Well it is that time of year when all of us music writers and critics make our list and check it twice before we hang it on a virtual tree somewhere in the interwebs. My list will resemble everyone else’s in some ways, and be completely different in others. Of course, I love many of the songs that hit the Top 40, the Billboard Top 100, the Grammys and the Latin Grammys. But I also have on my list some that did not get the national accolades – or got fewer of them- because they are from rising stars rather than megastars.
So, here, without regard for genre, language, or political persuasion, is my 20 Best of 2020, in order:
1. WAP. Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion
2. La Gran Civilization. Nancy Sanchez
3. The Cure. Whitney Tai
4. Nada. Lido Pimiento.
5. Yo Perreo Sola. Bad Bunny
6. Boys Will Be Boys. Dua Lipa
7. La Que Manda. Gina Chavez
8. Define. Olmeca
9. Heroe. Francisca Valenzuela
10. March March. The Chicks
11. Frequency. H.e.r.
12. Soy Loco. El Dusty
13. The Kids Are Still In Cages. Nancy Sanchez
14. How To Love. Athena
15. Coming Undone. Eric Zayne
16. Closer Tonight. Elston Torres
17. I Don’t Need You, Maggie Szabo
18. BSMI. X.ARI
19. Por Que Me Fui Enamorar de Ti. Grupo Bella
20. Vote Him Away (The Liar Tweets Tonight) Roy. Zimmerman
A couple comments on my choices. WAP had to be number 1. Any song that (1) debuts at #1 on Billboard, (2) is great singable rap, (3) is by two women blowing away the male world of rap, and (4) manages to make feminists cheer and conservatives blush while they watch the video over and over, and (finally) has hit over 550 million streams and downloads in a month has got to be everyone’s #1. It is on the top of my playlist.
I picked Roy Zimmerman’s Vote Him Away (The Liar Tweets Tonight) for #20 even though you won’t find it on the usual platforms. I chose it because it was a dazzling phenomenon; it achieved something no novelty political song I know of every did – got almost 100 million plays in a few months. Written to the tune of “The Lion Sleeps Tonight”, originally recorded in 1939 in Zulu by Solomon Linda under the title “Mbube” and rewritten in English by George David Weiss, in Zimmerman’s hands it became an anthem that thousands of people recorded as videos which they sent to him who mashed them up and posted them as videos, receiving millions of views and reposts each time. You can’t find it on the usual streaming and download services, but you can see it at https://www.royzimmerman.com/.
Finally, Nancy Sanchez is on the list twice, not because I love her (I do!) but because this year her songwriting and composing genius just exploded in the song and the album La Gran Civilización and again in “The Kids are Still In Cages”. The title song from the album has been listed by NPR as one of their top 20 songs of the year, and “The Kids are Still In Cages” is musically beautiful and lyrically heartbreaking. It has become an anthem of those, like Nancy herself, who were brought to the US as children. But while she worked hard, became a US citizen and thrived as an artist, thousands of children were kidnapped by our government over the last two years and thrown in cages to get sick and some cases die.
So, listen and enjoy – and in some cases, think deeply – to these 20 songs. I am taking three weeks off for Christmas and New Year’s, so see you back again on the second Friday in January 2021 – which hopefully will be a very good musical year with live performances
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