2020 has been an unprecedented year full of uncertainties, tragedies in the world, music was hit especially hard, with clubs closed and tours canceled. Out of necessity, this became a year about turning inward, listening deep and looking for solace. Artists/ creators have managed to out some of the greatest records that got us through. From The Weeknd’s After Hours, Slick Stuart & Roja with Very Wellooo, Adekunle Gold and his AG Baby LP, Tems (outing an EP titled For The Broken Ears)’, Davido’s A Better Time, Olamide’s Carpe Diem chart dominating albums, and singles, among others; these incredible pieces helped us power through a lonely year.
These songs sound tracked 2020, resonated with us the most as we confronted a series of unprecedented challenges and provided an escape, a refuse among the daily happenings. They provided a shoulder to cry on, a friend to laugh with, and endlessly quotable lines. So, until the day that we can once again gather with those around us, we will be tuning up these tracks. “They’ve kept our spirits up with their music and content so I think the list this year will be a special one.”
The year has also seen the entertainment industry grow with time and artistes employing new strategies to enjoy the little space in the entertainment sphere, and as s a trend, artistes embraced the recording of albums (LPs), EPs; something that shaping the new art. Still in the same year, some have got their first number one single/hit of their career, made incredible collaborations, won ambassadorial roles/ endorsements, got their first 1Million YouTube views, etc;- its been quite a long year. Acts The Weeknd,, A Pass, Drake, Winnie Nwagi, Daddy Andre, have been consistent with blessing us with amazing tunes continue to shine and do what they do best in this year as well. Whereas we also saw new acts springing up this year, from the likes of Omah Lay, Azawi, Tems, Zuli Tums, Chike etc take form.
This is the music that either helped us reflect on the circumstances around us or provided a much-needed escape from reality. These are the releases that got us through the year. Criteria for selection was guided by checking up on the streaming data/ statistics off digital music platforms, airplay on both TV/ radio, level of going viral, music request shows & countdowns, and viewership count on YouTube per song.
These are my picks for the 20 best singles of 2020. The original plan was to short list 20 here, I however added a few extras. Attached is a Tidal & Spotify playlist having the whole Top 50 for the year; at the bottom.
Inspired by his love for the opulent distinctive car brand “Maserati’, Nigerian Adelusola popularly known as Olakira went ahead to release a title by the similar name, and even a later remix featuring DMW boss Davido in September. The success of the single is much attributed to tiktok and the social media challenges of people dancing to the song. Olakira’s musical style is a confluence of Afropop, dancehall, R&B, with smithereens of indigenous strings and rhythms. As a producer and instrumentalist, Olakira has worked with names Patoranking, and Dotman among others.
DaBaby feat. Roddy Ricch: ROCKSTAR
Though DaBaby’s frenetic delivery and affection for club bangers netted him a seat at the winner’s table in 2019, his candor was the real engine behind his success. The guitar-driven “ROCKSTAR” lives up to its name, as Baby’s adjustment to fame has proven more triggering than rewarding. From wrestling with cold sweats from PTSD to reliving his self-defense shooting at WalMart, Baby’s celebrity has been both a gift and a curse. Plus, Roddy Ricch’s inclusion on the track gives “ROCKSTAR” the extra edge needed to storm past the competition.
Spice Diana: Kwata Wano
With Jangu Ondabe, Bajikona, Emmala (feat. Omulangira Suuna), Mood, and the biggest of them all Omusheshe (feat. Ray G), Spice Diana had an awesome 2019. Spice Diana to set her own pace starting January 17th 2020 at Freedom City where she staged her much anticipated concert. She has remained consistently a top female artiste the past two years and she can easily do it this year as well.
This year alone, she landed endorsements with Italtex, Chipper Cash App, Itel. Musically, Hajjara Namukwaya (professionally known as Spice Diana) teamed up with Tanzania’s Harmonize on ‘Kokonya’, and later, her Daddy Andre produced ‘Kwata Wano’.
17. Olamide ‘Infinity’
P.Priime produced “Infinity” is by Olamide who is one of the biggest Artistes on the continent features Omah Lay who is currently Nigeria’s biggest export in the global music industry. Infinity is a classic hoe anthem that would have been just like any regular Olamide Song but for Omah Lay’s top-notch vocals that transformed it to world class.
The song basically talks about feelings of a man towards a woman. The man tries to get the woman to have a private rendezvous by making all manner of promises including buying her a house on the prestigious Banana Island. As Olamide makes promises, Omah Lay backs him up with amazing vocals.
The single appeared on Olamide’s Carpe Diem album in October. ‘Infinity’ has been especially popular in not only Nigeria, Uganda, but internationally as well while the Carpe Diem album has quietly amassed over 85 million streams worldwide; with the highly-addictive “Green Light” being another standout track on the album.
