2020 was a rollercoaster ride. From start to finish, it was a strange year filled with world-shifting events like a global pandemic, wildfires, lockdowns and political drama. For most of us, this was one of the most difficult periods of our lives, but through it all, we found joy in the little things, and overcame adversities by uniting and being more appreciative of each other—plus, many of us picked up a bunch of new hobbies.
All in all, we survived! If we were to pick a song to describe the whole year, it would definitely be “I Will Survive” by Gloria Gaynor. But why pick just one song for the entire year when you can create an entire soundtrack? Here at CuttingRoomMusic, we decided to create a fun survey to see how people would describe last year by picking a song that they think best depicts the events of each month of 2020. The results that came back were pretty amazing.
With all things considered, it looks like being stuck in the house and working from home for most of last year brought out a wild sense of humor in many people. The song choices of the survey participants for each month are very entertaining, and accurately describe the emotional state we’ve all been going through during those times. With the responses gathered, we were able to create the soundtrack of 2020, and even a Spotify playlist. You can check out the playlist by scrolling down to the end of the article.
As a disclaimer, we are aware that several tragic events unfolded during 2020, but with this survey, our aim was to bring a little joy both to you, our readers, as well as to all of those who took their time to complete this survey.
January – Highway to hell
January felt like a really packed month full of events. It’s safe to say that all of us started the new year optimistic, but then things slowly started going downhill. The Australia wildfires, followed by the climate change summit, Kobe Bryant’s death, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle quitting the royal family, and the first news of COVID-19 emerging in Wuhan all occurred in January.
It’s no wonder the majority of the respondents chose AC/DC’s iconic “Highway to Hell” track to describe this month. The song’s mood and energy goes so well with what we were feeling in that particular time period. 21% of respondents also chose “We Didn’t Start the Fire” by Billy Joel, clearly referencing the wildfires that were ravaging Australia. Other top-voted songs were “Bad News” by Kanye West, and “Crazy Train” by Ozzy Osbourne.
February – Oh, the irony
February was a pretty stable month, all things considered. The most noteworthy events of the month were The Oscars, particularly Parasite winning movie of the year. The Democratic presidential debate also took place in February, as well as Trump’s (first) impeachment. The majority of survey respondents felt that Alanis Morissette’s “Ironic” best described this month.
Whether the respondents chose the song because, at the time, they actually felt like things were looking up compared to January only to be deceived later on, or because of Trump’s impeachment, is totally up for interpretation. Other songs that were picked include “February Stars“ by Foo Fighters, “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough“ by Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell and “Life Is Good“ by Future and Drake.
March – It’s the end of the World
By the time March arrived, the new coronavirus started spreading worldwide, and lockdowns and shelter-ins were instated. These events also triggered a stock market crash. Plus, Tom Hanks got infected with COVID-19 and we all started hoarding toilet paper for some reason. Things were starting to get just a little bit crazy.
R.E.M.’s “It’s The End Of The World” was voted by 47% of respondents as the song that best described March 2020. A bit of a dramatic choice, but the people have spoken. Other songs picked by the survey participants include “Gnarls Barkley – Crazy,“ “Bring Me The Horizon – Parasite Eve,“ and of course “Talking Heads – Paper,“ that most definitely indicates the craze regarding toilet papers at the time.
April – Times are changing, but every day is exactly the same
April found us struggling with this new pandemic, with most of us spending all of our time indoors. It seemed like the whole world was on pause this month, but we managed to find creative ways to stay optimistic by picking up new hobbies and connecting online. Still, there was a feeling of uneasiness.
Nine Inch Nails’ “Every Day Is Exactly the Same” and Bob Dylan’s “The Times They Are Changing” were both equally voted as the songs that best depicted how we felt in April 2020. “I Want to Break Free” by Queen was also voted by 19% of the survey recipients, and songs like “I Can’t Go Outside” by Channel Tres, “The Lazy Song” by Bruno Mars and “Stuck With U” by Ariana Grande & Justin Bieber were also voted at least once.
