Music

The 2020 Uproxx Music Critics Poll: The Best Songs Of The Year

This piece is running as part of the 2020 Uproxx Music Critics Poll.

Uproxx asked for each of the critics filling out our 2020 Uproxx Music Critics Poll to list out their favorite song of the year. More than 230 voters participated this year, resulting in more than 100 song selections, including several choices from the likes of Fiona Apple, Freddie Gibbs, Giveon, Arca, Taylor Swift, Lil Baby, and Pop Smoke. Below, we’ve listed out the top 11 vote-getters as well as a playlist with the entirety of the selections, along with which critic voted for each. Enjoy digging in and hopefully finding some new tunes to throw in the rotation.

6t. Waxahatchee — “Lilacs”

Katie Crutchfield has ranked among the finest singer-songwriters working in indie rock for years. But Saint Cloud felt like a new peak in terms of her honing craft down to the most essential elements. On “Lilacs,” she sings against a simple yet soulful instrumental bed of keyboards, jangly guitar, and a relentlessly ticking drum that simulates the passage of time. It could be mistaken for a free-spirited slice of sunny Americana, but the charming packaging contains insightful writing about the fight to feel centered in a world that won’t stop spinning.–Steven Hyden

Critics Votes: Zach Schonfeld, Ellen Johnson, Patrick Hosken

6t. Bartees Strange – “Boomer”

“Boomer” is an eclectic highlight of Strange’s stunning debut album Live Forever, but he told Uproxx the song almost didn’t make the album: “I thought it showed that I didn’t take myself too seriously. I felt like it was true to who I am, where I’m from, the people I’m from. It’s just like a punk gospel country outro on top of a Thao & The Get Down Stay Down chorus and a DaBaby style rap verse, like starting right on the one when the song starts.”–Derrick Rossignol

Critics Votes: Tatiana Tenreyro, Ted Davis, Chris Payne

6t. Soccer Mommy — “Circle The Drain”

On her second official album, Sophie Allison wanted to recreate the music from her childhood, but with a sense of degradation that comes with the harshness of everyday life. “Circle The Drain” is a perfect example of this goal, a warm and breezy track on the surface, but with lyrics that are not subtle in their message: “I’ve been falling apart these days,” Allison sings. “Split open, watching my heart go round and around.”–Zac Gelfand

Critics Votes: Kayleigh Hughes, Brady Gerber, Tom Whitcomb

6t. Roddy Ricch — “The Box”

There are Billboard number ones, then there’s phenomena that transcends metrics. The latter was the case with Roddy Ricch’s “The Box,” a single from this 2019 Please Excuse Me For Being Antisocial project. Roddy shows out on both verses — and yes, with his uninhibited “hee her” adlib, but it’s “The Box’s” resounding, impossibly catchy chorus that had TikTok, and the rap world in general, on fire during the simpler days of 2020.–Andre Gee

Critics Votes: Tommy Monroe, Al Shipley, Bryson Paul

6t. Phoebe Bridgers — “Garden Song”

The introduction to the second Phoebe Bridgers album came long before the news of the record itself, lilting toward us through muffled, music box melodies and surrealist lyrics that were novelistic in their detail. “Garden Song” established the expansive nature of Bridgers’ songwriting universe on Punisher, half-nightmare, half-daydream, a blue lullaby for one of the darkest years on the books. But in Phoebe’s sweetly sharp voice, the flicker of hope exists no matter how twisted the story gets.–Caitlin White

Critics Votes: Davy Jones, Hannah Zwick, Kate Flynn

6t. Bob Dylan — “Murder Most Foul”

In an alternate timeline, Bob Dylan is kicking back in his Malibu mansion, counting his millions and resting on his incredibly esteemed laurels. Thank goodness we live in this timeline — how often has anyone said that this year? — because this Bob Dylan somehow is still innovating, surprising, confounding, and thoroughly thrilling all of us on his wavelength. In his nearly 50-year career, he’s never mustered anything quite like “Murder Most Foul,” a 17-minute epic about JFK, America, mortality, The Eagles, and about a million other things. He even scored his first No. 1 with this song with no discernible melody! A wizard.–Steven Hyden

