The Music of 2021


Last year saw an explosion in the music industry. From big to small artists alike, countless albums were released this year, some of which received praise, and others hatred.

2021 was a year full of records broken by many artists. Taylor Swift began re-recording her albums in order to gain control of her master tapes, topping the Billboard charts with the longest song to ever go to number one, a 10-minute version of her classic 2012 song, All Too Well. Adele released her first album in years, topping the end-of-year charts with her album 30 that delved into her 6-year absence from making music and the divorce she underwent. 


Controversial Music

The first major controversy in music occurred only two weeks into the new year. Recording artist Sia released her movie called “Music” about the sister of a girl named Music who is somewhere on the autism spectrum. The movie focuses on the sister taking care of her, along with the sister’s partner. During the movie, it switches to Music’s perspective of the world, which were overly glameroused music videos for songs created for the movie. Despite Sia claiming to do research for creating the main character Music, the movie wasn’t received well. Many pointed out that Music was an amalgamation of autism stereotypes, and was overplayed for the movie. Sia’s sponsorship by Autism Speaks was another point of controversy, as the organization has been widely criticized by the autistic community for being ableist. The film also used lots of flashing bright lights, something which can negatively affect those who are light-sensitive. Despite the start of this year with Sia’s controversy, major good has also come from 2021 in the music space. 


The Year Of Rap


This year, three Grammy award winning artists released their latest rap albums. The first release was on June 25th: “CALL ME IF YOU GET LOST” from Tyler, The Creator. After his last album IGOR, CMIYGL returns with Tyler’s rapping abilities mixed with the new productions from his previous project. His nomination of “Rap Album Of The Year,” for his new album comes after his criticisms of the Grammys in 2020. Despite IGOR not being a rap album, it was nominated for and won “Rap Album of the Year ”, which caused some controversy. Many called out the Grammys for this, noting the history of racism within the organization. 

In other rap news, Drake and Kanye West, who are some of the biggest names in hip-hop, got into a feud last year. They both dropped hour-long projects with multiple features that topped the Billboard Hot 200 chart for albums. Kanye dropped “Donda” on August 29th, and a week later Drake released his album “Certified Lover Boy” on September 3rd. Kanye named his album after his late mother, Donda West, and held multiple listening parties at stadiums and fields. “Donda” was described as a heavily spiritual album while Drake’s album reportedly leaned into parody with a few introspective moments.


The Power of Sour

Olivia Rodrigo blew-up seemingly overnight after her release of “driver’s license” on January 8th, which instantly became a number one on the Billboard Top 100. She then followed it up with her smash singles “deja vu” and  “good 4 u,” which were highly praised while also being criticized for being derivative of artists like Taylor swift and Paramore. Despite that, she released her first album, “SOUR,” on May 21st to major praise. “SOUR” was a defining album of the year for Gen Z, closing the year with several Grammy nominations and as one of the most streamed albums of the year. 




Lil Nas X, who first gained fame for his song “Old Town Road,” released his first full album,“MONTERO” this year. It featured two major hits: the title song “MONTERO (Call Me By Your Name),” and “INDUSTRY BABY,” featuring rapper Jack Harlow. However, despite his success this year, he’s also been in the center of controversy surrounding the music video for “MONTERO”, as it included him subverting Christianity and making it abundantly queer. Many conservatives criticized his use of demonic symbols, claiming that he was selling satanism to his listeners. However, Lil Nas X said that was not his intention. Instead, he used these symbols with the intention of pointing out the hypocrisy of how religion has often been used to justify discrimination against the LGBTQ+ community. 


Welcome To The Internet

The internet has been one of the most important factors in music. TikTok has led to the rise of several songs becoming ultra popular through the usage of songs in videos, including “Kiss Me More”, “abcdefu”, and “Levitating”. These songs and countless others were able to take off in popularity due to TikTok and other social media sites. However, the most influential songs on the internet were from a man who understands it best.

Musician-comedian “Bo Burnham,” known for his Netflix specials “what.” and “Make Happy,” wrote and directed a new musical comedy special on Netflix called “Inside” while in quarantine, which was released on May 30th. His songs were about social commentary on America, cancel culture, and small funny anecdotes, but mostly the special was about the mental strain of living during the pandemic. Many songs from the special went viral online, and the special was a success, winning six Emmy awards. 



It’s been said time and time again that music can change the world and influence us all, and 2021 proves that again. While we’re starting to see some hope of returning to normal after two years of living through a global pandemic, the future ahead of us is unsure. And while we don’t know where 2022 is going to end up, we can at least rely on the fact that we’ll have tunes to join us for the ride.