The 100 Best Songs of 2020 (2023)

Listen: Jay Electronica, “The Neverending Story”



The Chicks: “Gaslighter”

The Chicks dropped “Gaslighter”—the title track of their first album in 14 years—on March 4, shortly before 2020 went all the way up in flames. Its belt-along chorus and Natalie Maines’ post-divorce barbs make the song immediately satisfying, a dose of the band’s familiar blistering humor served with an assurance that they were ready for the current moment after so much time away. Maines’ admissions of vulnerability only further root her battle cries in her humanity, speaking to a righteous channel of rage, sorrow, and bewilderment at the hurt of a relationship gone to hell. The salve of “Gaslighter” is easy to apply to almost any wound, whether or not it involves a now-ex-husband misbehaving on a boat. –Allison Hussey

Listen: The Chicks, “Gaslighter”



Charli XCX: “forever”

Written and recorded in self-isolation at home in Los Angeles—under the pressure of a self-imposed May deadline—Charli XCX’s how i’m feeling now already feels like a relic of another time. The album’s lead single, the soaring, heartfelt “forever,” captured the early-quarantine mood perfectly: vulnerable and sincere, the song finds Charli bearing her emotions with stunning clarity and candor. “I’ll love you forever,” she swears, over a rush of radiant synths, “even when we’re not together.” It’s a moving testament to a romance that right now means everything—even if it ultimately fades away. –Calum Marsh

Listen: Charli XCX, “forever”


Bad Bunny: “Yo Perreo Sola”

Perreo, as a genre, dance, and movement, has always been about power. And with “Yo Perreo Sola,” Bad Bunny offers a consent-driven treatise centering a woman’s independence on the dancefloor. The video even features the superstar donning the chains, latex, and thigh-high boots of the song’s narrator, as he exhibits a genuine desire to play with gender expression in a genre often catered to the male gaze. But “Yo Perreo Sola” also repeated reggaetón’s long-standing pattern of relegating female vocalists to anonymity; Puerto Rican rapper Nesi, who delivers its chorus with a passionate drawl, was uncredited upon the song’s release. The oversight was later rectified with a remix featuring her (this time with a credit) alongside pioneer Ivy Queen—whose legendary “Quiero Bailar” set the terms for this track—providing vindication for the caballotas who just want to dance in peace. –Stefanie Fernández

Listen: Bad Bunny, “Yo Perreo Sola”



Burna Boy: “Onyeka (Baby)”

No man is a whole movement. But Burna Boy—who put out an album ambitiously titled African Giant last year, then doubled down on his promise with 2020’s Twice as Tall—has made his career by convincingly begging to differ. “Onyeka (Baby)” is an indestructibly sweet, sunny moment amid a colossal album of dancehall, Afrobeats, and pop, another of Burna’s Sisyphean efforts to compress the breadth of pan-Africanism into his person. Not since Fela Kuti has one artist blended the contradictions, agonies, and triumphs of the continent with so much muscle. –Mina Tavakoli

Further Listening: Afrobeats’ Global Takeover

Listen: Burna Boy, “Onyeka (Baby)”

Quality Control


City Girls: “Pussy Talk” [ft. Doja Cat]

Yung Miami and JT of City Girls are grade-A, gold-standard shit talkers. It’s what makes their music so fun to listen to, and on “Pussy Talk” they’re at their best, enlisting Doja Cat in a rundown of all the things their pussies want, can or can’t do, will or won’t tolerate. When considered as part of a pussy-exalting trilogy, with Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion’s “WAP” and Meg’s “Don’t Stop” as the grand finale, “Pussy Talk” gets even better. In 2016, the 45th president all but ruined the word, but now with the end of his reign, pussy can spend the rest of the 2020s reclaiming its identity. According to City Girls, it is multitalented, multilingual (“English, Spanish, and French”), rich, demanding, and in complete control. –Allison P. Davis

Further Reading: The Mystery of Doja Cat’s Unimpeachable TikTok Reign

Listen: City Girls, “Pussy Talk” [ft. Doja Cat]

Secretly Canadian


Porridge Radio: “Sweet”

“Sweet” is a character study of a woman on the edge of mania. Porridge Radio frontwoman Dana Margolin sings as if her insides are aflame, delivering lines with nearly feral bravado. As her narrator bites her fingernails and fends off a mother’s backhanded expressions of concern, the song oscillates between nervous, flayed post-punk and outbursts of metallic distortion. The music illustrates the Sisyphean task of feeling better: Each time it reaches some measure of calm, the noise comes roaring back. –Sophie Kemp

Further Reading: Porridge Radio Make Indie Rock for the Angsty Antisocial in All of Us

Listen: Porridge Radio, “Sweet”

Merge / Dead Oceans


Destroyer: “Cue Synthesizer”

Like so many Destroyer songs before it, “Cue Synthesizer” is a grim view of a dilapidated world, led by a tour guide who can hardly stomach the sight. “Been to America, been to Europe,” Dan Bejar sings distractedly. “It’s all the same shit.” To accompany the voyage, he commands a small band in his head—“Bring in the drums/Cue fake drums,” he sighs—but the actual accompaniment refuses to follow his orders. It’s all ghostly ambience, groovy slap bass, and serpentine, canned electric guitar solos. The result feels slightly apocalyptic, weirdly funny, and right on time. –Sam Sodomsky

Further Reading: Destroyer’s Dan Bejar Serenades the Apocalypse

Listen: Destroyer, “Cue Synthesizer”

The Lunch Crew Company


Bfb Da Packman: “Free Joe Exotic” [ft. Sada Baby]

There are few acceptable places to play “Free Joe Exotic” outside of your own headphones. On the jaw-dropping track, Flint, Michigan-raised Bfb Da Packman raps about how he would rather hurl himself from a bridge than wear a condom, twists the Sour Patch Kids slogan into a pun about oral sex, and accuses a girl of telling a tall tale about the size of his junk: “She said she can feel it in her stomach, stop capping/Ol’ lyin’ ass bitch, my dick ain’t that big.” And all that’s in just the first verse. Not even in Michigan, the current rap capital of darkly funny shit talking, will you find anyone thinking more unholy thoughts than Packman. –Alphonse Pierre

Further Reading: Just Another Day at the Office With Outrageous Rapping Mailman Bfb Da Packman

Listen: Bfb Da Packman, “Free Joe Exotic” [ft. Sada Baby]



Nick Hakim: “QADIR”

Nick Hakim’s tribute to a deceased childhood friend shines in the details. Steady yet anxious congas, a gentle flute, and bright keys meld into an affectingly soulful plea for a kinder world. Like passing through a space inhabited by the spirits of lost loved ones, “QADIR” is both comforting and unsettling. As the track swells to symphonic levels, Hakim’s dusty timbre staggers to a halt and gives way to a haunting 10-person chorus, surrendering to a feeling that can no longer be expressed by words. Much like a life, “QADIR” reverberates long after it ends. –Jessica Kariisa

Further Reading: Nick Hakim on the Song He Wishes He Wrote

Listen: Nick Hakim, “QADIR”



Haim: “I Know Alone”

“I Know Alone” may have been written before the pandemic, but its reflections on solitude hit especially hard in a year when pretty much everyone was forced to live life as a glorified hermit. The song is a groggy anthem for those days when counting the spots on your ceiling can feel like too much work. “Nights turn into days, that turn to gray, keep turning over,” Danielle Haim sings with quiet desperation. The moody bassline delivers a melody to curl up in and brood, while the uptempo beat towards the end is a reminder that even loneliness ends. –Dayna Evans

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