Pop Culture

Songs from 2021 You Need to Listen To

Last year, I curated a playlist of my top songs of 2020. Now, as we ring in the new year, it’s time to dig into the songs I couldn’t stop listening to in 2021. Operating under one (loose) rule, all the songs on this playlist were released in 2021.

Last year, I curated a playlist of my top songs of 2020. Now, as we ring in the new year, it’s time to dig into the songs I couldn’t stop listening to in 2021. 


Operating under one (loose) rule, all the songs on this playlist were released in 2021.

  1. Tangana, Carin León and Adriel Favela – Artists 

El Madrileño – Album

Urbano Latino – Genre

02/26/21 – Release Date

Spanish rapper, C.Tanga entered the world of Mexican corridos on a track with Carin León and Adriel Favela. Their collaborative track “CAMBIA!”, featured flamenco, trap, and regional Mexican sounds. The artists reflect on their life before fame and society’s expectations now that they have reached celebrity status. 

  • Last Night 

Arooj Aftab – Artist 

Vulture Prince – Album 

Folk/Jazz/Hindustani Classical – Genre 

04/23/21 – Release Date 

“Vulture Prince” is about loss, grief, and longing. Dedicated to her late younger brother, Maher, this collection features a contemplative yet calming sound. The only track in English, Last Night, takes an edgier approach with jazz and reggae undertones and is one of two tracks to feature any form of percussion. The minimal percussion throughout the album allows her powerful yet soft voice to remain the centerpiece throughout the entirety of the work, setting a deeply personal, melancholic vibe.

  • Itty Bitty Piggy 

Nicki Minaj – Artist 

Beam Me Up Scottie – Album

Hip-Hop/Rap – Genre 

05/14/21 – Release Date 

Nicki Minaj’s iconic breakthrough mixtape “Beam Me Up Scottie” was finally released on all major streaming platforms in 2021. Including two updated songs and three new tracks: “Seeing Green”,  “Fractions”, and “Crocodile Teeth (Remix),” Nicki sent Barb nation in a frenzy. For many, “Itty Bitty Piggy” was their first introduction to Nicki. Rapping over Soulja Boy’s beat of Donk, Minaj brags about her rap skills and unmatched character. Remaining a staple track for over a decade, it seems to be the (un)official Barbz’anthem. 

  • m y . l i f e 
  1. Cole, 21 Savage & Morray – Artists

The Off-Season – Album 

Hip-Hop/Rap – Genre 

05/14/21- Release Date 

Every time J.Cole and 21 Savage collaborate their music is bound to be great. “m y . l i f e” is no exception. In the third track of the album, the artists reflect on their life before fame and how far they have come since then. 

  • Deja Vu 

Olivia Rodrigo – Artist 

SOUR – Album 

Pop – Genre 

05/21/21 – Release Date 

In “SOUR,” the teenage songwriter explores the complexities of a breakup. But unlike her first single “Driver’s License,” “Deja Vu” is far from a “sad girl” heartbreak song. It is evocative. In this track, Rodrigo isn’t emotionally devastated — in the slightest way, she reclaims her power because she realizes that her ex-lover is recreating their relationship with his new lover.

  • SWEET / I THOUGHT YOU WANTED TO DANCE (Feat. Brent Faiyaz and Fana Hues)

Tyler, The Creator – Artist 


Hip-Hop/Rap – Genre 

06/25/21 – Release Date  

As implied in the title, this is a 2-in-1 song. The first half, presented as a love song, describes the beauty and charm of falling in love. However, the second half tells us how fast love can crumble apart. The 10-minute song is definitely worth listening to.

  • Todo De Ti 

Rauw Alejandro – Artist 


Urbano Latino – Genre 

06/25/21 – Release Date 

Rauw Alejandro has created a new lane in the Urbano Latino genre. The Puerto Rican’s sophomore album is all about love, lust, and everything in between. Rhythmically, Rauw opted for a more versatile sound. Expanding outside his traditional R&B, reggaeton and pop sound, he incorporated “old-school sounds like funk and disco.” With more than 102.6 million streams, his first track on the album “Todo De Ti” quickly became a fan favorite. The perfect melodies and upbeat sound made it the song of the summer.

