Singles of 2021 Ranked

I am a singles simp. I live and breathe singles. Here are all the singles I've listened to this year so far with my own comments and ratings.
Updated April 2, 2021
Spotify/Apple Music only

Cassandra Jenkins - Hard Drive
The song is comforting right now for me in ways I have difficulty describing, save for maybe the last story where it's very obvious how it can be: a soothing psychic-esque therapy to help pick someone up on their feet, just listening to the simple numbers being said coming off from another story about being tense while driving, but also being tense period, as expressed by a conversation about seeing a therapist. How can one not be anxious? It's not necessarily attached to anything expressly, because anxiety sometimes doesn't have a source that you can pin down by yourself (which can make it scary), but you could attribute it to the first story about a guard bringing up politics after something about art, or the second story confronting you with the universe of cosmos, planes, etc. It's easy to be overwhelmed by random encounters day to day. You can find a way to fall back into place, but sometimes there's nothing wrong with help.
Silk Sonic - Leave the Door Open
Fuck it. Best produced R&B song of all time. Wild considering who's producing it includes D.Mile, a producer I've been iffy on in terms of his work with Khalid and H.E.R., but maybe Bruno Mars just found the perfect balance or brought out the best in him? Whatever it is, it lead to lush pianos and silky drums, such a warm track that feels like it could bring happiness any time of the year. Brody Brown on that BASS is KILLING it.

The performances are so goddamn good too. Paak is the key here, delivering the lyrics with his easily recognizable voice and yet not overstaying his welcome at any point, the serenade being so smooth you could believe every line. And then Bruno Mars comes in with such a dreamy falsetto and kicking it up a notch on the bridge where he's so passionate it's like the brightest light in a really starry sky, enhanced even further if you're watching the MV where it looks like he's about to destroy his neck.

