This year’s song of the summer battle is somewhat bittersweet. On the one hand, we’ve received arguably the best slate of hits in recent memory—and the most diverse. From sparkly disco to cathartic house and viral-trend-ready hip-hop, music is arguably the only thing this year that hasn’t been disappointing.
But everything else about 2020 is—that’s why picking the song of the summer is such a challenge. None of these songs were able to be consumed in the matter they were intended: on full blast at house parties, at rooftop gatherings, or on sweaty, packed dance floors. We’ve had to find the club within us and have dance parties for one. In many ways, it’s made the music that’s dropped this year all the more memorable. You’ll never hear “Rain on Me” by Lady Gaga and Ariana Grande again without remembering this very specific moment in time.
These 11 songs, in particular, are the ones that saved us from the dark days—the ones that dominated radio, streaming platforms, and playlists for your socially distant Zoom parties. They are your 2020 songs of the summer, and I only hope we can soon blast them together in a glitter-soaked room.
“Blinding Lights” by The Weeknd
Coproduced by hit maestro Max Martin, “Blinding Lights” is a slick, dreamy slice of ’80s pop that would perfectly soundtrack a Flashdance reboot. The Weeknd’s smooth vocals glide just so over the track’s twinkly production, giving you a rush of both nostalgia and euphoria. It’s no wonder the song has endured on the Billboard Hot 100’s top five for weeks.
“Rain on Me” by Lady Gaga and Ariana Grande
Fans have been yearning for a pop return from Gaga for years, and they received it in the form of Chromatica, a Technicolor dreamboat of an album with no ballads and all bops. The boppiest of them all may be “Rain on Me,” a rapturous house anthem about dancing through your tears (something we’ve all done in these pandemic times). Gaga and Grande’s voices mesh perfectly, and the accompanying video? Let’s just say future gay pride celebrations will never be the same.
“Don’t Start Now” by Dua Lipa
“Don't Start Now” came out toward the end of 2019, but its chart staying power is awe-inspiring. The disco-pop jam managed to stay within the top 10 of Billboard’s Hot 100 basically all summer and is still in the top 30. It’s understandable. Lipa kicked off what would become a micro-trend in 2020’s music: maximalist, escapist dance-pop—stuffed with the type of serotonin that fueled Katy Perry’s heyday hits. Artists like Gaga, Jessie Ware, and Charli XCX would follow Lipa’s lead and supply a steady stream of uptempo candy. Nothing, however, is sweeter than “Don’t Start Now,” with its shimmery, Studio 54–ready chorus.
“Savage Remix” by Megan Thee Stallion, feat. Beyoncé
“Savage” was already a smash before Beyoncé hopped on the remix, but Queen B’s presence sent it into another stratosphere—and up the charts. It was one of several songs this year to spawn a TikTok dance challenge, which only heightened its popularity and ubiquity. Consider Hot Girl Summer officially extended.
“Say So Remix” by Doja Cat and Nicki Minaj
Doja Cat and “Say So” have not arrived without controversy. The song itself has a cowriting credit from Dr. Luke, the disgraced producer whom Kesha accused of emotional abuse and sexual assault. (A judge dismissed the charges Kesha made against Dr. Luke a few years ago.) And Doja Cat herself had to address accusations she’s taken part in racist conversations online. “I’ve used public chat rooms to socialize since I was a child. I shouldn’t have been on some of those chat room sites, but I personally have never been involved in any racist conversations. I’m sorry to everyone I offended,” she posted on Instagram back in May.
Nevertheless, “Say So” has endured as a summer standout, and it was only amplified when Nicki Minaj jumped on a special remix in May. It reached number one on Billboard’s Hot 100 and still remains strong in the top 20.
“Rockstar” by DaBaby and Roddy Ricch
“Rockstar” remains the biggest hit of the year, as far as charts are concerned. It’s stayed consistently atop the Billboard Hot 100, taking a step back every now and then for a viral hit but always returning to the throne. The video, set during a zombie apocalypse, has amassed over 45 million views and is still one of the best visuals released this year.
“Come & Go” by Juice Wrld and Marshmello
Released posthumously off Juice Wrld’s Legends Never Die album, “Come & Go” is an EDM/hip-hop hybrid of the highest degree—pure adrenaline from start to finish. It’s the type of song that begs to be screamed at the top of your lungs (but make sure the people you live with are cool with that).
“Break My Heart” by Dua Lipa
This has been an incredible year for Lipa. Her second album, Future Nostalgia, is one of the best-reviewed LPs of 2020 and spawned two bonafide hits: the aforementioned “Don’t Start Now” and “Break My Heart,” which really leans into the overall disco aesthetic of her era—so much so that Michael Hutchence and Andrew Farriss from INXS are listed on the credits. (“Break My Heart” bears a striking resemblance to the INXS hit “Need You Tonight,” which wasn’t intentional on Lipa’s end but was rectified after her song’s release.) The two tracks are practically soul sisters, if that offers you any insight into the Saturday Night Fever vibes we’re dealing with.
“Watermelon Sugar” by Harry Styles
In a radio landscape of hip-hop and dance-pop, Harry Styles has provided an acoustic, summery reprieve. (Taylor Swift would go on to do the same thing with her album Folklore, but hers is a bit more somber.) “Watermelon Sugar” quite literally sounds like its title: sweet, relaxed, and begging to be played on a beach at sunset. If you stay socially distant, that’s something you can do right now.
“Whats Poppin” by Jack Harlow, feat. DaBaby, Tory Lanez, and Lil Wayne
Released in January 2020, “Whats Poppin” has found new life thanks to a remix featuring DaBaby, Tory Lanez, and Lil Wayne. It was sitting pretty at the number two spot on Billboard’s Hot 100 at the time of this article’s publication.
“Cardigan” by Taylor Swift
The biggest music surprise of the year (so far) has been, without a doubt, Taylor Swift’s album, Folklore. The record is a departure from the shiny pop of her past three albums and instead focuses on her poetic songwriting as nonfussy production from Jack Antonoff and Aaron Dessner (The National) supports it. “Cardigan,” the lead single, is cottagecore fare at its most intimate and profound.
Originally Appeared on Glamour