Most Played Songs of 2020 (Transition Edition)

I have as a matter of long habit done a variety of “year-end” lists and articles in various areas of interest (to me), including a list of the Most Played Songs around the Smith household, as calculated by the iTunes account where I synch all of our iPods. I’ve been doing this since 2007, when we got our first family iPod, a Mother’s Day gift for Marcia, at her request. Today, we still have eight iPods in use in various locations (car, living room, bedroom, gym, etc.), and I’ve been scavenging online to build  a little trove of models I like (old Shuffles and Nanos, mainly) to keep my current listening paradigm going as long as it can. Not a fan of change for change’s sake, no sir, don’t like it.

As noted in yesterday’s report, I will be packing up my desktop working computer in the next couple of days, and it will be in storage until late December, if not longer. It occurred to me that once my computer gets packed, that’s it for any updates to those devices and play count numbers for 2020, so it seemed prudent to go ahead and prepare a post with the Most Played Songs list to date for the year. It still represents about 11 months worth of data, as is turns out, since I reset 2019’s play counts and lists around Thanksgiving-time, as we wanted/needed a new mix of music for our holiday travels. So not too much of a short-year, really, and the top of the pile is not likely to change that much anyway this late in the cycle, even if I did keep the computer up and running through our move to Arizona.

As has been a recurring theme for me over a lifetime of listening, I do again recognize that I’m once again fighting a rear guard battle with my iPods, with playback technology making another of its seismic shifts from a purchased media file model to streaming services, delivered over various smart devices, and designed so that we never actually own anything musical anymore, but just rent it. (That link in the prior sentence goes into more detail about why I don’t like that, if interested). That said, Marcia needed to get a Spotify account for her yoga instructor class last fall, and we have been using that account and a BlueTooth speaker exclusively while we’re in hotels and rental properties on our travels this year, and that has worked out fine, as much as I hate to admit it. And as much as it bothers me that the play counts for those songs so played aren’t readily aggregated into my master list. Oh, the humanity! The horror! The Horror!!

I noted in conversation recently that Marcia was moving me into a new listening paradigm going into this multi-phase family relocation, as she has done before, buying me my first CD player after I resisted them for years, and bringing the first iPod into our household. She disagreed with that assessment, seeing me as still too resistant and reliant on my old approaches, knowing that if left to my own devices, I’d just snuggle up and stubbornly not budge from my comfort zone, no sir, not gonna. We agreed that I may be charitably characterized as “new paradigm adjacent” instead. I guess that’s progress, of a sort. In any event, it’s conceivable that next year’s Most Played Songs list will be created based entirely on Spotify numbers. We shall see.

One other note I usually make with this annual article: since we synch all of our many fiddly widgets to one computer and one master iTunes account, the Most Played Songs list represents the aggregated play counts from all of our iPods. This means that the Most Played Songs of the year are often unexpected, since they represent the heart of a musical Venn Diagram where our family’s tastes most closely overlap, even though each of us individually may like and listen to very different things. I spin a lot of Napalm Death every year, for example, but they very, very rarely show up on these lists, since they’re never played when Marcia and Katelin are around. The grindcore is for me-time only. And I usually don’t listen to music alone.

My computer tells me that I currently have 15,804 songs on my hard drive. In 2020, we played 4,120 of them at least once. Of those active songs this year, here are the 40 that received the most spins around our household, with the #1 most played spot going to a trenchant cut by Snog main-man David Thrussell’s Crisis Actor side project. (Watch out for Snog to feature highly when I do my “Albums of the Year” list for 2020 in a month or so, as his latest LP is a masterpiece). You can create a Spotify playlist of the songs below (because I know that you all just love creating Spotify playlists, just to spite me)(Spitify, it should be called!), and that will give you a sense of what it might sound like to spend time around our spaces. It covers a lot of stylistic ground, which I like. Maybe the list will inspire you to further check into some of these excellent artists’ catalogs. They’re all great, guaranteed!

