As another year draws to a close, these are the eleven must-have songs of 2021 and why you need to hear them.
Taylor Swift – Too Good
Poor (old) Jake Gyllenhaal. When Very good originally released in 2012, it was obvious to Swiftie that he had broken their queen’s heart. Killer lines like “you call me again just to break me like a promise / so casually cruel in the name of honesty” didn’t feel like they were holding back – but it turns out they were. The sharpest beards were on the cutting room floor.
This year, we got some extra juicy details in the ten-minute long version attached to Swift’s re-recording of Red.
Once again, the internet lit up with fury for Gyllenhaal. How do you hold up Taylor Swift on her 21st birthday? What are you doing with this key ring? You are part of the problem, my brother. Don’t even get me started on that scarf!
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* Silver Scroll Awards: Benee wins the 2020 APRA Silver Scroll for the song Glitter
Too good (Taylor version) came up with his own short film and an outstanding performance video. It is devastating. Poor (young) Taylor. She clung to the love, the hook, the line and the sinker only for the carpet to be swept under her.
The fact that she made such good songs about a breakup was a fair warning to future dating partners to be very, very careful about how they treated her – but Harris and Hiddleston ignored that. Lesson. Best new line – ‘I was never good at telling jokes / But the punchline says: “I’m going to get old, but your lovers are still my age.” Ouch.
Ka Hao with Rob Ruha – 35
It’s hard not to smile from ear to ear for 35. It’s even harder not to tap your foot but if you really want to pay tribute make yourself a TikTok video – 14,000 other people have!
A collective of rangitahi from the east coast, Ka Hao established One Tira, One Voice – a nice collection of songs but 35 have crossed the sound barrier to create a sonic boom heard all over the world.
The title refers to the highway that goes past their homes and when you hear the song it’s hard not to be transported there. Ruha (uncle Rob for them) sings the first four lines before the whole choir joins them. There are some remarkable individual solos, all great, but the real power is in their united voices. Pure joy.
Billie Eilish – Your Power
In an album filled with powerful personal statements Your power going hard.
A critique of the toxic culture surrounding body image and overt sexualization that Eilish has been subjected to since becoming famous, her empowerment as she moves into adulthood has been a glorious thing to see.
Eilish’s intuitive mastery of musical styles leaves his peers in the dust. Stop resisting, start listening.
Halsey – I’m not a woman, I’m a God
When Kanye West said ‘I am a god’ in 2013 it seemed blasphemous at best and dangerously deceived at worst, but when Halsey said the exact same thing in 2021, it seemed victorious.
There is a mythology in music that the perfect pop songs should play out in less than three minutes.
Creating an entire universe in such a short period of time seems like a miracle every time. McCartney possibly holds the record with Yesterday (2.06). Freddie Mercury succeeded The crazy little thing called love (2.54) and Gnarls Barkley’s Crazy strummed in (2.59) with one of the most addicting songs of all time.
I am not a woman, I am a god is a triumphant album, the title song (2.53) is the song version of a punch to the face.
Silk Sonic – Leave the Door Open
The partnership of Anderson Paak and Bruno Mars brought out the best of both of them.
People are pleasing by nature, An evening with Silk Sonic is designed as an after dinner set. A record that you dress for, pour a chic cocktail for, and maybe even step out of your chair for – you know, for some fancy boogie and candle.
Let’s call it that, sexy as hell.
Leave the door open is the best of a very good group of melodies. Paak kills him on the verse (and drums) while Mars hums the chorus with grace, class and style until wazoo.
Rob Ruha – Taera
Rooted in tradition but progressive in every way, each song by The preservation of landscapes by Rob Ruha sparkles with its own vibrant vibration but Taera is the earworm that burrows deeply.
Put it straight into my veins.
Everything Ruha touches zings with truth and authenticity. Once you’ve seen the music video, the colors attach to your mind, so each sequential listen erupts into your brain in hyper-vivid hues and you wonder if you too could wear a pink cardigan yourself. The truth is, you probably can’t, but he sure does.
Saxophone solos have no place in music in 2021 – we’ve collectively worked hard to get past such things, but somehow this middle eight makes my soul sing. satisfaction.
Saxifaction? I’m going to see myself.
Lizzo feat Cardi B – Rumors
They say the first rule of show business is to always leave them wanting more and only get one new song this year from twerk flutist and body positivity queen Lizzo has left a lot of us in a fight. for another solution. But if you only want one, I’ll take this one.
Team up with her Queen Cardi B for a rude sleight of hand to all enemies, trolls and naysayers – it’s 2021 gearing up for the party anthem.
Lucy Dacus – Thumbs Up
I’m not gonna lie, there’s a line in this song that thrills me every time I hear it but (spoiler alert) it takes your breath away long before that. Most of the people I’ve told about this song all have a similar experience. A gasp, a double shot, or a – “did she really just say that”?
A letter to a friend (or maybe a lover, whatever) inch details an abusive relationship between a father and his daughter. Dacus wants to tell his friend, who has carried this injustice all her life, to know that it is not her fault. These things are hard to say, even harder to hear.
If only we could relieve those we care for from the burdens they carry. A song of empathy, violence and ultimately love.
Japanese Breakfast – Be Sweet
The clip is like a low budget X files episode with flashlights and bulletin boards with strings connecting the dots between the planets and blurry photos. A perfect accompaniment for a song that is both retro and forward-looking.
“Be nice to me baby, I want to believe in you / Be nice to me baby, I want to believe in something.” Indeed.
Lil Simz – Woman
It was difficult to choose a song that best represented the timeless and elegant collection that Lil Simz gave us this year. I would have been happy to choose either the title song Sometimes i’m introverted Where Point & Kill (with Obongjayar) corn Women is a good place to start if you’re new to this gifted artist and hey – if that’s good enough to make Barack Obama the best of 2021, that’s good enough for me.
I feel like this song could have gone on forever, its flow is so smooth and seemingly effortless. Of course, this is no accident. As someone who writes for a living, I am painfully aware that good writing (which I rarely accomplish) is often an exhausting process, and good sentences are more about what you leave out than what you do. you leave in. There are three perfect verses but I would have taken ten more.
Arooj Aftab – Last night
My favorite album of the year comes from an artist from Brooklyn who does to traditional Pakistani music what Rob Ruha does to waiata reo – modernizes it to make it not only relevant, but revealing. Here’s a new line to put into the Christmas conversation – neo-Sufi minimalism.
Arooj Aftab moved from Pakistan to America in his early twenties and quickly obtained a degree in music production, engineering and jazz composition. She is not only fluent in several spoken languages, but also a multitude of musical dialects.
“So beautiful as the moon” she repeats in the final section, weaving a hypnotic spell, simple but insidiously clever. It’s the only English song on the record but as it often is, you don’t have to understand the words to understand their meaning.
Meaning is beauty. A humble prayer to nature, composed as an act of worship. ‘The rest – it’s silence ‘.