The Top Ten Best Hit Songs of 2020

The Top Ten Best Hit Songs of 2020.jpg

Date Aired
January 17, 2021
Running Time
34:46
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Introduction[edit | edit source]

Todd plays Maren Morris - "The Bones"[1] on piano

THE TOP TEN BEST HIT SONGS OF 2020

A year-end review

Todd: Well. That was a year. And now that it is finally in the rearview, let me say... God, 2020 was great!

Clip of video about the pandemic

Boris Johnson: This is the worst public health crisis for a generation.

Todd: Well, it was great for music I mean.

Todd (VO): A lot of you might've missed that cause, as the pandemic scrambled all of our brains, habits and daily routines. I know many people who were completely unable to think about music.

Todd: For me, it was the only thing I could think about.

Todd (VO): I have many other interests besides music. But after about two months of quarantine, with no theaters or sports or anywhere to go, my brain couldn't watch TV, or finish movies, or read books, or even watch YouTube.

Todd: Uhh... sorry, peers. [image of a guy playing video games] I could play video games and listen to music. That was it. Pop music was really there for me this year. And that may have made me a rosier critic.

Clip from DylanGLC's "2020 Anthem", which serves as the interlude throughout the countdown

Todd (VO): It certainly helped to like the pop songs this year, since the charts didn't seem to change at all for that entire spring and summer. But whatever it was, I just liked things more. I can't believe how many songs that would've made my top five in other years didn't make the cut.

Todd: I could've easily made a Top Twenty of 2020. And I was tempted to, but that would be much more work and I'm already way behind. So, let us now pay tribute to the songs that got us through the worst year in living memory. We're counting down!

BTS: Disco

Robot Voice: Music is the

Taylor Swift: Sensual

Todd (VO): The Top Ten Best Hit Songs of 2020!

#10[edit | edit source]

Todd (VO): #10.

Todd: Number ten is "Savage (Remix)" by Megan Thee Stallion. I know, number ten! That's how good the year was!

#10. Megan Thee Stallion ft. Beyoncé - "Savage (Remix)"[2]

Megan Thee Stallion: I'm that bitch

I'm a savage (Okay)

Classy, bougie, ratchet

Todd (VO): Houston's own Megan Thee Stallion becoming one of the biggest stars of 2020 was just about the most predictable thing in the universe.

Todd: I was surprised that...

Clip of Megan Thee Stallion ft. Nicki Minaj & Ty Dolla $ign - "Hot Girl Summer"

Todd (VO): ...2019, the year of the Hot Girl Summer wasn't her year.

Todd: And 2020 emphatically did not have a Hot Girl Summer.

Clip of "Savage (Remix)" BET Awards performance

Todd (VO): But she still crushed it anyway.

Megan: I'm a savage

Attitude nasty

I guess with "Savage", she finally found that one thing that put her over the top.

Todd: What was it? Was it that beat?

Snippet of "Savage (Remix)" instrumental

Todd plays the melody on the piano

Todd: FUCK YEAH! Metallica songs don't bang this hard!

Todd (VO): Or maybe it was the god damn hook of the god damn year.

Megan: I'm a savage (Okay)

Classy, bougie, ratchet

I totally buy that Megan is all those things.

Todd: Like Chaka Khan, Megan Thee Stallion is every woman.

Todd (VO): But in this case, what really put her over the top was the right collaborator. And what she got was a co-sign from...

Todd: ...Houston rap legend... Beyoncé?

Beyoncé: Big B and that B stand for bands

Todd (VO): I don't know when this happened, but [clip of Beyoncé ft. Jay-Z - "Upgrade U"] at some point Beyoncé became a really good rapper. Which I guess is not that surprising. [clip of Destiny's Child - "Survivor"] Beyoncé was already trying to carry herself like a grand diva at age 19. So, [clip of Beyoncé - "Formation"] I think she actually has gotten consistently better the older she gets.

Clip of "Savage (Remix)" BET Awards performance

Beyoncé: If you don't jump to put jeans on

Baby, you don't feel my pain

I'm a savage

Like, I don't know that she's, like, a technical, lyrical master or anything. But she doesn't really have to be. She just has to be Beyoncé. She dominates this song. Even this live performance, which she's not even in. I'm not sure she left her mansion at all this year.

Todd: In fact, if I had to make one objection to this song, I think that there's maybe a little too much Beyoncé.

Megan: He be like "How that thing moving in them jeans?"

Beyoncé: Them jeans

Megan: Even D4L couldn't...

Todd (VO): She is on every single second of the remix, talking over Megan.

Beyoncé: Hips TikTok when I dance

She kind of steals Megan's moment, I think she could've let her have a little more.

Todd: But I doubt Megan complained much.

Todd (VO): "Savage" is one of those singles where, if it didn't become a huge hit, we'd have to have a long, serious look at the state of things. It's basically an un-impeachable song.

Todd: And I have nine other songs I like better than it this year. [exhales] Well, on we go.

Megan: What's happening? Yuh

Interlude

#9[edit | edit source]

Todd (VO): #9.

Clip of The Weeknd - "Blinding Lights"[3]

Todd: "Bliding Lights" is not on this list. I know, I know. The Weeknd, snubbed again.

Clip of The Weeknd at the American Music Awards with a bandaged face

Todd (VO): That's why he showed up looking beat to shit everywhere this year. Symbolic of the damage of...

Todd: ...all those snubs.

The Weeknd: Ooooh, I'm blinded by the lights

Todd (VO): "Blinding Lights" was one of the most acclaimed and popular songs of the year.

