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Top 20 of 2020 Rewind

Thank You for the Music

By ANITA RACHELLEPublished 3 years ago 14 min read
Top 20 of 2020 Rewind
Photo by Paulette Wooten on Unsplash

A year which felt like gloom turned itself around by way of tune that helped many feel immune from doom, morning till afternoon, extending even to next day’s moon.

The power of music to brighten a day was perhaps felt most acutely over the last few months when the impact of a pandemic the size of which this generation never saw coming, reared its ugly head. Many of us faced loss of various degree, sometimes in combinations of three (or more): lays offs, unemployment, financial concerns, breakups, and a disintegration of our normal social lives. Not to mention, colossal loss of human life, which may have hit some of us personally, whether COVID-19 related or not. Through these moments, we turned to the familiar, the tried and true, something that would subdue and renew, yet also give us a whole new perspective and view.

Music was there for us when we struggled and in times of joy. Despite the toils of the year, we may have given thanks for what we do have, noticed nature’s wonders during neighborhood walks, or celebrated profound moments like a wedding, pregnancy, or birth, even when the festivities had to be reduced in size. Melody, beat, and lyrics were with us then, too. As we reflect on the year, what better way to do so than with an acknowledgment of the tunes that helped us ride the waves along the way, pulled us up from the tide when we fell, and encouraged us to revel in moments of exhilaration when despite the times, we caught a swell of exultation.

Alongside the past year’s highs and lows, indulge me in sharing my personal Top 20 songs of 2020, month by month. Some highlighted were newly released, others I had just discovered, and still others serve as an emotive landscape for what was faced that day, week, month, or even provide a glimpse of what was to come later in the year, collectively as a human race and/or individually on my own personal path. Maybe this list will inspire you to create your own reflection and honor the songs that stood by you through the good, bad, happy, and sad.


1. “time of our lives” (Christian French)

Every new year brings the hope of a brand new start. A time of renewal and inspiration, January 2020 is no exception. In hand: a new planner, gym membership, and resolve to stick to fresh goals or habits. Collectively, 2020’s January is likely the most normal (as we used to know it) and optimistic months all year, at least stateside. The January release of Christian French’s “time of our lives,” however, eerily captures both in tone and lyrics what we don’t know we will soon miss. How are we to know in less than two months, the dissatisfaction of our lives’ routines, hectic nature of our day-to-day, and exorbitant drinks at overcrowded local bars will indeed become a glimmery rearview memory of “the time of our lives.”

Been stuck in this routine

I'm young, dumb, and unruly

I wish somethin' would move me

'Cause I don't wanna play pretend

Still runnin' on empty

The same story as last week

I keep watchin' it pass me

I'll tell you when it all makes sense


2. “U Can’t Touch This” (MC Hammer)

Rumblings of a virus halfway around the world start to creep up but for the most part, we assume immunity. February likely marks one of our last fully non-masked months, stress-free travels, and visits to grocery stores where toilet paper inventory is still in check. COVID “can’t touch this” seems to be the overall theme of the month so let’s bring back a classic.

My, my, my my music hits me so hard

Makes me say, "Oh my Lord"

Thank you for blessin’ me

With a mind to rhyme and two hype feet

Now why would I ever stop doin' this?

With others makin’ records that just don’t hit

I've toured around the world, from London to the Bay

You can't touch this

You can't touch this

Yeah (You can't touch this)

I told you (Can't touch this)

Too hot (Can't touch this)

Yo, we outta here (Can't touch this) 

3. “Nice to Meet Ya” (Meghan Trainor feat. Nicki Minaj)

For a newer, yet still upbeat, jingle that captures attention in February, let’s look at and listen to “Nice to Meet Ya” which also encompasses elements that will soon become yesteryear, while others, like a reminder that nothing shines brighter than self-confidence, remains a theme we can carry year-round, no matter the external factors threatening to dampen our spirits (and our spirits will face pressure).

Boom, I turn every head when I walk in the room (Soon to be Zoom room?)

Pretty in real life, hit my pics with the zoom (An unintentional hint to Zoom’s near-term boom?)

