In this definitive tilt of the 50 absolute best songs of 2021, you ’ ll find every shade of animation – from dayglo pop-punk to glitterball K-pop via goth-noir, neon electro, hard dirt and everything in between. From icons to upstarts, these are the tracks that took around three minutes of your life, but gave you then much more. These are the moments of charming in an instant. In that spirit, let ’ s just bloody get on with it shall we ? here ’ s your year in absolute bangers .
Andrew Trendell, NME News Editor
Reading: The 50 best songs of 2021
Words by: Alex Flood, Ali Shutler, Andrew Trendell, Ben Jolley, Charlotte Krol, El Hunt, Ella Kemp, Hannah Mylrea, Jenessa Williams, Kyann-Sian Williams, Patrick Clarke, Rhian Daly, Rhys Buchanan, Sam Moore, Sophie Williams, Thomas Smith and Will Richards
50. Yungblud – ‘Fleabag’
Inspired by Oasis, Green Day and Nirvana, this banger saw Yungblud living out every one of his rockstar fantasies. After the eclectic might of moment album ‘ Weird ! ’, ‘ Fleabag ’ somehow condensed everything that ’ s brilliant about Yungblud into a three-minute rager. Sexy, snarling and dripping in angst, it ’ sulfur proof that our Dom can straddle his stadium ambitions whilst comfortably giving us the cult hero we indeed urgently need. AS
Best bit: good when you think the birdcall can ’ metric ton get any hard, Dom pulls out that wailing guitar solo .
49. The Cribs – ‘Swinging At Shadows’
Wakefield ’ s finest wouldn ’ metric ton let us go without any fresh music in 2021, having roared back to life last year with the still-stupendous ‘ Night Network ’. To launch their vinyl single subscription service ‘ Sonic Blew Singles Club ’, The Cribs blessed us with ‘ Swinging At Shadows ’ : 205 seconds of indie-pop stateliness jammed with crunchy Jarman riffs, a glorious sing-along chorus about being “ outsiders once again ” and adequate good vibes to make you briefly forget there ’ randomness however a pandemic rage in the background of everyday life. God bless The Cribs. SM
Best bit: The “ ooh-ooh-wahey ! ” backing vocals in the chorus. It ’ s like 2005 all over again – authorize us the Martell, would you ?
48. Enny – ‘Same Old’
There ’ south constantly something feel-good about an Enny sung. Whether it ’ s the chorus ’ simple, campfire singalong vibration, or the wail piano keys synonymous with R & B, there was a sense of exemption to ‘ Same Old ’ despite its angsty lyrics. At 26-years-old, the south Londoner used her wisdom to form conscious prose that encapsulates the trials of a generation going through gentrification, Brexit, sleep together, and a unharmed lode of other very 2021 problems. KSW
Best bit: Before the last refrain, Enny ends her report of perseverance with an uplift trace of affirmative action : “ I saw truth and had to face it / I knew then that I could make it out ” .
47. Twenty One Pilots – ‘Saturday’
With a back catalogue that largely deals in isolation, you ’ five hundred assume Twenty One Pilots would have been in their element during lockdown. alternatively of leaning into misery, they made ‘ Scaled & Icy ’ – an album so joyous, some fans believe they ’ vitamin d been brainwashed by their own fabricated secret arrangement, Dema. The jewel in that exultant crown is ‘ Saturday ’ – a funky, uptempo federal bureau of prisons that ’ randomness more concerned in dance than despair. This party-starter is bright, bold and a amazingly good attend for the emo couple. AS
Best bit: A audio clip that sees frontman Tyler Joseph wanting to watch Friends, but his wife tells him to do some bloody exploit rather. We ’ ve all been there, eh ?
46. Ashnikko – ‘Deal With It’ (feat. Kelis)
A highlight of Ashnikko ’ s genre-splicing debut mixtape ‘ Demidevil ’, this self-described “ rage-room ” of a song is a belter. Sampling Kelis ’ authoritative ‘ Caught Out There ’ ( the cut features Kelis ’ iconic : “ I hate you so much right now ” line ), and boasting house-shaking pop-trap production, this is the ultimate middle-finger to that ex-wife who just doesn ’ triiodothyronine get that you ’ re then over them. HM
Best bit : The brilliantly cruddy line : “ I don ’ t need a man, I need a lapin ” .
