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The Best Pop Collaborations of 2020

Photographs used in illustration by Victoria Will/Invision/AP; Kevin Winter/MTV VMAs 2020/Getty Images; Atlantic Records; Epic Records

In a year that was most notably marked by isolation, self-quarantine, and feelings of loneliness, it’s essential to celebrate how talented artists found ways to collaborate that brought us some some great vibes and legit moods to get us through 2020. This roundup of bangers and bops spans all genres — rap and reggaeton, country and K-pop — but the thing that it hopefully helps prove is that folks from all backgrounds, geographical locations, and perceived barriers can crossover and find creative partnerships.

From Rolling Stone US

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Beth Garrabrant*; James Goodwin*

Taylor Swift & Aaron Dessner — “Willow”

Before 2020, Taylor Swift was a lot of things — country music gamechanger, hit songwriter, and stadium-commanding popstar — but indie-folk enchantress was not one of them. The always-busy Swift, who lived an album-promo-tour-repeat existence for some 13 years, has deserved a substantial break for a while now. But unplugging isn’t easy when you’ve spent the entirety of your adult life constantly reinventing yourself to remain relevant and please the public eye, and it took a global pandemic to get her to sink into stillness. By allowing her to do so without guilt or a fear of fading away, Swift was able to sit with her many emotions and leisurely stretch the songwriting muscles fans have ogled at since her emergence. With tours canceled, she didn’t need a “stadium song.” With people stuck at home, she didn’t need a “radio song.” All the creative shackles of making a mainstream record were suddenly gone. Instead, Folklore and Evermore — both of which were co-written and almost entirely produced by the National’s Aaron Dessner — sound like Swift plopped in front of a cabin’s fireplace with a glass of wine, pulled the top of her head open like a door, and just poured the contents out. Dessner, already a master of creating space around complex lyricism, was the ideal collaborator. Two decades with the National have resulted in a signature production style that’s remarkably airy without being minimalistic; it’s still multi-layered but he never takes away from the storytelling. With Dessner by her side, Swift is more experimental, alternative, and poetic — not to mention critically acclaimed — than ever before. S.H.

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Cardi B & Megan Thee Stallion — “WAP”

Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion come together on their first joint effort to give us exactly what we deserve from the duo of unapologetic rappers: “Wet-Ass Pussy”. The song wins on its audacity to craft a sample of the Nineties club classic “Whores in This House” into a twerk anthem filled with sex-positive bars. The power of “WAP” is evident from its ability to send entire households into kick splits for a TikTok challenge, while its unpopularity with a riled-up conservative right adds a notch on its belt for pop-cultural impact. The track tops the record for most streams in the first seven days in a year when its collaborating artists are vocal about social justice issues. Cardi regularly fired up Instagram Live to blast Trump and encourage her followers to vote, while Meg used her platform and October SNL performance to advocate for the protection of Black women. Sex is great and all, but in 2020, activism is the new female pleasure. R.C.