Some Thoughts On The 2021 Billboard Hot 100 Year-End Chart

I spend a fair amount of time listening to, reviewing, and talking about music, and as a way of taking a general pulse of the contemporary culture the Year-End chart is something I pay a fair amount of attention to. Since one of my fellow online acquaintances has posted a spotify list of the top 100 songs from the Billboard Hot 100 chart throughout the year, I will be offering my comments on all the songs as I listen to them. Without any further ado, here goes:

  1. Levitating – Dua Lipa – This is an enjoyable pop tune, a song that attracted a surprising amount of controversy for its rent-a-rapper, and an interesting song in not being a weekly #1 but having enough longevity throughout the year to top the year end. Congrats, Dua. 8/10
  2. Save Your Tears – The Weeknd f/Ariana Grande – I like the original song of this one better but here we have another example of longevity on the charts. It’s a pleasant song and I still enjoy it after nearly a year on the charts. 7/10 remix, 8/10 original
  3. Blinding Lights – The Weeknd – Here is another song that has seemed nearly impervious to overplay. This song had a record 90 weeks on the Billboard Hot 100 and is pretty much my go-to choice as covid anthem, with its talk about empty cities and no one being around to judge. It’s interesting to think of how history will view this song and era. 8/10
  4. Mood – 24kGoldn f/Iann Diorr – This song feels more like a late 2020 song to me than a 2021 song but it’s definitely a song that reflects a mood and it’s one I still enjoy listening to, although I wonder about the long-term viability of both acts on the track. 8/10
  5. Good 4 U – Olivia Rodrigo – This is another song I can relate to and enjoy listening to, and it’s clear that the song resonated with a lot of other people as well. 8/10
  6. Kiss Me More – Doja Cat f/SZA – I liked this song well enough at first but it really soured on me with overplay. It’s not the kind of song that can endure punishing radio overplay and perhaps its strangest element is the melancholy tone of a song about the joy of making out. 7/10
  7. Leave The Door Open – Silk Sonic – This song is a slice of 70’s nostalgia and it’s definitely a song that one can easily enjoy without paying too much attention to the occasional awkwardness of the lyrics. It’s easy enough to appreciate for its mood though, which is what you want for a pop song, I suppose. 7/10
  8. Driver’s License – Olivia Rodrigo – My feelings about this song are pretty similar to when it came out, it’s a melancholy sad girl piano ballad whose feelings of teen melodrama are ones I can unfortunately relate to pretty well. It is a bit awkward in terms of its lyrics but it is endearingly so. 8/10
  9. Montero (Call Me By Your Name) – Lil Nas X – It is easy enough to see how this song is true to Lil Nas X’s own feelings about a partner and one can certainly get a sense of how it felt, but this is one of those songs that seems too personal to relate to when one looks at its lyrics. I won’t even comment on the trolling of the music video here, but this was an odd radio hit. 7/10 for the vibe, discounting lyrics/controversy.
  10. Peaches – Justin Bieber f/Daniel Caesar & Giveon – This is a song that was inexplicably popular on the radio. It’s one I think is okay for the vibe, but its lyrical choices are a demonstration that 420-friendly lifestyles do not lead one to be overly ambitious in crafting good lyrics, a general theme of the year’s pop music I suppose. 6/10
  11. Butter – BTS – Mass buying made this a much bigger hit than it would have been on its own merits. It’s not a terrible song but it’s also not a song I have ever sought out on my own. 5/10
  12. Stay – The Kid Laroi & Justin Bieber – I really dislike the sentiment of this song and always change it when it plays on the radio. I can see why this song appeals to some but it’s just not one that appeals to me on any level. 3/10
  13. Deja Vu – Olivia Rodrigo – My favorite of the four YE hits of Olivia Rodrigo from Sour, this song has a dreamy tone that just works perfectly for me as a lovely radio driving song. The sentiment of knowing that one is part of a type and how an ex-partner operates is deeply poignant and the music video really adds to the surrealistic vibe. 10/10
  14. Positions – Ariana Grande – This song exudes that playful and coy sexuality that one tends to expect from the singer and it’s a pleasant enough piece of radio fodder that expresses the singer’s openness for her partner. 7/10
  15. Bad Habits – Ed Sheeran – There is something about the lack of a good baseline in the radio version of this song that really irritates me. It’s not a bad song, exactly, it’s just one of those songs that is mediocre and overplayed to death, the fate of a great many pop songs that aren’t nearly good enough to justify their ubiquity. 5/10
  16. Heat Waves – Glass Animals – This is a song that has a nostalgic mood that I can definitely vibe with and it was one of the surprising songs of the year that I enjoyed a great deal. The fact that it deals with relationship melodrama only adds to its personal enjoyment. 9/10
  17. Without You – Kid Laroi – This is one of those songs that reminds me of the emotional immaturity of early Juice WRLD that bothered me so much when he came out. This is a song whose emotional sentiment I can understand but it’s not one I appreciate or enjoy personally. 4/10
  18. Forever After All – Luke Combs – This song is a pleasant neo-traditional country ballad that is filled with Luke Combs’ warm baritone that expresses a hope in things like love lasting forever, a beautiful sentiment in a world full of what is temporary and passing. 9/10
  19. Go Crazy – Chris Brown & Young Thug – I’m not a big fan of either artist, but one can tell that this song is meant to give praise to a beloved partner, even though it comes off more than a little awkwardly. Good intentions are there but the execution is lacking. Still, one can do a lot worse than this. 5/10.
