One of the only vessels of solace in this year of desolation and torrent was music. Artists laid themselves bare despite a pandemic raging around us and against all odds, creativity not only prevailed, but thrived. Here at The Mic, we felt it more important than ever to shine a light on the artists that have kept the scene alive and kicking this year, along with those set to become the blazing voices of the future.
With the long-sought new year finally upon us, we are thrilled to share the results of the annual Mic Awards. Over the past month, our marvellous members and readers have been voting on the songs that best soundtracked this past, ludicrous year. A year in which a song came to mean so much more. From tracks written for those moments when things fall apart, to those which offered a sweet yet indispensable escape from the bedlam, we are proud to present The Mic’s ‘Songs of the Year’.
5. Is It True – Tame Impala
Often characterised by their falsetto vocals and sugary basslines, Tame Impala have always been somewhat reminiscent of The Bee Gees, but it wasn’t until a magic mushroom and cocaine fuelled epiphany in 2015 that frontman Kevin Parker realised the extent to which he admired the three-piece, both emotionally and technically. Moving this year, as a result, away from the crunchy guitar-sedated, modern rock defining sound of Currents to a nostalgia-inducing breed of mega-pop in the form of The Slow Rush. The album’s instrumentation and sound design are truly refreshing, and many of the tracks teeming with colour were appropriately welcomed by highly anticipatory fans. Is it True is no exception to the rule. Seemingly made for the dancefloor – or, in keeping with 2020, your bedroom – the track draws on the infectious sounds of 80’s pop and house while simultaneously forgetting genre, and moving into a truly modern space occupied only by the sonic revolutionaries that are Tame Impala. Matt Andrews
4. Kyoto – Phoebe Bridgers
The second single trailing Phoebe Bridgers’ sophomore album, Punisher, Kyoto is a lush track, even sporting a horn section, courtesy of Bright Eyes’ Nathaniel Walcott. Bridgers had hoped to record a music video in Japan last month, but has instead released a green-screen version due to the COVID-19 pandemic. She’s stated that Kyoto touches on her imposter syndrome: “being in Japan for the first time, somewhere I’ve always wanted to go, and playing my music to people who want to hear it, feeling like I’m living someone else’s life.” The song hinges on having everything you want, but feeling like you’re still not experiencing it. And yet, it’s still a soaring, beautiful indie ballad, from the acoustic voice of a generation. Louis Griffin (Full album review can be read here.)
3. Here’s The Thing – Sports Team
In February, teasing their debut studio album Deep Down Happy, chippy Cambridge fourpiece Sports Team released what has come to shine as the jewel in that glittering album. Overflowing with overexcited guitar strains, overlaid with self-confidence, and overdriven by an unrelenting stream-of-consciousness lead vocal from Alex Rice, Here’s The Thing makes for an indie-rock cacophony. But beneath the exhilaration is profoundly elegant social critique, which derides the idioms of petty nationalism, from corporate greed to Rule Britannia, and cleverly invokes William Blake’s ‘Jerusalem’ in a tender melodic moment that cements it as a deliciously insolent anti-national anthem. In the accompanying video, Rice does his best Jagger impression as he struts flamboyantly in a brawling performance that ostentatiously references the punk rock of the Sultans of Ping F.C (check them out for a bit of fun). Too easily dismissed as the glib utterings of a band who embody the suburban frustrations of a disaffected youth, or as a senseless rail against conventional wisdom and authority, this track in fact presaged the cross-generational turmoil that this year has wrought; it perfectly expresses this era of chaos. Joe Hughes
2. WAP – Cardi B ft. Megan Thee Stallion
Unorthodox, explicit, and exquisitely controversial, Megan Thee Stallion and Cardi B shocked fans worldwide with their hit summer single, WAP. The song feels like the love child of the guidance counsellor from Ten Things I Hate About You, (you know the one, sat in her office fishing for cripplingly embarrassing, yet ingeniously creative, sexual euphemisms), and Lil’ Kim’s song writing manual. Surprisingly, or unsurprisingly, the song has been met with criticism. The salacious ode to a woman’s pleasure has divided the masses, being branded as both a triumph for feminists worldwide and, opposingly, simply a distasteful and vulgar attempt to shock the masses. What do I think? It’s time to celebrate women reclaiming sex within their songs. WAP pioneers within a genre of music that male artists have been able to venture into with little-to-no critique for years. The time for women to make a stand within the industry is here and Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion have done just that. Plus, I’ve already learnt the TikTok dance, so there is no turning back now. Hattie Kilner
1. Watermelon Sugar – Harry Styles
A playful song about a craving: Styles’ coy metaphors buried beneath smash hit single, Watermelon Sugar, suggest he’s singing about a whole lot more than fruit. Watermelon Sugar has been the transportation you to a warm summer evening which we have definitely needed during a rather bleak 2020. Although definitely not the most lyrically complex of Styles’ music, Watermelon Sugar has become one of his most well-known songs, as well as his first Hot 100 number one. Instrumentally, the song builds throughout, starting with just his isolated vocal alongside a simple electric guitar and piano. After the first chorus, the song continues becoming more and more exciting, from Styles’ signature self-harmonising using lots of vocal layers (potentially an ode to his boy band days) to the brass band features after the bridge. This song, along with his second album as a whole, has really proven that Styles can write a catchy tune as well at the same time as creating a unique but eclectic style which is fun to listen to. If you somehow managed to avoid its renowned, summery lulls, Watermelon Sugar is most definitely worth a spin, but best be warned: once you’ve heard it, it’ll be stuck in your head indefinitely. Cat Jordan
Edited by: Alex Duke, Dominic Allum and Louise Dugan
Designs by: Lara Gelmetti and Olivia Stock