My Music in 2020, A Glance

entertainment

Dec 19, 2020 • spotify wrapped stalker matt • ~ 28 minute read • 5184 words


Welp, we’re almost through this hellscape of a year. One of the only things that has kept me sane is music; let’s take a quick tour of some of my faves. I’ll also rant a bit about the state of rap. And there’s a playlist at the end!

Albums of the Year

Here are my (9) favourite albums released this year:

after hours album cover

After Hours by The Weeknd

Abel pulls through with a meticulously-crafted period piece of pop perfection.

a few more thoughts…

I loved the thematic soundscape of Starboy, and Abel brings that internal consistency to an even more cohesive release in After Hours. The synths are absolutely gorgeous, the groove is immaculate, and Abel brings some of his best vocal performances to date on this album. I daresay, one of the best pop albums of the decade. Clearly snubbed for the Grammys.

Faves: Hardest To Love, Snowchild, Faith, Blinding Lights, In Your Eyes

circles album cover

Circles by Mac Miller

Mac's posthumous release shows a level of intimacy and grace in the tragic twilight of his career.

a few more thoughts…

To some extent, I don't think I'll ever be objective with an artist's posthumous release, let alone Mac. Still, Circles ended up being one of my favourite albums of the year: it's the culmination of Mac's drift towards an alt, jazz-adjacent, melodic rap style that seems very few peers. The lyrics are heartbreaking: we get a sense that things are changing for Mac, from depression to drug abuse - but everything just got cut short. Just tragic.

Faves: Blue World, Good News, Woods, That's On Me

limbo album cover

Limbo by Aminé

Aminé keeps his unique attitude and production in a thoroughly enjoyable album.

a few more thoughts…

I've been following Aminé since REDMERCEDES, Caroline, and Good For You, and his growth has just been insane. He's definitely carved out a unique lane for himself in the rap scene - balancing bangers with trap beats, introspective melodic songs, and an irreplaceable attitude. He's got me even more excited for his next release.

Faves: Woodlawn, Roots, Compensating, Pressure In My Palms

savage mode 2 album cover

SAVAGE MODE II by 21 Savage & Metro Boomin

Trap's most lethal duo is back and better than ever.

a few more thoughts…

It's no secret that Metro Boomin is one of my favourite producers, and 21 is my favourite "new giant" from an absurdly stacked 2016 XXL Freshmen class. This third collab tape is a testament to their growth as artists. 21 maintains his cold killer attitude, but switches up his flows and delves deeper into past struggles. Metro delivers banger after banger over a stunningly-diverse set of beats. Cements their dominance as artists in the trap era.

Faves: Runnin, Glock In My Lap, Many Men, My Dawg, Brand New Draco, Said N Done

sawayama album cover

SAWAYAMA by Rina Sawayama

Rina delivers a stunningly innovative, versatile, and emotional breakthrough album. Makes me proud to be a Rina stan!

a few more thoughts…

After a stellar debut EP in RINA, I was hungry for more - and SAWAYAMA does not disappoint. Rina brings a wide sonic and emotional range to this album. Hyperpop, nu-metal, R&B, and alt-pop blend together to create anthemic bops, slow ballads, and everything in between. And lyrically, Rina still manages to strike an emotional chord with each song. Definite AOTY contender for me.

Faves: XS, Akasaka Sad, Bad Friend, Tokyo Love Hotel, Chosen Family

song machine album cover

Song Machine, Season One: Strange Timez by Gorillaz

Damion is a song machine, churning out an amazing set of singles with a stacked feature list.

a few more thoughts…

Damion Albarn produces an album very true to its name. Each track has its signature, wacky Gorillaz flair - but also manages to incorporate the widest set of influences yet, and still keeps coherent. Gorrilaz, Elton John, and 6LACK together doesn't sound like it should work, but it does - and beautifully. Given just how broad the net is, there's probably a song for everybody. And it impresses me that this is almost the 20th year of Gorillaz; Damion shows no sign of stopping.

Faves: The Valley of the Pagans, Pac-Man, The Pink Phantom, Momentary Bliss, MLS

the slow rush album cover

The Slow Rush by Tame Impala

Kevin Parker puts us in a trance, yet again.

a few more thoughts…

I'm not sure if there's much else to say. This album is just a vibe, front to back. I can never complain about more Tame Impala.

