Sunday, January 10, 2021

2020: Guest List Week Year in Review

GLW.20.01: Ilana Bergstrom

GLW.20.02: Curt Trnka

GLW.20.03: Remko Van Knippenberg

GLW.20.04: Jem Woodward

GLW.20.05: Erik Kristjanson

GLW.20.06: Marisa Plaice

GLW.20.07: Russell Abdo

GLW.20.08: Garrett Bukunt

GLW.20.09: Megan Swidler

GLW.20.10: Garrett Tillman

GLW.20.11: Scott Lawson

GLW.20.12: Carl Anderson

GLW.20.13: Ryan Joyce

GLW.20.14: Nick Leddy

GLW.20.15: Desa Warner

GLW.20.16: Tony Schoenberg

GLW.20.17: Kim Dickson

GLW.20.18: Lukas Brooks

GLW.20.19: Lucas Posada

GLW.20.20: Ben Evangelista

GLW.20.21: Shay Corbett

GLW.20.22: Nicole Sabes

GLW.20.23: Jamie Pfeifer

GLW.20.24: Dillon North

GLW.20.25: Tom Morgan

BOOKS: Chris MacDonald



Today marks the end of the increasingly inaccurately titled Guest List Week. Counting my own list, twenty-six of us wrote about the year in music, a new record! Thanks to everyone who participated! Next year it will be Guest List Month. (Or, why limit ourselves? Maybe Guest List Season, or Guest List Festival, or … I am now accepting suggestions. What should we call this?)

As I did last year, I have put together a quick post aggregating and summarizing the year in lists. It’s interesting to see the consensus that we managed to reach when we weren’t trying to reach a consensus at all. Everyone approached this project from a different perspective: 

  • Lists varied in size from ten songs to one hundred. (Jamie, I love your four hundred song throwback list, but I’m excluding you from the year-end summary because otherwise I think Lil Kim winds up being our #2 Artist of the Year. I hope you understand.) 

  • Most were exclusively 2020 songs, some broke that rule once or twice, some broke that rule as often as it made sense to do so. 

  • Some were ranked, others were partially ranked, others weren’t ranked at all. 

  • Some considered the entirety of the year’s musical landscape, while others limited themselves in fun and interesting ways (Women Only, Latinx Hits Only, Taylor Swift Only). 

  • Curt succeeds every year in his annual attempt to limit his list to songs I haven’t heard.

And yet, when you add it all up, it creates a fairly coherent picture of the year that was, a great year for music and a terrible year for everything else. (Spoiler Alert: This will likely be true for 2021 as well.) Here’s a quick rundown of the songs and artists that helped get us through it all.


I'll be honest, this one surprised me.

Before we get to the results, a quick review of the rules: We judge this based solely on the number of lists on which a song appears. Since not everyone ranks their lists, and others rank only a part of their list, it would skew the importance of ranked lists if we tried to account for where on specific lists these songs appeared. So, one point per list. Simple. (Honorable Mentions count.)

Also, we’re grouping all versions of a song together: this includes remixes (Troye Sivan gets points for “Easy” with or without Kacey Musgraves), edits (we were evenly split on whether people preferred the shorter Single Edit for Jessie Ware’s “Save a Kiss”), alternate versions (like Phoebe Bridgers’ Copycat Killer EP), and live versions (like Taylor Swift’s Long Pond Sessions).

For 2020, that remix rule proved dispositive, because our Song of the Year is Miley Cyrus’ “Midnight Sky,” appearing on a total of eight lists (three original, five remix).

Tied for second are the two songs I would have wagered on for Song of the Year: Rina Sawayama’s "Comme Des Garçons (Like The Boys)" and Lady Gaga’s “Rain on Me” with Ariana Grande.

Rounding out the top five are (no surprise) Chappell Roan’s “Pink Pony Club” and HAIM’s “The Steps.”

In total, forty-two songs appeared on three or more lists. They appear below and in the playlist above. (A full list of all 100+ songs to appear on two or more lists can be found here.) It is incredibly impressive that Dua Lipa and Rina Sawayama both landed four songs in the Top Forty-Two. And yet neither is our Artist of the Year.

