Your Ultimate Guide to the Top Pop Songs of 2020
So, we all remember 2020. It was a rough year, and we probably don’t like to think about it too much. But 2020 also produced some great pop songs, and those are definitely worth remembering. We’re going to take a look at the top pop songs 2020, and also tell you about some tracks you may have missed in that crazy, chaotic year.
You might assume that because of the pandemic, most major artists didn’t release any new music because touring was out of the question. But that wasn’t really the case. In fact, many top pop artists released new material before and during the pandemic. Let’s take a look at the best of the best in 2020.
What are the top pop songs of 2020?
“Therefore I Am” by Billie Eilish
The last couple of years have seen Billie Eilish go from up and coming pop star to a global phenomenon. How many artists go from relative obscurity to headlining the world’s biggest festivals in such a short time? Not many, but Eilish is one of the few who has done it in spectacular fashion.
This track, released in 2020, showcases Billie’s signature style of whip smart lyrics combined with pulsing, glitching synth parts created by her brother Finneas O’Connell. If you listen closely, Billie seems to be using the track as a smack down on someone who tried to take advantage of her, and she’s having none of it. As one of the top pop songs 2020, this track sends the message to listeners that you don’t have to put up with someone else’s crap, and that’s a refreshing message that younger listeners need to hear.
“Dynamite” by BTS
So, what are the top pop songs of 2020? You can’t make that list without including this track by BTS. The Korean pop stars blew up in 2020 despite not being able to do stadium shows around the world. Another global sensation, BTS just keeps turning out hits that make their fans feel good. In fact, if you talk to big BTS fans, they’ll tell you that part of BTS fandom is about the fact that their music is just so upbeat and fun. It just makes you feel good.
“Dynamite” is another slick, smooth piece of production that puts the boy’s voices front and center on top of a rock-solid pop beat that drives the song along. BTS is known for the rhythmic nature of their vocals and the fact that they are simply made for signing along, and this track is no exception. If 2020 was getting you down (weren’t we all feeling pretty down?), this song is the pickup you needed.
“Your Love (Déjà vu)” by Glass Animals
When you first listen to this song from Glass Animal’s third record, you immediately think, this reminds me of… something. It’s tricky because it might remind you of a dozen different songs from different times over the last few decades. That’s what makes this one of the top pop songs 2020. It’s got so many differently layers to peel back, and this requires repeat listens.
The vocals may pull you in at first, but after a while, you start to realize how much is going on in this song. Little bits of synth flow in and out, but then there’s some subtle electric guitar and bass happening. At the same time, the song just pulses. It doesn’t try to go over the top at any point, but it just keeps moving with such a ferocious beat that you don’t want it to end.
Who had the biggest pop hit of 2020?
So, who had the biggest pop hit of 2020? Well, that honor goes to…
“Blinding Lights” by The Weeknd
The Weeknd has been topping lists of top pop songs 2020, but his 2020 smash hit “Blinding Lights” was far and away the biggest pop hit of 2020. When the song starts, you can be forgiven for thinking you’re listening to a remix of A-Ha’s massive hit “Take on Me.” That’s probably because “Blinding Lights” knows exactly how to strike that perfect 80s tone that is both slick and frenetic.
Once the melody kicks in, though, you instantly know exactly what you’re listening to. It’s that song you heard everywhere in 2020. The slick production perfectly surrounds the Weeknd’s crystal-clear voice, and the only thing that could make this track sound more authentically 80s would be if the Weeknd sang with and English accent.
“Adore You” by Harry Styles
Since leaving One Direction, Harry Styles has made some smart career moves. And no list of top pop songs 2020 is complete without his single “Adore You.” Although we could have chosen from a number of Styles’ recent tracks, this one sets itself apart because of both its simplicity and its complexity.
There’s nothing earth shattering about the lyrics, but that almost makes this track feel more urgent and straightforward. Harry seems to have one thing on his mind, and that’s exactly what he wants you to know. The rest of the song is what really stands out though. While so many pop songs let you know exactly where they’re going, this one keeps up the surprises. From unusual instrumental arrangements to chord shifts that come out of nowhere, “Adore You” is a surprisingly mature track from a young artist.
“Malibu” by Kim Petras
It’s getting hard to tell if we’re reliving the 80s or the 90s at this point. The kids are wearing Doc Martins again, but pop stars keep releasing tracks that sound as though they’ve travelled through time from the Reagan administration.
This song by Kim Petras is pretty much as 80s as you can get, complete with super tight synth riffs and percussive guitar chords that evoke Nile Rogers. The point of the song isn’t covering serious issues, but rather pointing out the sometimes fake and sometimes brilliant decadence of the 80s. It’s glossy, and pink, and overflowing with fun.
“Dependent” by Mae Muller
On the other end of the spectrum, there is something distinctly modern about this track from Mae Miller. The production has elements of 80s gloss, but it’s not trying to mimic the sound the way many artists are.
The lyrics are also a bit more contemplative as Muller questions how a new relationship could affect her dearly held independence. There is a definite sense of conflict here, which is a refreshing change from the concrete ideas that often dominate pop music. A little introspection is a good thing.
“Midnight Sky” by Miley Cyrus
If you didn’t realize it until now, you’re probably not alone, but listening to this track makes it quite obvious that Miley Cyrus is the new Stevie Nicks. This is partly due to the fact that Miley’s voice isn’t much like other pop singers. She has a depth and a rasp that is jarring and original, but she also knows when to shout and when to whisper.
This track gets much of its influence from Nicks’ early 80s hit “Edge of Seventeen,” and this becomes clear by the second verse. It should be noted that Miley and Stevie teamed up to mash up their songs into one big “Edge of Seventeen/Midnight Sky Remix.” But perhaps the best part of the song is that it’s simply so well made. It doesn’t offer too many surprises, but sometimes it’s fine to know exactly where you’re going.