Faves: Borderline, Breathe Deeper, On Track, Lost In Yesterday, It Might Be Time

ungodly hour album cover

Ungodly Hour by Chloe x Halle

Chloe and Halle craft the cleanest fusion of R&B, rap production, and pop vocals I've heard this year.

a few more thoughts…

For being relative newcomers to the pop scene, Ungodly Hour is unreasonably pristine. Starting from the production, each song is meticulously produced to be 100% a bop, with heavy influence from Chloe herself. Chloe and Halle are also both heavily involved in the songwriting, which is particuarly refreshing in a pop scene with fewer singer/songwriters. And the vocals are just immaculate. If more of pop and R&B was like this, I'd be so happy.

Faves: Forgive Me, Do It, Ungodly Hour, Lonely, ROYL

women in music part three album cover

Women In Music Pt. III by HAIM

The Haim sisters masterfully bring a certain beautiful energy to a variety of pop and alt subgenres.

a few more thoughts…

HAIM continues to show themselves as rockstar women in music. The sisters team up with Ariel Rechtshaid and Rostam of Vampire Weekend fame to create, in some senses, the perfect indie pop rock album. They weave their way through a variety of alt subgenres, creating wonderful pop ballads and bops rooted in folk, country, rock, jazz, funk, and R&B. The versatility from such a small group of collaborators is so hard to execute, but HAIM have hit the nail on the head here.

Faves: Los Angeles, The Steps, 3 AM, Don't Wanna, Gasoline

Other Albums I That I Liked

There were quite a few albums that I enjoyed listening to this year, even if they weren’t my favourites. Here are some other good releases in 2020, and other albums that I listened to for the first time this year.

Albums Released in 2020

click to expand
  • Alfredo by Freddie Gibbs, Madlib
  • American Head by The Flaming Lips
  • color theory by Soccer Mommy
  • dawn + dusk by mxmtoon (2x EP)
  • Dedicated Side B by Carly Rae Jepsen
  • Detroit 2 by Big Sean
  • Drop 6 by Little Simz (EP)
  • elated! by Bea Miller (EP)
  • evermore by Taylor Swift
  • folklore by Taylor Swift
  • Fuck The World by Brent Faiyaz
  • Future Nostalgia by Dua Lipa
  • how i’m feeling now by Charli XCX
  • I Can Feel You Forgetting Me by Neon Trees
  • IDK & FRIENDS 2 by IDK
  • Man On The Moon III: The Chosen by Kid Cudi
  • MOONCHILD by NIKI
  • No Pressure by Logic
  • no song without you by HONNE
  • pop songs 2020 by BUMPER (EP)
  • Punisher by Phoebe Bridgers
  • RTJ4 by Run The Jewels
  • Shore by Fleet Foxes
  • souvenir by Jonah Yano
  • Spilligion by Spillage Village
  • These Are Not My Songs by Su Lee (EP, Covers)
  • UNLOCKED by Denzel Curry, Kenny Beats (EP)

A few highlights and thoughts on this long list:

And some albums that you might’ve expected:

Albums Released Before 2020

click to expand
  • 1999 by Joey Bada$$
  • 2012-2017 by Against All Logic
  • Cilvia Demo by Isaiah Rashad
  • Coast Modern by Coast Modern
  • Dream Girl by Anna of the North
  • Drunk by Thundercat
  • Fleet Foxes by Fleet Foxes
  • FOTO by Kota the Friend
  • Helplessness Blues by Fleet Foxes
  • i,i by Bon Iver
  • I’ll Never Be Amazing by Sawyer Nunes
  • Like What by Tennyson
  • Overly Dedicated by Kendrick Lamar
  • Supermodel by Foster The People
  • The Never Story by JID

A shorter list, and some shorter thoughts:

Songs of the Year

Most of my songs of the year are already covered in the albums that I’ve mentioned, but there are a few others that are either standalone singles or come from albums that I didn’t love front-to-back.

Note: I am not including lo-fi hip-hop beats in this list!

