Alright, now that I finally got this finished, it’s time for my picks for the best hits of 2021. Despite a disappointing year overall compared to the chaos that was 2020, the music for this year was kinda good, but not great. I would say that this was a little bit better than 2020’s hits but overall, both were kinda the same in terms of quality. I liked this year for music even with its bad stuff that creeped on to the Top 40 and the great stuff getting shafted and never charting at all. Either way, it’s time to close the year where it could’ve been a hell of a lot better with the songs that I thought made it worthwhile. Disclaimer: This is all just my opinion so if you don’t like any of these songs, including my number one pick, then that’s fine, we are dealing with current mainstream Top 40 music after all. Anyways, let’s get started:
10- Kings & Queens
by Ava Max (Hot 100 Peak: #13)- Ever since Dua Lipa broke into the mainstream in 2018 and proved that upbeat, club style music could be revived, it of course led to other female pop singers to try their hands at her style of music and one of them was Ava Max hailing from Wisconsin. In 2019, she gained a big hit with “Sweet But Psycho” and took another year and a half for her to make it big with this song. The lyrics about female empowerment are great and empowering to all the females who are struggling to find success and independent though I feel like it could use another line about the kings helping the queens for both to be happy. The production is good with the guitar being great and the beat and synths add a sense of aggressiveness and bounciness to the song that works to its advantage. The singing might be processed in the chorus, but in the verses, Ava sells it with her singing which also adds weight to the verses. It might be derivative of Dua Lipa, but it’s a song that stands on its own and I’m happy that it got big. Don’t know what’s Ava’s future after this song, but I hope she gets another hit soon.
9- Industry Baby
by Lil Nas X & Jack Harlow (Hot 100 Peak: #1)- Earlier in the year, Lil Nas X attracted controversy with the music video for his song “MONTERO (Call Me By Your Name)” which featured Satanic imagery but despite that controversy, his career wasn’t affected and that song became a number one hit, including this follow up single which also went to number one. The beat courtesy of Take A Daytrip is really great with the horn flourishes adding a grandeur to the song and which perfectly matches the lyrics about him boasting about his success. While the lyrics might not be groundbreaking, the way how he delivers it more than makes up for it with his delivery and flow being great. Jack Harlow also does a good job, and he actually does much better than his previous biggest hit “Whats Poppin”, managing to use his featured verse to his advantage to add to the song rather than having it be haphazardly tacked on. The only complaint I have is the title of the song which only appears at the end of the song when I feel like the title could’ve been “The Break Is Over” and because it’s less awkward. It’s a very poppy rap song for sure, but it’s a great one that works in all areas for a rapper who keeps evolving from the novelty hit that made him big in the first place.
by Internet Money & Gunna feat. Don Toliver & NAV (Hot 100 Peak: #6)- By this point, brag rap songs has been so overused that it’s near impossible to make an interesting variation that doesn’t sound like all the others and this song is no exception. That’s really the worse that I can say about it cause as a typical rap song about bragging, it’s extremely solid. The beat courtesy of Internet Money is really good with the guitar complimenting the trap beat and the structure being good where it changes at the right time, so it won’t feel disorganized. The rapping from all three artists is all great with Don Toliver bringing energy to the chorus, NAV offering a simple verse and flow as a starter and finishing it off with Gunna giving it his all with his flow flowing along very well. It’s one of those songs that isn’t anything special, but it doesn’t matter due to how well crafted it is for a rap song and I’ll keep bumping to this in the future.
7- Things A Man Oughta Know
by Lainey Wilson (Hot 100 Peak: #32)- After so long of being put in the backseat in country music, female singers have officially cemented themselves back in the mainstream by the new decade with them offering their own point of view. Lainey Wilson from Louisiana stepped up to the plate and gave her own thoughts on being a country girl in this song. Not only do the lyrics show that she can do all the traditionally masculine things in the country lifestyle with great pride, but the chorus also shows that she can handle herself when it comes to a relationship whether stable or rocky, which is just beautiful. Her singing is also beautiful with her southern drawl flowing well throughout the song and the pop country production being well crafted with both the acoustic and electric guitar fitting well and the drums being good. The ending of the song with the synth is a bit weird and seems jarring but it’s minor. A well-deserved hit for Lainey and a great indicator that female country singers are back in full force.
6- Forever After All
by Luke Combs (Hot 100 Peak: #2)- Luke Combs is the gift that keeps on giving and this song is another great one from him. Even though it’s a simple love song, the way how Luke sings his heart out is really great and makes the lyrics pop out while the simple modern country production goes along with it well with the guitars, pianos, slide guitar and drums complimenting each other very well and can bring a tear to a man’s eye. Compared to his other songs such as “Beautiful Crazy” and especially “Even Though I’m Leaving”, this song might be not that special but it’s still a beautiful song either way that should’ve went to number one cause it was the perfect song to reach the top spot.