45. aespa – ‘Next Level’
Though K-pop ’ randomness newest rookies formally debuted with ‘ Forever ’ and ‘ Black Mamba ’, ‘ Next Level ’ was the moment where aespa truly arrived. A reimagining of A $ long ton Wyld ’ s Fast & Furious soundtrack contribution from 2019, it pushes the genre into a much dark kingdom – pulling hip-hop and e-girl into cyberpunk. Did we mention it has at least three entirely discriminate ‘ beat drops ’, all with their own laughably catchy hooks ? Mark these girls down as your gratuity for 2022 – they ’ re going to be BTS-levels of huge. JW
Best bit: Check out the video recording of that flawless stage dancing – imitate it at your hazard .
44. Coldplay – ‘Higher Power’
Coldplay have been looking astir to the stars for years, and ‘ Higher Power ’ finally saw them sincerely lift off towards the stratosphere. A euphoric valentine to that person who makes the earth seem a fiddling undimmed, this was the reasoned of a ring free of the shackles of youth – nostalgic with shades of electro-pop, rather than their own angsty discography, and basking in the glow of beloved with no-strings attached. EK
Best bit: The soaring outro, a tender admission of gratitude and perfect singalong moment as “ your sleep together song floats me on ” which sounds like it ’ s been decades in the make. cover girl stuff .
43. Tyler, the Creator – ‘WUSYANAME’
We may never know the identity of the womanhood Tyler, the Creator fell intemperate for on ‘ CALL ME IF YOU GET LOST ’ ( see ‘ WILSHIRE ’ for an ode to a fail relationship ) – but ‘ WUSYANAME ’ painted another graphic picture of a girl he longs to woo. Tyler crafted a delightful, ’ 90s-indebted R & B slinker to soundtrack his smooth-talking. Being whisked off to France with promises of pampering and gamble was a win quixotic gesticulate. CK
Best bit: Tyler adding dry temper to the mix : “ Let ’ s go to Cannes and watch a couple indie movies that you ’ ve never hear of ” .
42. Willow – ‘Transparent Soul’
Proving that the transition from R & B to pop-punk can be seamless, musical visionary Willow became a new emblem for alt-girl charming on ‘ Transparent Soul ’ – channelling Paramore and Avril Lavigne to tell a history of back-stabbing friends. Blink-182 ’ randomness Travis Barker surely hasn ’ t struggled from work this year, but his cram efforts here were particularly huge ; matching the skyscraper power of Willow ’ s voice. Where she goes future is anybody ’ s guess, but for now, the rock candy life suits her well. JW
Best bit: Where that massive chorus kicks in – a proper ‘ Misery Business ’ moment for a newfangled generation .
41. Pa Salieu ft. Slowthai – ‘Glidin’’
As two of Britain ’ s most idiosyncratic rhymers, Salieu and Slowthai did good what ’ south on the tin with this angsty jewel – gliding along with class and attitude. Tapping into Pa Salieu ’ sulfur perfected fusion of dirty and afrobeats, the Coventry chap ’ mho ethos this class was to merely have fun. ‘ Glidin ’ ’ took his and Ty ’ s brawl flows and imaginative pun to another level. KSW
Best bit: Pa Salieu ’ s harebrained ad-lib work, specially in his second verse .
40. Sofia Kourtesis – ‘La Perla’
The Berlin-based peruvian artist ’ s affectional electronic collages shone brightest on this sonically-shuffling highlight from her ‘ Fresia Magdalena ’ EP. softly detailing a moving however uplifting memory of her recently father, this was Sofia at her most soul-bearing : beautifully singing in spanish on record for the first clock over glistening synths, a choir of voices and percussive instrumentation, everything builds up to create a dear house exuberate. BDJ
Best bit: That tear-jerking whistled outro that conveys a feel of long-awaited peace, like staring out to sea on a calm day .
39. Mabel – ‘Let Them Know’
Mabel gave us one of the class ’ sulfur defining club bangers after deciding to make something that she claimed voice “ like a Madonna ’ s ‘ Vogue ’, but in 2021 ”. That ’ s quite an assignment to set yourself, but she pulled it off by watching RuPaul ’ s Drag Race and the germinal LGBTQ documentary film Paris Is Burning, then channelling their defiant position into a strutting ’ 90s house update from producer SG Lewis. The leave : “ Tens, tens, tens across the dining table ! ” for Mabel, Lewis and co-writers MNEK and Raye. NL
Best bit: The chorus ’ empowering pay-off : “ No, they can ’ triiodothyronine beat you down / ’ Cause baby you ’ re that bitch ” .