I'm excited for everything that possibly comes out of this pairing, please God let there be more. Smooth soul like this, especially produced like this, doesn't show up often enough.
Kero Kero Bonito - The Princess and the Clock
Easily the best song I've ever heard out of KKB, and while there is some new direction to it, it's not that big of a departure from KKB as a whole. The very cutesy vocals and the vibe to the lyrics I can't pin down are still near the same as usual, but there's departures in the production, from the more Aphex-esque percussion (reminiscent of 4) to the incredibly harmonized synths that make the melody so goddamn good, especially since the core melody for most of the song is so stellar. You hear it the best with the finale, the four stanzas delivering a melody easy to remember and to punctuate the story really well. Because did I mention? There's a story here too, about the princess and the clock. The parallels between the explorer/queen and the clock, and how she's trapped before she breaks out, is very reminiscent of not just COVID (because it WAS made before then, yeah KKB was hiding this gem WTF) but pretty much every year.
Bill Wurtz - here comes the sun
I'm high off of Bill Wurtz, and this could be recency bias, but this is the best song I've ever heard from Bill Wurtz and that alone makes it worth the top spot. Just to be sure I wasn't just starved for new songs, I had to listen to his previous good stuff, and what I've found? It's still the best.
The video's step up is the 3D graphics he's worked a few years on, but what makes this tune work so well is the complex chord changes and transitions, especially on the "favorite part of the video" where the synth horn comes in and you get this crazy drum beat with the light treble instruments and I'm in a whole new world. This song is full to the brim of these crazy changes, more so than Mount St. Helens, and this is the first time I've ever heard a piano so bright when it shows up near the end. It's a banger, it's here, and thank god for Bill Wurtz.
Please don't delete it.
Sweet Trip - Walkers Beware! We Drive into the Sun / Stab-Slow
This high up for the sake of the A-side more than the B-side, although the B-side is great too (more dreamy ambience is always welcome!). What makes this excel is not only the promise of a true return from Sweet Trip after a decade at their near prime, but the melody being so well executed and the production being almost immaculate. And this is just a tease for the final product. How DARE YOU Sweet Trip, give us the full version already!
Danny Elfman - Sorry
Yeah this is a win for 2021 already. What a way to start the year with Danny Elfman going darker than his darkness has ever been, consuming the manic energy of avant-rock for his own devices, including but not limited to the crazy panned vocals and the drums that are destroying the sound barrier. The riffs are also sick.
One minute of this is worth listening, if the whole song wasn't already worth it. If you drop it a minute in, I question your ears.
Squid - Narrator
Insane build surrounding an egotistical loss between memory and reality, showcasing the insane range of the lead's timbre, and featuring guest vocals from Martha Skye Murphy who just... absolutely fires on all cylinders. Her screams growing in volume while the lead gets louder before his droning vocals become yells, as the drums keep going and the music doesn't stop; it's almost infectious to the point that you want to yell "I'll play mine" with him. But then the last two minutes come in and Martha goes from stealing the show to BEING the show, with a well time heavy drone adding clangs at the end while it all slips away. Greatest build of the year so far. Squid just blew up the post-punk scene more than they already did in 2021 and we're all just waiting for what in God's name is coming in May.
Everything Everything - Supernormal
Everything Everything will never miss when it comes to choruses, but the verses here are also fantastic. Great chords, a steamroller of a first verse to the beautiful and cathartic bridge, great use of falsetto, YOU'RE GODDAMN RIGHT. I love how well it combines elements of rock and dance-punk so well to boot. An easy favorite, and who knows what they'll do next.
Natalia Lafourcade - Alfonsina y el Mar
Similar to Ichiko Aoba in terms of musical structure, ambience, and stripping back the instruments for a majority of its runtime, this might be one of Natalia's best songs to date. Based on a poetic tribute to a writer who committed suicide by jumping into the ocean deep, the lyrics are heartbreaking and lonely. Its use of positivity for the artist's end is hopeful, but the vocal performance still tugs at strings. I come close to crying as soon as she starts singing "La La la" past the heaviest part of the song for me:
"Five mermaids will bring you
Along paths of algae and coral
And glowing seahorses will dance
A round at your side
And the inhabitants of the water will come to play
Soon by your side"
Allie X - Glam!
Mike Wise did a terrific job co-producing for this. A track absolutely FULL of fun, just triumphant vocals about loving forever that are way more energetic than a typical Disney song but has more of the soul and spirit than they ever did. It's way more synth-focused than Carly Rae's "Run Away With Me", but the similarity is there. Makes me really happy to hear this every time it pops up on my playlist. Hope it shines for others as well.
Danny L Harle & DJ Danny - On a Mountain
Gorgeous. Both this and the MV. Clean production that's well deserved, and from the biggest surprise, a PC music composer. For those who are turned off by the PC Music culture, this might be a good appetizer for things beyond the label. Sadly it's too short. Maybe one day there'll be an extended mix of this?
Dayglow - Close To You
Bedroom pop is usually a genre I bounce right off of, not sure why. I can name only two artists that it didn't (Soccer Mommy and Jack Stauber), and Dayglow didn't really change my mind with Fuzzybrain. Songs like Listerine, for example, just sounded too squeaky clean for me, which is a lot of what the genre sounded like to me. But something clicked with this song and maybe I need to re-explore, like, everything. Or maybe it's just this song in particular that works. The beat is so fun and easy to dance to, the layering works so fucking well, and his voice is suddenly the best thing to hear. His timbre with lines like "I guess that's alright" is suave as hell. Going to be listening to this for the next few months for chill vibes.
Noname - Rainforest
The Kount just made one of the best beats I've ever heard to perfectly match Noname's flow and lyrical style, and the song is less than 3 minutes. That's highway robbery, I want to hear that beat for half a day.

Noname continues to be my favorite female rapper. Her lyrics here are insanely good. It's all delivered well and it never sounds like she's trying to get attention. It's sincere and sounds more like she's using her voice to say something that's always been true: fuck billionaires. The parallel here is the rainforest, an area of the world seeing impending extinction from massive deforestation from places like Brazil, all for the pursuit of money.

"Dyin' on stolen land for a dollar like that ain't fucked up
It's fuck they money, I'ma say it every song
Until the revolution come and all the feds start runnin'
Fuck a Good Will Hunting, this is brand new murder"
Zella Day - Holocene
Wall of sound adjacent, beautiful folk-y guitar, and lyrics around moving on with climate change themes. It's warm, soft, and peaceful. I feel like everything Weyes Blood has touched recently has turned to gold.