5- Leave The Door Open
by Silk Sonic (Bruno Mars & Anderson.Paak) (Hot 100 Peak: #1)- After being dormant in the music scene for what seemed like an eternity in the music world, Bruno Mars made a return as part of a duo called Silk Sonic with underground rapper Anderson.Paak being his collaborator and together, they went for an old school 1970’s R&B/Soul sound with their band. This is the first single from their newest project and man what a return because it is beyond words. The 70’s Philly Soul sound is phenomenal with all the instruments blending with each other very well and paying one of the best homages to the classic soul songs of the period. The lyrics are really great with them being sexy and romantic and reminiscent to the classic Barry White-esque sex jams of the 70’s. The singing from both soars high with Paak’s rough voice and Mars’ smooth sultry voice fitting incredibly well with the song though both do sound a bit similar, and some variation would be good. Overall, a very phenomenal song which was very unexpected, but it was the kind of song that we really needed in times like this.
by Kali Uchis (Hot 100 Peak: #25)- After dominating the music scene for less than 5 years, Latin music seems to be heading on a decline despite the year giving us some big Latin hits. Not only that, but the genre seemed to be moving away from the typical reggaeton sound by incorporating any sounds that it grabs onto. Noticing this, Hispanic singer Kali Uchis released a song about seduction using an 80’s synthpop sound and it all just works well. First, Kali sells it with her singing in both English and Spanish by sounding sexy and seductive and changing between the two languages so effectively. Second, the throwback sound has a modern sound to it to avoid sounding tired and derivative while sounding authentic at the same time as a love letter to the timeless hits of Madonna. Lastly, the lyrics tie it all together by sounding provocative and fun to give it a sense of playfulness to it. Even if you don’t understand Spanish, it’s a song that anyone can enjoy and to show that Latin can sound interesting if it wants to.
by Maneskin (The Four Seasons cover) (Hot 100 Peak: #13)- One thing that I’m looking forward to this new decade is the return to rock since it looks like the genre is making its long overdue comeback in the mainstream, and what way to lead it than a foreign act? Maneskin are an Italian rock band who were the winners of the 2021 Eurovision Contest with a song that sadly didn’t chart, but one that did was an old cover of theirs from 2017, that of The Four Seasons’ 1967 Top 20 hit “Beggin’”. The original version in my opinion is fine considering that I don’t like The Four Seasons, but this cover version beats it by an ocean mile by adding a rough rock instrumentation which sound great and adds more to the original melody. Singer Damiano David’s voice might be very rough and accented, but he powers through it with the fast paced sound and adds a sort of garage sound to it that sounds similar to the garage rock bands of the 60’s. Admittedly when it comes to the other songs that they did release from their newest album (I Wanna Be Your Slave and Zitti E Buoni, the latter being the song which won the contest) which were worldwide hits, this is their weakest but I don’t want to be negative because it’s still a solid song on its own despite its very mixed reception. Congrats to Maneskin for winning Eurovision and I’m more than happy that at least one of their songs made it big in the US, they really deserve it.
2- Starting Over
by Chris Stapleton (Hot 100 Peak: #25)- Chris Stapleton is a great singer and I’m happy that he’s enjoying success because his style of old school country is fantastic, and this hit of his is no slouch. His soulful singing is spectacular as expected and the old school country instrumentation is also great with a lot of life to it but what really puts it on my list is the lyrics. They are powerful about taking another chance on love where you can have one more chance on love and it can be worthwhile no matter where the road takes you, and I can really admire lyricism like that. Really, it’s Chris Stapleton, what more can I say other than I’m glad he finally got a Year End hit of his own and that he’s a singer that we don’t deserve yet he deserves us.
Happier Than Ever
by Billie Eilish- I’m still not the biggest fan of Billie Eilish, but it seems like she gets better and better every song and her more upbeat songs really show her strengths and this song might be my favorite from her.
by Duncan Laurence- The winner of the 2019 Eurovision, this one also got big as a sleeper hit and despite the lyrics being weak, I did enjoy this one.
by SZA- A pretty great R&B jam with a pretty interesting production which I wish could’ve been structured a bit better.
Back In Blood
by Pooh Shiesty feat. Lil Durk- I really like this one because it’s going for that threatening sound to it and it works with the rapping and beat under it.
Save Your Tears
by The Weeknd- The followup song after Blinding Lights, this one sounds the same as that one but without much of the charm, but it’s still a really good song that can hold on its own. The Ariana Grande remix is also great
11- Bad Habits
by Ed Sheeran- I see a lot of people say that they’re not a fan of this one, but I really like it for the production being outstanding and the singing being good but the lyrics do confuse me as to whether it’s about a drug addiction or being attracted to someone using a metaphor.
by Dua Lipa (Hot 100 Peak: #2)- It’s such an obvious pick since a bunch of other critics have also praised it to hell and back, but it is for a reason because this song is utter perfection. The late 70’s disco sound is fantastic and has a ton of fun, bouncy energy to it, Dua’s singing is phenomenal and tight with the smoothness of her vocals flowing well with the song and the lyrics being very well written with the space imagery being interesting and mystifying fitting in as a love song. Really, my review can’t bring it any justice since the song just speaks for itself and nothing else I can say can make it any greater than it is. What I can say is that it deserved number one so badly and I’m irritated that it never reached the top spot while other weaker songs like “Butter” and “Stay” did but oh well. With that, Levitating gets my pick as the best song of 2021.
And that’s my list, hope you enjoyed and stay tuned for the worst list for the songs that I didn’t like about this year.