38. Sigrid – ‘Mirror’
The past year ’ second pause on live performances provided the norwegian star topology with a personality crisis of sorts. Her dignity, she realised, was wrapped up in entertaining others, but this comeback individual provided a joyous fightback that celebrated the “ person in the mirror ”, all set to her most ambitious and party-starting output even. TS
Best bit: The ravey middle-eight, ripe for several club remixes by dance music royalty like Paul Woolford and Kelly Lee Owens .
37. Måneskin – ‘I Wanna Be Your Slave’
Måneskin entered 2021 in relative obscurity, before their gender-bending sexed-up glam rock candy stormed Eurovision when they took dwelling the trophy for Italy with the swaggering ‘ Zitti e buoni ’, but the real fame came after. Proving that they ’ re far more than a Eurotrash doodad – and did-he-didn ’ t-he-drugs headline fodder – ‘ I Wan sodium Be Your Slave ’ proved to their real number victory. A snarl, punk-metal, NSFW ode to getting kicks out of your kinks, this real romp even got the seal of approval from Iggy Pop who lent his vocals to a re-released version. It very puts the lecherousness back into life. AT
Best bit: That sultry whisper : “ And if you want to use me I could be your puppet ”. Phwoar .
36. Baby Keem & Kendrick Lamar – ‘Family Ties’
Kendrick Lamar ’ s long-awaited solo return may look fructify for 2022, but the Compton knocker did reappear this class to help launch Baby Keem ’ s impressive debut album. The intense three-part ‘ Family Ties ’ initially saw Keem embark to horns and talk of reaching “ the stars on my tippy-toes ” before Lamar took the mic and, well, dominated. “ I been duckin ’ the pandemic, I been duckin ’ the social gimmicks / I been duckin ’ the overnight activists, ” he retorted to his detractors before declaring : “ 2021, I ain ’ triiodothyronine takin ’ no prisoner. ” Yeah, fair adequate. SM
Best bit: “ I ’ thousand not a swerve topic, I ’ m a prophet. ” – Kendrick Lamar. Again, fair adequate .
35. Bree Runway – ‘Hot Hot’
The aphrodisiac, knowing flair of ‘ Hot Hot ’ was that despite the simple birdcall title – a idiom that you ’ d more probable receive on a bottle of Nando ’ s sauce – it evoked multiple and complex pleasures : of movement, confidence, exemption. Bree built up the cut ’ south sustained feeling of self-belief perfectly, piling on the hammer beats, lyric flexes and layered dad harmonies and letting them recur, knowing we wouldn ’ metric ton get disgusted of this throbbing arrangement any fourth dimension soon. SW
Best bit: “ Sweet little beloved, do you want some ? ”, she cooly spill the beans in the first verse, teasing a potential love sake. Who could resist ?
34. Holly Humberstone – ‘The Walls Are Way Too Thin’
By detailing the alienation that accompanies finding one ’ randomness plaza in a new city, this mid-tempo number wrapped itself up in bittersweet nostalgia – the kind you can ’ thyroxine get off after seeing pictures of friends from back home start astir on the timeline. Grantham ’ s own Humberstone fused this experience into a twinkling rumble that crystallised her pain ; the themes that she wrestled with on this song are surely universal joint, but they ’ re rarely depicted with such immediacy. SW
Best bit: The pulsing synth line that buoys the melody throughout, as if it ’ mho stuck in a iteration dream .
33. Squid – ‘Narrator’
The first individual from their five-star debut album, ‘ Narrator ’ was a microcosm of everything that makes Squid so agitate – packed into eight-and-a-half exhilarate minutes. Across the track, singer/drummer Ollie Judge roared over math-y guitars indebted to 2008-era Foals, before a violent, wild middle saw the track ’ s shape melt aside and the band ’ s avant-garde tendencies truly come out to play. A true odyssey within a one birdcall. WR
Best bit: When, after multiple minutes of tense, foreboding build-up, the racetrack explodes into chaos and letting a torrent of unresolved noise spill away .
32. Mitski – ‘The Only Heartbreaker’
Is this the most twist imagine of what “ crying in the club ” sounds like ? Mitski danced through aloneness and betrayal in a dizzy ’ 80s-inflected battle-cry about being the guilty party in a fail relationship, throwing her hands up and sending us skyward. With bloodcurdling synths and commanding vocals, ‘ The merely Heartbreaker ’ solidified her status as a chief of distilling messy feelings into something quite breathtaking. EK
Best bit: The open five seconds – it ’ s impossible to sit still once it sinks in with just how much power Mitski is making her comeback as our patron saint of bittersweet bops .