Todd: Everyone... [brief clip of E! News story reading "The Weeknd Responds to Grammys Snub"] well, except the Grammys, loved it. And I get it.

Todd (VO): It's basically a perfect sounding song. But, for some reason I just had a hard time having strong feelings about it.

Todd: Ehh, I don't know. You know what really did it for me, though.

#9. The Weeknd - "Heartless"[4]

The Weeknd: Never need a bitch, I'm what a bitch need

Tryna find the one that can fix me

Todd bangs his head with the cymbal hits in the song

I been dodging death in the six speed

Amphetamine got my stummy feeling sickly

Todd (VO): "Heartless", the single that preceded "Blinding Lights" is a worse song by most measures I can think of.

Todd: The big thing is that it doesn't really have a hook.

The Weeknd: Cause I'm heartless

And I'm back to my ways cause I'm heartless

Todd (VO): It just kinda seems like it's hitting the same measure and even the same note over and over.

Todd: But man, something just connected with me.

Clip of...

Todd (VO): "Blinding Lights", the song about the feeling of being swept away beyond all conscious control.

Todd: Ehh, yeah maybe in a year where I'd gotten to drive more, I would've found that perfect moment where it clicked, but I never did.

Todd (VO): During the pandemic, my life has never felt [arrow points to The Weeknd floating up with text "Definitely Not Me In 2020"] more static or mundane.

Todd: But "Heartless".

Clip of "Heartless"

The Weeknd: And I'm back to my ways, cause I'm heartless

Todd (VO): The song about saying "Fuck it. Fuck self improvement, fuck being anything but my absolute worst god damn self."

Todd: That one hit a little close to home.

The Weeknd: Duffel bags full of drugs and a rocket

Todd (VO): Okay, not that part. My worst self ate too much pizza and played video games all day, so it's not a perfect comparison.

Todd: But other than that, me and The Weeknd were exactly the same.

The Weeknd: I lost my heart and my mind

Todd (VO): You know, it's funny. I once considered The Weeknd's angelically beautiful tenor to be an impediment to his bad boy persona. That seems like a very stupid opinion to me now.

Todd: Now, I buy it more than his more soft-hearted songs like "Blinding Lights".

The Weeknd: All this money and this pain got me heartless

Todd (VO): "Heartless" was the angry, freeing rock bottom of 2020. And honestly, it was pretty good driving music, too. This is music to crash your car into a ditch to.

Todd: And it's exactly what I wanted to hear.

The Weeknd: Low life for life cause I'm heartless

Interlude

#8[edit | edit source]

Todd (VO): #8.

Clip of Lady Gaga's 2020 VMA performance

Todd (VO): Music's great Lady Gaga experiment feels like it's finally winding down. All the little monsters have grown up.

Todd: Her new album this year was mostly greeted with shrugs.

Clip of Lady Gaga - "Stupid Love"[5]

Todd (VO): The lead single especially, which wasn't even bad. It was actually pretty good. But it just felt too much like a retread of past glories.

Todd: Right down to the title.

Lady Gaga: I want your stupid love

Clip of Lady Gaga - "Bad Romance"

Lady Gaga: Want your bad romance

Video for... wait for it...

Todd (VO): But, if Gaga has indeed worn her [clip of Lady Gaga on the Grammys red carpet] last wacky dress onto the red carpet. At the very least, she left us with one great song to go out on.

Lady Gaga: Rain.

Todd: (in sync with Gaga) On.

#8. Lady Gaga & Ariana Grande - "Rain On Me"[6]

Lady Gaga: Me.

Todd (VO): It's funny, Gaga and Ariana debuted only a few years apart, but they feel like completely different generations of pop star.

Todd: Further than Megan and Beyoncé even. And they have, like, a twenty year gap between them.

Todd (VO): But Ariana slots well into Gaga's world. And they both released albums this year, but their team-up blew everything else they did this year out of the water.

Todd: And again, Gaga's album, which tried to bring back...

Clip of "Stupid Love"

Todd (VO): ...the electro dance pop of a decade ago wasn't bad, it was just dated. Especially this year, when all the dance clubs...

Todd: Well, you know.

Clip of...

Todd (VO): But "Rain On Me" turned out to be timelier than they could've imagined.

Lady Gaga: I'd rather be dry, but at least I'm alive

In one of the hardest years we will ever go through,

Todd: ..."Rain On Me" was a reminder to count our blessings.

Ariana Grande: Rain on me, rain, rain

Todd (VO): "I'd rather be dry, but at least I'm alive" is not the most artfully composed lyric I've ever heard. But, who listens to Gaga for subtlety anyway. It was the right sentiment for 2020.

Todd: And it gets even better when you know Gaga meant "dry" as a metaphor for being sober.

Ariana: Rain on me, rain, rain

Todd: Yeah, we all swallowed a lot of [air quotes] "rain water" this year, I think.

Todd (VO): And I do have a soft spot here. [clip from Singin' in the Rain] Smiling through the rain is just one of my favorite images.

Clip of B.J. Thomas - "Raindrops Keep Fallin' on My Head"

B.J. Thomas: Raindrops are fallin' on my head

I don't care how many times I see it used.

Todd: Any song about it immediately gets a thumbs up from me.

Clip of "Rain On Me"

Todd (VO): Gaga and Ariana don't reinvent the wheel here, but they both just kill their performance. And when this year is just an awful distant memory, when they start making movies about it. This is the song that'll take us to the end credits.

Todd: This year has been hard, everyone has suffered.

Lady Gaga: Rain. On. Me.

