Another year rolled out, and what a year it was! I feel obliged to conclude the music aspect of 2020 with what I can now comfortably call my traditional “year round-up post”. I started doing this in 2017 by writing my first ever Lame Blogger Music Awards. 2018 and 2019, I experimented with different formats, but I feel this year deserves another Awards Ceremony due to the complex development and novel adaptations in the music world.

Me handing Lynn Gunn the Album Of The Year Award, which she hid in her pocket. True story.

The avalanche of great new artists and new releases this year is undeniable. But 2020 was a special year for the music world. The pandemic affected the state of the world as we know it, and amidst all the disasters and stacked-up crises, musicians also received a heavy blow.

As with every dire situation, the stage after the initial panic required adaptation and creative adjustment. This is exactly what the majority of artists practised – livestream concerts and festivals, more interaction with fans, a lot of new music, bigger plans for the future. 2020 has a lot of interesting initiatives to look into.

Yungblud was the first artist to react to the new environment. He came up with The Yungblud Show and consistently developed it during the year to make it more fun and interactive for his fans.

This is the main reason I decided to go back to the Lame Blogger Music Awards format instead of artists/albums defining 2020. Even though there are way too many records I want to list as essential this year, I think paying attention to the different ways artists changed the music scene deserves more spotlight.

My final category list came down to eleven sections I find most important. Each one was harder to decide than I initially imagined, but I am quite confident in my final choices. Of course, this is my personal list, and I am by no means applying any industry standards.

I would be happy to hear your list of winners for my categories (or your own), so feel free to comment or reach out in social media and talk music with me! Without further ado, here is the Lame Blogger Music Awards winner list for 2020!

Artist Of The Year – Machine Gun Kelly

Many artists made a great run this year, but the choice of who totally owned it seems pretty clear to me. I have said it many times during different posts – Machine Gun Kelly has been on fire nonstop since the release of Hotel Diablo and 2020 was his time to shine.

The Gunner easily outdid the rest of his fellow creators during the lockdown period. He started with the #LockDown sessions which evolved from short snippets of him covering his favourite tracks to full-fledged covers and remixes using popular tracks as a foundation.

Some of those renditions were exceptionally touching and creative, once again proving that MGK is far more than a rapper – he is a capable artist excelling in many fields. This statement got backed-up by his announcement of a pop-punk album produced by Travis Barker himself.

Some people might see this switch of genres as a weakness or defeat, but the album speaks loud and clear. Tickets To My Downfall is not a change of styles for the artists, it is showing a different side of The Gunner which has always been there. The album takes a look at his energetic, teenage side and continues to dwell deeper into his mind – emotional ballad-like tracks switch with hyper-energetic punk explosions unveiling different personal contemplations.

You can read my review on the album here

I can’t force myself to say it is his best work, but I think it is a splendid demonstration of his versatility, never-ending creativity, and true artistic spirit. The album earned the Billboard 200 top spot in its first week and shattered the limitation of genres once again.

You can’t take me away from a stage, you can’t put me in a box, you can’t tell me what f*cking music to make… Joke’s on you, there is no downfall.

Machine Gun Kelly

Another highlight of The Gunner’s perfect run lays in his two concert livestreams from The Roxy – a venue he wanted to play for the longest time. He performed both Tickets To My Downfall and Hotel Diablo in full with a spectacular stage show, surprising guest appearances, and reimagined next-level instrumentals. The shows were an absolute delight and would have been even more epic experienced live instead of via the screen, which makes the hype for a potential world tour even bigger.

To top the undeniable success of his music year, Machine Gun Kelly also worked with Mod Sun on a Tickets To My Downfall-themed musical (Downfalls High) which will be out in January 2021. We will also see Colson starring as a cowboy in Tim Sutton’s western The Last Son Of Isaak LeMay. If you know someone who had a better year than this guy, hit me up, for real.

New Artist Of The Year: Winona Oak

The Swedish pop rising star Winona Oak made her official debut in the music scene this year. The charming singer has been entrenched in the music world since a child and had several appearances as a guest-writer and singer with What So Not and The Chainsmokers, but it wasn’t until early January that her solo career flourished.

Winona Oak’s debut stands out in the hurricane of great new artists this year, hopefully, we will see more of her soon

Her entrance in the scene is definitely a promising one. First EP Closure surfaced on the 10th of January followed by consistent development piquing with second EP She on the 23rd of October. Both releases demonstrate refined aesthetics, bewitching charm, and memorable presence coated in a vintage atmosphere, mellow vocals, simple melodies, and intimate lyrics.

Oak relies on personal experiences and mostly focuses on love-related subjects during the first EP. It is an effective demonstration of her singing and songwriting abilities as well as her unique artistic persona. She indicates the will to progress and try new things by displaying improvement in both sound and lyrics – new topics bloom while still preserving the original love-inspired thematic under different musical inspirations. It is one hell of a start leaving you eager for more.