31. Yard Act – ‘Dark Days’
preferably than succumb to the shit-storm of the last few years, Leeds gang Yard Act managed to laugh through the convulsion on ‘ Dark Days ’. Backed by one of the year ’ sulfur biggest post-punk grooves, frontman James Smith served up fortunate lines that made everything feel more bearable : “ I ’ ll embrace all my mistakes / As I descend into the bowels of sin with a shit-eating smile on my face. ” It confirmed them as genuine originals refusing to fall in line. RB
Best bit: A spangle guitar production line opens up the floor for Smith ’ sulfur maddened yelp that says just about everything you need to know – “ AHHH ! ! ! ! ”
30. Japanese Breakfast – ‘Be Sweet’
Korean-American indie rocker Michelle Zauner clocked out of this ’ 80s-influenced pop belter with a personal request semen generational rallying shout : “ Be sweet to me baby / I wan sodium believe in you / I wan sodium believe in something ! ” It was a noble pastime – and after just three minutes of japanese Breakfast ’ s euphoric disco-shoegaze, you ’ ll be ready to fall right in line behind her. AF
Best bit: The bassy beginnings – an blink of an eye hit of flinch to turn your bad sidereal day into a full one .
29. Kanye West & André 3000 – ‘Life Of The Party’
‘ Life Of The Party ’ didn ’ t make the final reduce on ‘ DONDA ’ due to André 3000 ’ s apparent unwillingness to have his swear censored. But after some divine/dastardly intervention from Drake, who leaked the track during the copulate ’ mho feud, the official version ultimately emerged on the deluxe spill of ‘ DONDA ’ in November. The OutKast world beautifully ruminate on animation and death in the context of his late parents over a classic flip Kanye instrumental, wistfully wondering if his mother ’ s intent had spoken to him through a blade of grass, a cigarette or a baby ’ s laugh he heard “ pass by in a baby buggy reminding me : ‘ Hey, keep rolling ’. ” SM
Best bit: André 3000 ’ sulfur verse digression – arguably one of his best-ever – the sound recording sample of the late DMX comforting his daughter was a touch addendum following his premature death this year .
28. Jungle – ‘Keep Moving’
No summer feels complete without hearing Jungle ’ sulfur layered and lavish electronica breezily soundtracking a BBQ, party or festival. It was fitting, then, that the west London couple dropped ‘ Keep Moving ’ five months before the August arrival of their beaming third album ‘ Loving In Stereo ’. Grooving its way into hearts, minds and Euro 2020 coverage throughout summer 2021, the ’ 70s-nodding lead strutted its farce on the dancefloor with lashings of rich strings and the duet ’ s trademark falsetto. SM
Best bit: The kinetic drum bankroll 30 seconds in, which commenced said groove .
27. Lil Nas X featuring Jack Harlow – ‘Industry Baby’
If any artist enjoyed an imperial phase in 2021, it ’ s surely Lil Nas adam : the more he pushed the envelope, the more of a ace he became. Co-produced by Kanye West, this chart-topping collab with Jack Harlow shows his bent for crafting catchy pop-rap bangers and his next-level understanding. He ’ s a self-styled “ industry baby ” because he already knows how to play the game on his own terms. NL
Best bit: “ I don ’ deoxythymidine monophosphate fuck bitches, I ’ megabyte curious ” – a plain-speaking line that underscore Lil Nas X ’ s audacious authenticity .
26. Adele – ‘Easy On Me’
The most anticipated rejoinder one of 2021 hit the set because it gave us something comfortingly familiar and a elusive progression. Yes, it was another massive Adele ballad that will make you want to cry into your wine, but it was besides surprisingly spare and restrained. Sounding better than always, Adele knows her majestic spokesperson can do all the heavy raise, sol manufacturer Greg Kurstin wisely kept the bells and whistles to a minimum. Mission accomplished, babes. NL
Best bit: The effortlessly swooping direction she sings “ I had good intentions and the highest hopes ” on the bridge .
25. St. Vincent – ‘Pay Your Way In Pain’
For her ’ 70s soul indebted sixth album ‘ Daddy ’ s Home ’, the arch picture St. Vincent welcomed us into her new world of disco balls, big collars and seamy NYC backstreets with this fresh and super-fly double shoot of whiskey-soaked funk. There are real ‘ Young Americans ’ overtones to its lounge-y tittup, but with a hip cocked and eyebrow raised, it remains quintessentially Annie Clark. AT
Best bit: That refrain of “ I WAN NA BE LOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOVED ”. You tell ’ em, Annie .