  • Wasting Time (Feat. Drake)

Brent Faiyaz

Wasting Time – Single 



What can you expect on a Brent Faiyaz and Drake track? – Toxicity and not-so-perfect relationships, of course. The two artists came together on “Wasting Time,” which was produced by The Neptunes. In the track, Brent reveals that he wants his significant other to make time for him, regardless of who else she entertains on the side. 

  • Mountains

Charlotte Day Wilson – Artist 

ALPHA – Album

R&B/Soul – Genre 

07/09/21 – Release Date 

Two years after its original release, Charlotte included her hit single, “Mountains,” on her debut album “ALPHA.” In the track, she desperately sings for her heart to be rescued from loneliness.  It is a classic breakup song with a mix of gospel and folk.

  • RIP Young

Isaiah Rashad – Artist 

The House is Burning – Album

Hip-Hop/Rap – Genre 

07/30/21 – Release Date 

After a 5-year hiatus, the Top Dog Entertainment artist Isaiah Rashad is finally back. His long-awaited album, “The House is Burning,” features the multifaceted Southern sound his fans love so much. In the third track, “RIP Young,” Rashad reflects on how his fame and success has changed certain relationships. It has an increased yet effortless and smooth tempo — the perfect laidback song to listen to while driving. 

  • Just for me 

PinkPantheress – Athlete 

Just for me – Single 

Pop – Genre 

08/13/21 – Release Date 

PinkPantheress is one of TikTok’s latest breakout stars. “Just for me” can be heard in the background of 2 million videos on the platform. Her sound is unique yet nostalgic. If you like lo-fi, pop-punk music and soft vocals make sure to give her a listen. 

  • Ya Supérame (En Vivo)

Grupo Firme – Artists 

Ya Superame – Single 

Mexican Regional – Genre 

08/13/21 – Release Date 

Nothing compares to Latin breakup songs, and Grupo Firme is a testament to that. The seven-member ensemble has created a unique lane in the regional Mexican genre. Their relatable and love-ridden lyricism, along with the fusion of their Banda and Norteña melodies, has earned them 11 entries on Billboard’s Hot Latin Songs chart. Their hit single, “Ya Superame,” translated in English as “Get Over Me,” made an appearance on the Hot100 Billboard charts. Rather than being emotionally devastated after a breakup, this track rushes past the heartache and healing. Whoever may be at the receiving end of the song is begging for another chance, but unfortunately, that opportunity is long gone. 

  • Don’t Let It Go to Your Head 

Cleo Sol – Artist 

Mother – Album 

R&B/Soul – Genre

08/20/21 – Release Date 

“Mother” is an intimate and deeply personal reflection centered on, as the title suggests, motherhood. After becoming a mother this year, Sol describes her experience as “the most transformative, uplifting, heart-melting, strength-giving experience thus far that led me to write this album.” This collection is not just about the beautiful yet overwhelming journey of being a mother, but also the experience of having one. She bridges the three generations beautifully. One of my personal favorites was “Don’t Let it Go to Your Head.” Considering the running theme of this album, this song was likely for her daughter. For anyone who has an irrational fear of love—for whatever reason—this song reminds us of the importance of allowing yourself to be vulnerable and feel worthy of experiencing love. 

  • Pretty Pictures 

Indigo De Souza 

Any Shape You Take – Album

Alternative – Genre 


As a North Carolina native, I have to give my flowers to Indigo De Souza. Her debut album, “I Love My Mom” was largely centered on death. However, in her sophomore album, “Any Shape You Take” she slightly switches gears and is more concerned about life itself and embracing the changes. The emotional intensity remains the same though. In the fourth track, “Pretty Pictures” she offers a unique perspective on breakups. Although sadness and heartbreak are normal, she explains that realizing someone is not good for you and coming to terms with letting them go is better than forcing something that is not real. 

