For example, in the “Best Songs of 2020,” Jon Pareles, Jon Caramanica and Lindsay Zoladz featured Bad Bunny’s “Yo Perreo Sola,” Taylor Swift’s “Betty” and Jamila Woods’s “Sula (Paperback).” Ms. Zoladz’s first pick was the “Savage (Remix)” by Megan Thee Stallion featuring Beyoncé:
With all due respect to the other member of the Carters, there’s something about collaborating with another strong woman that brings out the best in Beyoncé, especially when she’s rapping. (It was, after all, her first team-up with Nicki Minaj that educated us about what goes down when it’s a billion dollars on an elevator.) Megan Thee Stallion’s solo cut of “Savage” was universally beloved enough to start a TikTok craze, but Beyoncé’s supremely dialed-in remix elevated it to an all-out anthem. But of course, the Queen is really here for a coronating co-sign of Megan Thee Stallion — the defining artist of a year that seemed a never-ending showcase for her bravado, poise and finely calibrated fury. “Savage” is so much more than a meme, an Instagram caption, a TikTok dance: It is a joyous assertion of Black female personhood in a world that needed it as desperately as water.
In the list of best video games, Stephen Totilo reviewed Demon’s Souls Remastered:
On its face, it’s just another single-player video game that lets players control a knight, a magician or another protagonist, and fight men and monsters while looking out for deadly traps. More subtly, it’s a game of low-key multiplayer assistance and treachery from a lead creator who was inspired when strangers wordlessly helped him during a snowstorm. As a result, Demon’s Souls is designed to be a brutally difficult game whose hardships are leavened by the ability to leave helpful messages and warnings of dangers for other players. On the flip side, players can also invade each other’s games and wreak havoc.
And in “The 10 Best Books of 2020,” The Times had this to say about Brit Bennett’s “The Vanishing Half”:
Beneath the polished surface and enthralling plotlines of Bennett’s second novel, after her much admired “The Mothers,” lies a provocative meditation on the possibilities and limits of self-definition. Alternating sections recount the separate fates of Stella and Desiree, twin sisters from a Black Louisiana town during Jim Crow, whose residents pride themselves on their light skin. When Stella decides to pass for white, the sisters’ lives diverge, only to intersect unexpectedly, years later. Bennett has constructed her novel with great care, populating it with characters, including a trans man and an actress, who invite us to consider how identity is both chosen and imposed, and the degree to which “passing” may describe a phenomenon more common than we think.
Students, choose one of the “Best of 2020” articles to read, then tell us:
What was your reaction to the article you read? Were you familiar with the selections that the reviewer made? Were you persuaded by the way the reviewer described the work? What would you change if you were to write a “best of” list for that category?
In his introduction to “Best Performances of 2020,” Wesley Morris writes: “One day, we’ll look back on this year and bawl. But we should also remember that there were professionals out there who dared to bring joy to our screens.” How have the events of 2020 affected how you consume culture and media? Has culture felt more important to you this year? Or have you not had the mental space to consume culture in the same way?
Make a list of 10 favorite things you watched, read or listened to in 2020. You can include newspaper articles, sports and TikTok videos along with books, movies and TV shows. What made each thing special, funny, touching or surprising to you?
Using the excerpts above as a guideline, choose one of your favorite things from 2020 and write a review about it. Start by identifying your argument: Why is this thing so great? Then, analyze it closely: What parts of its structure, design, appearance or experience make it so enjoyable? Finally, explain why it is meaningful or interesting to you, and why others should care about it.
If you feel excited about what you’re writing, you can develop and revise your review to submit it to our Review Contest. The contest runs from Dec. 8, 2020, to Jan. 26, 2021, and your review must be 450 words or fewer. Just be sure that whatever you’ve selected is new to you and something you experienced personally. You should also read all of the rules before submitting.