I wouldn’t want to repeat this year for anything, but I am in fact grateful for the large amount of excellent music that has helped us forget reality if only for a moment. And, thankfully, that’s what pop music has always done best, especially in 2020. In the words of Troye Sivan, “It hasn’t been easy, darlin’.” But with some of the best music from this year in our ears, things have felt just a little less difficult. And we can always use a bit of that, global health crisis or not.
From Selena Gomez’s rare moments of autobiographical honesty to Kylie Minogue’s highly celebrated return to disco, here are my picks for the 50 best songs of 2020.
“Wrong Direction” – Hailee Steinfeld
We should have known that 2020 was screwed when Hailee Steinfeld released the saddest song ever on New Year’s Day. Still amazing, though.
“Underdog” – Alicia Keys
Still holding out hope for the day when we all rise up from the mess of this year.
“Rare” – Selena Gomez
Honestly can’t believe that Selena Gomez’s Rare album was a thing that came out this year because time is absolutely not real anymore BUT definitely one of her best songs to date.
“You Should Be Sad” – Halsey
“Got no anger, got no malice, just a little bit of regret”? I think we all felt that.
“Save A Little For Yourself” – Mandy Moore
We love a self-care anthem and we love Mandy Moore. That is all.
“Walls” – Louis Tomlinson
Also having a hard time believing this was a song that came out this year but it still makes me cry, so it’s still doing its job.
“Anyone” – Demi Lovato
No, I have not yet recovered emotionally from Demi Lovato’s Grammy performance even though it was a decade ago, thank you for asking.
“Physical” – Dua Lipa
My music library must have been begging me to please blast something else on repeat for once this year, but I didn’t listen!
“React” – The Pussycat Dolls
I can’t get over the fact that The Pussycat Dolls reunited to release one of the gayest songs in history and we haven’t heard a peep from them since. Icon behavior.
“Josslyn” – Olivia O’Brien
What is it the kids are saying these days? “She snapped”? Well, she snapped. A masterpiece of a diss track if I’ve ever heard one.
“About Love” – MARINA
Remember how simple life felt watching P.S. I Still Love You on Netflix under a blanket on Valentine’s Day and then downloading this gem the next day? No, actually, I don’t remember.
“Feel Me” – Selena Gomez
Selena knew what she was doing when she blessed us with this leftover from the Revival era which would absolutely rank in the top 5 of her best songs.
“Sarah Come Home” – Allie X
Would you believe me if I told you I had tickets to see Allie X in a general admission concert on April 4th of this year? As in, no assigned seats, just everyone standing by each other in close proximity? HAHAHA.
“Stupid Love” – Lady Gaga
Gaga’s return to dance-pop deserved a better year than this one… but I’ll take it.
“I Love Me” – Demi Lovato
If it hadn’t been for Miss Rona I’m sure we would have received Demi’s next album by now, but I’m fine to blast one of the best songs she’s ever made until it’s ready for us.
“Break My Heart” – Dua Lipa
Unfortunately I will probably always associate this song with quarantine depression walks, but once again, I’ll take it!
“Wildflower” – 5 Seconds of Summer
Another song I blasted an obscene amount of times because it was just so good, it almost made me forget reality for a bit.
“I Love You’s” – Hailee Steinfeld
When Hailee said “I’ve been so f*cked up it’s bad for my heart” and “I blamed it on the world like it owes me”… I felt that.
“Break Up Song” – Little Mix
Still singing another breakup song every night because what else am I supposed to be doing?
“Boyfriend” – Selena Gomez
We all want boyfriends but keep on hitting dead ends, ma’am! You’re not special!
“I’m Ready” – Sam Smith & Demi Lovato
I still think this song sounds like two tracks in one, but it’s a good one to get your blood moving.
“We Are Warriors” – Avril Lavigne
I’d prefer not to talk about what was going on when Avril Lavigne remixed her song “Warrior” in dedication to frontline workers (because, y’know, it’s still going on), but I’ll love her always for it.
“Stuck With U” – Ariana Grande & Justin Bieber
Stuck with who? The voices in my head? Yeah, I know, don’t remind me.
“Summer Feelings” – Lennon Stella feat. Charlie Puth
Summer feelings obviously felt a bit different this year, but I enjoyed blasting this and pretending I was at the beach. Or any place but my house, TBH.
