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A Musical Illustration of 2020

by Cora Mack about a year ago in playlist
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Based on my personal life and experiences

A Musical Illustration of 2020
Photo by Umberto Cofini on Unsplash

This year has been a tough year for us all. I'm sure you've heard this a lot, in any number of uncertain terms.

Beyond Covid-19, for me, personally, this was a trying year of illness, past flings returning to torment me, graduation, broken hearts, new beginnings - both romantically and professionally, and severe health concerns, among other things.

I've had several songs on repeat throughout the year. It seems as though they fit into one of two categories of emotion:

- Heartbroken and desperately needing to cry


- Any random fit of mood swings that desires a different song every time

So suffice it to say, my playlists are always, without fail, "miscellaneous". I didn't want to create a playlist that's directly relevant to this year via titles or something silly like that. The songs on my "20 Songs For 2020" playlist may not have been among my top "most played" songs of 2020 either, but they certainly were listened to on repeat at some point this year and they most certainly are, in some way, reflective of my year.

Track 1 - i love you by Billie Eilish

Maybe it's the fact that it's quite literally titled "I love you", or maybe it's the fact that it just sounds so... melancholic. This song hit me so, so hard this year after an old flame came back into my life and things ultimately went south, again. It probably just served to fuel the depressive hole I sunk into, but I still love this song as much as I secretly actually love Billie Eilish's music.

Track 2 - Bella Ciao by Manu Pilas

I got really into the tv show Money Heist earlier this year. At least I'm pretty sure it was earlier this year. Two years ago seems a bit too long ago to be right. But anyway, this particular song caught my attention in some of the later episodes, and apparently also caught the attention of my mother - who is Italian. This song holds particular meaning to me in that regard as it is a real, and famous, song in Italy that was used as an anthem in the fight against fascism and is a worldwide hymn of freedom. Nothing like a good old surge of power in the form of music, right?

Track 3 - Can't Help Falling In Love by Elvis Presley

The heart wants what it wants, even when some things just aren't meant to be. I think this one is pretty self explanatory for someone who was stupid enough to get her heart broken twice by the same person.

Track 4 - Wrecking Ball by Miley Cyrus

I think anyone who has ever heard this song should understand, but this one is extra relevant when I listen to the lyrics. She sings that she's never hit love so hard, all she wanted was to break his walls and all he ever did was wreck her. She put him up high in the sky and now he's not coming down. That's just about a perfect word for word description of what our relationship was. I came in hard, head over heels. In return, he just wrecked me.

Track 5 - feel something by Bea Miller

This one hit me hard during one of my lowest points this year. While the song itself covers my mood as a whole, the chorus is what struck me like lightning.

I don't wanna die but I don't wanna live like this

I just wanna feel something, I just wanna feel

I just wanna feel something, I just wanna feel

Something really real so that I can really

Feel like a person again

She goes on to ask:

Can you tell me a secret?

Can you tell me what's wrong with me?

I know I should be angry

But I can barely feel a f**kin' thing

Can you tell me a secret?

Can you tell me what's wrong with me?

I've asked myself that a lot this year. What's wrong with me? I still don't have the answer, but it's somewhat comforting to hear that same question being asked in musical form, I guess.

Track 6 - God Must Be Doing Cocaine by Charlotte Lawrence

I think this song is relevant on a daily basis regardless of the insanity that has been 2020, but the title alone is pretty fitting with no explanation needed. However, there's a certain calmness in her voice as she sings absolute truths that makes this song something worth listening to on repeat. The fitting title is just a bonus right now.

Track 7 - I'm Still Standing by Elton John

This track preaches strength to me. For me, it signifies the comeback after a personal struggle. For me, it was the bull this year has thrown at me. After having my heart shattered, again, by someone who had already broken it and who I stupidly let back in, blasting this song made me feel powerful.

I'm still standing after all this time

Picking up the pieces of my life without you on my mind

Track 8 - No Time To Die by Billie Eilish

I discovered Billie Eilish this year. Like, really discovered her. So much of my repeat music was from her. But this song struck me because it's about death. Another song in which the lyrics quite literally described my life in that moment verbatim.