Ariana: Rain on me

Todd (VO): You can say this song is too much a throwback. Or you can say that it'll forever be tied to this moment in time.

Todd: But I feel like neither is right. I think it's gonna last for quite a long time. Rain on, Gaga.

Lady Gaga: Rain. On. Me.

Interlude

#7[edit | edit source]

Todd (VO): #7.

Todd: It's hard not to view literally every song of 2020 through COVID glasses. This is already the third entry in a row that I'm gonna connect to it. But good God, thank Christ for this song!

#7. BENEE ft. Gus Dapperton - "Supalonely"[7]

BENEE: I know I fucked up, I'm just a loser

Shouldn't be with ya

Todd (VO): New Zealand teenager BENEE got big [clip of videos from...] off of TikTok. So, it's tempting to see her as yet another basement artist plucked from obscurity.

Todd: She's not, she was already signed to a major label, she's got backing behind her, she's collaborated with other big names.

Todd (VO): But it's just easier to imagine her as a nobody. Cause there's just something wonderfully fresh and unpolished about her.

BENEE: I've been lonely, mmm, ah, yeah

I'm not saying she's the next Lorde or Billie, or even Avril Lavigne. But she does kinda ride that same energy.

Todd: And boy oh boy, it is not hard to see why this one took off right at the beginning of the lockdown, when we all started really feeling the cabin fever.

BENEE: La la la la

Lonely, I'm a lonely bitch

Clip of...

Todd (VO): "Rain On Me" was my comfort anthem of the late lockdown, when it was getting really desperate. [clip of "Supalonely"] But this was more a song for the early months, when everyone just started feeling loopy and surreal.

Todd: This just perfectly captured the boredom and frustration.

BENEE: Ugggh, I know I fucked up

Todd (VO): It was funny, and fun, and self-mocking. It made things feel a little more okay. "Supalonely" was just the perfect, classic kind of immediately catchy pop song that people...

Todd: ...might never learn who did. But it also just never gets old and sticks around forever. It should've been the great radio hit of the year. Except it was full of curse words and falls apart with even the slightest bit of censorship.

BENEE: Lonely, I'm a lonely [CENSORED] chick

Todd (VO): One little change takes out...

Todd: ...everything fun and playful. You fucking bitch ass prudes!

Gus Dapperton: I loathe romancing in itself

Todd (VO): Fine, I guess we have to give a shoutout to... Gus Dapperton. A guy with a ridiculous name and sounds exactly like Rex Orange County but is not Rex Orange County.

Gus Dapperton: B-B-Benee I can't stress this enough

Yeah, he adds nothing.

Todd: But he's there.

BENEE: La la la la

Todd: La la la la.

BENEE: Lonely

Todd (VO): Speaking for all the lonely bitches out there, thank you BENEE. I don't know...

Todd: ...if you're sticking around after this. But if this is what Zoomer pop is gonna be, I welcome it.

BENEE: I've been lonely

Interlude

#6[edit | edit source]

Todd (VO): #6.

Todd: I set up these lists the way I do because popularity is what interests me.

Clip scrolling down the Hot 100

Todd (VO): My ear has always been drawn to things that have a wider place in pop culture, I like hits.

Todd: But these days, identifying a hit is harder to do, when [screenshot of NME article "Ed Sheeran breaks chart record with 16 songs in UK Top 20"] big names can power entire albums into the top 40. I didn't design this list to talk about deep cuts. But, if it qualifies it qualifies, so uh... here you go.

#6. Taylor Swift ft. Bon Iver - "Exile"[8]

Justin Vernon: I can see you standing, honey

Todd: I became convinced of Taylor Swift's staying power in 2019.

Clip of Taylor Swift - "Lover"

Todd (VO): After she had just released the album Lover, [clip of Taylor Swift - "Look What You Made Me Do"] her follow up to the album Reputation.

Todd: Those albums are both not good.

Clip of Taylor Swift ft. Ed Sheeran & Future - "End Game"

Todd (VO): They both underperformed.

Todd: But they should have underperformed a lot more than they did, quite frankly.

Clip of Taylor Swift YouTube livestream performance

Todd (VO): And instead, she was still basically as big as she ever was. One bad album you can maybe survive. But if you survive two in a row, you are officially too big to fail.

Todd: And Taylor Swift seemed to recognize that. Because...

Clip of Taylor Swift - "Cardigan"[9]

Todd (VO): ...she dropped a surprise album that traded on none of her pop star flash, and had no real attempts at hits or crossover singles.

Todd: Because she realized she no longer needed them.

Clip of "Exile"

Taylor: I think I've seen this film before

And I didn't like the ending

Todd (VO): "Exile", the duet with [images of...] Bon Iver, co-written by one of the guys from [...and...] The National, was my favorite song on that album by a lot. And I can already see some people suggesting that "Oh, at long last, Todd's inner indie rock snob is finally coming out."

Todd: No, I have no inner indie rock snob.

Clips of live performances from...

Todd (VO): I'm only kind of into The National, and [...and...] I've never liked Bon Iver. I've always thought they sounded like a broken harmonica.

Justin: Take you, take you

Todd: Well, he does not sound like that here.

Clip of "Exile"

Justin: You were my town

Now I'm in exile seeing you out

Todd (VO): He sounds more like the guy from The National kinda, honestly.

Todd: Which, I don't get why he doesn't sing like this all the time, but whatever.

Todd (VO): And I'll admit, it is extremely jarring to here a Taylor song that sounds this much like The National. Or to hear Justin Vernon singing lyrics and melodies that were clearly written by Taylor Swift.