May – This is America
By the end of May, lockdowns started to be lifted, but social distancing, wearing masks at all times and disinfecting our hands became the new norm. This was also the month when the Black Lives Matter movement picked up steam.
Things were starting to get more and more intense. For May 2020, Americans voted Childish Gambino’s “This Is America” as their song of choice. Respondents felt that this song represented best the state they were in at that time. Three Days Grace’s “Riot,” Run the Jewels’ “Close Your Eyes” and Bastille’s “Doom Days” also received some attention.
June – Sunshine
Suddenly, it was summer. By June, there were no more lockdowns, and we could finally enjoy some hiking trips, a beer with friends, and a refreshing walk in the park—all the while still practicing social distancing, of course. No wonder most participants chose Atmosphere’s “Sunshine” as the soundtrack of June 2020. “Sunshine” is a song about waking up from a bad hangover, and that’s exactly how at least 23% of respondents felt like.
July – Waiting on the World to change
For the most part, July was a breezy month. The world was slowly adapting to the work-from-home lifestyle, we were picking up new hobbies and going on trips with close friends, but the pandemic and Black Lives Matter movements were still unfolding. John Mayer’s “Waiting On the World to Change” was the top choice for the survey participants, but songs like “Stressed Out” by Twenty One Pilots and “The End Has No End” by The Strokes were also favorites.
August – The less I know, the better
By August, COVID-19 cases were dropping worldwide, and the world was getting back in motion. Sadly, this was also the month when Black Panther actor Chadwick Boseman passed away and West Coast Wildfires erupted. 27% of our survey participants chose Gary Jules’ “Mad World” as the song that best described this month, however, Tame Impala’s “The Less I Know The Better” as well as “All the Stars” by Kendrick Lamar and SZA were also among the most voted.
September – Wake me up when…
The second wave of COVID-19 was already looming in September. As the weather started getting colder, we paid even more attention to protecting ourselves against the coronavirus. Yet there still was optimism in the air. For September, it was obvious that Green Day’s “Wake Me Up When September Ends” would win by a long shot. 50% of the survey participants claimed this was their song of choice for September 2020.
October – Please, don’t stand so close to me
The second coronavirus wave started closing in, and we became more and more cautious. This was also the month when Donald Trump got infected with the COVID-19 virus. The pandemic was really getting to us at this point, that’s probably why 34% of the survey recipients chose “The Police – Don’t Stand So Close To Me” as the best song that described October 2020. “Charlotte Lawrence – Joke’s On You“ and “Ramones – I Wanna Be Sedated“ were also among the most voted songs.
November – We are the champions
Finally, election month. Joe Biden became the 46th president of the United States after a rollercoaster election process, and honestly, it seemed like everybody was talking about the elections for the entire month. “We Are the Champions” by Queen was the song of choice for November 2020, along with songs like “It Was A Good Day” by Ice Cube, “Miracle” by Rise Against, and of course, “Feel Good Inc.” by Gorillaz.
December – Livin’ on a Prayer
The COVID-19 vaccine rollout began in December 2020. The arrival of the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines, which were developed in less than a year, is regarded as one of the greatest scientific accomplishments in modern history. And what better way to celebrate this glimmer of hope than spending a safe and cozy Christmas and New Year’s Eve?
Our survey respondents decided to end the year with “Livin on a Prayer“ by Bon Jovi. 27% of the survey recipients felt like this song described December 2020. Other songs that received many votes include “Panic! At The Disco – Impossible Year,“ Leonard Cohen – “Hallelujah“ and Kool & The Gang – “Celebration.“
And just like that, the year was over. 2020 had its ups and downs, but we made it through, and all of us felt a little more hopeful by the end of the year. You can listen to the soundtrack of 2020 on our Spotify playlist below.
The survey was created with Google Forms, and distributed on Reddit and PollFish. For the Reddit distribution, we allowed open-ended responses. On PollFish, we provided a set of songs for respondents to vote from. We then aggregated the responses in Microsoft Excel to see the total percentage of songs voted from both distributions.