The year 2020 has been nothing but a whirlpool of strange global events and mixed emotions for everyone around the world. From one of the most unexpected global pandemic in recent years to the ever entertaining and amusing presidential election going on in the US, one thing we can be certain that we all have in common, is that the music that rode alongside the rollercoaster of events with us in 2020 have brought us plenty of joy and good memories in one form or another. Here are 7 songs that we couldn’t avoid hearing in 2020. You may have heard it in a dance routine TikTok video by some teenagers from their bedroom or in a Youtube tutorial’s background, but we can be sure that your ears recognise them over the summer of 2020. Let’s have a look!
1. Imabek, SAINt JHN - Roses (Imanbek Remix)
This remix of Roses by Imabek is certainly an earworm that we could barely avoid hearing in 2020. Roses was definitely an outlier in the world of music where it made its way into the Billboard mainstream chart organically without the aid of major labels. "Roses” was originally released by Brooklyn rapper and songwriter Saint Jhn in 2016 but the remix version by Imanbek was the one that stole the internet’s heart in late 2019. Every form of video on the internet, be it a dance video or a gaming tutorial video has been accompanied by this remix of Roses in their background. What makes the song so memorable for everyone is it’s simple and repetitive bass-line alongside the high-pitched vocals in it’s bouncy chorus. Even if you could barely make up the words to the song, it’s a tune that makes you subconsciously bop your head along to. It delivers that nonchalant, hypnotic rap attitude that’s ever so popular in today’s pop culture among the younger generation. But hey, music knows no age and limit. I’m sure my grandparents have no problem vibing on to a banger like this too!
2. Savage Love - Jason Derulo
Oh Savage Love, where do I start with this. We have seen thousands of videos in every nook and cranny on the internet, of teenagers and celebrities dancing the same dance to this song by Jason Derulo. It’s a simple dance routine that starts with tapping your left and right shoulder with one hand, raising it up and swaying your hips left and right in a wave-like motion. Genius isn’t it? Well the beauty of such viral pop trends is that it’s always simple enough that everyone, regardless of their age and dancing ability are able to follow and dance together with a group of friends and family. Afterall, who cares about your talent for dancing if you’re not having fun?
That has always been my philosophy in life and it pretty much applies to all areas; if you’re not having fun doing it, then you’re doing it wrong!Back to the music side of things, the original music in the song was actually produced by 17-year Joshua Stylah from New Zealand who goes by the alias Jawsh 685. Derulo merely joined the party that was already going on with Stylah’s beats. I really do think that we have to give some proper credit to Stylah when due since Derulo only came later in the game and made a remix of his song to Stylah’s tune. Afterall to be honest, the production in this piece of music is way stronger than the songwriting itself and I genuinely think that that is where the core hook of the song lies in and the main reason why everyone loves it. Here’s to the underdogs!
3. The Weeknd - Blinding Lights
80s disco synths, warm snare hits on every other beat to the song at 172 BPM (beats per minute), Blinding Lights is the summer anthem of 2020 that is bound to send adrenaline rushing through your body every time you hear it. The release and placement of Blinding Lights amidst the corona pandemic was greatly appreciated all over the world as it delivered nothing but positivity through it’s neon-hued synth-pop pulse-racer. Blinding Lights certainly benefited heavily from the time and circumstance of its release as most radio stations would want to elevate people’s mood in difficult times like these with positive and radiating uptempo songs. That has always been a staple of the top 40 format.
During a pandemic when people have to stay indoors and more often than not alone at home most of the time, the message delivered in a song can provide the smallest source of comfort to it’s listeners in the form of relevance.
The lyrics “I’ve been on my own for long enough” and “the city’s cold and empty” inadvertently resonated with millions of music fans under lockdown. There’s no better feeling knowing that whatever difficulty you’re going through, you ain’t going through them alone.
4. Drake - Toosie Slide
Similar to Blinding Lights, Tootsie Slide sang these simple dance movements in it’s chorus “It go, right foot up, left foot slide. Left foot up, right foot slide” that even a toddler can easily remember and groove along to. A perfect storm of quarantine boredom and creativity has bred a boom in dance challenges online lately and Drake was only smart to jump on that wagon immediately. The song is one of many Drake records to drop this year, but serves as his first lead record of 2020 on streaming services.
That’s just very smart passive business marketing for his music. Before releasing "Toosie Slide" on April 3, the famous actor shared the song in late March with Toosie, an Atlanta-based dancer. It was Toosie and his friends who choreographed a custom-fit dance for the rap song. Toosie was eventually the name of the song as well. And of course, pairing catchy melodic hooks with easy and fun dance routines is the success formula to any Tik Tok videos that’s trending today.
5. Doja Cat - Say So
I have to admit that I have had no idea who's Doja Cat prior to this song but now I am absolutely loving it! Say So is exactly the type of song that reminds you of the good times on a sunny saturday afternoon chilling with all your best friends at a holiday beach club in Bali or Ibiza. It isn’t too intense nor melodically too distant that you can’t follow, and mere positivity just radiates through this track in a much refreshing way.
Pop songs today can be extremely jarring if it’s over the top with it’s production or over repetitive and bland in it’s song writing. Say So delivers that optimal “bliss point” in a song where it’s groovy enough to vibe along to in a party but chill enough at the same time to listen to on your morning commute to work. Even though there is a version that featured Nick Minaj as well, I very much prefer the original version the way it is.
6. Surf Mesa, Emilee - Ily (i love you baby) (feat. Emilee)
Revisiting old hits that are older than some of us has been a common industrial practice by major labels in recent years where an old piece of music (or parts of it) is reproduced in a completely different style or genre and covered by an entirely new singer. This has always been proven a success especially if the chorus of the song is already a proven household staple, like Ariana Grande’s re-interpretation of Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II iconic 1959 “My Favourite Things," in her hit song “7 rings”. If you’re still scratching your head trying to identify the original song for Surf Mesa & Emilee’s “ily(i love you baby)”, it’s none other than karaoke’s evergreen hit, “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You,” that was originally recorded by Franki Valli in 1967. The track merged an acoustic cover of the classic with a downtempo, four-on-the-floor beat to give that modern touch to that beautiful tune.
The original release by Surf Mesa and Emilee was actually titled “ily” but the song’s label soon figured that the search terms ‘Surf Mesa I Love You’ weren’t finding the song so they added ‘I Love You Baby’ in its title to make it easier for people to find. It definitely is a song that one and wind down to at the end of a busy day to clear your mind and ignite that little feeling of love.
7. Powfu, baebadoobee - death bed (coffee for your head)
Unless you've been living under a rock for the better part of the past year, you've probably heard the eerily haunting-yet-mesmerizing hit song "Deathbed (coffee for your head)". This is a song that goes very much in the same direction as “Ily (i love you baby)” by Surf Mesa and Emilee where a soft acoustic hook paired with a repetitive soothing vocal stole the heart of the mainstream charts. Despite the sweet sounding theme of the song, it actually sings about a dying young man who's saying goodbye to his girlfriend.
I have noticed that dark and more depressing themes in songs have been extremely popular with teens lately and that music charts today are heavily dominated by songs revolving around mental health issues. I do however see that as a positive sign in the industry as the presence of such taboo topics in pop cultures would definitely provide a safe haven that shows that it’s okay to seek help and talk(or sing!) about your problems for everyone. Nonetheless, whether it was on the radio, YouTube, Soundcloud or TikTok, this song's massive viral status has touched the hearts of listeners around the world in a subtle but much needed way.
By Jessica Tan