  • Hurricane (Feat. The Weeknd and Lil Baby)

Kanye West – Artist 

Donda – Album 

Hip-Hop/Rap – Genre 

08/29/21 – Release Date 

Kanye West’s 10th solo album had an interesting approach; three different listening parties, each time gathering thousands of people in person and millions more online, leading up to its official release. Named after his late mother, this album is essentially a combination of all his previous ones. “Hurricane” features The Weeknd’s melodic tunes and a guest verse by Lil Baby, creating a euphoric sound.

  • Rodeo Clown 

Dijon – Artist 

Absolutely – Album

R&B/Soul – Genre

09/05/21 – Release Date 

Dijon’s debut album, “Absolutely,” is a collection of heartbreak and emotional wanderlust. In “Rodeo Clown,” he writes about the painful reality of growing apart from an admirer. Despite feeling immense heartbreak, he presents himself as someone who is OK. Capturing the conflicting reality, he compares himself to a clown who paints on a smile to put on a front. His raspy and tearful melodies over the distressed guitar strumming bleed pain and vulnerability. It’s captivating and raw. 

  • All Too Well (10 Minute Version) (Taylor’s Version)

Taylor Swift – Artist 

Red (Taylor’s Version) – Album

Pop – Genre

09/12/21- Release Date

Ten years ago, Taylor released “All Too Well.” It was hailed by critics as the best and most perfect song out of her entire discography. In the process of rerecording her entire discography, Swift released an extended version of “All Too Well,” somehow making the fan-favorite more perfect than we remembered. It is deeply personal, cathartic (so far, this is a theme in my 2021 playlist), and pulls at your heartstrings. Not to mention, the heart-wrenching song was accompanied by a short film; so, safe to say, it was difficult to leave this one off of the list. (Jake, you will never know peace.) 

  • My Little Love 

Adele – Artist 

30 – Album 

Pop – Genre 

09/19/21 – Release Date 

After a six-year hiatus, Adele is finally back with the release of her fourth studio album, “30.” On what may be her most personal album yet, Adele reflects on her recent divorce with Simon Kinocki, with who she shares a 9-year-old son, Angelo. In the third track of the album, “My Little Love,” Adele includes a private conversation with her son. At surface level, she tells her son about her conflicting feelings. Further in, she shares a raw and tearful voicemail, and we begin to grasp Adele’s version of rock bottom and her experience with grief and loneliness. This album, just like her others, was incredibly moving. 

  • Intimidated (Feat. H.E.R.)

Kaytranada – Artist 

Intimidated – EP 

Electronic – Genre 

09/19/21 – Release Date 

In his first project since releasing his Grammy Award-winning album, “Bubba,” Kaytranada delivers once again. His three-track EP, “Intimidated,” features two Grammy Award-winning artists, H.E.R. and Thundercat. The title track is about shooting your shot. The songstress, H.E.R., encourages someone who appears to be hesitant to make their move. Underneath her melodies, we hear the piano, bouncy drums and handclaps setting a smooth yet lifting groove. 

  • Still Wonder (Feat. Robbet Glasper)

Alex Isley & Jack Dine – Artists 

Still Wonder – Single 

R&B/Soul – Genre 

09/19/21 – Release Date 

In “Still Wonder,” we grieve the loss of love and question if we made the right decision in the aftermath of heartbreak. Underneath the acoustic piano, drums and dreamy undertones, Isley gives us a soft and soul-crushing voice. Simply put, it’s another breakup song with a curable voice. 

  • Family Ties 

Baby Keem & Kendrick Lamar – Artists

The Melodic Blue – Album

Hip-Hop/Rap – Genre 

09/27/21 – Release Date 

Kendrick Lamar joined his cousin Baby Keem on their first collaborative track, “Family Ties.” The track is divided into two parts, the first half beginning with Baby Keem. As with all his tracks, Baby Keem goes off. Underneath his lyrics, we hear horns and a simple drum beat, and then it subsides into a smooth beat. Kendrick begins his half with a completely new beat and his verse was amazing! This track just proves how great both artists are. 

If you want to listen to this playlist click this link — it also includes songs from 2021 that aren’t on the list. 


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