Top 50 Tracks of 2020 (10-01)

10. Run the Jewels “Yankee and the Brave”

Using the major league baseball teams associated with their respective hometowns as monikers, rappers El-P (Yankee) and Killer Mike (the Brave), better known as Run the Jewels, explode into their fourth studio album with a leadoff single stylistically disguised as a mismatched, antihero, vigilante team-up TV show from the eighties. With a staccato snare, looped sirens, and a tense bassline, RTJ trade rhymes that imagine the pair pinned down by crooked boys in blue and forced to shoot their way to freedom. “Yankee and the Brave are here, everybody hit the deck, we don’t mean no harm, but we truly mean all the disrespect,” the two rap simultaneously on the song’s outro. Word. – Andy Mascola

09. Terror Jr. “Dinner Plate”

Los Angeles duo, Terror Jr. released a bevy of singles from their album, Rancho Catastrophe, the best of which was “Dinner Plate.” Over picked bass, trap drums, and lush synths, Lisa Vitale sings some of the most innuendoed lyrics of her career. With lines like “you better finish what I serve tonight” and “if you say pretty please, let you eat the cake,” the song is…*Chef’s kiss* – Adam Tercyak-Morgan

08. The Strokes “At the Door”

The five-minute keyboard-driven “At the Door” was the first single from The Strokes’ album The New Abnormal. The Rick Rubin-produced ballad finds singer Julian Casablancas lamenting a failing relationship. The first half of the song builds tension nicely before opening up halfway in with a classical-sounding synth solo reminiscent of something from a sixties Switched-On record. Casablancas’ vocal powers are on full display and metaphors abound as he describes himself being used like an oar for the benefit of his paramour. – Andy Mascola

07. Bill Callahan “The Mackenzies”

Of the many standout moments on Bill Callahan’s excellent and cleverly titled Gold Record, “The Mackenzies” is one of a handful that play out like a three-and-a-half-minute short story. Set in suburbia, our tale begins with Callahan having car trouble in front of his own house. The gentle ballad’s only instrumentation is two expressive acoustic guitars, a minimalist drum kit, and a subtle, angelic-sounding synth. The song’s narrator is soon approached by an older man who invites him into his home next door where he lives with his wife. After the couple bond with the song’s narrator over music and film, they give their guest dinner before he gets tired and is shown to a room wherein photos reveal the room once belonged to the couple’s deceased son. “The Mackenzies” is a superbly written, composed, and performed song that features a smartly penned literary conclusion that stays with you long after it’s over. – Andy Mascola

06. Megan Thee Stallion ft. Beyonce “Savage (Remix)”

Beyonce has rapped before (see The Carters’ “Ape Shit”) but the novelty never wears off. Maybe its because she an incredible singer, dancer, and the fact that she can also rap and rap well just seems unfair. Jumping on the Megan Thee Stallion hit “Savage,” Beyonce manages to drop references to TikTok and OnlyFans in a matter of two lines showing that even though she seems untouchable, she still knows how to relate to the people. – Adam Tercyak-Morgan

05. Selena Gomez “Rare”

When “Lose You to Love Me” was released it seemed like Selena Gomez had written the ultimate self-love anthem. Meer months later she released the titular song from her album, Rare. A more obviously poppy track than “Lose You to Love Me,” the song is powerful because it speaks to us all. We have all been treated as normal or as a statistic and Gomez insists that we deserve better. We are all unique and all deserve to feel that way. – Adam Tercyak-Morgan

04. Cardi B ft. Megan Thee Stallion “WAP”

Cardi B released her debut studio album, Invasion of Privacy in 2018. Two years later, she dropped “WAP” representing her eighth Top 20 and her third #1 single. In a year where OnlyFans exploded and sex work became more mainstream, the sex positive message of the song struck a chord with many men and women. Add in a great sample from Frank Ski’s “Whores in This House” and the track was one of the biggest hits of the year. – Adam Tercyak-Morgan

03. Sweeping Promises “Hunger for a Way Out”

As prophetic as it is anthemic, the titular track from Boston-based post-punkers, Sweeping Promises angles for escape and attenuation from an unforeseen looming pandemic. Future forecasting aside, the raw honesty reflected in both the song writing and stripped down DIY recording process hides nothing while calling out a broken and inequitable system of “sweeping promises”. – Greg Scranton

02. Coriky “Clean Kill”

Despite the clunky new moniker, “Clean Kill” meshes the rich melodies of The Evens’ with Fugazi’s political energy. One of many excellent tracks on this welcome new album from D.C. punk icons Ian MacKaye, Amy Farina, and Joe Lally. – Greg Scranton

01. Run the Jewels ft. Pharrell and Zack De La Roche “JU$T”

Working with Pharrell represents Run the Jewels most mainstream collaboration yet but “JU$T” does scrimp on the hard hitting rhymes. Comparing the shrinking middle class to slaves, the repeated chorus “look at all these slave masters posin’ on yo’ dollar” is as thought provoking as it is catchy. Each verse seems to pack a harder punch than the last with Zack de la Rocha being the finale condoning violent protests. The song is so prescient that it is easy to forget that the song was recorded before the killing of George Floyd. It makes you wonder if the Run the Jewels boys are oracles or if this violent year was just so predictable. – Adam Tercyak-Morgan

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