At the very end of December 2020, I stumbled upon an interesting challenge. The idea was to create a playlist telling about your year thought exactly ten songs. I immediately fell in love with the idea – my soft spot for telling stories through music was pierced.
I collected the ten tracks that construct the essence of my 2020 and made the playlist, but I felt I had to elaborate. This post is dedicated to Twisted Reviews‘ (a top-tier rap review account) challenge – you will find a little bit more about the story behind how those particular tracks turned into a year-defining soundtrack for me.
Find my playlist here and please share yours if you like the idea of the challenge
Every year is a personalized experience for different people. The number doesn’t really matter – the people you cross paths with, the situations you end up in, the lessons you learn (or don’t learn) are the things to look for.
I am not a person who spends a lot of time reflecting on his year, but I do have my unofficial highlights. While writing this post, I noticed that music keeps being a fundamental part of my life and relationships. I tend to connect specific tracks (even artists) with different people and certain moments of my life (I’m sure a lot of people do that). Maybe it is the recent realization that this phenomenon exists, but it blows my mind – it is such an interesting thing to experience and observe. Every important relationship and every precious moment of my life has a soundtrack – when I hear the Song, I am magically transported back to that moment.
For example – this very addictive, uplifting track takes me back to the start of a very special friendship and a long night of music sharing
The challenge helped me discover the perfect soundtrack of my 2020. The playlist contains the songs I subconsciously paired with some great people and unforgettable experiences. Writing this post was a very fun self-reflective process and a great recap of the good and bad highlights of my year. It also helped me understand a little bit more about myself and my actions.
Those are the ten songs that mattered the most for me in 2020 and a little bit of the stories behind their importance.
That’s On Me – Mac Miller
2020 started quite well for me. I had a great 2019, and I entered the New Year with hope, excitement, and contempt. I was at peace with myself (sort of), and I also had the time, energy, and motivation to focus on my personal development.
Mac Miller’s Circles came out at the perfect time to remind me of the importance of self-reflection and self-improvement with the necessary dose of acceptance of flaws. The album was the best possible start of the year (both musically and spiritually) for me, and it remained a very big part of my 2020.
That’s On Me is one of the songs that hit me hardest. It’s one of Mac’s most introspective tracks – it openly admits the responsibility for one’s mental state is their own. I really needed to hear that and stay away from making excuses about the things I didn’t like about myself – I had to face the fact that it is all up to me in the end.
Time moving slowly, I’m bouncing my head off the wall
I know nobody that knows where we’re going at all
The song is still a good reminder for me and one of Mac’s most impactful tracks in my eyes. It brings me an unexpected amount of comfort and peace despite the delicate theme explored.
Read my full review on Circles here.
Finally // beautiful stranger – Halsey
Manic is an album that makes me feel a lot every time I play it. It shines with exceptional execution in every aspect.
And the video to this one! So good!
The whole album is a beautiful exploration of a vulnerable, struggling but also liberated mind. It presents a drastic shift from Halsey’s fictional conceptual storytelling seen in the last two albums which might be the reason Manic’s tracks hit so remarkably hard.
I am putting Finally // beautiful Stranger as a 2020 defining track because of the emotional outpour that caught me off guard and made me remember past experiences with a bittersweet taste. It just shattered my mind and soul, making me feel the emotions in my bones – a rare and precious phenomenon.
It doesn’t end there – I was lucky enough to see the song performed live with all the magic wrapped around a Halsey concert. It was one of the most emotional moments I have had during a live show. However, sharing it with special people and creating a long-lasting bond during the performance is what makes it truly important – maybe even dominant for my 2020.
Read my full review on Manic here.
Lonely – Palaye Royale
Palaye Royale’s The Bastards is one of the 2020 albums I feel I didn’t pay enough attention to. However, some of the first singles from the album were the tracks that kept me sane during the first (and the scariest) stages of the pandemic.
A remarkable band!
Lonely was the track that I replayed the most when I was feeling the isolation’s negative effects. Truth be told, I was overly dramatic, but the song did make me feel better. I never imagined isolation could be so problematic for a person like me but the challenges appeared quickly.
Lonely was a frequent soundtrack to those days and I still rock to it pretty hard – the emotional value, hard-hitting instrumentals, and typical for Palaye Royale aggressive but comforting environment are an absolute delight.
Gold – Brockhampton
Brockhampton’s Gold is a track I discovered at the end of 2019. However, the incredibly uplifting and mood-boosting effect it has stayed with me permanently. I keep coming back to it when I need some good energy. And 2020 was a year that needed a lot of that.
A very good friend of mine played Gold to me in December 2019, and we had an absolute blast with it. Every time I replay it, I get back to this moment and the feelings I experienced. Due to circumstances around the first time I heard it, the song also makes me feel more confident and secure.
