2020’s Best Slow-Burn Tracks

Art by Alan Lopez for Remezcla

Across genres, 2020 had a wealth of songs that hurt as they comforted. From 070 Shake’s standout, vulnerable “Guilty Conscience” which garnered several remixes to Omar Apollo’s replay-friendly “Stayback” and more, here are our favorite slow-burn tracks of the year:


070 Shake – “Guilty Conscience”

070 Shake, born Danielle Balbuena, bottles up the pleasure of pain on “Guilty Conscience,” which is sure to be a career-staple track. The all-at-once sweet and gut-punching artist is the best at what she does because, although her inspirations are clearly heard in the intros of the likes of “Rocketship” and “Divorce,” she seems to have no intention of fitting into shipshape molds of music defined before now. She bends sound around her voice and energy on any given day rather than the other way around and is refreshingly vulnerable while doing so. This synth-pop, slow-burn track released at the beginning of the year is, as is the case with the rest of her introductory full-length Modus Vivendi, a standout. 070 slowly picks at a scab left by the sight of her ex-lover’s body atop another one’s body. Dani has mastered the art of going hard while staying soft. —Ecleen Luzmila Caraballo

Kali Uchis – “Telepatía”

Lovers were put to the test with social distancing guidelines this year, making it difficult for people to have intimate moments; few songs spoke to the prescient feeling of distance and longing like “Telepatía” did. As seductive and catchy as it sounds, Uchis captured the feeling of craving a lover’s touch and the sadness that remembering that isn’t an option entails. To the singer, making love to someone through telepathy is a small revelation that comes with a significant amount of sadness. Thank Uchis for blessing us with the melancholic, lovers rock, slow-burn track so many needed this year. —Marcos Hassan

Nick Hakim – “QADIR”

Nick Hakim’s sophomore release, WILL THIS MAKE ME GOOD, was a commitment to his complex, experimental style of soul and R&B, but the album was deepened by the Brooklyn-based artist’s honest interrogation of a violent and tumultuous time. Hakim held little of his own pain and anxiety back, and perhaps no cut on the record was as emotionally palpable as “QADIR,” written in honor of his close friend’s death. He pleads for the kind of community connection that leads to healing: “There seems to be a complexity to being kind, to your space, to your temple, to your neighbors.” —Julyssa Lopez

Omar Apollo – “Stayback”

Omar Apollo came in hot with his debut album Apolonio this year. On “Stayback,” the rising indie-pop star proudly introduces his retro references to a new audience of Gen-Z listeners and embraces the funk music that he grew up on as a Chicano. The artist employs his falsetto as he tries to fight his feelings for an old flame. “I can’t help that you’ve been on my mind,” he sings. The slow-burn banger later received a co-sign from Bootsy Collins when the funk music legend jumped on the remix. Only Apollo could make a kiss-off track sound this sexy. —Lucas Villa

YEИDRY – “Nena”

YEИDRY is one of those artists who wears her multiculturality on her sleeve and her music. In her single “Nena,” the Dominican artist tells a story that resonates with a lot of immigrant families: a mother leaving her children to go find better opportunities. You hear the mother’s cry in YEИDRY’s voice as she prays for her nena to have the life the mother couldn’t have, while sending her la bendición. These musical cries and poignant lyrics, combined with subtle melodies that are strategically broken by a rhythmic speech, is what makes this song one of the best of 2020. —Maria G. Valdez

Kiana Ledé ft. Moneybagg, Yo and BIA – “Labels”

The second the beat drops, a familiar warm and gleeful sentimentality enthralls. Kiana Ledé’s “Labels” opens with a sampled, up-tempo take on Biggie Smalls’ legendary 1994 hit “Juicy.” Ledé croons sexy, melodic lyrics atop a R&B funk overlay and pays lyrical homage to the original track title in her hook, too, effortlessly compelling its listeners to bob in their seats. The accompanied rap verses emote ‘90s style flow which thread a new generation of listeners to it’s timeless sound. —Michaela Vargas Caro

Cleo Sol – “Shine”

Cleo Sol got many of us through this tumultuous year with her honeyed voice and timeless yet modern numbers like “When I’m In Your Arms” and “Young Love” on her lovely debut album Rose in the Dark. Still, it was “Shine,” a silky reggae single, that was a constant source of encouragement, apt to sit on playlists with greats who did the same well before her time. “This world was made for you,” the London-based, Serbian-Spanish-Jamaican singer beckons, “so do what you have to do.” Sol gently caresses the listener’s wounded soul with ease and shines while doing so. —Ecleen Luzmila Caraballo


Mexican R&B collective AQUIHAYAQUIHAY sing like they have nothing to lose on their single “Quién.” Members Phynx, Jay Lee, Neqer, Zizzy y Nehly help us find all the words we need to say to reignite the interest of a former lover while a mellow guitar line weaves together all of our mixed feelings. As much as they deny being a boyband, “Quién” shows how their voices easily connect us with our most irrational desires through some Boyz-II-Men-shenanigans. This is the kind of song you can play 10 times in a row without getting tired of it, and it’s the perfect anthem for those risky late-night texts during the holidays. Consume responsibly. —Carlos Soto

María Isabel – “Distance”

“Distance” by newcomer Dominican artist María Isabel represents what most of us have felt in 2020. While she wrote the song thinking about a long-distance relationship, the lyrics can apply to all the different stages of quarantine and lockdown. “Longing fills the room/And I don’t know what to do,” she sings, accurately representing this new normal. But what makes the song great—besides Isabel’s vulnerability and velvety voice—is that somehow you end up feeling better after listening. The ballad-like pop song fused with R&B evokes nostalgic feelings and, once the song is over, you’ll feel like a weight has been lifted off your shoulders. —Maria G. Valdez

Cupido – “La Pared”

Cupido seemed to have everything going their way in 2019; their first major release Préstame Un Sentimiento was backed up by a massive tour with over 60 dates, but everything came to a hard stop after the band’s frontman requested indefinite time off for a reset.

After a six-month hiatus, the band (Solo Astra and Pimp Flaco) returned to the spotlight with a single that marked a departure from their previous light pop-leaning tracks. “La Pared” explores a darker side of love with an undertone of impending doom, the termination of a relationship, and the contradictory feeling that comes with leaving the door open to continue the relationship in the future—a vivid description of Pimp Flaco’s state in late 2019 to early 2020. —Joel Moya

Honorary Mentions

Calma Carmona – “Sentir”
Isabella Lovestory – “Whiskey & Coca Cola”
Quin – “2020”
Jona Camacho – “Te Choca Te Checa” ft. feat. Vanessa Zamora
Maye – “La Canción” (Remix)