Thanks to the coronavirus pandemic, the shape of the music world has been dramatically different in 2020. Gigs remain largely much out of the question for now, festivals have taken an enforced fallow year, and the doors of our favourite clubs and pubs have all been bolted shut for the year to protect from the spread of the virus.

NME’s People of the Year looks a little different this year, too. Ordinarily, it might’ve been crammed full of stand-out headliners, the magical by-chance moments that came to define a festivas, and nimble orchestrators of the sets that brought thousands together into a flailing mass. But in 2020, it’s a celebration of the people who made a tough time that bit more bearable – and many of them used their platforms to challenge systemic racism, manage the tolls of lockdown, combat child poverty and arts funding, and the fight against the virus itself.

For the rest of this week, we’ll be rounding up the highlights from one of the weirdest years in living memory, and revisiting some of the biggest and best moments that gave us some much-needed respite. Check back later in the week for our favourite tracks, albums, films and TV shows of the year – all lovingly voted for and compiled by Team NME. Here are the people we couldn’t have done it without…

Arlo Parks

It’s been hard for emerging artists to make any headway in 2020, with gigs off the cards and crucial slots during festival season a complete wasteland. You have to wonder if that lack of communal moments is why the intimate, brilliant songwriting of Londoner Arlo Parks acted as a crux for many during lockdown’s most difficult periods.

In June, a breakout performance during BBC One’s replacement Glastonbury coverage in June showcased a star whose greatest strength was vulnerability. Her empathetic anthem ‘Black Dog’ – and its simply devastating lyrics – acted as a soothing balm in the year from hell. Parks’ message was clear: keep moving forward, there’s always light at the end of the tunnel, no matter how often it may dim.

During what could have been a downtime, Parks won praise for her stunning rendition of Phoebe Bridgers’ ‘Moon Song’, nabbed her debut NME cover and completed work on her upcoming debut album, ‘Collapsed In Sunbeams’. It wasn’t the traditional rise to fame for a burgeoning artist, but Parks’ can-do spirit offered a reminder of the power of kindness.

Why 2020 belongs to her: As the sun set on Worthy Farm, her beautiful performance during Glastonbury’s cancelled 50th weekender was a tear-jerking reminder of the power songwriters like herself can yield. Thomas Smith