Songs Released in 2020 (favourite albums non-inclusive)

click to expand
  • 327 by Westside Gunn, Joey Bada$$, Tyler, The Creator, Billie Essco
  • A Thousand Words by Jay Som
  • All That by Emotional Oranges, Channel Tres
  • Antidote by Orion Sun
  • Are You Even Real by James Blake
  • Are You Feeling Sad? by Little Dragon, Kali Uchis
  • Backyard Boy by Claire Rosinkranz
  • Baguetti by Smino, JID, Kenny Beats
  • BB (Bodybag) by slowthai
  • Bye Bye Baby by Greer
  • Care by beabadoobee
  • Chicago Freestyle by Drake, Giveon
  • COMMITMENT ISSUES by Tiffany Day
  • Could Be Fun by Banana Club
  • CUT EM IN by Anderson .Paak, Rick Ross
  • CUTIE PIE! by JPEGMAFIA
  • death bed by Powfu, beabadoobee (* re-released)
  • Dragonball Durag by Thundercat
  • Eugene by Arlo Parks
  • Fool’s Gold by ARIES
  • Gimme Love by Joji
  • Heat Wave by Glass Animals
  • Hold It Together by The Marias
  • Hurry Home by No Rome, beabadoobee, Jay Som
  • I Like Him by Princess Nokia
  • I’m a Little Sad Tonight by Su Lee
  • Jupiter by The Marias
  • King of the Fall by The Weeknd
  • Laundry by UD
  • LAX by Vulfpeck
  • Lockdown by Anderson .Paak
  • Love In My Pocket by Rich Brian
  • midnight love by girl in red
  • moonlight by dhruv
  • MORE by K/DA (Madison Beer, (G)I-DLE, Lexie Liu, Jaira Burns)
  • Otherside of America by Meek Mill
  • Politics & Violence by Dominic Fike
  • positions by Ariana Grande
  • ringtone (remix) by 100 gecs, Charli XCX, Kero Kero Bonito, Rico Nasty
  • RUNAWAY by Rei Ami
  • Sangria by $NOT, Denzel Curry
  • Shine by Joey Bada$$
  • Song 33 by Noname
  • Still Dreamin by Dreamville (JID, Lute, 6LACK)
  • Stone Cold by Deb Never, Kenny Beats
  • SUGAR (Remix) by BROCKHAMPTON, Dua Lipa
  • SUNRISE by MICHELLE
  • Tenant by Andrea Chahayed
  • THE BADDEST by K/DA ((G)I-DLE, Wolftyla, Bea Miller)
  • The Bigger Picture by Lil Baby
  • The Difference by Flume, Toro y Moi
  • The First Time by Nicotine
  • Treat You Right by Yellow Days
  • Trouble’s Coming by Royal Blood
  • VILLAIN by K/DA (Madison Beer, Kim Petras)
  • walk but in a garden by Llusion, mxmtoon
  • WHATS POPPIN by Jack Harlow
  • Window by Still Woozy
  • You by Yellow Days

Some quick tidbits:

Songs Released Before 2020

For a song to qualify here, I listened to it for the first time this year.

click to expand
  • 82 92 by Statik Selektah, Termanology, Mac Miller
  • 2012 by Joey Purp
  • Animal Spirits by Vulfpeck
  • Apocalypse by Cigarettes After Sex
  • B L A C K S T O N E by Semi-Attractive Boy
  • Boys Aside by Sofya Wang
  • Breathe by Fabolous
  • Drug Dealers Anonymous by Pusha T, JAY-Z
  • Froyo by Hans., Clairo, Aso
  • Harvey by Her’s
  • Honeypie by JAWNY
  • If Only by Raveena
  • Let Me Blow Ya Mind by Eve, Gwen Stefani
  • Lover Boy by Phum Viphurit
  • Magnolia by Gang of Youths
  • Mr Blue by Catherine Feeny*
  • Pick Yourself Up by Nat King Cole
  • Nosetalgia by Pusha T, Kendrick Lamar
  • Nova Scotia 500 by Boyscott
  • Renee by SALES
  • Sad Saturdays by JOBA
  • Smile by Isaiah Rashad
  • she likes spring, I prefer winter by slchld
  • Tell Them by James Blake, Moses Sumney, Metro Boomin
  • Tieduprightnow by Parcels
  • Toothpaste Kisses by The Maccabees
  • Water Glass by Cannon
  • with you by seth arlan

Some quick tidbits:

Stats et al.

I still enjoyed Spotify Wrapped this year, though I wasn’t as big of a fan of how they presented it compared to past years (though apparently it was a great marketing move). Here’s my wrapped summary, if you’re interested:

2020 wrapped

It’s a bit funny that Monsune knocks out all 5 of my top songs, but other than that there’s nothing too unexpected here. My Kendrick / BROCKHAMPTON / Monsune love was sustained without any new releases from them this year, which is an interesting stat to keep an eye out for.