Album Of The Year: PVRIS – Use Me

Choosing the album of the year proved to be a major challenge. 2020 was extremely generous to the music world, and most of the releases outdid expectations and brought the artistry to the next level.

After replaying all the major candidates, I made my choice and stand by it – PVRISUse Me is the album that deserves the title most.

You can read my review on the album here

My obsessive fascination with the band is not a secret to anyone, but I have my unbiased reasons to believe Use Me deserves this title. It is a fundamental, maybe even a career-defining, step for the band. A lot of changes took place in the PVRIS camp since second full-length All We Know Of Heaven, All We Need Of Hell, and a lot of progress in the well-documented personal journey of frontwoman Lynn Gunn is visible with the new release.

Alex Babinski had to exit the trio, and Gunn finally made the bold decision to demand the credit she deserves for driving this band forward since day one. As much as it is a collective effort by the (formerly) three hard-working members, it has always been the frontwoman making the creative push, strong leadership, and aesthetic vision.

Read the Kerrang! interview with Lynn Gunn on Use Me. Photo belongs to Kerrang, shot by Lindsey Byrnes

The new energy the stunning singer manifests in the record makes a huge difference – even though the original PVRIS vibe of brooding and distortion is still very much present, the vibe has shifted notably.

Use Me is a satisfying continuation of the previous record. It follows up on the chapter that expressed utter loss and confusion with a clearing of the consciousness. The intimate, emotional themes are preserved 100%, and the tracklist goes through love, idolization, heartbreak, remorse, and forgiveness with gradual progression accurately painting the true nature of real love.

Highlighting the dedication to the one you love most, the title track shows vulnerability and dedication with a clear understanding of consequences, while Wish You Well closes the journey by pointing out the importance of forgiving and keeping the love intact despite the unfortunate development.

It is a splendid album and a major step forward for the band – filled with true emotion, real stories, and elevated sonic presence Use Me absolutely owns 2020.

Music Video Of The Year:  YUNGBLUD – God Save Me But Don’t Drown Me Out

Yungblud keeps standing as one of today’s most important and prominent artists. His influence on the current generation is immense, and he uses his voice to bring unity, support, and inspiration to his close-knit community. 

His music is outstandingly emotional and touching. The artist doesn’t stray away from delicate topics, exactly the opposite – he focuses his energy on themes that most artists avoid bringing up. His second full-length is another bright example of that – filled with real stories that bring tears to your eyes but give you strength and hope it is certainly another one of 2020’s best releases.

Weird was generous in terms of singles, and most of them were accompanied by fitting videos as well. Amongst those, God Save Me But Don’t Drown Me Out stood out as the most powerful, well-executed, concept-enforcing one – also the best music video I saw this year.

God Save Me But Don’t Drown Me Out takes on the topic of being yourself and not letting your insecurities define who you are. It starts with an emotional dedication “for anyone lying in their bedroom at 4 am wondering why they aren’t good enough” and continues to pour out a touching exposition of being misunderstood, confused, and desperately wanting to find relief.

Read the detailed NME interview with Yungblud on Weird. Credits to: Perou for NME. Shoes: Alexander McQueen

The song pushes through the power to find acceptance within yourself and live your life the way you truly want to. The witty video using a human-sized teddy bear offering support and showing the listener that challenges can be overcome and life can be exciting makes the concept of the song even stronger and more immersive.

Collaboration Of The Year: All Time Low feat. Demi Lovato and Blackbear – Monsters

This year featured an overwhelming amount of top-notch artist collaborations. From long-awaited joined efforts to surprisingly well-working experiments, the music scene saw some of the best artist collabs for years.

Choosing the best one was another challenge for me, and I changed my decision exactly four times before committing to this one as final.

I think Monsters by All Time Low bringing in Blackbear, and Demi Lovato deserves the spot. The song is incredibly catchy, well-executed and does the most important things for a collaboration in my eyes – it allows each artist to be themselves and preserve their original style while creating a stunning blend of new sounds and energies.

The three artists are operating in different scenes, and all of them have proved to be masters of what they do. Their collaboration sounds natural and meant to be – the synergy is next level and the different parts presented in drastically different manners make the song diverse and exciting.

Monsters is a true pop-punk anthem for the realization of your self-destruction inflicted by going back to a toxic relationship. All Time Low set the perfect foundation with their established pop-punk splendour, Blackbear joins in with fast-paced rap-inspired verses, and Demi Lovato brings the final touch with her gentle complementary vocals. It is a true work in unison bringing a result that is beyond satisfying. 