A ten when they rate her like tomb

Elevator to the penthouse, we ain’t stopping anytime soon (We will all be stoppin’ and remainin’ in our non-penthouses in a few short weeks, but like Meghan and Nicki, we can try to keep our attitudes fierce.) 


4. “Om Shanti” (Lakecia Benjamin feat. Georgia Anne Muldrow & Meshell Ndegeocello)

I personally teach and take my last in-person yoga classes of the year. As the virus becomes a hard reality, many of us switch to remote work by mid-month, and we see the unfair socio-economic divides between those who can do so and those who can’t. Still, we assume we’ll all return to our physical places of employment in a few short weeks. Yet, by month’s end, we’re cooped up, and realize no quantity of puzzles, books, or movies, will erase the reality of what is happening around us but we do our best to grasp at what might help get us through the dark days ahead. “Om Shanti,” the Sanskrit for “peace,” truly starts to resonate, even if as a pure coping mechanism. Lakecia Benjamin’s modern version of the traditional mantra is literally music to the ears, especially for fellow saxophone fans. As I personally start feeling claustrophobic in my 500 square foot apartment with minimal outside time, combined with reasonable yet also existential worries about humanity as a whole, I chant “Om shanti shanti shanti” in my mind, which becomes an anthem throughout lockdown.


5. “Hard Times” (Guster)

Technically a 2018 tune, but its lyrics, and title alone, both illuminate the reality of the times and personally, serve as a brutal reminder of one of my favorite concerts just a year prior, in an intimate space with the type of close proximity to other bodies that even by April 2020, starts to become an alien concept.

Enter a scene that defies description

They say to open your mind

And take it all inside

One click at a time

I'm breathing in, the oxygen

I'm holding it, through hard times

I'm breathing out, in the ultrasound

Things come around, in hard times

6. “I’m Gone” (Dolly Parton)

Also technically not a new song, Dolly Parton’s “I’m Gone,” first released in her 2002 album Halos & Horns, defines April, since like many fellow urbanites, I decide enough is enough of pandemic-induced apartment claustrophobia and tell the city I’ve been living in for over five years, “I’m gone.” I retreat to Dolly Parton’s (and my) home-state, leaving all my possessions behind, assuming I’ll be back to the city to enjoy them, but Dolly clarifies by mid-summer that “movin’ on” encompasses a relationship, as well.

A one-way ticket sayin':

"Goodbye everything"


I'm movin' on

'Cause I'm gone 


7. “Put Your Records On” (Corrine Bailey Ray)

Life becomes slightly more joyous with wider spaces, fresh mountain air, and the novelty yet simultaneous familiarity of living again with family. The warmer temperatures flash me back to seeing Corrine Bailey Ray live the previous summer for the first time, after teenage years consumed with playing her tunes over and over and over again in my head. “Put Your Records On” has a special jazzy lightness to it that immediately lifts me off heavy ground. I float upward and onto a cloud, nothing can harm, up up and away. This song, with its charming care-free melody and intense familiarity, becomes a second mantra of the year (as if it wasn’t already since 2006).

Three little birds sat on my window

And they told me I don’t need to worry

Summer came like cinnamon

So sweet

Maybe sometimes, we feel afraid, but it’s alright

The more you stay the same, the more they seem to change

Don’t you think it’s strange?

‘Twas more than I could take, pity for pity’s sake

Some nights kept me awake, I thought that I was stronger

When you gonna realize that you don’t even have to try any longer?

Do what you want to

Girl, put your records on, tell me your favorite song

You go ahead, let your hair down

Sapphire and faded jeans, I hope you get your dreams

Just go ahead, let your hair down


8. “Watermelon Sugar” (Harry Styles)

A 2019 hit but its fun summer feelin’ again tastes like strawberries on a summer evenin.’ Early June is still in tune.

Tastes like strawberries

On a summer evenin'

And it sounds just like a song

I want more berries

And that summer feelin'

It's so wonderful and warm


Breathe me in

Breathe me out

I don't know if I could ever go without

I'm just thinking out loud

I don't know if I could ever go without


Watermelon sugar high

Watermelon sugar high 

9. “I Want You to Love Me” (Fiona Apple)

Despite the new welcome landscape and summer’s nearness, the anxieties that are first put at bay in May return by mid-June. COVID is still here, as is racism, and personal logistical life questions come to the surface. Conversations to address those start to get to the root of a central question that has been avoidable up until that point: where one person truly stands in relation to another. Though dropped in April to the adoration of fans, Fiona Apple’s Fetch the Bolt Cutters album continues shining a few months later. Quirky, experimental, yet deeply universal, her music along with its long pauses between releases, provides both a glimpse into her world and a mirror of our own.