Todd: But Taylor's best move wasn't bringing in indie rock ringers. It was the discovery that she did not have to use her music like a personal diary. She could write about other people for a change.

Todd (VO): And so, for the first time in forever, she doesn't sound smothered by the weight of her own celebrity.

Justin: So step right out

There is no amount

Fiction suits Taylor really well. "Exile" is a song of two exes rehashing their pain at each other.

Todd: It really builds, and it really climaxes.

Justin: You never gave no warning signs

Taylor: I gave so many signs

Todd (VO): The thing is that Taylor's subject matter,

Todd: ...high school, breakups...

Todd (VO): ...hasn't changed. But what has changed is the perspective. Her new cottagey aesthetic adds maturity, it adds distance, it's a wide angle shot now.

Todd: Taylor, in her worst moment, [clip of "Look What You Made Me Do"] once tried to claim that she got smarter in the nick of time. That wasn't true, but it's true now.

Todd (VO): Some of us actually got some good out of the pandemic. Taylor used it to finally figure out what her strengths are. I'm sure pop Taylor will return soon enough.

Todd: But if she wants to keep using this time to keep making folk records, then it was time well spent.

Taylor & Justin: Ahhhhhhh

Interlude

#5[edit | edit source]

Todd (VO): #5.

Montage clips of the Black Lives Matter protests

Todd (VO): 2020 was a bad year, but the summer was the worst. We called it the George Floyd protests, but obviously it wasn't just him. There's too many names to keep track of. Even during the protests, they were still shooting people. I guess all the footage of police violence didn't tell me anything I didn't already know. But there's seeing it, and then there's seeing it everywhere, every hour. Like, I come from a really sleepy suburb. And even there, I was seeing videos of it happening just a couple blocks from the streets I grew up on.

Video for... wait for it...

The great thing about music is that it can address things like this right away. But, I don't usually expect anything from the big stars. And I don't expect them to become hits.

Todd: And if I did expect anything, I certainly didn't expect it from this man.

#5. Lil Baby - "The Bigger Picture"[10]

Lil Baby: Trade my 4x4 for a G63, ain't no more free Lil Steve

I gave 'em chance and chance and chance

Todd (VO): I have said over and over again that I'm not a fan of Lil Baby. Whatever he does, it doesn't move me at all. And he certainly wasn't known for having a political side.

Todd: If there was gonna be a big Black Lives Matter anthem, you'd probably expect it from...

Clips of "HUMBLE." by...

Todd (VO): ...Kendrick Lamar, who was a ghost all year. Or [...and "Middle Child" by...] J. Cole, whose big 2020 moment was instead [screenshot of GQ article "J. Cole's "Snow on Tha Bluff" Misses the Moment"] whining about people who expected him to say something.

Todd: It feels like Lil Baby spoke up because someone had to.

Clip of "The Bigger Picture"

Lil Baby: Fucked up I seen what I seen

I guess that mean hold him down if he say he can't breathe

Todd (VO): And to be clear, I'm not, like...

Todd: "Oh, he's finally writing about something important now instead of just money and drugs, [image from Get Out with Dean Armitage labeled as Todd] he's good now." Yes, I know what that sounds like.

Todd (VO): I've been unmoved by plenty of attempts at making big statements. Especially this year, [clip of Gal Gadot's "Imagine" cover] when so many celebrities tried to meet the moment and failed miserably.

Clips of NAACP's "I Take Responsibility" PSA...

Aaron Paul: I take responsibility

...and David Guetta live performance

David Guetta: In honor of George Floyd, shoutout to his family

Todd cringes

Clip of "The Bigger Picture"

Todd (VO): So I wanna be clear. Lil Baby's "The Bigger Picture" isn't on this list because of its subject matter. It's on the list because it captured everything that I, Todd, had personally been feeling.

Todd: Which doesn't even make any sense. Me and Lil Baby have not a god damn thing in common.

Lil Baby: Throw us in cages like dogs and hyenas

I went to court and they sent me to prison

Todd (VO): I don't come from the streets, I don't have his experiences. For that matter, I'm not a fabulously wealthy rap star. [image of Lil Wayne posing with Donald Trump] Lil Baby could have been like Lil Wayne, just taken his money and fame and disappeared up his own ass.

Todd: But instead, when Lil Baby started protesting, [screenshot of Instagram post about Lil Baby] organizers said he showed up with no entourage, no jewelry, no ego. He just wanted to help.

Todd: That's the guy I hear on this record.

Lil Baby: Every video I see on my conscience

I got power, now I gotta say something

Todd (VO): Just a regular guy who's speaking up, not because he think's he's the right messenger but because he can't not say something.

Todd: Like, there's a place for pump-up rebel anthems. Your-your [brief clips of "Fight the Power" by...] Public Enemy's, your [..and "Killing in the Name" by...] Rage Against the Machine's. But Lil Baby isn't coming from anger, he's coming from pain.

Lil Baby: Too many mothers is grieving, they killing us for no reason

Todd (VO): More than anything, I connected to that pain pretty viscerally. It's that same pain that any thinking, feeling human being has felt in 2020. And years before that unless you lived under a rock.

Todd: And, forgive me for taking the focus off of Black Lives Matter for a moment, but there's a bigger picture beyond that too.

Montage clips of new stories about the events Todd mentions

Todd (VO): Cause this song is also how I felt watching the Muslim ban, Puerto Rico, Charlottesville. Every fuckin' thing that happened these last few years, [clip of CNBC story about the Capitol riot] including this last week where I was supposed to be trying to make this god damn video, but I kept getting distracted by more horrible fucking news! THIS SHIT FUCKIN' SUCKS, AND IT'S GOTTA FUCKIN' STOP!