And, I’ve been using last.fm for two years now. You can visit my page to do a deep-dive of stalking, but some interesting tidbits.

On artists:

On songs:

On albums:

Since last.fm had its fair share of outages, all of the above numbers are likely an undercount.

An interesting aside: some of the statistics are warped by different types of music listening that I do. In particular,

The State of Rap in 2020

this next part is completely just my opinion, no judgement!

I talked about this last year, and I’ll say it again. I’m not super satisfied with where rap is right now.

Now, 2020 has been an off-year for music in part because of quarantine. Cancellations of big festivals and tours were probably a factor in the delay of the Kendrick album (he was supposed to headline Glastonbury with possibly new music), and likely affected a whole host of TDE releases, Drake, and many of the other big names.

But, it’s not that quarantine completely destroyed creative output. I think we had an amazing year for pop. We got mainstream hits like After Hours, Future Nostalgia, Chromatica, Positions, or Taylor’s forays into indie pop. And, alt had a killer year: Rina, Phoebe, Fiona, and HAIM all had stellar outputs. And rap still charted well: The Box, Rockstar, Life Is Good, Savage, and WAP all dominated for their fair portion.

Looking at the Billboard year-end chart or this year’s Grammy noms, I’m left pretty disappointed. Look at this year’s best rap album noms:

First, it’s interesting that trap is completely missing from this album list. There’s a big disparity from this category and the best rap or melodic rap performance categories, which have none of the above artists and instead have the likes of DaBaby, Lil Baby, Jack Harlow, Lil Baby, Roddy Ricch, and heavyweights like Drake and Travis Scott.

But secondly, this is just such a weak category year. Compare it to the legendary 2014 year of

Or Kendrick’s other two years, 2016:

And 2018:

Compared to any of those three years, the only album that’s even reasonably competitive is Alfredo, and it’s still probably in the bottom half of its year. And, this is given that the 2014/16/18 lists are still imperfect; there are better ablums to round out the bottom half.

Normally, I would just chalk this up to the Grammys being bad - this is the same organization that gave The Heist a grammy over GKMC, NWTS, and Yeezus, and somehow put Igor in the rap category.

But, I can’t really come up with a much better list. Out of the albums that I listened to, the albums that I think are even remotely competitive are:

(I’d put Mac Miller in a different category for Circles)

This is … not a very competitive field at all. I don’t think any of my replacements could give Kendrick or Kanye a run for their money, let alone be a genre-definer in their own right. And of course, I haven’t listened to every rap album this year - the new clipping. album, for example, seems like a strong contender - but I think I still have a pretty good handle on the mainstream stuff.

So what gives? If you want my two cents - keeping in mind that I am just some rando commenting about music - I chalk it up to streaming killing the concise album, and a lull in innovation.

First, on concise albums. I love concise albums. I think they have much better replayability and longevity over a more mediocre, long album (for example, 4:44). It’s much easier to execute on a concept album or theme with less songs (IDK’s Is He Real? is a great example of this). Of course, I don’t dislike long albums - TPAB, The College Dropout, and GKMC are all great in their own right - but they need to not overstay their welcome, and provide a reason for them to be that long. When long albums drag on for too long, they tend to hurt their best songs too: I get bored by a concept repeated too often, and everything gets hit.

Streaming has warped that incentive. More and more artists are dumping 50min+ albums with much less quality control. And I get it - longer albums are better for streaming and sales, so you kinda just have to - but I think it’s leaving albums with a sour taste in my mouth. High Off Life by Future is one hour and ten minutes, and there’s absolutely no reason for it to be that long. Now, Future doesn’t make that many short albums, but I loved how much tighter WATTBA, EVOL, or SUPER SLIMEY were. And it’s not just Future this year: Lil Baby’s My Turn, Big Sean’s Detroit 2, and Royce’s The Allegory all clear one hour, and probably could be tighter. Don’t get me started about the trend in 2019.

While I don’t think that trap or “mumble rap” is ruining mainstream directly, I think these (especially new) artists need to take heed of conciseness too. To be frank, I don’t think Lil Tecca has 19 songs of hits in him, Blueface could do with less than 16, and 18 is a bit ambitious for Gunna. It’s not that trap can’t do well on short and concise albums. My perennial favourite, Without Warning, clocks in at a smooth 33 minutes with ten songs - and sold like hotcakes. DaBaby has also been pretty good at this, capping out at ~13-ish songs per album. And as much as it’s unlikely much will change, I’d love to see more rappers take up this mantle of concise albums - especially if they’re early in their career.

