Women in music, from Dua Lipa to Megan Thee Stallion, brought joy in a tough year

Anika Reed, USA TODAY
·5 min read

Almost everyone can agree: 2020 was unequivocally terrible.

But even with a laundry list of all the no good, very bad events that happened in 2020, music was something that connected people across the country, and helped people cope through moments of hardship. And women in music were the year's brightest spots.

Throughout the year, women in music offered joy and vulnerability that gave us moments of undeniable happiness to help us manage quarantines and seemingly endless bad news.

Dua Lipa, Ariana Grande, Taylor Swift, Chloe x Halle, Mariah Carey and Megan Thee Stallion are some of the women in music who brought joy to 2020.
Dua Lipa, Ariana Grande, Taylor Swift, Chloe x Halle, Mariah Carey and Megan Thee Stallion are some of the women in music who brought joy to 2020.

As stay-at-home orders kicked off across the nation in March and April, Dua Lipa entered from across the pond with a disco dream to help us dance away the stress. Her sophomore album "Future Nostalgia" is full of effervescent, glittering tracks that we played on loop in the early portion of the pandemic (and through the rest of the year, if we're being honest).

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Lady Gaga ushered in a new era that amped up the millennial pink vibe of her 2016 "Joanne" album and in late May, delivered a hot pink serving of pure pop confection with "Chromatica" (initially delayed at the onset of the pandemic). In typical Gaga fashion, she transported fans to another planet, providing the electro-pop escapism that was desperately needed with tracks like "Stupid Love" and "911."

Ariana Grande, left, and Lady Gaga won song of the year for "Rain On Me" at the 2020 MTV Video Music Awards.
Ariana Grande, left, and Lady Gaga won song of the year for "Rain On Me" at the 2020 MTV Video Music Awards.

After collaborating on singles with Gaga ("Rain on Me") and Justin Bieber ("Stuck with You") in early quarantine, Ariana Grande didn't owe fans more music. She had released "Thank U, Next" in 2019 and toured internationally most of last year. Enter 2020's "Positions" album, in which Grande's vulnerability is on display with quieter ballads and ethereal songs about love and lust. As we all searched for pleasure and peace of mind, Grande did, too.

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Sister duo Chloe x Halle created one of the best albums of 2020 with "Ungodly Hour," with melodies and harmonies that provided a slinky soundtrack to the year ("Tipsy," "Lonely" and "Overwhelmed" sound like 2020 in a nutshell). Their live performances for each of the songs, while utilizing their backyard tennis court to perform them virtually, were top tier – it's clear why they're Beyoncé's protegés. Chloe x Halle's "Do It" was just one of the songs that made the rounds on TikTok.

Chloe Bailey and Halle Bailey of Chloe X Halle perform "Ungodly Hour" at the "E! People's Choice Awards" on Nov. 15, 2020.
Chloe Bailey and Halle Bailey of Chloe X Halle perform "Ungodly Hour" at the "E! People's Choice Awards" on Nov. 15, 2020.

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Though her "Hot Girl Summer" ethos couldn't ring true in the same way during 2020, Megan Thee Stallion quickly became a household name thanks to her song "Savage" and the trend it sparked on TikTok and beyond. The song's remix featuring Beyoncé and her later single "Body" brought about more choreography videos that racked up even more views. Megan's voice carried over to her debut studio album "Good News," her powerful New York Times op-ed about protecting Black women and her criticism of how Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron handled the Breonna Taylor case during her debut "Saturday Night Live" performance.

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Megan Thee Stallion performs onstage during Day 2 of "Red Rocks Unpaused" 3-Day Music Festival presented by Visible at Red Rocks Amphitheatre on Sept. 2, 2020, in Morrison, Colo.
Megan Thee Stallion performs onstage during Day 2 of "Red Rocks Unpaused" 3-Day Music Festival presented by Visible at Red Rocks Amphitheatre on Sept. 2, 2020, in Morrison, Colo.

When a renewed reckoning on racial justice took hold this summer, the music world joined in. Beyoncé released "Black Parade" on Juneteenth and celebrated the diaspora with her "Black Is King" Disney+ visual album. H.E.R. soulfully sang about the message behind the movement with "I Can't Breathe," while Jorja Smith sang about the revolution on "By Any Means."

Independence in love and relationships played out with evocative women-led R&B and rap albums. Jhene Aiko celebrated being back up on her "B.S." with her "Chilombo" album, while Kehlani delved into the highs and lows of entanglements with "It Was Good Until It Wasn't." An eight-year hiatus brought Brandy back to fans on "B7" with her soaring serenades and standout live performances, as City Girls JT and Yung Miami returned with catchy hooks about their friendship and dealing with men on "City On Lock."

Taylor Swift is marking the milestone of her 31st birthday with album "Evermore."
Taylor Swift is marking the milestone of her 31st birthday with album "Evermore."

Taylor Swift gave fans not one, but two albums with "Folklore" and "Evermore" (plus a Netflix documentary, an ABC concert special celebrating 2019's "Lover" and another Disney+ documentary on the making of "Folklore"), showcasing the singer-songwriter in her prime. While some people planted gardens, baked sourdough, or just tried to get through each day, Swift made all of that easier by crafting music amid the absence of plans.

Even when they weren't making new music, the women in the music industry still managed to create moments of love, laughter and community.

"Mariah Carey's Magical Christmas Special" is now available to watch on streaming service Apple TV+.
"Mariah Carey's Magical Christmas Special" is now available to watch on streaming service Apple TV+.

The Verzuz battles between soul queens Jill Scott and Erykah Badu, aunties-in-chief Patti LaBelle and Gladys Knight, and '90s R&B icons Brandy and Monica brought millions of people together in some of the most lauded exchanges of the year. Stevie Nicks tapped into the viral TikTok "Dreams" trend with a video of her own. Mariah Carey's Apple TV+ Christmas special provided a sense of comfortable familiarity during the holidays. Dionne Warwick is wrapping up the year as one of the funniest and most genuine people on Twitter.

Leave it to women to save the day.

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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Ariana Grande, Dua Lipa, Megan Thee Stallion brought happiness to 2020