I've waited many years

Every print I left upon the track

Has led me here

I move with the trees in the breeze

I know that time is elastic


And while I’m in this body

I want somebody to want

And I want what I want and I want

You to love me

10. “the 1” (Taylor Swift)

When it rains, it pours. A monsoon begins by end of June. As if a pandemic alone isn’t enough to try to get through, a long relationship dissolves whilst a beloved grandma does too. Still, the storm hasn’t reached max capacity and hope remains. Taylor also releases her surprise album, Folklore.

But we were something, don't you think so?

Roaring 20s, tossing pennies in the pool

And if my wishes came true

It would've been you

In my defense, I have none

For never leaving well enough alone

But it would've been fun

If you would've been the one


11. “exile” (Taylor Swift feat. Bon Iver)

We’re at F5 tornado damage. July leaves no prisoners by month’s end. Hit almost simultaneously with the loss of one person’s presence and the complete loss of another from this world. Another shoutout to Taylor, who traditionally I’ve respected but never fully understood. This time, the timeliness of her words and return to indie roots, align precisely with the experience at hand. Mix in Bon Iver and perhaps like me, you’re ready for crunchy leaves and a nice cry in a cabin in the woods.

All this time

We always walked a very thin line

You didn't even hear me out (you didn't even hear me out)

You never gave a warning sign (I gave so many signs)

You were my town

Now I'm in exile seein' you out

I think I've seen this film before

So I'm leaving out the side door

All this time

I never learned to read your mind (never learned to read my mind)

I couldn't turn things around (you never turned things around)

'Cause you never gave a warning sign (I gave so many signs)


12. “Let it Be“ (The Beatles)

By end of August, I somehow regain my footing through words: reading, listening, and writing them. Bringing back a favorite Beatles ballad, “Let it Be” after the debris seems to be the only way to guarantee all will be okay, you’ll see.

When I find myself in times of trouble, mother Mary comes to me

Speaking words of wisdom, “let it be”

And in my hour of darkness, she is standing right in front of me

Speaking words of wisdom, “let it be”

And when the brokenhearted people living in the world agree

There will be an answer, let it be

For though they may be parted, there is still a chance that they will see

There will be an answer, let it be

And when the night is cloudy, there is still a light, that shines on me

Shine until tomorrow, let it be

I wake up to the sound of music, mother Mary comes to me

Speaking words of wisdom, let it be

Let it be, let it be, let it be, let it be

Whisper words of wisdom, let it be


13. “On brûlera” (Pomme)

A beautifully haunting tune, Pomme’s “On brûlera,” ruminates in my mind long after hearing it in Hilary Swank’s Away this month. Airy and soft at first listen, nostalgic and moving from there, the French singer’s lyrics gain even greater poignancy after a translate to illuminate their meaning.

À la Terre, mon ange (To the earth, my angel)

Et je veux partir avec toi (And I want to leave with you)

Que la mer nous mange le corps, ah (Let the sea eat our bodies, ah)

Que le sel nous lave le cœur, ah (Let the salt wash our hearts, ah)

Je t'aimerai encore (I will still love you) 

14. “Let’s Love” (David Guetta & Sia)

This month also unveils a personal readiness to move on and a glimpse into what that might look like. David Guetta and Sia’s “Let’s Love” is the feel-good song of fall. Simple, uncomplicated, and with us as we envision a brighter future.

So take my hand, don't be afraid

This too shall pass, this too shall pass

We'll get through it all together

We'll get through it all together 


15. “Good Job” (Alicia Keys)

Despite the optimism, those of us who haven’t faced a personal loss yet this year, may still feel like we have hit a wall, contained within own’s own home as work, family, and personal life enmesh in one location. Have we hit the limit on what we can handle? Alicia Keys’ “Good Job,” released in April, is worth bringing out again as a reminder that we are all indeed doing a good job.