The second big problem I see is a lull in innovation. Again, this isn’t the same as “mumble rap is bad”. In the 2014-2017 run of trap, producers and artists were really innovating. Young Thug and Future were pulling in production influences from all the way in left field. The Migos were just refining their triplet flow. Travis Scott was developing his signature eerie atmosphere. We had a legendary, if unorthodox 2016 XXL class of 21 Savage, Lil Uzi Vert, Denzel Curry, Lil Yachty, Kodak Black, Anderson .Paak (and a few others); all of the names ones are either commercially dominant, critically acclaimed, or both. And, we had our resident alien translator and Pierre Bourne frontman, Playboi Carti. At this point in trap, I think it’s an innovative subgenre breathing some fresh air into rap, alongside the traditional lane occupied by Kendrick, Kanye, JAY-Z, J. Cole, Eminem, Pusha T, etc.

The problem, then, is that this new wave of rap is stagnant. The triplet flow is pretty commonplace, and Culture II beat it into the ground. Even though they’ve got some bangers, Lil Baby and Gunna sound like they’re reusing the same beats that Metro, Murda, and Zaytoven used to get the Migos big. The soundscape that forms the basis for songs like Blueberry Faygo and Ransom is pretty catchy, but it seems very one-dimensional and not career defining. Travis Scott seems to have sold out (but honestly, get that bag). Lil Uzi and Yachty seem to have sunk back in slight mediocrity. Whole Lotta Red probably will never drop.

That’s not to say that there isn’t innovation. I like that we’re getting more dominant women in rap à la Megan, Cardi B, City Girls, and Rico Nasty - rap is still unfortunately a men’s game, but things are looking better. I still think that 21 has carved a solid lane for himself, as has Aminé and Denzel. There’s the insanely stacked Dreamville roster of JID, EARTHGANG, and Bas. And I’ve got high hopes for Roddy, Jack Harlow, Lil Baby, $NOT, Ski, Sheck Wes, and a plethora of other newcomers.

But right now, we’re in between big changes. As a young kid, I saw Kanye move us away from 50’s gangsta rap with his opening trilogy. I saw 808’s single-handedly revolutionize the genre, and bring rise to Drake-esque pop rap and open the curtain for Travis, Future, and Thugger (though shoutout T-Pain here too). I dove into rap as Kendrick and J. Cole reinvigorated lyricism along with Chance, Freddie Gibbs and the return of Pusha T. And, we just discussed the new wave of 21, Lil Uzi, Carti, and now - Lil Baby, Roddy, and Gunna.

In other words, I think the next wave is due soon. What it’ll be, I’m not so sure. One guess is this sleeper trend of overstimulated hyperpop, by way of PC Music, 100 gecs, JPEGMAFIA, Rico Nasty, Ashnikko, or parts of clipping (again, I haven’t heard them yet). It might be trap beats over a nostalgic revival, similar to what pop has done with After Hours and Future Nostalgia - and if it gives us more songs like a lot with chopped synth or soul samples, I’m all for it. It may be a new take on rhythm - I’m keeping my eye on Channel Tres and his clean bass boosts. It might drawn on international talents, as Bad Bunny continues to dominate the charts and our friends across the pond in Skepta, Stormzy, slowthai, and co. continue pushing forward grime. And maybe, just maybe, this new Kendrick album will blow our minds and usher in an entirely new era of rap.

Whatever it is, it can’t come quickly enough for me.

Closing (and random) Thoughts

That was a bit of a long rant, so I’ll keep this conclusion short.

In general, I am happy with where I am music-listening wise, but still want to expand a bit more. I’m trying to include a bit more hyperpop, alt-rock, and country/folk into my routine. Metal is probably still a no-go for me, for now. And of course, there’s the perennial battle of getting myself into older music.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t thank all of my friends who’ve influenced my music taste. Adding on to last year’s list, I’ll also shout out Arjun, Sharvani, Maya, Zach, Eugene, Disha, Faiz, Mark, and Isabel!

And, as is tradition - here’s a playlist of my fave songs released in 2020. It took quite a bit of deliberation!

Until next time!


Thank you for reading My Music in 2020, A Glance. It was written on Dec 19, 2020 by spotify wrapped stalker matt. It was 5184 words long, and should be a ~ 28 minute read. It was categorized under entertainment.