2020 has been a year of tests and tribulations. I think we can speak on everyone's behalf and say this year needs to promptly end, and it is time to shift our focus on the future. However, amidst all the bullshit 2020 has brought into our lives, music has remained constant, but more importantly great music from talents across all genres. This year was seen as a breakout year for many, interesting for household names, and important for major artists on the rise to solidify their spot in the music hierarchy. After countless AFTR PRTY Radio playlists highlighting music over the last 12 months, our staff got together to compile a list of 25 songs that stood out from a plethora of good music. Like with any year-end list, this is not an objective list by any means. Instead, this is a list to celebrate music from our favorite artists of the year and many that may have slipped past your radar. Without further ado, we present you AFTR PRTY's Top 25 Songs of 2020 (also follow the playlist below):
Brent Faiyaz - “Been Away”
Brent Faiyaz has been releasing high-quality music since 2015, but it seems like 2020 was his real break-out year. Many listeners know Brent from the hook of Goldlink’s Grammy-nominated anthem “Crew”. Real fans know him as being part of the R&B trio Sonder, which includes Brent and two producers, Dpat and Atu. The word Sonder stands for “the realization that every passerby is living a life as vivid and as complex as our own – causing each of our experiences to flow into each other”, and Brent paid homage to the concept on his debut solo album Sonder Son.
“Been Away” was first heard in October of 2019 during New York’s Fashion Week during his Pyer Moss performance, but was officially released on his second album Fuck The World. This song finds Brent grappling with his personal life and love life. He needs to focus on himself before he can truly love his muse and begs her to be patient until he’s stable. Brent’s not only one of the most popular artists from the DMV but is also an independent and makes most of his money through tours, this also surfaces in the song’s lyrics as well.
Shordie Shordie, “FDP”
Baltimore’s Shordie Shordie spent 2020 quietly torching every instrumental he touched. The 24-year-old released a pair of stellar singles with Toronto’s Murda Beatz, turned in show-stealing features on albums by West Coast ambassadors Mozzy and Rucci, and carried an album of his own with April’s >Music.
“FDP”, from his solo LP, is a propulsive piece of rapping that denounces the racist police state in one breath and dwells on lovesick memories in the next. Rendered in swirling double time, Shordie’s invocation of “fuck the police” comes as naturally as his pleas to “bend that thing over, like no bones in the back.” As in life, romance bleeds into politics, and vice versa.
Tame Impala, "Borderline (Blood Orange Remix)"
Be it the original track or the remix, this is one of my favorite tracks of 2020 (I know this is technically cheating but we are going to make it work.) Blood Orange took the upbeat, bass-driven track and slowed it down to this version that makes you feel like the track is coursing through your body. The remix still carries the excitement of the original "Borderline," but the additional guitar, synth, and some bongos make you want to just blast the track while driving with the windows down. I honestly cannot say whether the original or remix is better but take a listen to both and feel free to let us know!
Serena Isioma, "Sensitive"
Serena Isioma is an example of how new artists in 2020 have claimed the year as their own. The 20-year old from Chicago first started releasing music through Soundcloud in 2019, but would release her debut EP, Sensitive, which included the breakout track of the same name. “Sensitive” is the result of the new generation of artists: music without borders. Isioma blends hip-hop based lyrics with an indie pop instrumental that combine to form something great and genre-less. She then transitions to a R&B interlude by the second half of the song and after my first listen I was blown away. With two EP length projects this year alone (she dropped The Leo Sun Sets earlier this month) Serena Isioma is set to have an incredible 2021 and I expect her to collaborate with some other major indie genrebenders sooner than later.
Khraungbin, “Time (You and I)”
The Houston based instrumental trio released their 10-track album Mordechai back in June, and it hasn’t stopped playing since. The group’s devotion to being music fans of all walks of life and various genres is clearly seen in this project as they combine a funk-groove-soul-pop-rock-disco-indie sound (no I swear) that is meant to make their fans feel good. The band explores vocal melodies matched with their amazing instrumental talents on their third album that gives fans a glimpse into the music they’re set to release in the future. The group specializes in creating curated vibes that are sure to keep your spirits high no matter what circumstance.