“So Will I” – Ben Platt
As someone who enjoys constant reassurance whenever I can get it, this song is like a big warm hug for us anxious folk.
“Daisies” – Katy Perry
When did we all stop believing in magic? I’d really like to know.
“Power” – Ellie Goulding
Again! This was a song that came out this year? You’re lying. I just know it.
“Rain On Me” – Lady Gaga & Ariana Grande
Remember that entire week where we all thought that the lyrics were “I’d rather be drunk but at least I’m alive”? Still not entirely convinced those aren’t the words, honestly.
“Breathe” – The Buckleys
I really don’t know where we’re going but it BETTER be better than here, dammit! (In case you missed it, check out my interview with The Buckleys!)
“This Year’s Gonna Hurt” – Lost Stars
This year is going to hurt? Understatement of the century. Tell me something I don’t know.
“Past Life” – Trevor Daniel & Selena Gomez
And the award for best quarantine music video goes to… Selena Gomez’s pores.
“And It Breaks My Heart” – LÉON
One day, when you all stop sleeping on LÉON—because it will happen—just know that I will be here to promptly say I told you so.
“Smile” – Katy Perry
Still haven’t completely gotten back that smile yet but I’m glad that Katy Perry did on her best work in years.
“Easy” – Troye Sivan
A sad gay bop? During a sad gay year? He knows what we like.
“Say Something” – Kylie Minogue
Kylie heard our prayers when she ditched the cowboy hat and came home to disco this year.
“Holiday” – Little Mix
Holidays also aren’t real anymore, but I did take a few imaginary ones listening to this banger a good few hundred times.
“Nobody’s Love” – Maroon 5
Even if all else fails, we know that we will always have Maroon 5 to release beautiful singles destined for radio overplay.
“Cardigan” – Taylor Swift
OK but seriously, I’ll never be over the fact that Ms. Swift released her most depressing (but still beautiful) album ever in the heat of July. I get my seasonal depression in the summer, Tay! I did really get into it when sweater weather arrived, though.
“Who’s Laughing Now” – Ava Max
Who’s laughing now? Not me, because Ava Max finally gave us her first album this year.
“Love On Top” – The Bellas
Just when it felt like all hope was gone, the ladies from Pitch Perfect returned with a hilarious reunion for a great cause and yet another cover that’s better than the original.
“In A Dream” – Troye Sivan
I’m definitely locking all my doors and hiding all my shit for the foreseeable future. Keep your germs to yourself!
“OK Not to Be OK” – Marshmello & Demi Lovato
I’m not a huge fan of the commodification of phrases like “it’s OK not to be OK,” but you know what? We need songs like this now more than ever, and I just hope we can hold onto this newfound compassion and understanding for mental health struggles once this crisis is in the past.
“Let’s Love” – David Guetta & Sia
Sia told me that this too shall pass, so we have no choice but to believe her. Sorry, I don’t make the rules.
“Naked” – Ava Max
An ’80s-influenced banger on an album I haven’t stopped listening to since the day it came out? Yes please.
“Magic” – Kylie Minogue
Quite possibly one of the best and gayest Kylie songs ever? Like, seriously?
“Still Have Me” – Demi Lovato
Yes, I’m still going to need a minute to fully emotionally process the fact that Demi has given us some of her best music ever this year and contain my excitement for what’s coming next. Thank you for your understanding.
“Wonder” – Shawn Mendes
Shawn’s latest album was one of the most boring things I listened to this year, but this song is cute.
“Guess I’m a Liar” – Sofia Carson
I’ve only been waiting for a Sofia Carson album for almost five years and if this is a taste of what we can expect, put it in an IV and stick it right into my bloodstream.
“Positions” – Ariana Grande
The last thing the world needed this year was yet another Ariana Grande album (I said what I said), but I will thank her for this bop.
“Man’s World” – MARINA
Marina has kept us well fed over the last two years and with this taste of her next album… look out, 2021!
Listen to these songs on my Best of 2020 playlist! Which were your favorite songs from this year?
You might also like:
• The 50 Best Songs of 2019
• The 10 Best Albums of 2019
• The 10 Best Books of 2019