Yes, you read that correctly. Below we’re outlining 20 artists who landed within the top 20 on various lists recapping highlights of the year. From publications to streaming services, tastemakers to charts, these 20 acts stood out in a year where we were asked to stay in. Staying afloat was impressive enough in 2020, but these artists went above and beyond, adapting to bring music to their fans in new ways than ever before.
BTS (Big Hit Entertainment)
Speaking of breaking records, let’s talk about BTS. 2020 began with the release of Map Of The Soul : 7 followed by the massive single “Dynamite,” and latest album BE. All three debuted at #1 on their respective Billboard album/song charts making BTS the first all-Korean act to secure a #1 placement on the Billboard Hot 100, one of only two artists to debut at #1 on both Billboard 200 and Hot 100, and the first group in 2020 to land two #1 albums. Their lead single from BE “Life Goes On” is the first non-English song to debut at #1 in the Hot 100.
Regarding Billboard’sYear-End Charts, the group can be found at the highest ranking for the year’s Top Duo/Group, Social 50 Artists, Digital Song Sales Artists, and World Albums Chart, with many singles and releases sprinkled across dozens of other categories.
It’s no surprise BTS has been recognized across countless lists honoring their global stardom. Outside of Billboard, BE debuted in the top 5 in more than 20 countries. Releases from the group received nods on year-end lists from Pitchfork, Consequence of Sound, Rolling Stone, Uproxx, NME and VICE. Meanwhile, “Dynamite” received a GRAMMY nom for Best Pop Duo/Group Performance, broke YouTube records for Most Views in the first 24 hours, and received Silver, Gold, and Platinum certifications around the world. To round out 2020, BTS has been named TIME’s Entertainer of The Year.
Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit (Southeastern Records/Thirty Tigers)
Jason Isbell’s music may be routed in southern stylings, but the Americana singer-songwriter has a talent that can be appreciated by everyone. Alongside the 400 Unit, the Nashville-based musician’s 2020 LP Reunions is included in year-end lists across 14 publications, only two of which are genre-specific. The album’s highest rank is at #4 on Stereogum’s “10 Best Country Albums Of 2020” followed by a tie at #11 across Consequence of Sound’s “Top 50 Albums of 2020” and Uncut’s “Top 75 Albums of 2020.” The single “Be Afraid” was also listed at #15 on NPR’s “Most Popular Song of 2020.”
In the land of streaming, Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit made appearances on three Tidal 2020 lists including Best of Rock, Best of Country and Best of Folk & Americana. On Amazon, the track “Dreamsicle” landed on the Best of 2020: Folk playlist.
YOASOBI (SME Japan)
It’s been a huge year for Japanese singer/producer duo YOASOBI made up of Ayase with vocals by ikura. The pair started their career in a big way with the release of “夜に駆ける” (Yoru ni kakeru). Right out of the gate the music video was viewed over a million times in its first month and recently scored #1 on Billboard’s “JAPAN HOT 100 in 2020,” making it the first single to take the top spot without any physical product sales. Across streaming services, “Yoru Ni Kakeru” debuted at #1 on the Spotify Viral Top 50 in Japan and made appearances on Taiwan and Hong Kong’s global charts. On Apple Music the song placed in the Global Top 100 Songs and is #3 most viewed lyrics.
The duo, while known for their music, is quickly becoming a global phenomenon and entertainment brand. Basing their imagery primarily on illustrations, YOASOBI will soon release a comic book, collaborate with a beverage brand and much more. Listen to their newest song “群青” and the new album out this Friday. We can’t wait to see what’s in store for them in 2021.
Ozuna (Aura Music Corp / SME US Latin)
Ozuna is a global sensation, there’s no doubt about that. Spotify’s year-end numbers only prove that fact with the Reggaeton hit-maker landing on Most Streamed Lists in Italy, Spain, and France. The “Carmelo” singer released his new album ENOC with featured artists including Daddy Yankee, Myke Towers, Arcangel, Doja Cat, Sia, Karol G, and many more. He continues to work alongside the most popular players in the Latin music industry and pop world. On Amazon Music, Ozuna is included at least 8 times across Best of 2020, Rap y Trap, Latin, and Reggaeton highlights and earned 5 spots across TIDAL’s, Best of Reggaeton, Songs of the Year, and Best of Latinx for 2020. And of course, Ozuna is no newbie to the awards circuit. This year he took home the iHeartRadio Music Award for Latin Pop/Urban Artist of the Year, as well as multiple nods for features in songs like Anuel AA’s “China.”
Lucinda Williams (Highway 20 Records/Thirty Tigers)
A folk rock legend, Lucinda Williams released the album Good Souls Better Angels via Highway 20 Records. Since its debut last April, the album has received two GRAMMY nominations, one for Best Americana Album and Best American Roots Song for “Man Without a Soul.” The single “When the Way Gets Dark” is featured on Amazon Music’s Best of 2020: Folk playlist while “Man Without a Soul” received similar placement on TIDAL’s Best of Folk & Americana 2020.