Clip of "The Bigger Picture"

Lil Baby: We gotta start somewhere

Might as well gon' 'head, start here

We done had a hell of a year

Todd: Yeah, we sure did.

Lil Baby: What happened to COVID? Nobody remember

Todd (VO): No, I do remember that, Lil Baby.

Todd: But it is true that it feels like we're dealing with too many crises at once.

Todd (VO): And this is the song that captured the emotion of being just so tired, but too angry to sleep.

Todd: This isn't a song you can throw on for fun. I prefer catchy, lightweight pop over heavy stuff like this. And we will get back to that shortly.

Todd (VO): But this is a song that's not just really good. It's a document of what it was like to live through the worst year in living memory.

Todd: 2021 is already... also not looking great. But...

Todd (VO): ...like the man says, we gotta start somewhere.

Todd: Let's make it better than that last one.

Lil Baby: Gon' 'head, start here

We done had a hell of a year

I'ma make it count while I'm here

God is the only man I fear

Interlude

#4[edit | edit source]

Todd (VO): #4.

Video for Miley Cyrus - "Midnight Sky"

Todd: I think I realized, like, a year or so ago that I was actually...

Todd (VO): ...really rooting for Miley Cyrus and her career.

Todd: Which is kind of odd, cause I've never liked a single thing she's ever done. [brief clips from Hannah Montana and Ashley O - "On A Roll"] Or at the very least nothing she's ever done without a wig on. But under her own name, nah.

Clip of Miley Cyrus - "Wrecking Ball"

Todd (VO): I though her big songs were over rated at best. [clip of Miley Cyrus - "BB Talk"] And her less successful songs... [beat] Ooof.

Todd: And yet, I've discovered I do kind of admire her.

Clips of Miley Cyrus Backyard Sessions performance...

Todd (VO): Just for how strange her career is. That she's kept following [...and Miley Cyrus - "We Can't Stop"] her own weird muse into a billion weird places.

Todd: That her Greatest Hits CD could have shit like...

Clips of Miley Cyrus'...

Todd (VO): ..."See You Again", [...Mike Will Made It, Miley Cyrus, Wiz Khalifa & Juicy J's...] "23" [...and Miley Cyrus'...] and "Malibu" back-to-back.

Video for... wait for it...

Todd (VO): She just had to find the right sound, I think. Something that fit her.

Todd: And in 2020, she finally found it.

#4. Miley Cyrus - "Midnight Sky"[11]

Miley Cyrus: I was born to run, I don't belong to anyone, oh no

I don't need to be loved by you

Todd (VO): Miley's pop stardom has always been kind of hampered by her sharp keening voice. Which...

Todd: ...always kinda fit more with rock or country than pop.

Miley: The midnight sky

Todd (VO): But the retro sounds of the 80s stubbornly refuse to leave. And somewhere in those sounds, Miley finally found a version of pop...

Todd: ...that she could make her home.

Clip from Michael Sembello - "Maniac"

Todd (VO): The writer Chuck Eddy once identified a trend of 80s music he called...

Todd: ...[air quotes] "Flashdance".

Montage clips of Corey Hart - "Sunglasses at Night"; Survivor - "Eye of the Tiger"; Bonnie Tyler - "Holding Out for a Hero"

Todd (VO): Which he described as hard-driving, minor key synth and guitars rock music that tended to soundtrack action movies. It's basically what you think of when you think of 80s music.

Todd: And it fits Miley just so well.

Clip of "Midnight Sky"

Miley: See my lips on her mouth

Everybody's talking now, baby

Todd (VO): "Midnight Sky" only barely qualified as a hit by my criteria. It mostly settled into the mid tier of the Hot 100.

Todd: And yet this middlingly successful song [image of Miley on the cover of Rolling Stone] seems to have completely revitalized her career.

Clip of "Midnight Sky" live performance

Todd (VO): For the first time ever, there seems like real enthusiasm about her as an artist. That she didn't have in 2006, or 2009, or 2013, or any other time she's been big. [clip of "Midnight Sky"] For all her attempts over the years at being a rebel, this is the first time where she really seemed like she was pulling it off. Where she wasn't just trying too hard and embarrassing herself.

Todd: She doesn't belong to anyone, and she doesn't need to be loved by you.

Todd (VO): After a decade of doing whatever the hell she wants, I think she's earned the right to say that about herself. I mean, what can you say?

Todd: She's just being Miley. And I respect her for it.

Miley: Loved by you

Interlude

#3[edit | edit source]

Todd (VO): #3.

Todd: At the end of the year...

Clip of Spotify Wrapped explanation video

Todd (VO): ...Spotify tells you what your most popular songs were. It's not really useful for music critics, I'm usually listening to Spotify for work.

Todd: So, these things don't really tell me my actual taste. Especially this year, where I started listening to the Hot 100 every week out of boredom. But, um... if you wanna know what my most listened to song of the year was, here you go.

#3. Harry Styles - "Adore You"[12]

Harry Styles: Ahhhhhhhhhh

I'd walk the fire for you

Just let me adore you

Todd (VO): I guess I'm not surprised. Every week I listened to the Hot 100, it was there.

Todd: Plus I listen to it on my own time a lot also. So, uhh... yeah, that makes sense. It's a really good song!

Harry: Like it's the only thing I'll ever do

Todd (VO): Of all the acts who had breakthrough superstar years in 2020. I think Harry Styles jumped up the most, because...

