These are not the most popular songs of 2021, nor the greatest, nor even, in some cases, songs. And I can all but guarantee you haven’t heard the bulk of them. But, for better or worse, these five sounds capture the oracular clusterfuck that was this year.
‘Red Dress‘ — Sarah Brand
An apparently authentic attempt at making a sweeping statement on love, life, and God, executed with all the talent, bombast, and excruciating cringe of a kindergarten production of The Wiz. It’s no wonder the 2021 pop charts were dominated by hits so mind numbingly cookie cutter they could’ve been AI generated. These days, this is where swinging for the fences gets you.
JAMAIS VU — GARÇON
A project by way of a single track, ASMR ambience has never sounded so essential. With nothing but banal found sounds, airy synths, and paper-thin percs, the DMV producer paints a vivid portrait of what David Foster Wallace called our ‘default settings’ — the routine mundanities and cyclical insanity of day-to-day life. But as these discordant and beautiful melodies almost imperceptibly evolve, he rings out some profundity from it all, too, blurring the lines between songs and sounds, the simple and the divine, nostalgia and the future.
‘Fairy God / Paranormal Rat Race‘ — Dick Bros
I’m mostly convinced I’m the only person to hear this bizarre project all the way through. I’m definitely convinced it should stay that way. But for the curious soul, here’s a taste of the irreplicable blend of inconstant identity, inherent absurdity, sexual frustration, and psychonautics pervading our modern culture at its full, borderline unlistenable glory.
You Had To Be There — Lost Gen
Dropped at midnight on the last day of 2021, the new EP from this Internet-addicted alt pop collective would hardly qualify, were it not so blatantly of its time. Equal parts slapper factory, inside joke, and pandemic era party album (an oxymoron if there ever was one) it wraps the year in 7 simple words: ‘this party is kind of a letdown.’
Enigma — Eulerbeats
For better or worse, this algorithmically generated jumble of bleeps and bloops, listed by OpenSea as the highest selling music NFT of all time, is the sound of the year. Despite lacking the human touch, they sold for an astronomical base price and, more importantly, brought in millions in royalties for their holders in the first week alone, proving out a business model we’ve been trumpeting since we launched. God willing, Eulerbeats won’t influence a single artist stylistically. But as far as the future of the industry, you can’t put the analog back in the tube.