“Time (You and I)” does just that as each instrument layers over each other to create this new wave of sound that really is not comparable. This song serves as the funk version of Lil Wayne’s “Let The Beat Build.” 2020 has made the world think about time like no other year, and Khraungbin attempts to evaluate this phenomenon on this track. The guitar riffs that melt your ears like butter, the simple bass-snare drumline accompanied by patterned hi-hats, and groovy bassline that drives the whole track come together and make you feel like you are surfing through time in a chrome Delorean.
2g Kaash, “Dior”
Listening to 2g Kaash, it’s hard to imagine that he’s barely old enough to get a driver’s license. The Irving, Texas rapper writes loaded explorations of the inner turmoil that emerges from socioeconomic hardship, and he serves them up with poise and melodic intuition.
“Dior” is the first track on 2g Kaash’s latest mixtape Mixed Emotions. Against a tense backdrop of spaghetti western-style guitars, he sets the scene with arresting clarity. “I remember it was us, and we ain’t have nothing / A jammed up tool and a couple of nuggets / N***as start jugging, got tired of struggling / Get fast money, you spend it like nothing.” What were you doing when you were 17?
Unotheactivist has gained a cult-like following since he came on to the scene ok the viral track “What” back in 2016 with longtime collaborator Playboi Carti. The 24 year-old from Atlanta has grown immensely since then in his image and especially his music. His highly anticipated debut album, 8, features 18 tracks that flex the range of his talents to his listeners. The sea of vocal alterations and emotions that Uno shows on this album makes it his best and most genuine project to date. The album initially got some backlash from fans that felt Uno was going nore towards the commercial/ pop route, but I think this is an extension of how much he has grown as an artist and his expansion of his own sound over the years. Calling on features (Ty Dolla $ign, Calboy, 2gramcam) on only three tracks, Uno takes his audience on a journey through glory, struggle, hardwork, relationships, and everything in between.
On “Inches” Uno croons over the bass-knocking track with catchy punchlines as he lists his favorite features in a woman. The track has only one verse, but Uno’s flow and calculated wordplay almost puts you in a trance as you are bound to bob your head during the entire 2 minute track. Uno boasts his credentials with an unmatched slickness while reassuring the ladies “if he said love you than (he) meant it.” This was one of my favorite tracks on a great project of 2020, a very active year for UnoTheActivist (6 singles, 5 projects released)
JGreen, “Teach Em Something”
JGreen’s “Teach Em Something” is a master class in building to a crescendo. The Florida native and 510 Music Group co-founder opens the song with a soft murmur - “told my momma I’m thuggin’, I’d rather be dead than rather be broke” - that grows more intricate and impassioned with each couplet.
By the three minute mark, Green is wailing like a man possessed, pushing his voice to its upper registers until he’s forced to slip into a falsetto, which he nails with perfect pitch for the grand finale.
Lianne La Havas, "Green Papaya"
Ever since her album Is Your Love Big Enough released in 2012, I have been an absolute Lianne stan. She never delivers short of beauty and grace, especially on her most recent self-titled album Lianne La Havas. "Green Papaya" stands out to me due to its musical simplicity- the track consists of nothing but her vocals and a guitar. The steady sense of movement created by the pairing highlights her seductive yet vulnerable sound, which ties hand in hand with the title of the track, "Green Papaya," referencing the underripe fruit which is said to carry aphrodisiac properties. All in all, this track really hones in on Lianne's sound and overall chill yet lively vibe.
Giveon, "WORLD WE CREATED"
It would be a disservice to not include Giveon within my top 5 tracks of 2020. With such a unique sound, Giveon has entered the ears and hearts of many r&b lovers like myself and has defined his voice as one of the most distinct sounds of 2020. His range on "WORLD WE CREATED" is one of the reasons it's my favorite track off TAKE TIME. He sits higher in his baritone register, which really shows off the depth of his vocal range. Not to mention, it's a boppy track that you can't help but move and sing along to. From the combination of horns, guitar, and drums to his melodic writing, every piece fits so nicely with one another to capture his story of new love and the excitement that comes with it.
Young Thug & Chris Brown - “Go Crazy”
First off, who anticipated these two creating an album together. Second, why is it so fucking good? Like honestly, Chris Brown and Young Thug flexed on Slime & B, and even during a quarantined summer, you could hear “Go Crazy” playing every time you stepped out of your house. Plus, no Chris Brown record is certified without a classic music video where he can spazz on the dance