Unlike 2020 which many presumed to be a dull year, 2021 promised better days from the start, with scores of people clinging to hope for better times. Despite the fangs of the Covid-19 pandemic still sunk deep in our lives, many have managed to show resilience and fortitude in these tough times. Everyone has a story to give about this year, either dull or captivating. Similarly, the music scene made quite a mark this year with reputable songs released by artists from all over the world.
2021 was quite an incredible and eventful year seeing the music scene flourish even bigger than in 2020. While artists could connect with their fanbase in concerts, the internet continued to prove its power by helping many artists make their mark in 2021. With the music scene rekindled with hope and the promise for a great year, artists fought to return with a bang. This was marked by the release of bravura songs that took our hearts by storm.
Upcoming artists such as Olivia Rodrigo and The Kid LAROI made their mark in the booming music scene. Other artists like Justin Bieber, Cardi B, Dua Lipa, Taylor Swift, and BTS claimed their spot once more as forces to reckon with in 2021. We also saw artists like Bruno Mars and Coldplay deliver world-class collaborative projects that showed the power of unity in a year where many appreciated togetherness. As if that was not enough, ABBA surprised the world after returning to the music scene after a forty-year hiatus with their ninth studio album Voyage (2021).
While 2021 saw artists rekindle the world of music, all was not so calm in the music industry. We lost many legendary artists hence having the world of music covered in a cloud of darkness intermittently. Some of the fallen stars include DMX, Alexi Laiho of Children of Bodom, former Dexys Midnight Runners keyboardist Mick Bolton, producer Steve Brown, Sonny Osborne of the Osbourne Brothers, Gerry Marsden, Jimmie Rodgers, Mike Howe of Metal Church, Emmett Chapman, Bunny Wailer, Ethel Gabriel, and Don Everly of the Everly Brothers.
Music in 2021 drew from a diverse pool of experiences and imagination, giving its listeners mixed emotions. While some songs saw the audience hit the dance floor, other hits were contemplative and touching. We cannot quantify everything there is to say about songs from this passing year in just a few paragraphs but can trace some of the best songs of 2021. These songs will serve as a roadmap to a year described by resilience and rising against all odds. Here we present the top 10 songs of 2021 that left us indebted to the artist for the awe-inspiring work of art accomplished.
#10 – “All Too Well” by Taylor Swift
Taylor Swift’s ten-minute version of “All Too Well” was one of her most anticipated ballads from the album Red (2021). The song broke the Guinness World Record for the longest song to top the Billboard Hot 100. “All Too Well” was initially released in 2012 but re-released as part of her countermeasure against altered possession of several of her studio albums. The song blends soft rock vibes with country-rock, folk, and arena rock elements.
#9 – “My Universe” by Coldplay ft. BTS
British pop-rock legends Coldplay and South Korea’s national pride BTS collaborated to give us one of the best songs of 2021. “My Universe” is featured on Coldplay’s album Music of the Spheres (2021). The song is a brazen hit that brings the true feel of personal connections. Its success came after a year of isolation that saw artists such as Coldplay engage deeply with their fanbase to offer the much-needed comfort and engagement. “My Universe” debuted at the peak of the Billboard Hot 100, winning several awards for the best collaboration of the year.
#8 – “Easy On Me” by Adele
Several artists, including ABBA and Adele, marked their comeback in the blossoming music scene in 2021. “Easy On Me” is a song from Adele’s album 30 (2021). The song marks her return to the world of music after a six-year hiatus. Adele delivers touching songs, and “Easy On Me” is no different from her trademark vibe. The song finds her singing about her troubled childhood and unsuccessful marriage. Her story is better described as a narrative about lessons she learned about abandonment, family, and love. The song rose to the peak position of the Billboard Hot 100.
#7 – “Drivers license” by Olivia Rodrigo
Who knew that 2021 would have a Disney actress become more than just an upcoming artist? Seventeen-year-old Olivia Rodrigo released “Drivers License,” a record-breaking hit. Amazingly, the song debuted at number one on the Billboard Hot 100, a rare feat for a debut single released by a teenager. “Drivers License” is a serious contender for the song of the year, having this pianissimo hit dominate playlists. The song became one of the most streamed songs in a twenty-four hours on Spotify. Olivia Rodrigo went on to win the American Music Awards’ New Artist of the Year accolade.
#6 – “Stay” by The Kid LAROI and Justin Bieber
Number six on the top 10 songs of 2021 is the upbeat hit “Stay” by The Kid LAROI featuring Justin Bieber. This collaborative hit finds The Kid LAROI craving forgiveness from his lover while Justin Bieber shows his admiration for his lover. Breakout artists had their moment in 2021, having The Kid LAROI win the Best Artist and Best Pop Release at the ARIA Music Awards. The song also dominated the Billboard Hot 100 for several weeks.
#5 – “Montero (Call Me By Your Name)” by Lil Nas X
After taking us by surprise with his country rap hit “Old Town Road” featuring Billy Ray Cyrus, Lil Nas X later returned with his stylistic and sonic hit “Montero (Call Me By Your Name)” in 2021. The song gave Lil Nas X and the queer pop culture quite a moment on the top charts, thanks to its prominently featured queer themes. This is yet another hit that debuted at the peak of the Billboard Hot 100. “Montero (Call Me By Your Name)” has won tons of awards, and we probably have to wait for 2022 to see whether it will bag either (or all) of the three awards it has been nominated for in the Grammy Awards 2022.
