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The best of 2020

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Neal P. Corpus

Posted on December 31, 2020

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Here’s to the albums, songs, films, shows, podcasts, and books that made this year more bearable.

Well folks, we made it. It’s the end of the year. To say that 2020 has been crazy is an understatement, there was at least one good thing about it: pop culture. Albums, songs, films, shows, podcasts, and books provided a salve that helped us get through this storm of a year.

To commemorate — and pretty much just bid the year good riddance — we compiled a list of 20 favorites from 21 people (here’s looking at you, 2021), for their favorite piece of media that made their year just a little bit more bearable.

“Folklore” by Taylor Swift

"Folklore" by Taylor Swift

“Every new Taylor Swift album is a landmark in my life, and Folklore came right when I needed it.

I love that Taylor explored a different side while still providing a reliable emotional crutch like only she can. The songs were introspective, but their storytelling reads like a novel and gives you an escape, which is what I need from 2020, TBH.” — Andrea Beldua, photographer

“Delight” by Baekhyun

"Delight" by Baekhyun

“‘Delight’ by Baekhyun is probably my favorite K-pop release this year — a zero-skips R&B album that hits every note just right.

EXO member Baekhyun has always been a great performer, and ‘Delight’ proves that he doesn’t have to bust out his powerful vocals to make good music.
The lead single Candy is honestly pitch perfect; I could play it on repeat all day.” — Marga Buenaventura, editor

“Soul Lady” by Yukika Teramoto

"Soul Lady" by Yukika Teramoto

“K-pop idol Yukika Teramoto’s album ‘Soul Lady’ got me through the latter part of 2020. The whole thing is a modern city pop album, featuring synths, a groovy bass and brass section which complement her light and airy voice.

Billboard said the album was filled with saudade, that feeling of longing and nostalgia, and it is fully the truth.

The album features sounds I never knew I’d miss: Idle, excited chatter of crowds, airport announcements, and the sound of an airplane taking off. SOUL LADY took me to all the cities I miss, having been stuck inside my room for so long.” — Toni Potenciano, strategist and writer

“Punisher” by Phoebe Bridgers

"Punisher" by Phoebe Bridgers

“Something that got me through this year (or more like dragged my tired, depressed, rotting carcass of a person to the 2020 finish line) was Phoebe Bridgers' sophomore album, ‘Punisher.’

Phoebe has always been so good at making music about sadness and despair in such an honest, even funny way — more so in this album. ‘Punisher’ was the perfect soundtrack to what felt like the end of the world.” — JL Javier, photographer

“Belting out every song in ‘Punisher’ has been weirdly cathartic for me. Ever since it came out last June, I’ve been finding myself playing it while I’m working, driving, or whenever I’m alone in my room (which is 90% of the time).

One of my favorite songs from it is Chinese Satellite since it’s about wanting to believe in something beyond all of this, especially with what’s happening right now.” — Sam Ganzon, illustrator

“5 EPs” by Dirty Projectors

"5 EPs" by Dirty Projectors

“Dirty Projectors' ‘5 EPs’ is a collection of five EPs eventually released as a full length album, one of each written by female members of the band. They kept me inspired and showed that writing music can be for anyone in the band no matter how different they may be. Girl power!” — Jermaine Choa Peck, musician and actor

Good Days by SZA

Good Days by SZA

“I’ve had Good Days by SZA on repeat ever since I first heard it. Even before she released the full version of it, I was scavenging online for snippets of the song.

She sings about believing in good days even when times could be dark. Living in uncertain times, the belief that there will be better days is what kept me afloat. She interpolates nature sounds into the melody which is also so comforting. “I still wanna try, still believe in good days.”

I’ve been trying to manifest better days with this song and the change of perspective really brought a bit more light into my life this year.” — Kitkat Pajaro, photographer

Life Goes On by BTS

Life Goes On by BTS

“It’s been a month since BTS released [the song] Life Goes On, but I still listen to it every day. Each listen feels like a warm hug; the lyrics perfectly capturing the mixed feelings of anxiety and helplessness brought about by the current world situation.

And while everything just seems to get worse as the months go by, Life Goes On is my daily pick-me-up; a reminder to keep going in these uncertain times.” — Gaby Gloria, editor

Zombie by DAY6

Zombie by DAY6

“Twenty-twenty was awful but like for most people, K-Pop was the one glimmer of hope for me. There were many SOTY contenders but my favorite was Zombie by DAY6. Dance anthems were great, but as a Warped Tour (and Bazooka Rocks) regular — a rock song like this resonated with me the most and provided true healing.

The lyrics (in both Korean and English versions) felt like a warm hug and assured me that I wasn’t alone in this hellhole. It’s the type of song you’d scream out while lying on the floor after a long day, the type of song that just… understood.” — Carmela Ramirez, PR practitioner

Hyperballad by Björk

Hyperballad by Björk

“My favorite song of 2020 is also a song from my favorite album of 2020 and it is called Hyperballad by Björk. I love how the arrangement is orchestrated beautifully and unique, and how timeless the sound is.

