Top Songs of 2021

I live in a weird music bubble. I don’t listen to the radio, and at my age I don’t really have any peers left who listen to new music with any kind of passion. So, I discover things on my own, either via browsing the Apple Music store or through the occasional bits of music news that leak through. I don’t even use Spotify or stream music–I purchase it. This makes me a throwback, I know, but it makes the music much less disposable and much more enjoyable for me. (And has the added benefit, I think, of putting more money into the artists’ pockets.)

I’m not going to pretend to have a particularly elevated taste or even know much about music. I really don’t. I have zero musical ability, and I actually quite like that. It’s one of the few artistic things I enjoy purely as appreciation and not so much examination. But I do have taste, of a sort. All the music I like is GOOD. Feel free to disagree (I know you will).

At the end of every year, I make two playlists. One is my Top 10, and the second is my Top 11-20. I segregate them this way because I want my Top 10 to be a TRUE Top 10. I force myself to make difficult choices to create a truly excellent playlist worthy of being revisited, and then the 11-20 list is what is leftover. Still great songs, but just not Top 10. Both lists are ordered for listening pleasure, not by ranking.

There are a few rules that govern these lists. They are as follows:

1. No artist may appear twice in one list, even if they had some truly excellent songs that would otherwise qualify.

2. Any song I discovered in the past year is fair game, no matter what year it was actually released. No matter how late I came to the party. (See: West, Kanye)

3. When trying to pick between two great songs, greater weight is given to the song released during the current year.

This year, a theme emerged in the songs I like best: being a jerk. Whether it’s identifying jerkiness in others or being self aware enough to recognize your own jerkiness, there’s a lot of reflection and regret going on in these songs. I’ll let my future self suss out whether that’s just the year in music or something I’m working out within myself.

Also, it’s a 50/50 split between male and female vocalists. That’s pretty cool. I like the variety.

So, here, by no demand whatsoever, is my Top 10 and Top 11-20 playlists. All songs are either the clean versions or homemade edited versions. If you choose to wade in, I highly recommend the following listening order:

TOP 10

1. All My Favorite Songs – Weezer

2. Ringside – Julien Baker

3. Runaway – Kanye West feat. Pusha T

4. brutal – Olivia Rodrigo

5. Amy Shark – Amy Shark

6. Better If You Don’t – CHVRCHES

7. Locust Laced – Sleigh Bells

8. Needle – Middle Kids

9. I Lied – Lord Huron & Allison Ponthier

10. In My Room (At My Piano Version) – Brian Wilson

TOP 11-20

11. True Seekers – Sleigh Bells

12. Extreme Ways (Reprise Version) – Moby

13. Somebody Desperate – The National

14. Happier Than Ever – Billie Eilish

15. I Made It – Andrew W.K.

16. Flathead – The Fratellis

17. Bad Neighbours – Middle Kids

18. In the Car Outside – The Killers

19. Sometimes – James

20. Funeral – Phoebe Bridgers