As we come to the end of the first quarter of the year, we’re in a weird spot. The new decade felt like a refresher but so far it’s felt like an escalation of the problems we closed last decade with. Music has, at least, kept its side of the bargain and these are the songs that have been a ray of light so far.
15. Megan Thee Stallion – B.I.T.C.H.
Megan Thee Stallion is one of the finest purveyors of turn-up anthems right now but she slowed it down on B.I.T.C.H. Rapping over a softer, more melodic beat gave her a chance to show her versatility while keeping those hot girl stylings.
14. The Weeknd – After Hours
The Weeknd has stepped up with this new project. All the singles have been some of his best since Trilogy with the title track standing atop the pack. After Hours is a pulsating, late-night journey that shows us his rarely exposed fragile side.
13. Hayley Mary – Like A Woman Should
Jezabels lead-singer Hayley Mary kicked off the year on her own and blitzed it with this EP cut Like A Woman Should. It’s a howling, lofty anthem that imagines a world where women could walk the streets without looking over their shoulders.
12. Lady Gaga – Stupid Love
Pop Gaga returned and that may be the best news of 2020. Stupid Love is a hefty, thundering song that gives us everything we wanted – an anthemic bridge, mildly nonsensical lyrics and a four-to-the-floor beat.
11. Bad Bunny – La Dificil
You could cherry-pick most moments from Bad Bunny’s LHLQMDLG for this list but La Dificil is the one that stands out the most. It’s a charismatic look at the future of reggaeton combining Bad Bunny’s personality with his natural visionary instincts.
10. Haim – The Steps
Haim flicked a switch last year. They started making exactly the kind of music they wanted to be making and the results are thrilling. The Steps is a grinding, lo-fi statement of independence that still manages to shine with a glorious hook. “Everyday I wake up and make money for myself,” is t-shirt material.
9. Halsey – You Should Be Sad
The Shania Twain in Halsey jumped out for You Should Be Sad, her most forthright detour into country music. You Should Be Mad is bursting with a calm rage that rarely comes to the surface. There’s nothing more thrilling than hearing her over howling, crunchy guitars.
8. Grimes – Delete Forever
Grimes wrote an Oasis song that’s better than anything a reunited Oasis could ever make. Delete Forever was unexpected from Grimes. We were ready for a conceptual, detached record but on Delete Forever her fragility shone placing humanity back in someone who has been stripped of it by the media for the better part of a year.
7. Tame Impala – Breathe Deeper
Tame Impala’s The Slow Rush was much better than everyone thought it was going to be. Kevin Parker’s near-decade run of brilliance continues, driven by this hypnotic daydream. Breathe Deeper moves at a slow pace but guides you into a haze of repetition, ’90s keys and swirling synths.
6. Christine & The Queens – La Vita Nuova (Feat. Caroline Polachek)
We really weren’t prepared for this drop. Chris and Caroline are two of modern pop’s visionaries and their collaboration sent popheads into meltdown. It was worth the fuss too. La Vita Nuova is a sleek, sexy cut that sees Chris channel Prince’s muscular groove.
5. Lil Uzi Vert – Celebration Station
Lil Uzi Vert is a master of traversing genres without you ever realising. His personal aesthetic is so strong that he’s blown his stylistic possibilities wide open. Celebration Station from Eternal Atake feels like a victory lap. He’s never beamed this much, rising above it all with tongue-in-cheek lines like, “And I can’t do my dance ’cause my pants, they from/They from France.”
4. Dixie Chicks – Gaslighter
Dixie Chicks’ first single in 14 years is stronger than even the most dedicated fan could’ve imagined. Maintaining the rage they unleashed on Not Ready To Make Nice, Gaslighter takes aim at the 2020 man. It’s specifically pointed at someone but its middle-finger is pointed far-wider. Produced by Jack Antonoff, it’s a stunning reinvention that doubles down on all the things we loved about them in the first place.
3. Jessie Ware – Spotlight
As the world goes through turmoil, Jessie Ware’s careful quiet feels even more potent. Spotlight, her proper return to the dancefloor, is an effortless moment that moves at an evangelical pace. She ushers us in with a fairytale verse and then gently commands movement as the beat kicks in. Right now, Spotlight feels like a haven.
2. Dua Lipa – Physical
We went in to 2020 wanting more oomph from our pop music and more oomph is what we got. Lipa’s Physical is a muscular pop moment, holding absolutely nothing back. After years of enduring trap-pop, Lipa puts an end to it with a committed, daring moment that forcibly commands you to dance.
1. Christine & The Queens – People, I’ve Been Sad
Between last year’s moment on Charli XCX’s Gone and this, it seems Chris has waltzed into her prime. She’s an unusual songwriter, her use of English often poetically translated, but she’s able to tap into the depths of the heart with her hyperbole. You can feel her heart bleeding as she sings lines like, “If you disappear then I’m disappearing too,” over that heavy, shuddering beat.
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