#4- “Levitating” by Dua Lipa ft. DaBaby
Despite being released in 2020, “Levitating” by Dua Lipa featuring DaBaby became one of the best songs of 2021 thanks to great musicianship between the two artists. The song was initially released as a solo by Dua Lipa with its fame stretching best in 2021. She later released a remix of the song with DaBaby to appeal to the American audience. While the song never rose to number one on the Billboard Hot 100, it has smashed the record for the longest-running top 10 hit by a female artist on the Billboard Hot 100.
#3 – “Peaches” by Justin Bieber ft. Daniel Caesar and Giveon
Blooming hooks and splendid lyrics make this collaborative hit one of the greatest musical gems of 2021. Even greater are the relaxed awe-inspiring vocals from Justin Bieber, Daniel Caesar, and Giveon. The song is a colorful pop ballad that features R&B, pop-soul and trap elements. “Peaches” finds the trio singing about their strong relationships and lasting romance. This call-and-response hit peaked at number one on several charts, including the Billboard Hot 100. The song walks into 2022 as a big hit having it nominated for four awards categories in the Grammy Awards 2022.
#2 – “Leave The Door Open” by Silk Sonic
After successful solo careers, legendary R&B star Bruno Mars and singer Anderson .Paak collaborated to form the R&B act Silk Sonic. Thanks to previous success with their personal releases, the duo hit the ground running. “Leave The Door Open” is the duo’s debut single from the album, An Evening with Silk Sonic (2021). The song rises above many top songs of 2021 thanks to its rich and authentic feel that brings the best of the duo’s infusion of the 1970s funk vibes. “Leave The Door Open” has been dubbed as the best collaborative hit of 2021 and walks into 2022, nominated in four categories in the 65th Annual Grammy Awards.
#1 – “Butter” by BTS
Our best song of 2021 is the disco-pop hit “Butter” by BTS. The South Korean boy band shows what seven band members can do when they put their talent and passion for music together. “Butter” oozes energy and an infectious, catchy vibe, making it a disco favorite. This upbeat tune was a massive release having it receive more than a hundred million streams on YouTube within the first twenty-four hours of release (world record). As a result, the song smashed five Guinness World Records. The song also became one of the most streamed songs in a twenty-four hours on Spotify.
Amazingly, the fun track alludes to boys being so charming (BTS boys are charming too, no one can dispute this). While the K-pop boy band had success with their energetic hit “Dynamite,” more success awaits the band with their release of the year, “Butter.” The song has won almost all awards it has been nominated for and walks into 2022 with a Grammy Award nomination in the Best Pop Duo/Group Performance category.
#1 – “Good 4 U” by Olivia Rodrigo
“Good 4 U” by the breakout artist Olivia Rodrigo is our first bonus song on our best songs of 2021. This upbeat ballad blends pop, rock, punk, emo, and grunge elements, yielding an energetic and memorable hit. The song alludes to a former lover who hesitated not to move on from a past relationship. Olivia Rodrigo saw yet another song from her debut album rise to the top of the Billboard Hot 100.
#2 – “Heartbreak Anniversary” by Giveon
While the song was first released in 2020 on Giveon’s debut EP Take Time (2020). This sleeper hit alludes to reminiscing grieving about a love that went sour. While the song only managed a number sixteen on the Billboard Hot 100, it was nominated for an award in the best R&B song category in different award shows. The most recent is a Grammy Award nomination for the Best R&B Song to be decided in 2022. Giveon will be competing against “Leave The Door Open” by Silk Sonic, “Pick Up Your Feelings” by Jazmine Sullivan, “Damage” by H.E.R., and “Good Days” by SZA featuring Jacob Collier.
#3 – “Happier Than Ever” by Billie Eilish
Billie Eilish shows the world how much of a great pop-punk artist she is with the hit “Happier Than Ever.” This song serves as the title track to her sophomore album. The song features lyrics that allude to her former fiancé Brandon Adams, showcasing their ended relationship’s dark side. “Happier Than Ever” rose to the eleventh position on the Billboard Hot 100. Nevertheless, the song has been nominated in the forthcoming Grammy Awards in four awards categories, including Song of the Year, Record of the Year, Best Music Video, and Best Pop Solo Performance.
#4 – “Essence” by Wizkid ft. Tems
“Essence” by Wizkid featuring Tems became 2021’s biggest milestone for Afrobeat hits. The song became the most searched song on Shazam on August 30, 2021. “Essence” has been described by many as the song of the summer by music fans and critics worldwide. The song has resulted in increased mainstream appeal of the Afrobeat genre. Later on, Wizkid teamed up with Tems and Justin Bieber for a remix that saw the song featured on top charts. The song bagged the Song of the Year in Africa and Best African Collaboration accolades in the 2021 All Africa Music Awards. “Essence” has also been nominated for a Grammy Award in the Best Global Music Performance category (first time to be presented) to be decided in 2022.
#5 – “I Still Have Faith in You” by ABBA
After a forty-year hiatus, ABBA hit the studio to release their album Voyage (2021). “I Still Have Faith in You” is one of the musical gems from this Swedish group’s most recent album. The song was released alongside “Don’t Shut Me Down” as a dual single. This pianissimo ballad alludes to the friendship that has matured and stood firm against heartbreak and divorce waves. ABBA is back with a bang! The proof is the Grammy Award nomination for the Record of the Year in the forthcoming ceremony.