Treat Of The Year: Mac Miller – Circles

In January we saw the first burst of amazing musical downpour which also included an album I consider a treat for all of us.

Mac Miller’s posthumous album Circles arrived on January 17th, two days before the artist’s birthday. The world of hip-hop suffered a tragic loss in September 2018, and even though it was a public fact that he had tones of unreleased music ready, most of us didn’t count on ever seeing a new release from the artist.

You can read my review on the album here

Mac Miller was in the process of developing a three-act album cycle that started with Swimming. Circles – finished and refined by Jon Brion, a close friend and collaborator of Mac, was the second part of this journey. The twelve tracks are packed with the artist’s unique vibe, unveiling vulnerability, healing, and casual acceptance of hard-to-swallow truths about life. It is also interesting to observe the focus on singing more than rapping and the innovative blend of new techniques that were put into motion.

We will never see the third part (supposed to be focused on pure hip-hop), but Circles showed us where things were heading to. The album feels like a proper final goodbye from the artist leaving us with one final message to hold on to.

Surprise Of The Year: Taylor Swift – Folklore

Amidst the overflow of great music this year, there were a few attention-grabbing surprises. Taylor Swift’s eight studio album was a literal surprise album (no announcement or promotion) and featured a side of the artists we never saw before.

I am not the biggest fan of the pop icon, but this album convinced me she has the artistic capabilities to produce great material. Folklore consists of mellow tunes mostly constructed by piano, guitar, and gentle vocals. The upbeat pop explosion that the artist usually carries with her is replaced by an indie type of energy surrounding all of the sixteen tracks.

The album sounds mellow but brooding – it has an eerie vibe suiting the narrative well. In terms of themes and lyrics, Folklore follows a narrative about different people and stories that somehow intertwine. It is a great conceptual storytelling piece and am immersive experience to dive into. 

It started with imagery. Visuals that popped into my mind and piqued my curiosity. Stars drawn around scars. A cardigan that still bears the scent of loss twenty years later. Battleships sinking into the ocean, down, down, down. The tree swing in the woods of my childhood. Hushed tones of “let’s run away” and never doing it. The sun drenched month of August, sipped away like a bottle of wine. A mirrored disco ball hovering above a dance floor. A whiskey bottle beckoning. Hands held through plastic. A single thread that, for better or for worse, ties you to your fate. Pretty soon these images in my head grew faces or names and became characters. I found myself not only writing my own stories, but also writing about or from the perspective of people I’ve never met, people I’ve known, or those I wish I hadn’t.

Taylor Swift

Swift caught us all off-guard, but the album is truly a delight from start to end. The stunning sixteen tracks take you on a memorable adventure and prove that pop music is not the only thing this artist thrives in.

Comeback Of The Year: Nothing But Thieves – Moral Panic

I love artist comebacks! As much as it sucks having an artist you love missing from the scene for a long time, the excitement, satisfaction, and desire to see their return is incredible.

Nothing But Thieves took quite a break from new music and remained quiet for over two years. Their unique vocal-sound combination and special energy were very much missed, but the wait was totally worth it.

You can read my review on the album here

Moral Panic is one of the best and most important albums of 2020. It features the beloved electrifying instrumentals and the stunning combination of operatic vocals mixed in with other techniques by Conor Mason that gives the band this specific atmosphere.

The album dissects the many crises society has brought upon itself and merges in personal self-reflection to complement it. With an overall feel screaming “the end of the world has arrived”, the album is a thought-proving masterpiece with incredible sound. It almost feels like Nothing But Thieves waited with their comeback for the time they are most needed and surpassed every expectation.

From opener Unperson to closing track Before We Drift Away, fittingly using the same small details to close the cycle, Moral Panic is a beautifully executed overview of the current state of society and an alarming call for action we needed to hear.

Most Important Release Of The Year: Bring Me The Horizon – Post Human: Survival Horror

Bring Me The Horizon outdo themselves with every new release, but this time things escalated drastically.

Post Human: Survival Horror is the first part of four thematic EPs which will be constructed around “on-the-moment inspiration”. The idea is to ditch the exhausting and time-consuming album concept and work in sudden bursts of creative energy.

Survival Horror makes the idea crystal clear with the 9-track 32-minute duration showing a return to the deathcore days of the band. The EP also comes with the right message at the right time – it is a fitting unity of angry, heavy music exposing the most relevant issues of modern society. Unless we take action immediately, we might not have a future on this planet, and Survival Horror proves that with earth-shattering conviction.

You can read my review on the EP here

Post Human: Survival Horror’s tracks unite under the concept of exposing the idiocy of humanity and the self-destructive nature of our current mindset. The band dissects the most pressing issues of modern days by ruthlessly demanding collective action – hypocrisy, worldwide tragedies, environmental disasters, fascist mindsets and manipulation of the masses are amongst the many problems debated in the nine tracks.

