Well this was a much calmer month, thankfully. It feels like the pop charts slowed down a bit for the holidays. Just a quick note for this list next month: the only Christmas songs that will hit this list next month will be brand new ones. So I’m not reviewing All I Want For Christmas Is You. Unless we do some list or pod about Christmas songs. Then all bets are off. Whelp, here we go, crap first then scroll down for the good stuff.
13 – Morgan Wallen – More Than My Hometown
There’s an example of country done right towards the top of the list. This is country done… well, I’d say wrong but this is just what the genre is now. The production’s the easy part. It’s a cookie cutter country track. There’s a steel guitar in there, there’s a Telecaster set to maximum twang and an even, if not boring drum track. Now let’s get to the worst part: lyrics. I can’t roll my eyes harder at the thesis of this song: oh, I love you more than all of these great big things in this great big world, but I can’t love you more than this one stoplight holler in the backwoods of bumfuck, wherever. So enjoy life, girl, where people drive electric cars and fancy apps deliver you food and you don’t have to walk to the back of the property to take a shit. Songs like this are the reason the genre has picked up the reputation it has over the last two decades.
12 – Ariana Grande – 34 + 35
That’s 69! It’s about sex! Get it? The content may have shocked fans as Grande is not usually this overtly sexual. She’s always let the guests on her tracks be the sexually charged ones, allowing her to maintain a middling aura. Lyrics aside, it’s a pretty standard pop offering, beat’s fine, high hat is ridden, strings stabs are present. I say lyrics aside, but that’s when you can make them out. This is Grande at her mushiest, letting each line just run into each other and most of the verses just blend into one consistent sound. Props for being willing to take the risks to make a fuck anthem, but it still comes off like someone whose just figuring out what it is. I mean, don’t you guys get it? 69! Nice! Fuckin’!
11 – Jason Derulo – Take You Dancing
It’s a Jason Derulo song, which is obvious about 3 seconds in. And since it’s a Jason Derulo song, you already know what you’re going to get: a sophmoric track about fuckin’. Nothing to surprise you here. If you like him, you’ll like this song. If you don’t like him, you’ll find the music catchy but then listen to it twice and be driven crazy by the piercing space that serves as an excuse for the chorus that’s just da-da-da-da-da-dada.
10 – Future & Lil Uzi Vert – Drankin N Smokin
I grooved to this chill beat and acoustic guitar sample hard. It drops out at points and those are the worst parts of the track because it leaves nothing but the vocals which are a fucking mess. At times, Future and Vert try to do backing vocals during each other’s verses and they just meld together into an auditory glop. The rating is for the production.
9 – Tate McCae – you broke me first
Proof minimalism pop isn’t dead. At least it’s well done here. There are spaces where the spaces should be. It’s heavier than you’d expect on pop radio and heavier than you’d expect from a 17-year-old. There’s definitely something here, but in a year of downbeat, emotionally charged songs, it feels like we’ve already been there and done that better.
8 – Lil Nas X – Holiday
Looking for a non-holiday holiday track? Here ya go. Lil Nas X brings some intense trap flow to your Christmas playlists even though it’s more flex track than Last Christmas. The production is slick, Nas’ flow hits all the right beats. It may not be as infectious as “Old Town Road”, but it’s just as fun.
7 – Joel Corry ft. MNEK – Head & Heart
A quick, simple, happy dance pop song. Nothing complicated here.
6 – Bebe Rexha ft. Doja Cat – Baby, I’m Jealous
A track that smolders with gen Z problems, and that’s not a bad thing. It’s a pretty intense pop song about the damage that social media does to our self-esteem.
5 – Mike WiLL Made-It, Nicki Minaj and Youngboy Never Broke Again – What That Speed Bout!?
This one seemingly cuts right down the middle. Every opinion I read on this song is either strong to the hate or strong to the like. But I can’t be a hater here, this track is a banger even though it could and should be a mess. Nicki brings fire and I’ve always thought she’s at her best when she’s at her most intense. Youngboy’s got some great flow in the verses, but his hook is sub-par. Backed by a solid beat and you’ve got a pretty good track.
4 – Bad Bunny & Jhey Cortez – Dakiti
This could be described as “minimalist reggaeton” and “lush sounding” and they would both be correct. With muted production that is still completely filled out, Bunny and Cortez add vocals that perfectly complement the synth line and wavy bass. They both have fire flow, even as this is a complete departure energywise from many of Bunny’s other tracks.
3 – Billie Eilish – Therefore I Am
A rather dark sounding track seemingly aimed at the haters. It’s more disjointed that Bad Guy and the production overwhelms Eilish at times. Yes, that’s kind of her sound but it does the song a disservice here. I also enjoy that Billie has said that she wanted to see what people would take from the track, instead of just putting out her reasoning for writing it. Not as fun or as catchy as “Bad Guy” but still a solid song.
2 – Harry Styles – Golden
Some nice light and airy production with Styles’ more muted, somber vocals juxtaposed to create a track that brings out the positivity of jumping into a new relationship, with the ever looming emotional trauma of past relationships’ explosions. Probably the best track off Fine Line, and it’s the 5th single from a year-old album.
1 – Chris Stapleton – Starting Over
This may be the best written hit song of 2020. Stapleton presents an anthemic ballad about the hope that comes with new beginnings, something we could all use coming into the end of this dumpster fire of a year. I love the stripped down production, I love the gruff but honest delivery and I love the message.