My Top 10 Songs of 2020 Went Global When I Couldn’t Travel

Alex Boswell

Photo by NeONBRAND on Unsplash

2020 sure was a super crazy year. Every time someone mentions an event that happened way earlier on in the year my mind is blown; those massive wildfires, #metoo and the Kim Jong Un death rumors anyone? Yeah, those happened this year. Feel old yet?

But one of the things that really made 2020 feel especially long were the travel bans. Not being able to visit other countries really sucked and I don’t think I’m the only one with travel withdrawals. However, just because I couldn’t physically travel doesn’t mean I couldn’t transport my mind elsewhere.

Just as my headline suggests, my music taste truly went global in response to not being able to immerse myself in other cultures. Thanks to YouTube Premium copying Spotify’s ‘Year in Review’ I was able to see exactly what my Top 10 hits were in 2020. I was quite surprised to find out that out of my Top 10, only three were in the English language! I think that’s pretty indicative of my travel withdrawals.

Curious to see what they were? Let’s dive into the music that got me through 2020.

At #10 is 夜に駆ける (“Yoru ni Kakeru/Racing into the Night”) by YOASOBI

The first entry on my list comes from Japan. It caught my attention when I was looking for Top songs in the Japanese Billboard charts and this came in at number one back in June to cheer me up when I couldn’t go outside. The great thing about this song is the awesome storytelling in the music video itself, which by the way, has 136.5 million views on YouTube.

To date, YOASOBI has only released five other singles since this debut, but they’re set to release more music soon.

#9 - Relentless Chaos by Miss May I

One of three English language songs. Once an Emo, always an Emo (does anyone say that?). The title of the song is quite fitting in hindsight and perfectly describes the timeline of events that occurred throughout the year. I typically listen to this song when I’m in need of an energy boost walking home from the grocery store, bags in hand.

#8 お勉強しといてよ ("Obenkyou Shitoiteyo/Study Me") by ZUTOMAYO

Hailing from Japan, ZUTOMAYO is a secretive rock band that debuted in 2018 and shot through the Japanese charts after their very first song uploaded to YouTube got 200,000 hits in its first week. What’s secretive about them, you ask? Well, despite having performed live in concert, no one actually knows the real identities of the band members!

Each song and music video production credits different people and the only reoccurring member is the unidentified vocalist who uses the name "ACA”. Cool stuff right? Every time I listen to this song it makes me want to dance, and I feel like that was very needed in 2020.

#7 Sinful Passion by Dimash Kudaibergenov

Hands down, I think Dimash is THE world’s best male singer alive. My opinion shows because this song isn’t the only one of his that features in my Top 10. This particular number is Russian, one of 12 languages Dimash can sing. While having won several contests previously, Dimash shot to international fame after his appearance on the popular Hunan TV contest ‘Singer’ in 2017.

He affectionately calls his fans “Dears”, and I’ve got to say, I definitely became in Dear in 2020. I challenge you to not be amazed by his mad skills.

#6 Million Eyes by Loïc Nottet

The second English language song to appear on my list for 2020 is actually by a Belgian native. Now a singer, songwriter, dancer, choreographer, and director, Loïc went viral on YouTube in a 1-minute clip secretly filming him singing ‘Chandelier’ by SIA in a dance studio back in 2015. ‘Million Eyes’ was the lead single off his debut album released in 2016 after his appearance on The Eurovision Song Contest in 2015.

Just like Dimash, he has an exceptionally unique vocal range, and this isn’t the only spot he holds in my Top 10 of 2020.

#5 SOS d’un terrien en détresse by Dimash Kudaibergenov

Another spot was taken by Dimash. Remember the show I mentioned ‘Singer’, which he participated in 2017? This French-language song was his debut performance on the show. It’s a popular one for YouTube reactors and I spent many nights watching other people be amazed by Dimash’s insane vocal range.

This particular performance was the catapult of his fame in China, after it aired, in a week he gained 244 million followers on Weibo.

#4 Mr/Mme by Loïc Nottet

Taking his second spot on my list, Mr/Mme is Loïc’s first French-language single. It’s not a song to be trifled with at its 6:22 run time, but the raw emotion he displays in the song helped me express my own 2020 frustrations. The studio recording is masterful of course, however, I do prefer his live session performance because it’s a little rougher around the edges.

So, now we’re getting into my Top 3, have you given any thoughts to what your Top 10 of 2020 were? Did your Top 10 reflect your state of mind as well?

At #3 is Olimpico/Ogni Pietra by Dimash Kudaibergenov

Another entry for Dimash. I love this song specifically because it really shows off his impressive lower register in juxtaposition to his mind-boggling upper registers. Another different language here is Italian. The song, composed by esteemed Russian-Ukrainian composer Igor Krutoy, premiered at the 2019 European Games.

Like Relentless Chaos, it’s another song that really gets the blood pumping as if you’re about to march into battle. With lyrics (translation provided by such as:

“Be brave!
You are strong, you know!
You are more powerful than your problems.
As fast as a noble heart
Catch up with it, embrace it
[chorus: the young future]”

It’s no wonder it captured my attention when everything in the world around me seemed to be falling apart. When listening, you can’t help but feel epic.

At #2 is Flightless Bird, American Mouth by Iron and Wine

I’m not ashamed to admit this, but the Twilight franchise is one of my guilty pleasures. Arguably, the best part of the movie series is the soundtracks. Flightless Bird, American Mouth (the only other English language song on this list) featured at the very end of the first movie back in 2008 and I fell in love with it.

Evidently, it’s been in my Top 10 pretty much every year since. The lyrics may be a little wacky for some but they’re a deeply poetic story of growing up and navigating love. It also happens to be very easy to play on guitar, being the same four chords in the entire song. Though my voice sure has changed a lot in 12 years.

And here we are, drumroll, please!

#1 Znaj by Dimash Kudaibergenov

Yes, my obsession with Dimash is now clear. This Russian-language song brings the total of Dimash’s songs in my Top 10 of 2020 to four! Znaj is quite different from all the other songs in my list, the closet comparison would be ‘Sinful Passion’. It’s a true fusion of traditional Kazakh folk vocalization, modern pop, and opera. It has an ethereal quality that speaks to me in ways other songs don’t.

Of course, this song also shows off Dimash’s incredible range and technical ability just as well as his other songs too.

So that’s it! What do you think of my Top 10 of 2020? Have you tried the Year in Review feature of either YouTube Premium or Spotify? If not, I’d encourage you to give it a try, reflect, and move on up in 2021!


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Writing about human experiences and life lessons everyone should know about, but don't.

Los Angeles, CA

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