  20. Astronaut In The Ocean – Masked Wolf – This is a song that got popular on memes and which does not bear well under an examination of its nonsensical lyrics. This is a song to vibe with but is not really worth thinking about all that deeply. 6/10
  21. 34 + 35 Remix – Ariana Grande f/Doja Cat & Megan Thee Stallion – I like the original better but only marginally so. This is yet another song that has Ariana Grande expressing her coy sexuality for a partner but it comes off as less romantic than Positions. It was, of course, overplayed on the radio as well. 5/10
  22. What You Know Bout Love – Pop Smoke – This song is a thug love anthem with a pleasant 90’s sample where the late Pop Smoke tries out his singing. This isn’t a great song by any means, but it seems like a sincere enough attempt and the production is pleasant enough. 6/10
  23. My Ex’s Best Friend – Machine Gun Kelly & Blackbear – This song had some punishing radio overplay throughout the year and it’s unclear that MGK has long-term viability as a rock act but the song itself is pleasant enough and the scenario is relatable enough about the feelings of ambivalence and even betrayal about dating an ex’s best friend. 7/10
  24. Industry Baby – Lil Nas X f/Jack Harlow – This song was pretty much a self-fulfilling prophecy and it has a vibe that I can get behind as a “still got it” song with some appropriate braggadocio about it. Whether or not is a good thing, this is a song I can definitely enjoy and have throughout the second half of the year. 9/10
  25. Therefore I Am – Billie Eilish – This song, like many other hits of the year, had some punishing overplay and I really got sick of it as the year when on, without ever having liked it all that much. It’s easy to see what the singer was going for here but it’s just not a pleasant sentiment or well done. 5/10
  26. Up – Cardi B – I’m not a big fan of this song or the singer in general, but I can see how the spare instrumental track and Cardi’s usual style of lines was appealing to her fans, even if the album rollout was muffed, harming this song a good deal in terms of its popularity. 4/10
  27. Fancy Lake – Walker Hayes – I do not hate this song as much as others do, but it’s pretty embarrassing when you look at the lyrics and it is a pretty obvious corporate jingle that somehow inexplicably became a massive hit. 5/10
  28. Dakiti – Bad Bunny & Jhay Cortez – This song is easy enough to bop to and it was unsurprisingly a hit towards the beginning of the year. 7/10
  29. Best Friend – Saweetie f/Doja Cat – This song is an easy enough vibe as well. Lyrically I don’t really approve of this song, but the sentiment is easy enough to understand. 6/10
  30. Rapstar – Polo G – This song is a melancholy one and I happen to appreciate it. It’s not a song I’m familiar with but it’s enjoyable enough. This is something I’d want to hear more often. 8/10
  31. Heartbreak Anniversary – Giveon – This song was a well-deserved radio crossover hit, and it’s one that is easy to appreciate. I happen to enjoy this sort of R&B a lot. 8/10
  32. For The Night – Pop Smoke f/Lil Baby & DaBaby – This is another sort of thug love song and it is pleasant enough with the usual guest rappers. 6/10
  33. Calling My Phone – Lil Tjay & 6lack – This is a spare and melancholy song about relationship drama and I happen to like the piano and the melancholy sentiment a fair amount. 7/10
  34. Beautiful Mistakes – Maroon 5 f/Megan Thee Stallion – This is pretty bog-standard pop radio fodder with a guest rapper verse where Maroon 5 sings about an imperfect relationship. 6/10
  35. Holy – Justin Bieber f/Chance The Rapper – This is a pretty bog-standard pop radio song comparing romantic love to religious devotion. One can do both a lot better and a lot worse. 6/10
  36. On Me – Lil Baby – I don’t like this. It wasn’t made to appeal to me but there are some people who are going to like this. 4/10
  37. You Broke Me First – Tate McRae – This was one of the better Billie Eilish hits of the year, and it is unsurprisingly a song about teenage relationship melodrama sung by a teenager. It’s not a great song but it’s a sentiment I understand and I look forward to seeing her grow in future numbers. 7/10
