What Your Favorite Album of 2020 Says About You

For unprecedented times, a list with precedent! (2017 list, 2018 list, 2019 list)

Taylor Swift — Folklore: You wore a cardigan all year, even when you weren’t seeing anyone, even in the shower, even to sleep. You don’t know how your crush James identifies but you definitely like them. You want a cottagecore life, which your parents know as “the thing Cameron Diaz swaps with Kate Winslet for in The Holiday.”

Fiona Apple — Fetch The Bolt Cutters: You experienced a major personality overhaul in quarantine. You bravely decided to follow the girl who stole your boyfriend in 11th grade, quietly deciding you forgave her.

Laura Marling — Song For Our Daughter: You were a Gifted Kid until adulthood hit and you burned out, but you gradually found meaning on your own terms, it just took your entire 20s. Now you want kids, but you’re concerned about raising agoraphobic children in a post-pandemic world.

Kidz Bop — KIDZ BOP 2020: You are already an agoraphobic child.

Halsey — Manic: You posted “i would have followed you all the way to the graveyard” on Facebook like it’s 2010; your grandma texted to make sure you’re okay even though it’s just song lyrics, grandma, don’t worry about it.

Sufjan Stevens — The Ascension: You played a corrupted copy of a Candy Land video game adaptation once and you still have nightmares about it. It made you question your faith in God, America, and Hasbro Interactive’s quality control. You still believe in one of those things, but won’t say which one.

Spanish Love Songs — Brave Faces Everyone: You’ve lost faith in your country, your future, and yourself, but not in the raw power of pop punk.

Machine Gun Kelly — Tickets To My Downfall: You spent 2020 upgrading from an edgelord to a himbo. You know nothing, like absolutely nothing, but the power of extremely polished pop punk. Even then, your knowledge is mostly limited to how great Travis Barker drum fills are.

Chloe X Halle — Ungodly Hour: You keep a spreadsheet with the birth charts of everyone you’ve ever spoken to and know to avoid Gemini and Virgo men at all costs. Your Instagram Stories are just videos of yourself lip-syncing to “Ungodly Hour” and “Forgive Me” with the caption “felt cute, might delete later,” but you never do. You leave it up for that one specific person to swipe up on, only to have everyone but them slide in your DMs.

Rina Sawayama — SAWAYAMA: Astrology is fake, the only chart that matters is your Backstreet Boys/Spice Girls/Britney Spears eras. You are Kevin sun, Posh moon, Blackout rising.

The 1975 — Notes on a Conditional Form: People liked you because you were insufferable yet so aware of it, then you became too aware of it, and now you’re just insufferable. (You probably think the same thing about these lists; they are much better on TIkTok anyway. “Medium is now an obsolete medium, kinda mad, innit?”, you have definitely said to impress someone regardless of accuracy.)

Meghan Trainor — Treat Myself: You saw Biden won the presidency and promptly scheduled maskless brunches with all your besties. It was going great until you got drunk and told your friend you’d smash her husband’s junk to smithereens.

Katy Perry — Smile: Some people missed human touch; some people missed parties and going out: you just missed that high note on “Daises” every time. (Don’t worry; so does Katy.) Your maskless brunches went great until your friend told you she’d smash your husband’s junk to smithereens.

Miley Cyrus — Plastic Hearts: You feel like the isolation of this year has brought out the real, most authentic side of you. “Yeah right,” your peers snidely remark at their maskless brunches, “She’ll change again as soon as she’s vaccinated.” But you mean it this time, give or take a surprisingly bland Dua Lipa collaboration.

Dua Lipa — Future Nostalgia: You complain under every Popjustice forum post that “Cruel Summer” should have been Taylor’s lead single, but you have the range to stand up for your fave and say “Stream ‘Levitating’” once in a while.

Car Seat Headrest — Making a Door Less Open: You’re not Will Toledo, but people sometimes mistake you for him. You even got a song on his album by impersonating Will Toledo impersonating Rivers Cuomo impersonating Beck.

Eminem — Music To Be Murdered By: You are definitely Eminem, because nobody else remembers this album existed.

BTS — Be: You saw BTS mentioned in a Twitter link to this post and dropped a fancam before clicking.

