With all of the spirit-testing turmoil of 2020, music played a bigger role than ever in soothing our hearts and making our souls dance.
Here, 10 songs that we had on repeat when we needed sonic salvation.
1. Jessie Ware, “Remember Where You Are”
This British soul-pop siren — who is somehow still underappreciated in the US — delivered the album of the year in “What’s Your Pleasure?” But while the LP gave us all the disco feels we weren’t able to have on an actual dance floor, its soaring, sumptuous final track reminded us that, even if the world we remembered no longer existed, we should “keep loving on the edge of doubt.”
2. Cardi B featuring Megan Thee Stallion, “WAP”
Just when all hope of certified freakiness seemed lost, Cardi and Megan reminded us that sex was still alive and well in 2020. As soon as it dropped, this ridiculously raunchy booty-popper soared to the top of the charts; the pair even ingeniously came up with a “wet and gushy” way to appease the censors. It was the summer jam that demanded to be heard, even in the strangest of summers.
3. Harry Styles, “Watermelon Sugar”
The One Direction heartthrob scored his first No. 1 solo hit with this succulent slice of soul-pop that never fails to produce a “Sugar” high. It’s the perfect mix of swag and sweetness — without any of those pesky seeds.
4. Taylor Swift featuring Bon Iver, “Exile”
Swift’s surprise quarantine set “Folklore” was a career highlight — and the best-selling album of the year. It was her moody moment with Bon Iver that sealed her alt-folk cred on this LP, as their aching breakup song nailed the feeling of breaking up with the pre-pandemic planet in 2020.
5. Megan Thee Stallion featuring Beyoncé, “Savage (Remix)”
It was a case of game recognizing game when Beyoncé gave Megan the ultimate co-sign by jumping on this remix. These two Houston homegirls, with a rapping B embracing her most ratchet self, were as ferocious as Megan and Cardi were filthy.
6. Lianne La Havas, “Sour Flower”
If Radiohead were fronted by Erykah Badu, it might sound something like the mystical atmospherics of this jazz-kissed bliss from La Havas’ stellar self-titled set. Yup, it’s that good.
7. Fiona Apple, “Shameika”
In a year of racial divisiveness, the “Criminal” singer showed fierce love for a black former classmate over the rollicking piano and rumbling drums of this standout from her killer comeback album, “Fetch the Bolt Cutters.”
8. Justin Bieber featuring Chance the Rapper, “Holy”
Speaking of comebacks, Biebs had one of the most successful ones of 2020, starting at the beginning of the year with his single “Yummy” and album “Changes.” But when he found the “Holy” spirit with this gospel-charged testimony, it was truly righteous stuff.
9. Brandy, “Borderline”
Dealing with grown-woman issues much deeper than “The Boy Is Mine,” the ’90s R&B darling dug into her soul with this haunting musing on how the heart can play games with the head.
10. Bruce Springsteen, “Last Man Standing”
If there were to be a last man standing in 2020, who wouldn’t bet on Springsteen? But with the 71-year-old Boss gracefully confronting his own mortality, this wistful beauty from “Letter to You” played more like “Born to Run.”