Too much tertiary education... Former performer/wrestler, teacher, scientist; Published author & Father... Want to be a writer if I grow up...
Published January 19th 2021
Best from a weird year
It's time for me to look back on the songs of the previous year and put forth my opinion as to which were the best. 2020 might have been a lousy year in many ways, but musically, it seemed to allow so many artists the chance to open up and experiment and so we ended up with a lot of music that was more personal or done purely out of a sense of fun. After all, the rest of the year was a little bit stressful.
Now… my issue with doing this. There were a lot of great songs released in 2020. My initial list had more than 100 tracks on it! So I decided to limit myself to only songs given an official release. So songs recorded for YouTube or Spotify only were not included – these had to be tracks I could buy and download, and that were released initially in 2020, be that as singles or on albums. This did mean my favourite song from Haim's album – 'Hallelujah' – did not make it as it was released as a single in 2019. While this did get rid of a lot of great music, it made my list much easier to deal with. And so I culled it down more and more until I had only 50 tracks to sort through.
This was an easier number and I was tempted to leave it at that, but a column with close to 3 hours of music would probably be unwieldy. Therefore, I invoked my normal rule of one song per artist in the main list and listened to all of these songs until I had a top 20.
But, before then, those songs that just missed out – our honourable mentions. Yes, there's a lot of Taylor Swift. I don't apologise. So… 'Break Up Song' by Little Mix (back to their fun pop sound); 'Burning The Heather' by Pet Shop Boys; 'Cell-0' by Cell-0 (awesome instrumental from album I should have reviewed); 'Charlie Patton Highway (Turn It Up - Part 1)' by Robert Plant; 'Coastal Pines' by jade imagine; 'epiphany' by Taylor Swift; 'First Everlasting' by Fake Names; 'Holidays' by Meghan Trainor feat. Earth, Wind & Fire (yeah, this came up already – don't judge); 'invisible string' by Taylor Swift; 'Last Man Standing' by Bruce Springsteen; 'marjorie' by Taylor Swift (beautiful track); 'Might Be Losing My Mind' by Ruby Boots & Indianola; 'Murder Most Foul' by Bob Dylan; 'My Name Is Dark (Art Mix)' by Grimes; 'Night Crawling' by Miley Cyrus feat. Billy Idol (yes, Miley… wait until the list proper!); 'No I In Beer' by Brad Paisley (fun party anthem); 'Nothing At All' by Deep Purple; 'On Sunset' by Paul Weller; 'Out The Cage' by Keith Urban; 'Quarantine' by blink-182 (really NSFW); 'Rise Up' by Jared Halley; 'Sister Anne' by Alice Cooper; 'Solid Rock' by Amanda Palmer with Fred Leone; 'The End Of The World' by The Smith Street Band; 'The Long Way Round' by Deep Purple; 'this is me trying' by Taylor Swift; 'To The Good Old Days' by Dennis DeYoung & Julian Lennon (weird collaboration that actually works); 'We Are Warriors' by Avril Lavigne (stop judging…); 'Weight' by Fake Names.
Whew! Now for my top 20. I decided this time to actually put them in order, so the last song is my favourite released song from 2020. Ready? Let's go. Top 20 for 2020!
20. 'Gaslighter' by The Chicks
Formerly The Dixie Chicks, they have returned with a great song about the toxicity of being gaslighted in a relationship (when one partner manipulates the other into doubting their sanity). The harmonies are still there, as this that pop-country feel, and I hope this means they are going to return to popularity. They deserve it.
19. 'I'm Gonna Be (500 Miles)' by The Vandoliers
An interesting cover of the Proclaimers' classic (yes, it's a classic; don't @ me). I bought this as a download single and I really like it. Not as good as the original, but it's still built on a sense of fun. There is also a slightly country feel about it all; it's just really good.
18. 'I Contain Multitudes' by Bob Dylan
I spoke about this track at length in my Rough And Rowdy Ways review. Lyrically, one of the best songs of the year. And Dylan sings it so well.
17. 'Do What You Can' by Bon Jovi
I wrote about this one on my review of the 2020 album. The country touch helps make it, and even the version with Jennifer Nettles is great.
16. 'Edge Of Midnight' by Miley Cyrus feat. Stevie Nicks
A remix of the song 'Midnight Sky', this was the song that introduced me to the album Plastic Hearts, an album that shows that Miley should be singing more rock; her pop stuff is meh, when she rocks (or does country) she is a far better artist. And the addition of Stevie Nicks is a good choice here.