Her work always inspires me to be bold about ideas and take risks that will bring light into the music.” — Ena Mori, musician

For You (Hai Tur) by Scrubb

For You (Hai Tur) by Scrubb

“I first heard this song in a Thai BL series released this year. It was baffling how music with lyrics I did not understand brought me years back to when I sang my heart out before college OPM bands performing live.

Scrubb’s indie pop discography does not disappoint, but For You takes the cake for reminding that no matter where we come from, many of us may share similar first experiences. And at a time when we need to get out of our own head the most, this song does a stellar job of helping you do so.” — Chad de Guzman, journalist

Cleaners by Glenn Barit

Cleaners by Glenn Barit

Cleaners by Glenn Barit, a high school anthology is my lockdown favorite for a very personal and selfish reason: everything, for the first time, was relatable for me.

It would’ve been such a treat to see all the famous Tugue tambayans on the big screen, something I was looking forward to doing on that week they announced that Manila lockdown last March.
Instead, I got to watch Cleaners months later via Upstream, from a laptop perched on my bed back at home in Tuguegarao.” — Clara Cayosa, graphic designer

Ammonite by Francis Lee

Ammonite trailer

“Isolation has been something we've all learned to adapt to, even for real-life 19th Century geologist Mary Anning. In this bold drama, the story of an intense love rooted in necessity and desire showed me that love can be difficult or out of place, but still passionate, caring, and generous.

Mary Anning and Charlotte Murchison, embodied gracefully by Kate Winslet and Saoirse Ronan, were two different women, but their love was as real as it was captivating, and to have found it in the most unexpected situations only made it more irresistible.

But maybe I'm partial, as I have found real love myself, and yes, I know, in the middle of a pandemic.” — Robyn Miranda, filmmaker

Possessor by Brandon Croenberg

Possessor trailer

Possessor is a visually stunning film. It made my jaw drop. A must watch for any visual, horror and sci-fi junkie. Any jaw dropping act is a positive impact in my books.” — Dash Araya, sculptor

Devs

Devs trailer

“I was inspired by the miniseries Devs (directed by Alex Garland) when I saw it around April at the start when we were all adjusting to the effects of the lockdown.

I got discouraged from shooting a small sci-fi passion project because of the impact of the pandemic to the audio-visual industry. Seeing it and being amazed with the theme, storytelling, and visuals in the middle of all the uneasiness gave me a little hope.” — Jan Pineda, creative director

BTS in the Soop

BTS in the Soop trailer

“[The show] BTS In the Soop is an escape for people who are stuck in quarantine in the city. Starring global superstars and everyone’s fave besties BTS, the show is set in the forests of Gangwon-do Chuncheon.

It’s basically part Terrace House (chill, reality show vibes with zero drama), and part Barefoot Contessa (they do a lot of cooking). It’s my dream quarantine scenario but while I can’t go out of the house just yet, I’ll just play this on loop in the meantime.” — Maine Manalansan, editor and producer

Taskmaster

Taskmaster trailer

“My favorite show that has come out in 2020 is the 10th season of Taskmaster. It's not a new release but in 2020 they put a lot of the full episodes up on YouTube and it's been the best pick me up for me during quarantine.” — Slo Lopez, make-up artist

Ang Walang Kwentang Podcast

Ang Walang Kwentang Podcast hosted by Antoinette Jadaone and Juan Miguel Severo

"One of my favorite quarantine discoveries is Ang Walang Kwentang Podcast, a podcast created by director Antoinette Jadaone and writer-actor Juan Miguel Severo.

Just hearing them talk—or more often that not, tease each other—reminds me so much of my own friends, and the nights and early mornings we’ve spent just talking. Getting to have that feeling again, especially during this time, is everything—not walang kwenta at all.” — Gian Nicdao, art director

Blank Check with Griffin & David

Blank Check with Griffin & David

“This year, I finally decided to get into podcasts! My favorite is Blank Check with Griffin & David, a podcast that covers director filmographies.

I listen while I’m doing chores, and it’s helped to fill in the silence that comes with being at home and having hardly anyone to talk to.

The hosts are a hilarious and intelligent duo, and they give a lot of context to the movies they cover, which helps me to appreciate the final output even more in the end.” — Mandy Cruz, band manager

My Korea: Traditional Flavors, Modern Recipes by Hooni Kim

My Korea: Traditional Flavors, Modern Recipes by Hooni Kim

“My Korea written by Chef Hooni Kim really inspired me to view Korean cuisine (and food in general), in a new light.

It really helped push me in the direction in which I want to take my craft as a chef — with cleaner and more straightforward flavors, figuring out how to bring the best in something so simple.” — Edward Dela Cruz, chef

The Music Mind Experience by Karl Berger

The Music Mind Experience by Karl Berger

“This book is for people who are seeking to express themselves through music on deeper and more intimate level.

When I read this book, it reminds me to grow confidence in my uniqueness even though the language of music is universal. It makes me feel excited about the unknown.” — Pat Sarabia, musician

Need more bingeing material for the new year? Check out our How I Escape series with recos on books, films, and podcasts.

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