2020 may just be the worst year in living memory, but if there's one consolation in all of the chaos it is, as always, music. Although true concerts have been sorely missed in the madness of this year and many projects have faced significant delays while wide-scale lockdowns sweep the globe, that hasn't stopped certain artists from creating and releasing some masterpieces. Whether they're reflecting the mood of dread, isolation and fear prevalent in society or providing us an escape from the horrors of 2020, these ten songs have been the soundtrack of our year on PHF - and what a year it's been.
10. Little Mix - Holiday
Submitted By: @Skinny Legend
Despite their undeniable vocal prowess and incredible chemistry, Little Mix has always been a little underwhelming in my books when it comes to song choice. Their back catalogue is sprinkled with a couple of fun tracks ('Power' and 'No More Sad Songs' are both bangers), and the occasional brilliant ballad ('Secret Love Song' and their 'Falling' cover are incredible), but their singles are often cheapened by derivative production or boring rent-a-rappers. All that changed with 'Holiday', the second single from their last album as a four-piece Confetti. Leaning hard into the groups pop origins, the song served up a slice of fun, effortless, summery bubblegum pop that was just what the public needed to hear in 2020, filling a gap in the market that's been gaping open since the onslaught of R&B and indie artists in recent years. Little Mix might not look the same in a post-2020 world, but 'Holiday' will still go down as one of their best, most anthemic singles to date and a game-changer for the group. It's just a shame it didn't get as much attention as it deserved on the charts.
9. ionnalee - MACHINEE
Submitted By: @coolaideonfire
ionnalee had planned to tour North America in 2020 celebrating 10 years of iamamiwhoami (her audiovisual project launched in December 2009), but after these plans were postponed due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic things changed course.
In quarantine she announced the KRONOLOGI playlist, a series of previously unreleased songs and alternate versions to be shared weekly as a soundtrack to our isolation, and true to her iamamiwhoami roots she also played two online concerts in the summer months. One was a lowkey affair filmed in the beautiful surroundings of her garden at home for Sweden's National Day celebrations and the other a highly produced event filmed on a remote Swedish island bearing similarities to IN CONCERT (an ambitious online concert streamed by iamamiwhoami in 2010). KONSERT featured guests such as Imogen Heap, TR/ST and Zola Jesus and culminated in the live premiere of ionnalee's latest single 'MACHINEE' - a brooding electronic number with industrial vibes and my highlight of the year.
8. Pale Waves - She's My Religion
Submitted By: @blonde-rebellion
Avril Lavigne has been my all-time favorite artist practically since birth. The early 2000s were filled with artists trying to emulate her signature pop-rock sound and punk attitude. Listening to the mainstream radio now, it may seem like that style is gone, but look no further than what the new indie girls are doing for some quality Avril-inspired bops. Artists like Snail Mail and Soccer Mommy have been outspoken about the influence Avril has had on their music, but one of the biggest Avril-influenced artists right now is British indie-pop band, Pale Waves. The second single off their upcoming sophomore album, (Who Am I?, due out in February), 'She’s My Religion' sounds like the best of Under My Skin-era Avril. The gothic pop/rock guitar-driven instrumental fits perfectly with Pale Waves’ signature confessional lyrics. The track is an authentic queer love song (made by actual LGBT artists!) with an insanely catchy chorus that features lyrics - “she’s cold, she’s dark, she’s cynical. She’s forever angry at the world” - that will make you say, "Ugh, she’s literally me". 'She’s My Religion' by Pale Waves is everything a pop-rock fan could want in the year 2020.
7. Given - Winter Story
Submitted By: @Vixen Eyes
I listened to this since October before watching the anime Given and after reading it's manga predecessor (same story events). I loved everything at first listen and not only that but the anime is my fave animation and fave series ever. The EP has five songs and three instrumental tracks (of the five previous songs). The part where the vocalist in the anime sings 'Winter Story' I C R I E D. No — I fucking S O B B E D. The lyrics are about the vocalist's ex boyfriend's suicide after they had a fight and his last words to his ex were, "Are you willing to die for me then?". Let THAT sink in.
6. Charli XCX - Party 4 U
Submitted By: @jesuswasaloser
Charli XCX announced on April 6 that she would be creating and conceiving an entire album during quarantine using only the resources she had in her LA home and the help of her fans to choose things such as artworks and lyrics. Six weeks later she released how i'm feeling now, one of her best pieces of work to date. The album was created specially for the time we all spent in quarantine and it has some amazing songs where the singer talks about her moments of love and loneliness, but one song in particular is just something else, and that song is 'party 4 u'.
This song was already a fan favourite, since it had been played many times before by A. G. Cook in many of his sets, and fans would always ask Charli to release it officially - but as she said in an interview for Apple Music, "it had never felt right before now".
It's a simple song, lyrically, that speaks about how Charli only throws a party for one special person, and she hopes that the person "comes through", and hopes that the person will stick by her side through the hard times too. It's a simplistic premise, but during lockdown, where we all had no other choice but to party by ourselves, the song took a whole new meaning. With simple lyrics and production, this song really was like a present for her fans.
