Sama’an’s Favorite Music of 2020

Every year I vote for my favorite music (songs and albums) in an annual music critics poll and this year I submitted my ballot for the Uproxx installment. The original music critics poll I voted in belonged to New York City’s Village Voice and its historic Pazz & Jop poll, but is sadly now out of print.

View my official ballot for the year’s best albums here and read my words for my favorite songs of 2020 below. Spotify playlist at the bottom, Tidal here, Apple Music playlist here.

Best Songs

27) “The Bean Kicked In” by Zack Fox

26) “Madness” by Mougleta

A very good electro-pop tune reminiscent of DRAMA’s 2016 single “Forever’s Gone” in its composition and more ominous in its lyrics. File this one under: songs to play laser tag to.

25) “Heartless” by The Weeknd

The fantastic introduction of a new character from The Weeknd, a villain who is really just the same old Abel Tesfaye we’ve come to love for stealing Adam Sandler’s mistress, only now he’s become self-aware of his toxicity, is on psychedelics, and has teamed up with Metro Boomin. If acknowledging your toxic behavior is the first step towards getting better, then can we look forward to a post-toxic Abel at some point in the future? And if so, what will that sound like?

24) “Protect The Land” by System of a Down

23) “Take Me To The Good Times” by The Suffers

Is there a more relevant desire in the middle of a pandemic?

22) “Stay” by Valerie June

Valerie June continues to be one of the best songwriters of the 21st century and her voice continues to be one of the most unique on this absolutely cosmic song about mortality, the brevity and preciousness of life, and living with no regrets.

21) “All That” by Emotional Oranges featuring Channel Tres

Emotional Oranges is making some of the most mysterious music of the last few years and Channel Tres is making some of the sexiest, and what’s sexier than a little mystery?!

20) “Laugh Now Cry Later” by Drake featuring Lil’ Durk

19) “Song 33” by Noname

Whenever Noname decides to bless us with new music it’s always a cause for celebration. Her ear for beats is impeccable, and no one in their right mind would ever question her lyrical abilities.

18)  “Breathe Deeper” by Tame Impala

Kevin Parker does his best Toro y Moi impression here and I, for one, absolutely love it.

17) “Rehab (Winter In Paris )” (ChopNotSlop mix) by Brent Faiyaz, DJ Candlestick, & OG Ron C

Somehow this song gets more toxic when you slow it down. And sometimes it really do be like that.

16) “WAP” (body party mix) by Chordio

Do something useful with your time in quarantine and venmo Chordio $5 for this incredible blend that, for me, has even more replay value than the original.

15) “Steppin On Niggas” by 21 Savage & Metro Boomin

A song that manages to incorporate its West Coast, Houston, New Orleans, and Memphis influences all at once without sounding weird or forced. And the bass knocks like you wouldn’t believe. 

14) “May I” by Flo Milli

Flo Milli’s importance can’t be overstated right now, I would have put “Beef” on here and listed it higher but it technically came out last year. So, please give me a late pass. She demolishes any beat you hand her and the aesthetics are handled with intention. Flo Milli has so much star potential and you’re dumb if you can’t see it.

13) “Texas Sun” by Khruangbin & Leon Bridges

12) “Borderline (An Ode To Self Care)” (Solange cover) by Christelle Bofale

One of the most beautiful covers I’ve ever heard. Gone are Q-Tip’s programmed drums from the Solange original, leaving only Christelle’s cathartic vocals and Jake Smith’s minimal guitar. Released in the wake of a slew of digitally-broadcasted police murders of Black people, Christelle breathes new life into the song, a gentle reminder to her people to take time to be kind to themselves. I could leave this song on loop for an hour and not be tired of it.

 11) “Nipsey Blue” by Snoop Dogg & “Deep Reverence” by Big Sean featuring Nipsey Hussle

“Nipsey Blue”: I can’t imagine there will be a better tribute to Nipsey, and I put this in the running for best tribute to a fallen comrade of all-time, of any genre. Snoop put his heart and soul into this.

“Deep Reverence”: I used to hate on Big Sean a lot, I never thought I’d actually enjoy or appreciate a song of his. But then I started reading about how he was going to therapy after having some mental health scares. On “Deep Reverence,” he rapped about those experiences and I began to empathize with him. “In high school I learned chemistry and biology but not how to cope with anxiety / or how it can feel like i’m by myself on an island with depression on all sides of me / with a glock on the side of me / look, I ain’t think I had the thought of suicide in me / until life showed me all these different sides of me.”

And of course right now I’m clinging to any Nipsey verse the universe decides to bless us with.

10) “Ya Waylak” by Elyanna

It’s what’s being called Pali-Pop. Elyanna, a Palestinian-American pop singer with all the tangibles needed to be a real crossover star, here sings in Arabic about a lover she has her eye on. She warns this prospective lover that he will never meet another like her. And you know what? She’s right.

9) “L.A. Times” by Nana featuring REASON

With the song and video (directed by Andrew Litten) for “LA Times,” Nana has arrived as Los Angeles’ next great storyteller. And that’s no small statement because some of music’s greatest have come from LA.

8) “After Party” by Don Toliver

7) “Ain’t It Different” by Headie One featuring AJ Tracey & Stormzy

Yes, the sample is a bit of a layup but did it work on me? Absolutely. Plus, whomst amongst us hasn’t made that birthday cake from digestive biscuits?

6) “Antifa Dance” by Ana Tijoux

One big thing I was looking out for this year: who was going to meet the moment with a song to match? It’s no surprise that Ana Tijoux was the one. In 2020, no one did it better.

5) “Dragonball Durag” by Thundercat

What do you get when Thundercat and Zack Fox cross streams? Quinta Brunson, Haim, and Kali Uchis cameos in an incredible video for a song all about the joys and frustrations of pining.

4) “Time (You and I)” by Khruangbin

When I was a kid, I remember sitting up in the CN Tower in Toronto and telling my dad I wanted both of us to live to be 300 years old. The lyrics here evoke that feeling, only the beat is one you can dance to.

3) “Whole Lotta Choppas” by Sada Baby

A chaotic and psychedelic use of a “Whoomp There It Is” sample that I am absolutely enamored with. The most infectious song of 2020.

2) “Angel Eyes” by Habibi

Every year I keep my ear open for new additions to my road trip playlist, and no songs fit the bill better than this. A love story that blends punk and spaghetti western influences.

1) “Savage” (remix) by Megan Thee Stallion featuring Beyonce

Absolutely nothing felt better this year than hitting play on this remix and hearing Beyonce’s voice– not only the first time, but every time after that.

Best Albums

13) Positions by Ariana Grande

12) Shango by Sango

11) It Is What It Is by Thundercat

10) Face the Darkness by B L A C K I E

9) The Album by Teyana Taylor

8) Untitled (Rise) by Sault

7) Anywhere But Here by Habibi

6) Women In Music Pt. III by Haim

5) Ho, Why Is You Here by Flo Milli

4) Mordechai by Khruangbin

3) Heaven or Hell by Don Toliver

2) Fetch the Bolt Cutters by Fiona Apple

1)  Everyday Life by Coldplay*


And you already know I’ve got all these songs in a playlist, stream it here: