I’ve always liked using songs as a form of marking time—sometimes to my detriment, especially over the last two years—and this year especially has reminded me of the power of music to move through different headspaces. I start compiling my Best of the Year lists in January as soon as new releases start catching my attention, and by December I’m always amazed at how the list always manages to both take a different turn than I imagined and somehow chronicle my own life and emotions throughout. It’s what fuels my passion for music and reminds me to not be scared of my own thoughts and feelings, however messy they might be. In the immortal words of Alanis, the only way out is through.
From the rise of Ms. Rodrigo, to being high and feelin’ anxious inside a CVS, to Adele still being a child about things that happened when she was 25, these are my picks for the 50 best songs of 2021.
“Drivers License” – Olivia Rodrigo
Took me a while to come around to the hype… but there is a quiet, inexplicable genius about this juggernaut—especially the “baaabe” on the bridge that I’m just utterly obsessed with.
“Flames” – MOD SUN feat. Avril Lavigne
Yay for the return of punk rock Avril! Still doesn’t excuse you all sleeping on her Head Above Water album, though.
“Skin” – Sabrina Carpenter
The fact of the matter is that this is the song that should’ve hit number one the Hot 100… but most of you still aren’t ready for that conversation.
“GLAM!” – Allie X
“I’m not alone though, my alter ego / Keeps me warm at night.” Our indie pop queen predicted lockdown turmoil all the way back in 2015 with this previously unreleased gem!
“John Hughes Movie” – Maisie Peters
The absolute best pop song of the year, but another conversation we’re clearly still not ready for.
“We’re Good” – Dua Lipa
Dua Lipa says we’re good, so that means we are good. Don’t question it! Eyes on the horizon!
“Beautiful Mistakes” – Maroon 5 feat. Megan Thee Stallion
I reject Adam Levine’s intensely straight-white-man lyrics and his new trend of leaning in on the talent of young Black women but GODDAMNIT this man knows how to create a hook.
“Sacrifice” – Bebe Rexha
“Sacrifice your body to the rhythm of mine”? Honestly, at this point, sure.
“Hold On” – Justin Bieber
Love me a good mental health anthem. Do call me if you need someone.
“Starstruck” – Years & Years
Okay, please give us the new album now, Olly.
“Dancing With the Devil” – Demi Lovato
Tag yourselves, I’m “twisted reality, hopeless insanity” on any given day.
“Tommy” – Ralph
“Never had my number but I’m mad he didn’t call me” is very me whenever any attractive man has the audacity to walk by me.
“You” – Regard, Troye Sivan & Tate McRae
Second best pop song of the year, hands down.
“Sabotage” – Bebe Rexha
Apparently I should have trademarked the “Queen of Burning Bridges” before Bebe came out here and stole the title from me.
“Save Your Tears (Remix)” – The Weeknd & Ariana Grande
Studies show that when you add Ariana Grande to your song, the gays will appear in less than one business day.
“Imagine” – Ben Platt
Let me listen to this song and imagine an infinitely better sophomore Ben Platt album than the one he gave us.
“Please” – Jessie Ware
If Jessie Ware decided to only make disco albums from here on out, I’d be fine with that.
“All I Know So Far” – P!nk
Truly her best song in years.
“Our Song” – Anne-Marie & Niall Horan
A wonderful summery driving song.
“Good 4 U” – Olivia Rodrigo
She’s honestly an A+ performer, can’t even deny.
“Ancient Dreams in a Modern Land” – MARINA
Strutting down the sidewalk to this? WHEW what a rush of pure homosexual energy.
“Love Potion” – Ralph
Speaking of homosexual energy, 10s across the board!
“Heartbreak Anthem” – Galantis, David Guetta & Little Mix
No, wait, this was the ultimate rush of homosexual energy this year.
“EveryTime I Cry” – Ava Max
Remember, Fergie was wrong! Big girls do cry!
“Venus Fly Trap” – MARINA
Why be a wallflower when you can be a Venus flytrap?
“The Game” – Liz Phair
Liz Phair’s first album in 11 years was kind of boring, but there’s something so quietly calming and masterful about this song.
“She Said” – FLETCHER
Where have you all been hiding FLETCHER all this time? More bops, please!
“No More Friends” – Olivia O’Brien, Oli Sykes & Bring Me the Horizon
No more friends, indeed, I can barely keep up with the ones I have.
“Convince Me Otherwise” – Maroon 5 & H.E.R.
What I said earlier still applies… but their voices are so lovely together.
“Healing” – FLETCHER
More bops about healing as well, please.
“Psycho” – Maisie Peters
Maisie also knows how to write a hook. Watch out, fellas.
“Mood Ring” – Ralph
Another all around masterpiece.
“Kiss My (Uh Oh)” – Anne-Marie & Little Mix
I actually forget that this is Anne-Marie’s song every time because Little Mix absolutely steal the show.
“Don’t Go Yet” – Camila Cabello
I, too, have worn this dress for a little drama.
“You Signed Up For This” – Maisie Peters
You don’t even understand how much this song would’ve been my entire personality if released three or four years earlier. I mean, it’s still a fair amount of my personality now, but still.
“Melon Cake” – Demi Lovato
So underrated. Their best song yet. More like this please.
“Love (Sweet Love)” – Little Mix
We love a self-love bop.
“Simple Times” – Kacey Musgraves
Really? Being grown up kind of sucks? News to me.
“Angel Baby” – Troye Sivan
Put on your best headphones and just immerse yourself.
“Silk Chiffon” – MUNA feat. Phoebe Bridgers
“I’m high and I’m feelin’ anxious / Inside a CVS” = lyric of the century.
“Breakdown” – G-Eazy feat. Demi Lovato
Girl, we’re all in the middle of a breakdown. Get in line.
“Who’s In Your Head” – Jonas Brothers
When these boys want to, they can make one hell of a pop song.
“Best Days” – Alessia Cara
BRB, still crying.
“Bubblegum” – Alex Porat
One to watch.
“A Second to Midnight” – Kylie Minogue & Years & Years
The gayest disco collab we didn’t know we needed.
“Easy On Me” – Adele
To quote Twitter, Adele singing “I was still a child” about things that happened when she was 25 is also very much me.
“Bite Me” – Avril Lavigne
Yes, her best song in years. Another absolute masterpiece. But I’m still demanding you all go stream the Head Above Water album before you stream her new one.
“Message in a Bottle (From the Vault)” – Taylor Swift
The girls and gays were too busy crying over 10 minutes of “All Too Well” to recognize this star as the truly best song from Red (Taylor’s Version).
“I Drink Wine” – Adele
“They say to play hard, you work hard, find balance in the sacrifice / And yet I don’t know anybody who’s truly satisfied” yeah, it’s called internalized capitalism, babe.
“Happy Loner” – MARINA
Marina gave us the introvert hymn we deserve to close another year of (purposeful) social isolation. *peace fingers emoji*
Listen to these songs on my Best of 2021 playlist! Which were your favorite songs from this year?
You might also like:
• The 50 Best Songs of 2020
• The 50 Best Songs of 2019
• The 50 Best Songs of 2018