In the press, Lucinda received numerous nods from Rolling Stone, Billboard, PopMatters, Uncot, Mojo and Pitchfork while coming in at #7 on Rolling Stone’s “Highest Rated Americana Albums of 2020.”
Diodato (Carosello Records)
Allow us to venture to Italy for another impressive act of 2020. This year Diodato won the 70° Festival di Sanremo setting himself up as the Italian representative for the 2020 Eurovision Song Contest. Unfortunately, the competition was cancelled but Diodato’s talent prevailed. The winning track “Fai Rumore” went on to become certified platinum, the album Che vita meravigliosa is certified gold and the “Fai Rumore” music video is the 7th most popular on YouTube in Italy in 2020.
Body Count (Century Media)
Fronted by rapper, songwriter, producer, actor and author Ice-T, Body Count is all over 2020 Top Metal lists. Coming it at #4 on Revolver’s “25 Best Albums of 2020,” #19 on Consequence of Sound’s “Top 30 Metal + Hard Rock Albums of 2020” and featured on Loudwire’s “The 70 Best Rock + Metal Albums of 2020” is their latest album Carnivore. The title track is also featured on TIDAL’s Best of Metal 2020. To top off a huge year, the single “Bum-Rush” has also been nominated for the 63rd Recording Academy GRAMMY Awards in the Best Metal Performance category.
Moses Boyd (Exodus Records)
There’s jazz, and then there’s Moses Boyd. While his instrumentation often lands this artist on Jazz lists, his sound is a unique blend of grime, afrobeats, club rhythms, fuzed played through the lens of a classically trained jazz musician. Shortlisted for the Mercury Prize, Boyd’s 2020 album Dark Matter has caught the attention of top critics across the industry landing in upwards of 11 ‘2020 Top’ lists. Dark Matter is featured in the top 20 in NME’s “20 best debut albums of 2020” as well as Dummy’s, Loud & Quiet’s and Uncut’s Best Albums of 2020 lists. Boyd received a nod from TIDAL in the inclusion of “BTB” in their Best of Jazz 2020 playlist. Additionally, the album marketing campaign was included in Music Ally’s Sandbox Best Music Marketing Campaigns of 2020.
Low Cut Connie (Contender Records/MidCitizen Records)
Receiving tons of mentions across press and radio, Low Cut Connie is certainly a 2020 top contender. PopMatters ranked Private Lives as the #1 Best Americana Album of 2020, beating out some of the music industry’s most legendary talents. The album was also credited by Rolling Stone, NPR, Glida and AllMusic in their respective 2020 top albums lists.
Marília Mendonça (Som Livre)
Som Livre artists and Brazilian phenomenon, Marília Mendonça is officially the #1 Most Streamed Artists on Spotify in Brazil in 2020. Her highly anticipated Patroas, EP4 came out this past summer and was met with overwhelming positivity from her fans. In lieu of touring, Marília performed for her audience on YouTube, hosting a massive live event #LiveLocalMariliaMendonca. The performance has been viewed more than 55 million times. YouTube was so impressed, they mentioned the event specifically in their Year in YouTube Music 2020. Watch it below and see her fans connect virtually through her music.
Nothing (Relapse Records)
Included on more than six publication lists for 2020, Nothing is certainly something. Their 2020 album The Great Dismal charted at #4 on Billboard’s Current Hard Music and #26 on Top Albums. Wrapping up 2020 the album landed at #16 on Revolver’s “25 Best Albums of 2020” and was included at #25 in Alternative Press’ “The 50 Best Albums of 2020 in Alternative, Pop Punk, Metal and Beyond.” Their single “Say Less” also earned a spot on VICE’s “The 100 Best Songs of 2020.”
Kelsea Ballerini (Black River Entertainment)
Y’all’s favorite Country star Kelsea Ballerini released not only one but two albums this year via Black River Entertainment, the first titled kelsea, aptly followed by ballerini. This year Kelsea teamed up with some major collaborations including Halsey on “the other girl” and most recently releasing a new version of “hole in the bottle” bringing on Shania Twain. Known for her incredible performances, Kelsea graced the virtual stages at the CMAs, CMT Awards and participated in the Save Our Stages #SOSFEST, to name a few. Closing out 2020, both kelsea and ballerini were recognized at #10 on Rolling Stone’s “30 Best Country and Americana Albums of 2020” with “the other girl (feat. Halsey)” also earning a mention in “10 Best Country Collaborations of 2020.” On streaming services, Kelsea’s singles “hole in the bottle” and”half of my hometown (ballerini version)” are featured on Amazon and TIDAL’s 2020 Best of Country playlists, respectively. Finally, Kelsea also earned Platinum certifications for singles “Miss Me More” (x2), “homecoming queen?,” and “yeah boy” as well as for her album The First Time.
