A year made for music: What the most popular albums of 2020 say about teens


Alejandro Munoz, Reporter

Starting on March 16, a statewide order was put in place in Maryland by Governor Hogan shutting down all schools in the state in order to combat the growing threat of Covid-19. Since then, schools all over the nation have been closed for months with no clear signs of when the time to reopen will be. Over that period of time, students have had a lot more free time on their hands, but with less options of what to do with that time. With all social options thrown out the window, it only makes sense that many kids would turn to music during these strange times. And it shows. The music made and themes in it reflect the feelings shared by many music listeners today.

The most streamed albums on Spotify over the course of 2020 are as follows: 

YHLQMDLG – Bad Bunny

After Hours (Deluxe) – The Weeknd

Future Nostalgia – Dua Lipa

Manic – Halsey



~how i’m feeling~ – Lauv 

Changes – Justin Bieber

Eternal Atake (Deluxe) – LUV vs. The World 2 – Lil Uzi Vert

Colores – J Balvin

As you look through the songs on these albums and analyze their lyrics, you will start to notice recurring themes that pop up throughout many tracks. One theme particularly seems apparent in the music most popular this year: Authenticity. Whether it’s the Weeknd’s growing tiredness over the stage persona that he has created or Bad Bunny crying over the love that he cannot have, the lyrics in these albums point to a sense of wanting to be one’s true self. It’s a shedding of the cares that so often come along with keeping a social persona. Like Lauv’s “How I’m Feeling,” “full of no-filter confessionals about coming of age in the social media era,” the albums laced through this list stick to their morals to be real with their audience; no faking it.

And these songs have become popular at a time when they couldn’t be more relevant. With very few chances to go out and socialize with other people, many teens today are spending a lot of time in their heads thinking about the persona that they create and normally would show to the world when they are out and about in their normal day to day lives. This excess of time combined with the never ending boredom associated with being stuck inside, and music has become a cure for it. As Senior Izzy Lowery so elegantly put it, if it wasn’t for music, “lol I would’ve died.”

It makes sense that musicians, who spend the most time in the public limelight, would take this opportunity when they can’t do stage shows to take a look at themselves and write songs that speak to their own private lives and the struggles that they face; at the same time speaking to the same problems that are shared by millions of their listeners. Halsey’s 2020 album Manic was called her “raw autobiographical portrait of the artist as a young mess” and this could be said of many teens stuck at home over this quarantine. With no way to go out and share their feelings with others face to face, it’s become hard for many teens to ignore the problems that come up in their heads. Everyone is stuck in their own heads. The problems they have are like lyrics they can’t get out of their heads.

And these opportunities to go out and share experiences have been missed greatly. There is a growing desire to go back to normal life and enjoy the same social activities that have been so abruptly interrupted since Covid-19 was thrown into the spotlight. Dua Lipa’s album, “a prescription for better living while we can’t sweat out our worldly troubles on packed dance floors,” is one such album that serves as a nostalgia trip for those missing the pre-Covid parties that are gone today, or at least should be.

Looking more closely at our top ten list week, and comparing with Billboard’s most popular albums from the week of March 21, when the 2 week school closure was issued, I noticed that 4 of the same albums in the most streamed list were also in the top 200 when the March list came out. This shows that throughout this quarantine, people have continued to draw towards the same music that has spoken to them and reminded them of quarantine and the new things they’ve learned about themselves while under lockdown. 

Izzy continued, “I saw a lot of new music on social media and started listening to a whole bunch of new genres.” The situation we found ourselves in gave us lots of free time, and for music listeners, there was a ton of new stuff to put to our ears. Although Covid has brought about new challenges that we’ve never thought about before, it’s given us an opportunity for self-reflection that would’ve never been possible in the fast-paced world we live in today; and for that, we can at least be grateful.


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