24. Dave featuring Stormzy – ‘Clash’
Though it ’ s hooks weren ’ t immediately obvious, ‘ Clash ’ saw two of our state ’ s premier rappers doing what they do well ; swaggering around a drill beat, reeling off a denounce list of social hoard and material wealth, all the while seeming entirely unconcerned by the celerity dripping from their lips. Effortless and cool, it was a appropriately low-key opener for Dave ’ s second gear record, an intricate album that deserves to be enjoyed at leisure. JW
Best bit: “ She wan sodium go to the cinema, so we just walk downstairs. ” An highly casual flex from Stormzy, who presumably doesn ’ t live in your local Vue .
23. India Jordan – ‘And Groove’
Underpinned by a relentlessly pounding drum machine, ‘ And Groove ’ felt like the musical equivalent of the deepcut Lady Gaga quote that reappeared as a meme end year : “ Bus, club, ’ nother club, ’ nother club, plane, following locate. No sleep. ” Released during a clock when all of these things were very much out of reach, the London-based manufacturer ’ s track is a house-inflected ode to staying on the move, capturing the giddying feeling of stamping the night off in a lusciously blue, strobe-lit basement. EH
Best bit: When the crisp hi-hats inaugural clash with ‘ And Groove ’ ’ s muffled piano melody .
22. MUNA featuring Phoebe Bridgers – ‘Silk Chiffon’
For most people, the mind of recording a song with their bos sounds like a thoroughly atrocious view, ending only in humiliation and ruin. But fortunately adequate for LA electro-poppers MUNA, they signed to Phoebe Bridgers ’ imprint Saddest factory this year, and the breezy ‘ Silk Chiffon ’ marks their first collaboration with their new label mind. The leave was a carefree, wide-screen rom-com of a song, and considering that far excessively many fagot musical narratives even end in certain tragedy, there was something softly refreshing about ‘ Silk Chiffon ’ ’ s lack of resistance. EH
Best bit: The Guitar Hero buzz of electric guitar in Bridgers ’ verse are finely emo .
21. Clairo – ‘Amoeba’
This slinky number from Clairo ’ s stunning five-star second album ‘ Sling ’ saw Claire Cottrill admonish her own behavior. “ You haven ’ deoxythymidine monophosphate called your family doubly, ” she critiques in the chorus, “ I can hope tonight goes differently / But I show up to the party just to leave. ” It ’ s a viciously honest judgment of her life on tour that fused blunt revelations with lavish instrumentals and a fetid rhythm method of birth control department. HM
Best bit: The key deepen towards the song ’ mho finale, before Clairo launches into the exhilarating final choir .
20. Berwyn – ‘I’d Rather Die Than Be Deported’
The Mercury-nominated Trinidadian-British musician was strictly a nomad in this music bet on. able to move between rap, R & B, and sometimes pop, Berwyn constantly somehow manages to hit you right in the heart. ‘ I ’ vitamin d Rather Die Than Be Deported ’ was a trench cut into the 25-year-old ’ s life seeking recourse in the UK after having struggles with his immigration condition – Berwyn turned this annoyance into perfect piece of art. KSW
Best bit: That space after Berwyn delivers the style, and you feel that pure rawness .
19. PinkPantheress – ‘Just For Me’
A understanding actor of the internet age, the Bath-born-and-bred singer was once hidden under a cloak of invisibility. rather of putting on a show for everyone, she injected nostalgic UK classics into aglitter one-minute tracks that have captivated a new generation. From her playful vocals to the Mura Masa -produced beat straight out of the ’ 00s, ‘ Just For Me ’ boasted both a nostalgic vibration but ultimately sounded like the future. KSW
Best bit: american samoa good as sounding capital, the story of PinkPantheress ’ yearning for her love interest is signally intense given its one minute and 55 seconds runtime .
18. Silk Sonic – ‘Smokin Out The Window’
A cynic could say that Bruno Mars and Anderson .Paak ’ s debut record as Silk Sonic is a blatant try at cosplaying the 1970s ’ golden era of soul, but it would basically miss the point – the pair sound like they ’ re merely equally much in on the joke as we are. ‘ Smokin Out The Window ’, a whip chic separation track that references Chuck-E-Cheese and scrapping in the UFC ring with their fan ’ s newly chap, proved just that. TS
Best bit: After all the good times – and all the money spent – .Paak ’ s swimming in his own self-pity : “ not to sound dramatic, but I wan sodium die, ” he wails .
