*Note: Because I was in Korea for most of the year, my Spotify didn’t work and I used YouTube most of the time. Please don’t bully me for having low “total minutes listened” (haha)…
2020 was my third year using Spotify. Unlike previous years, when I voraciously listened to new releases, I focused on discovering “old” albums this year (which means “more than one year old” in today’s fast-paced music scene). I listened to acclaimed albums I had not fully explored yet, like Tame Impala’s Currents, FKA twigs’s LP1, Have A Nice Life’s Deathconsciousness, Vulfpeck’s The Beautiful Game, and more.
My favorite, of course, was The Weeknd’s Trilogy (2012), and Spotify made clear that this was no secret:
Yup, four out of my top five songs are from Trilogy. These songs were exactly what I expected to be my most played songs.
Before listening to Trilogy, The Weeknd was just another pop star to me: I knew him for the megahits “Can’t Feel My Face,” “I Feel It Coming,” and “Call Out My Name.” But once I fell in love with the gritty, haunting production on his oldest works (Trilogy is a compilation of his first three mixtapes released in 2011), I had to explore all of his albums thoroughly. Combined with his new platinum album this year, After Hours, it’s not surprising that I was binging The Weeknd’s music for most of 2020.
My top 5 artists are largely the same as in previous years. Kanye, Frank, Kendrick, and Brockhampton have remained my favorites over the years. (I quoted Frank, Kendrick, and Brockhampton in my high school senior yearbook.)
Scroll all the way to the bottom of this post for the link to my Spotify playlist.
Commentary on my most listened-to songs in 2020
- The Weeknd – Wicked Games (Trilogy, 2012): A standout single from Trilogy. The melodies are unforgettable, and the production is sleek and lush. The lyrics are simultaneously arrogant, ruthless, desperate, and painful. I can never get tired of listening to this on repeat.
- A$AP Rocky – L$D (AT.LONG.LAST.A$AP, 2015): Fewer songs are better at creating a dreamy, elusive atmosphere. “L$D” is peak 2010s psychedelic hip-hop, and the production is just superb. I listened to this most in early mornings between 1-3am. This is another song you can get lost in for hours and hours.
- The Weeknd – The Morning (Trilogy, 2012): I love this song so much that I wrote a 12-page lyric essay about it. Haha. This song features some of The Weeknd’s best songwriting ever — the vivid imagery and portraits of thrilling city life hustles are always compelling. I hear that “The Morning” was a game changer in R&B, and it’s not hard to see why.
- The Weeknd – The Party & The After Party (Trilogy, 2012): At first, I was obsessed with this song. Then I started to find flaws; this track could probably be shorter. But I will always love the second half — it is full of regret and emptiness. When I listen to this track late at night, it makes me deeply emotional.
- The Weeknd – Call Out My Name (My Dear Melancholy, 2018): How could you not love Abel’s vocal performance here? He gives his all in this tale of heartbreak that will ring familiar for many listeners.
- Frank Ocean – Pyramids (Channel Orange, 2012): One of the most innovative and timeless songs to emerge from the 2010s. No doubt about it.
- Lorde – Glory and Gore (Pure Heroine, 2013): A hidden gem from one of the best pop albums of the 2010s. Lorde’s vocals are mysterious, alluring — her songwriting is great, as always.
- Kanye West ft. Bon Iver – Lost In The World (My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, 2010): A top 3 song from this masterpiece of an album. It starts with a single, bare voice, then erupts into a celebration that sounds nostalgic and reflective of everything that came before it. When I hum this song to myself, it’s a reminder I’m not alone in my confusion and despair. Other people feel it too.
- The Weeknd – Privilege (My Dear Melancholy, 2018): I immediately knew I would love this song from the first few seconds. The crackly, old-school production and lyrics are heartbreaking.
- Metro Boomin ft. 21 Savage – Don’t Come Out The House (NOT ALL HEROES WEAR CAPES, 2018): The only reason this is in my top 20 is because it’s the first song on my personal “2020” playlist. Starting on January 1st each year, I make a playlist of songs I like throughout the months. So when I’m done listening to the last track, the playlist automatically loops back to the beginning, which is this track. Well, it’s a pretty good and entertaining song…
- Lorde – Perfect Places (Melodrama, 2017): A good closer to Melodrama. I love this line: “I hate the headlines and the weather / I’m nineteen and I’m on fire.” Yes, politics stressed me out this year, and I hate climate change. I am indeed nineteen and 1) suffering from climate change and 2) on a roll.
- Frank Ocean ft. Andre 3000 – Pink Matter (Channel Orange, 2012): One of Frank Ocean’s most emotional songs, featuring the most melancholy production from Channel Orange. I absolutely adore this song.
- The Weeknd – House of Balloons / Glass Table Girls (Trilogy, 2012): This should have been higher up. The lyrics are very dark (it’s about doing cocaine), but I love the intensity and sense of impending doom in the beat. This track sends chills down your spine.
- A$AP Rocky ft. FKA twigs – Fukk Sleep (Testing, 2018): A creative track from Rocky. I love the nonchalance of his rapping and FKA twigs’s ethereal voice.
- Lorde – Green Light (Melodrama, 2017): This track is full of honest confessions and exuberant confidence. 2020 had its downs, but I’m looking forward to the new beginnings, as Lorde does here.
- Beyoncé – Partition (Beyoncé, 2013): A very sensual, playful, and shameless song. And who doesn’t want to feel all of those things? I listen to this when I need a confidence boost.
- Jorja Smith – Teenage Fantasy (Lost & Found, 2018): The lyrics are very relatable, and they probably are for every teenager who has ever crushed on someone else or struggled to define their identity.
- Frank Ocean – White Ferrari (Blonde, 2016): Everyone agrees that this infinitely calming and devastating song is one of Frank Ocean’s best works. This song always feels very spiritual for me.
- The Weeknd – The Hills (Beauty Behind The Madness, 2015): I love the booming bass in this song. We need more of these unconventional pop songs.
- FKA twigs – cellophane (MAGDALENE, 2019): Also should have been higher up on this playlist — probably in the top 10. The simple lyrics lay bare all of FKA twigs’s wounds. I haven’t heard another vocal performance quite like this one in the 2010s. No attempt to be impressive, pleasant, or pretty — it’s pure, raw anguish. I shed many tears listening to this song since I discovered it in 2019.