Maierson Melodies: Top songs of 2020

Bailey Maierson, Design Editor

Senior Bailey Maierson takes us through the playlist that got her through 2020. Listen along as you read about the parts of each piece and artist choices that resonated with her most.

          1. Tierra Whack — “Peppers & Onions”

The sharp and precise beats, created by the clicking sound that the tongue makes when it hits the roof of a mouth, are ones I’ve never heard in a song before. Also, Whack can clearly whistle very well.

          2. Fiona Apple — “For Her”

When my friend introduced me to Apple, I immediately fell in love with the poetry-like chanting of her lyrics. Her rhyming scheme also creates a bouncy rhythm that makes singing along all the more enjoyable.

          3. Tobi Lou, Dreezy — “OKAY”

While down a Spotify rabbit hole one day, I came across one of my friends listening to an artist named “Tobi Lou.” Curious, I clicked on his name and began listening to his top tunes. Lou, a musician from Nigeria, takes a different approach to traditional rap, using soft chimes, and his pulsating sound effects to create a mellow, R&B vibe.

          4. WILLOW — “Wait a Minute!”

As I write this, I am completely taken aback. I just learned that this song was released five years ago! While I am guilty of first hearing this song on TikTok, it is one of my new favorites. Extremely catchy and a drastic change from the “Whip My Hair” 2010 Willow we are all familiar with, this song illustrates Smith’s maturity through a funk wave rhythm.

          5. Jacob Collier, Mahalia, Ty Dolla $ign — “All I Need”

I have been a huge fan of Mahalia and Jacob for a while. Jacob Collier creates some of the most abstract and fascinating music. As seen in his NPR Tiny Desk Concert, Collier is versatile. He sings, plays the bass, piano, and drums, but his approach to music is different: he implements techno beats, sound effects, like that of a woman rapidly chanting “ha, ha, ha” in a high-pitched voice, and lots of short bursting sounds that never reappear. All of these elements combined create a very harmonic, unique, and extremely catchy song that constantly has me tapping along.

          6. Uno Hype — “Color Me”

While at a socially distanced dinner over Thanksgiving break, one of my friends informed me that this is the only song she has been listening to recently. Open to music recs, I quickly searched up the song and gave it a listen. I turned my volume up way too high and placed my phone by my ear, only to discover a loud static sound ten seconds into the song. I nearly jumped out of my seat, the sound effect terribly scared me. Uno Hype’s well-timed song features lyrics that allude to the Black Lives Matter movement and the inhuman way in which the government and politicians treat people of color. While the chorus is melodic and powerful, it’s important to remember the meaning behind Hype’s words. They’re more than just lyrics.

          7. Tierra Whack — “Dora”

Yes, I am guilty of putting another Whack song on here. Her first single of 2020, this song highlights her inventive rap style. Her first line, “tell them that I’m ready to explore” coupled with the title of the song, is an allusion to “Dora the Explorer.” This is just one example of the many clever linguistic approaches Whack takes to this playful rap.

          8. Harry Styles — “Canyon Moon”

This song reminds me of the sleepaway camp that I never attended. It reminds me of things I have never done, like sitting by a campfire and looking at the stars, while roasting marshmallows. Styles’ lyrics highlight his nostalgia, as he reflects on the joyous times he had with his lover under the ‘canyon moon;’ he wishes to return home to her.

          9. Joji — “Sanctuary”

It begins with rapid, staccato beats and seamlessly flows into Joji’s deep and mellow voice. Similar to “Canyon Moon,” the chorus of this song depicts Joji’s emotions, yet there is a sharp contrast here, as his higher-pitched voice is featured here. Though Joji is not an artist I frequently listen to, this ballad-like song perfectly aligned with the chill, softer vibes I was seeking out on Spotify.

          10. Dominic Fike — “Politics & Violence”

With the song’s release in July, it’s easy to observe the relevance of the title of this song. In fact, Fike delayed the release of his album What Could Possibly Go Wrong in light of the Black Lives Matter protests against police brutality and anti-Black racism. The piece is sectioned off in two parts. The first part features a bouncy, syncopated drum and Fike’s more muted, underwater-sounding voice. Around 1:54, the same beat becomes slower, softer and higher-pitched. Now, Fike’s voice is more clear as he begins to rap.

