Best Songs of 2020

As 2020 finally nears its end, the Chronicle Staff is taking a look back at all of the truly fantastic music that was released over the past year. Without further ado, here are a few staff picks for the best songs of the year.

“Key West (Philosopher’s Pirate)” by Bob Dylan

By Raghav Raj

The penultimate track from Bob Dylan’s first album of original songs in eight years sees the 79-year old folk legend lost in philosophical drift. A 9-minute outlaw ballad helmed by languishing pedal steel and the gentle hum of accordion, “Key West” is a poetic tale of epic proportions. With Dylan’s graceful touch, an island off the coast of Florida becomes a transcendental metaphor on the nature of life itself: filled with despair and longing, yet utterly, magnificently transfixing.

“Kyoto” by Phoebe Bridgers

By Della Johnson

Phoebe Bridgers has had an amazing year. Her most recent hit, “Kyoto,” leaps off the album Punisher, standing out from her usual repertoire of soft, emotional ballads. As Bridgers croons “I wanted to see the world/through your eyes until it happened,” her voice is enveloped by crescendoing drums and a rousing brass section, transformed into something truly heartbreaking.

“Bigger Than Life” by Lil Uzi Vert

By Matthew Smith

Lil Uzi Vert released the highly anticipated Eternal Atake in March, and one of the most well-rounded cuts here is “Bigger Than Life.” The easy-going beat from Oogie Mane meshes extremely well with Uzi’s flow, while Uzi fills the beat with enough ad-libs to keep it interesting. The song is attention-grabbing, but it’s also a fantastic track to kick back and relax to.

“Shameika” by Fiona Apple

By Rachel Cai

Fiona Apple released her first album in 8 years, Fetch the Bolt Cutters, this past April. A standout track, “Shameika,” recalls a minor — yet significant — interaction in Apple’s youth with the titular character. Carried by an energetic, bluesy piano line, Apple’s voice is set to rowdy clashes and guitar strums. Pushed forward by a sharply syncopated rhythm, the song is liberating, as relentless as it is dazzling.

“Walking in the Snow” by Run the Jewels

By Ann Vettikkal

Released days after the murder of George Floyd, RTJ4 was an offering to a community stricken with suffering.“walking in the snow” is one of the most direct indictments on the album. In its hard-hitting lyrics and grimy beat, Killer Mike and El-P display hip hop’s inherent impetus: opposing the establishment. A few months ago, the line “I promise I’m honest / they coming for you” felt like an unapologetic warning. Now, a week after the election, it is poetic justice.