and/Bangin’ my head against the desk,” he sings and then asks, “If there’s no pain, is there any progress?” In addition, it is worth remembering how entertaining the track is despite its theme: without doubts the music has a great progression with the help of a horn, more sparkling strings in contrasts to vocal layers. Still, we’re not able to answer Sumney’s most complex questions. ―Leonardo Frederico


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