Critics Votes: Bailey Pennick, Grayson Haver Currin, Daniel Kohn

5. Run The Jewels — “Ooh La La” Feat. Greg Nice and DJ Premier

Leave it to El-P and Killer Mike to turn one line of Greg Nice’s verse from Gang Starr’s “DWYCK” into a certifiable banger. Trading belligerent, battle-ready bars over a beat that sounds like a piano falling off a cliff during the apocalypse, Run The Jewels ups their RTJ4 lead single’s cool factor by bringing in Gang Starr’s own DJ Premier to scratch the hell out of the song’s eminently danceable 30 second outro.–Aaron Williams

Critics Votes: Ryan O’Connell, Kyle McGovern, Ben Kaye, Tim Grierson

4. Megan Thee Stallion — “Savage” 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 to an already infectious smash hit. “Hips tick-tok when I dance / On that demon time she might start an Only Fans,” Queen B spits on the certified platinum hit, 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.” The song now lives on Meg’s debut album Good News, which made its debut on the Billboard 200 charts at No. 2. If nothing else goes right in 2020, at least we got the “Savage Remix” with Houston queens Beyoncé and Megan Thee Stallion.–Cherise Johnson

Critics Votes: Lauren Mitchell, Charley Ruddell, Sydney Gore, Andrew Sacher, Sama’an Ashrawi, Kelsey Barnes

3. The Weeknd — “Blinding Lights”

As he’s done numerous times throughout his career, The Weeknd brought forth a new era in his music for his fourth album After Hours. The project saw a shift to synthwave for the Canadian singer, which is highlighted on “Blinding Lights.” The track topped the singles chart and became the singer’s fifth song to do so. “Blinding Lights” also took a number of awards this year and grew to be the most successful single of The Weeknd’s career.–Wongo Okon

Critics Votes: Spencer Patterson, Candace McDuffie, Vanessa Franko, Alex Frank, Neil Z. Yeung, Jarred Howard, Kent Wolgamott

2. Cardi B — “WAP” Feat. Megan Thee Stallion

What is there left to say about this song? If you’ve heard it, you know it. You know about the over-the-top reactions, the runaway popularity, the memes, the impact. You know what it means, you know how it fits into the grand scheme of the raunchy sex anthems before it and you can speculate about the dozens more it will inevitably enable. You know that you fall into one of two categories of people; you either get it, because you can relate from one end of the equation or the other, or you hate it, because you ain’t got a WAP, you never had a WAP, and bless your little heart, you will probably never even come close to one. Cardi B wins again either way. Stay mad or get on board.–Aaron Williams

Critics Votes: Kim Kelly, Kiana Fitzgerald, Joe Lynch, Mosi Reeves, Emily Reily, Insanul Ahmed, Tyler Eveland, Simon Vozick-Levinson, Ashley Naftule, Alex Macpherson

1. Phoebe Bridgers — “I Know The End”

Only Phoebe Bridgers could fit a sweeping three-part suite into less than six minutes, tracing the burnout of bedroom ennui and toxic relationships to the fleeting euphoria of windows-down doomsday drives, and finishing it all off with a cataclysmic orchestral breakdown. Written long before the strange terrors and slow, deadly suffocations of 2020, the song feels oddly prophetic and cathartic at the same time. All we could ask for in a pandemic year, and whatever lies beyond.–Caitlin White

Critics Votes: Ilana Kaplan, Roz Farrell, Caitlin Wolper, Chloe Gilke, Joshua Kirk, Mark Wesley, Shannon Carlin, Justin Curto, Joseph Kain, Trace William Cowen, Konstantinos Pappis, Lexi Lane

Check out our playlist below of each song that received a vote, and after that, find a list of those songs, in alphabetical order.

