For the most part, the best songs released so far in 2020 have not been heard as they were intended. These are songs that should be blasting from festival stages, from crowded clubs, or from headphones as listeners perform outdoor activities free from existential and political dread. But that’s not the hand we’ve been dealt this year. Still, these 50 songs are strong enough to stand up to these times, some even reflecting on and building off this moment. From hip-hop and pop to indie and R&B, these are the best songs of 2020 so far. Listen up.
For more coverage of the best music of 2020, check out the Best Albums Of 2020 So Far.
50. Isaiah Rashad — “Why Worry”
With Jay Elec and Lil Uzi Vert releases out of the way, the onus is on Isaiah Rashad to be 2020 rap’s third sign of the apocalypse and and drop his followup to The Sun’s Tirade. Who knows when that’s actually coming, but he gave his longing fans a taste of what to expect on “Why Worry.” He commandeered a soulful, weary Crooklin-produced beat sounding as emotionally and artistically liberated as ever, giving us the promising update that he’s “sober so far and shrinkin’ / smokin’ out my new Lincoln.”–Andre Gee
49. Lauv — “F*ck, I’m Lonely” Feat. Anne-Marie
There are certain things it isn’t cool to share — and admitting loneliness is still one of those taboo subjects. But Lauv has never been one for polite norms, and his sudden declaration “Fuck, I’m lonely!” is liberating in its bare-bones honesty. Complemented by sweet vocals from Anne-Marie and the kind of melody that gets stuck in your head forever, this song is a welcome companion for his fellow lonely listeners. But dang, if it isn’t also a bop.—Caitlin White
48. The Beths — Dying To Believe
The first single from The Beths’ sophomore album reminds us exactly what made us fall in love with them in the first place. It’s clear that these Kiwis came from a background in classical music composition, because it feels like every instrument on “Dying To Believe” is presented in a way that is meticulously crafted for maximum earworm capability. It’s not something you’d expect from a song that’s about inevitable distance between old friends, but The Beths make it work perfectly.–Zac Gelfand
47. Conan Gray — “Maniac”
He might be young, but Conan Gray has already fielded his fair share of crazy exes. On “Maniac” — one of the biggest songs off his debut album, Kid Krow — Gray takes us through the rollercoaster of an on-again/off-again lover who talks shit and insists they’re over it, all while begging to get back together. Conan takes all the power back by exposing the cycle for the mania it is, and calmly centering despite the hurricane of emotions a relationship like this inevitably brings.–C.W.
46. Jay Electronica — “The Blinding” Feat. Travis Scott
Few people expected a Jay Electronica album in 2020. And when it actually came, fewer people expected to hear him rhyming over a Travis Scott beat. A Written Testimony is a solemn, reflective album, and “The Blinding” offers an early sonic jolt, with a spacey vocal sample and a gaseous effect serving as the backdrop for the Jays’ wide-spanning lyrical exercise. They veer from the spiritual to gun bars to the declaration of “the return of Mr. Shakur spittin’ out phlegm at paparazzi.”–A.G.
45. Justin Bieber — “Intentions” Feat. Quavo
Beebs has long had an interest in R&B, and Changes has merged that with pop supremacy as well as anything Bieber has ever released. He called on Migos’ Quavo to help deliver the smooth and bouncy track, on which Bieber describes all the pure-hearted gestures he wants to make for his beloved.–Derrick Rossignol
44. Petey — “More To Life Than Baseball”
The California songwriter managed to establish himself as a jack of many trades in just four songs on his High Life From The Bottle On The Beach EP. A highlight (on a release that has four of them, really) is “More To Life Than Baseball,” a deceptively catchy track that sees Petey making use of biographically specific references to America’s pastime to lament a relationship that has left the batter’s box after strike three.–D.R.