‘Baliwa‘ – JoseChameleon
Leone Island CEO Jose Chameleone decided started off 2020 with some good music as he stated how he was back to his old basics. He dropped two jams one featuring Leilah Kayondo titled ‘Nyumirwa‘ and ‘Baliwa‘ which has dominated the airwaves now.
‘Baliwa‘ can be translated to mean ‘Where Are They?’ Chameleone asks about where you were when he was struggling with life and why people only turn up to celebrate when you have made it despite not being part of the struggle. The audio was produced by Diggy Baur. The song was written by Chameleone himself and the lyrics draw us back to the poetry of the old inspirational songs from the artiste. It was produced by Diggy Baur.
The accompanying visual showcases a vintage-inspired scene as one will witness Chameleone singing and dancing before two white horses and well built able-bodied men harvesting cotton. He also once again linked up with Mun G on ‘Legends’ this month.
15. Fireboy DML ‘New York City Girl’
The bubbly tune, produced by Type A, is a fan favorite that’s been circulating online for over a year, before the release of the video, according to Pulse Nigeria. It’s about a sweet summer romance Fireboy experiences while on a trip to NYC. Shot by Clarence Peters, the video uses cut and paste like images that show Fireboy and his love interest in various NY-themed settings. There are shots of him performing in front of the Statue of Liberty, and shots of Time Square and, what looks like, Grand Central.
Fireboy, who is one of afropop’s most celebrated newcomers, cemented his spot as one of Nigeria’s most buzzing artists last year with his debut album LTAG. He has shared a handful of singles this year, including “Need You,” and “Vibration.” He released his debut album Laughter, Tears and Goosebumps at the end of 2019. His August 2020 Apollo 17-track album, featured collaborations with Olamide, Wande Coal and D Smoke, and production handled by Pheelz, IamBeatz, P-Prime and Type A. “This album is about evolution, growth, love and pain,” Fireboy DML mentioned. While there were many highlights in the album—including “Champion” and “Tattoo’, “ELI’, and the rest.
Alongside Burna Boy and Rema, he was enlisted for the official soundtrack of FIFA 21 video game.
Justin Bieber feat. Quavo, “Intentions”
Despite the at-times corny lyrics (“picture perfect you don’t need no filter”), the bouncy beat and dare-we-say intention of this track carry it through. As the second single off Bieber’s long-awaited February album Changes, “Intentions” is the anthem Bieber needed to solidify his new and improved public self, proving that after a few tumultuous years, he’s not only back and better than ever — but this time he’s sharing the wealth, figuratively and literally.
Ratata – Zex Bilangilangi
Zex Inchkumi Bilangilangi, a member of Bobi Wine’s Firebase music camp, caught everyone by surprise with Ratata – a love song in which he expresses his affection to his lover.
Produced by Nessim, Ratata is a Ragga/Dancehall song which will get you grooving each time it’s played. It comes off Zex’s 2020 album;- Yo’ Alubamu. Other fan favorites off the album include; Wikid (feat. Pallaso), Nalinda, and others. He made the list of the artists who’ve won our hearts this 2020, with their music. Zex also featured on season three of Club Beatz.
Daddy Andre: Tugende Mu Church
For months, Daddy Andre’s booming song dubbed “Tugende Mu Church” has been rotating with a challenge video (in fact the unofficial version of the song’s video was made up of a compilation of these) and later the Black Market Records singer releasing its official visuals, as directed by award-winning Sasha Vybz.
Taken off his EP ‘See Me So’, “Tugende Mu Church” translates to “Let’s Go To Church”. The song that is dominating the airwaves locally is about a lover urging his partner to go with him to church and make the relationship official.
Signed to Black Market Records, Daddy Andre – a Singer, Songwriter, Producer and Instrumentalist – is one of the most talented gems in the Ugandan music industry. The song was written and produced by Daddy Andre himself.
Roddy Ricch, “The Box”
Roddy Ricch got an early bid on claiming one of 2020’s most popular song. Between the track’s hypnotic uptempo beat, brain-sticking hook (“I won’t never sell my soul”), Ricch’s vocal fervor and squeaky “eee err” ad-lib – also launched countless memes and TikTok videos
11. DJ Neptune, Joeboy & Mr Eazi ‘Nobody’
DJ Neptune’s “Nobody” saw him recruiting Nigerian star Mr Eazi and the rising Joeboy for an uptempo number that speaks about young love and the blind devotion that often follows as a result of infatuation. The track, which was the second single from Neptune’s The Greatness II [Sounds of Neptune], broke records this year as one of the most streamed songs across Africa. It topped Apple Music’s singles charts in eight countries and supplied the soundtrack to millions of Triller dance videos.
