2020-12-22T12:00:26-05:00 2020-12-22T16:05:13-05:00

EARMILK's Best Songs of 2020 [Pop]

It's easy for "pop music" to sound like a dirty word. As a team that champions up and coming artists, pop can be that mainstream machine we love, and an incredible (and competitive) launchpad for up and coming artists. This year, the one thing we could count on in a year where the rug got pulled out from underneath us. In the early days of the pandemic, we got signals of industry-leading artists (Lady Gaga for one) putting projects on pause, in order to hopefully release the full project, along with a PR campaign and world tour. But as time moved along, we were all put on a level playing field, realizing that we were in this for the long haul.  And for all its usual baggage, the pop music industry shined. We got consistent performances from artists who connected with fans, and extended a helping hand, in more intimate ways than we've ever seen. In these ways, we've leaned into championing pop music as it gave us some of the best music of the year, with more depth and innovation than ever. - Steph Evans, Managing Editor

*For a full Spotify playlist of this year's "Best of 2020" [Pop] - Click Here

070 Shake - Guilty Conscience

The lead single off 070 Shake's debut album is a crooning synth-pop celebration, bringing powerful retro production and gorgeous wailing vocals from the young Kanye cosign. Her honesty and altruism bring a gorgeous balance to the melodramatic 80's breakup ethos the track delivers; she pulls it off perfectly. - Max Pasion-Gonzales

100 gecs - Ringtone (Remix) [Feat. Charli XCX, Rico Nasty, and Kero Kero Bonito]

First off, this is just a real banger. It's also my favorite hyper-pop track of the year and a great combination of artists. The hook lives in my head and stays with me always - Nathan Whittle-Olivieri

AIRPORTS - LOSER

This bubblegum, pop-punk banger is exploding in energy and tropical guitar riffs. It makes you bop, there’s humor and overall it’s brimming with pure talent from Aussie artist AIRPORTS. The song is about the rejection of love bombing, and frankly it’s too good to not indulge in. - Victoria Polsey

Aries - FOOL'S GOLD

The production, the catchiness, the growth from his previous project; "FOOL'S GOLD" was an impressive return for the already impressive Aries. - Robin Fulton

Ashley Kutcher - Love You From A Distance

Love You From A Distance is one of those downtempo pop songs that just encapsulate a feeling so well that it's difficult to not be entranced. - Jack Steindorf

BARBUDO - Magnolia Mansion

Oozing funk, this glitterbomb of disco is just very cool. It's smooth, charming and full of vibrant energy and soundscapes. BARBUDO’s “Magnolia Mansion” will have you feeling very trendy and relaxed. Go strut your stuff to this. - Victoria Polsey

Benny Mayne - I AIN'T SHIT

Benny Mayne's "I AIN'T SHIT" is probably my favorite song of the year. The acoustic style beat with his passionate vocal delivery and catchy lyrics leaves me singing every time. - Lindsey Oh

Bishop Briggs - HIGHER

This is just one of those songs you want to throw up your hands and hell to the heavens to. - Steph Evans

bloody white - tongue tied

tongue tied is a quirky pop song that has set bloody white up for success. He's creating his own lane, but songs like "tongue-tied" still have a huge appeal. - Jack Steindorf

Blu DeTiger - Figure It Out

This indie-pop gem by Blu DeTiger easily becomes engrained in your memory. Her laid-back rockstar aesthetic is refreshingly authentic and her bass skills are unmatched. - Lindsey Oh

Boh Doran - On Fire

Boh Doran is a Los Angeles singer and producer who has stunningly perfected her craft. Her lush, laid-back sound puts listeners in a deep trance.  - Chloe Robinson

Cam - The Otherside

Cam made a comeback after five year honing her writing, working with some of the world's biggest pop artists and writers, and switching labels citing a difference in values. I interviewed her about why her values are her most important focus, as well as the rampant racism and inequality in the country music industry. "The Otherside" she wrote with the late producer/artist Avicii, and his meticulous, beautiful style is evident in the epic production and stinging lyrics of this outlying track. Her album of the same name is predominately country, which works to let "The Otherside" stand on its own. Cam's tendency to not hold back in what she says when speaking up for other artists or belting out high notes makes her the kind of artist needed in 2020. - Rachel Hammermueller

