As I said in my piece about my favorite songs from the first half of 2021, last year came out with a bang as far as good music goes. A lot of times, the first couple of months of the year can be a bit slow for the music world, but this was not remotely true in 2021. Because the year came out so hot in regards to music, I did worry that the middle or the end of the year would see a bit of a lull. Fortunately, that was not the case at all. The second half of 2021 produced a lot of music that was just as good as the music in the first half. I honestly think that 2020 and 2021 were two of the best years in music that we have had in a while. I know that a lot of people may not currently agree with that sentiment, but I do think that there is a ton of music from these last two years that is going to age very well. I could see a lot of the music from 2020 and 2021 being very influential on the sound of music for many years to come. Weirdly, I think that the turmoil of the last couple of years has brought out so much creativity in our artists and pushed them to levels they have not gone to before. With that being said, here is my list of some of my favorite songs from the second half of 2021. Please let me know in the comments if you love these songs as well, and also tell me about some of your personal favorite songs from last year in the comments.
wussup – bbno$ feat. Yung Gravy
I had to start out this list with what I think is probably one of the most underrated singles of the year, ‘wussup.’ This song is by frequent collaborators Yung Gravy and bbno$. Yung Gravy and bbno$ are two of the top rappers in the ever-growing internet rap scene. They are a part of this group of rappers who take a tongue-in-cheek approach to their craft; they are so good at toeing the line between being “serious” artists and making funny “meme” rap. Their chemistry is undeniably impressive; there is a reason these two have already released two full-length mixtapes together. ‘wussup’ is a slow-burning funk track that has a very old-school sound to it. The instrumental is perfect for the vocal styles and deliveries of both these rappers. They both ride this beat so easily and show off what makes their respective sounds so enjoyable to listen to.
Juggernaut – Tyler the Creator feat. Lil Uzi Vert and Pharrell Williams
Tyler the Creator has been on a hell of a roll since the release of his album Flower Boy in 2017. Since then he has been one of the most consistently greatest artists making Hip Hop. His sound has become so diverse and eclectic; it seems like he can do anything at this point. Even though most of his 2021 album, Call Me If You Get Lost, was heavily influenced by the 1990s, ironically my favorite song on the record reminds me a lot of his work in the early 2010s. ‘Juggernaut’ is a hardcore Trap song with an enormous amount of energy. This song has the type of tough and hype instrumental that will get any listener pumped and excited. Pharrell and Lil Uzi Vert were excellent people to pick as features for this song. They match the chaotic energy of Tyler so well, and enhance the intensity of the instrumental. ‘Juggernaut’ is a total banger that will for sure be a song I use to pump myself up for a long time.
Stay – The Kid Laroi feat. Justin Bieber
Over the last couple of years, as he has gained popularity, The Kid Laroi has had a pretty awesome rise. After being exposed to the world by Juice Wrld after opening for him on a world tour, he has steadily become one of the most intriguing new Popstars. Due to his versatility, an artist he has been compared as to frequently is Justin Bieber. It was only a matter of time before they made a song together. And as expected, it is an extremely catchy Pop smash hit. On ‘Stay,’ The Kid Laroi and Justin Bieber follow the wave in Pop music that has been influenced by 80s Pop music. “Stay’ has a very catchy and fast-paced Synth Pop sound that will get stuck in anyone’s head immediately. It has such a light and fun feeling that makes me feel good whenever it comes on. Unsurprisingly, The Kid Laroi and Justin Bieber have great chemistry on this track.
Industry Baby – Lil Nas X feat. Jack Harlow
After the immense success of his single ‘Montero,’ Lil Nas X took the world by storm again with the release of ‘Industry Baby.’ This track was easily one of the biggest of the year, and it’s easy to figure out why. This song is just straight-up a Pop-Trap banger. The melody is so triumphant and grand-sounding, and the beat goes hard as hell. Both Lil Nas X and Jack Harlow’s performances on this song are excellent. Lil Nas X brings so much angst and energy to this song; it is the kind of song that provides so much energy to the listeners when they hear it. Jack Harlow’s delivery is so smooth and confident on his verse, and he provides the kind of switch up the song needs. As with ‘Montero,’ ‘Industry Baby’ has a bold music video that goes so well with the song. ‘Industry Baby’ is one of the most fun hit singles of the year, and it once again proves Lil Nas X is a superstar.