10. Tems, Damages
“So tell me what you need from me now”, she sings, “Cos I am done with this now / No more damages…” opens the chorus of Nigerian vocal powerhouse and fast rising Alte/RnB singer’s ‘Damages’; the lead single from her EP ‘For Broken Ears’. A fusion of dancehall, hiplife and contemporary R&B, on ‘Damages’ Tems refuse to be messed around any longer.
Ditching her career as a digital marketer two years ago to pursue music full time, Tems has since dropped a number of singles, establishing herself as a promising young talent.
After a successful outing in 2019 with 1 Mega hit song – ‘Try Me‘ and two hit singles; ‘Mr Rebel‘ & ‘Looku Looku‘, she kick starts 2020 with her debut single titled “These Days”. A Chill and R’n’B record for the Alte kids and her Rebel Gang.
This year Tems has registered a huge feature to her name by getting on the Remix of ‘Know Your Worth’ by American singer Khalid alongside Davido. There was also the hints of a collaboration between her and Wizkid after the Starboy tweeted about her. This resulted into ‘Essence’.
Just as with her previous work, the songs on her ‘For Broken Ears’ September EP were written and produced by Tems herself, with additional production by Oddio, Spax and Omeiza.
“I say java eli, she tell me balya Kachumbali, Kyava anyirira bwati, mi say bwatiiiiii, Tanaaba ga luzzi, alabika anaaba Rwenzori…” are the lines in chorus of one of the anthems we have had this year;- a whole wave. Recorded and released in February 2019, Kachumbali has picked up steadfast this very year following the release of its music video in March, which hit 1M views this week by the way 😉 The single sky rocketed Quex into stardom, and has since topped charts not only on music streaming platforms but on mainstream media as well.
08. Sheebah Karungi ‘Nakyuka’
Gobbled off her August Samali album, Nakyuka was produced by Nessim Pan Production at Bad Character Records, and in this one, Sheebah sings about how she fell in love with a man and it changed her life forever. Like Drake’s Toosie Slide, Nakyuka too also arrived at The quarantine period, hence having its video shot in Sheebah’s mansion./ house (Queendom) as Sheebah takes you on showcase of her daily routine from the time she wakes up till the day ends, tour of Sheebah’s house right from the bedroom to the living room and down to the compound. most places that they had thought of shooting the video were not accessible due to the lockdown.
She also further added a force to Crysto Panda’s Kyoyina Manya when she hoped on it for a remix.
7. Adekunle Gold ‘AG Baby’ ft. Nailah Blackman
Adekunle Gold’s “AG Baby” is a pulsating, dance-worthy composition featuring singer Nailah Blackman on the hook. His third single of the year, the TMXO-produced beat proved that a different sonic formula could work just as well for the Nigerian artist. AG baby was taken off of the star’s Afropop, Vol. 1, August LP.
Vinka, Love Panic
Having had a 12month of streak of outing singles each month last year; Vinka released tracks ‘Sure’, Amaaso’, Nja Kusitula’, By The Way’, and 8 others. for 2020, she hit the studio booth on a few occasions. First in March to release ‘Red card’, and then June for ‘Love Panic’. A song written by her label-mate Azawi. Love Panic” was produced by Nessim, and she described it as a single to be one that it is a beautiful tale about this guy she is really fascinated by, and whenever she links up with him, she literally loses her voice and sense of speech; – for a lack of a better word, she leaves her speechless in a panic.
Veronica Luggya alias Vinka’s heartfelt love song’s video as released in June, was directed by Swangz Avenue’s Marvin Musoke, shot at Ssezibwa Falls, with a well set of choreography. As typical of Vinka songs, this audio was one you we listened to over and over again. There was a week where Love Panic was literally the only female in top 10 charts on streaming services, with the other being Nigeria’s Tems. This track was and is still this huge.
Allan Toniks, ‘Sikuleka’
Making a grand return to the top scene in 2018 with the release of Romance and Ensonga. Allan Toniks in 2019 dropped a monster hit in Sunday (feat. Slick Stuart and Roja), and Falling (feat. Fille). Hitting the studio once again this year, the singer created another amazing tune; by the title ;- ‘Sikuleka’; – translated to mean “I Am Not Leaving You”.. In ‘Sikuleka’, he dedicates to his lover as he reassures that he will not leave her for anyone else or leave her behind.
The team up to bring this song to life was due to the production efforts of Daddy Andre, and the fictitious and generically sophisticated video as directed by Sasha Vybz.
Omah Lay : Lo Lo
Growing up in the Nigerian city of Port Harcourt, Omah started his career as a member of teenage rap group Lil King, before going solo. It is yet one more sign of the astounding speed with which Omah Lay, 23, has commandeered afropop culture, a few months after the release of his chart-topping EPs, 5 track Extended Play’s “Get Layd” and ‘What Have We Done’.
The Warner imprint Sire Records, Dypper Music signed artist in no time established a huge fanbase, with singles including Lo Lo, Damn, among the many they are.