Cassidy - The Devil

This pop artist possesses a stunningly poignant quality. Through Cassidy's incredible vocal range and expressive flair, her music hits you deep in your soul. - Chloe Robinson

Celeste - A Little Love

This may be the most heartwarming song of the year, it is impossible not to love. Written for the UK's John Lewis Christmas advert, Celeste has flourished over the past year. Since falling in love with her "Strange" single, a year or so on Celeste's "Little Love" tugs at heartstrings again and reminds us of the importance of sharing kindness and happiness with those around us, which has been more important than ever before. - Jessica Burr

Charli XCX - 7 Years

Hyperpop princess, Charli XCX has been dominating the pop scene with her own brand of distorted-techno-goth music. Collaborating with produced BJ Burton, “7 years” is 2020’s best love song. - Coady Roab

Charli XCX - party 4 u

The first time I heard this song, I instantly got The Great Gatsby vibes. Just like the book, there's pain and undeclared love hidden behind the lavish front. The melody gives feelings of the fast party life, but Charli's lyrics tell otherwise. - Sienna Estrada

Charlotte OC - This Pain

Charlotte OC is my go-to break up song artist, "This Pain" perfectly embodies watching an ex move on from your toxic ways. Her voice has so much emotion in it, you feel everything she's singing so clearly. - Emily Treadgold

Curtis Waters - Freckles

Curtis Waters blew up with the TikTok hit "Stunnin"', but this song is a great fusion of pop and hyperpop, with a really infectious hook and instrumental. - Aditya Surana

Dominic Fike - Chicken Tenders

Simply one of the catchiest, most infectious tracks I heard in 2020. One of the rare releases this year where you leave it on repeat and never feel tired of it, even stuck in quarantine. - Sean Kayden

Dua Lipa - Physical

Dua has become one of the biggest voices of 2020, when you think she can't raise the bar any higher she outdoes herself once more. "Physical" is the ideal blend of pop and dance infusions, bridging the gap perfectly between the two. - Jessica Burr

Dua Lipa - Pretty Please

There is no doubt that Dua Lipa defined pop music this year with the release of her impeccable sophomore album, 'Future Nostalgia.' "Pretty Please" is the perfect apex of pop where a subtle yet demanding production meets the many moods of a vocal temptress, seducing us all into sweet submission in the process. - Valeria Dulava

Dua Lipa - Hallucinate

Dua Lipa really came through 2020 as an artist who defined the year. This, in a year where it's exceptionally hard to define anything in the context of time. - Steph Evans

EDEN - hertz

With his signature voice EDEN delivers "hertz", a creative masterpiece featuring electronic elements, intricate percussion and expert vocal layers. - Lindsey Oh

Ellis - Fall Apart

Ellis's song is so atmospheric, drenched in cool colors. It even helps that one can hear a hint of Mazzy Star in there, taking her music past just pop and into the emo soft rock. - Sienna Estrada

Elohim - Good Day Bad Day

The funky guitar strumming, the deep bassline echoing in the background alongside a few gentle synths created a beautiful, weightless, and easy-flowing pop track, and also showed an exciting and evolving new side to Elohim. - David Sikorski

Georgia - 24 Hours

A song with a gorgeous build-up that helped me get through quarantining in LA. Its energy isn't blatantly in your face, but more simmering below the surface, so that once it hits you, it's hard not to dance really hard. - Steph Evans

Ginesse - White Denim

The shimmering chorus in "White Denim" is a sugar-coated send-off, Ginesse perfectly embodies the dating scene in LA. Everyone just wants what they can't have but they only fall in love with an idea. Her specific details: white denim, black bangs, alligator boots, give such clear imagery and she paints a perfect picture. - Emily Treadgold