Skate – Silk Sonic
Aside from maybe Olivia Rodrigo and Lil Nas X, Silk Sonic had arguably the biggest year in 2021 for American music artists. The duo of Bruno Mars and Anderson.Paak showed they have incredible chemistry, and they compliment each others’ styles of music so well. ‘Skate’ was the second single they released in anticipation of their record that came out in November. Even though it did not get quite as much attention as their first single of the year, it still got into the top 20 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and was widely praised. This track is a fun and fast-paced disco joint that is bound to put anyone in an easy-going mood when they hear it. It is the kind of song that has a melody and flow that just makes you smile. ‘Skate’ has a disco sound to it that is super groovy and cool. Once again, Bruno Mars and Anderson.Paak bounce back and forth off of each other in such a natural way. Their voices and delivery styles are seemingly perfect for each other. ‘Skate’ isn’t the most popular Silk Sonic song, but I think it’s great(and probably underrated) because it is the kind of song that just makes you feel good.
In the Dark – Swae Lee feat. Jhenè Aiko
Swae Lee and Jhenè Aiko are two artists who have such a wide range within the genres they typically make music in. A lot of artists kind of have a general sound type they tend to gravitate toward, but both Swae and Jhène seem to be comfortable doing anything and have the ability to switch it up constantly. On ‘In the Dark,’ Swae Lee and Jhène Aiko go with a funky and light-hearted sound which is kind of a blend of Afro-Caribbean Calypso music and 80s Synth Pop. It is a vibrant and colorful sound that brings out the best in Swae Lee’s voice. He shows how good of a vocalist he is on this song. Jhène’s performance is excellent as well. Even though she typically makes various kinds of alternative R&B, whenever she is featured on Pop songs like this, she always shows out. Her voice is so sultry on ‘In the Dark,’ and it adds so much emotion to the track. My favorite thing about ‘In The Dark’ is when Swae Lee and Jhène Aiko sing together. Their chemistry is so palpable and their voices go so well with each other. ‘In The Dark’ is an excellent track that shows off how talented(and honestly underrated) Swae Lee and Jhène Aiko are.
Edamame – bbno$ feat. Rich Brian
‘Edamame’ is the second song on this list released by bbno$ in 2021. On this track he collaborated with another popular artist from the always rising internet rap scene, Rich Brian. ‘Edamame’ is another track with a very funky sound that is very old school. Instead of bringing it back to the 70s, though, this one has a 1990s feeling to it. Particularly, it reminds me of underground 90s House music. It has such a fun groove that is so hard to not dance and jam out to when it comes on. As he usually does on these old school beats, bbno$ sounds so natural when rapping on this track. His tempo, and vocal style flow so naturally on this beat and add to the groovy nature of the song. Rich Brian, having a similarly low voice and fast paced rapping style on this song, also sounds so natural on this beat and adds to the funky and fun nature it has. ‘Edamame’ is a light hearted and fun dance-rap track that I am certain will be played in clubs throughout the world for years to come because of how it makes one want to move to the beat when it comes on.
Good Girls – Chvrches
When Chvrches first became big in the early 2010s, I always felt like they may be a bit ahead of their time. They had this very unique synth-pop sound that was ultra-modern; it was like an extension of indie Dance-Rock music, but strictly made with synthesizers and various keyboards. Well, I’m 2021, that sound they became known for seems to be perfect for the times. In a Pop world dominated by Synth-Pop, Chvrches fits in more than ever. They also stick out more than ever, because there is still no one like them. ‘Good Girls’ is an excellent example of that. This track has almost a warm and gothic feeling to the instrumental; it has a tone that reminds me of a modern version of The Cure. Their lead singer has always had such an awesome and distinctive voice, and it stands out in such a huge way on ‘Good Girls.’ The haunting nature of the track brings out the haunting nature in her voice; the vocals and melody of this song bring out the best in each other. As great as Chvrches was in the early 2010s, they are even better now. Their sound fits in now more than ever, and ‘Good Girls’ is one of the coolest and best Synth Pop songs of 2021.
