The Sound of 2020: Ryan’s Top 25 Songs Of The Year

I listen to a wild amount of music. When I say wild, Spotify Wrapped told me that I listened to 1,816 different artists this year… and when you listen to that much, there’s always going to be a massive range of music. From rock to pop, to drum and bass and indie, there is something for everything in this list. I’ve attached Spotify and YouTube playlists with this countdown to the end of the blog so that hopefully you can find some music that you love too.

To make the list, I put together 50 worthy songs which have been released since January 1st. I then stuck them into to find out which ones really were my favourites, choosing between two until the full ranking was created. Enjoy!

25. Bring Me The Horizon – Teardrops
Released as a single just days before the first part of Bring Me The Horizon’s Post-Human EP series, ‘Teardrops’ has become my favourite track of their since their 2019 Number 1 album ‘amo’. Dark in tone and featuring some pretty bleak lyrics, it combines both the experimental electronics of their latest music (since Jordan Fish joined the band) and the metalcore vocals of their earlier music. It’s the perfect blend for an EP subtitled ‘Survival Horror’ – and for the pure disaster that has been the last 12 months.

24. Icona Pop & Sofi Tukker – Spa
‘Spa’ is a collaboration which I didn’t see coming – although when it comes to Sofi Tukker, you come to expect a few surprises. Having worked with Gorgon City and Haiku Hands this year, my favourite is their release with Icona Pop – you may know them from ‘I Love It’ with Charli XCX – fun synth pop about wanting to relax at a beauty resort instead of partying at a club. I don’t think Sofi Tukker have ever released a bad track.

23. Halsey – Experiment On Me
Back at the start of the year, the Birds of Prey soundtrack got released alongside the film, and it showed that the popular comic-book movies of recent years are now just as interested in stunning audio as well as visuals. Doja Cat’s ‘Boss Bitch’ became an internet sensation after being picked up by Tiktok and stan Twitter, while ‘Experiment On Me’ was a surprise turn towards metal for Halsey, who’s known for music which is… almost the opposite. Another song produced by BMTH’s Jordan Fish, witty lyrics and screamed vocals over guitar synths create a frantic doomsday sound which I truly love.

22. Rina Sawayama – Dynasty
I recently saw a very salty comment on Twitter about Rina Sawayama’s 2020 debut album, where a nu-metal fan from the late 1990s accused her of trying to be as good as Limp Bizkit and Papa Roach, but failing miserably. For a start, I don’t think anyone wants that back in the charts – as ‘good’ as it was, I like to enjoy new music, not cringe at it – and second, it reduces Rina’s talent to being nothing more than an imposter. Clearly influenced by Evanescence’s ‘Bring Me To Life’, this is the biggest highlight from a genre-bending album which rightfully earned critical acclaim (but sadly not the Mercury Prize) and is one of the best rock tracks of recent times.

21. Celeste – Stop This Flame
Sky Sports and FIFA always pick good tracks for their football coverage and soundtracks – and while I will miss Tom Grennan’s ‘Found What I’ve Been Looking For’ on Super Sunday, ‘Stop This Flame’ is an incredible song. A jazzy R&B pop song from an up-and-coming artist who won the BBC Sound of 2020 poll at the start of the year, it’s really catchy. Celeste will be a household name in a few years time, and I can’t wait.

20. Example – Sun Hits Your Eyes
I’m probably one of the last people on Earth to listen to Example’s stuff, but all of his music since his 2018 comeback has been really good. He released his seventh album, ‘Some Nights Last For Days’ in June, but before that, at the very end of February, he dropped ‘Sun Hits Your Eyes’, a 90s house tinged dance track which seems to be ready-made for leaving an Ibiza nightclub at 6am. I can’t help but shuffle along to it as soon as it comes on the speaker, and it has a worthy place in my top 20.

19. Natalia Gordienko – Prison
We all knew Eurovision would make an appearance in this list at some point, and Moldova’s would-be 2020 entry is my second favourite from this year’s 41 songs. An extremely melodramatic ballad employing strings and a dark beat, I’m not too sure how well this would have done in Rotterdam but, with the right live performance, it could have been magic. It seems that she has been internally selected for the 2021 contest, so hopefully she can make something just as beautiful once again.

18. Duke Dumont – Therapy
This is the opening track to the best dance album of the year, and this is how you do house music. Featuring Sharlene Hector’s incredible soulful vocals, a catchy drop and dominated by a piano melody, I transcend whenever this is played. If you haven’t listened to ‘Duality’, it is one of the most cohesive albums I’ve heard in a long time. ‘Ocean Drive’, his biggest hit to date (and one of the nicest songs of all time) is the centrepiece, and the other nine tracks have the same, chilled-out, night vibes.