On ‘Damn’, the lead single, he sang about his lover loving him like “damn” regardless of him being drunk, jobless & lost. He later released several remix versions, including one with American rapper 6LACK! “Lo Lo”; another title on the EP infuses sounds on a soft hip-hop instrumental on which he sings about showing love. The other singles on his debut EP are Ye Ye Ye, Bad Influence & You.
The 23-year-old Nigerian superstar, Stanley Omah Didia popularly known as Omah Lay’s brief incarceration had been generating massive headlines; after him, Tems and management were arrested in Uganda for allegedly breaking Covid-19 rules. The singer, along with other artistes and the show’s organizers were accused of engaging in acts capable of spreading COVID-19. Thankfully, the singer was released and he can go back to doing what he knows how to do best.
Omah was also last week listed among the 10 BBC Radio 1Xtra list for Hot for 2021 artists, and also among the best breakthrough acts this year. Omah Lay, is the first African artist to be highlighted by the Africa Rising Initiative launched by Apple Music. He also appeared with DJ Tunez, Wizkid, and Adekunle Gold on “Pami,” a dreamy highlight from August.
WinnieNwagi – ‘Jangu‘
Despite having a 9th December, 2019 release date, Jangu, was a big crossover from one year to another, and still dominated the charts, with its warm lyrics, visual and production.
Nwagi continues to own her throne, with an appealing vocal ability, and deliverances. This particular song was produced by Daddy Andre), and in its music video, the ‘Everything; singer showed off her dancing skills in the song’s accompanying visual too.
She also hoped on Freeboy’s Kwata Essimu; and gave it an incredible turn around elevating it to further heights.
Winnie and Azawi highlighted last weekend with an epic performance on ‘Club Beatz’. Absolutely loved their chemistry as artists. She has the powerful voice, Priscilla (Azawi) has the song writing skill in her! A potential/ future collaboration between wouldn’t be such a bad idea in my honest opinion. Since she’s joined forces with one of their own before, on ‘Amaaso’, why not? For, with Winnie’s contract renewal at her record label, we can only expect a massive 2021!
Eth Lawinsky, King Saha: Mwoli
Budding singer Eth Lawinsky (real name Ethan Kavuma) tapped King Saha; yet another proven vocalist King Saha on ‘Mwooli’.
The Kingslove Entertainment singer does the song justice with his moving vocals and lyrics.
On ‘Mwooli’, produced by Nessim, Eth Lawinsky continued to prove his critics wrong as he relays his soft vocals on the free-flowing lyrics. It’s a song you can listen to several times tirelessly.
Eth Lawinsky already has a couple of good songs to his music brand including Kunya (feat. Sheebah Karungi), and Kwata Bukwasi (feat. Fik Fameica).
A Pass, Nkwagala
Between the record-breaking cross-format chart success that “Chupa Ku Chupa” achieved — including reaching No. 4 on Trace Mziki last year — and an extremely satisfying collab with Ykee Benda, it’s almost easy to overlook the charms of A Pass’ deceptively simple love song;_ Nkwagala’.. Anchored by a hypnotic acoustic riff, the gently swaying, melody and A Pass’ laid-back delivery, it sees him express vulnerability; to the love of his life.
On Nkwagala, A Pass (with tears rolling down his face) shows a vulenrable side as he emphasizes how much love he has for his lover. Nkwagala is a Luganda word translated to mean ‘I Love You’ and A Pass’ lyrics are full of love and the affection in his voice compliment the well-arranged lyrics.
The original plan was to put out an EP, or an album even, but however, A Pass instead turned this into a ‘singles’ year; fine jams that have worked well, and resonated with the many of us. With ‘Nkwagala as a stood out this year, his other tracks have also done the music scene justice. Last week, he linked up with friend, and vocalist Lilian Mbabazi and blessed us with ‘Ebilowozo’. Another rave that’s taken many by storm.
Azawi – Quinamno
Having secured a record deal at premium Ugandan record label on November 1st, 2019; 6th January saw Azawi out her very first single; one we would fall madly in love with. The new entrant into the industry then outed a 5track Extended Play by the name;- LoFiT, which too had chart commanding singles;- Repeat It, and Lo Fit, and two others.
On Quinamino, Azawi puts up a rather powerful aura with the manner of superior songwriting skills, and unique vocal play. and. She stole the show at the recently concluded Roast and Rhyme festival with an unforgettable debut performance.
The act whose very first release ‘Quinamino’ became an instant on Uganda air waves, charts and continentally, has since performed the single at Roast and Rhyme, the MTN Pulse Tiktok Challenge Finale, and recently at the Club Beatz at Home online concert.
In the exciting accompanying visual, Azawi showcased her dance moves on the song; ‘Quinamino’ which was her debut song have made her a household name in the Uganda music industry.
The Weeknd – Blinding Lights