17. Caroline Polachek – ‘Bunny Is A Rider’
A bounce, juddering animal of a pop song, produced by Carly Rae Jepsen and Charli XCX confederate Danny L Harle, ‘ Bunny Is A Rider ’ drew on the phantasmagoric imagination of Alice In Wonderland. Nodding to the koran ’ randomness hapless whiten rabbit, who runs around clutching a stopwatch and being late for things, Polachek ’ s lone single this year was a genius newfangled spin on the age-old theme of emotional distance. EH
Best bit: Every one pathetic rhyming couple, but particularly “ bunny is a rider / Satellite can ’ thymine find her ” .
16. Doja Cat featuring SZA – ‘Kiss Me More’
‘ Kiss Me More ’ was on constant replay thanks to its madly catchy hooks, sexed-up lyrics and sugary pop production that zapped synapses in all the good places. Doja Cat and SZA ’ s soulful harmonies were a peer made in eden – better hush their sequester raps delivered with love and art. Both artists flitted naturally between stunning outspoken runs and defiant spits, expressing precisely how to manage and make well on their desires. CK
Best bit: When they yell gleefully, “ All on my tongue, I want it ”, in the post-chorus .
15. Wolf Alice – ‘Smile’
The standout song on astounding third base album ‘ Blue Weekend ’, and the glorious apparitional baby to the feral ‘ Yuk Foo ’ from their previous record, ‘ Smile ’ saw frontwoman Ellie Rowsell ferociously challenge the male gaze perceptions of a woman as “ brainsick ” and “ unhinged ”. “ I am what I am and I ’ megabyte full at it / And you don ’ metric ton like me well that international relations and security network ’ deoxythymidine monophosphate fucking relevant, ” Roswell sings with boisterous malice. A path marked by dreamy shoegaze, soaring harmonies and a killer whale bass, it ’ south certain to become a staple of their exist shows for years. They ’ ve never sounded more assure. EA
Best bit: When Ellie Rowsell snarls : “ And nowadays you all think I ’ megabyte perturb / Wind her up and this honeybee stings. ”
14. Griff – ‘Black Hole’
The Hertfordshire all-rounder went from pop view to bonafide star with ‘ Black Hole ’, her highest-charting and individual so far. While the other releases from her debut mixtape, ‘ One Foot In Front of The early ’, favoured affair, ‘ Black Hole ’ – quite literally – embraced the Go Big Or Go Home mantra, with a playful mix of twinkling home-spun songwriting and backed it with a ‘ Yeezus ’ -sized cacophony of fathom. Spectacular. TS
Best bit: A bombastic know performance at this class ’ randomness Brit Awards bagged her a modern supporter in Taylor Swift .
13. The Weeknd – ‘Take My Breath’
Trying to top a hit a big as ‘ Blinding Lights ’ would be near on impossible for most artists. But in ‘ Take My Breath ’, Abel Tesfaye proved otherwise. From its pulse, foot-tapping opening to its spine-tingling choir, this cut is a stun slice of disco dad indebted so far again to The Weeknd ’ s love for the ’ 80s. They don ’ metric ton get a lot bigger than this. DJ
Best bit: The elephantine falsetto in the choir. Oosh .
12. Foals – ‘Wake Me Up’
After the Oxford alt-rockers literally saw us through the apocalypse on their sister albums ‘ Everything not Saved Will Be Lost ’ Parts One and Two, Foals felt that 2021 was credibly fourth dimension to lighten up. The first base taster from their approaching rave-fuelled one-seventh album was the perfect antidote to spending besides long indoors – as frontman Yannis Philipakkis squawks his way out of lockdown monotony and up to sunlit mountaintops. You could say it ’ s the apparitional sequel to dancier moments like ‘ My Number ’ and ‘ In Degrees ’, but in truth it ’ s the in full realised disco infiltrator they ’ ve always threatened to write. AT
Best bit: That first ‘ OH NO ! ’. real studio 54 vibes .