43. Jonas Brothers — “What A Man Gotta Do”
Jonas Brothers’ “What A Man Gotta Do” was, discounting a holiday song, the first single released following their buoyant revival record Happiness Begins. Their album was brimming with nostalgia, but “What A Man Gotta Do” is a triumphant celebration of the brothers’ comeback success. Forgoing typical revved-up pop production, the Jonas Brothers’ instead opt for a boisterous brass section and eruptive orchestral instrumentation.–Carolyn Droke
42. The Strokes — “The Adults Are Talking”
“The Adults Are Talking” gives you everything you could want if you love Is This It — the guitars interlock perfectly, the drums sound as if they’re being played by a cyborg with limited technical proficiency, and the bass part appears to have been copied note-for-note from Unknown Pleasures.—Steven Hyden
41. Polo G — “DND”
Post-drill era Chicago breakout star Polo G rose to prominence through his skill at capturing and conveying the relatable emotions behind the genre’s grittiest narratives; “thugs” cry too and possibly the most. “DND” — short for “do not disturb” — continues that tradition, epitomizing the need for isolation when the weight of the world threatens to crush us. Polo puts his phone on silent and sits with his thoughts, proselytizing the need to process our darkest emotions.–Aaron Williams
40. Fiona Apple — “Under The Table”
You don’t hear the word “funny” applied much to Fiona Apple. But “Under The Table” — a deadpan story song about how dinner parties are the worst — has a real Larry David quality to it. “I told you I didn’t want to go to this dinner,” she sings. Of course she did! Who thought Fiona Apple of all people would have fun at this party?–S.H.
39. Lil Baby — “Emotionally Scarred”
Legend has it that Young Thug used to pay Lil Baby to stay in the studio and record music as a way to keep him out the streets and it’s probably one of the best things to happen in hip-hop. Lil Baby’s tremendous growth shines bright on his album My Turn and “Emotionally Scarred” is its melodic storytelling manifestation. Floating on the sounds of flutes and snares, Lil Baby takes accountability for his shortcomings and reflects on his transition from the trap to making millions living out his dream on the big stage. “Emotionally Scarred” is an illustration of how life has changed from then to now, using lyrical anecdotes of well-deserved boastful triumphs.–Cherise Johnson
38. Selena Gomez — “Look At Her Now”
Maybe Selena went No. 1 with a slow-burning ballad about losing her man, but my vote for best single off Rare easily goes to “Look At Her Now.” Instead of dwelling on the era of sadness and betrayal that follows a rough breakup, this song catalogs the period of healing and joy that inevitably follows. If more of us could remember that phase is coming, it’d save a lot of heartache. Put this song on, and remind yourself that the next phase is always just around the corner.—C.W.
37. Giveon — “The Beach”
Giveon gracefully stepped foot into the R&B world with a phenomenal appearance on Drake’s “Chicago Freestyle,” returning a short time later with his debut EP, Take Time. The 8-track effort beautifully depicts the artistry of Giveon and the EP’s intro “The Beach” stands out as a beautiful love letter to a woman strong enough to love a man in a city filled with flaws.–Wongo Okon
36. Gordi — “Sandwiches”
“Sandwiches” finds Australian songwriter Gordi honoring her recently departed Grandmother with what might be the best song of her young career. The track elegantly paints the situation of being with someone for their final moments, while also honoring the life, legacy, and love that remains after the breathing stops. It’s a magnificent tribute that wastes no time in capturing the impact of a treasured relationship.–Philip Cosores
35. Halsey — “You Should Be Sad”
Men just ain’t sh*t are they? Sometimes I think it’s just me and my friends dating the disappointing ones, but then I turn on the radio and hear the world’s most renowned women singing about how they’ve been done wrong, too. Leave it to Halsey to make a line-dance-trap banger about how glad she is that her ex doesn’t have custody rights. This song is a hymn for the dumped and the cheated on, and one that pulls no punches to spare feelings, but neither did the man it dresses down.—C.W.
34. The Killers — “Caution”
The best songs from The Killers settle in a bit of timelessness that reflect the band’s core identity: American mythmaking, classic rock, Las Vegas showmanship. It’s all there on the lead single for their upcoming ‘Imploding The Mirage,’ a song that finds the band in vintage form. Frontperson Brandon Flowers puts forth an incredible vocal performance that shows just how underrated he is as a singer, while the band that has written at least a dozen wonderful (wonderful) choruses shows the power of a great verse and a sly turn of phrase. Yeah, stick “she can go straight from zero to the Fourth of July” straight into my bloodstream.–P.C.
