When we last checked in with the best songs of 2020 in December, the world was a drastically different place.
Now, many genres – specifically Pop – are leaning on their most reliable stars for comfort. To which, they answered the call.
Find out which artist and songs made the cut for the best songs of 2021 so far…
Doja Cat featuring SZA – Kiss Me More
From the very first opening notes, Doja Cat is able to create a truly out of this world experience. Like bees to honey, the breathy intro is juxtaposed against the cymbal clashes to create a sticky trap that we don’t want to escape from. Featuring some of Doja’s best singing – as well as some of her best bars – the song also spotlights a rare guest appearance from SZA. In short, ‘Kiss Me More’ has it all.
Normani featuring Cardi B – Wild Side
After blazing the scene with debut single ‘Motivation’ in 2019, Normani set quite the stage for her official solo launch with the announcement of ‘Wild Side.’ From its title to its feature, the Cardi B-assisted cut read (on paper) like what epic club jams are made of.
Instead, the Starrah production proved that the Fifth Harmony alum isn’t averse to taking risks. A scintillating slow jam, the track defined left-field (especially as a lead offering) and elevated Normani in earnest thanks to its mesmerizing visual. Unquestionably one of the year’s top R&B standouts. [S]
Wizkid featuring Tems – Essence
Afrobeats has been making waves on a global scale, yet this Wizkid gem delivered a major watershed moment.
Housed on the Nigerian megastar’s GRAMMY-nominated album ‘Made In Lagos,’ ‘Essence’ – on its surface – might not pack the immediate urgency or punch of some of the other tracks on this tally. Its secret sauce, however, is its flavorsome infectiousness.
Functioning as audio shea butter, the impact of the melodic anthem spread far and wide and was inescapable over the summer.
Perhaps most notable, though, is its elevation of Afrobeats on the world stage. [S]
Taylor Swift – All Too Well (10 Minute Version)
There are many songs that live on in the Taylor Swift cinematic universe, but none quite as legendary as ‘All Too Well.’ Hailed by fans and critics as her magnum-opus, Swift undertook the challenge of re-recording it and releasing the original 10-minute version of the tune. Where this song works is the hyper-specific details Swift crafts – see the infamous scarf, the keychain, and dancing in the refrigerator light – that somehow become even more heartbreaking with the passing of time. Make no mistake, the events of the song may be nearly a decade since they happened, but the wound is still as fresh and visceral as ever, proving that certain heartbreaks stand the test of time, like Swift’s career surely will.
Willow Smith featuring Travis Barker – Transparent Soul
With the Pop-punk genre making a huge resurgence over the last year, many artists are dipping their toes in the pool that is the genre. However, Willow Smith dives headfirst into the deep and recruits Blink-182 member Travis Barker to delve into the deepest of Pop-punk waters with her. From the rip-roaring guitars, to the throbbing drums, to the haunting howls that echo throughout the track, Willow has done something her peers have not: she has managed to stay true to the genre boundaries all the while paving a lane all her own. Short, but oh so sweet, this is one jewel we did not see coming.
Lil Nas X featuring Jack Harlow – Industry Baby
If there was one word to describe this song, it would be: groundbreaking. This collaboration between a queer male rapper and a straight male rapper that topped the charts is enough to land it in the history books. However, even when the cultural context is removed, the song is still an absolute banger. Over skittering beats and hard-hitting bass, the two are able to create a stadium sized anthem that is indeed one for the champions.
Yola – Diamond Studded Shoes
Yola is no stranger to putting out the best material from each of her respective eras. This still rings true with the twinkling brilliance of her song ‘Diamond Studded Shoes.’ While this song may be a jaunty, blues-infused tune, there is serious subject matter she is discussing, such as economic inequality and systemic racism. Yola vows to fight for the rest of her life and her voice echoes this sentiment, unwavering in its intent. Beautiful and powerful, Yola once more proves that not only is her spot in the music landscape unmatched, but also necessary.
Jonas Brothers & Marshmello – Leave Before You Love Me
The Jonas Brothers have added a new member to the family: EDM mega-star Marshmello. Together, they join forces for one of the most wistful pop ballads of the year. Anchored by distorted electric guitars, handclaps, and an 80’s-inspired groove that is destined to shatter the hearts of its listeners. While it is the type of sound that could have been found on Nick’s most recent album – ‘Spaceman’ – ‘Leave Before You Love Me’ proves that the brothers are always strongest when they are together and not apart.
Billie Eilish – Male Fantasy
There is a certain kind of magic that happens every time Billie Eilish gets behind the microphone to create music. Case in point, her song ‘Male Fantasy’ from her acclaimed ‘Happier Than Ever’ album. A melancholy ballad about relationships, the simple guitar progression and gentle drums help to echo the loneliness explored with the song’s lyrics. Once more, Eilish exudes a maturity far beyond her actual age and proves that she is one of the brightest stars in the game right now.
Silk Sonic – Leave The Door Open
Bruno Mars has always had an affiliation with soul sounds from the 70’s and 80’s, but it’s odd to think that neither he nor Anderson .Paak were born during the height of the Philly soul sound. However, that did not stop them knocking their first collaboration and attempt at the sound out of the park. Complete with fuzzy horns, gentle piano lines, and even a tambourine, Mars once again solidifies his status as Pop’s smartest and most authentic revivalist. A throwback sound for the modern world, Mars and .Paak distort time to create a truly timeless classic.
Charli XCX – Good Ones
Pop savant Charli XCX is not stranger to creating some of the most well constructed tunes in modern music. Case in point her song ‘Good Ones.’ The track is a synth-pop supernova that is less experimental that past songs, but just as good. Anchored by a pounding bass line and grooving synths, Charli XCX explores the loss of past relationships and her inability to keep a “good one.” Nonetheless, the subject matter paired with the out-of-this-world production pair to create an insatiable earworm from start to finish. Charli XCX once again delivers one of the best pop songs of the year.
Olivia Rodrigo – good 4 u
If there was a picture next to whirlwind success in the dictionary, Olivia Rodrigo would be pictured next to it. A year ago, she was on the fringes of celebrity. Now, she is a full-blown music superstar. While she had scored two top 10 hits with ‘Drivers License’ and ‘Deja Vu’ by the time ‘good 4 u’ was released, it was the latter that showed she was a true force to be reckoned with. Imbued with true Pop-punk energy – complete with an unapologetically bitter delivery that is only matched by the spiteful guitar – it provides the perfect catharsis after the year that was 2020. It might not be her “breakout hit,” but it is the one that will forever cement her name in the history books.
Adele – I Drink Wine
Not your average drinking song, the song is able to transcend beyond a trope, and into the best song on ’30.’ Just like the drink itself, this song is somewhat bitter, with Adele fermenting in her emotions. However, what really adds the flavor is the realistic approach she has to her age and her perspective. While it makes a home here on ’30,’ the song would have easily fit on ’21,’ truly speaking to its legendary status.
Do you agree with our picks?