"And in Colorado
The sun has been beating down
On the morrow was snowfall
Scaring the people in the town"

"I've read on the freeways
Now that it's in the air
Please, won't you stay at home?
For many, that's nowhere"
Porter Robinson - Look At The Sky
The song is flawed in its structure and probably isn't as ambitious as Mirror or Musician, but to me this is Porter's best because it feels like him at his most sincere from this year's singles. Or at least, it's the closest song to Something Comforting with these spaced out breaks and there's something about the synth choice that warms my heart, idk. Maybe it's the acoustic guitar, Porter fighting to be heard through glitchiness near the end, the almost sighing vocals on the bridge, or maybe it's the comforting lyrics. The positivity is easy to find comfort in.
"Look at the sky, I'm still here
I'll be alive next year
I can make something good, oh
Something good"

"Are you close?
Shouldn't it come to you naturally?
And everyone knows (Oh)
You're losing your gift and it's plain to see
But then something must have changed in me
I don't fear it anymore
Now I'm sure"
Taylor Swift - Love Story (Taylor's Version)
The charming transformative end to Romeo & Juliet that turns tragedy into something magical. It's definitely fantastical, akin to a Disney movie, but I don't see any harm in that. That final chorus is amazing, and its reimagining thanks to a more adult Taylor in terms of vocal performance and Christopher Rowe's production makes it a joy to listen to.
Freddie Gibbs - Gang Signs
Where, exactly, was Pilgrim hiding this jazzy beat? Love hearing Gibbs sing while he's rapping, and he absolutely kills it on this beat. Schoolboy Q holds it back just slightly, not doing a terrible verse but not exactly one of his greatest, but it comes and goes quickly enough to not detract from what's sitting here: one of Freddie's best verses, and Pilgrim's best beat.
King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard - O.N.E.
To the people saying King Gizzard's repetition isn't memorable, you need to get your damn ears checked. Weak social commentary but at least its existence is based, and the music is more than enough to carry it. I love the riffs on this, and the psychedelic production here for half of its runtime is grand. I'm not usually big on microtonal music, but this song has convinced me to rethink my preferences, or at least re-examine them.
Iglooghost - Sylph Fossil
Heavy noise that destroys speakers, and it fucking bangs. There's so much neat shit happening in the textures here. The bass suddenly leaves halfway through giving the listener a sudden dysphoria, but it then finds itself landing back on the noisiest part of the song with high treble bleeding through, something I typically wouldn't find much comfort in but it works well here. The strings coming in after the last verse are haunting, and suddenly a breakdown comes in and leaves, leaving you with cell phone-esque synths, glitches, zippers, and everything in between. Do I consider this the best sound design from the year so far? You betcha.
Porter Robinson - Musician
From everything that's coming out of Nurture, it seems like the album name fits the bill. Every song has felt like something Porter Robinson is writing not just for his audience but for himself. Something Comforting was the least subtle about it, seeking comfort while sitting in depression, with verses that were very laidback reminiscent of the calmed down parts of Worlds, but instead of the mellow minor key of something like Fellow Feeling, the melodies were a lot more positive. The end of Something Comforting even had a sigh, as if Porter was finally able to relax.

This track isn't any different from being comforting, being just as jovial and happy as the other track, if not more so with the high energy breakbeat sample that comes in at the second part. This song is caught straight in the creative process, a running theme with the other singles of Porter expressing not being sure where to go in terms of making music, hitting a creative ditch. It uses the most samples of the singles, which is shorthand to showcase the process more.
Musician starts with finding the new music Porter was looking for, the new creative outlet, and getting excited, but also worried of impending burnout and the obstacles that come with pursuing music. "It's time to grow up" "It's time to get an actual job" "It doesn't last". If you've pursued music, you're not stranger to hearing those words, hell, it pushed myself off the path for pursuing music. But Porter points at what's important: "Can't you feel what I'm feeling? This is why I do it". The "growing up" and "actual job" are missing the why, if not being dismissive entirely of the career, and even if it doesn't last, who cares? Because the feeling of making it is so emotional and powerful.

The song may end on a negative note, still being worried of burning out and how he shouldn't do this. But there's still a road ahead, and it's never an easy one to walk on.
Erika De Casier - Drama
Oh hell yes, good R&B performance on a fucking 2-step beat, Erika PLEASE keep this same direction. Way better than everything else she's made so far (not to say Essentials wasn't good, but this is NOT what Essentials was). The production is kinda old fashioned too, which is weird since this producer is a relative nobody. Great voice, good melody, track's a vibe.
Julien Baker - Hardline
Lyrically, this would be a hard song to play more than once. The lyrics are darker than black, discussing drug blackouts, abuse, and maybe life is all black, baby. Julien does a great job of delivering this above the blackness with an energetic performance and great musicality that leaves me able to run this on the tape again. And yes, I am a massive pussy.
Wolf Alice - The Last Man On Earth
The payoff for the build here is so worth it, even if it takes such a long time to get there. Maybe it's because I'm a sucker for piano, but I have trouble seeing how people can snooze on this. The lyrics are so bitter, someone must've been really damn arrogant to Ellie.
The production is terrific, which is something I should expect from Markus Dravs, the guy who worked on Strawberry Swing, The Suburbs, and Reflektor.
Jessie Ware - Remember Where You Are
The album closer with glossy production and gorgeous strings is now repackaged as a single release for 2021, as if Jessie Ware can't help but be on top for another year. Unfortunately nowhere near as good as it is in the context of the album, with the strings that come in at the lead and the hook carrying so much weight as a closer, but still great on its own. The single release also cuts up the song a bit too much, not quite a rushed listen but it still feels like it's missing something, with a somewhat wonky start that's not on the beautiful level of the original. So I implore listening to the song in its full length. Hell, listen to the whole album! It's easily one of the best albums from the previous year.