33. Travis Scott and Kid Cudi — “The Scotts”
Travis Scott and Kid Cudi’s No. 1 song “The Scotts” is the sweet-sounding symphonic clashing of hypnotizing synths that was introduced to the world on the award-winning video game Fortnite through mind-blowing visuals. The song is otherworldly and hard-hitting — everything we’ve come to expect from Travis and Cudder collaborations complete with Mike Dean’s daring touch. “The Scotts’” dark and brooding circus-melody takes the song beyond the realms of today’s popular sound and puts it in an era we’ve yet to hear.–C.J.
32. Grimes — “You’ll Miss Me When I’m Not Around”
“You’ll Miss Me When I’m Not Around” is one of the high points of Grimes’ latest record Miss Anthropocene, an impressively-composed track that defies expectations, sounding more like an alternative rock song than Grimes’ normal art-pop approach. That’s not to say that Grimes doesn’t manage to try her hand at her signature glitchiness, using flourishes of vocal modulation as a melodic tool to gives the track some extra dimension.–Z.G.
31. G Herbo — “PTSD” Feat. Juice WRLD, Chance The Rapper, and Lil Uzi Vert
All four men on “PTSD” are personally intimate with the emotional toll that the cycle of gun violence and grief takes on a psyche. At one point or another, all four men have rhymed about their cities’ drama or their own substance abuse, perhaps as a result of their trauma. Hearing them come together to offer four slightly different vantage points of the same scourge is needed, but still heartbreaking — especially with a posthumous feature from the late Juice WRLD.—A.G.
30. Kim Petras — “Malibu”
There’s nothing more exciting than following a young artist’s career, and marking the moment when they hit their stride. For Bunheads — aka Kim Petras fans — that moment came with “Malibu.” Kim declared this California love anthem as the beginning of her “superstar pop” phase, and for once, I have nothing to add. Oh, except if anyone was going to come in and snatch Michael Jackson’s old sound, I love that it’s a queer German pop star who capes for the rights of her fellow trans folk.–C.W.
29. Khruangbin and Leon Bridges — “Texas Sun”
Psychedelic group Khruangbin and neo-soul singer Leon Bridges may not be the most immediately obvious combination, but they sounded like a natural pairing on their Texas Sun EP. The two Texas acts do their home state proud on the title track, which has all the warmth of the broad Lone Star expanses.–D.R.
28. Dixie Chicks — “Gaslighter”
Since America collectively discovered and fetishized the practice of “gaslighting” a couple years ago, the phrase has become so ubiquitous it’s totally lost all meaning. Almost. If anyone could turn the term into an anthem that’s simultaneously a kiss-off to the whole country and entirely applicable in specific relationships, it’s the Dixie Chicks. All this song tells us is that their comeback is going to be fearless. Of course it is.—C.W.
27. Jackboys and Travis Scott — “Out West” Feat. Young Thug
Like it or not, Travis Scott and Young Thug may very well be the artists of the moment — at least, when the world’s not on fire and people aren’t stuck in the house going crazy from boredom. The universal appeal of “Out West” can be seen in the wealth of “challenge” videos that cropped up on TikTok as the new social platform gained in popularity. Though Scott and Thugger have better collaborations in their collections (“Pick Up The Phone” remains unfadeable), “Out West” picks up where those tracks left off and solidifies the duo’s chemistry as one of the most automatic hit-making tandems in contemporary hip-hop.–A.W.
26. The Weeknd — “Escape From L.A.”
After nearly four long years, The Weeknd returned with his fourth album After Hours and immediately “Escape From LA” shined brightly as an early standout. Speaking to his unfaithful partner in a dark and disdainful tone, The Weeknd addresses her infidelity before concluding the root of their issues rests in the starry-eyed city of Los Angeles, a city they must depart for their relationship to thrive.–W.O.
25. Phoebe Bridgers — “Kyoto”
Phoebe Bridgers can’t be put in a box. Though the majority of her solo work is spare and intimate, some of her best songs, be it on her own or in her many bands, finds her embracing a more full-band sound and (gently) rocking out. “Kyoto” is a standout on her recent sophomore collection, where a chance to see the world while on tour is dampened by the unpredictability of the human brain. Like all of her best songs, Bridgers is a master of detail and completely in tune with the human condition, even when she’s halfway around the world.–P.C.