It is a permanent member of my “good vibes” playlist.
Cancel Me – Dominic Fike
What Could Possibly Go Wrong is yet another masterpiece of an album that I haven’t talked about enough. Dominic Fike’s debut full-length is packed with his unique charm, subtle but deep references, and brutal honesty.
The sweetest video ever? Maybe. Yes!
Cancel Me is still my favourite track on the record and the one that resonated with me the most when I first played the full album. It has that nonchalant vibe creating a comforting atmosphere, yet it deals with a serious theme.
The song is filled with substance to the brim, it looks into Fike’s personal life in detail but still manages to become easily relatable with the universal topic. It is presented in a way that makes it impossible not to sing along and the clever references (like the Brockhampton one at the start) that you come across when you listen carefully add extra replay value.
I just can’t get enough. It captures the essence of my mood in the bigger part of 2020 quite well, that’s why it is essential for my list.
Read my full review on What Could Possibly Go Wrong here.
Stay Gold – PVRIS
PVRIS’ Stay Gold is amongst my favourites from the new record. However, the reason it became such an important part of my 2020 is that it holds a special meaning. Every time I hear it, I remember a certain moment and connect it to a certain person who means a lot to me.
The song itself is incredibly wholesome and sweet, which makes it even easier to love. It is a fundamental part of Use Me’s concept and maybe even the highlight of the album – wishing the best to someone you had to part ways with and wanting to protect them because you know their true value.
Read my full review on Use Me here.
Beyond – Leon Bridges
Looking deeper into my list, I realize that most of my 2020 defining songs have such importance because I connect them with certain people. The case with Leon Bridges’ Beyond is exactly the same – I discovered it thanks to an incredible human being who also happens to be responsible for 80% of the new music I fell in love with during 2020.
Beyond is a sweet, angelic kiss for the soul. It is impossible to resist the mellow and delicate sound, the elegant singing, and the divine outpour of love radiating from the track. It always brings a smile to my face and a warm feeling in my soul.
Sorry – Nothing But Thieves
Sorry is a beautiful song, but I tend to associate it with something unpleasant. Unfortunately, it has been a constant part of my life’s soundtrack for several years. I thought 2020 is the year I break this cycle, but instead the Nothing But Thieves hard-hitting ballad re-entered as a major part of my year.
This song and I have a love-hate relationship for years
I still enjoy listening to the track despite the negativity I connect it with (an unfortunate development of an important relationship). It is a good reminder to work on not allowing the things explored in the song to keep happening. Every time the song hits me harder than a sudden thunderstorm, I make a note to myself. I hope 2020 was the last time I had to do that.
Audacity – Stormzy (feat. Headie One)
2020 was the year that Stormzy got on my radar and had the audacity (I’m so funny, I know) to refuse to let go of my attention. The grime superstar grew on me with his bold and diverse repertoire, outstanding energy, and respectable attitude. A big part of Heavy Is The Head’s tracklist turned into my most played songs for the year.
Audacity is one track that I am particularly drawn to. It just gives me a confidence boost and puts me in the right mindset when I need to focus. It has a badass vibe typical for Big Michael, an impressive beat, flow, and delivery build-up, clever and witty lyrics, and powerful references towards Stormzy’s career-defining moments.
One Day the Only Butterflies Left Will Be in Your Chest as You March Towards Your Death – Bring Me The Horizon (feat. Amy Lee)
The build-up at the end of this song is epic
This track is the one and only acceptable conclusion for 2020. It is a fascinating representation of the complicated relationship between nature and humanity delivered by two outstanding artists. Both Amy Lee and Oliver Sykes play their parts perfectly and make this haunting narrative come to live in the most impactful way possible.
The song is also the perfect conclusion of Bring Me The Horizon’s angriest and most political release in years. One Day the Only Butterflies Left Will Be in Your Chest as You March Towards Your Death is both graceful and scary, which I think is exactly the goal the band wanted to fulfil. It is a powerful reminder and a stunning song – a perfect ending of a messed up year.
It is the closing act of my year because it made me think a lot about global and personal issues. The thought-provoking nature of the song can be applied in many aspects, and this is exactly what happened to me.
Looking back at my soundtrack for the year was way more interesting than I imagined. The effect this “exercise” has is critical if you want to make conclusions about yourself and your experiences.
I might even turn it into a yearly type of post. Thanks a lot to Twisted Reviews for coming up with the idea, to The Indian Music Nerd for nudging me to take part, and to you for reading the whole thing.
Please do share your own 10 songs for 2020 playlists if you feel like it, I am always happy to talk music with you!
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