Now that we’re seeing some light at the end of this long tunnel, people are starting to reflect on the last year. There were plenty of personal growth opportunities and so many turbulent emotions. The business/work aspect of life has also been a somewhat conflicted experience, with some businesses thriving while others were knocked down hard. Countless artists and venues have had their lives and livelihoods turned upside down due to canceled performances and social distancing measures. But on the other hand, the same pandemic-related factors have helped music streaming reach new highs and motivated digital innovation across commerce, fitness, music, and many more segments.
Last December, our curation team made a handful of Music Trends for 2020 predictions, including that “songs have been getting slower, that’s going to change soon.” While this year has been full of unpleasant experiences, this modest prediction has proven accurate—resulting in a welcome number of upbeat, energetic chart hits. While others are busy publishing their year-end lists (which we also love), we wanted to celebrate some of the biggest artists and songs behind this trend of musical acceleration.
Before revealing 8 superstars largely responsible for the fact that Pop is Perking Up, let’s quickly rewind to the musically diverse but noticeably lethargic pop landscape of the 2010s. As professional music matchmakers for dozens of fitness companies, we experienced first-hand that lots of chart-toppers featured slower tempos and intensities than were appropriate for workouts. (Not coincidentally, pop remixes flourished over the past decade.) But don’t take our word for it: both Rolling Stone and The Daily Mail examined the trend in articles published August 2017, which dated this musical downshift back to at least 2012.
As this tumultuous year draws to a close, we salute the 8 pop stars below, who’ve made outstanding music with an appreciated boost in energy and optimism. The complex reasons Pop is Perking Up eclipse the scope of this article, but we suspect at least one of these is that musicians instinctively delivered an escapist counterbalance to the many downers of 2020.
The past two months have seen a significant renewed interest in protest songs. Music streaming of these songs has increased, and countless musicians have recorded new ones in support of Black Lives Matter. As this movement continues to demand racial justice, we’ve been reflecting on protest songs from the last century, from the timeless “This Land is Your Land” by Woody Guthrie (1944) continuing through such Civil Rights anthems as “The Times They Are a-Changin’” by Bob Dylan (1964), “A Change is Gonna Come” by Sam Cooke (1964), and “Respect” by Aretha Franklin (1967).
America has a rich history of dissenting through music, which can be traced from these early songs to late-20th century classics like “Fight the Power” by Public Enemy (1989) and “Killing in the Name” by Rage Against the Machine (1992), to those of today. We’ve picked 10 Black Lives Matter songs that speak truth to power in profound ways.
Topics: year in review
The first half of 2020 was so crazy it was sometimes hard to make time for new music...Even for music curators like ourselves! Tour cancelations and venue closures have had a major impact on music fans and the artists who depend on live performances for income. But it hasn’t been all bad news. Whether your exposure to new music has been limited to the latest hits or you’ve managed to dig a bit deeper, the 2020s have already delivered lots of great songs.
We’ve picked 20 Best Songs of 2020 (So Far), comprised of 10 Favorite Hits and 10 Deep Cuts. Curious why these specific tracks stood out from the hundreds of others we’ve listened to? We’ve included a few notes about each song and the artists who made them.
Check out the full 20-track YouTube playlist here.
10 Favorite Hits
"At the Door" by The Strokes — The Strokes are back! Casablancas' emotive baritone swims through this sparse and moody track that hits all the right spots. The Strokes are older and that jaded New York vibe finally has some bite behind it.
Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, we’ve seen huge changes in the way the average person consumes music. As we have sheltered in place, creative adaptation has been key for musicians and listeners alike. In this article, we’ll explore the Top 5 Music Trends of 2020 so far. Even with live music essentially cancelled, music has continued to play a central role in our socially distanced society while becoming a vital part of the fight for racial justice.
With live performances on hold and concert venues closed, many artists have proven adept at new ways of sharing their music. With record numbers of YouTube videos posted from home studios and bedrooms, and suddenly-commonplace livestreamed performances on Twitch and Instagram Live, artists are reaching their fans in a variety of novel ways.
The holidays are a mixed bag for music fans. On one hand, you’ve got Bing Crosby’s “White Christmas” and Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas is You”―great songs, but how many times must we endure?―and on the other, lesser-known gems like Bing Crosby’s “Jingle Bells” and Ella Fitzgerald’s “Frosty the Snowman.” (And, perhaps the most famous classic in all the world of music.) But December also brings a chance to catch up on the year’s best music swag. Our 9 Great Music Gifts list has a few choice options for the discriminating music lover in your life.
TURNTABLES, HEADPHONES & PORTABLE LISTENING
We’re big fans of live music, but most modern listening experiences begin and end with the push of a button. Here are some of the best cutting-edge playback options and devices on the market today.
As we reflect on the most popular, breakthrough music of the 2010s, an interesting trend stands out. A lot of ink has been spilled over the idea of “post-genre” pop - pop that subverts traditional genre definitions and blends different styles in a way that makes it difficult to categorize. Put simply: pop songs that are genre mashups (think “Old Town Road”). We were inspired to pick 13 of our favorite “post-genre” pop songs of the decade, describing why they fall into this non-category and why we love them.
Before getting to our top picks...
What the hell is “post-genre” pop?
Let’s agree on a loose definition, that post-genre pop is popular, often top-charting music that doesn’t neatly fit the definition of today’s Billboard categories.
It’s the most wonderful time of the year…to be a music lover. Sure, we may find our ears shutting down from the barrage of holiday music, and we can quibble about which version of “White Christmas” is the best (it’s still Bing Crosby’s). But in terms of gift giving and receiving? December brings a chance to catch up on all the latest music swag. Our 12 Great Music Gifts list represents a cross section of price points, eras, and genres.
2015 has come and gone in a flash and it was an exciting year in music on many fronts. Apart from the senseless tweet squabbles between various artists for publicity stunts and Kanye’s announcement that he’s running for President in 2020, there were several moments that will shape the music ecosystem for years to come. The industry is still scrambling to catch up with the massive changes in listening habits and the fallout has been painful to watch at times. More than anything else, last year was about the changing of the guard. Old institutions becoming less relevant, streaming services wielding more power (and battling it out amongst themselves), and top-selling artists flexing their own muscles in answer.