Moon – Kanye West feat. Don Tolliver and Kid Cudi
One thing we know about Kanye is that he is always going to keep pushing the envelope and trying to help develop the next big thing in Hip Hop. He always wants to be influential and inspiring to those making music in the future, and he is always going to keep trying new things. His 2021 album Donda is an excellent example of this. It has a musical that feels otherworldly and atmospheric; there are so many songs on the record that make you feel like you’re floating. None of those songs make me feel that way more than ‘Moon.’ The melody almost reminds me of the music from the movie Interstellar. It is like this song is the Hip Hop version of this movie about traveling through space-time to save the world. Don Tolliver’s vocals on the chorus add to that feeling so much. They are perfect for this track. Kanye and Kid Cudi’s vocals have a warm and atmospheric feeling to them as well. Overall, this song feels like the meeting point of everything Kanye was trying to do on Donda.
Knife Talk – Drake feat. 21 Savage and Project Pat
I’m going to be completely honest, Drake’s 2021 album Scorpion did disappoint me a bit. It felt like Drake kind of made a ton of tracks he thought fit in well with the current landscape of Trap music and put them together. It feels more like a compilation than an album. Despite that, there are a few gems on the record, and ‘Knife Talk’ is one of them. The melody for this track has an old-school Trap sound. It reminds me a lot of the kind of stuff that Three 6 Mafia made back in the day. This makes sense with the Project Pat feature. My favorite performance on this project is the one by 21 Savage. He stands out on this song. His voice and flow go so well with the instrumental. Drake’s performance is solid as well. He does a great job of riding this beat smoothly. Scorpion as a whole may not be Drake’s best work, but ‘Knife Talk’ is an excellent stand-out.
Big Persona – Maxo Kream feat. Tyler the Creator
In my opinion, Maxo Kream is one of the most underrated rappers who is among this new generation of Trap stars. I have always thought it is probably because he has a storytelling nature to the way he raps that is distinctively old school. He does embrace modern Houston Trap instrumentals, but his flow is reminiscent of some older rappers. His single ‘Big Persona’ does not have as much of a storytelling feel to it as most of his other stuff, though. This track is not one of his typical retrospective kind of songs; it is more of a brash and cocky song where Maxo Kream is talking about how great he is and why he deserves so much respect. As much as I love his storytelling side, I loved seeing this brash and confident side where he just tells it how it is now. On this track, he does use one of his addicting flows that draw the listener in. Unsurprisingly, Tyler the Creator gives the song even more energy and hype than it already had. His contribution is a nice touch that makes the song even more fun than it already was. ‘Big Persona’ is not necessarily the kind of song one would expect from Maxo Kream, but it is a very good one that proves he can do more than some people might think.
Sweet n Spice – Deb Never
One thing that draws me to new artists is when they try new things and go against the grain of what is normally done in their respective genres. Deb Never has never been an artist that thinks inside the box with the way she approaches her music. Even though her music typically has a 90s Contemporary Alternative feeling to it, she has always had a bit of a Hip Hop flow to the way she delivers her lyrics. There is not anyone else I can think of who does it like Deb Never. This signature style of hers that I am referring to is very prevalent in her song ‘ Sweet n Spice.’ It has a melody that sounds like it could be in your favorite 90s coming-of-age movie. It has the kind of tone that you would expect to hear during a portion of the movie where the lead singer is making some sort of important realization. Her delivery on this song has a smooth yet choppy flow that reminds me of some old-school Hip Hop. It is not anything like you would expect to hear on a song with this kind of instrumental, but it works so well. ‘Sweet n Spice’ is a great song that highlights all of the qualities that make Deb Never stand out so much among her peers.