Girl Crush - Borderline

By just its sound and its name, Girl Crush sends listeners right into the 80s with this bubblegum synth jam. - Sienna Estrada

GRAACE - You Do You

The mature dark pop from the Australian artist sees GRAACE's lush sounds create the glossiest of pop from down under. - Paige Sims

Golden Vessel - that's us (feat. The Nicholas, Rei so La)

The most chillest sounds are emitted from Golden Vessel's mind. Infectious as hell and a key artist of the year for me. - Paige Sims

Gus Dapperton - Post Humorous

I was hooked on this the second I heard the acoustic guitar intro. I’m obsessed with every single little melody in this song, and it’s perfectly existential. - Maria Bocci

Hania - Hollywood

Hania’s “Hollywood” is realism and heartbreak disguised in a whimsical summertime ballad. While the lyrics describe one couple’s decision to focus on individual growth instead of a relationship, the melody creates a glamorous façade and the perfect backdrop for Hania’s sultry vocals. - Hayley Tharp

Harry Strange - Four in the Morning

A DIY pop star in the making, this track elevates Harry further into the pop sphere. It's a tune I've had on repeat this year & it's dreaminess transpires. - Paige Sims

harry was here - for eternity

This track by the newcomer harry was here is immersive in its emotive guitars, uplifting melodies and striking lyrics. It comes as the end of his impressive debut EP, and is worthy of a play. - Lindsey Oh

Hayley Williams - Simmer

Hayley Williams coming out to not only release a debut album, but a pop one at that should be explanation enough as to why this lead single is easily in my most played list of the year. But "Simmer" is special. It peels off so many of Williams' layers with cutting hooks and a punching melody, only to build a new one with her vulnerable confessions. It's quiet, but infinitely powerful, and will certainly stick with me for years to come.- Valeria Dulava

HONNE & Griff - 1,000,000 X Better

HONNE and Griff hit all the bases on this one, wading through an eerie electronica intro, marching through a reggaeton-inspired drum beat, and topping it all off with a groovy bassline and melodic chorus. There is never a dull moment. - Maria Bocci

Jenny March - November Nights

March's passionate vocals carry the rhythm of this track effortlessly through the catchy chorus, downtempo piano outro, and finally, erupts alongside the climax of heavy production in the end. Not only is "November Nights" an unavoidable earworm of a pop track but it's masterful in the way it balances a simple melody with the purity of March's emotion-drenched vocals. - David Sikorski

Jeremy Zucker - supercuts

Jeremy Zucker continually hits the nail on the head with his dreamy pop creations. "Supercuts" is an upbeat track with catchy and all too relatable lyrics that will leave you singing along by the end. - Lindsey Oh

Keep Dancing Inc. - No Milkshakes in Hell

Bouncy, fizzy synths? It's a yes from me. Keep Dancing Inc provide pure sonic happiness with this shiny indie popper. - Paige Sims

Kerrin Connolly - It's a Conspiracy

Splashed with Broadwayish vocal grandeur, Connolly allows her melodies to soar and her emotions a bit of playtime, all to a bouncy rhythm that completes this adventurous indie-pop declaration. - René Cobar

Lady Gaga - Rain on Me (with Ariana Grande)

I'd be lying if I didn't say I had this song blasting in my car for all of August. I'd be lying even more if I said that I don't immediately turn it up and belt out the words as soon as it comes on in my car. Sometimes, pop music doesn't have to be contradictory or try to be bigger than itself. Sometimes, it's nice to just sing along, and maybe even dance a little, because damn if we didn't all need moments of innocent fun in 2020. - Valeria Dulava

Lady Gaga - Stupid Love

This song defined my phase 1 of quarantine. I realized, if I found the right song (this one), put it on once a day, and just let my body lash out and dance around my apartment, it greatly improved my mental health.

