The whirlwind of uncertainty has consumed much of this school year, leading many to forget the strides some artists made in the meantime. As the school year begins to wind down, Pipe Dream has compiled several songs that defined the 2019-20 academic calendar, picking one song for each month. If nothing else, we’ve been blessed with an incredibly strong release catalog, and these are the songs that we believe merit special consideration.
September: “Doin’ Time” — Lana Del Rey
This single was dropped months before the release of “Norman Fucking Rockwell!” in late August, but Lana Del Rey rode her wave of success well into the fall and winter as she began to top Album of the Year lists. While some of the more sweeping, emotionally charged songs on “Norman Fucking Rockwell!” saw the singer reach her peak as a songwriter, this genius Sublime cover topped the Billboard charts as summer came to a close. The song is accompanied by an unforgettable video that riffs on cult classic “Attack of the 50 Foot Woman” as Del Rey towers over Venice Beach, an apt metaphor as she rises to legend status among Southern California’s musical icons.
October: “Dirty Laundry” — Danny Brown
Danny Brown’s previous releases put him firmly in the category of rising star, but his October album, “uknowhatimsayin¿,” cemented his status as one of the most talented and creative rappers in the game. Lead single “Dirty Laundry” showcases the best of what Brown has to offer, blending an infectious electronic beat with honest and comedic lyrics about his sexual past. Brown has one of the most distinctive voices in rap, and with each release, he finds new ways to refine it.
November: “Say So” — Doja Cat
If you didn’t see Doja Cat at October’s fall concert, you might have regretted it once she released her sophomore album, “Hot Pink,” the following month. With its groovy bass line and smooth vocals, “Say So” quickly became a party circuit staple at BU, skyrocketing in popularity due to its use in TikTok dance challenges. In January, the song was released again as a radio single, pointing Doja Cat toward a future of fuller houses.
December: “Adore You” — Harry Styles
When Stevie Nicks from Fleetwood Mac posted a public letter to Twitter in March, she congratulated Harry Styles on his recent album, “Fine Line,” saying that “it is your ‘Rumours.’” Lead single “Adore You” is a shining example of the maximalism that Styles brings to the table, a glittery declaration of love and adoration for a partner. The chorus, in which Styles proclaims he’ll “walk through fire for you,” is fittingly triumphant for a man who just wrote the best pop song of the year.
January: “Good News” — Mac Miller
Following Mac Miller’s premature death in September, the rapper’s first posthumous album, “Circles,” was released in January to plenty of social media buzz. Initially intended as a companion to 2018’s “Swimming,” “Circles” mirrors the previous album’s introspection and minimalist production style. “Good News,” which debuted at No. 17 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, features a quiet, downtempo backing track and plaintive vocals that embodies the introspective theme of the album.
February: “ringtone (Remix)” — 100 gecs feat. Charli XCX, Rico Nasty and Kero Kero Bonito
Despite 100 gecs’ debut album “1000 gecs” receiving rave reviews upon its release in May, it was a slow burn when it came to infiltrating the mainstream. After steadily climbing the charts and working their way into every indie kid’s playlists throughout 2019, February brought the remix of their song “Ringtone,” featuring a star-studded cast of guests. The song serves as the most accessible entry point to their unique brand of experimental pop, and the earworm chorus is bound to bounce around in your head for weeks. Charli XCX offers the best feature here, with her synth-pop vocals working exceptionally well with the glitchy beat behind her.
March: “Algorhythm” — Childish Gambino
Released when the chaos of the coronavirus pandemic set in, Childish Gambino’s latest album soothed the masses with an eclectic sound and lyrics that echoed the uncertainty of the times. Album highlights include a rereleased version of 2018’s “Feels Like Summer,” features from Ariana Grande, 21 Savage and more. The track “Algorhythm” embodied the difficult times with Gambino’s intense vocal delivery: “Humans gotta survive.”
April: “Heavy Balloon” — Fiona Apple
Fiona Apple’s “Fetch the Bolt Cutters,” a runaway favorite for Album of the Year, was released to critical acclaim this month. The song “Heavy Balloon” is a pounding anthem of resilience in the face of a patriarchal world that causes both professional and interpersonal hurt. When Apple screams “I spread like strawberries, I climb like peas and beans,” you don’t have to understand what this means to get the feeling. It’s a triumphant refusal to go quietly into the irrelevance that the music industry so often demands of its female stars as they age. Apple is still here, and she’s still better than anyone else at what she does.