That’s What I Want – Lil Nas X
You didn’t think I was going to get through this list without another song from Lil Nas X, did you? When I say he had arguably the biggest year in music, I was not exaggerating at all. ‘That’s What I Want’ was released as a single the same day that Lil Nas X’s debut album Montero came out. It seems like one can never know what to expect when they start to a new Lil Nas X song, and ‘That’s What I Want’ follows that sentiment. This track has a Power Pop sound that sounds like it came straight out of the 1980s, yet it also has a bit of a feeling that reminds a bit of the early 2009 Punk Pop-Rock sound to it as well. Lil Nas X’s vocals are highlighted on this track. He is usually known for having more of a Hip Hop flow to his delivery, but on this song, he has a Pop Rock tempo and feel to the way he is singing. This song has a chorus that is a total earworm and it is bound to get stuck in your head whenever you hear it. ‘That’s What I Want’ is not what one would typically think they would hear from Lil Nas X, but it shows that he can excel at pretty much any kind of music he puts his mind to.
I Don’t Wanna Talk(I Just Wanna Dance) – Glass Animals
Glass Animals is a band that went viral this year for a couple of songs that came out a couple of years ago. They have been one of the more popular rising Alternative Electro-Pop artists of the last five years or so, but they never saw the kind of success they are seeing now before this year. They were so popular for their older music in 2021 that they got nominated for Best New Artist at the Grammys. What’s funny though is even though they became very popular in the mainstream this year for a couple of songs from their last album, they had a new single come out in the fall. ‘I Don’t Wanna Talk(I Just Wanna Dance)’ is an Electro-Pop break-up song that is as fun and catchy as any of their best music. This is the kind of song that will make anyone want to dance when it comes on. It has a very funky piano melody that is so groovy and is the kind of song that gets anyone moving as soon as they hear it. The lead singers’ soft and sweet vocals work super well on this instrumental, and they add to the fun and funky nature of the track. ‘I Don’t Wanna Talk(I Just Wanna Dance’ is a great Electro-Pop track that highlights all of the qualities about Glass Animals that makes them such a Popular Alternative artist.
Money – Lisa
When I discovered how great BTS was late last year and early this year, I decided I needed to take a dive into more K-Pop music and see what some of their other big artists are about. I decided to look into the group BlackPink first since I had heard great things about them. I am very glad I decided to check out BlackPink, because they are quickly becoming one of my favorites. They are an unbelievably eclectic group that seems to be able to excel in all kinds of music; from Electro Pop to Trap to EDM, it seems like there is nothing they can not do. One of their members, Lisa, debuted as a solo artist in the summer of 2021. She released two songs: ‘LaLisa’ which is mostly in Korean but has English sprinkled in, and ‘Money,’ which is exclusively in English. Both of these songs are excellent and show how talented Lisa is, but I want to focus on the song ‘Money.’ It is a Trap song with an instrumental that goes as hard as any of the best American Trap music that came out this year. This track has a brash and abrasive beat and melody that just pounds through the speakers when it comes on. I love how triumphant and grand the horns sound that make up the melody of this track. On ‘Money,’ Lisa shows off how great of a rapper and singer she is. She is known for her interesting and diverse flows in her Korean music, and this style of rapping is more prevalent than ever on ‘Money’. She is also a very good singer, and this is demonstrated in the chorus for ‘Money.’ Everything about this song is great, and it highlights how talented Lisa is. I can not wait to see what she does in 2022, because I think she is going to be a superstar in the American music world very soon. She is just too good.
Moth to a Flame – Swedish House Mafia and The Weeknd
The Weeknd is an artist who seems to never be able to keep quiet and sit still for very long. Even in years where he is not promoting a new record of his like 2021, he still will feature on a ton of music and release his one-off singles. Swedish House Mafia, on the other hand, is an artist that does not like to release much new music at all. Before 2021, they had been on a long hiatus; in fact, they had not released any new music in 9 years. They are back again now, though, with a new album supposedly being released in 2022. The Weeknd has done great work with unique EDM producers in the past, so his collaboration with Swedish House Mafia seemed natural and right when it was announced. With ‘Moth To A Flame,’ Swedish House Mafia started right where they left off with the last record they released. This song has a Progressive House sound with a funky melody that draws the listener in. It has a beautifully haunting melody that goes so well with the theme of the song, which is infidelity. The Weeknd’s contribution to this track is exactly how it should be, in my opinion. His vocals are so good for this kind of melody, but he does not try to take over or overpower this track with his singing in any way. ‘Moth to a Flame’ is a song that I feel was slept on in the mainstream Pop world, which is a shame because it is great. If you are a fan of modern Progressive House music on any level, this is a song for you.