8Miley Cyrus"Midnight Sky" / "Edge of Midnight"
7Rina Sawayama"Comme Des Garçons (Like The Boys)"
7Lady Gaga"Rain On Me" (feat. Ariana Grande)
6Chappell Roan"Pink Pony Club"
6HAIM"The Steps"
5Rina Sawayama"Bad Friend"
5Soccer Mommy"circle the drain"
5Christine and the Queens"People, I've been sad"
5Megan Thee Stallion"Savage" (Remix) (feat. Beyoncé)
4Taylor Swift"betty"
4Dua Lipa"Break My Heart"
4Will Ferrell"Husavik (My Hometown)"
4Phoebe Bridgers"I Know The End"
4Phoebe Bridgers"Kyoto"
4Dua Lipa"Levitating"
4Shamir"On My Own"
4Perfume Genius"On the Floor"
4Dua Lipa"Physical"
4Jessie Ware"Save A Kiss"
4Daði Freyr"Think About Things"
4Cardi B"WAP" (feat. Megan Thee Stallion)
4Rina Sawayama"Who's Gonna Save U Now?"
3MARINA"About Love"
3Bon Iver"AUATC"
3Lady Gaga"Babylon"
3The 1975"The Birthday Party"
3Soccer Mommy"bloodstream"
3L Devine"Boring People"
3Waxahatchee"Can't Do Much"
3Fiona Apple"Cosmonauts"
3Grimes"Delete Forever"
3Troye Sivan"Easy"
3070 Shake"Guilty Conscience"
3Dua Lipa"Hallucinate"
3The 1975"If You're Too Shy (Let Me Know)"
3SG Lewis"Impact" (feat. Robyn & Channel Tres)
3The Chicks"Julianna Calm Down"
3Busta Rhymes"Look Over Your Shoulder" (feat. Kendrick Lamar)
3Pussycat Dolls"React"
3Rina Sawayama"XS"


For 2020, we’re trying something a little more expansive in our attempt to name an Artist of the Year. Last year, the criteria was “most different songs named on at least one list,” the idea being that this would demonstrate the breadth of an artist’s influence, and in this way we could honor an artist who made a great album, or maybe even multiple great albums, not just one great song (that’s what the Song of the Year category was for). This worked fine last year (and, also, it was very easy for me to tabulate), but it didn’t feel quite right (an artist with four songs that each showed up toward the end of one list would rank higher than an artist with three massive hits at the top of a bunch of lists).

So, this year, we’re ranking artists based on Total List Mentions. If you had three Jessie Ware songs on your list, she gets three points for that. Simple. We’re including all mentions, including features, so artists who didn’t release much music of their own (Beyoncé, Nicki Minaj, even Stevie Nix!) show up higher than you might expect. 

This brings us to what I will call The Taylor Swift Laws. Nicole’s list, as you may remember, consisted of thirty-two Taylor Swift songs. Shay, as is his tradition, included the whole of folklore on his list. I can’t give her a combined forty-eight points for those two lists. Instead, I’m giving Taylor two points for Nicole’s list, and one for Shay’s.

And yet, despite the fact that I had to make up multiple rules to limit her dominance, our Artist of the Year is Taylor Swift, by a significant margin (which is fascinating to me since she only had one song in our Top Forty-Two, and even that one song was tied for tenth place. We all found our own T Swift favorites this year).

No surprises at the top, as Dua Lipa, Rina Sawayama, Lady Gaga, and Phoebe Bridgers round out our Top Five.

Finally, a word of encouragement to all of the forgotten little cishet white boys out there who feel like the deck is stacked against them: If you work really hard, and never give up, and maybe catch a few breaks along the way, you ... could potentially wind up tied for fourteenth on an aggregated year-end list, just like Matty Healy and The 1975. Anything is possible!

Below is a list of all artists with four or more mentions this year. The full list of artists to appear on two or more lists is here.

25Taylor Swift
20Dua Lipa
19Rina Sawayama
15Lady Gaga
13Phoebe Bridgers
12Ariana Grande
11Jessie Ware
11Megan Thee Stallion
10Miley Cyrus
9Christine and the Queens
9Soccer Mommy
8Fiona Apple
8Perfume Genius
8The 1975
8The Chicks
6Bon Iver
6Chappell Roan
6Róisín Murphy
6Troye Sivan
5Bad Moves
5Tame Impala
5Stevie Nix
4Busta Rhymes
4Cardi B
4Carly Rae Jepsen
4Caroline Polachek
4Charli XCX
4Chloe x Halle
4Daði Freyr
4Kylie Minogue
4Little Mix
4Nicki Minaj
4SG Lewis
4Will Ferrell
4My Marianne

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