From "I should've known I'd leave alone", to "You were my life, but life is far away from fair", to "Was I stupid to love you?", and:

Was it obvious to everybody else

That I'd fallen for a lie?

You were never on my side

Fool me once, fool me twice

Are you death or paradise?

Now you'll never see me cry

There's just no time to die

Track 9 - Robin Williams by Noah Gundersen

I like this one because it sounds peaceful but there's something particularly depressing about it. In some sense, at a certain point there's a sort of peace about depression. I'm not sure if peace is the right word, but (for me at least) there comes a moment when it's like the world just goes silent and you feel numbness, and in some sense that's a temporary relief. I'm not sure why but this type of music seems to catch my attention and then I'll get into moods where this is the only type of music I feel like hearing. He says you can't lose what you don't own, but boy oh boy did I feel like I lost something important that day. The line that really struck me though, was about Robin Williams.

Nothing lasts forever and every other trope

I guess it just depends on how much DMT you smoked

But when I think of Robin Williams at the end of his rope

It makes no difference what you're making, the reaper makes the final joke

Track 10 - Nothing Breaks Like A Heart by Mark Ronson, featuring Miley Cyrus

"This world can hurt you, it cuts you deep and leaves a scar, but nothing hurts like a broken heart". How true.

We'll leave each other cold as ice

And high and dry, the desert wind

Is blowin', is blowin'

That's how we left things, too. Middle of a totally normal conversation, he cut ties and ghosted me. I blocked him in return and that's the end of that story.

Track 11 - Adore You by Miley Cyrus

It seems I've had a thing for Miley Cyrus as well this year. I'm not sure why since I don't much care for her, but her music seems to hit a nerve with me. This was more relevant to my dreams than to reality, but he did tell me he loved me at some point in our history and, without a doubt in my mind, I know I loved him more. He made me feel safe, while also leaving me with a constant underlying fear of abandonment. So although her words likely weren't meant in the same way, she spoke my feelings:

When I'm crying out for you

I'm scared oh, so scared

But when you're near me

I feel like I'm standing with an army

Of men armed with weapons

Although I'm not religious, I wish I could say that I believed God knew exactly what he was doing when he led me to this guy. Even now, I don't understand the lesson I was supposed to learn from him, if anything. Because I still only understand the pain it led me through.

Track 12 - If The World Was Ending by JP Saxe & Julia Michaels

This is a new one for me but it's one of my all time favorites right now. So much of this song hit me hard. I heard this shortly after he ghosted me and it led me down a rabbit hole of emotional songs that left me sobbing by myself in the middle of the night. There's a tenderness to this song that I really truly adore though.

Ah it's been a year now

Think I've figured out how

How to think about you without it rippin' my heart out

And I know you know we know you weren't down for forever and it's fine

I know you know we know we weren't meant for each other and it's fine

But if the world was ending

You'd come over right

You'd come over and you'd stay the night

Would you love me for the hell of it

Track 13 - Master of Tides by Lindsey Stirling

I've always enjoyed Lindsey's music but for some reason, after purchasing one of her albums on CD and apparently listening to it too much, she sort of dropped off my radar. Until, you guessed it, this guy played this song when we were in the car together one day and I really enjoyed it. I added it to my playlist and it's remained one of the songs I don't skip whenever it comes up in shuffle. I'm not sure if it's because of him and the memory of him or if it's just because I do genuinely really enjoy this song, but it's one I don't foresee myself growing grossly tired of any time soon.

Track 14 - Lonely by Justin Bieber & benny blanco

I have never been a big fan of Mr. Bieber but I happened upon this song and fell in love right off the bat. It speaks volumes to me, both on a personal level, as I feel like I kind of identify with it to some degree, as well as on an empathetic level because I see what Hollywood does to celebrities - especially the young ones.