17. Dua Lipa – Hallucinate
For me, Hallucinate is the highlight of Dua Lipa’s second album ‘Future Nostalgia’, released in March. Since, she has released a string of singles and a remix album, along with teasing a Side B, but it will be hard for her to better this festival-ready track. It’s a song about falling in love, and on first listen, that’s exactly what I did. It’s the shining star of a glittery, never-ending era which has sent Dua Lipa to global stardom.

16. Little Mix – Sweet Melody
Little Mix’s sixth studio album ‘Confetti’ was one of the albums of the year, and it’s fourth single is it’s biggest track. Opening with a memorable ‘doo doo, doo-doo-doo-doo’, it then transforms into a modern pop classic, with the catchy hook, heavy bassline and trademark harmonies which have made Little Mix the biggest girl group in the world. ‘Happiness’ narrowly missed out on this list, but is also definitely worth a listen.

15. Ellie Goulding – Love I’m Given
And the award for the most repetitive song of the year goes to:…
Despite this, I became addicted to this song soon after Ellie Goulding released her fourth album, ‘Brightest Blue’, back in July. It’s clearly influenced by her 2015 feature ‘Powerful’ with Major Lazer and Tarrus Riley, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. It’s great fun to sing too.

14. Miley Cyrus – WTF Do I Know?
The opener from Miley Cyrus’ new rock album ‘Plastic Hearts’ is the best album opener I’ve heard in a long time. An instant anthem, it kicks off with heavy drums and loud guitar riffs, with Miley’s nasal voice taking centre stage. Seven albums in, she’s definitely found her ideal sound. And this isn’t the only Miley song on this countdown…

13. Aluna – Ain’t My Business
Aluna went solo for the first time this year, with the mission being to reclaim dance music back to its Black roots. She’s created one of the best albums of the year, it’s highlight being ‘Ain’t My Business’, a funky song about a relationship falling apart.

12. Lady Gaga, Elton John – Sine From Above
When Lady Gaga released ‘Chromatica’ in May, I thought it was a mess. In truth, I still think that – an okay pop album saved by it’s collaborations. ‘Sine From Above’ is a track with music legend Elton John which has left me shuffling into the night on several occasions. It sounds like it belongs in a Disney soundtrack, but for an experimental elephant breakbeat during the track’s outro. Looking back at her career, this could be my favourite song that she’s ever created. It might not have the hit factor or nostalgia of ‘Just Dance’ or ‘Poker Face’, but I would rather listen to this at the moment.

11. Samanta Tina – Still Breathing
Although Iceland’s ‘Think About Things’ won the hearts of many, the most madcap Eurovision song of the year goes to Latvia. My personal winner, I’m not too sure how well the mad drops, the diva verses, the belting chorus and the pseudo-rap would have come together on stage in Rotterdam, but it’s a fun stand-out track with a punchy feminist message. A self-confessed superfan of the Contest, she has already been internally selected (like most of 2020’s artists) to take part in 2021. I hope her new song is just as good.

10. London Grammar – Californian Soil
Opening my top ten is the second single and title track from London Grammar’s upcoming third studio album, ‘Californian Soil’. It’s been a long three or four years since the trio dropped ‘Truth Is A Beautiful Thing’, but with the release of this song and ‘Baby It’s You’, it seems that they’ve spent their time well. Maintaining their subtle, chilled out indie sound, they’ve added more percussion. For some reason, the song makes me feel like an elephant skipping along with sleigh bells – maybe it’s the beat?

9. Iggy Azalea, Tinashe – Dance Like Nobody’s Watching
One of 2020’s most left-field collaborations was an absolute serve, and saw Tinashe featuring on Iggy Azalea’s only release of the year. A funk-tinged R&B song, this is catchy and an uplifting track which should be played at every pre-drinks. Somehow, it fits perfectly in both artists’ catalogue, and is undoubtedly one of the best songs of the year.

8. Royal Blood – Trouble’s Coming
Royal Blood’s first new music in three years – also their first to feature a photo with colours other than black and white – could be their best song yet. Yes, most Royal Blood songs seem to sound the same (all of them brilliant, mind), but this one really packs a punch with a heavy drum and bassline. I love Mike Kerr’s voice, and whenever he sings ‘over and over again’ I’m transported to some higher place. If you aren’t a fan of their first two albums, you probably won’t like this one either – although this is slightly poppier than their previous stuff, it would also slot in very nicely on either album.

