Last year I wrote “Top 10 Worst Songs of 2019” for The Record and people seemed to really like the article. There’s nothing I enjoy more than a harsh critical analysis of pop music and I was fully prepared to make the same list again for 2020.

However, we all know how sh*t 2020 was for an uncountable number of reasons so I thought it would be more positive and enjoyable to focus on the music that I did like, rather than the music I didn’t. Despite many major releases being pushed back due to cancellations of tours, there was plenty of music I thoroughly enjoyed this year!

I’m going to start by going over my favourite songs that cracked the UK Top 10 to cover my bases in popular music, and then I’m going to list some of my favourite songs of the year from outside of the charts. I’ve chosen not to repeat any artists between my two lists as I wanted to maximise my musical coverage.


#10 – Billie Eilish – My Future

I enjoy the way Billie Eilish plays with our expectations of pop music. my future was an unexpected gem from the pre-pandemic world, so calm and still compared to the hell year that was to come.

#9 – Ariana Grande – positions

I wrote a fairly critical review about the album “positions” in November which I still stand by, but even Ariana at her weakest is better than many artists at their best.

#8 – Megan Thee Stallion – Savage

This was Megan’s year, and I for one am grateful. The Beyonce remix is stellar too, but it never quite cracked the top 10 in the UK. I will gladly accept the regular version as well, demonstrating Megan’s rap power and star power.

#7 – Little Mix – Sweet Melody

Not someone I expected to include here, but I must admit that the girls have done it! Sweet Melody somehow hits the mark after many years of Little Mix songs not connecting with me. Also, it’s catchy as fuck.

#6 – Taylor Swift – The 1

Taylor Swift has converted me to Swiftiehood this year with her surprise albums folklore and evermore. But the very first track from folklore still stands out to me as my favourite of hers this year.

#5 – Lady Gaga – Rain on Me

Overplayed as hell, but Rain on Me is an undeniable anthem for the worst year in recent human history. Ariana slots perfectly into Gaga’s world to make for one of the best songs on Chromatica.

#4 – The Weeknd – Blinding Lights

Maybe I was wrong about The Weeknd last year – this song (and its accompanying album) are excellent works of 80s-inspired synth-pop. But you already knew that, didn’t you?

#3 – Dua Lipa – Break My Heart

The excellence of this song is in part due to its interpolation of INXS’s “Need You Tonight.” But if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!

#2 – Cardi B – WAP ft. Megan Thee Stallion

Only a stick in the mud wouldn’t enjoy this song. “Your honour, I’m a freak b*tch” is my favourite lyric of 2020 hands down.

#1 – Miley Cyrus – Midnight Sky

It took Miley some time but she finally made a song that I really enjoyed. And bloody hell was it excellent. Her new sound suits her perfectly and the results are phenomenal. There is nothing like the feeling of belting out the chorus at the top of your lungs – the fact that we’ve been denied Midnight Sky in a club setting is positively criminal.


#10 – Zsela – Earlier Days

This is a bit of a “you won’t have heard of this” choice, but this song totally captivated me in late 2020 when the lethargy of exams and winter hit hardest. It’s slow, sad and beautiful and I cannot recommend it enough

#9 – Chloe x Halle – Ungodly Hour

Any other artist couldn’t pull off this song as Chloe x Halle do. Between their vocal mastery and their understated production style, this song has far more momentum than it should and that’s only a good thing.

#8 – Moses Sumney – Me in 20 Years

In a year that never seemed to end, Me in 20 Years hit far harder than it would have otherwise. His abstract songwriting and beautiful soundscapes cut deep, and every time I listen I feel like I learn more about Moses’ little world he has created for himself.

#7 – Georgia – I Can’t Wait

This song has the bounciest bass I have heard all year. Which I admit is a strange compliment to give a song, but it’s so full of energy that I can’t help but nod my head in rhythm. Despite its weird musical composition, it never fails to start my one-person dance parties.

#6 – Jessy Lanza – Baby Love

I’ve always loved Jessy Lanza’s weird jazzy take on electronic music, but I think she totally outdid herself on this song. The hook is so brilliantly simple, I’m surprised no-one’s ever done it before. Listen to this at 3 am and just space out.

#5 – Caroline Polachek – Breathless

A last-minute addition to the list, it has already become my top-played song of 2021. Originally by The Corrs, Breathless is brought to life by Caroline’s delicate voice and the beautiful production. Something about Caroline’s sharp intakes of breath makes any song a masterpiece.

#4 – Roisin Murphy – Murphy’s Law

God, Roisin Murphy is so cool. Murphy’s Law just oozes coolness with every bass note, every electronic piano chord and every drum beat. Disco was very much the genre of choice this year, and Murphy’s Law was a perfect distillation of the disco sounds of the 80s.

#3 – Charli XCX – party 4 u

Perhaps the most understated song from Charli’s how I’m feeling now, party 4 u has been reworked in a way that captured the national mood in May so sublimely. A song about raving has turned into an intimate ballad about misinterpreting your partner’s feelings. Eschewing Charli’s usual beat drops for a slower-build production style, this song is an unusual musical journey that makes me feel bittersweet every time I play it.

#2 – Jessie Ware – Soul Control

From the opening synth riff, I was hooked. I didn’t hear a groovier song all year. In fact, the whole of Jessie’s album What’s Your Pleasure was exceptional 80s masterpieces. Please, if you listen to nothing else, listen to this!

#1 – Jamie___rees – this body

Kidding! You should go listen to my playlist for 2020 though!

#1 – Rina Sawayama – XS

XS shouldn’t work – its unusual blend of noughties pop with nu-metal should be jarring and unlistenable. And yet it is absolute musical perfection. The Britney callback in the chorus, the metal guitar riffs as transitional moments and Rina’s delivery throughout make this an undeniable pop masterpiece. The fact that this didn’t go #1 internationally counts as an act of violence. This is a hill I am prepared to die on.