Not recognizing yourself in the mirror, hoping things will get better in the future but recognizing that it's killing you now, acknowledging that you have it all - except for someone to talk to. It's a lonely world to live in already, but it's even worse when you're living like that. Again, maybe it's because I like depressing music, but this song quickly became one of my favorites.

Track 15 - My Calling by The Cooties

Let's be real, we need some comedy this year. And this one was the answer to that for me. My cousin introduced me to this song earlier this year and I've grown fond of it since. I actually like this song for more than just the comedic aspect; the music is right up my alley. Quirky enough to be different while "real" enough to be enjoyable as music.

Track 16 - Crazy Train by Ozzy Osbourne

In and of itself, the title is fitting enough. But when I actually listen to the lyrics, those are fitting as well.

Crazy, but that's how it goes

Millions of people living as foes

Maybe. It's not too late

To learn how to love, and forget how to hate

Mental wounds not healing

Life's a bitter shame


Mental wounds still screaming

Driving me insane


Mental wounds not healing

Who and what's to blame

I'm goin' off the rails on a crazy train

The media sells it and you live the role

I know that things are going wrong for me

You gotta listen to my words, yeah, yeah

Track 17 - The Devil & The Huntsman by Sam Lee & Daniel Pemberton

I discovered this song through a Spotify playlist curated for me that was titled Southern Gothic. This is the only song on that playlist that sounded remotely like this, and I'll only admit the primary reason that I enjoy this song so much is that is just feels powerful to me. I think "powerful" is something I needed to feel a lot this year. Maybe it was more so a sense of control that I needed, but the feeling of power gave me that.

Track 18 - Til It Happens To You by Lady Gaga

I think this song can apply to most anything but for me, surprise surprise, it was 100% in relation to both instances of heartbreak caused by the same person. I'll be honest, I was warned both times by just about everyone I know. They didn't trust him like I did. They didn't believe his feelings for me were real, like I did. So naturally, when he left they just comforted with the same cliche things you tell people:

You deserve better.

He wasn't worth it.

Just move on.

Forget about him.

It'll get better.

Till you're standing in my shoes

I don't wanna hear a thing from you, from you, from you

'Cause you don't know

Till it happens to you, you don't know how I feel, how I feel

In their minds, it was easy to follow their advice because he truly was nothing to them. And while it's easier said than done to begin with, maybe it doesn't help if they've never been in a similar position with someone themselves. I know I was guilty of that before him.

Track 19 - Alive by Khalid

One of my friends sent me this a while back. He said a friend of his, who was suicidal, sent him that and then quit responding to his texts. It's powerful, I think. I'm not suicidal by any means, but it doesn't stop this song from hitting a sore spot for me anyway.

Unread texts and missed calls

Told everyone I turned my phone off

Didn't ask for help and now I'm lost

Life comes in phases

Consequences and mistakes

I'm sorry that it's taken me so long

He says he's been living out of spite, and frankly, that's kind of what I've been doing. I don't know what else to do and I don't want things to end so living to see another day is kind of my way of flipping off the world. But also: "I shouldn't have to die to feel alive".

Track 20 - Bohemian Rhapsody by Queen

Do I even need a reason for listing this as one of my twenty? If anything, 2020 has been in desperate need of some quality karaoke songs and this one is pure perfection for letting off some steam and having a great time just being stupid without a care in the world.

By blocks on Unsplash

There's more to my 2020 music library than that collection of (mostly) sad and depressing music, I promise. But this year has been filled with much sadness for me that it seems fitting to have a playlist that illustrates that. Music holds meaning for most people, and while I've always been more the type to listen to music for the sound rather than the words, I think this year has brought me to the other side much more often.

When you're happy, you enjoy the music, but when you're sad, you understand the lyrics.

- Frank Ocean

Much love and peace to you all with best wishes for a better 2021.


About the author

Cora Mack

-Losing myself one day at a time, picking up the pieces as I go. Welcome to my mind-

Instagram: @photography_genetics -or- @klutzybutterscotch

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