Todd: ...his rise felt a lot less inevitable.

Clip of Harry Styles - "Sign of the Times"

Todd (VO): I gotta admit, I wasn't really that impressed with his first solo stuff that I heard. [clip of...] "Adore You" was a deserved smash hit that made me reconsider Harry Styles.

Harry: Would you believe it?

Todd: But I think his approach really unlocked for me when I saw him cover "Sledgehammer".

Clip of Harry Styles performing on the Howard Stern Show

Harry: You can have a stream train

Todd (VO): Harry has named many classic rock influences. I don't think he's named Peter Gabriel as one of them.

Todd: Even though he changed his vocal style to sound exactly like Peter Gabriel.

Harry: Put your mind at rest, I'm gonna be

Todd: But I think "Sledgehammer" the song might in fact be a major influence.

Clip of Peter Gabriel - "Sledgehammer"

Todd (VO): Cause that was the big crossover single for Peter Gabriel. The lifelong outsider art rocker trying to be a pop star. [clip of "Adore You"] I think that's kind of the intended sound for Harry.

Todd: The pop star trying to be an outsider trying to be a pop star.

Clip of Harry Styles live performance

Todd (VO): You can tell what he wants to be. He wants to be one of those classic weird pop stars. A Gabriel or a Sting or a Bowie. But he comes at it from the opposite side, you can see him pushing himself to be stranger. [image from Harry Styles' Vogue photoshoot] Wearing dresses, [clip of "Adore You"] this bizarre video, which... is honestly kinda terrible.

Todd: I'm sorry, I hate videos that don't go with the song.

Todd (VO): "Adore You" is not about loving a magic fish.

Todd: And I have seen a tiny bit of backlash to the hype, too.

Clip of Harry Styles live performance

Todd (VO): That he's not pushing boundaries like Bowie or Prince. Yeah, he still makes polished pop songs, and he's... far too indebted to the classic styles to be called groundbreaking.

Todd: But I love that he's trying to get there in his own way.

Clip of "Adore You"

Todd (VO): The weirdos of the 70s becoming the great pop stars of the 80s was the best thing about that decade. [clips of The Talking Heads'...] "Burning Down the House", [...Yes'...] "Owner of a Lonely Heart", [...David Bowie's...] "Let's Dance". These are the kinds of songs [...and "Adore You"] that Harry Styles is trying to recreate. And no one else is doing it. Or at least not this well.

Todd: And now to see if any of the other Directioners can match him. Ball's in your court, Liam!

Harry: Just let me adore you

Like it's the only thing I'll ever do

Interlude

#2[edit | edit source]

Todd (VO): #2.

Todd: A fun thing I like to do is ask people for their best and worst two seconds of the year.

Clips of 24kGoldn ft. Iann Dior - "Mood"[13] with lyric "We play games of love to avoid the depression" on screen...

Todd (VO): My vote for the worst was the lyric I already mentioned in the worst list.

...and Justin Bieber - "Yummy"[14] with lyric "Yeah, you got that yummy yum, that yummy yummy" on screen

The popular vote went again to Justin Bieber. Go fig.

Todd: Uh, I asked for the best two seconds also, I could give you the list of that. Hell, I could give you a whole Top Ten list for the Best Single Moments of this year in music. I mean, I could do it all in this entry, cause they all came from this one song.

#2. Cardi B ft. Megan Thee Stallion - "WAP"[15]

Frank Ski: Whores in this house

There's some whores in this house

Cardi B: I said certified freak

Todd (VO): If you wanna know my actual thoughts on this, you can [image of the thumbnail of...] see my review on it.

Todd: Which, a bunch of you didn't, because...

Todd (VO): ...YouTube thinks that a review of a song called "Wet Ass Pussy" is...

Todd: ...not [air quotes] "appropriate for advertisers". [image showing video is 18+ only] So they buried the fuck out of it.

Todd (VO): And they'll probably bury this video too. [video pixelates and a black "CENSORED" bar appears] Maybe I should bleep out this entire segment. [back to normal]

Cardi: You fucking with some wet ass pussy

Although it's probably for the best that you all missed that review, because I am told that I pronounced it wrong.

Todd: I called it [brief clip of "WAP" title card] "W-A-P", which is apparently wrong.

Todd (VO): Cardi gives the actual pronunciation in the song, I should have just copied her

Cardi: I'm talking WAP, WAP, WAP

Todd: WAP...

Cardi: WAP, WAP, WAP

Todd: WAP.

Todd (VO): Regardless, "WAP" was immediately the most controversial song of the year because it was so unabashedly filthy.

Cardi: Swipe your nose like a credit card

The moral guardians of our era condemned it.

Todd: Even the outrage magnets of previous generations.

Images of headlines "Snoop Dogg criticizes Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion's hit song 'WAP'"...

Todd (VO): Like Snoop Dogg, and [...and "Black Sabbath's Geezer Butler Finds Cardi B's 'WAP' song 'Disgusting'"] Black Sabbath's Geezer Butler, even they were bothered by it. [clips of interview with...] Geezer at least laughed it off like "Ha, look at me, I'm old now". [...and...] But Snoop seemed to be genuinely offended.

Todd: This song was so gross, that even Snoop Dogg, [image of...] whose first album was literally called "Doggystyle". He took issue with it.

Clip of "WAP"

Todd (VO): This disgusting filth was so repellent, that naturally it was the most...

Todd: ...acclaimed and successful song of the year.

Todd (VO): Making [screenshots of various year end lists with "WAP" at number 1] every publication's top ten lists. Including number 1 for Pitchfork, and...