11. Charli XCX – ‘Good Ones’
Charli XCX ’ s ‘ Good Ones ’ is pure, unadulterated pop. Over squelchy synths, Charli regrets letting the “ good ones go ”, alternatively opting for the messy and the “ bad ones, ’ induce they ’ re all I know ”. The earworm embraced glossy production, with XCX ’ s classifiable vocals floating across the thrilling soundscape – resulting in a stone-cold smasher. HM
Best bit: XCX ’ randomness pitch of “ go ” in the chorus, or rather, her rescue of “ go-oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-oh… ”
10. BTS – ‘Butter’
In our first pandemic class, BTS took the lead when it came to crafting affecting pop songs that acted as companions through life ’ s new uncertainties. With ‘ Butter ’, they tried a different tact for year two – one that took a simple path to finding some long delinquent rejoice. A feel-good summer knock, the award-winning track put its stress on playfulness, cramming in pop culture references and a squelch bassline it was impossible not to strut to. The results were something that seep confidence and cool, and provided an instant pickup even in the gloomy of moments. RD
Best bit: When RM neatly sums up the connection between band and fan on the ride-or-die call-to-arms “ Got ARMY right behind us when we say so ” .
9. Little Simz – ‘Introvert’
When Little Simz returned in April with the cinematic flourish and political pummel of ‘ Introvert ’, it was the voice of a critically adored yet commercially undervalued knocker on a career high. Simz has hanker shied away from making overtly political music but on ‘ Introvert ’ it was laid bare. Written as the pandemic took declare and the BLM bowel movement ballooned, the song craftily traverses themes of racial injustice, poverty and her own shortcomings, and steeped in sublime arrangements. CK
Best bit: Simz ’ entree that it ’ mho time to use her platform more, rapping : “ not into politics, but I know it ’ sulfur dark times / Parts of the global hush living in apartheid. ”
8. Billie Eilish – ‘Happier Than Ever’
following class, the LA adolescent will headline Glastonbury Festival ’ randomness Pyramid Stage, returning to Worthy Farm as the festival ’ s youngest ever solo headliner. The title track to her assured second gear record ought to be the bent ’ south closer, as it encapsulates both her by and present. The open whispering lullaby – akin to her break individual ‘ Ocean Eyes ’ – is violently crushed in the outstanding second half where Billie goes full rock ‘n’ roll star and dabbles in a dash of Britpop excess. You can pinpoint precisely the moment when the fireworks will start collapse. TS
Best bit: Pain, anger and commiseration populate every wrinkle, but it ’ s this couplet that ’ ll have the room and your head spin : “ You were my everything / And all that you did was make me fucking sad. ”
7. CHVRCHES featuring Robert Smith – ‘How Not To Drown’
scots pop trio Chvrches ’ one-third album ‘ Screen Violence ’ was a career high, and a document of the real life sci-fi dystopia of doom-scrolling and digital voyeurism that we find ourselves within. If you want to lay the darkness on nice and slurred, what better direction than having the Gothfather himself, Robert Smith, jump on board ? The Cure caption is the perfect fit for the track ’ sulfur already gallant pop-noir horror prove vibes, crooning a fantastic duet of being lost in doubts and darkness. Gloom rarely feels this full. AT
Best bit: The first time Smith and Mayberry unite on a chorus, married in glorious misery .
6. Lorde – ‘Solar Power’
The best artists always borrow from their greatest inspirations – and who could blame New Zealand popular paragon Lorde for giving her big comeback single a Bobby Gilespie-inspired breakdown ? Shaking off the blues of second album ‘ Melodrama ’, ‘ Solar Power ’ sees Ella Yelich O ’ Connor washup in sun-kissed indie-folk, before busting out some aboriginal Scream-esque acid house for the song ’ s euphoric stopping point. Yes it sounds very like ‘ Loaded ’, but the scots ravers have given their bless – Gillespie was “ then adorable about it ” when Lorde reached out – and we ’ rhenium not complaining. We ’ re gon na have a party alternatively ! AF
Best bit: “ Blink three times when you feel it kicking in… ” – oh, we can feel it all right .
5. Lil Nas X – ‘MONTERO (Call Me By Your Name)’
‘ MONTERO ( Call Me By Your Name ) ’ was such a elephantine hit that it ’ s easy to overlook just how much atmospheric pressure was on Lil Nas X to follow-up the omnipresent ‘ Old Town Road ’. Anything less than absolute paragon would leave him wide open to one-hit-wonderdom. With ‘ MONTERO ’, however, Nas X rose to that pressure and then some, delivering a satiny, sexy and snake firecracker for the ages and an iconic television to match. There ’ south no doubt about his talents immediately, Lil Nas X is a generational ace. PC
Best bit: When that beginning refrain hits, shimmering guitars on the spur of the moment plunging into the most smolder of grooves .
