In this fickle year where time seems to be moving both in slow-mo and in a flash at the same time, I suddenly realised it was time for an overview of what 2020 sounded like. So in the nick of time…here’s what tickled my ears in this peculiar year.
Before I get to the 20 bops of 2020, there is some other stuff to get through! Oh, the suspense!
First and foremost, let’s address the elephant in the virtual room: 2020 was a year without Eurovision, something that is still weird and hard to admit. Even at the end of this weird year, it still feels like a bad dream. I had my 2020 previews ready to go…and I simply couldn’t bring myself to do anything once the decision had been made to cancel the event. Putting any more effort into it felt like only deepening the wound…so I opted for silence. But fact is that we had 41 entries that were lined up and ready to go. So where I normally avoid Eurovision entries in my end-of-year musical journey, this exceptional year demands an exception. Here’s what my pre-Rotterdam top ten looked like:
- Lithuania – The Roop – On Fire
- Latvia – Samantha Tina – Still Breathing
- Iceland – Daði & Gagnamagnið – Think About Things
- Germany – Ben Dolic – Violent Thing
- Ukraine – Go_A – Solovey
- San Marino – Senhit – Freaky
- Norway – Ulrikke – Attention
- Italy – Diodato – Fai Rumore
- Slovenia – Ana Soklic – Voda
- Belgium – Hooverphonice – Release Me
Of these ten, the top five were regulars in my playlist and I listened to them for quite a bit. I’m pretty convinced that the battle for victory would have been between Iceland and Italy, with Italy coming out on top. But that of course means absolutely nothing. As the majority of the 2020 participants will return for 2021, I’ll probably include, as it’s as good as unavoidable, some sentiments about the 2020 entries in my 2021 pre- and reviews. Fingers crossed that the 2021 edition will take place.
As per usual, some older tracks managed to grab my attention and sneak their way into my playlists. Stuff that either I had been aware of but only tickled my interest now, or that only managed to reach my ears this year. Here are five prime examples that crept up my all time faves list:
- Rammstein – Du Hast : Haunting guitars, killer melody and clever lyrics. Sold!
- Nervo ft. Jake Shears & Kylie Minogue – The Other Boys : I feel like I need points deducted from my gay membership for only discovering this now. SO. DISCOLICIOUS.
- Kylie Minogue – Cherry Bomb : From the X era, which begs the question why it was only included as a B-side on an EP. The bomb.
- Kazaky – Pulse : I demand they go to Eurovision soon with something comparable.
- Aerosmith – Pink : The soundtrack for my alter ego Flaminga Von Flockit.
Before we get to the actual bops, I feel the need to list the albums that brightened up 2020. As per usual, I have no repeat artists in my list of bops down below – otherwise these five would have been included multiple times leaving no room for others…:
- Jessie Ware – What’s Your Pleasure? – Every track is So GOOD! It’s been a long time since an entire album managed to sweep my off my feet. Do check out ‘Ooh la la’, ‘What’s your pleasure’, ‘Soul Control’, ‘Read my lips’ and ‘Remember who you are’. And the one track that made it to the top 20 below.
- Kylie Minogue – DISCO – Should have been called Dance Floor Darling (like one of its tracks) or even My Disco Needs Me (inside joke there), but hey. First single was a bit meh at first, but slowly grew on me. Top tracks: Magic, Real Groove and Last Chance. And the one track that made it to the top 20 below.
- Horse Meat Disco – Love & Dancing – It took them a while, but it was SO worth the wait!! Top tracks: Sanctuary and Gimme All Your Love. And the one track that made it to the top 20 below.
- Melanie C – Melanie C – Welcome back to pop, darling. We’ve missed you. Why wasn’t High Heels included though? And why did you release a single that’s not there? Still enjoyed everything anyway. Top tracks: Blame It On Me, Overland and In And Out Of Love. And the one track that made it to the top 20 below.
- Roisin Murphy – Roisin Machine – At times bewildering and a tad difficult, but hang on and you’ll be hooked. Top tracks: Simulation, Something More and Murphy’s Law. And the one track that made it to the top 20 below.
Dua Lipa – Future Nostalgia – So happy Levitating made it to single status.
Lady Gaga – Chromatica – One word: ALICE! It would have been included in the 20 below, if it hadn’t been for another killer track. Most of the album is bang on the money, but the two/three stinkers on there kept it from going to my top 5.
Miley Cyrus – Plastic Hearts – Highly enjoyable album. Could have done without the two/three ballads on there. But the covers of Heart Of Glass and Zombie are to die for.
The 20 bops of 2020
Now, down to business – here’s what’s been playing at Casa Dimivision this year. Most of the stuff is up-tempo, cause I needed an antidote to the doom and gloom of 2020. And luckily there was antidote aplenty – if ever a disco revival was most welcome, it was this year. So get out your velvet pants, big hair and colorful shirts, get your groove on and join the ride:
20. ANNNA – Polyester
Perhaps too casual, much like the T-shirts she’s referring to, for Eurovision but this ditty from the Latvian final sneaked its way into my playlists cause I love the simple but effective production and mass consumption questioning lyrics. It’s like the 2020 version of Pay-TV. Yes, I will keep using them as a reference until I die.
19. Dagny – Coulda Woulda Shoulda
Pure pop delight. This Norwegian pop elf released a couple of highly enjoyable pop tunes, this one managed to tickle my brain the most. #noregrets
18. The Weeknd – Blinding Lights
Packed with delicious 80’s references, this is probably THE 2020 tune (are you reading this, Grammy bastards?). Only at spot 18 cause TikTok has caused an overdose.
17. Doja Cat – Say So
Thé tune of spring and summer, but I’ve outgrown it somewhat in the meantime. Probably because she’s been performing the juice out of it on almost every award show and musical event.
