The Hit Songs of October 2020

Man, the top 40 was weird this month. Songs popped up then plummeted. 21 Savage’s entire album charted one week, then all but disappeared as everyone moved on to something else. Fleetwood Mac’s “Dreams” recharted 40 years after being released thanks to a TikTok video. (I didn’t include it in this month’s rankings but that song’s a solid 87-90. I really like the whole Rumours in general.) Oh, and country actually had a taste of pop success this month, so all around a busy month on the charts. What that does mean is we got a lot of tracks to sift through, so hold on to your butts. (throws the main breaker). Note: There’s a ton here so a lower ranking doesn’t necessarily mean a song’s bad. In fact, if you want to get right past the bad and meh, jump down to like #20.

31. Justin Bieber and benny blanco – Lonely
Another “woah is me, fame is so hard” anthem from the Biebs. I thought “I’ll Show You” was bad enough. I usually find strength in tracks where artists express their struggles with mental health. It can help those who are struggling to find something in pop culture that they can relate to, knowing that they are not alone in the struggle. But fuck is this just whiney. It sounds more like the slurred wailing of the drunk cryer in the group. It’s hard to feel anything for you when your expressions of self-loathing come off as nothing more than a cry for attention instead of help. There is a difference. The minor keyed Fender Rhoads backing track just amplifies this feeling that the emotions are disingenuous. I’m not saying the kid doesn’t have mental health issues and I wouldn’t dream of berating him if that were the case, but there’s nothing on this track that feels like a genuine examination of his heart. And seriously, what the fuck is that warble on the hook?

30. Chris Brown and Young Thug – Say You Love Me
This comes off their “Slime & B” mixtape and that’s exactly what you’ve got here. The beat is dark and slimy, which only accentuates the sliminess of its main artist. Thug was the only good here and that’s not much. Brown’s delivery was as lazy as you’d expect it to be. The beat sounds like someone faceplanted on a Casio, accidentally hit the loop button and they just went with that.

29. Jack Harlow – Tyler Herro
Tyler Herro had a great rookie season and impressed in the NBA Finals. This song would be getting Club Trill minutes in the G League. This encompasses the frattiest of the frat bro rap out there. I don’t get the medieval effects on the beat at all. Harlow’s flow is fine but he’s spitting less than nothing and quite frankly, I don’t think it’s fair to Herro to have his name attached to his pile of junk.

28. Luke Combs – Forever After All
Hey there bro country ballad, been a hot minute since we’ve seen you on the pop charts. Bro country is dead, huh? Combs makes sure to get beer and his truck in the first line of a song that’s supposed to be about finding your lifelong love. Some tropes are tropes for a reason. Despite this song’s huge viral power, it’s a formulaic modern country ballad, complete with a slide guitar “solo” right after the bridge. A little less than meh.

27. Luke Combs – Better Together
Jesus Christ Luke, we get it. You know all of the country staples that you have to get into a song for it to chart. The song’s thesis seems to be that there are things in life that just go together, just like Luke and his wife. The one thing you learn from Luke’s singles is that he is very much in love with his new wife. Which is sweet, it really is. If I had a heart, it would probably be touched. But instead, I am left to react to these songs he wrote for her, which come off as the weakest attempts to insert emotion into some otherwise cookie-cutter singles cued up for frequent rotation on the hot country stations. There’s enough country in there for the good old boys to not change the station when it comes on the barn stereo and enough feeling in there for the suburban mom to sing along while jamming in the minivan.

26. Why Don’t We – Fallin’
I’ve read a lot of the buzz for this song surrounding the fact that the band produced this track themselves, and it shows. When you’re brand new to something, you throw everything you got into it, without caring about whether it fits. There’s a lot that really doesn’t fit. There’s vocal parts that don’t really go with the rest of the verse. There’s effects that hit out of nowhere and then never return. Segments feel like they should build to something, but then that build is delayed a few bars and it just feels off.

25. Big Sean ft. Post Malone – Wolves
It wants to be a banger, a hype-up track. But everything is just hollow. Post Malone’s verse is particularly empty but all around there is just not much here.

24. Moneybagg Yo – Said Sum
Moneybagg goes hard, I will give him that. But beyond that, there’s just not much here. He blasts people talking shit about him. And…

23. Shawn Mendes – Wonder
An anthemic pop song that doesn’t feel strong enough to carry the needed mood. Props to Mendes for the introspective lyrics, though it totally feels like a Ryan Cabrera or Ryan Tedder single (googles credits… to his shock, neither is on the track). I get what he was going for, but there’s just something that falls flat here for me.

22. 21 Savage and Metro Boomin’ – Runnin’
Alright. Solid beat, alright flow, nothing special lyrically. Just… alright.

21. Conan Gray – Heather
Deep lyrics with an intense subject matter, but Gray then falls short of fully expressing the emotion of a boy falling for another boy whose in love with Heather. The writing is absolutely undercut by the most generic of sad acoustic guitar lines.

20. Ne-Yo and Jerimiah – U 2 Luv
A romantic track covered in 80’s R&B glitter, but overall nothing special from either artist.

19. 21 Savage and Metro Boomin’ – Slidin’
One of the simpler tracks on the record, solid beat, alright vocals. Nothing really sticks out here, unlike other entries.

