Every December, Spotify users get to reflect on the past year with their personal Spotify “Wrapped” stories. Spotify compiles interesting (and sometimes embarrassing) information for each user, including favorite artists, most-jammed songs and genre trends for the year. They also give you the option to add a top-100 song playlist to your library, which I always do, because I have excellent taste (and am super modest). But this year my story exhibits so much more than my eclectic tastes—it shines light on the music that got me through.
Amidst all the change, uncertainty and general insanity of 2020, there was music. The artists I had on repeat this year didn’t just provide me with entertainment—they gave me hope that we will see the end of this, and that art will continue to thrive no matter what happens. They deserve a great big thank-you, and I am honored to give it to them. This is an ode to my 2020 top five most-played artists.
1) Jai Wolf
Jai Wolf released his debut album, The Cure to Loneliness, in 2019. He is a New York-based electronic music producer whose unique and entrancing sound stole my heart from the moment I first heard it in January of this year. Much to my delight, I learned shortly after that Jai Wolf was on the Gulf Shores Hangout Fest lineup. I bought tickets, and I couldn’t wait to hear jams from his stellar debut album live on the white-sand beaches of coastal Alabama. Unfortunately, 2020 had alternate plans. I can’t wait for another chance to see him live, even if it means dancing in the confined space of a pod.
2) Megan Thee Stallion
Early in 2019, I was met with gasps when I shared with a table of coworkers over lunch that, while I’d heard of Megan Thee Stallion, I wasn’t too familiar with her music. They demanded that I change that real quick, so I did. I fell instantly in love with her sound, her charisma, and her no-nonsense attitude. I’ve been a fervent supporter ever since, and I’ve loved following her success this year. In 2020, she became the first woman rapper to top the Billboard charts with non-album tracks, she was featured on the cover of Rolling Stone, and along with award-winning artist Cardi B, created one of the most popular Tik-Tok dance songs ever. Here she is with Queen Bey.
3) Billie Eilish
I was introduced to Billie Eilish through Astronomyy’s remix of her song “Ocean Eyes,” and I have nothing but love for Billie. I was astounded to learn that she was only 15 when “Ocean Eyes” was recorded, despite her strikingly mature and tonally intoxicating voice. I’ve followed her annual Vanity Fair interviews that consist of the same questions each year (this is the fourth), and I find her wise beyond her years. In these time-lapse interviews, Billie reflects on her past, her struggles and her growth. Most importantly, she never judges herself too harshly, expressing compassion for all her past versions. With the toll this year has taken on many of us, take a cue from Billie and be gentle with yourself as we head into the unknown of 2021.
Odesza, the Washington state-based DJ duo of Harrison Mills and Clayton Knight, has been particularly nostalgic for me this year. Though I’ve been a fan for most of my 20s, I’ve turned to Odesza’s A Moment Apart (2017) consistently this year for reminders of a simpler time pre-Covid that included singing shoulder to shoulder with strangers without fear of virus. My partner and I have seen Odesza together at two festivals—Buku Fest 2018 in New Orleans, and Camp Nowhere 2019 in Austin. Both performances fall in my top 10 favorite shows of all time. The Odesza duo unites a crowd like no other artist I’ve ever seen by creating experiences that are equally beautiful for VIPs in the front row and folks on the back of the lawn.
Tinashe is one of the most underrated pop artists of our time. She is a super strong vocalist and a ridiculously great dancer, but those aren’t the only reasons I love her. She is also one of the most genuinely human celebrities I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know as a fan. She doesn’t maintain a Covid-cavalier façade when she goes live on Instagram; she simply streams the joys of her days, from dancing to daydreams of dessert. Additionally, Tinashe has been publicly candid about her 2019 split from her old label, RCA, after they forced numerous creative decisions upon her. I admire her as an artist for always being real and taking control of her art and her career. (Check out my Threefer on Tinashe for 3 more of my favorite tracks.)
I hope we all have the chance to take our art, careers, passions and all our choices in our own directions in 2021, after we kiss this year goodbye. But before this year comes to a close, don’t forget to extend appreciation to the artists that helped to get you through it.