  • Adia Victoria — “South Gotta Change” (Ian Bremner)
  • Alejandro Fernandez — “Caballero” (Josh Langhoff)
  • Algiers — “Dispossession” (Kevin Korber)
  • Arca — “Afterwards” Feat. Björk (John Wojtowicz)
  • Arca — “Mequetrefe” (Spencer Kornhaber)
  • Backxwash — “Spells” (Tom Beedham)
  • Bad Bunny — “Safaera” Feat. Jowell & Randy and Ñengo Flow (Stefanie Fernández, Andrew Casillas)
  • Bartees Strange — “Mustang” (Tony Inglis)
  • Beauty Pill — “Instant Night” (Glenn Francis Griffith)
  • Benny The Butcher and Freddie Gibbs — “One Way Flight” (Andre Gee)
  • Bill Callahan — “Pigeons” (Justin Barney)
  • Blinker The Star — “Juvenile Universe” (Saby Reyes-Kulkarni)
  • Bo Bundy — “Mi Barrio” (TJ Kliebhan)
  • Bob Dylan — “I Contain Multitudes” (Jeremy Shatan)
  • Bob Mould — “American Crisis” (Michaelangelo Matos)
  • Bobby Bare — “Great American Saturday Night” (Kaleb Horton)
  • Bonnie Light Horseman — “Deep In Love” (Tiffany Wong)
  • Brent Cobb — “Shut Up And Sing” (Bobby Moore)
  • Brent Faiyaz — “Been Away” (Mikala Horne)
  • Brett Eldredge — “Sunday Drive” (Craig Manning, Mark Grondin)
  • Bullion — “We Had A Good Time” (Nathan Mattise)
  • Busta Rhymes — “Look Over Your Shoulder” Feat. Kendrick Lamar (Matthew Perpetua)
  • Cable Ties — “Sandcastles” (Stewart Mason)
  • Charli XCX — “Anthems” (Julia Gray, Patrick Lyons)
  • Chris Stapleton — “Starting Over” (Stephen Thompson)
  • Christian Scott — “Guinnevere” (Raymond Cummings)
  • Christine And The Queens — “People, I’ve Been Sad” (Melissa Locker, Clarke Reader)
  • City Girls — “Pussy Talk” Feat. Doja Cat (DeMicia Inman)
  • Coheed and Cambria — “Jessie’s Girl 2” (Dan Caffrey)
  • Curtis Roach — “Bored In The House” (Aaron Williams)
  • Cuushe — “Hold Half” (Zachary Corsa)
  • DJ Suede and Immarkkeyz — “Lose Yo Job” Feat. Johnniqua Charles (Dan Weiss, Jason Gross)
  • Deftones — “Ohms” (Dan Bogosian)
  • Dogleg — “Kawasaki Backflip” (CJ Simonson, Ian Cohen)
  • Doja Cat — “Say So” (Jeff Benjamin)
  • Don Toliver — “After Party” (Alex Ashford)
  • Dua Lipa — “Don’t Start Now” (Steven J. Horowitz)
  • Dua Lipa — “Levitating” (Ethan Shanfeld)
  • Ela Minus — “Megapunk” (Max Freedman)
  • Empty Country — “Marian” (Maff Caponi)
  • Eyelids — “The Accidental Falls” (Sean Titone)
  • Fiona Apple — “Fetch The Bolt Cutters” (Courtney E. Smith)
  • Fiona Apple — “I Want You To Love Me” (Doug Nunnally)
  • Fiona Apple — “Ladies” (Eve Barlow, Oliver Hollander)
  • Fiona Apple — “Shameika” (Joey Daniewicz)
  • Fiona Apple — “Under The Table” (Scott Recker)
  • Four Tet — “Baby” (Ben Yakas)
  • Freddie Gibbs and The Alchemist — “God Is Perfect” (Dusty Henry)
  • Freddie Gibbs and The Alchemist — “Scottie Beam” Feat. Rick Ross (DJ First Class, Dean Van Nguyen)
