Best Music, 2020

Publications’ year-end rankings are supposed to carry authority and personality. They should argue passionately for a specific picture of the year in music. But what actually tends to happen is some sort of muted compromise around event releases and genre tokenism. In the last few years, this truth has shown itself even more as people’s listening habits (especially w.r.t. rap) have gotten more regional and scene-based and, instead of that, you end up seeing like Denzel Curry and the nth RTJ record on every damn list.

2020 presented a new distortion. This was a year you could have made it through without even passively hearing the “biggest” songs due to the coronavirus. Pop music was not pervasive in the way it typically is.

Specifically, there wasn’t a social dimension to it. No parties, very few shared moments. We saw a (don’t come at me) fine song in “WAP” topping NPR and Pitchfork and Rolling Stone’s lists because it was one of 2020’s few genuinely communal experiences of a pop song.

In 2020, music writers’ tastes had even less in common than they typically do. You’d think this would lead to some wild picks — and there were some, like SAULT at the top of NPR’s album list — but it generally translated to thin consensus, a.k.a. blandness. The personal lists I’ve seen have been far more interesting and show real passion and personality. So here are mine.

What fascinated me most was the rise of “hyperpop,” the Spotify-christened online music communities that are progressing 2010s internet rap styles into brighter, glitchier territory. So far, it seems the outsider narrative around this has been more about the packaging and spectacle (“These kids are making music from their bedrooms,” “pop for zoomers,” etc.) than the actual art, which is a shame because osquinn, ericdoa, oaf1 and others in the scene made some of the best music of the year. (People are also surprisingly quick to describe this stuff as memey or ironic. Some of it is, yes, but this mostly gives me flashbacks to when early critics were similarly misguided about Lil Peep/GothBoiClique.)

It was also a good year for MA rap. Dropping a piece about that later this week.

Anyway, Year 1 of the Deluxe Era:

Best Songs 2020

50. Playboi Carti – “@ MEH”

49. Bekah CC – “No Change”

48. Saint Lyor – “Finsta”

47. Tony Shhnow & 10KDunkin – “On Me”

46. Sir E.U – “So Proud To Get To Know Ya”

45. BIA feat. Lil Durk – “Same Hands”

44. Mac Miller – “I Can See”

43. DJ Lucas – “I Still Dream”

42. Cash Kidd feat. Icewear Vezzo, Sterl Gotti, Lavier & Rio Da Yung OG – “See You”

41. Jay Electronica & Jay-Z – “The Neverending Story”

40. Chief Keef – “Shawty Say She Love Me”

39. Boldy James feat. Evidence – “Grey October”

38. Nick Hakim – “Qadir”

37. glaive – “pissed”

36. Steve Arrington – “The Joys Of Love”

35. Bktherula – “Summer”

34. 42 Dugg feat. Babyface Ray – “One of One”

33. oaf1 – “someone else”

32. Brent Faiyaz – “Been Away”

31. kurtains feat. glaive, wido, ericdoa, one year, angelus, kuru- “spinna”

30. Luke Bar$ – “Die With Pride”

29. midwxst – “Trying”

28. Rio Da Yung OG & Louie Ray – “Movie”

27. Thundercat – “Dragonball Durag”

26. Lil Tecca feat. Lil Uzi Vert – “Dolly”

25. Rylo Rodriguez – “Yesterday”

24. Rezcoast Grizz – “Water”

23. Sheff G – “Moody”

22. Babyxsosa – “Hectic”

21. J Hus feat. Koffee – “Repeat”

20. Tony Seltzer & A Lau feat. Wiki – “Cash Out”

19. Cruel Santino & Octavian – “End Of The Wicked”

18. Amaarae – “Leave Me Alone”

17. Headie One & Fred again.. – “Charades”

16. Oxlade – “O2”

15. Rico Nasty – “IPHONE”

14. Hook – “Answer”

13. Omah Lay – “Damn”

12. Quelle Chris & Chris Keys feat. Joseph Chilliams, Cavalier “Living Happy”

11. Baby Plug – “My Time”

10. Babyface Ray, Icewear Vezzo, GT & Veeze – “Meg Thee Stallion”

9. Shordie Shordie – “FDP”

8. Lil Uzi Vert – “Lo Mein”

7. Mulah Mitch – “Sidestreet”

6. umru & dante red – “movinglikeazombie (remix)”

5. Jayda G – “Both Of Us”

4. G Herbo feat. Polo G – “Lawyer Fees”

3. Lil Baby feat. 42 Dugg – “Grace”

2. Ka – “I Love (Mimi, Moms, Kev)”

1. osquinn feat. blackwinterwells – “ok im cool”

Favorite albums of 2020

1. Wifigawd & Tony Seltzer – Heat Check Vol. 2

2. Blxst – No Love Lost (Deluxe)

3. Ka – Descendants of Cain

4. Hook – I Love You 2, Hook

5. Tems – For Broken Ears

6. Sheff G – One And Only

7. Lil Uzi Vert – Eternal Atake (Deluxe)

8. Tony Shhnow & 10kdunkin – Rp’s & Plan B’s

9. 03 Greedo & Ron-RonTheProducer – Load It Up Vol. 1

10. Anjimile – Giver Taker

11. Pop Smoke – Meet The Woo 2

12. NoCap – Steel Human

13. Lil Baby – My Turn (Deluxe)

14. R.A.P. Ferreira – Purple Moonlight Pages

15. 070 Shake – Modus Vivendi

16. Adrianne Lenker – songs

17. Thundercat – It Is What It Is

18. Ghostie – Self Hate Wraith

19. HAWA – the ONE

20. ericdoa – COA

(originally self-published 12/15/20)

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