24. Rina Sawayama — “Comme Des Garcons (Like The Boys)”
Am I idolizing the club because I can’t go there right now, or has it always been a thundering cathedral where the misfits go to worship? Well, maybe not all clubs deserve that high praise, but the kind where “Comme Des Garcons (Like The Boys)” theoretically plays is the only haven I crave. Wordplay, a too-loud beat, producer muttering, Sawayama’s sultry verse; this song is a world unto itself. And one where the boys have nothing on Rina. Then again, did they ever? Meet me at the club so we can discuss gender politics while we dance.—C.W.
23. Future — “Life Is Good” Feat. Drake
Drake and Future’s worlds collide on their collaborative track “Life Is Good.” The song comes five years after the release of their No. 1 2015 mixtape What A Time To Be Alive and is a testament to their hit-making magic. Though the 6 God and The Wizrd are fully capable of playing in each other’s musical backyards, Drake does his thing on one side of the track and Future does his thing on the other side of the track without either having to leave the comfort of their home bases. “Life Is Good” is an addictive banger that showcases the duo’s willingness to explore outside the box with different ways to collaborate and pop out hits.–C.J.
22. Soccer Mommy — “Circle The Drain”
Soccer Mommy’s “Circle The Drain” is exemplary of vocalist Sophie Allison’s mature songwriting. Hailing from her sophomore album, Color Theory, the track’s comforting tones represents a pivot from angst to nostalgia, signaling a natural departure from her debut record. A rhythm guitar offers warm inflections layered with an intentionally dusty production, akin to discovering an older part of yourself that has long remained unexamined.–C.D.
21. Charli XCX — “Detonate”
Now that she’s finished her flurry of quarantine album-making, Charli XCX has been complaining about the depression/letdown that follows a period of frenetic creativity. Sure, but if she wants to cheer up, this is the song she should preen over. For those fearless lovers with self-destructive impulses, this song has got it all — a sweet tidy beginning, a muddled middle section, and a complete breakdown at the end. But even within the chaos, there’s a glimmer of hope in Charli’s jittery confessional.–C.W.
20. Drake — “Chicago Freestyle” Feat. Giveon
Drake says he’s taking his time in the making of his next full-length album and “Chicago Freestyle” featuring burgeoning R&B singer Giveon is promise that whatever he has in store will be worth the wait. Drake attempts to fill his time in the Windy City with a part-time love over brooding Sevn Thomas and Cadastre-made production. The Toronto rapper effectively delivers his thoughts of how he handles loneliness as he sifts through his phone in search of a girl in town, and justifies his intentions understanding that women “they come, they go,” using a smooth interpolation of Eminem’s 2002 track “Superman.” “Chicago Freestyle” is just a continuum of Drake’s relatability and lyricism consistently coming together in different cities across the world.–C.J.
19. Blimes And Gab — “Shellys (It’s Chill)”
Despite experiencing their breakout moment with 2018’s boom-bap banger “Come Correct,” West Coast rhyme duo Blimes Brixton and Gifted Gab branched out and found their groove with an ’80s dance-funk bop that displays their affinity for melody as much as their throwback, silver-tongued rap wordplay. “Shellys (It’s Chill)” brings a playful taste of their “Big Auntie Energy” to a relatable, lighthearted two-stepper that sounds as much like a family reunion staple as the songs that undoubtedly inspired it.–A.W.
18. Perfume Genius — “Nothing At All”
Each Perfume Genius album features a confident step forward that couldn’t have existed on a previous record. It’s how we’ve gone from the gut-wrenching solo piano of “Learning” to the introduction of percussion on “Hood,” the maximal queer anthem of “Queen,” and the technicolor cannonball of “Slip.” “Nothing At All” is the next entry into Perfume Genius’ continuous reinvention, a song that is built on tension and nuance, with the artist patiently waiting until the song’s second chorus to unveil a vibrant firework display.–P.C.
17. Jack Harlow — “Whats Poppin”
A city once known for producing Bryson Tiller, Jack Harlow flew headfirst out of Louisville, KY with his giddy single, “What’s Poppin’” to start 2020. Backed by a light-hearted visual and eventually finding a home on his 2020 tape Sweet Action, Harlow pedals cleanly through the song’s piano-led production with straightforward musings on life as it was for the Louisville spitter.–W.O.