  • Gazpacho — “Space Cowboy” (Jordan Blum)
  • Giveon — “Like I Want You” (Gregory Castel)
  • Giveon — “The Beach” (Wongo Okon)
  • Giveon — “World We Created” (Tatiana Ferdinand)
  • Grimes — “Delete Forever” (Spencer Dukoff)
  • Gunna — “Dollaz On My Head” Feat. Young Thug (Jason Lipshutz)
  • Haim — “I Know Alone” (Jack Roskopp)
  • Haim — “The Steps” (Zac Gelfand, Alex Suskind)
  • Harry Styles — “Watermelon Sugar” (Tom Lane)
  • HER — “I Can’t Breathe” (Jem Aswad)
  • Hum — “Step Into You” (Rachel Brodsky)
  • Hundredth — “Bottle It Up” (Terrance Pryor)
  • Jack Harlow — “What’s Poppin'” (J’na Jefferson)
  • Jaden — “Cabin Fever” (DC Hendrix)
  • James Blake — “Are You Even Real?” (Jackie Reed)
  • Jason Isbell And The 400 Unit — “Be Afraid” (Chris Thiessen)
  • Jay Electronica — “Ghost Of Soulja Slim” Feat. Jay Z (Eddy “Precise” Lamarre)
  • Jayda G — “Both Of Us” (Arielle Gordon)
  • Jeff Rosenstock — “Scram!” (Michael Tedder, Ethan Gordon)
  • John Prine — “I Remember Everything” (Holly Gleason)
  • Kareem Ali — “Changed My Life” (Elias Leight)
  • Kes and Iwer George — “Stage Gone Bad” (Erin MacLeod)
  • Kevin Morby — “Don’t Underestimate Midwest American Sun” (Carolyn Droke)
  • Khruangbin and Leon Bridges — “Texas Sun” (Eric Swedlund)
  • Khurangbin — “So We Won’t Forget” (David Ma)
  • King Von — “Took Her To The O” (Justin Hunte)
  • Kylie Minogue — “Say Something” (Mark J. Marraccini)
  • Lady Gaga and Ariana Grande — “Rain On Me” (Evan Sawdey, Marcus Jones)
  • Laura Marling — “Song For Our Daughter” (Sarah MacDonald)
  • Laura Stevenson — “Time Bandits” (Sean Craig)
  • Lil Baby — “Emotionally Scarred” (Cherise Johnson)
  • Lil Baby — “The Bigger Picture” (Eric Diep)
  • Lil Baby — “We Paid” Feat. 42 Dugg (Big Homie Kodaq)
  • Lomelda — “It’s Infinite” (Morgan Troper)
  • Loraine James — “Don’t You See It” (Jack Denton)
  • Lucinda Williams — “Waking Up” (Katherine Turman)
  • LustSickPuppy — “Goatmeal” (Sasha Geffen)
  • MILLI — “Sudpang!” (David Cooper Moore)
  • Machine Gun Kelly — “Bloody Valentine” (Larry Fitzmaurice)
  • Master KG — “Jerusalema” Feat. Burna Boy and Nomcebo Zikode (Ivie Ani)
  • Michelle — “Sunrise” (Robert Ham)
  • Mick Jenkins — “Carefree” (Karas Lamb)
  • Midwife — “S.W.I.M.” (Andy O’Connor)
  • Mura Musa — “Deal Wiv It” Feat. Slowthai (Nina Corcoran)
  • Nick Cave — “Cosmic Dancer” (Don Allred)
  • Nick Hakim — “QADIR” (Marko Orlic)
  • Old 97’s — “I Like You Better” (Justin Cober-Lake)
  • Omar-S — “Hear Me Out” Feat. John FM (Andy Kellman)
  • Open Mike Eagle — “Headass (Idiot Shinji)” (Jesse Fairfax)
  • Perfume Genius — “On The Floor” (Cyrena Touros)
  • Phoebe Bridgers — “I See You” (Andrew Hamlin)
  • Phoebe Bridgers — “Kyoto” (Robert Blair, Stephen Deusner)