  38. Traitor – Olivia Rodrigo – This is a song about teenage melodrama, a post-release single about the aspect of emotional cheating within a relationship and how it affects post-breakup feelings. 8/10
  39. Back In Blood – Pooh Shiesty f/Lil Durk – This is a pretty fierce song, and I enjoyed listening to it. I mean, it’s not nice that this attitude exists but such ferocity I can relate to. 7/10
  40. I Hope – Gabby Barrett f/Charlie Puth – I do not necessarily like this song, but at least the original song makes sense. The remix destroys the logic of the song without improving it musically. 6/10 original, 5/10 remix.
  41. Dynamite – BTS – This is not really an enjoyable song to me, but it certainly appeals to where it’s aimed at. 5/10
  42. Wockesha – Moneybagg Yo – The sample is doing heavy lifting here because the singing and sentiment are not really all that enjoyable to listen to. 5/10
  43. You Right – Doja Cat & The Weeknd – This is pretty much bog-standard radio R&B fare about a cheating relationship. If the song is easy enough to listen to, it is another song that does not stand well under lyrical scrutiny. 6/10
  44. Beat Box – SpotemGottem f/Pooh Shiesty or DaBaby – This isn’t a very appealing song to me, but there are obviously people who liked one of the million or so different remixes for this song. 4/10
  45. Laugh Not, Cry Later – Drake f/Lil Durk – The music on this song is pretty hype, but Drake is almost sleep-walking. Drake has done both worse and better. 5/10
  46. Need To Know – Doja Cat – This is a song that is not appealing lyrically, as Doja Cat is in nymphomaniac mode, but radio likes this song for some reason. 5/10
  47. Wants & Needs – Drake f/Lil Baby – I mean, this isn’t a great song but it’s one of the better songs Drake had this year even if the sentiment is pretty unpleasant. 6/10
  48. Way 2 Sexy – Drake f/Future & Young Thug – This song is pretty lame and the rapping isn’t very good. It’s a meme song made for laughs but this isn’t aimed at me. 5/10
  49. Telepatia – Keli Uchis – This is a song I heard quite a bit on the radio and it is a beautiful, spare sort of song about emotional communication between hearts and minds that I really enjoy the sentiment of. I’d like to hear more like this from the artist. 8/10
  50. Whoopty – CJ – This song is definitely an unexpected novelty hit, but it is at least a song that one can laugh at and enjoy regardless of how one feels about the author’s lack of street cred. 6/10
  51. Lemonade – Internet Money f/Gunna, Don Toliver, & Nav – This is a posse cut with some excellent production, even if the sentiments are rather melancholy about the mo’ money mo’ problems life. 7/10
  52. Good Days – SZA – This is a beautiful song that could have and should have been a bigger hit. Still, it’s definitely a vibe. 8/10
  53. Starting Over – Chris Stapleton – This is a gritty and beautiful country song. This is something I’d like to hear a lot more of. 9/10
  54. Body – Megan Thee Stallion – This is a pretty repetitive and repulsive song, but it’s obvious to see what the singer is trying to aim for. 3/10
  55. Willow – Taylor Swift – This song isn’t as lyrically brilliant as Taylor or her fans is going to say, but it is a relative return to form for her from a well-regarded project. 7/10
  56. Bang – AJR – There isn’t much that is organic about this song but in contrast to many critics this is a song that I can definitely enjoy, as it certainly marks a transition point as far as the approach of the narrator. 7/10
  57. Better Together – Luke Combs – This song is a bit of austere piano ballad, but it’s a pleasant one if you have tastes for that sort of song that reflects on love and other things that go better together. 7/10
  58. You’re Mines Still – Yung Bleu f/Drake – The sample is doing hard work here, as the lead singer clearly can’t let go of a broken relationship. She needs to go far away, change her number and name. It’s a classic Drake subsidy of a nothing one-hit wonder. 5/10
  59. Every Chance I Get – DJ Khaled f/Lil Baby & Lil Durk – DJ Khaled is pretty worthless here but the other rappers do a good job with a pretty ominous beat. 5/10