The Black Dahlia Murder (Metal Blade Records)
Returning to the metal scene, The Black Dahlia Murder had a heavy year as well. The Metal Blade band put out Verminous, which quickly became one of the top metal releases of the year. Metal Sucks contributors Ben Umanov and Axl Rosenberg both included the album on their top 15 Metal albums of 2020 coming in at #7 and #11 respectively. On Loudwire, both the album and their song “Child of Night” made Best Metal Albums and Songs of 2020. TIDAL added the title track “Verminous” to their Best of Metal 2020.
Bizarrap (DALE Play Records)
DJ/producer Bizarrap also known as BZRP, released music in a very unconventional way this year. Working alongside dozens of top artists across Latin American and beyond, Bizarrap released a series of 36 singles and counting known as “BZRP Music Sessions.” Each volume showcases a different collaborator with features including Cazzu, Seven Kayne, Trueno, Aleman, Nicki Nicole, and many more. Clearly the Argentinian music scene has appreciated every second of it because Bizarrap has now earned the title of #1 Most Streamed Artist on Spotify in Argentina and described by Billboard Argentina as the top 2020 artist alongside TINI.
Charlotte Cardin (Cult Nation)
The stunning and talented Montreal native, Charlotte Cardin released a new single this year “Passive Aggressive,” and while the album isn’t out yet, Cardin already has us eagerly anticipating what’s next. The track is perfectly produced to emphasize the singer’s vocals while also adding a depth of percussion and synth making the powerful song feel effortlessly robust. It’s only fitting that the track land at #5 on “CBC Music’s top 100 Canadian songs of 2020.” In just 2 months “Passive Aggressive” accrued 1.1 million views on the music video and was chosen as the Trending Track across Canada’s Top 40 and Hot AC Stingray Radio. Stay tuned for more to come from Cardin.
Banda MS (Lizos Music)
With the massive release of “Qué maldición” featuring Snoop Dogg, Banda MS de Sergio Lizárraga, has skyrocketed across the Regional Mexican charts and crossed over into new lanes of the music industry. In Billboard’s 2020 Year-End Charts, the group pulls in at #2 for Regional Mexican Airplay Artists. This year, Banda MS took home the Billboard Latin Music Awards for both Top Latin Albums Artist of the Year, Duo or Group and Regional Mexican Artist of the Year, Duo or Group. A new version of “Qué maldición” was released, adding Latin superstar Becky G to the mix.
Following the November 2019 release of highly anticipated full length album Lights Out by Ezhel, numerous tracks from the album were immediately covering Turkey’s Trending Charts. Ezhel and featured artists Ufo361 landed popular playlist covers and track placements across the service and beyond. Going into 2020, the album and new music from Ezhel continued to gain momentum. As a result, Ezhel is officially the #1 Most Streamed Artists in Turkey on Spotify.
Svalbard (Translation Loss Records/MRI)
Bristol-based English hardcore punk outlet Svalbard, received notable acclaim for their album When I Die, Will I Get Better? The album released in September via Translation Loss Records/MRI, has been sited on Punktastic’s “Top 25 Albums of the Year” and placing #3 and #11 on MetalSucks Vince Neilstein’s “Top Fifteen Metal Albums of 2020.” Brooklyn Vegan also referenced the album at #17 in their “45 Best Punk Albums of 2020.” Finally, TIDAL has added the title track to their Best of Metal 2020 playlist.
Dogleg (Triple Crown Records)
Triple Crown Records squad, Dogleg, released their nostalgic themed album Melee, landing the title at #3 on The Alternative Best Albums, #4 on Stereogum’s Gummy Awards, #7 on Fader’s Best Albums, #12 on Billboard’s Best Rock Songs: Staff Picks with “Fox” and many more!
Napalm Death (Century Media)
Even Wilco is flocking to this Metal frontrunner of 2020 – Napalm Death. Their album Throes of Joy in the Jaws of Defeatism caught the attention of critics across genres with a much needed scream at the state of 2020. The album is plagued with metaphors about the state of the world in 2020 with mentions of germs, epidemics, and deceit, while critiquing the division and defeatism that affects much of current society at large. Find the album plastered across top lists including Loudwire’s Best Metal Rock album and song with “Amoral,” #1 on Decibel’s Top 40 Albums of 2020, at #2 on Consequence of Sounds Best Metal Hard Rock, #9 on Axl Rosenberg’s Top 15 Metal Albums of 2020 (Metal Sucks), and even on Wilco’s favorite albums of 2020.
Music can heal, nourish, empower, and energize. We’re so grateful to bring music into this world, to individuals and families who might have used these releases to get through tough times. 2020 was a year where we needed music the most to connect and inspire. Here’s looking at you, 2021.