          11. Aminé, Young Thug — “Compensating”

I have to admit that I have not listened to Aminé since 2016, but I’m glad his new album was a hit. While a relatively simple techno beat with a thumping bass, Aminé’s soprano voice is a nice contrast to the rhythm. While classified as rap, this particular song is more pop-based and has more bounce than a traditional rap song.

          12. Glass Animals — “Tangerine”

An English indie, pop group that first began at Oxford ten years ago, Glass Animals is anything but your traditional band on the radio. When the album was released in August, I wrote a few college supplements while listening to it. Looking back, this was probably not the best idea, since this track is anything but quiet: it’s dynamic and vibrant. It was the epitome of this past summer.

          13. Anderson .Paak, Jld, Jay Rock, Noname — “Lockdown”

Paak’s innovative song Lockdown was released on Juneteenth, and highlights his own experience attending Black Lives Matter protests during the spring and summer months. While the beat is extremely catchy and light, Paak’s lyrics are much deeper; they feature allusions to Hazmat teams using tear gas at protests, politicians who deemed the peaceful demonstrations a type of “civil unrest,” and those white privileged individuals who do not speak out against practicing racism. I love this song for not just its thumping bass, but also the powerful, pertinent, and necessary message it gets across to listeners.

          14. Flo Milli — “May I”

Milli is only 20 years old, yet she has over 14 million streams of this song on Spotify. This song is practically addicting: it was released in July, but nearly six months later I cannot stop listening to it. Within the first five seconds, anyone who listens will be hooked. The quick snappy beats accentuate the heavy-bass and create the perfect setting for her to rap. I enjoy how some words are elongated and drawn out for longer in the song—this makes for a loose and not heavily structured tune that is a nice change from those songs with a predictable, basic foundation.

          15. SZA — “Good Days”

The backtrack in this song is beautiful. Children laughing, birds chirping, and a Spanish guitar sound create an incredibly peaceful atmosphere. SZA’s ability to sing with such ease and fluidity really comes through in this tune. There’s a seamless blend of clarity and beauty all throughout the five minute song. SZA cannot make a bad song. There, I said it.

          16. Biig Piig — “Feels Right”

Thanks to the POLLEN playlist on Spotify, I was introduced to this Irish singer and rapper, Biig Piig. This song begins slow and soft with a guitar strum and later, with the addition of an electric beat, you will feel liberated. When I listen to this song, I feel like I’m in a coming-of-age movie or that nothing bad can happen to me at that particular moment. Piig’s light lyrics encourage listeners to just let go and be free of all existential worries.

          17. MICHELLE — “SUNRISE”

Despite the bittersweet message, the smart melody and syncopation course through your veins to generate a surge of lightness and positivity within you. “SUNRISE” is groovy and feels like a warm summer day. The lyrics highlight how it feels to lose something that you never truly had and touch on the push and pull of relationships. MICHELLE is a six-person R&B, electronic pop band based in New York. They’re yet another artist I was unfamiliar with until the summer.

So many people and people, and people, and people, and people And nobody gets me like you.

— Wallows

          18. Wallows — “Nobody Gets Me Like You”

This EP was accompanied by a mesmerizing music video featuring 90s aesthetics. The high-pitched electronic vibrations, created with a synthesizer, generate a sound different from other Wallows songs I have heard. But this is what I like most about it. It’s abstract, wild, and definitely gives me throwback vibes. My favorite line from this song has to be:

          19. Rejjie Snow, MF DOOM, Cam O’bi — “Cookie Chips”

This year, I often found myself studying this song. It’s chill, peaceful and lo-fi accents made me feel as if I was floating. The backtrack has a muted psychedelic theme, but this only adds to the playful, lightheartedness of this tune. If you’re not convinced, just look at the amusing photo on the cover of the EP. MF DOOM’s bass style of rapping both wonderfully compliments and is a nice contrast from Cam D’Obi’s tenor style.

          20. Orion Sun — “Space Jam – An Odyssey”

This track is by far the most abstract and experimental on Sun’s album; however, it is still cohesive and delicate. After listening to the whole album (A Collection of Fleeting Moments and Daydreams), it is evident that Sun does not follow traditional songwriting “rules.” She dips her toes into the unknown and chooses to produce music in an unconventional way: this is the epitome of her artistry and more exploratory side. “Space Jam – An Odyssey,” for instance, is more techno-based than “Antidote” from the same album. No two songs are the same style; each develops a unique style as the lyrics dance around the fluid melody. This song was by my side for several months and I know it will be with me in the future as well.