Blackpink — The Album: You saw the BTS fancam below a Twitter link to this post and replied with your own fancam. You slide into each other’s DMs and start a happy and fulfilling relationship based on mutual interests :)

Jason Isbell & The 400 Unit — Reunions: You made one too many posts on Facebook demanding people vote for Joe Biden, and your significant other is getting worried. You wittily, warmly, candidly diagnosed yourself with ‘dadpression.’

Bob Dylan — Rough and Rowdy Ways: You’re either so old you lived through classic Dylan or so young that you’re just getting into Dylan. Regardless of whether you’re a father, you receive JFK biographies as Father’s Day gifts.

IDLES — Ultra Mono: You have unironically said “if you get ratioed, it means you’re doing something right.” None of your offline friends understand what ratioing is, and none of your online friends understand why you have a rose emoji in your bio but retweet videos from those centrist grifters at The Lincoln Project.

Fontaines DC — A Hero’s Death: You don’t know who the Lincoln Project is or what a rose emoji signifies, you just like this whole post post-punk revival-revival that’s been going on and think these Dublin blokes did a particularly good job at it.

Jessie Ware — What’s Your Pleasure?: Every night, you dream of the dance floor, pulled along by a mysterious stranger veiled in darkness. You always wake up not remembering what happened, only the murmur of a twinkling disco light and the aftertaste of a sweet cherry cocktail.

Matt Berninger — Serpentine Prison: You tried to reconnect with your past self, but the memories are gone in a haze of weed and Rombauer, not that you could ever tell the difference between bottles of wine. You recall the faint silhouette of a childhood crush: you barely remember their name (John? Jane?), but you know how empty you feel now without them. The thing you really can’t get over, though, is that Taylor Swift made a better National album than the lead singer of the National.

Taylor Swift — Evermore: The other thing you can’t get over is that Taylor Swift making a National album made a better National album than Taylor Swift making a National album the second time.

Dogleg — Melee: You smashed into things in your room to simulate a mosh pit when concerts closed down.

Protomartyr — Ultimate Success Today: You smashed into things in your room because you’ve been seething after spending all day in a poorly ventilated office.

Grimes — Miss Anthropocene: You came back to the office because your boyfriend injected you with a DIY vaccine. Then you looked up tentacle porn on your work computer out of habit and got fired anyway.

Run The Jewels — RTJ4: You never know whether Killer Mike is pro-revolution or revolution-hesitant, but the music slaps anyway so you don’t have to think about that.

Fleet Foxes — Shore: Your friends were so bored during lockdown they finally got around to The Crack-Up. You’ll have to wait another 100 years for the next life-altering pandemic before they get around to Shore, even though you swear it’s more accessible and “there are ACTUAL DRUMS.”

Bartees Strange — Live Forever: You broke Spotify’s algorithm. In all your social groups, you make esoteric references nearly no one gets but everyone in your other groups would.

Shamir — Shamir: You’re the one person who always gets those references, no matter how esoteric.

Sad13 — Haunted Painting: You share an apartment with nine other creative types and together you’re just able to afford rent and groceries. You used to have nightly cuddle puddles; none of you have hugged each other since March. But you all invested in weighted blankets so you’re good.

Illuminati Hotties — Free I.H.: This Is Not The One You’ve Been Waiting For: You live in that same apartment. Since starting Zoloft you’re able to deal with 2020 a little easier, but nothing turns you on anymore except the theme music for The Daily. (You ideologically lean more left, but Michael Barbaro’s centrism and over-enunciation Does It for you.)

The Chicks — Gaslighter: Someone made a call-out post for you about your “surface-level activism”, but they don’t know you’ve been organizing and attending protests since before they were born, they should cut you a little bit of slack. Just don’t pull a Sia or anything, you know?

Phoebe Bridgers — Punisher: You said to your significant other that the pandemic was easier for you because you kinda always feel like the world is ending? Oh no, that too real? Did you fuck things up again? Is it just your anxiety talking? You diffused things with a pop culture reference and posted something uncomfortable on Twitter.