Leila - Go On Young Soul

Leila's debut album Glass Highways melded a myraid of genres including Jazz, 70s rock, classical and folk for a soulful collection of heartbreak songs. The cinematic "Go On Young Soul" highlights Leila's emotive vocals and the accompanying video showcases the importance of making your voice heard by voting. - Victoria Polsey

Lennon Stella - Kissing Other People

If you went through a quarantine breakup, you probably didn’t get the opportunity to embrace your new independence and explore all the possibilities that are laying in wait out in the world. You can’t go to a bar and kiss other people, but singing this song into a hairbrush in your room is a close second. - Maria Bocci

LÉON - Die For You

The heartbreak queen, the hopeless romantic, LEON always makes you feel too much. The combination of the soaring chorus and LEON's gorgeous vocals in "Die For You" make you feel like you're flying, and like you just desperately want someone back and you'd do anything to make it happen. - Emily Treadgold

LOVER - Waiting Up

Featuring Cult Shotta, this track is glimmering electronica peppered with pop intimacies. Laaaavely pop. - Paige Sims

Maja Francis - Anxious Angel

I didn't find "Anxious Angel" until late 2020, but it's stuck in my head since the very first listen. The 35-year old Swedish singer combines a heartwarming chorus with an impossibly high flying siren song in between verses. Before this track, she's featured on Kygo's "Kid's In Love" and released many stand out singles. Easy to say I'm gunning for an album announcement in 2021. - Rachel Hammermueller

Maude Latour - Furniture

Maude's ability to pinpoint an exact emotion is unmatched. In "Furniture" she perfectly capture the moment of seeing an ex at a party and the colliding feelings of missing someone so much but also hating their guts combines together in an internal crisis. With lyrics that can feel so personal and so specific she manages to still make people understand her on a universal level. - Emily Treadgold

McCall - Without Even Trying

When you play a game of pinball you watch as the ball, that you seemingly had some effect on, pings around the machine, hitting different buttons and obstacles along its way. In its wake, things light up and buzzers are set off, leaving a temporary trail behind, before the ball inevitably falls down the hole and back into the machine. McCall's "Without Even Trying" sounds like the journey of that pinball, both sonically and lyrically. Similar to that of a game of pinball self-hatred has a lot of twists and turns, as you might face a few hurdles while you try to find your way out of it, knowing the only way out is through. - Sloan Pecchia 

Mia Nicolai - Mutual Needs

Liberating and inspiring, this track is fuelled by loving yourself. Infused with a laid-back beat and soothing melodies, Mia's vocals are as dainty as they are strong. This reinforces those feelings of putting yourself first, a classic. - Paige Sims

Miley Cyrus - Heart of Glass (Live from the iHeart Festival)

When I first heard this, I was like how dare they waste this voice on Hannah Montana albums! Pair this listen with a watch of the live performance and you won't be disappointed. It's high time Miley gave us a predominately rock album, and this cover of Blondie's Heart of Glass also gives us our 80s bop dream. To say this does the original track justice is a massive compliment, and the way Miley holds those notes effortlessly, it's as if she was born to sing this song. - Rachel Hammermueller

Miley Cyrus - Midnight Sky

Loved by many for her strong heart and head, Miley has delivered yet another rebellious anthem that showcases her rocky edge whilst emphasizing the importance of our independence with self-liberating lyrics.- Jessica Burr

Nasty Cherry - Shoulda Known Better

A catchy song no doubt. - Sienna Estrada

Olive Louise - Undefined

Classical infused pop singer Olive Louise crafts whimsical and poignant songs detailing loss, mental health struggles and self empowerment. - Victoria Polsey

Patawawa - Adadadadeya

I mean try spelling that without autocorrect losing its mind!! But this funk banger from my favourite disco gems is truly goooood. Jazzy and reminiscent of summer, we love it. - Paige Sims

Rebecca Perl - blame you

New York born artist Rebecca Perl combines infectious pop with a hint of folk. Raised in a family of musicians, she picked up a guitar at just 12 years old and from there her love for creating music blossomed. - Chloe Robinson

