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The Top 100 Songs of 2021 (#80 – #61)

From Kali Uchis and Ozuna’s “Another Day in America” to Justin Bieber and The Kid LAROI’s “Stay”

Amit Vaidya Dec 14, 2021
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Rolling Stone India global contributing editor Amit Vaidya counts down his favorite songs of the year, from TikTok sensations to seasoned hitmakers and everyone in between. Check out #100 to #81 here.

80. Kali Uchis, Ozuna – “Another Day In America”

What do you get when you cross the classic “America” from West Side Story with the meaningful lyricism of “Another Day In Paradise” by Phil Collins? You get “Another Day In America” by Kali Uchis featuring Ozuna. The super politically-charged single is as catchy as Ariana Grande’s “7 Rings” was but this stays with you because of the powerful lyrics. While the song is “inspired” by Steven Spielberg’s brilliant film, the song stands on its own merit because there’s not been a song this catchy and instantly likable with as much as to say as this does.

And bonus points for Ozuna not sounding repetitive or annoying!

79. El Mukuka, Gaz Mawete, HVMZA – “Bosana”     

One of my favorite parts of exploring new music these days is seeing how many cross-cultural collaborations we’re beginning to see spillover across multiple genres and audiences. One such pioneer is Zambia’s El Mukuka, who’s been on a roll, producing bangers that fit perfectly onto any club playlist around the world. “Bosana” teams up the DJ with Congolese singer Gaz Mawete and Belgian producer HVMZA (the two already had a successful collab with “Dame”).

78. David Guetta, Imanbek, Gunna, Rita Ora – “Big”

Speaking of global collaborations, one of the biggest this year featured French DJ David Guetta, Kazakh DJ Imanbek, British singer of Albanian descent Rita Ora and American rapper Gunna. “Big” was everything you would expect from these four coming together – it was fast, fun and well, big! While not the strongest effort of any of the four individually, collectively it works and it again shows how small the world has become and how music transcends borders so easily. 

77. Yebba – “October Sky”

Abigail Smith aka Yebba can sing! But you’ve got to invest in the first minute or so of her lo-fi Billie Eilish styling to get to the part where her voice sprints and hits the high notes of yesteryear’s artists who showcased this without succumbing to the Whitney/Mariah vocal gymnastics. Masterfully underproduced to perfection by Mark Ronson, “October Sky” is a sheer delight and wonderful showcase for the young artist filled with deep emotions and great talent.

76. Kito, VanJess, Channel Tres – “Recap”

Australian born, L.A.-based producer Kito gets top billing on this collaboration featuring Nigerian-American sisters VanJess (who featured last year on my Top 100 for their excellent single “Slow Down”) and L.A. dance-rapper Channel Tres. “Recap” is pure dance-pop perfection but the three artists are able to make the single bounce more thanks to their individual unique sounds that blend well together on the energetic track.

75. Katy B – “Dancing Round The Truth”

English singer-songwriter Katy B has always vocally leaned towards R&B even when her usual wheelhouse sound was dance and house. But here she’s slowed down the tempo and it works wonderfully to showcase her emotive vocals under grooves that feel timeless. “Dancing Round The Truth” is neo-soul at its purest without the pointless runs or unnecessary features. There’s just something in the water over there with the Brits who invoke this purity that lets us feel along with them, as if it’s just effortless.

74. Josef Salvat – “The Drum”

Australian singer-songwriter Josef Salvat’s “The Drum” is a fitting tribute to the late great David Bowie. The preview single from his upcoming third album Islands is a pop gem that just as easily could have released back in the Eighties, which seemed to be the artist’s intent. “The Drum” should have been a huge hit for the star but perhaps the album has even bigger smashes ready to go and 2022 awaits us with additional treats.

Also See  #RSGrammyCentral: 2022 Record Of The Year Grammy Nomination Predictions

73. Anne-Marie, Niall Horan – “Our Song”

What is it about an old-fashioned duet between two pop stars that works so well? Of late, one of the best new partners in pop have been Brits Anne-Marie and Niall Horan. “Our Song” is a pretty basic ballad but it works because it plays to each artist’s strengths – they are able to earnestly sing to one another and when they sing, we feel it. In many ways, it’s musical theater pop and sometimes, you just want a song you can sing along with! Bonus points for the two collaborating again at the year’s end for BBC’s “Children In Need” for a dance-pop cover of Fleetwood Mac’s “Everywhere.”

72. Bob Moses – “Time And Time Again”

One of my favorite bands came back with a bang towards the end of the year with “Time And Time Again.” Bob Moses have always been able to bridge together the house beats with their emotive pop sensibility. Here, the song strikes a deeper chord because the lyrics resonate so strongly with the feeling of sudden and gone-too-soon loss, something we’ve all experienced during Covid. As Dua Lipa showed us last year, sometimes dancing is the best way to heal and Bob Moses takes us in a similar trance.

71. Jake Wesley Rogers – “Middle Of Love”

Missouri-born, Nashville-based Rogers captures his inner Elton John on the upbeat “Middle Of Love.” The artist flaunts his songwriting skills on the clever track that’s part heartbreak and part celebration. It’s quite an exciting time for the young artist who made his start at the age of 15 as a semi-finalist on America’s Got Talent nearly a decade ago. Today, the singer is ready for the spotlight and if this single is any indication, we’ve got another hitmaker in the wings.

