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Year in Review: Rob Sheffield’s Top 25 Songs of 2020

“WAP,” “Watermelon Sugar,” and more

Rob Sheffield's favorite songs of the year included tracks by Harry Styles, Jhené Aiko, and Megan Thee Stallion.

What a glorious year for music — if nothing else. And there were days when it really did feel like there was nothing else. But music kept us going, when we needed it most. These are my 25 favorite songs of the year (although some are over on my album list, to avoid duplicating all the same artists). Including, but not limited to: hits, flops, obscurities, rap bangers, guitar punks, disco dreams, TikTok dance crazes, indie slop, soul poets, certified freaks seven days a week. And Fleetwood Mac, obviously.

From Rolling Stone US

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RCA Records


Doja Cat feat. Nicki Minaj, “Say So”

Doja Cat blows TikTok super-crush kisses over the Eighties-style Kajagoogoo groove (dig that Spandau Ballet / Naked Eyes Brit-fop guitar loop), while Nicki adds, “I put this cookie on quarantine.” Push it real good.

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Danny Clinch


Bruce Springsteen, “Ghosts”

When Springsteen wrapped up his one-man Broadway show, he joked he was going “back to my day job.” Except like so many dudes in Springsteen songs, he found that was easier said than done — when it comes to rocking stadiums live in 2020, lately there ain’t been much work on account of the economy. (“Come back home to the touring industry/Hiring man says, ‘Son, if it was up to me.’”) “Ghosts” might be officially about his fallen comrades, but it feels more like a long-distance dedication to the (temporarily) scattered audience, as if all those crowds who used to hang on his every word just up and vanished one day like a bunch of Bobby Jeans. I listen to that self-consciously over-the-top E Street piano break and think, “Damn, he really misses us.” Can you imagine the day when we get to sing, “I’m alive and I’m out here on my own” back to him at a show? I can, I do, I will. Hi-ho, rock & roll, deliver us from nowhere.

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Ribbon Stage, “Favorite Girl”

A Gang of Three from Brooklyn, with Anni Hilator, Jolie M-A, and David Sweetie blasting through a fuzz-guitar anxiety attack called “Favorite Girl.” It’s the highlight from their debut cassette My Favorite Shrine (five songs in eight minutes — cool), which logged serious hours in my Walkman this summer. (It was mixed by someone named “Capt Tripps Balsington.”) The one called “Favorite Girl” sounds even sadder than the one called “Cry in the Driveway,” and that’s the way pop should always work.

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Rick Diamond/Getty Images


Fleetwood Mac, “Dreams”

Who else but Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham could keep re-breaking the same chain for over 40 years, from Tusk to TikTok? “Dreams” became the year’s most surprising TikTok sensation, inspiring Stevie, Lindsey, and Mick Fleetwood to join the fun — probably the closest we’ll ever get to a reunion. Yet another weird twist in the endlessly weird Mac saga. There’s something so beautiful — and so scary — in the way these bad lovers are still haunted by the music they made together, and how the music still refuses to give them their freedom. It’s official: Stevie is the thunder that only happens when it’s raining. And Stevie is always raining.