Todd: ...NPR! [screenshot of "WAP" at number 1 on NPR's list] Seriously, NPR!?

Image of NPR "All Things Considered" logo as the theme song plays and Todd impersonates the host

Todd (VO): I'm Ari Shapiro, and bring a bucket and a mop for this wet ass pussy.

Todd: I mean, obviously.

Clip of "WAP"

Todd (VO): This song just piled up moment after moment. Quotable line one after the other. Like, I don't even know if this song is more than the sum of its parts, but the parts are just that good.

Todd: Like, how can you even pick the best one.

UNRANKED GREAT MOMENTS IN "WAP"

Cardi: Bring a bucket and a mop

- bucket and a mop

Cardi: Right in this little garage *Honk*

- (honk)

Frank Ski: Whores in this house

- whores in this house (1st time)

Cardi: Touch that lil' dangly thing

That swing in the back of my throat

- it's called a uvula

Megan: I'ma spell my name, ah

- just Megan saying "ah"

Cardi: Macaroni in a pot

- macaroni in a pot

Cardi: I don't cook, I don't clean

But let me tell you how I got this ring

- I don't cook I don't clean...

Megan: Gobble me, swallow me, drip down inside of me

- gobble me swallow me...

Todd (VO): Actually, that part could be, like...

Todd: ...three separate top moments of the song for me.

Todd (VO): Cardi's line, Megan's line,...

Todd: ...and the handoff between the two.

Todd (VO): The only thing that kept this song from being number 1 is that... I love it primarily because it is very funny.

Todd: And funny doesn't always last very long, jokes wear out.

Todd (VO): But I hope that, someday down the line. Like, when our kids hear this and all the dirty talk is nothing but cute.

Todd: I'll still hear that honking horn...

Cardi: *Honk* Make it cream

Todd: ...and it'll still put a big smile on my face.

Frank Ski: Whores in this house

There's some whores in this house

There's some whores in this house

Todd: And on that note, let us finish the list off with some honorable mentions.

Honorable mentions[edit | edit source]

Ariana Grande - "positions"[16]

Ariana: Switching up positions for you

Todd (VO): I mean, this song was pretty hot too. But, it didn't have the truck horn.

Todd: If it did, it might have made the list.

Ariana: I'll be *Honk*

Billie Eilish - "everything i wanted"[17]

Billie Eilish: I had a dream

I got everything I wanted

Todd (VO): One of the defining moments in music this year that I don't think should be forgotten, is [clip from the 2020 Grammys] Billie Eilish begging God [zooms in on Billie with text "(please don't be me)"] not to win any more Grammys.

Clip of...

"Everything I Wanted" was that moment in song. I absolutely love it.

Billie: They don't deserve you

Future ft. Drake - "Life Is Good"[18]

Future: Hundred thousand for the cheapest ring on a ni**a finger, lil bitch

Todd (VO): I think I like this song more than most people. [beat] Oh by the way, I get Future now.

Todd: Took me fuckin' long enough.

Twenty One Pilots - "Level of Concern"[19]

Tyler Joseph: Cause I told you

My level of concern

Todd (VO): Oh, and I get Twenty One Pilots now, too.

Todd: This was the first song I heard this year that used the word "quarantine" and it certainly was not the last.

Tyler Joseph: Would you be my little quarantine?

Thomas Rhett ft. Jon Pardi - "Beer Can't Fix"[20]

Thomas Rhett: Ain't nothin' that a beer can't fix

Todd (VO): Oh ho ho, yeah. This year, this uh...

Todd: Well, no comment.

Pop Smoke - "Dior"[21]

Pop Smoke: Billie Jean, Billie Jean, uh

Christian Dior, Dior

Todd: Rest in peace, man.

Dua Lipa - "Don't Start Now"[22]

Dua Lipa: Don't show up, don't come out

Todd (VO): Dua Lipa...

Todd: ...did not make the official list!

Todd (VO): And good God almighty, do I feel bad about that. In a weaker year, this could have been, like, number four.

Todd: I mean, she brought back the disco call.

Dua: Up, up

Todd (VO): If the list had been about who had made the most good songs...

Todd: ...Dua Lipa would have ranked very high.

Mustard ft. Roddy Ricch - "Ballin'"[23]

Roddy Ricch: I remember hittin' the mall with the whole team

Now a ni**a can't answer calls cause I'm balling

Todd (VO): And this was the final cut I made!

Todd: I feel so bad for anyone who broke through this year and didn't get the chance to enjoy it.

Clip of Roddy Ricch - "The Box"[24]

Todd (VO): I'm glad that Roddy got to hear at least a few crowds singing "The Box" before the world ended.

Clip of Roddy Ricch live performance

Crowd: Bitch, don't wear no shoes in my house

Clip of...

But "Ballin'" was by far my favorite song of his this year.

Todd: And hopefully he'll still be ballin' when the world opens up again.

Roddy: I've been ballin', lil ni**a

Todd: And now, the number one pick. Let's do it.

Interlude

#1[edit | edit source]

Todd (VO): [ominously] #1!

Todd: I don't love that this next song is my number one pick, because... it's kind of personal to me. And I hate being personal. Usually my number one pick is something everyone agrees on. This one might only make sense to me, a few people could be scratching their heads after this. But... [shrugs] my list. I can only tell you that this song was my favorite thing of the year, and it was not even particularly close. So yeah. Here it is.

#1. Morgan Wallen - "More Than My Hometown"[25]

Todd (VO): I am all in on Morgan Wallen.