16. Yong Yello – Als Ge Slaapt
Rapping in Dutch doesn’t always sound like music to my ears, but of course there’s always the odd exception. This one is quite dark lyric-wise (a guy cheating on his girlfriend while she’s asleep) but the honesty is refreshing and the strings in the chorus are to die for. Quite clever, so I simply had to include this.
15. Dotter – Bulletproof
The live rendition was perhaps a tad on the fragile side on a vocal level, but otherwise this is pure pop perfection. The act with the mirror effect was bang on, as is the SIA-like composition and production. Don’t get how this could loose out to The Mama’s (with all due respect) in Melodifestivalen – not that it would have mattered anyway… #sadface
14. MEROL – House Party
Full of (Dutch) puns referring to the pandemic and the first waves of lockdown(s) in Netherlands and Belgium, this is simply genius. I love a good word wizard and MEROL certainly qualifies as one. Also adding this to the NYE playlist because no other track is more suited than this one.
13. The Subs – I Wanna Dance Again
PERFECT for dancing in my living room. Which something I do every day. You should too. Oh, and this is Belgian. Just throwing it out there.
12. Purple Disco Machine – Exotica
Cope-paste the comment for number 13, minus the Belgian note. This could’ve ended up higher if it had been released earlier in the year. Brilliant.
11. The Cast Of The Prom – It’s Not About Me
Prime Meryl Streep. Need I say more? OK – she plays a fading Broadway diva and she totally SLAYS this. Her occasional nudges and parlando at the right moments make this SO GOOD. Divalicious…which is why a couple of my fellow drag sisters apparently couldn’t wait to get their hands on it to make it even more dramatic. Still prefer the movie version, but ssshhht…don’t tell them. The Eva Peron bit still cracks me up after 100 listens.
10. Miley Cyrus – Midnight Sky
Miss Miley has won me over completely by now after a nice attempt in 2019. This is such an excellent pop song, and the way she never sings it the same way twice when performing it live, always finding new intonations to highlight… Chills. Tip: watch her Backyard Session for MTV. She does a couple of awesome covers, ao. Communication by The Cardigans (which is one of the most beautiful songs ever) and she does every single one of them justice. No, really!
9. Freya Ridings – Castles
I believe there were days in spring when I played only a handful of songs. This was one of them. It’s quite okay at first listening, but like an onion it peels away layers if you hear it a couple of times…and by then you’re totally hooked. Really. Try it! Loving the harmonies during the chorus, by the way – if you wanna duet, I’m totally here for it.
8. Dua Lipa – Physical
Dua Lipa is probably one the cleverest young artists in recent years (along with ao. Billie Eilish) and the video for this song showcases that nicely. Read the meaning on https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Physical_(Dua_Lipa_song) – I mean, I could copy-paste but I’m not a teenager trying to scrape through on an essay. Besides that, the song’s a total banger. BANGER! (Or bang her, pun very intended.) A worthy heir to Olivia Newton-John’s Physical, and those words are not to be taken lightly.
7. Melanie C – Who I Am
My fave Spice Girl was back with a bang in 2020. While it’s not the best track on her album – that would be Overload (including the best line of the year with “I’m not gonna be your acceptable version of me”) – it IS the embodiment of Mel C’s fight in coming to terms with the various aspects of her internal/external/perceived character. Something I could heavily relate to this past year. That’s who we are. Besides that, I liked the clip with a peculiar retrospective. This tugged on so many heart strings, I can’t even begin to explain.
6. Roinsin Murphy – Jealousy
Probably the most accessible track on miss Murphy’s new album and in a year where disco lived its revival, this is certainly one that makes your body move all on its own. Guess I’m the jealous kind, oooh I’m the jealous kind.
5. Kylie Minogue – Supernova
No video clip for this one, but I had to include it in the list. “Shining like a supernova, brightest of the stars” Kylie seems to be singing about herself, no? Yes! After a country-esque sidestep our favourite elf returned to disco-pop guns blazing and it’s SO GOOD. Not just this track, the entire album! Innovative or life changing? Hardly, but this happy sound is exactly the antidote we needed in 2020. Even more so with the digital event that is INFINITE DISCO. I’ll be shaking off 2020 to this streaming event, cause dancing in your living room beats getting hammered and passing out before the clock strikes 12.
4. Horse Meat Disco – Self Control
On what is supposed to be a disco record (if you care for labels) there are a couple of out-of-the-box tunes and this electro infused funky track snatched the attention right away. A tad dark and mysterious, it’s the mesmerizing beat and the hypnotizing deep voices that sell it. Again, no video clip but I simply needed to include this one.
3. KATYA – Ding Dong
Oh look, it’s Yekaterina Petrovna Zamolodchikova – but your dad just calls her Katyaaaaa. This 2020 version of and an ode to BOOM BOOM by the incomparable Svetlana Loboda (hello, ESC 2009?) showcases Katya’s peculiar mind ever so brilliantly…even without that twisted video. Dimi плачет ding dong! DING DONG!
2. Jessie Ware – The Kill
Sultry, sensual and seductive…even if it’s about a break-up. It slowly pulls you in and then never lets go. The best song on an album full of bangers, so that’s saying something.
1. Lady Gaga – 911
A killer beat, self-deprecating lyrics and a chorus that is 75% “My biggest enemy is me, pop a 911” – that’s all you need to get to my number 1. Up there with Government Hooker & John Wayne, this is one of the best Gaga tracks ever and at least this one got released as a single (for what that’s still worth in these streaming times). ON. RE. PEAT! Or in Gaga’s words: Pop a 911, then pop another one.
How about you, what tickled your fancy?
Wishing you a 2021 where positivity, laughter and warmth outshine everything else. We can get through this. You’re not alone, we’re all in this together. And we will prevail.