“Rare” by Selena Gomez
Selena Gomez realizes that you have to work with producers who know how to make a track stand out. 2020 will see the release of thousands of new pop songs, but in order to be in front of the pack, you need arrangements that get people’s attention. She also understands that she needs producers who put her voice front and center.
“Rare” showcases Gomez’s voice by almost isolating it at the beginning of the track. Other than her voice all we get are tribal-sounding drums and a hint of synth to keep Gomez’s vocals on key. From there the song starts to bloom with more as more instruments are added, but it successfully manages to never sound like any other pop tune. It does go quite as far out into music theory as Britney’s masterpiece “Toxic,” but it comes close.
“Cardigan” by Taylor Swift
What were the chances that Taylor Swift wasn’t going to end up on this list? Basically zero, right? While more of a pop ballad than a club banger, “Cardigan” finds Swift in a deeply mature era of her career where songwriting and production work together so perfectly it feels effortless.
Once again, Swift finds herself singing about a relationship, but lyrically she’s found a way to make a likely mundane experience feel original and unique. Swift has also become a master of creating lyrics that feel stream of conscious and completely scripted at the same time. It’s becoming painfully clear that Swift splitting from her old management is the best decisions she could have made.
“Follow” by 0171
Edgy is probably the best word to describe this track from UK artists 0171. A little bit Radiohead and a little bit Thompson Twins, there’s something nostalgically futuristic (is that a term?) about this track. Sharp synths and dry beats give way to lush electronic sounds that pop in and out of the mix.
Part of the fun here is never knowing where the song is going next. Right when you think you’ve got it figured out, the song just stops entirely and goes in a different (and usually unexpected) direction. It doesn’t have the wistful moments that Taylor Swift creates in “Cardigan” but it’s just so much fun to listen to.
Best pop Duets of 2020
2020 saw a lot of great pop singles, but it also featured a lot of fantastic duets, and we’re going to answer the question: what are the best pop duets of 2020?
“Attack of Panic” by Aly & AJ
These former Disney stars have ditched their mouse ears in favor of some truly inventive electronica, and 2020’s “Attack of Panic” may be their most ambitious track yet. The song starts out with a simple, dry beat but soon explodes into something that sounds like it should have been produced by Trent Reznor.
Rather than keeping things at full tilt for the whole song, Aly & AJ create sharp dynamics between their verses and choruses. The result is powerful and surprising. As you get sucked into the simplicity of the verses, you forget just how big and bold the chorus is. Then when the chorus returns, it hits you like a ton of bricks. If this track is any indication, Aly & AJ will be rising to the top of the pop charts very soon.
Rain on Me” by Lady Gaga and Ariana Grande
Lady Gaga has had a busy few years from releasing new music to staring is House of Gucci to co-writing the score for Top Gun: Maverik. So, it’s nice to see Gaga return to putting out great pop music. This collaboration is destined to be a club banger with its relentless beat and perfectly infectious melody.
But perhaps the most interesting thing about this track is the contrast between what Gaga and Grande do with their voices. In many ways, they might seem like an odd combination of styles, but Gaga’s straightforward, almost pushy, tone blends perfectly with Grande’s soaring, angelic vocal style. As always, you can expect top quality production from both of these artists, and “Rain on Me” is no exception. It’s not heavy on subtlety, but this song will get you moving whether you like it or not.
“Baby I’m Jealous” by Bebe Rexha ft. Doja Cat
Insecurity isn’t the most obvious topic for a pop tune, but Bebe Rexha is intent on venting some common social issues by running through all of the reasons why she’s jealous of what her man might be up to. From the pics on social media that he likes to girls with lighter colored eyes, Bebe details the complicated social structure in which we now live.
The video for the track begins with Bebe, Doja, and some of their friends contemplating how life would have been easier or more difficult had they lived in different times, and then of course they are subjected to all of these scenarios. It may, at first, come off as a bit of fluff, but once you consider the very real social problems that have resulted from modern technology, you start to realize that the song is quite a bit deeper than it sounds. That’s why it finds itself on our list of top pop songs 2020.
“Intentions” by Justin Bieber ft. Quavo
A fairly simple ode to the women in their lives, “Intentions” stands out for its slick production and melodic complexity. Instead of stuffing the track with dozens of different sounds, the duo instead leaves a lot of space for their vocals the shine through.
The constant electronic arpeggio, hard panned throughout the track, is reminiscent of something you might hear in a more upbeat scene on Stranger Things, and it gives the track a nostalgic, 80s feel that stays light and fun. There aren’t any big surprised throughout the track. It finds its speed and then stays there, but that’s not really a problem when the main idea of the track is so nice to listen to.
“Villain” by K/DA ft. Madison Beer & Kim Petras
In a big departure from our last entry, “Villain” throws a lot of different things at the wall, and a lot of it sticks. The constant changes give the track a suspenseful edge that keeps going throughout the whole song.
There’s a sense of foreboding to this track, and part of this is due to the ominous synth lines that jump in and out as the singers trade off on lead vocals. At times, it’s nearly impossible to tell who has the mic, but that just adds to the wild complexity of this song, and why it feels so short, even at just over three minutes long. Things are happening so fast, you almost can’t keep track of everything, and that’s definitely part of the fun.
So, while 2020 may have been the toughest that most of us have ever lived through, at least we had some fantastic pop music to help pass the time. Now that we’re venturing out of our homes, it’s nice to know that the music never stopped. Festivals and shows are coming back, and life is gradually returning to normal.
Here at Turntable, our goal is to help people find new music and share it with their friends. This list of top pop songs 2020 is designed to help you find tracks you may have missed. Then you can jump onto Turntable and start sharing all of the new music you’ve found!