15. 'The Devil Went Down To Georgia' by Nickelback feat. Dave Martone
When I first mentioned this song in a column, I said that my liking it was going to get me kicked out of Music Lovers Anonymous. Don't care. No, it is not as good as Charlie Daniels' original, but is it good? Yes! When they ditch the formula and let themselves rock out, Nickelback are still a good band. Although it is weird hearing Chad Kroeger's voice so low…
14. 'Throw My Bones' by Deep Purple
The opening track from the Whoosh! album, Again I have written about this one already. It is such an ear-worm I was singing the chorus before I had finished my first listen to it. Deep Purple are back and they are as good as ever.
13. 'When One Door Opens' by Joe Bonamassa
Yet another song I've discussed, from the Royal Tea album. The opening track, it is a long one that passes through so many different musical styles, but it is just magnificent.
12. 'Living In A Ghost Town' by The Rolling Stones
Their first new original song since 2012, this is a blues track that follows on from their blues cover album of a few years ago. Apparently re-written lyrically to be more about COVID, it shows that, like so many other elder statesmen in music, the Stones are just making the music they like and the music is all the better for it. I am hanging out for a full new album now.
11. 'Stronger Than You Know' by Jared Halley
This song of positivity is from Rise Up, an album I wrote about at length. I still say – go and buy it; support the independent musicians!
10. 'Second Nature' by Angie Hart
From the tribute album to David McComb, Truckload Of Sky, I have written about this song before, and the more I listened to the album, the more I realised this song is an absolute classic. It deserves to be better known and I hope by including it in columns like this, I can help with that. Angie Hart's voice is beautiful.
9. 'Beds Are Burning' by Amanda Palmer and Missy Higgins
At the start of the year, Amanda Palmer released an album to help with fire relief after the bushfires that ravaged much of Australia – Forty-Five Degrees. So, yes, I have written about this awesome cover version already, but it still stands – it's great.
8. 'Yes I Have Ghosts' by David & Romany Gilmour
Another song I bought the single for, this beautiful track by the Pink Floyd guitarist accompanied on vocals and harp by his daughter Romany is a gorgeous song, one that I only heard about because, well, I am something of a fan of Gilmour. Another track lost in the shuffle of 2020, I think it deserves more than it received, and it is truly one of the best tracks of the year. I mean, that instrumentation alone…
7. 'Rockets' by Paul Weller
Yet another album and song I've discussed before, On Sunset was one of the best albums released in 2020, and this is my favourite track from it. There is something David Bowie about it, and it is magnificent.
6. 'Ordinary Man' by Ozzy Osbourne with Elton John
Yet another song I've talked about when discussing Osbourne's Ordinary Man album. Not only does Elton John appear, but Slash does a guitar solo. It was good to hear Ozzy singing again, considering his health issues. Let's hope this is not his swansong.
=4. 'I'll See You In My Dreams' by Bruce Springsteen
Equal 4th? Yes. This and the next track I could not decide between. And, again, I have spoken of it when I reviewed the Letter To You album. A song with wonderful lyrics and soaring music that ends the album on such a high note. Springsteen is THE man.
=4. 'Through The Mists Of Time' by AC/DC
And here's the equal of the previous track. The more I listened to PWR/UP, an album I reviewed when it came out, the more this song just attracted me. And, surprisingly for an AC/DC song, the lyrics are really strong. It's not as rockier as most of their canon, but it is not the less for that.
3. 'Long Tailed Winter Bird' by Paul McCartney
And another I reviewed and talked about before, from the McCartney III album. It is the opening track and I said in that review it was a late contender for song of the year… and here it is, top 3. I hope I can be as creative at his age…
2. 'Shameika' by Fiona Apple
Fetch The Bolt Cutters was an album that pleasantly surprised me, as my review attends. Still my favourite track on the album, and sitting at number 2 because it is so different, and yet it is so magnificent.
1. 'exile' by Taylor Swift with Bon Iver
Yes, my favourite track of the year comes from Taylor Swift, from folklore, an album that surprised everyone. I said in that review, where I went on about this track (which features as much Bon Iver as Taylor) that this would be in my top 10 of the year, but the more I listened to it… well, yes. My favourite song of 2020. Surprised me, too. But it is truly wonderful.
This was a tough list. It has been said that the best art is borne of hard times; maybe that's why so much great music was released in 2020. And this does not even cover the sheer volume of wonderful music that exists on YouTube or was released only to Spotify (which I would only have heard in passing; I refuse to do Spotify, considering the fact they rip off the artists and curate playlists based on stupidity). But these twenty tracks are a fine example of what was out there.
Listening to this as a list, I realise I have moved towards slower and more introspective songs. Maybe it's been that sort of a year.
So… what did I get wrong? What would you have included? What was your number one track of 2020? Please, let me know in the comments section below… and happy listening!