70. The Kid LAROI, Justin Bieber – “Stay”

One of the biggest commercial hits of the year, “Stay” was by one of the biggest breakout stars of the year, Aussie’s The Kid LAROI and also featured one of the biggest superstars on the planet – Justin Bieber.  Thankfully, the song works because it’s insanely catchy and the two voices blend really well together, making for one of the few collaborations this year that Bieber released that didn’t sound like, well, just him.

69. Rebecca Black – “Worth It For The Feeling”

If you’d have asked me ten years ago if the same Rebecca Black who recorded one of the most hated YouTube videos of all-time – “Friday” – would make my year-end countdown, I’d have thought you were out of your mind. But maturity has been a blessing for the singer-songwriter who has been carving out a very special place for herself in the industry of late. “Worth It For The Feeling” is as good as any track from Carly Rae Jepsen’s last album but here’s hoping while America has seemingly blacklisted Jepsen from Top 40, they don’t do the same with Black and they actually give her a chance, because lord knows, the song’s a hot one!

68. Mitski – “The Only Heartbreaker”

Japanese-American singer-songwriter Mitski’s “The Only Heartbreaker” finds her veering away a bit from her indie-rock roots to a more Eighties synth-pop vibe and we’re here for it. The track casts the singer as “the bad guy in the play,” taking on responsibility for the part she played in a toxic relationship. Self-destruction never sounded so assured or ablaze!

67. Kara Marni – “Trippin”

It was a bold move on British singer Kara Marni’s part to use Amerie’s “1 Thing” as a base for her single “Trippin.” But it works phenomenally. She flips the hook of the classic pre-game rally drums into a sensual, dreamy space that keeps us in the groove. This track really deserved to get more play but something tells me we’re going to hear a lot more from Marni in the coming years.  

Also See  #RSGrammyCentral: 2022 Song Of The Year Grammy Nomination Predictions

66. Adele – “Oh My God”

Probably the most traditionally commercial track from Adele’s fourth studio album 30 is the banger “Oh My God.” It’s as though the singer opted to answer that question many of us have asked, what if Adele recorded that song? Well, she does, and guess what? She can literally sing the phonebook and we’ll be there for it. “Oh My God” works brilliantly at shining a light at the joy the artist is capable of exuding, much like her personality does when interviewed. While there are definitely stronger songs on the album (unlike many other divas of past), it’s nice to see even with age, Adele is still shaking up her records sonically and making sure she doesn’t get pigeonholed.

65. Leon Bridges – “Motorbike”                        

Texan-born singer-songwriter Leon Bridges brought us some real adult R&B this year. “Motorbike” is smooth, seductive and Bridges has never sounded more sensual, as he lets the carefree part of himself come out on the song that celebrates escaping the world and being in the moment. This year, between Bridges and Silk Sonic, there seemed to be a return to old-school soul, so then it must come as no surprise that Bridges actually had the music video helmed by Silk Sonic’s Anderson .Paak!

64. Kelly Rowland – “Speed Of Love”

I’ve stopped asking the question or else I’ll get even more upset by the fact that yet another year goes by and Kelly Rowland continues to serve up some of the best R&B tracks out there yet somehow doesn’t get the airplay or the love the former Destiny’s Child member should get. “Speed Of Love” is a slow-burning jam that should have been a hit and now I wonder if any artist (say Ariana Grande) recorded the song, would it have been a hit? From the nylon-guitars to Rowland’s beautifully real vocals – this is what soul sounds like.

63. Yung Blue, Big Sean – “Way More Close (Stuck In A Box)”

Alabama native Yung Blue’s debut album Moon Boy was filled with soulful jams and great collaborations with the likes of Kehlani, Drake and H.E.R. but “Way More Close (Stuck In A Box)” was the cut above all else. The fan-favorite track features Big Sean, as the artist fights getting stuck in a relationship with a never-ending feeling. The Jon Primo-directed music video does justice to that image creating a lasting visual for the standout track.

62. Athena, smle – “Eternal”

Leading female Rocket League streamer Athena turned vocalist this year for the single “Eternal,” produced by American electronic music duo smle. The Grammy-nominated producers do a fun job with the track that fuses a surprisingly melodic hook with all the bells and whistles you’d expect from a gaming soundtrack. While it may never get a chance on radio, that’s okay; the song is likely to be heard and sung along to by millions for years to come.

61. Bad Bunny – “Yonaguni”

Puerto Rican singer and rapper Bad Bunny had a spectacular 2021. For the second year in a row, he was Spotify’s most-streamed artist. But unlike in previous years where the majority of his hit records had features, this year, one of his standout tracks featured him front and center without anyone else claiming credit. “Yonaguni” returns the artist to his emo lyrical ways on a chill reggaeton track that includes him even singing in Japanese! There’s a reason Bunny is at the top of his game – he takes creative risks and is unwilling to conform to a set style – much like most of his listeners.

Stay tuned for songs #60-1! Has your favorite been featured yet?

Also check out our Top 100 Songs of 2020.

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