Remi Wolfe - Monte Carlo

"Monte Carlo" was just the carefree indulgence that we needed in 2020, as Remi Wolfe delivered a pop banger that could make drying paint dance. The rich instrumental and high riding flows on this track feel like a kid in a candy store. - Max Pasion-Gonzales

RHYME SO - Fashion Blogger

RHYME SO - the duo of RHYME & Shinichi Osawa (aka Mondo Grosso) - came together fully in 2020 with the release of "Fashion Blogger", a song that showcased the duo's two worlds of pop and EDM, respectively, with aesthetics of younger and older mindsets to create fresh pop mixed with bilingual lyrics. - Steve Likoski

Ryan Beatty - Backseat

Backseat" is a moving and delicate track that serves as a true highlight on an amazing sophomore record. - Sean Kayden

Sabriel - Love Again

A kaleidoscope of velvet vocals and psychedelic fluid soundscapes that gently take you into a tunnel of Sabriel’s magical world. “Love Again” is a journey of sounds narrating the observation of falling head over heels for someone, but chances are you’ll end up besotted by the song. - Victoria Polsey

Stats - Naturalise Me

Taken from their sophomore album, this track is a whole load of fun. I'm definitely no stranger to the wild world of Stats, but with funk-littered bass patterns and glimmering electronics, who could say no to this? - Paige Sims

sunsets - Align (feat. Foreignlocal.)

Featuring vocalist Foreignlocal., "Align" is an exhilarating track with buoyant, breezy production and heavenly vocals. The feel-good record details the beginning moments of a relationship and the feelings of excitement and ecstasy that come with them. - Sunil Shenoy

Tanya George - Normality

At the height of the Coronavirus pandemic in Australia, Melbourne-based artist Tanya George used her time in lockdown to its fullest, by releasing a song all about the “normality” of life at the time. - Steve Likoski

The Naked and Famous - Everybody Knows

The Naked and Famous have had a lot of personal highs and lows throughout their career, but still manage to crank out feel-good pop that bridges the gap between love and insanity. 2020’s Recover is an album that I’ve been listening to without skips since it came out, but “Everybody Knows” is a personal favorite. - Maria Bocci

tiny deaths - The Jump

tiny death's single “The Jump” is a moody, dream pop paradise. Full of celestial elements, deep bass and hypnotising vocals the song will evoke introspection amongst its floating, sparkling textures. Dreamy. - Victoria Polsey

TOBACCO - Headless to Headless

Deviously dark and bordering on mind-numbing, my first taste of TOBACCO left me with a habit. - Robin Fulton

ViVii - Fool Alone

ViVii is an emotive, dream-pop trio from Sweden. Singers and multi-instrumentalist Emil and Caroline Jonsson along with Anders Eckeborn have crafted a wistful, spellbinding sound. - Chloe Robinson

Walt Disco - Hey Boy (You're One Of Us)

Honestly I don't think it's possible to love this band anymore, but somehow they keep dropping tunes that absolutely slap. Playful and glamourous, the vocals on this are stunning. - Paige Sims

XHOANA X - Deepest Pleasure

Industrial goth-pop singer and influencer Xhoana X brings the listener to that dark part of their mind filled with wicked pleasures and twisted rebellious delights. The Albanian-born artist creates moody, electro-pop ala David Lynch meets Depeche Mode with a dash of Siouxsie and the Banshees. - Victoria Polsey

Yebba - Distance

Yebba is an incredible talent and, unlike many songs that were released this year on the subject of the pandemic, I welcomed this over and over. - Steph Evans

Zella Day - My Game

Zella Day's "My Game" has so much main character energy. It feels like the theme song to an extremely stylish 60's movie and her vocals are just so effortlessly gorgeous. - Emily Treadgold

Zosia - 7 Suns

Through her unique and daring style, Zosia creates powerful dark pop music. Taking the name of her Polish grandmother who fled Poland during World War II, she wears that label with pride. - Chloe Robinson

For a full playlist of this year's "Best of 2020," follow EARMILK on Spotify or click on the link below:

 

 

 

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Feature · Lists · Main Stage · Playlist · Pop

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