These songs have made a huge splash in 2021.
Believe it or not, 2021 is already just about halfway over.
From an unorthodox Grammy Awards show to tour announcements finally rolling out, the music industry seems to be slowly but surely getting back on its feet. With brighter skies ahead, there's been no shortage of great music to help weather the storm.
Below, we've rounded up the ten best songs of 2021 so far, from hip-hop to punk and everything in-between. Here's to all the other fantastic songs we'll surely hear during the rest of the year.
10. Origami Angel, “Noah Fence”
Washington D.C. rockers Origami Angel are masters of gloriously bad puns and self-referential anecdotes. On "Noah Fence," the duo create a love story out of a visit from a door-to-door evangelical: "They keep telling me about heaven, it sounds a lot like when I'm with you / And if I could write a book about you maybe they would see exactly why you mean the world to me," vocalist Ryland Heagy howls gleefully, relieved to have found his own source of guidance in life.
9. Dawn Richard, “Bussifame”
As a member of Danity Kane, Dawn Richard is a seasoned whiz of clubby pop music. The infectious beat of "Bussifame" draws from influences that span between grime, house, and R&B, as Richard literally commands you to move your feet. It's impossible not to oblige.
8. Fiddlehead, “The Years”
Some of the best punk and pop-punk records in history have been deemed as such not because they tried to do things bigger, but because they relied on their tried and true methods. Boston's Fiddlehead hark back to the glory days of, say, blink-182 with "The Years," a two-minute banger that cuts the fat but none of the hooks.
7. Playboi Carti, “Sky”
Released on Christmas Day 2020, Playboi Carti's Whole Lotta Red proved the benefit of going against the grain. "Sky" is perhaps the best example of Carti's openness to experimentation, which has paid off for him with critical acclaim.
6. Julien Baker, “Relative Fiction”
Julien Baker's gut-wrenching lyrics have long existed in spare arrangements, letting the Tennessee singer-songwriter's words take the forefront. But on her latest album, Little Oblivions, Baker smartly goes bigger; on "Relative Fiction," she weighs the pros and cons of falling in love over a stunning piano riff, chugging drums, and mesmerizing harmonies.
5. Home Is Where, “Assisted Harakiri”
Florida band Home Is Where rang in 2021 with their first official release, I Became Birds, and the rest is history. One of its many highlights, "Assisted Harakiri," is a perfect introduction to the group, who seamlessly blend elements of emo, hardcore, and folk rock into an exhilarating, mosh-ready cacophony.
4. Polo G, “RAPSTAR”
On "RAPSTAR," fast-rising rapper Polo G is cocky — and for good reason. Over a ukulele-infused trap beat, the Chicago phenom weighs the pros and cons of meteoric fame. "Lookin' for somethin' real, he stuck in a deep search," he raps, seeking fulfillment among his abundance of flexes.
3. Jazmine Sullivan feat. H.E.R., “Girl Like Me”
For a year full of breakup anthems, "Girl Like Me" — the centerpiece of Jazmine Sullivan's fantastic fourth album, Heaux Tales — is a top contender. The mellow R&B ballad unpacks heartbreak in what often seems like its most mundane, unassuming forms, like swiping on Tinder or shopping for curve-hugging dresses on Fashion Nova. "You gon' make a hoe out of me," Sullivan sings, cleverly reclaiming the slur to vilify her ex.
2. Japanese Breakfast, “Be Sweet”
When her mother died of cancer, Michelle Zauner leaned on the emotional support of her boyfriend — who, as she explains in her new memoir Crying In H Mart, became her husband rather suddenly. While Zauner's past releases as Japanese Breakfast took grief by the horns, "Be Sweet" is an '80s-pop banger all about kindness in the name of love.
1. Olivia Rodrigo, "deja vu"
"deja vu" wasn't the song that made Olivia Rodrigo a pop star, but it was the much-needed moment that shed any speculation that she'd be a one-hit wonder. Her knack for Swiftian storytelling pokes through as she delineates her fizzled relationship through references to Billy Joel, sharing ice cream, and singing along to Glee reruns. As the psych-pop number culminates into its explosive coda, one thing is for certain: Miss "drivers license" isn't the next Taylor Swift, but the first and only Olivia Rodrigo.