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Top 25 Songs of 2020 (So Far)

on June 23, 2020, 10:00am
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25. John Prine – “I Remember Everything”

Sounds Like: A wise grandfather figure sitting you down and telling you the secret to life

Key Lyric: “And I remember every night/ Your ocean eyes of blue/ How I miss you in the morning light/ Like roses miss the dew”

Why It Matters: We extol the virtues of music all the time as music writers, citing how it unifies people, consoles those in pain, and somehow understands us when the rest of the world doesn’t seem to. John Prine’s final song might do all three. Sung from the vantage point of a weary traveler looking back, Prine doesn’t sugarcoat the fact that there will be loss and mistakes and pain down the line. However, he also reminds us that there will be comfort, often in memories of things as simple as a shady tree or a warm smile, when looking back at the entire journey. It’s a wise message and a fitting final word on a remarkable life. –Matt Melis

Song in a GIF:

Roses Breeze


24. Polo G – “I Know”

Sounds Like: Like a diary entry pouring out from its pages

Key Lyric: “I know life is a bitch and she don’t fight fair/ How the fuck I wake up from a dream to a nightmare?”

Why It Matters: Chicago rapper Polo G admits that he even surprised himself with how honest and vulnerable he gets on deep cut “I Know”. The smooth-flowing track finds Polo exposing his wounds — lost friends, sexual abuse, and a violent past — and how they’ve affected his ability to relate to others, be in a relationship, or even just find peace of mind. Luckily, music has always been there for him, even when others weren’t, and it’s that outlet that allows him to pour his pain into something positive. While rap has made significant strides over the years, a song as candid as “I Know” comes clean and makes the case that mental illness and trauma should be topics that are fair game in hip-hop. –Matt Melis 

Song in a GIF:

Polo G Gif

23. U.S. Girls – “4 American Dollars”

Sounds Like: The glint of light off golden dollars in a ’70s hustler movie

Key Lyric: “You gotta have boots/ If you wanna lift those bootstraps”

Why It Matters: We can always count on Meg Remy to slice up our societal shortcomings with the sharpened edge of her silver tongue. On “4 American Dollars”, her witty dismantling of wealth inequality is draped in a shimmering disco groove that is perhaps U.S. Girls’ most inescapable effort to date. The track’s glitz and glamour put a spell on the listener, just as the quest for the almighty dollar blinds a capitalistic culture from the ingrained inequity of the very system that drives its value. It’s a protest song that wholly reflects its subject, making it far more complex than it is catchy — and it’s damn catchy. –Ben Kaye

Song in a GIF:

Puppets Money


22. 070 Shake – “Guilty Conscience”

Sounds Like: Trying to turn off your mind when it’s racing a million thoughts per second

Key Lyric: “Why you so close, but you feel so far?/ You look like the moon in the mornin’/ Jaded, faded, almost gone”

Why It Matters: Cheatin’ songs are as old as the craft of songwriting itself, but rarely do we find both parties hiding illicit trysts from one another. More interesting, though, is that, like Polo G above, 070 Shake takes an old idea — infidelity — and goes someplace new with it. Sung from the perspective of a young man, Shake explores the fragility of masculinity and how, beneath a rough exterior, men have to wrestle with their emotions, including guilt and hurt, just as much as anyone. That turmoil feels all the more tangible as Shake shifts between flexing her voice (rising on choruses and grooving old-school between) and rap-singing, like a tortured mind trying to free itself from agonizing over every detail of a betrayal. –Matt Melis

Song in a GIF:

070 Shake Gif

21. Soccer Mommy – “Circle the Drain”

Sounds Like: The opening song to a ‘90s high school rom-com

Key Lyric: “I’m trying to seem strong for my love/ For my family and friends/ But I’m so tired of faking/ ‘Cause I’m chained to my bed when they’re gone/ Watching TV alone/ ‘Til my body starts aching”

Why It Matters: Soccer Mommy (aka Sophie Allison) sings candidly in “circle the drain” about depression, what it’s like to struggle when nothing seems wrong. Musically, the track does a great job of what it feels like to be depressed, laying listlessly, wanting to be fine but not being able to find that peace. The “circle the drain” analogy has been used in songs before, but Soccer Mommy makes it literal here, with bubbles draining down a sink at the end of the track. –Annie Black

Song in a GIF:

Soccer Mommy

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