SG – DJ Snake feat. Ozuna, Megan thee Stallion, and Lisa from BlackPink
DJ Snake has been one of the most popular international DJs for quite a while now. He has had some of the biggest hits in the world in regards to EDM music that crosses over into the mainstream. ‘SG’ had all of the moxie to be another international smash hit, and instead, I feel like it was kind of slept on. It did not get nearly as big as I had expected it to. That fact does not downgrade its quality in any way, though. ‘SG’ is a melodic Electro-House banger that incorporates international sounds in a very cool way. The melody for ‘SG’ has a sound that feels just as much Caribbean as it does Asian. It kind of feels like a direct mixture of Caribbean music and popular Korean music. Megan Thee Stallion does her thing on this record, but I especially love the performances by Ozuna and Lisa. Both of them flex their vocals and add an extra level of fun to the record with their respective energy levels. ‘SG’ is a great track that deserves a lot more love than it has gotten.
Smoking Out The Window – Silk Sonic
I mentioned earlier that Silk Sonic had as big a year in 2021 as anyone, so it makes sense that it would have the same amount of songs on my year-end lists as the other artist who had a comparably big year, Lil Nas X. My second song by Silk Sonic in this particular piece is the song that many would consider to be the best single of the year, ‘Smoking Out The Window.’ Everything I said about the song ‘Leave the Door Open’ can be applied to this song tenfold; it has a similarly slow and groovy 70s soul sound to it, but it is even better than ‘Leave The Door Open.’ The lyricism in this song is better and funnier, the individual vocal performances on this song are better, and the harmonies on this song are better than any other Silk Sonic songs that came out this year. It is the culmination of everything awesome about both these artists as soloists and as a group; ‘Smoking Out The Window’ is a modern Funk classic that will be very popular among all generations of music listeners for many years to come.
I Hate U – SZA
A lot of artists will put out demo music on SoundCloud just as a public place to store music they may not have perfected or do not want to release yet for whatever reason. There are rumors that artists like Lil Uzi Vert, Young Thug, and Playboi Carti have lots of songs under different names on SoundCloud that pretty much no one knows about. ‘I Hate U’ was one of those tracks for the Alternative R&B star SZA. Somehow her fans found the song on SoundCloud, though, and it ended up going insanely viral on TikTok. It became one of the biggest TikTok songs of the year. Because it did so well without even being released, SZA decided to officially release the track in December, and it ended up debuting in the top ten of the Billboard Hot 100. It is easy to see why people love this song so much. Aside from the lyricism being extremely relatable(it is about constantly thinking about and hating an ex-significant other), the dark and haunting melody goes so well with SZA’s almost otherworldly vocals. Her voice typically has this quality to it that almost has an atmospheric quality to it, and this song is no different. If you are a fan of any SZA music, this song is for you. It has all the qualities of a great SZA song and elevates them.
Hair Tie – Skylar
I wanted to end this list with another great song I discovered on Tik Tok towards the end of the year, ‘Hair Tie’ by Skylar. One of my favorite ways to find artists is for them to randomly pop up in my social media feeds with no previous knowledge of them, and this is how I found Skylar. I was just scrolling through TikTok and a video with a clip of one of her other songs came onto my For You Page, and I immediately knew I had to check out Skylar because the song clip was so dope. When I checked her out, I was not disappointed in the slightest. I was pleasantly surprised. Skylar’s ‘Hair Tie’ is such a breath of fresh air. This song has a funky instrumental that has a garage drum n bass feeling to the melody and beat. It feels like the kind of song you would hear at some underground rave at a warehouse in New York or London. The cadence of her raps in the verses is so addicting. It flows with the tempo of the song so well and is bound to get stuck in anyone’s head. The chorus is as catchy as any chorus on this list. This song is such an earworm and is so light-hearted and fun and makes me want to dance whenever I hear it. ‘Hair Tie’ is an excellent introduction into the music world for Skylar, and I can not wait to hear what she puts out in 2022 because she is bound to be a star. She is just too good to be held down.