Todd: If you could place bets on a musician's career, I'd put down my entire life savings right now.

Clip of Morgan Wallen at the CMA Awards

Todd (VO): This mulleted Tennessee redneck had the kinda year that makes you a country music superstar for decades.

Todd: He's the first country singer in, like, forever who has actual pop star buzz.

Screenshot of Tweet showing predictions for Morgan Wallen's chart placements

Todd (VO): He can album bomb the charts, [clip of Morgan on TikTok] bypass radio, get big on TikTok. [clip of Morgan Wallen live performance] And he didn't do it by trying to cross over or go pop or bypass country. He did it by just everything he released this year being really fucking good.

Clip of Morgan Wallen - "7 Summers"[26]

And incidentally, I think he might not be over his first breakup. Because he had three big hits this year about the one that got away.

Morgan Wallen: Does it make you sad to know

That was seven summers ago

And they were all fantastic.

Todd: But this was the one that really got me.

Clip of "More Than My Hometown"

Morgan: I love you more than a California sunset

Todd (VO): This is the moment she gets away.

Morgan: Your big dream bags are all packed up and ready to go

And it's for a pretty devastatingly simple reason. She had bigger dreams than he could give her.

Morgan: This might be the last time I get to lay you down

Cause I can't love you more than my hometown

Todd (VO): That's just kinda the long and short of it. The people I've seen who don't like the song had... kinda the same objection I did. Which is...

Todd: You know, "Go after her, you idiot".

Morgan: I ain't the runaway kind, I can't change that

Todd (VO): This is the girl of your dreams and you won't move out of Jerkwater, Nowhere for her, what kinda dumbass are you?

Todd: Certainly it was funny to hear the song sharing airtime with...

Clip of...

Todd (VO): ...Blake Shelton's "Happy Anywhere"[27].

Blake Shelton: I could be happy anywhere with you

Clip of "More Than My Hometown"

Which sounded like a massive subtweet to this song specifically.

Todd: Like, I can't imagine being in that situation and choosing the town, any town, over a girl.

Todd (VO): But the fact is, long term relationships are not just about love. They're about building a life together. And if you can't find a version of that that matches both of you, then it's not gonna work. All the things he says he loves her more than, you know, they're all romantic in that corny country way.

Todd: But, you know, they're all small moments. Sunsets, catching a fish. They're fleeting, they don't last.

Morgan: You got a wild in your eyes that I just wasn't born with

Todd: I moved this year.

Todd (VO): I carried everything I owned to the other side of the god damn country. Which, I don't really recommend during a pandemic.

Todd: The hotels are not serving continental breakfast right now.

Todd (VO): And there wasn't a girl involved, but I did leave a lot of good friends behind. And on the way, I mostly got a lot of country stations on the radio.

Todd: I heard this song over and over again, and it hit home every time. Sometimes, life just takes you where it takes you.

Morgan: We can't stop this real world from spinnin' us

Todd (VO): "More Than My Hometown" is a song about reality intruding on the fantasy, and that love sometimes isn't enough. And that you can both be deeply passionate about each other and no one does anything wrong and things still end with a whimper.

Morgan: When the guy gets the girl at the end of the book

But that ain't you and me so I guess I'll see you around

Todd: Heartbreaking. [slaps chest] Right here. Right here.

Todd (VO): It's a song about endings. And sometimes things just have to end, because there's better things on the horizon. And much less sadly, 2020 also had to end. And hopefully there's something better coming for all of us.

Todd: Let's see how 2021 does us. Guess I'll see you around.

Morgan: Baby, love you more

Closing Tag Song: Travis Scott - "HIGHEST IN THE ROOM"[28]

THE END

This video is owned by me

Anyone who tweeted at me asking where the list was got muted

THANK YOU TO THE LOYAL PATRONS!

Footnotes[edit | edit source]

  1. #9 on Billboard Year-End Hot 100
  2. #15 on Billboard Year-End Hot 100
  3. #1 on Billboard Year-End Hot 100
  4. #28 on Billboard Year-End Hot 100
  5. Not on Billboard Year-End Hot 100; peaked at #5 in 2020
  6. #48 on Billboard Year-End Hot 100
  7. #84 on Billboard Year-End Hot 100
  8. Not on Billboard Year-End Hot 100; peaked at #6 in 2020
  9. Not on Billboard Year-End Hot 100; peaked at #1 in 2020
  10. #76 on Billboard Year-End Hot 100
  11. Not on Billboard Year-End Hot 100; peaked at #14 in 2020
  12. #6 on Billboard Year-End Hot 100
  13. #47 on Billboard Year-End Hot 100
  14. #58 on Billboard Year-End Hot 100
  15. #24 on Billboard Year-End Hot 100
  16. Not on Billboard Year-End Hot 100; peaked at #1 in 2020
  17. #18 on Billboard Year-End Hot 100
  18. #7 on Billboard Year-End Hot 100
  19. Not on Billboard Year-End Hot 100; peaked at #23 in 2020
  20. Not on Billboard Year-End Hot 100; peaked at #36 in 2020
  21. #83 on Billboard Year-End Hot 100
  22. #4 on Billboard Year-End Hot 100
  23. #25 on Billboard Year-End Hot 100
  24. #3 on Billboard Year-End Hot 100
  25. #96 on Billboard Year-End Hot 100
  26. Not on Billboard Year-End Hot 100; peaked at #6 in 2020
  27. Not on Billboard Year-End Hot 100; peaked at #32 in 2020
  28. #45 on Billboard Year-End Hot 100
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