Selecting and ranking 100 songs as the “Best of” any given year is a fool’s errand. There’s simply too much music to choose from and the notion that any of these lists can truly encapsulate what it was like to listen to music in 2020 inevitably leaves some important things out or places too much importance on certain artists or genres. In the end it’s all subjective anyway, and what captures one person’s imagination might leave another in the cold. Plus, with so much music available there’s no way you can listen to everything. I know I’ve discovered plenty of songs and artists weeks, months, or years later, only to wish I had known about them sooner so they could’ve been included in a year-end roundup. It’s the way life goes sometimes. But that’s also the benefit of any list like this! For anyone to tell you these are songs that meant something to them in 2020 automatically elevates those tracks above your standard fare. If you’re looking to put your music listening in focus, a list like this can help to some degree.

Honestly, outside of the top 30 or so, the order of the songs in this list are somewhat arbitrary. They were ranked in large part by gut feeling, which is to say that I weighed each one and placed it into the spot that seemed most accurate. This actually could have been twice as long, given how many cuts were made to keep this whole thing manageable. It makes me think the best approach and listening experience would be to use the “shuffle” function on this Spotify playlist quite liberally. Alternatively, if you’re anti-Spotify, I’d encourage you to click around and listen to these songs in a very random way. Give each one at least 30 seconds of your time to get an idea of what it sounds like. That should be enough to determine if you’re interested in hearing more. Maybe next year I’ll get rid of the ranking system altogether. The top 100 songs should be good enough without needing to tell you if one is “better” than another.

The overall criteria for qualification on this list was pretty simple: each song must have been released as a standalone single or as part of an EP or album from 2020. No artist was allowed to appear more than once, though exceptions were made for featured guests (looking at you, Megan Thee Stallion & Ariana Grande). That opened things up a bit to enable more artists to be included and represented on this list. Some Chicago favorites too! And not to spoil any surprises, but you might not find some of these names on other “Best of” lineups so it’s just great to show them some (deserved) love. There’s so much fun and catchy stuff I can’t wait for you to discover, so take your time and please enjoy!