18. Zara Larsson – WOW
Hipster pop seduction track. I am grooving to a slinky verse then, oh hi Marshmellow… goddamnit. More of this from Larsson, lost of Marshmellow killing more tracks.

17. Cordae ft. Roddy Ricch – Gifted
The melodies stick out and they are best described as pleasant. The lyrics are, well corny at times, but nothing awful. They work well together and the strings that encompass the beat are a tremendous touch.

16. HARDY ft. Lauren Alaina and Devin Dawson) – One Beer
This one comes out of nowhere to hit you with a pretty lyrical message. Starting out with the visual of waiting on the results of a pregnancy test, then going through how life changes. It feels like the all too familiar tale of how alcohol can be the catalyst for life changes; an unexpected child in this case. The production is pretty generic, but the message is surprisingly deep.

15. Ariana Grande – positions
A mature lead single for a mature album that seems to be leading the pop star into the realm of R&B. positions is a confident groove, accented by perfectly placed string hits throughout. I could absolutely get behind this turn towards a more mature sound, which is coming full circle after tapdancing around it on the last 2 albums.

14. Justin Bieber ft. Chance the Rapper – Holy
I acknowledge that I should not enjoy this track, Bieber has been especially weak lyrically on his last album or so. But there’s something about the gospel-flavored beat and hook that just works. It doesn’t blow me away, but it’s probably the best thing I’ve heard from the Biebs all year.

13. MGK x Blackbear – my ex’s best friend
It would have fit in very well as an indie pop track in 2004. The chorus is what makes this an enjoyable song. If that wasn’t as catchy, this one would be up a creek with no paddles. Or canoes.

12. 21 Savage and Metro Boomin’ – Many Men
21 switches up his flow and it really works here. He comes out with fire but at the same time still sounds casual in lighting things up. Sampling the 50 Cent track of the same name helps, but Metro puts it over the top and the beat ends up feeling like something off the score of a classic slasher flick.

11. Travis Scott ft. Young Thug and M.I.A. – FRANCHISE
Unique is the best way to describe this track. It’s a banger that’s actually pretty monotone. The buzzy bassline sticks out of the minor key production but doesn’t destroy everything else while becoming the focus. It just feels kinda odd and that’s not a bad thing.

10. Sam Smith – Diamonds
I really didn’t think Smith’s voice would work well on a pure dance-pop track, but their vocals mesh perfectly with the airy beat. Plus, there’s a chorus to go with the drop so that will always score points from me. If this is their direction going forward, I’m here for it.

9. Pop Smoke ft. DaBaby and Lil Baby – For The Night
Light and airy beat accented by acoustic guitar samples are accentuated by Pop’s unique voice to create the feelings of a soul classic. It loses me during Lil Baby’s verse, then DaBady brings it right back. A simple elegy built around the man it memorializes.

8. Russell Dickerson – Love You Like I Used To
A country ballad that proves you don’t have to fall back on the tropes to put out a good love song. It even swerves you, setting you up for the heartbreak of falling out of love then evolving into a celebration of a long-term romance. Dickerson injects more and more energy into the song as it goes on, seemingly powered by the underlying guitar solos. It’s really a simply written song, but very well done.

7. 21 Savage and Metro Boomin’ – Glock in my Lap
21’s performance here falls into that ‘alright’ category. He’s far more intense on other tracks but there’s nothing wrong with it. Metro makes this track. This is one of the darkest beats I’ve heard in a good long time. It sets a sinister mood for 21 to play around in, with its altered minor synth chords and those strings. That beat is a work of art.

6. Saweetie – Tap In
Built around a Too Short sample, “Tap In” has the feeling of a throwback tune. It is upbeat, it is funky, it makes you move. Saweetie’s flow is so smooth, you can ignore the generic lyrics and get lost in the groove.

5. 21 Savage and Metro Boomin’ ft. Young Thug – Rich Nigga Shit
Metro makes your modern money bragging track into something more expansive and even elegant. I actually don’t have a ton to say about 21 or Young Thug’s verses because the production is so damn good. They are the accessories to the track instead of the other way around.

4. Dua Lipa ft. DaBaby – Levitating
Dua Lipa continues to do amazing things with a modern disco sound. This one has a more seductive feel, which you cannot help but to dance to. The rap in the middle might catch some people off guard because if you didn’t already know, Dua Lipa is British. Her accent usually doesn’t come out in her music. DaBaby’s guest amps up the sexual tension but does not turn up the heat to a TMI level.

3. 21 Savage and Metro Boomin’ ft. Drake – Mr. Right Now
If there was ever a track where the production and vocals fit together perfectly, this is the track. Metro Boomin’ has the song pushing into R&B territory with its light elements. Then 21 lays on a memorable hook. Then Drake gives it the rub with his verse. Then the hook comes backs and just ties everything into a neat bow.

2. Megan Thee Stallion ft. Young Thug – Don’t Stop
Once again, Megan just drops fire. Here verses match the intensity of bass, just dropping line after line directly onto your brain. Even if she gets a little repetitive towards the end, the track feels heavy in the best possible way. Young Thug, whose just every where this month, adds nothing here and really isn’t necessary.

  1. Pop Smoke – What You Know About Love
    Don’t take my lack of words here as a sign that the song isn’t well worth your time. It’s a trap take on a classic slow jam. It’s simple with an understated beat and a smooth, memorable hook. Just a great modern slow jam.

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