  60. Essence – WizKid f/Justin Bieber & Tems – This song is a pretty enjoyable vibe about the desire for monogamy. If we could get more African music on the charts like this it wouldn’t be a bad thing. 7/10
  61. Chasing After You – Ryan Hurd w/Maren Morris – This is one of those classic country duets about a troubled relationship, and it’s an enjoyable enough ballad. 7/10
  62. The Good Ones – Gabby Barrett – This is a pleasant song that gives praise in intriguing ways with pleasing production. I could stand to have more country like this. 7/10
  63. Leave Before You Love Me – Marshmello w/the Jonas Brothers – This is a beautiful song, but one with a melancholy sentiment, albeit one I can understand all too well. 8/10
  64. Glad You Exist – Dan & Shay – This is pretty bog-standard boyfriend country. It’s a pleasant enough song but not something one would deliberately seek out. 6/10
  65. Lonely – Justin Bieber w/Benny Blanco – My second-favorite of the many Justin Bieber singles this year, this song is melancholy and spare, and one gets a sense of Bieber’s genuine sense of loneliness. 7/10
  66. Beggin’ – Maneskin – This song was really popular on the radio, but it wasn’t one which really appealed to me, although admittedly the original didn’t either. 6/10
  67. Streets – Doja Cat – This late single from Hot Pink was a hit was Doja Cat was readying her latest album and if it’s not as good as her best songs it’s not a bad song. 6/10
  68. What’s Next – Drake – This is pretty bog standard Drake. It’s not terrible, but it’s not great either. 6/10
  69. Famous Friends – Chris Young & Kane Brown – This song has a bit of a defensive mood about the difference between local fame and how those small town connections are known in the wider world, but it’s a sentiment I can relate to well. 8/10
  70. Lil Bit – Nelly & Florida Georgia Line – This is a strange song, almost an attempt to bring back bro-country and recapture the popularity of previous collaborations. It’s not a bad song but it’s certainly one that is out of place. 6/10
  71. Thot S*** – Megan Thee Stallion – This is a pretty dull and repetitive song, pretty common for the artist unfortunately. Ratchet rap isn’t really my genre, obviously. 4/10
  72. Late At Night – Roddy Ricch – This song has a melancholy vibe about it and the intro is really interesting. This song didn’t really catch on, but it’s a pretty good song by me at least. 7/10
  73. Kings & Queens – Ava Max – This song kept Ava Max from being a one-hit wonder and if it’s a fairly basic pop song it is at least an enjoyable one. 7/10
  74. Anyone – Justin Bieber – This is a pretty spare song that expresses Bieber’s longing and love in a way that is lovely and touching. 8/10
  75. Track Star – Mooski – This song has a catchy enough chorus that predictably went viral, but it’s not really enjoyable lyrically and the singing isn’t all that good either. 6/10
  76. Time Today – Moneybagg Yo – A pretty dark beat underlies a pretty bog-standard trap song. It’s not my thing but there are definitely people this is for. 6/10
  77. Cry Baby – Megan Thee Stallion f/DaBaby – This song sounds pretty atrocious and DaBaby has a pretty annoying guest verse with his bad attitude, making it pretty scary that Megan Thee Stallion is the best part of the song. 4/10
  78. All I Want For Christmas Is You – Mariah Carey – If I am by no means a fan of Christmas music this song is at least something whose sentiment about appreciating love during this time of year is a pleasant one. 8/10
  79. No More Parties – Coi Leray f/Lil Durk – This song has an admirable sentiment about desiring to elevate and the chemistry between the two performers is pretty interesting, although the beat is pretty sparse. 6/10
  80. What’s Your Country Song? – Thomas Rhett – This is a pleasant enough country song that shows that the songwriters know their country material, with a pleasant guitar solo. I could stand to listen to this song and others like it more. 7/10
  81. One Too Many – Keith Urban & Pink – This is a song that pretty accurately pictures people who drink too much and struggle with keeping a relationship strong. 7/10
  82. Arcade – Duncan Laurence – This is a song whose dark mood about relationships and love often being a losing game was a big radio hit and a song I can definitely relate to. 8/10