7. K/DA, Aluna – DRUM GO DUM
The award for the most madcap song of 2020 goes to ‘DRUM GO DUM’. Where do I start in exploring this song? K/DA are a themed virtual girl group made for League of Legends, and this song’s line-up includes two members of the K-Pop group G-IDLE, along with Madison Beer and features Aluna as a guest artist. ‘DRUM GO DUM’ incorporates pop, rap, moombahton techniques, dubstep influences and even drum and bass in it’s searing outro, and although it could easily have fallen apart and been a mess, it’s produced so well that it flows together seamlessly. Just listening to this song once will leave you out of breath… imagine trying to do choreo for it??????

6. CamelPhat, LOWES – Easier
‘Easier’ couldn’t be much more different to the last song. The final single to be released from CamelPhat’s incredible album ‘Dark Matter’ in October (although this is the full 5:10 album version), ‘Easier’ is an expansive, chill techno song which happens to be written by Florence Welch and features the lead singer of the band ‘LOWES’, who happens to sound extremely similar. Atmospheric and melancholic in equal measure, it explores themes of loneliness and sadness. It’s the song for a night alone, or as a party is winding down, but I just play it every day instead.

5. Normandie – Holy Water
In their twitter bio, Normandie claim to be ‘Sweden’s best-kept secret’ and, alright, they’ve likely been told to say it by their PR team but – it’s not inaccurate. Creating a post-hardcore sound which leans towards pop, Holy Water is the second single from their upcoming third album, ‘Dark & Beautiful Secrets’, and combines both their metal background and indie-pop sensibilities in a raucous track. The lyrics sound very close to being anti-religious, although the band themselves have stated it’s about the internal struggle between good and evil. This is ready for a club, or a stadium, and is a clear evolution of their sound from their previous albums.

4. You Me At Six – Suckapunch / Beautiful Way
I couldn’t possibly pick just one of these tracks, but also didn’t want to take a space away from another deserving artist, so I decided to piss the rules up a wall and have two songs in fourth place. You Me At Six are heading in a new direction for album seven, which is coming out in January. ‘Beautiful Way’, the second single, takes drum and bass inspiration for it’s chorus and never lets up from 174 BPM, making it a ready-made rock party anthem. ‘Suckapunch’, the album’s title track, is sonically closer to a 1998 Ibiza nightclub than the indie rock which we’re used to, but again, perfectly blends into the style they’re better known for. If the first three tracks are anything to go by, the new album is going to be one of the best releases of 2021.

3. Axel Boy – In The Dark (D&B Mix)
It’s not often an artist can remix their own song and improve it, but Bristol bass legend Axel Boy managed it. The D&B mix of ‘In The Dark’ belongs at a rave, and although it doesn’t have the deepest meaning to it (although it seems to hint at a darker meaning), it doesn’t need to. It builds up through two lines of the original’s chorus being repeated over, before one of the best drops I’ve ever heard. It sounds like he had a lot of fun making this. Personally, this song makes me want to get wasted and destroy my life, which might be the strangest compliment you’ll ever hear, but still. Get the neon lights out, turn the bass up to max and play this on top volume, your neighbours will love you.

2. Miley Cyrus – Midnight Sky
Miley Cyrus has had a career resurgence which not many would have seen coming a few years ago, however ‘Midnight Sky’ could arguably be the biggest song of the year. Combining the current trend of tapping into disco, along with an 80s pop-rock sound (which works perfectly with her voice), the lead single from November’s ‘Plastic Hearts’ is nothing short of a masterpiece. Lyrically, it’s reflective on her past, but shows real growth as she tries to progress from the tabloid fodder which her personal life, at times, in the 2010s became. She’s found her voice, she’s found her sound, and I really hope she’s now found herself.

1. Sean Paul, Tove Lo – Calling On Me
February is such a long time ago that it feels like it never really happened. My favourite song of 2020 is a massive piece of nostalgia – even though it only came out barely ten months ago? An interesting collaboration from the Pawprint Edition of Tove Lo’s ‘Sunshine Kitty’ album, it was promoted by Sean Paul’s surreal DJ set in the latter stages of the first winter Love Island. It was robbed of it’s chance to dominate nightclubs this summer, but I haven’t stopped playing it. A summery, reggae-influenced house track about love, togetherness and being there for someone, it’s uplifting to the extreme, it deserves more than the 40 million Spotify streams it has currently amassed. There’s no other words for it – I love this song.

Spotify playlist:
YouTube playlist:

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