  1. “Bringer of War” by Crisis Actor
  2. “Bebey” by Theophilus London
  3. “Stop This World” by Mose Allison
  4. “Hann Gat Ekki Setið Kyrr” by Karl Olgeirsson (feat. Rakel Sigurðardóttir)
  5. “Agony Box” by Shriekback
  6. “Electronic Eye” by Crisis Actor
  7. “Where Are We Now?” by David Bowie
  8. “Leon” by Theophilus London (feat. Kristian Hamilton)
  9. “Ball and Chain” by The Who
  10. “Marchin'” by Theophilus London
  11. “One of These Days” by Mose Allison
  12. “Street Song” by The Who
  13. “Jesus Just Left Chicago” by ZZ Top
  14. “WAVIP” by The Coup (feat. Das Racist and Killer Mike)
  15. “We Lost Sight” by dälek
  16. “Anitra’s Basement Tapes” by The Coup (feat. Tune-Yards and Jolie Holland)
  17. “Bad Worn Thing” by Wire
  18. “Orange Man Bad” by Crisis Actor
  19. “Boys Keep Swinging” by David Bowie
  20. “Your Capricious Soul” by Michael Stipe
  21. “Quiet Dog” by Mos Def
  22. “Bollo Rex” by Shriekback
  23. “Pretty” by Theophilus London (feat. Ian Isiah)
  24. “Waters Flowin'” by Uriah Heep
  25. “Melt the Guns” by XTC
  26. “Rosalie” by Yusef Lateef
  27. “Tush” by ZZ Top
  28. “Towncar” by BEEF
  29. “Cheap Sunglasses” by ZZ Top
  30. “Another Song About the Moon” by Buggy Jive
  31. “The Mighty Burner” by Charles Earland
  32. “Goin’ to the Meetin'” by Eddie “Lockjaw” Davis
  33. “Afterglow” by Genesis
  34. “Lord Do It” by Rev. James Cleveland
  35. “Adamine” by Mowgan (feat. Solo Sanou)
  36. “Cuba” by Theophilus London
  37. “Mary Don’t You Weep” by The Caravans
  38. “Corrupt (Knuckle Up)” by dälek
  39. “Follow You Follow Me” by Genesis
  40. “Gånglek från Älvdalen” by Jan Johansson

Final iPod Synch Party in Iowa. Fiddly widgets FTW!

7 thoughts on “Most Played Songs of 2020 (Transition Edition)

  1. Hi J.Erik.
    My googling father pointed out to me that my song was on your Most Played Song list. This has made me very curious since my album is released in Iceland in Icelandic and hasn’t gotten any publicity elsewhere in the world. May I ask how you came by this song, Hann gat ekki setið kyrr?

    All the best
    Karl Olgeirsson

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hello Karl!

      I have traveled to Iceland over the years. Was supposed to be there again this year, but COVID changed those plans. Very fond of the jazz I have found there (and of course other Scandinavian jazz), so I fairly regularly search various sources online or in person when I am there (I think 12 Tonar may be the finest record store in the world . . . Hope it had survived the virus!), and came across your most recent album with this cut. An utterly beautiful song, perfectly played and sung!

      All best,



  2. I’m with Jeff Claus. The closest thing I have to a list is what I have on Amazon. And I don’t play that music there. In 2020, I played the entirety of Rhiannon Giddens’ Tomorrow Is My Turn album once, and four other cuts.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I know this makes me one step away from yelling at kids to get off my lawn old, but while I love the organization iTunes gives you (not to mention the fun of an eclectic library played back in shuffle mode), and I love having a significant chunk of said library on my phone, we’ve lost so much: cover art, the warmth of a great analog recording, and a sense of craft in music recording.

    Every once in a while I dig through your archives, read The Analog Kid Speaks, and feel a bit of gratitude for a kindred spirit.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Interesting list! I was intrigued by the artist named “dälek” and felt compelled to take a listen. Pretty cool stuff, though from the artist name I thought I was going to listen to some sinister, rasping vocoder vocals and some mad radiophonic-style sci-fi FX! Also, seeing Charles Earland on the list had reminded me that I once had one of his albums, “Earland’s Jam” on vinyl. I think I sold it ages ago, but can’t remember when or for how much. When you start selling records online, you end up forgetting just what you’ve owned over the years!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks! Yeah, I’ve sold more records and CDs online and in stores over the years that I care to think too hard about! Still seems weird that my entire massive music collection lives on a small 1 TB external hard drive . . . though with a move coming up soon, I guess it’s less worrisome and hard to haul than the crates and crates of meltable, breakable albums were for me once upon a time!!

      Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s