Featuring on-point collaborators the album has a very dystopian, apocalyptic nature fitting the concept. It is represented by every single element of the music – the thundering instrumentals, powerful vocals, cyber-punk elements, chaotic atmosphere, the feel of devastation, and illustrative video content.

It really is the last chance we have to make things right with our only home and this is no longer a discussion but an undeniable fact. Bring Me The Horizon are one of the many artists who channelled their music towards highlighting this message. I think they did it in the best way so far – the combination of different elements, the blend of global and personal in the lyrics, the music evolution compared to previous releases, and the well-executed concept just make it stand out from the rest.

Music Revolution Of The Year: Sleeps Society – While She Sleeps

2020 pushed musicians into a corner. The pandemic cut the main source of income for artists and affected the supporting crew – booking managers, touring teams, stage technicians, etc. The industry suffered a lot, and this urged many bands and artists to adapt to the situations in ways they see fit.

Pandemic or not, revolutionizing the music industry was bound to happen sooner or later. It is not a secret that the world of professional music is severely flawed – creative limitations and income deficit for most artists is a given. While She Sleeps – probably the most persistent and odds-defying metalcore formation, is one of the bands that has been consistently damaged over the years.

The band also started a killer podcast as part of their renewed activities. It’s worth the listen

This year, yet again with back against the wall, they took the initiative to kickstart the industry revolution the world needs. Many bands have resorted to crowdfunding campaigns for the release of albums, but what While She Sleeps put into motion is a completely reinvented system of band-fan interaction and collaboration.

Read more and join the Sleeps Society here

Sleeps Society was launched in October this year as a platform allowing fans to directly support the band and take part of their journey.

After 14 years as a band & in the ever-changing climate that is the music industry, we are embarking on a new chapter of our life as While She Sleeps.
Our goal is to create a sustainable model for artists & creatives, to break from the traditional industry mold by building and developing a true interdependence between the band & fans.
With the future of live performances uncertain, the Sleeps Society will enable a secure existence for WSS and gives us the opportunity to stay connected with our fanbase. Developing new ways to provide for our supporters and fill the void left without live music.

– While She Sleeps

Sleeps Society is a fully-fledged media channel allowing an intimate connection with the band. The benefits of becoming a member are numerous featuring things like early access to tickets, special video series (including mental health talks, writing sessions, vocal and instrumental behind-the-scenes), While She Sleeps warehouse workshops, recording decision polls, unreleased demos and lost ideas, as well as free entrance to headline shows and access to sound-check for high tier members.

The idea behind the platform is not only to help While She Sleeps continue being the band they are, but also to branch out to other artists and help them get to this level of connection every musician-fan relationship deserves. It is a great step forward for the music industry – in the hands of While She Sleeps chances for success are looking good.

Livestream Initiative Of The Year: Mike Shinoda (Dropped Frames)

As touring and festivals got completely out of questions this year, many artists turned to the digital world. Livestream concerts took over the scene, and soon different formats emerged. Musicians adapted to the current situation and used it to find new ways to connect with their audience.

Even though there were a lot of admirable initiatives worth talking about, the one that takes the top spot for me is Mike Shinoda’s livestream recording of the Dropped Frames EP series.

The multi-talent artist started livestreaming from his studio, goofing around with beat-making, remixing, and even drawing while chatting with his fans. The initiative quickly grew into a regular thing, and Shinoda started taking requests for the beat creation. From specific genres like 80s rock to abstract hints like “anime prog metal video game sounds” challenges were thrown at the artist, and he used most of them to construct interesting instrumentals.

This eventually led to the release of Dropped Frames Vol 1 – an EP created by Mike Shinoda and the fans suggestions. The interaction kept growing so Vol 2 and 3 surfaced quickly with Mike levelling-up the connection with the fans further and further.

I think this collaborative effort and the dedication towards making the livestream progressively more interesting deserves praise.

This concludes the 2020 Lame Blogger Music Awards. There are plenty of releases and artists that deserve the attention, but I couldn’t fit here. If I tried listing every noteworthy record, this post would become way too long, but there are some which I feel really bad for not talking about.

I have reviewed most of them during the year – Halsey’s Manic (read review), Jessie ReyezBefore Love Came To Kills Us (read review), Dominic Fike’s What Could Possibly Go Wrong (read review), and Hayley WilliamsPetals For Armor (read review) being some of the albums that certainly shaped the success of 2020’s music.

The year was a grand success surpassing the glory of 2019, which I didn’t expect at all. This just comes to prove artists are unpredictable and have the power to make a terrible year a bit better and more hopeful with their music. Let’s hope for a good 2021 run as well and see what it brings us.
Thank you for reading and happy holidays!

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