Samia — The Baby: You’re a rehabilitated theater kid who liked the “I’m Baby” meme too much. You infantilize yourself to distract from how sad you feel. Remember when you cried listening to the Fun Home cast recording in high school? Yeah.

Ariana Grande — Positions: You’ve secretly smashed all your friend’s husband’s junks to smithereens.

Gupi & Fraxiom — Food House: You have weird fixations on both Tony Hawk and hyperpop, but you were too zooted to put two and two together.

Megan Thee Stallion — Good News: You in particular went through a lot this year, but your OnlyFans makes more money than Bella Thorne’s and your self-confidence is through the roof lately.

Charli XCX — How I’m Feeling Now: Your Zoom raves were everyone’s highlight. You have pet geckos that may or may not be humans in gecko costumes. You’ll doxx me if I don’t end this one with “you’re gay.”

AG Cook — 7G: You’ve gone over-time on every Zoom rave.

The Microphones — Microphones In 2020: You’ve gone over-time on every therapy session, but the therapist is riveted.

Conan Gray — Kid Krow: Your parents can definitely afford a therapist for you but you never go, because the lack of self-awareness and personal accountability makes your online brand more chaotic.

Alec Benjamin — These Two Windows: You go to your therapist and take it very seriously. You’re doing the work to improve yourself, and I’m proud of you.

Blackbear — Everything Means Nothing: Your therapist stopped seeing you.

Tame Impala — The Slow Rush: Your favorite thing about edibles is waiting for them to kick in. Your second favorite thing about edibles is getting impatient, eating another one, and then getting entirely too high. You’re honestly weird to be around.

The Weeknd — After Hours: Your cocaine dealer offered you a COVID discount. You spent the money you would have spent on coke to get Uncut Gems on Blu-Ray, because you’re the only one who really gets it.

Waxahatchee — Saint Cloud: Once social distancing restrictions are eased, you’re going to go on a long, soul-searching road trip across the United States. For now, you scratch that itch by working the word “pastoral” into every conversation.

Gordi — Our Two Skins: Your girlfriend interrupts you while you’re staring into the distance, a steely, determined expression behind your tears, and asks whether you’re listening to “Aeroplane Bathroom” again. You are. She pulls out her phone, syncs up with you, and sits down. You look at each other and smile from six feet apart. If that’s as close as you can be for now, that’s okay. One day, this shitshow will be over, you’ll move in together, and you’ll have the life you always wanted. You hold on to that, because you can’t hold on to her.

Kesha — High Road: You still found ways to have fun this year while respecting CDC guidelines and a lower personal budget, but it wasn’t the same. Once social distancing restrictions are eased, you are going to go absolutely apeshit. Until then, you’re the only one of your former peers not going out to lunch and always wearing a mask outdoors.

Perfume Genius — Set My Heart on Fire Immediately: Once social distancing restrictions are eased, you are probably still going to yearn, but you definitely will still be gay.

Lady Gaga — Chromatica: While your former friends are having maskless brunches, you’ve been taking care of yourself by having dance parties in your room. You’ve accepted that it will never be 2009 again, but you have this gut feeling that maybe 2021 might be better. It’s up to you to make it that way. And it’s up to you make Interscope push “911” as a single.


Original concept from Tom Hawking and Mara Wilson.

Additional writing from:

Al (@HowdyImAl on Twitter): Run The Jewels, Perfume Genius
Ashley Bardhan (@ashleybardhan on Twitter): Grimes, Samia
Charlotte (@CharGaze on Twitter): Run The Jewels
Ethan Gordon (@ethancgordon on Twitter): Bob Dylan
Jaden: Bob Dylan
Pinto: Tame Impala
Jason Tebbe (@jason_tebbe on twitter) : Bob Dylan, Jason Isbell
katherine st asaph (@morayati on Twitter): Rina Sawayama
Larisha Paul (@sincesuburbia on Twitter): Chloe x Halle
Mark Grondin (@SpectrumPulse on Twitter): Jason Isbell
Rachel Saywitz: Jessie Ware
Rocky (@afrosinchick on Twitter) (Fiona Apple)
Ryan Maciel: Food House
Tobi Tella: Miley Cyrus
Will Adams (@liamwalds on Twitter): The Weeknd
Win : BTS, Blackpink

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