2021 has been a surreal year, and music has become a space for eclectic tastes. Female artists have taken the lead with # 1 hits, and Latin music continues to gain traction internationally.
The most listened to song in the world for 2021 was the unprecedented hit “Drivers License” from 18-year-old Olivia Rodrigo, which brought in more than 1.1 billion streams. Just like last year, women held the majority of the top spots on every chart in the world: Billie Eilish, Dua Lipa, SZA, Doja Cat, Lorde, and even Adele, whom we hadn’t heard from a while.
Latin American music continued to rise to the top of the charts and for the second year in a row, Bad Bunny was the most streamed artist on Spotify internationally with around 9.1 billion plays. It helps that reggaeton, bachata and dembow are the urban sounds of the moment. The interesting thing about 2021 is that behind all these results is a new factor: Tik Tok.
Let’s start with Billie Eilish, who quickly became a reference for new generations. Her voice takes on the emotion of her lyrics, and during last year’s lockdown, she made one of the best albums of 2021: Happier Than Ever. She has a sad girl vibe, and she always works with her brother ninFeas. She has managed to work her way into the depths of our hearts and become the most nominated artist at the Grammys. This year, a very personal documentary about her life called The World’s a Little Blurry also came out, which bolstered her international fame.
Another hit-maker is Dua Lipa, who made YouTube history as the youngest female artist to reach 1 billion views for a music video. She was also the most-streamed artist in the UK in 2018, 2020, 2021. This year her most iconic song was “Cold Heart,” made remotely with Elton John and which features hits from the iconic British singer remixed by the Australian duo PNAU. This song intersperses eras, people, and continents, positioning Elton John as the musician with the most Top 10 hits on the British charts for 6 consecutive decades and Dua Lipa as the queen of pop.
2021 was a very daring year for music as several artists flirted with other genres. One of the clearest examples is all the experimentation with bachata, a rhythm originating in the Dominican Republic. Even The Weekend made his bachata debut with Rosalía in the song “La Fama,” popularizing this musical style all over the globe. As for dembow—a rhythm that emerged from the Jamaican dancehall scene, was later transformed in Panama, and is now considered the father of reggaetón—we saw Tokischa rise to the top of her game after collaborations with J Balvin, Rosalía, and even DJ Marshmello. Then there’s The Alpha, who is considered the king of the genre after being crowned the most successful Latin artist of all time by filling New York’s Madison Square Garden to capacity, and Farruko, who in addition to being part of several very successful songs, made “Pepas,” in which he mixes this genre with EDM (Electronic Dance Music), earning him a spot as one of the 10 best artists of the year according to Time Magazine.
An important contributing factor to changes in the music scene this year was Tik Tok and its impressive reach. This Chinese platform has the ability to create trends through millions of viral videos that use new or old songs or remixes made by people around the world. This dictated what would end up on our playlists and stuck in our heads. TikTok has given greater diffusion to songs like “Peaches” by Justin Bieber, “Montero” by Lil Nas X, and “Unlock It (Lock It)” by Charli XCX and Kim Petras. Many of these songs are accompanied by a dance challenge, cataloged with a specific hashtag so that users can share their moves and gain more visibility.
In 2021, the music never stopped. We can now see the light at the end of the tunnel. The wait is over. Musicians are going back on tour and filling stadiums for their concerts. Finally, we can see our favorite artists live again. This was a very fun, energetic, prolific and surprising year musically. Here’s playlist with some of our favorites from 2021 (Best).
By Sussy Oh