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My Nominees for Music That Got Me Through 2020

With the 63rd annual Grammy Awards fast approaching, I thought it would be appropriate to reflect on my own music journey over the past year. Quarantine meant I had a lot of time on my hands to peruse Spotify, listening to new music and rediscovering old favorites. My Spotify Wrapped gave me a pretty good idea of what kinds of music I listened to last year, but the results weren’t anything surprising—essentially, it told me I listened to a lot of Taylor Swift, which of course I already knew. And, yes, while Taylor Swift did make up a majority of my listening time overall, there were so many other artists I explored this year, for all different emotions and situations. Without further ado, I give you my nominations for my own version of the Grammy Awards (perhaps not-so-creatively titled the Abby Awards)! As a disclaimer, not all of these songs, albums and artists are new this year, but they just happened to be what I spent my time listening to. And the nominees are… 

Expectation-exceeding new album


CALM by 5 Seconds of Summer

Three. Two. One. by Lennon Stella

Confetti by Little Mix

Plastic Hearts by Miley Cyrus

Heartbreak Weather by Niall Horan


And the Abby Award goes to… Three. Two. One.!

After seeing Lennon on tour last year with 5 Seconds of Summer and The Chainsmokers, she quickly became one of my favorite artists, despite only having an EP released at the time. In April, she released her debut album, and I genuinely don’t know how I survived the first month and a half of quarantine without this album in my life. Every single song on the album is a masterpiece. Lennon’s voice is as soothing as a lullaby and the fact that she’s only 21 makes her wonder of an album that much more impressive. I could write an essay on how much I love this album, but I’m imagining that the wrap-up-your-acceptance-speech music would have already kicked in by now so I’ll leave it there. 

Surprise album release that shook me to my core


evermore by Taylor Swift

folklore by Taylor Swift


And the Abby Award goes to… evermore!

I thought that I couldn’t be any more surprised at an album drop than I was on July 23rd, when I woke up confused to a persistent pinging at 7am only to see that Taylor Swift had just announced a surprise 8th album: folklore. But fast-forward not even five months to December 10th when Taylor shocked everyone by announcing yet another album drop. Two albums in the course of a year is a huge feat for any artist to pull off, but the fact that it was my favorite artist releasing another album during the pandemic and during finals week… it felt like Taylor had known when everyone needed music most and wanted to give us all a little happiness. evermore is an hour and nine minutes of pure, undiluted magic. 

Album to listen to while working out that almost takes your mind off the fact that you’re working out


CALM by 5 Seconds of Summer

thank u, next by Ariana Grande

Lemonade by Beyoncé

Rare by Selena Gomez


And the Abby Award goes to… Lemonade!

Since I started going to the gym most weekdays, I found myself needing some new music (to me) to keep myself feeling pumped up and motivated during all those times when I was questioning why, exactly, I had decided to run in the first place. Beyoncé’s Lemonade is just what I needed. I had listened to the album once or twice before this year, but really got into it over the summer. If you’re looking to get hyped and feel empowered, Queen Bey’s got you covered. 

Most nostalgic album rediscovery


American Teen by Khalid

Midnight Memories by One Direction

Greatest Hits by Queen


And the Abby Award goes to… Midnight Memories!

Midnight Memories was a fantastic album upon its release seven years ago and it’s just gotten better over time. There is not a single skip on this album and that’s an impressive feat considering the deluxe version has 18 tracks. I rediscovered the album this fall and have had it on repeat since. (Also, it’s only fitting that the most fantastic One Direction album cover features Niall wearing a Wisconsin Badgers shirt!)

Artist I’m kicking myself for not listening to sooner





John Mayer (his music, not his personality)


And the Abby Award goes to… HAIM!

