Ten of the year’s best songs, selected by The Associated Press entertainment reporters.
“PÊCHES”, JUSTIN BIEBER, with DANIEL CAESAR AND GIVEON
Justin Bieber was not happy with the Recording Academy last year when his album “Changes” was classified as pop rather than R&B. But “Peaches,” starring Daniel Caesar and Giveon from this year’s “Justice” album, not only dubbed the R&B sound, but went on to become one of music’s most dominant songs, making its debut in the world. No. 1 on Billboard’s Hot 100 and topped the charts worldwide. It’s a two-step wellness record that was needed as the coronavirus pandemic still forced much of the world to stay at home. Some critics say Bieber can’t decide between being a pop star or an R&B idol. However, what seems clear is that many times – even still in 2021 – the only difference between a pop song and an R&B record is the skin color of the artist singing it. – Gary Gerard Hamilton
“DRIVING LICENSE”, OLIVIA RODRIGO
Anyone who’s ever been heartbroken will feel what 18-year-old Olivia Rodrigo feels on that painful Grammy nominated hit: “You said forever, now I’m driving alone on your street. The Mighty Ballad broke Spotify’s record for most day-long streams for a non-holiday song, and spent eight consecutive weeks at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100. She also won Apple Music Awards and MTV Video Music for Song of the Year. He reached No.1 in the world, from Australia and Denmark to Indonesia and South Africa because he is angry, hurt, frustrated, loving, perfect in tears, with a chime car. – Mark kennedy
“BABY OF THE INDUSTRY”, LIL NAS X AND JACK HARLOW
To anyone who thought “Old Town Road” was all you would hear from Lil Nas X he has this to say, “I told you long ago on the road / I got what you expect . “
“Industry Baby” was one of the biggest hits of 2021, and for good reason. The track is the 22-year-old rapper’s victory lap after having one of the most talked about music videos of the year with “Montero” and having 11 songs from his new LP make Billboard’s Hot 100.
By continuing to be steadfast in his sexuality – “I don’t (swear) (swear) I’m queer” – Lil Nas X makes it clear that he won’t play by the set rules of his genre to make his way to Mountain peak.
His choice to feature Jack Harlow on a verse is also ingenious – as a 23-year-old from Kentucky, Harlow also feels like an underdog, allowing the two to rejoice in the fact that they did, against all odds. waiting. From contagious horns to the confidence oozing out verses and chorus, Lil Nas X has fun proving skeptics wrong and it’s hard not to have fun listening. – Ragan clark
“HURRICANE”, KANYE WEST, THE WEEKND AND LIL BABY
Kanye West’s “DONDA” made waves with several gems, but the most notable track that created the perfect storm was “Hurricane,” starring The Weeknd and Lil Baby. With stellar production, the trio offer different perspectives on how to weather their own storms on the sacred hip-hop track. The Weeknd tunes in on his faith that stands up to life’s obstacles as Lil Baby raps about losing close friends and repenting. After them, West hints at his own infidelity and his less pronounced judgment. – Jonathan Landrum Jr.
“SÉROTONIN”, GIRL IN RED
The opening track from the debut album by Norwegian alt-pop singer-songwriter girl in red beats at a breakneck pace that reflects the impulsive thoughts of a mind unable to rest. “Dig deep, I can’t hide, in the corners of my mind,” writes Marie Ulven. “I’m terrified of what’s inside.” The verses degenerate into manic thoughts of self-harm and a rapid descent into insanity until she spits out absurd words. Written and co-produced with Billie Eilish’s brother Finneas O’Connell, the track ramps up and ends with an audio recording of Ulven speaking with a doctor. It is a raw and unfailing interior look at this part of the uncontrollable identity of our personalities. – Kristin M. Hall
While “Easy On Me” and “I Drink Wine” drew the most attention from Adele’s “30”, “To Be Loved” is the album’s underrated star. There is a rawness in the song which is rare for the singer. The 33-year-old singer’s powerful voice sounds generally polite, but in “To Be Loved” her voice falters.
At 6:43 a.m., tied for the longest song on the record, it’s clear Adele wasn’t positioning the song for the radio. It’s more of a cathartic outing on the album. Coming out of a divorce, Adele recognizes in the song that there is strength in loving and strength in leaving: “It’s time for me to face myself / All I do is bleed in someone else. “
The song finds Adele standing on her own two feet, vulnerable but hunched over the growth her grief will bring. “I’ll be the only one to catch up this time,” she sings. – Ragan clark
“WE WILL WIN”, LIL BABY AND KIRK FRANKLIN
The Lil Baby and Kirk Franklin tandem might seem like an odd combo. Lil Baby is known for his street rap lyrics, while Franklin has built his legendary career on gospel music. Despite their different musical approaches, they form a solid duo on the inspiring “We Win”, produced by Just Blaze, a song from the soundtrack of “Space Jam: A New Legacy”. Franklin was the man of the hype with a background in choir singing while Lil Baby rapped about how prayer ultimately got him through a time where he felt cursed. – Jonathan Landrum Jr.
“KISS ME MORE”, DOJA CAT with SZA
This wonderful ’90s disco-pop comeback with a hip-hop heart won three Grammy Award nominations for Record of the Year, Song of the Year and Best Pop Duo / Group Performance. Doja Cat’s song, along with SZA, also won an American Music Award (Collaboration of the Year) and an MTV Video Music Award for Best Collaboration. “Kiss Me More” even topped Brandy and Monica’s iconic 1998 duo “The Boy Is Mine” for the longest all-female Top 10 collaboration in Billboard Hot 100 history. refrain à la Gwen Stefani but also an interpolation of “Physical” of Olivia Newton-John. But don’t work too hard, just let this steamy, sweet song overwhelm you. – Mark kennedy
“PUT IT ON ME”, MICKEY GUYTON
There are so many gems on Mickey Guyton’s Grammy-nominated debut album that it’s hard to pick one, but what Guyton does with such excellence is opening his heart and showing empathy. “Lay It On Me” is in that gospel and country sweet spot that allows Guyton’s voice to skyrocket from note to note. Written for her husband, Guyton asks to carry her burdens and rely on her strength to carry them both through the fire. Especially in long-term relationships, this offer of emotional support is an intimate and vital conversation that Guyton captures so well. – Kristin M. Hall
“ESSENCE”, WIZKID with TEMS
Afrobeat superstar WizKid’s “Essence”, along with Tems, was another of the undeniable songs of the year. Reaching No. 1 on Billboard’s R & B / Hip-Hop Broadcasts and Adult R&B Broadcasts, the sultry and melodic duet record was crowned by many as the song of the summer. ‘Essence,’ which invited listeners to find their partner – or prospective crush – to stand up and dance to, would explode and grow so gigantic that the Nigerian hosted a remix of another R&B star: Justin Bieber. – Gary Gerard Hamilton
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