The mothers, the fathers, the teachers that reach us

Strangers to friends that show up in the end

From the bottom to the top, the listeners that hear us

This for you, you make me fearless

You're doing a good job, a good job (Oh)

You're doing a good job

Don't get too down

The world needs you now 


16. “The Change“ (JoJo )

November, most of us collectively sigh (out of relief). Perhaps we finally see systemic change starts within each of us on an individual level. In honor of new leadership-to-be, I bring you JoJo’s “The Change.”

I'm not gonna make, gonna make no excuses

I'm not gonna waste no more time being blind

'Cause there ain't no world, ain't no world that I'm changing

If I don't change mine

I can feel a fire is starting, nothing's gonna put it out

It's like this moment's waited for me and

And it's mine now

I'm gonna be the change

Gonna start with my heart

Gonna be the light, be that light, my own light

That lights my way through the dark 


After such a year, we need holiday cheer more than ever and some favorites to reappear.

17. “Underneath the Tree” (Kelly Clarkson)

Maybe it is her multiple appearances on TV screens this holiday season, Kelly Clarkson and her 2013 “Underneath the Tree” finds a permanent December home. Careful, the chorus is almost too catchy.

You're here where you should be

Snow is falling as the carolers sing

It just wasn't the same

Alone on Christmas day

Presents, what a beautiful sight

Don't mean a thing if you ain't holding me tight

You're all that I need

Underneath the tree 

18. “Both Sides Now” (Joni Mitchell)

Rediscovered after watching Love Actually again, Joni Mitchell’s ethereal tone combined with honest lyrics illuminates the delicate nature of life and love; the type of philosophical ballad to close the year out in contemplation of life’s mysteries.

Rows and floes of angel hair

And ice cream castles in the air

And feather canyons everywhere

I’ve looked at clouds that way

I’ve looked at life from both sides now

From win and lose and still somehow

It’s life illusions I recall

I really don’t know life

At all

 19. “All I Want for Christmas Is You” (Mariah Carey)

On a lighter note is a modern holiday classic that never gets old. “All I Want for Christmas” is a coronavirus vaccine. 2021, here’s hoping you deliver.

Oh, I won't ask for much this Christmas

I won't even wish for snow (And I) (even though I did get snow!)

And the sound of children's

Laughter fills the air (Oh, oh yeah)

And everyone is singing (Oh yeah)

I hear those sleigh bells ringing (Oh)

Santa, won't you bring me the one I really need? (Yeah, oh, oh)

Won't you please bring my baby [coronavirus vaccine] to me?

Oh, I just want you for my own (Ooh)

More than you could ever know (Ooh)

Make my wish come true

Oh baby, all I want for Christmas is you. 

20. “Memories” (Maroon 5)

Released in 2019 technically, but what is time really? With Mr. Levine, we close out our year with a reflective tone, acknowledging we have all hurt in our own way, but everything gon’ be alright, and toast to the ones here today and the ones that we lost on the way.

Everybody hurts sometimes

Everybody hurts someday, ayy-ayy

But everything gon’ be alright

Go and raise and say, ayy

Here’s to the ones that we got

Toast to the ones here today

Toast to the ones that we lost on the way

‘Cause the drinks bring back all the memories 

Getting through 2020 was made possible with these artists’ talents and the pure magic of music. Songs touched, supported, and understood us in a way only the combination of notes, instruments, voices, and heart can. Our souls felt understood as we dove into lyrical stories that sometimes mirrored our own lives. How beautiful to have such friends to ride with us through life’s waves. 2020, in the words of ABBA, thank you for the music. There it is, a surprise bonus track! Oldie but goodie to carry us into 2021, a year, hopefully, full of way more fun.

Bonus Track

21. “Thank You for the Music” (ABBA)

Thank you for the music, the songs I'm singing

Thanks for all the joy they're bringing

Who can live without it? I ask in all honesty

What would life be?

Without a song or a dance, what are we?

So I say thank you for the music

For giving it to me 

Rewind 2020 HERE.

What were your top 20 (or 21) tracks of 2020?


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