  • Phoebe Bridgers — “Punisher” (Will Gottsegen)
  • Polo G — “Go Stupid” Feat. NLE Choppa (Evan Rytlewski)
  • Pop Smoke — “Dior” (Mikeisha Daché Vaughn)
  • Pop Smoke — “Enjoy Yourself” (Lala Evgenivna)
  • Porridge Radio — “Born Confused” (Josh Modell)
  • Purple Disco Machine — “Hypnotized” (Chris Mench)
  • RMR — “Rascal” (Tim Gagnon, Dillon Riley)
  • Reason — “Sauce” Feat. Vince Staples (Victoria Hernandez)
  • Rico Nasty — “iPhone” (Joshua Bote)
  • Rina Sawayama — “Comme Des Garcons (Like The Boys)” (Caitlin White)
  • Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever — “Cars in Space” (Ryan Gibbs)
  • The Rolling Stones and Jimmy Page — “Scarlet” (Lina Lecaro)
  • Run The Jewels — “Walking in The Snow” (Eric R. Danton, Jason Gargano)
  • Run The Jewels — “Yankee And The Brave (Ep. 4)” (Brian Kuhn)
  • Salem — “Starfall” (Chris Cantalini)
  • Sault — “Free” (Kathy Fennessy)
  • Sault — “Hard Life” (Nate Patrin)
  • Sault — “Wildfires” (Adrian Spinelli)
  • Selena Gomez — “Boyfriend” (Derrick Rossignol)
  • Sherman’s Showcase, Vic Mensa, and Phonte — “Sing Me A Lullabye” (Jaime-Paul Falcon)
  • Skip Marley — “Slow Down” Feat. H.E.R. (Hannah Giorgis)
  • Sleaford Mods — “Mork And Mindy” (Brad Cohan)
  • Spanish Love Songs — “Self-Destruction (As A Sensible Career Choice)” (Jeff Nale)
  • Stephanie Lambring — “The Joy Of Jesus” (Steacy Easton)
  • Sufjan Stevens — “My Rajneesh” (Jake Rusnak)
  • Sufjan Stevens — “Video Games” (Zack Ruskin)
  • Tame Impala — “Borderline” (Bianca Gracie)
  • Taylor Swift — “August” (Richard S. He)
  • Taylor Swift — “Cardigan” (Mike Ayers, Nina Braca)
  • Taylor Swift — “Exile” Feat. Bon Iver (Larisha Paul)
  • Taylor Swift — “The Last Great American Dynasty” (Kenneth Partridge)
  • The 1975 — “Frail State of Mind” (Dylan Owens)
  • The 1975 — “If You’re Too Shy (Let Me Know)” (Ryan Reed)
  • The Big Moon — “Don’t Think” (Matt Charlton)
  • The Killers — “My God” (Erica Campbell)
  • The Killers — “My Own Soul’s Warning” (Philip Cosores)
  • The Microphones — “Microphones In 2020” (Richard Trapunski)
  • The War and Treaty — “Five More Minutes” (Henry Carrigan)
  • The Weeknd — “Save Your Tears” (Joshua Kellem)
  • Thundercat — “Dragonball Durag” (Jack Riedy)
  • Tomberlin — “Wasted” (Kristy Guilbault)
  • U.S. Girls — “4 American Dollars” (Nate Rogers)
  • V.V. Lightbody — “Horse On Fire” (Jerry Cowgill)
  • Waxahatchee — “Fire” (Brodie Lancaster, Eric Renner Brown)
  • Weston Allen — “24 Hours (In The Chicken Heater)” (Brittany Menjivar)
  • Yves Tumor — “Kerosene” (Kirsten Spruch, Corbin Reiff)

Some artists covered here are Warner Music artists. Uproxx is an independent subsidiary of Warner Music Group.

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