  83. Yonaguni – Bad Bunny – This is the sort I expect from Bad Bunny and while that’s not a bad thing it’s not something I purposefully seek out either. 6/10
  84. Good Time – Niko Moon – This song is one of those laid-back strum-along songs, but it’s not a bad song and it’s easy enough to vibe to if it plays. 6/10
  85. If I Didn’t Love You – Jason Aldean & Carrie Underwood – This song has an ugly sentiment about it, but the two singers have some obvious chemistry and the production is nice so it’s not a total loss. 6/10
  86. Knife Talk – Drake f/21 Savage & Project Pat – It’s hard to take Drake’s violent posturing seriously, but this song is pretty decent for what is. 6/10
  87. Pov – Ariana Grande – This was my favorite single from the Positions album, and it is a lovely radio hit about how it feels good to see oneself from the point of view of a partner in love. 8/10
  88. Just The Way – Parmalee & Blanco Brown – This is a pretty corny song, but it’s corny in an endearing way and it’s easy to say that people would appreciate it. 6/10
  89. Take My Breath – The Weeknd – If people were pretty sick of The Weeknd after this year with all of the songs that he had on the charts, this song was certainly lovely enough as a classic 80’s nostalgia vibe. 8/10
  90. We’re Good – One of my favorite Dua Lipa singles off of her latest project, this one scrapes onto the YE list but it’s still a lovely song and it’s nice to see that it did well enough to make it here. The music video really adds to the song too. 8/10
  91. Hell Of A View – Eric Church – This is a pleasant song and an easy one to enjoy. It’s nice to see it make the Year End. 7/10
  92. Rockin’ Around The Christmas Tree – Brenda Lee – This isn’t my favorite song of the Christmas season, but to see it make a Year-End chart is rather intriguing. This song has some nostalgia value to boot. 7/10
  93. Put Your Records On – Ritt Momney – I wish the original had reached a Year-End chart, but this cover is obviously one that seeks to honor the original and it’s a pleasant enough tune. 7/10
  94. Happier Than Ever – Billie Eilish – This is an interesting folkish kind of song that is pleasant to listen to even if it’s not something I have sought out a lot. 7/10
  95. Single Saturday Night – Cole Swindwell – This is a pleasant and interesting country song that plays on the pun between a single Saturday night and a Saturday night when one is single. 7/10
  96. Things A Man Oughta Know – Lainey Wilson – This is an interesting song that one wishes one heard more of, the woman’s perspective to balance the general male-centered country charts. 7/10
  97. Throat Baby (Go Baby) – BRS Kash – This is a pretty repulsive song but the beat and sample are pleasant enough. I just wish this song was an instrumental. 4/10
  98. Tombstone – Rod Wave – This is an interesting and melancholy song that reflects on matters of life and death. It’s not a great song, but it’s interesting. 6/10
  99. Drinkin’ Beer. Talkin’ God. Amen. – Chase Rice f/Florida Georgia Line – This isn’t a great song, but you know, it’s a decent listen, pretty bog-standard country if you know what I mean. 6/10
  100. Todo De Ti – Rauw Alejandro – It’s a pleasant enough song to listen to with a nice beat, and that’s enough to make this a worthy song to end the YE list. 7/10

By and large 2021 was not a great year for pop music. There are few songs I consider to be even close to the all-time great range. There were plenty of songs that were plenty enough to listen to and a few songs that were pretty repulsive and unpleasant, but not as many songs at the very top and bottom as most other years. It seemed, by and large, like a year where people released standard mid songs that were moderately popular. I’m not sure if that reputation will hold up, but if you like pop music and are at least okay with pop and rap there was a lot here that was pleasant enough to listen to even if it’s not likely to be sought in the future. Given the sort of year we had, perhaps it was not to be expected that we would end up with great music. It was not a year cut out for greatness, anyway.

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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