I’m ashamed to say that I hadn’t listened to HAIM before their collaborations with Taylor Swift this year: “no body, no crime” on evermore and “Gasoline” on Women in Music Pt. III. After my friend sent me a list of their best songs and demanded that I listen to them ASAP, I immediately realized my mistake in not seeking them out sooner. HAIM is an L.A.-based pop rock group composed of the three HAIM sisters: Alana, Este and Danielle. Their music is raw and powerful, the perfect vibe for a study session or a chill night in. 

Artist I never got sick of


Taylor Swift


And the Abby Award goes to… Taylor Swift!

There’s not even a competition here, so I just skipped the rest of the nominees and went right for the winner. I would have happily spent my entire 2020 listening to Taylor’s first seven albums, but the fact that I was surprised with two more albums (and the promise of six re-recordings on the way) makes me wonder what I ever did to deserve Taylor Swift. I will go to my grave swearing that Taylor Swift single-handedly saved 2020—twice—and for that, I will be forever grateful. 

Best song to scream in the car on the way to Culver’s


“Baby” by Justin Bieber

“drivers license” by Olivia Rodrigo

“Feel Me” by Selena Gomez

“All Too Well” by Taylor Swift

“Cruel Summer” by Taylor Swift


And the Abby Award goes to… “drivers license”!

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past two months, this award should come as no surprise. Olivia Rodrigo’s breakout debut single “drivers license” took the world by storm in January, shattering hearts and shattering records after spending every week since its release at No. 1. Grab your roommates, queue “drivers license” on repeat and scream your heart out while driving to Culver’s, naturally. 

New song that immediately became an all-time-fave


“my future” by Billie Eilish

“Older Than I Am” by Lennon Stella

“July” by Noah Cyrus

“drivers license” by Olivia Rodrigo

“ivy” by Taylor Swift


And the Abby Award goes to… “ivy”!

When the tracklist for evermore came out, I randomly predicted that “ivy” would be my favorite, knowing nothing about it except its title. Listening to it for the first time, sitting on my living room floor, I was instantly struck by the beauty in the storytelling and the gentle background vocals. The song builds and builds up until its subtly explosive bridge before dwindling back down into its original mellow vibe with a much deeper story. The goosebumps I get while listening to it feel like ivy crawling up my skin.

Collaboration of the century


“Gasoline” by HAIM featuring Taylor Swift

“Weakness” by Lennon Stella featuring Maisy Stella

“exile” by Taylor Swift featuring Bon Iver

“no body, no crime” by Taylor Swift featuring HAIM

“coney island” by Taylor Swift featuring The National


And the Abby Award goes to… “exile”!

I never knew what the perfect duet sounded like until I heard “exile.” And when I thought there wasn’t any way to make the song sound even more incredible, Taylor released the long pond studio sessions with a brand-new version. Somehow the Long Pond recording even further emphasizes the fact that Taylor Swift and Bon Iver were destined to harmonize together.

Concert film that made me really crave concerts


ariana grande: excuse me, i love you 

Homecoming: A Film by Beyoncé 

Taylor Swift: folklore: the long pond studio sessions 


And the Abby Award goes to… Homecoming!

I absolutely love each of these films: long pond was calming and beautiful, and excuse me, i love you slayed me with Ari’s vocals, but Beyoncé’s Homecoming was a work of art. I loved seeing Beyoncé’s creative process in designing and then performing her iconic 2018 Coachella performance. The sheer power that Beyoncé emanates is unreal. I was either full-on jamming or staring in shock with full-body chills the entire time; there was no in-between. 

And that’s all for the first annual Abby Awards! I’d like to thank each of these artists, albums, songs and films for lifting me up during such a difficult year, remaining an unshakeable constant in the midst of so many unknowns. To keep up with my musical journey over the next year, follow me on Spotify (Abby Synnes) or check back for the second annual awards article in 2022!

Abby Synnes

Wisconsin '23

Abby is a sophomore at UW-Madison studying English and Communication Sciences and Disorders. She is an enthusiast of good books, Taylor Swift, and chai lattes.
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