2020 has been an eventful year, to say the least (March deserves a chapter all to itself in future history books), filled with protests, a polarizing presidential election, and a global pandemic. It’s no exaggeration to say that at times it feels as if this is the end of the world (at least as we know it) and that everything is going to come crumbling down around us at any moment. For me, listening to music has been one of the main ways that I’ve been able to get through these difficult times, and I’ve discovered a lot of great artists throughout these turbulent months. Below is a list of songs I’ve compiled that are perfect for your “apocalypse playlist”, hopefully you’ll be able to find something that can help you get through this last stretch of the year!
“Waiting on the World to Change” — John Mayer
“Waiting on the World to Change” encapsulates the powerlessness many people feel in the face of things beyond their control. With many feeling dissatisfied with global leaders, this song’s message still rings true to this day. Thanks to its soothing yet somber melodies, Mayer’s classic is a melancholy anthem.
“Da Art of Storytellin’ (Pt. 2)” — OutKast
OutKast is possibly the greatest musical duo of all time, and this song shows their creativity with a message that rings perhaps even more strongly now than it did in previous years. The track details a sort of final reckoning in which the two members, André 3000 and Big Boi, tackle subject matters ranging from climate change to recording the last song ever made. Told through distorted vocals and a chaotic instrumental, the commentary on this track is timeless.
“The Charade” — D’Angelo and The Vanguard
Coming from one of the greatest musicians of all time, “The Charade” details the current Black experience in America as well as the Civil Rights Movement. With countless protests this year due to the murders of innocent Black Americans at the hands of police as well as unchecked police brutality all across the United States, this song communicates the struggles that the Black community has had to endure for the entirety of this nation’s existence. Combining elements of r&b, funk, jazz, and soul, D’Angelo’s smooth delivery cleverly disguises the track’s heavy lyrical content.
“Wake Me Up” — Avicii
This song from the late EDM titan, with a chorus ringing out the words “wake me up when it’s all over” definitely describes how many of us are feeling right now. It’s hard to see an end to our current situation, and sometimes we just want to close our eyes and forget everything that’s happening. This track expertly captures the feeling of wanting to ignore all the harsh realities of the world and just living out your life as you please. Fusing warm guitars with electronic music, this is a bittersweet song that remains thoughtful in its message.
“Alright” — Kendrick Lamar
“Alright” will go down in history as a timeless anthem. The fourth single off of Lamar’s third studio album To Pimp a Butterfly, “Alright” became a mantra for civil rights protests in 2015 and more recently in 2020 as well. The iconic chorus of “we gon’ be alright” is like a beacon of hope in these trying times. With a jazzy yet hard-hitting instrumental and lyrics that discuss racial inequality while still remaining upbeat, “Alright” is one of the defining songs of the past decade.
“Reborn” — Kids See Ghosts
The most popular track off of Kanye West and Kid Cudi’s 2018 collab album, “Reborn” describes basically the only thing someone can do at times like this: keep moving forward. With the simple chorus repeating this message as Cudi’s soothing hums fill the background, this song reminds us that our situation won’t last forever.
“Killing in the Name” — Rage Against the Machine
A furious protest song against police brutality, “Killing in the Name” incorporates elements of both hip-hop and heavy metal to make a hard-hitting, energetic track. While originally released six months after the Rodney King beating by the LAPD, the lyrics in this defiant song still unfortunately ring true to this day. With iconic riffs, heavy bass, and distorted guitars, this song captures the anger that countless people have felt over this year.
“Lockdown” — Anderson .Paak
Released at the height of the 2020 Black Lives Matter movement, “Lockdown” touches on everything from police brutality to the demonization of protestors to the COVID-19 pandemic. Arguably one of the best tracks to come out this year, “Lockdown” centers on a laid back, somber beat that allows .Paak to draw the listener into his lyrics and the catchy chorus. If a song had to be chosen to represent 2020, this would be a strong candidate.
“Feels like Summer” — Childish Gambino
This 2018 track by the multi-talented Gambino has all the elements of a catchy summer song. The addictive chorus and soothing instrumental hides the deeper meaning of the song: global warming and the increasingly irreversible damage that comes with it. The video for the song, released in the following fall, features cameos from many notable rappers and musicians and serves as sort of a snapshot of rap at the time. Years from now, many will probably look back at this with fond memories of what life was like at the time.
“Ain’t It Fun” — Paramore
This year, many of us were set to start college for the first time or continue our college experience. However, the global pandemic basically put a halt to any grand plans one might’ve had. While there are lots of students experiencing “freedom” for the first time, it’s definitely not in the way anyone envisioned. “Ain’t It Fun” by Paramore perfectly captures this feeling of coming to grips with the sometimes harsh realities of the so-called real world. This song provides a sort of interesting mix of emotions, which aptly coincides with the multiple genres incorporated throughout the track. The elements of pop, gospel, electronic, and funk music combine with the lyrics about finding your way in the world (and finding out that it doesn’t revolve around you) to form a nostalgic hit.
“Summer 2020” — Jhené Aiko
For many (myself included), it felt like this summer would never end. While summer is typically a time filled with hanging out with friends, going to pool parties and concerts, and having poor sleep schedules, COVID brought all of that to a sudden halt (except for maybe having a poor sleep schedule). Suddenly, we all had to stay inside as much as possible and limit our interactions with other people. This was and still is difficult for many, especially with no sign of the pandemic letting up anytime soon. However, this song provides some hope for these difficult times. With a soothing instrumental that samples Kool & the Gang’s “Summer Madness” combined with Jhené Aiko’s angelic voice, this track is almost therapeutic to listen to. As the chorus rings out, “sometimes I cry ’cause I feel so good to be alive,” it reminds us that we can always find the strength to keep moving forward.
Check out a playlist of these songs below.