4. Sam Fender – ‘Seventeen Going Under’
cipher sings about embittered youth quite comparable Sam Fender, and he ’ randomness never been more convincing than on the unafraid individual that announced his rejoinder. A propellant beat leads him – and us – into the future, brand sax and twinkling guitars aplenty, while boldly looking back on his past with some of his most unafraid lyrics to date ( “ She cries on the floor encumbered / I ’ meter seventeen going under ” ). Anger, repent, defiance and pride all twirl and swell in Fender ’ s imperial mission argument. He ’ five hundred never cry about it on record, but his vulnerability however hits you right in the intestine. EK
Best bit: The sax solo after the refrain – you knew it was coming, but its euphoric impact is still odd .
3. Wet Leg – ‘Chaise Longue’
Raise your hand if, this class, you haven ’ t psyched yourself up for a gig, exercise, or Big Night Out by listening to the thrillingly uncompromising ‘ Chaise Longue ’ ? If this number simply reflected the number of punch-the-air moments a refrain produced, then this glib, rapid debut single would be a fugitive Number One. Rhian Teasdale and Hester Chambers delivered this song with the assurance, brawn and hunger of indie stalwarts, crafting a heady blend of corpulent bass and needle riffs so accurate and addictive that it could ping niff around your head for days. SW
Best bit: The Mean Girls-referencing refrain of “ is your muffin buttered ? ”. so deadpan, it hurts .
2. Self Esteem – ‘I Do This All The Time’
anterior to releasing ‘ I Do This All The Time ’ most people yet to catch onto her solo introduction ‘ Compliments Please ’ still knew Self Esteem as ‘ Rebecca from Slow Club ’ – and then this slink, spoken-word epic brought the late adopters up to go steady in one fiercely witty swipe. loosely inspired by Baz Luhrmann ’ s ‘ Everybody ’ s Free To Wear Sunscreen ’, Self Esteem ’ s well song to date dispenses viciously honest wisdom aboard song hums and a slink beat. “ be very careful out there, stop trying to have therefore many friends, ” Taylor says, “ don ’ triiodothyronine be intimidated by all the babies they have, wear ’ thymine be embarrassed that all you ’ ve had is fun. ” It was the perfect entry-point for Self Esteem ’ s second album ‘ Prioritise Pleasure ’ – an ode to celebrating yourself in a society which would rather you didn ’ t. EH
Best bit: The last 30 seconds ’ euphoric burst into technicolour – a proper, fling-your-head-back-and-belt-out-the-lyrics-moment.
1. Olivia Rodrigo – ‘Good 4 U’
In early 2021, a little-known singer-songwriter called Olivia Rodrigo became the most spill about adolescent on the satellite. Her stunning debut single ‘ Drivers License ’ came – about out of nowhere – to conquer ; topping the UK chart for nine weeks and breaking countless records along the direction. Far from a one-hit wonder, Rodrigo ’ s debut album ‘ Sour ’ ( released in May ) was a authentic care for treasure trove of tunes, ranging from the affectional stripped-back moments ( ‘ 1 Step Forward, 3 Steps Back ’ ), to alt-rock indebted stompers ( ‘ Brutal ’ ) .
It ’ second ‘ Good 4 U ’ that very stood out, though. The ferocious tune that saw Rodrigo eye-roll “ Well, good for you, you look happy and goodly ” over slam dance instrumentals is a killer whale. “ We wanted to take an early 2000s pop-punk birdcall and screen of bend it and find a direction to make it 2021, ” Rodrigo told NME earlier this class in her cover charge floor – a brief she more than fulfilled on the Dan Nigro-assisted tune. not good setting the standard for the joyous nostalgia-embracing pop-punk sound that ’ s dominated the mainstream in 2021, it ’ s a masterclass in songwriting, matching a real rock earworm with Rodrigo ’ second brainy, pithy lyrics. Where the song could have become a medley, ‘ beneficial 4 U ’ feels signally modern ; a euphoric exercise of Rodrigo ’ s absolute endowment, and a song that perfectly captures the spirit and department of energy of a year where we were finally able to cut loose and feel rid. HM
Best bit: The final examination choir when Rodrigo switches the lyrics, resulting in the searing : “ Good for you, you ’ re doing bang-up out there without me, baby / Like a bloody sociopath ! ” – how dare they !