16. Christine And The Queens — “People, I’ve Been Sad”
The lead singles off her EP La Vita Nuova, “People, I’ve Been Sad” wistfully sways between Christine And The Queens‘ French and English musings. The dialectical pendulum allows her to encapsulate a feeling in every language she can. Many words don’t translate between tongues, but Chris illustrates how hopelessness is universal. “You know the feeling,” she croons over metallic synths — and we do.–C.D.
15. Waxahatchee — “Fire”
Nothing in Waxahatchee’s back catalog sounds like “Fire” or could have prepared listeners from the scorching lead single from her best album yet. Katie Crutchfield’s vocal performance is daring and unpredictable, reaching for difficult notes throughout and basking in unconventional melodic choices. But more important than what she sings is how she sings it, veering away from her typically heartbroken lament and into more declarative territory. It’s polished, confident, and maybe the most exciting piece of music of her career.–P.C.
14. DaBaby – “Find My Way”
Even when DaBaby’s heartbroken, the initial premise for “Find My Way,” he can’t fixate on the gloom before noting “I don’t like to play, be done gave a n**** a halo,” and spending the second verse rhyming about a girl who “swallow me up every mornin’ like a vitamin.” If only all of our heartbreaks only lasted about 45 seconds — but that’s why DaBaby is one of a kind, and why we love him.–A.G.
13. Jamie xx – “Idontknow”
One of Jamie xx’s less-heralded talents as a solo artist is being able to craft dancefloor epics that manage to expand the listener’s mind without pushing into abrasion. It makes sense when you consider his main gig in The xx is built on subtle precision. But on “Idontknow,” Jamie hits 5th gear without compromising any of his trademark tastefulness. Jamie xx rarely goes fully maximalist, but this song argues that he can operate at any BPM with grace.–P.C.
12. Dua Lipa — “Cool”
Lyric-focused listeners love a song that both contradicts and reaffirms its title, and Dua Lipa’s “Cool” does just that. Simultaneously a smooth and effortless summer bop and a song full of lyrics about being so into someone you drop all pretense, this album cut is lowkey the best song off Lipa’s latest release. If anyone can make awkward crush behavior cool again, it’s Dua.–C.W.
11. Yves Tumor — “Gospel For A New Century”
Once you see the video for Yves Tumor’s breakout single, it’s impossible not to hear the song as performed by a horned demon. The juxtaposition in the visual of this fiery “gospel” comes from an artist that loves pitting opposing forces against each other. And, it’s particularly fitting here, in that the composition is so brilliant, it sounds like it could literally have been touched by god. The song embodies a vision where the divine and the vile are so intertwined, it’s hard to tell where one ends and the other begins. In short, it sounds like the future.–P.C.
10. Curtis Roach and Tyga — “Bored In The House”
Detroit rapper Curtis Roach didn’t set out to make the official quarantine anthem of 2020. In fact, in prime “viral social media meme” fashion, he simply made something to encapsulate how he felt at a moment in time, months before there was ever a whisper of an impending lockdown in the news. Of course, it was such a relatable sentiment that it spread like wildfire, becoming more appropriate with each week stuck inside.–A.W.
9. Harry Styles — “Adore You”
Some detractors complain that former boy band talent gets overblown, but throw on a song like “Adore You” and watch the haters fall silent immediately. Slinky funk grooves, a soaring fall-in-love chorus, and Harry’s sometimes soft, sometimes rough tenor all make this song sound like it’s always existed. Hey, maybe it has — nothing warps the rules of time like love, and songs about it.–C.W.
8. Lil Uzi Vert — “Futsal Shuffle 2020”
There’s something about Lil Uzi Vert’s image and public persona that allows him to radiate a precocious, almost wholesome energy despite rhyming lyrics like “she suck my dick ’til she get delirious” on “Futsal Shuffle,” the first single from Eternal Atake. The lyrical content doesn’t veer far from his sexual conquests and general supremacy, but the strobing synths — and, of course, the TikTok-ready dance — make it one of 2020’s most fun listens.–A.G.