That being said, it still fits right into a year with a few singles that seem to be creating a new era of smooth soul, and the video that accompanies the song is still true currently: despite COVID lockdowns and the empty streets (for some of us), we can keep moving in the after hours, loving on the edge of doubt, and the heart of the city is still on fire. The sun will rise and there is still a future ahead, just remember where you are.
Stereolab - Dimension M2
An indietronica tune with an insane bridge that will chuck you up into space before switching between of a ton of drum loops to eventually bring you back to the beginning groove, it's an immediate favorite of the year. While not necessarily a surprise if you're one of the, like, 50 people who listened to the compilation album it comes from, it's still absolutely amazing Stereolab. Another recency bias pick for sure, but a good one.
Andrew W.K. - Babalon
Originally was going to label this as a guilty pleasure before I realized this is genuinely good fucking power metal. I was scared of this single because.... let's just say I thought "You're Not Alone" was NOT a good album at all. This changes my mind on Andrew. Maybe he really isn't the one-trick pony I thought he was? Not sure.
The riffs rip. Production here is incredibly impressive from Andrew, even with a slightly unknown co-producer.
Andrew brought good power metal to 2021 and I'm here for it.
The Weather Station - Atlantic
Love the varied instrumentation here. Nice tonal chord setting, insanely good mixing, and the pulsating watery synths are just magical. I like how more indie pop/rock bands are having the percussion higher in the mix this year. Her voice isn't as stellar an instrument as the rest of the instruments, but the mixing here is a savior by making you have a lot more parts to focus on than just the vocals. The strumming for the last 30 seconds though? God tier.
Black Country, New Road - Track X
Wait, the guy with sunglasses who's a modern Scott Walker, known for crazy experimental post-rock off of the last single from 2019, is making mellow love music with minimalist design and instrumentation? Do you take checks? I don't have the cash for you to take my money.
Kali Uchis - telepatía
Sometimes a song that gets an insane amount of traction on Tik Tok is unironically good. Last year it was Say So for me. This year? Telepatia. The lush production from Albert Hype (who I'm credited the most because it sounds similar to De Una Vez, another pop song I liked the production for) is sick. Wish it was longer! The song has the potential to do even more imo.
Jane Remover - 52 Blue Mondays
Hyperpop I can bang my head too. Goes straight from HexD into a fucking jungle break and screamo, before switching to a trap beat and.... nah, this song literally can't stick onto one idea for long, and it's fucking glorious. 52 ideas here.
Molly Burch - EMOTION
The nu-disco train continues into 2021, maybe the only thing we want to keep from 2020. A chorus that melts your brain and production that melts your heart. Just sit back and play this to warm yourself up this winter.
London Grammar - Lose Your Head
Blanck Mass - Starstuff
Prog electronic that goes. Not the full version which has a part that's way better, but I can live with this.
Deadmau5 & Wolfgang Gartner - Channel 43
If there's one thing I've learned about deadmau5 from his MasterClass and watching his streams, he's the kind of musician who literally throws everything against the wall in a DAW and whatever works, works. This lead to Strobe and I Remember, the exceptions to the rule for what is usually just OK or decent house that varies wildly from there. But now, it lead to this crazy 2000s electro house that includes complextro instrumentation in just the right amount to please both crowds.
You best believe you should listen to the extended mix.
Molly Nilsson - Hey Moon
Black Lives Matter. Fuck fascists. Go support this re-release because every dollar goes to BLM. It helps that the music is a great classic from the 2000s that needs more love.
And, uh, fuck John Maus.
The Antlers - Solstice
Gorgeous, almost too happy for its own good, and maybe the happiest The Antlers has been since ITAOTU, my favorite album from the group. The one chord it builds over and over again is hypnotic, the falsetto vocals almost perfect, and the timbre of the guitar is so pretty. It's warm. I can't wait for this album.
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