It seems appropriate to see off 2020, and welcome in 2021, with songs of despair and hope. There are, of course, a hundred songs I could have included in either list. To choose just five in each category was an almost impossible task, and the selections are rather arbitrary. To pare it down a bit, I excluded songs primarily of heartbreak and love ache and straightforward protest songs too, though some here (Lauryn Hill’s “Black Rage”, for instance) may straddle the line. Still, there are a hundred more I could have included, and a hundred more still that I’ve forgotten about. There are also songs here that could have gone in either list – most notably Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” (Jeff Buckley’s version of which I have included here), whose meaning depends on how you read it (Cohen himself, I think, saw it as a song of hope more than of despair). Its very ambiguity makes it perhaps the ideal song to transition to a new year.
Happy New Year, all. Thanks for your support through a very trying year and look forward to a more hopeful one.