While the Summer of 2020 was largely marked by disruption, unrest, and an overall bleakness, Summer 2021 brought with it some hope of normalcy. While it may not have been the tropical vacation-filled, festival-going, bliss of our pre-pandemic summer breaks, there was a sense of some long-needed positivity in the air.
However, along with hope came anxieties and uneasiness of exactly what to expect. Music of Summer 2021 captured this dichotomy of emotions, often blending upbeat, dance-ready tunes with undeniably angry and frustrated lyrics. As we wave goodbye to Summer 2021 in a few weeks, here are some songs that defined the vibe of the summer.
10. “Heat Waves” – Glass Animals
Okay, so this is the one song on the list that technically was released in 2020. However, “Heat Waves” by Oxford indie-pop favorites has been creeping up the charts. The song reached the number one spot on Billboard’s Alternative Streaming Songs chart this May — dethroning 24kGoldn‘s “Mood” (another reason to love it). Glass Animals‘ silky, dreamy beats are a perfect way to enjoy the last few weeks of summer.
9. “Kiss Me More” – Doja Cat ft. SZA
The first time I heard “Kiss Me More” I didn’t realize the song had actually looped and continued to jam to it about 2 and a half times in a row. This song is the smooth and sexy background music we all needed to be the soundtrack of the promised Hot Girl Summer.
8. “Black Sheep” -Brie Larson Vocal Version
If you asked me what the surprise hit of 2021 would be, I wouldn’t have guessed a Metric cover from a 2011 comic-book romantic comedy. However, when Spotify finally released the soundtrack to “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World” on streaming, Brie Larson/Envy Adam’s cover of “Black Sheep” was the standout hit. Larson’s powerful grunge vocals resonated with old fans and new, reaching number 34 on Billboard’s Hot Rock & Alternative Songs Chart.
7. “Mr. Perfectly Fine” (Taylor’s Version)” – Taylor Swift
Speaking of throwbacks, Taylor Swift continued her constant album drop streak from last summer with the release of her re-recorded Fearless (Taylor’s Version) record. In addition to re-creations of her old hits, Swifties also got access to a bunch of never-before-released songs “From the Vault.” The standout of the bunch is definitely “Mr. Perfectly Fine,” an upbeat and cathartic song that takes jabs at an inconsiderate ex in the cutting way that only a teenage Taylor Swift can.
6. “Brutal” – Olivia Rodrigo
And no best-of 2021 list would be complete without mentioning Olivia Rodrigo. The 18-year-old pop sensation took over the world with her debut album of break up ballads and teen anthems. The opening track “Brutal” is the perfect blend of angry, funny and sweet to sum up the strange past few months we’ve all experienced.
5. “If You Ever Leave, I’m Coming With You” – The Wombats
The Wombats‘ latest single was already highlighted on SD but it’s the perfect summer song to play in the car with your friends when you want to feel incredibly nostalgic.
4. “Good Girls (Don’t Get Used)” – Beach Bunny
Continuing the theme of “happy-sounding songs that are actually pretty pissed off”… Beach Bunny’s 2021 EP Blame Game perfectly sums up all the annoyances of modern dating within catchy hooks and pounding kick drums.
3. “Lilith” – Halsey
In August Halsey released what many are calling her best album to date, If I Can’t Have Low, I Want Power. With the god-tier production abilities of Nine Inch Nails’ Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, the album is gritty, experimental, and an overall blast of a listening experience. Lilith is where the production really shines, mixing bass, pop and electronic sounds seamlessly over an anthem about disillusionment with modern society.
2. “Low Key as Hell” – Waterparks
Waterparks was doing ironic detachment set to kickass pop-punk beats before it was cool again. The former Warped Tour favorites, released their fourth album, Greatest Hits in May of 2021, and it lived up to the confident title. On “Lowkey as Hell,” vivacious synths and the band’s trademark snarky lyrics are on full display exploring the highs and lows that come with fame.
1. “Alone Star” – The Vaccines
How appropriate that a band called The Vaccines would top a list of 2021 tunes. “Alone Star” is the latest single from the alt-rock band will have you immediately wanting to get up and move from the opening chords. The frantic guitar riffs paired with a jazz and blues sound bring to mind old-school clubs and dance halls. The chorus repeats over and over “You are not alone,” in a tone of pure, confident hope, which we all could use a little more of lately.
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