The 100 best songs of 2021


Listen: Monaleo, “Shoot Down Yo Block”

Memory music


Bartees Strange: “Weight”

At first glance, “Weights” is one of the countless songs about hanging on to a crush. In the hands of Bartees Strange, however, this familiar theme gets a pantheon-worthy overhaul. Armed with an explosive rhythm section and guitars destined for cheap seats, Bartees captures the most crucial moment in post-relationship life – the decision to move on – through Bloc Party-style crescendos and howls to clear the throat. Think karaoke for broken hearts who are desperate for trust. Extract from the deluxe edition of his revolutionary 2020 album Live forever, “Weights” is a personal victory lap steeped in an adrenaline rush so strong that listeners can feel it too. –Nina Corcoran

Listen: Bartees Strange, “Weight”

ICY / Warner


Saweetie: “Best friend” [ft. Doja Cat]

Just a few years ago, mainstream collaborations between rap women were as rare as genuine excuses for the Notes app. Now there is the embarrassment of riches, and “Best Friend” is one of those hits: two of rap’s most dominant merge to shine, as good confidants do. (Who hasn’t seen their first day on the street and shouted, “Beep beep, is that my best friend in a Tessie”?) The change in shape manifests as a sparkling three-stream worm . As public displays of affection go on, this is the kind that is perfectly admissible. – Clover Hope

Listen: Saweetie, “Best friend” [ft. Doja Cat]



Tirzah: “Send me”

Stripped to synth, vocals and the occasional moody drumbeat, Tirzah’s album Shade of color demonstrates self-protective restraint. “Send Me” is one of the more spartan songs on the record: a single guitar figure is looped over a rickety hi-hat pattern, virtually without variation, for four minutes. On this skeleton, Tirzah asks for healing. “Send me the sun at dawn / I’ll let it heal some more,” she sings softly, as if cooing a lullaby to her newborn baby; the lyrics are both tender and cryptic. Then, in the last 30 seconds, she steps on a pedal and all of that palliative energy suddenly ignites. –Philip Sherburne

Listen: Tirzah, “Send me”

Darkroom / Interscope


Billie Eilish: “Happier than ever”

For much of her second album, Billie Eilish is subdued, rarely going beyond a melodic whisper, even when she spits venom at stalkers, trolls, and abusers. At first, the sprawling title track on the record sounds more like the same: “Happier Than Ever” begins with a wafty ukulele, sparkling keys, and Eilish’s comfortable vibrato, her opening burst delivered so nostalgically you miss it. almost his underlying annoyance. But halfway through, Billie’s inner Alanis kicks in. She submits to rage and turns up the volume, summoning a torrent of fried guitar and muffled screams as she picks up an ex. “I’m not talking about you on the internet,” she moaned, before she started talking a lot of shit. It can be tempting to voice your grievances online, but Eilish knows her burns make better words than tweets. –Olivia Corne

Listen: Billie Eilish, “happier than ever”

101 years


Little Simz: “Introvert”

“Introvert” is the opening of a fantastic and spooky score where Little Simz is the messiah tasked with preventing evil from ending the world. Rather than pure gospel, the song plays like a musical theme for a boxing champion who runs into the ring before Michael Buffer announces, “Let’s get ready to rumble!” Except the match takes place in a cathedral in the sound of horns and church bells. . Simz vigilantly defends his title – over 10 years in the game – with regular and precise punches: “I see sinners in a church, I see sinners in a church. Here she embraces being lonely and continues to throw bows, even if it means bad manners in the house of the Lord. –Veracia Ankrah

Listen: Little Simz, “Introvert”



The war on drugs: “I don’t live here anymore”

Adam Granduciel looks back and man, that looks so good. “I Don’t Live Here Anymore,” the sublime title song from War on Drugs’ fifth album, is an anthem made for getting covered in suntan oil on a roof while wearing aviators, or pumping your fist in it. look from the back of a pickup truck. It’s iridescent, with multicolored synths and guitars as big as skyscrapers. He names Dylan, and he sings about memory and how we all have to get through “this darkness” on our own. There is still a senssweet, sweet mystery in this life, he seems to be saying. It might sound corny, but he’s right. -Sophie Kemp

Listen: The War on Drugs, “I don’t live here anymore”



Grouper: “Kelso (Blue sky)”

On “Kelso (Blue Sky)”, Liz Harris leads us down the desolate road of her internal struggle. Returning home on a rural road along the Columbia River, Harris is consumed by fog. Between pensive buzzes, she expresses her displeasure as the light disappears around her. The sky darkens, as do her emotions as she sings, “I can’t believe I can’t see you once more.” She wants to tell us that she is happy, but at night she can only tell the truth. –Arjun Srivatsa


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