100. DaBaby – Rockstar (ft. Roddy Ricch) [YouTube]
99. Deep Sea Diver – Impossible Weight (ft. Sharon Van Etten) [YouTube]
98. Activity – Earth Angel [YouTube]
97. Ela Minus – dominique [YouTube]
96. Frances Quinlan – Your Reply [YouTube]
95. V.V. Lightbody – Horse on Fire [YouTube]
94. Sylvan Esso – Ferris Wheel [YouTube]
93. Westerman – Think I’ll Stay [YouTube]
92. Rico Nasty – IPHONE [YouTube]
91. Yaeji – WAKING UP DOWN [YouTube]
90. Winter – Say [YouTube]
89. Beach Bunny – Dream Boy [YouTube]
88. Andy Shauf – Living Room [YouTube]
87. Cold Beaches – Problems and Heartache (I Got Them) [YouTube]
86. Future Islands – For Sure [YouTube]
85. Bonny Light Horseman – Deep in Love [YouTube]
84. Faye Webster – In A Good Way [YouTube]
83. NNAMDI – Flowers to My Demons [YouTube]
82. The Strokes – The Adults Are Talking [YouTube]
81. Khruangbin & Leon Bridges – Texas Sun [YouTube]
80. Braids – Snow Angel [YouTube]
79. My Morning Jacket – Feel You [YouTube]
78. Drakeo the Ruler – Backflip or Sumn [YouTube]
77. Taylor Swift – invisible string [YouTube]
76. Oneohtrix Point Never – Long Road Home [YouTube]
75. Ganser – Lucky [YouTube]
74. illuminati hotties – will i get cancelled if i write a song called, “if you were a man you’d be so cancelled” [YouTube]
73. Helado Negro – I Fell in Love (ft. Xenia Rubinos) [YouTube]
72. SALEM – Starfall [YouTube]
71. SZA – Hit Different (ft. Ty Dolla $ign) [YouTube]
70. Sorry – Right Round the Clock [YouTube]
69. Ariana Grande – 34+35 [YouTube]
68. Ratboys – I Go Out at Night [YouTube]
67. Kate NV – Sayonara [YouTube]
66. Benee – Supalonely (Lownely) [YouTube]
65. The Chicks – Gaslighter [YouTube]
64. Fleet Foxes – Sunblind [YouTube]
63. Lomelda – Hannah Sun [YouTube]
62. Burna Boy – Onyeka (Baby) [YouTube]
61. Ohmme – 3 2 4 3 [YouTube]
60. City Girls – Pussy Talk (ft. Doja Cat) [YouTube]
59. Special Interest – Street Pulse Beat [YouTube]
58. Dirty Projectors – Lose Your Love [YouTube]
57. Tame Impala – Is It True [YouTube]
56. Sufjan Stevens – The Ascension [YouTube]
55. Jessy Lanza – Lick in Heaven [YouTube]
54. Jay Electronica – The Neverending Story [YouTube]
53. Charli XCX – forever [YouTube]
52. Nick Hakim – QADIR [YouTube]
51. Bfb Da Packman – Free Joe Exotic (ft. Sada Baby) [YouTube]
50. beabadoobee – Care [YouTube]
49. Earl Sweatshirt – WHOLE WORLD (ft. Maxo) [YouTube]
48. Thundercat – Dragonball Durag [YouTube]
47. Burial – Chemz [YouTube]
46. Jackie Lynn – Dream St. [YouTube]
45. Roisin Murphy – Murphy’s Law [YouTube]
44. Lil Baby – All In [YouTube]
43. Blake Mills – Vanishing Twin [YouTube]
42. 070 Shake – Guilty Conscience [YouTube]
41. Kelly Lee Owens – Melt! [YouTube]
40. Destroyer – Cue Synthesizer [YouTube]
39. Dua Lipa – Physical [YouTube]
38. Ric Wilson & Terrace Martin – Chicago Bae (ft. BJ the Chicago Kid) [YouTube]
37. Squid – Sludge [YouTube]
36. Rina Sawayama – Bad Friend [YouTube]
35. Shamir – On My Own [YouTube]
34. Lil Uzi Vert – POP [YouTube]
33. Dehd – Loner [YouTube]
32. The 1975 – If You’re Too Shy (Let Me Know) [YouTube]
31. The Weather Station – Robber [YouTube]
30. TOPS – I Feel Alive [YouTube]
29. Amaarae – FANCY [YouTube]
28. Jessie Ware – What’s Your Pleasure? [YouTube]
27. Dogleg – Kawasaki Backflip [YouTube]
26. Grimes – Delete Forever [YouTube]
25. India Jordan – For You [YouTube]
24. U.S. Girls – 4 American Dollars [YouTube]
23. Fiona Apple – Cosmonauts [YouTube]
22. The Weeknd – Blinding Lights [YouTube]
21. Arlo Parks – Black Dog [YouTube]
20. Bartees Strange – Boomer [YouTube]
19. Perfume Genius – On the Floor [YouTube]
18. Jayda G – Both of Us [YouTube]
17. Moses Sumney – Cut Me [YouTube]
16. Bad Bunny – Safaera (ft. Jowell & Randy and Nengo Flow) [YouTube]
15. Soccer Mommy – circle the drain [YouTube]
14. Waxahatchee – Fire [YouTube]
13. Megan Thee Stallion – Savage Remix (ft. Beyonce) [YouTube]
12. Haim – The Steps [YouTube]
11. Adrianne Lenker – anything [YouTube]
10. Lady Gaga – Rain On Me (ft. Ariana Grande) [YouTube]
9. Chloe x Halle – Do It [YouTube]
8. Run the Jewels – JU$T (ft. Pharrell Williams & Zack De La Rocha) [YouTube]
7. Yves Tumor – Gospel for a New Century [YouTube]
6. Nation of Language – The Wall & I [YouTube]
5. SAULT – Monsters [YouTube]
4. Christine and the Queens – People, I’ve been sad [YouTube]
3. Cardi B – WAP (ft. Megan Thee Stallion) [YouTube]
2. Porridge Radio – Lilac [YouTube]
1. Phoebe Bridgers – I Know the End [YouTube]