Wednesday 22 December 2021

2021 in Review: Top 10 Songs

A quick disclaimer before I jump into my Top 10 songs for 2021: most of the songs I spent time listening to this past year were either random tunes I had on repeat while I exercised, or old classics I found myself rediscovering. This is not a knock on the quality of the songs we are getting these days by the way, but rather a reflection of the fact that I am getting old and thus nostalgic for those years gone by. 

That said, the year still produced or played host to a few standout tracks. 2021 can perhaps be best remembered as the year that afrobeat hit the global stage like never before, invading both the international charts and social media feeds with songs like Love Nwantiti by CKay and Essence by Wizkid & Tems. But out of all the songs that graced the charts and various Spotify playlists during the year, here are the ones I consider my favorite ones.

10. Loud Urban Choir - Bloody Samaritan

I'd be lying if I said I knew who Ayra Starr was just a few short months ago. But after hearing this beautiful rendition of her hit song, Bloody Samaritan, by Lagos-based ensemble group, Loud Urban Choir, she has made a blip on my rusty radar. The cover version transforms an already-catchy song to new heights with some sweet vocal harmonies and a haunting piano backing track.

9. Riton x Nightcrawlers - Friday (ft. Mufasa & Hypeman)

One of the biggest club bangers of the 90s was recently given new life by the antics of Mufasa & Hypeman, two internet personalities who had featured the track in one of their viral skits. So it was only a matter of time before an official remix was made (or in this case, a remix of a remix) in the form of Friday, a crossover between English DJ, Riton, and the OGs themselves, Nightcrawlers.

8. Ed Sheeran - Bad Habits

After taking some considerable time away from the limelight, Ed Sheeran was back with his newest album, =. And that album was ushered in by the lead single, Bad Habits, a song that has the singer-songwriter stepping out of his comfort zone to deliver something different. That the song sounds like a reworked version of the Supermode track, Tell Me Why, only bodes well for its throwback credentials.

7. Tech N9ne - Face Off

With more than 22 albums under his belt and a career spanning two decades, Tech N9ne is one of those rappers that has remained relegated to the underground. Except none of that seemed to matter on the fiery track that is Face Off, a single off his 2021 album, Asin9ne. The song is perhaps most noteworthy for featuring a verse by wrestler turned Hollywood superstar, Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson.

6. Adele - Easy On Me

Another artist that was back in 2021 after an extended hiatus was the British singer, Adele. Her eagerly-anticipated new album, 30, was released on the 19th of November, preceded by its lead single, Easy On Me. The song itself is a ballad that has her once again showcasing her vocal chops, and the album would go on to become the highest-selling for the entire year, as most of her prior albums tended to do.

5. The Kid LAROI - Stay (ft. Justin Bieber)

Justin Bieber has pretty much been in the public eye since he first burst onto the music scene with early hits like Baby. And in the time since then, he's been featured on collaborations with a variety of artists. But something about "Stay" with rising Australian star, The Kid LAROI, seems to signal that it could very well be his best one yet. The song is certainly one of those earworms and shouldn't be out of place on any summer playlist.

4. Grum - Sparkles

I have Spotify to thank for the discovery of this rousing House gem, with the music service finally being expanded to Nigeria this past year. The song is immediately reminiscent of past club anthems from the mid-to-late 2000s, with its pulsating synthesizer riffs and deep bassline. And that the track currently has so few viewers over on YouTube is one of the great injustices of the year in my opinion. But hopefully that changes as more and more people discover it.

3. The Weeknd - Save Your Tears

The Weeknd might have been snubbed by the Grammys two years in a row, but that doesn't mean his music has waned in quality. To the contrary, I would even go as far as stating that his 2020 album, After Hours, has some of his best material to date. He'd released the music video to the track, Save Your Tears, back in January of this year, and the song would even receive a Billboard-topping remix featuring Ariana Grande.

2. Machine Gun Kelly - drunk face

Machine Gun Kelly made the transition from rapper to punk rocker with his 2020 album, Ticket to My Downfall, following a successful collaboration with Blink-182 drummer, Travis Baker. And of all the songs on the album, drunk face captures the classic Blink-182 style the best. It speaks to that carefree, rebellious spirit that was pretty much integral to punk rock as a whole back in its heydays.

1. Dua Lipa - Levitating

That's right folks. My favorite song for 2021 is none other than Levitating by Dua. The song is just one of several bangers to be found on her 2020 album, Future Nostalgia. And while it had officially been released as a single towards the tail end of last year, it is a testament to its staying power that it completely dominated the various pop charts and playlists for most of 2021. 

Backed by silky-smooth production from a heavy hitter's list of producers that include Jeff Bhasker and Stuart Price, the song fuses pop and disco elements to create a sound that at once harkens back to Jamiroquai's Cosmic Girl. Add to that similar astronomical themes and lyrics about falling helplessly in love with the boy or girl of your dreams and what we're left with is another bona fide classic for the ages.

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