A hot year for singles! Here are my top 10 songs from 2021

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Adele struck a big blow for album art with her comeback, dubbed 30, but 2021 was also a big year for singles. Young stars like Olivia Rodrigo and Sam Fender have raised the flag of youth. Older hands Elton John and Abba wanted to party like it’s 1976. Here are my 10 songs from the year…

1. Driving license by Olivia Rodrigo

Song that silenced the audience when it was sung at the Brit Awards in May, Drivers License is my single of the year. Olivia Rodrigo was a relatively unknown Disney Channel actress when the song was released in January. In a matter of weeks, the Californian teenager has become the star of the year 2021 on the back of a walk in the room with an emotional punch. “Today I walked through the suburbs crying because you weren’t there,” she sang, distilling the heartache of youth and the angst of Gen Z into a pop old school style that appealed not only to other teens but fans of all ages with a love of quality songwriting. I can even forgive the absence of an apostrophe.

2. Cold Heart by Elton John, Dua Lipa and Pnau

Unable to continue his Farewell Yellow Brick Road tour, Elton spent the pandemic collaborating with other artists on an album, The Lockdown Sessions, made via Zoom and social distancing studio recordings. He has worked with newcomers Rina Sawayama and SG Lewis and older artists like the two Stevies, Wonder and Nicks. The album’s eclectic tone was set by the pulsating Cold Heart, an inspired affair with Dua Lipa and electronic band Pnau who put together four classic Elton tracks – Rocketman, Where’s The Shoorah ?, Kiss The Bride and Sacrifice – on a single, his first graphic -top in 16 years, which felt like a cohesive piece of new music rather than a mash-up.

3. Seventeen Going Under by Sam Fender

If you’re looking for thrilling, heart-pumping rock anthems, the rugged-looking Geordie was the man to turn to. Sam Fender channeled Springsteen, The Killers and U2 on the title track from his second album – a brassy foot fueled by big 1980s-style drums. “I didn’t want to write about Covid because nobody wants to hear about it.” , did he declare. “So I went inside. The result was a superb single that was reminiscent of Fender’s under-spent youth at North Shields, but was catchy and festive in its rhythmic cut and push. Once he gets back on the road in 2022, he’s going to be massive.

4. I still have faith in you through Abba

The most anticipated comeback of the year – and the most perfectly judged. No one really expected Abba’s new songs to hold the candle to 1970s hits, but the Swedish quartet defied every chance to rekindle the old magic ahead of next year’s virtual concerts in London. With Agnetha and Anni-Frid sublimely interlocking, I Still Have Faith In You was a nostalgic ode to friendship and loyalty that went from Benny Andersson’s elegant piano motif to an entirely power ballad. orchestrated which ebbed and flowed like the melancholy masterpieces of yesteryear. “I know I hear a bittersweet song in the memories we share,” they sang. The years have rolled back.

5. Renegade by Big Red Machine

Taylor Swift spent much of 2021 re-recording two of her old albums, Fearless and Red, but her best track didn’t even come out under her own name. Big Red Machine is a side project put together by two alternative rock pioneers, Aaron Dessner of The National and Justin Vernon of Bon Iver, but Taylor was the driving force behind Renegade, writing the lyrics and exchanging vocal lines with Vernon. Built around a drum machine, synths, and acoustic guitars, the song was an indie-folk number that provided the perfect showcase for Swift’s emotional intelligence and scathing lyrics.

6. Leave the door open for Silk Sonic

Bruno Mars teamed up with California soulman Anderson Paak for a slice of American R&B, it’s the best thing he’s done since Uptown Funk in 2014. Calling himself Silk Sonic, Bruno and Anderson (the latter being a drummer outstanding singer) recalled the sweet 1970s soul of The Chi-Lites and The Delfonics on a ballad that sounded as if it could have been taken from the soundtrack of a Quentin Tarantino movie. A perfect pastiche – with a modern twist.

7. Tell Me Something Good by Ewan McVicar

When Scottish DJ Ewan McVicar remixed Rufus & Chaka Khan’s single Tell Me Something Good, Stevie Wonder, he thought the bassline and keyboards he added would make the song a good opening game for make the dancefloors vibrate. But her version, using Chaka’s original voice, took a life of its own. A Top 20 hit in November, it was crowned best dance piece of the year at this month’s Radio 1 Dance Awards.

8. Smile by Wolf Alice

Wolf Alice’s third album, Blue Weekend, written in a converted church while the London band isolated itself in Somerset, was another triumph – and Smile was his key track, making singer and guitarist Ellie Rowsell a strong presence. and confident determined to back down against those who would try to define her. “Roll it up and that bee sings,” she warned, as her three bandmates mixed crisp rock with hip-hop beats.

9. Sigrid’s Mirror

The Norwegian singer felt like a breath of Scandinavian fresh air when she won the BBC’s Sound Of… poll in 2018. Her debut album was lit by dance-pop bangers like Strangers, but she passed. 2021 to allude to a heavier, more adult. ring. Her magnificent ballad, Home To You, was an emotional centerpiece of BBC coverage of the Tokyo Olympics, and the Fabulous Mirror, a synth-fueled dance number about self-acceptance, bodes well for her. second album, scheduled for 2022.

10. A Little Love from Tom Grennan

Soul man from Bedford, Grennan, used his second album, Evering Road, to document the breakdown of a three-year relationship and its aftermath. Titled after the East London street where he and his ex-girlfriend lived, it often felt like an extended therapy session, with his January single Little Bit Of Love one of the key moments. Built around a soaring choir, it framed a tortured individual desperate to rekindle his old romance. Beneath the angst, however, was a great pop song.


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