7. Lady Gaga and Ariana Grande — “Rain On Me”
If there’s anyone that knows about living with the impact of trauma, it’s Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta. After shedding her skin to cosplay as Joanne, and later, Ally in A Star Is Born, she’s back on Chromatica to grapple with the hardest character of them all: Herself. Enlisting fellow survivor Ariana Grande for one of the summer’s most joyful bops, the pair remake resilience and acceptance into glittering fare for the dance floor. I’d rather be drunk-dancing to this one at a crowded club, but at least I’m alive. If 2020 has more storms coming, this song is an umbrella.–C.W.
6. Terrace Martin — “Pig Feet” Feat. Denzel Curry, Daylyt, Kamasi Washington, & G Perico
There’s songs that chart, songs that bump in the whip, and there’s songs that capture the moment. Terrace Martin’s “Pig Feet” will be one of the most indelible moments of 2020. Denzel Curry, G Perico, and Daylyt took turns taking the system to task over Kamasi Washington’s soaring saxophone. Daylyt may be known for battle rap and DJ Vlad stunts, but he displayed his lyrical gifts on an extended, wordplay-heavy verse where he stated, “I’m here to remind n****s we kings,” setting a galvanizing tone for nationwide demonstrations.–A.G.
5. Doja Cat — “Say So”
A feel-good slice of upbeat disco pop, the non-single from Doja Cat’s Hot Pink gained momentum thanks to some clever TikTok choreography, becoming one of the first songs popular on the new social network to cross over into mainstream success. Its remix vaulted Doja and Nicki Minaj into Billboard chart history, but its the flirtatious original that helped take Doja Cat from simply being the star of the playful viral phenomenon “Mooo!” to the hearts and living rooms of Americans everywhere.–A.W.
4. Mac Miller — “Good News”
A hazy reflection on the fleeting nature of contentment, the lead single from Mac Miller’s Jon Brion-assisted Circles speaks to the edgy sense of generalized, disembodied anxiety that so many of Mac’s generation feel as a result of our increased connectedness and internet-influenced social distance. The fact that it was released before we were all forced inside with our uneasy uncertainty of the future is prescient. The song’s soothing overtones are the balm our dissociated concerns, promising the comforting reminder that “the sky’s still blue.”–A.W.
3. Megan Thee Stallion – “Savage Remix” Feat. Beyonce
Classy, bougie, ratchet. Those are three words to describe Megan Thee Stallion’s explosive “Savage” 2020 takeover thanks to the power of TikTok and dance creators Keara Wilson and the Nae Nae Twins. While the “Savage” dance has been done by millions of Hot Girls and Hot Boys across the globe upon the release of Meg’s Suga EP, Beyonce ignited new life into the movement with a sign-o-the-times verse for the remix. Bey and Meg’s magic turned an already infectious TikTok bop into a No. 1 Billboard hit. “Hips tick-tok when I dance / On that demon time she might start an Only Fans,” Queen B spits before gathering more momentum with essential life quotes such as “If you don’t jump to put jeans on, baby you don’t feel my pain” and “I can’t argue with these lazy bitches I just raised my price.” If nothing else goes right in 2020, at least we got the “Savage Remix” with Houston queens Beyoncé and Megan Thee Stallion.–C.J.
2. Roddy Ricch — “The Box”
The intro from Roddy Ricch’s star-crossed debut album Please Excuse Me For Being Antisocial became 2020’s first massive success, ruling the Billboard Hot 100 for 11 weeks behind inescapable memes and counterprogramming by flippant fans who wanted to shake up the usual pop dominance of the chart. Roddy’s crooning drives the track, which is made indispensable and unforgettable by its squeaky glass sample — a last-minute addition Roddy added himself which became the song’s defining characteristic.–A.W.
1. Run The Jewels – “A Few Words For The Firing Squad (Radiation)”
In what is almost certain to become the song of our times, Run The Jewels condenses and crystalizes the mood of a people fed up with the status quo. Part rallying cry, part defiant “f*ck you” to the powers-that-be, the RTJ4 closer finds El-P and Killer Mike offering their potential last words to a system that doesn’t deserve them and never served them. If they’re going down, they’re taking the ruling class with them.–A.W.
Some artists covered here are Warner Music artists. Uproxx is an independent subsidiary of Warner Music Group.