I know that when I look back at the time all spent locked inside, this album, and especially this song, will be the first thing I remember. And that's why I consider it one of the best songs, if not the best, from 2020.
5. Melanie C - Who I Am
Submitted By: @Whoknowsmehere
I loved this song from the first time I heard it. I tend to gravitate towards songs where the message is one that hits me right in the feels. And this song is no exception to that. The message of her no longer worrying about what others think about what she has to say - or, who she is - that is exactly how I feel about myself. She is telling people - this is who I am. Accept me or don't, I don't care. I am going to be me regardless of what others say.
I love the music that goes along with the song as well. Excellent arrangement. Very easy to listen to, and still be able to pay attention to the message behind the lyrics. Melanie C came back with an amazing overall album in my opinion.
4. BLACKPINK - Lovesick Girls
Submitted By: @Capsule
On October 2, 2020, BLACKPINK released the third single from their then-upcoming debut full-length album after four years as a group. The track is the first in the group's history to be co-written by members Jennie and Jisoo, as well as being co-produced by Jennie. The song, although being an overall pop banger, has obvious influences from country, folk and EDM. The song details the feelings of pain and heartbreak after a break up, feeling like you're "born to be alone," but also "still looking for love". It's a subject that can relate to a lot of people - we have all experienced some sort of heartbreak and felt like we would be alone forever. The topic has been done to death, yet the group somehow managed to bring a fresh perspective to the table...that is TALENT.
The song was well-received worldwide, and also helped the group to break various records through their album promotion. The single won 6 music show awards during its promotion, including three consecutive wins on Inkigayo, which lead to them receiving the Triple Crown award on that show. With help from this single, the group's album became the highest-charting album by an all-female group in the United States since 2008's Welcome to the Dollhouse by Danity Kane. BLACKPINK have proven this year that that they are still a force to be reckoned with in the K-Pop industry and that they don't plan on stopping their domination any time soon.
3. Dua Lipa - Break My Heart
Submitted By: @365MM
‘Sophomore slump’? Not a chance!
Back in the oh-so-innocent, pre-pandemic era, Dua Lipa was finally releasing her second album, Future Nostalgia. Great new singles had been dropping over the last few months. Sounded promising. Maybe pick it up when it comes out, I thought.
Old news now, but then everything was turned on its head. Crazy times.
Seemed like there was only constant; “Break My Heart” was the bop everyone was loving at the same time! It really is an amazing combination of a killer dance beat (acknowledged as similar to INXS’ "Need You Tonight"), sublime vocals, and unbelievably catchy lyrics. Great production too, but personally the writing here edges out. It might be a pop song, but the story here is a very mature. An exploration of vulnerability with heartbreak and strength of wisdom out of unsuccessful relationships while still needing to risk it all again in the pursuit of love. I think we’ve all been there. I just wish we could own it as well as Dua.
Arguably the best track on an album that proves to be both ridiculously consistent and infinitely playable. No wonder it broke into the tops of so many charts (including entered at number 6 on the UK Singles and peaking at 13 on the US Billboard Hot 100). Perfect dance-pop! And the video? The colors, the set movement, THAT DANCE? In this year with virtually no live concerts, “Break My Heart” was the performance we needed and deserved. Easily top 20 of 2020.
2. Lady Gaga & Ariana Grande - Rain On Me
Submitted By: @Skinny Legend
Released at the height of COVID-19 lockdowns across the world in May of 2020, 'Rain On Me' was the forerunner quarantine anthem of the year from the moment of its release, even if it was penned months in advance. The self-empowerment lyrics gained new meaning after the struggles that many faced in 2020, with the concept of embracing darkness and pain harkening back to Gaga's 'Marry the Night' days in a beautiful reminder of how to make it through hard times. It further helps that the song is one of Gaga's most rambunctious and high energy in recent years, making it perfect for many late-night lonesome shower disco's that took place over the year. 'Rain On Me' is an important reminder than not only does everyone go through similar struggles, but that these struggles are a lot harder to face when you can celebrate them as the important life-defining moments they are.
1. Kylie Minogue - Say Something
Submitted By: @Cypher
Released during the middle of the year and well into the global lockdown, Kylie Minogue dazzled the world with a shimmering, anthemic disco pop track. The song took on a life of its own during the pandemic with the line, "Can we all be as one again?". It would mark the beginning of her Disco era, propelling her to the #1 position in the UK, beating out Little Mix's Confetti (who she also voiced support for). With the album having 55 000 chart sales (the biggest opening week of the year), Minogue became the first female artist to score a #1 on the UK Official Albums Chart in five consecutive decades. Minogue has undeniable talent, name recognition, and a vocal prowess to appeal to multiple generations. If you love catchy bass lines and callbacks from the '70s, the song and album are definitely going to be contenders for your own year-end list!
Did your favourite track of 2020 make the list? Sound off in the comments below! And from everyone at PHF, Happy New Years - fingers crossed things can only get better from here on out.