NEXT’s Top Singles for 2021 are dynamic musical cocktail for new Roaring ‘20s

Mixed bag, from bangers to bubble gum, highlights another unpredictable year – in music and in life.

2021 was far from a typical year, so it must be fate that its most iconic tunes are something special, too. The year’s top singles strayed from the beaten path: we have satirical parodies of wellness culture, searingly political spoken-word, tell-all rewrites of decade-old tracks, 80s-inspired anthems, and booty-shaking rap bangers. Mix it all up, and you have a singularly dynamic musical cocktail for the new Roaring ‘20s.

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These are our top singles of 2021 in order of preference.

Caroline Polachek posing

1. Bunny Is a Rider

Caroline Polachek

Avant-garde siren Caroline Polachek creates hypnotic, addictive pop perfection in this bass-heavy track about elusiveness — and don’t miss the surreal, mythology-inspired music video that accompanies it.

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Mitski posing

2. Working for the Knife

Mitski

It’s not often enough that we hear modern indie rock that skewers the capitalist music industry, and Mitski’s Working for the Knife — the eerie first single from her heavily anticipated upcoming album — proves that we need more.

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Justin Bieber posing

3. Peaches

Justin Bieber

Bieber, Giveon and Daniel Caesar topped the charts and our summer playlists with the catchiest, juiciest and cheekiest track to drop all year. We’re sure Timothée Chalamet loved it, too.

Taylor Swift posing

4. All Too Well (10-minute version)

Taylor Swift

It was the song that broke the internet — and for good reason. This expanded version of a decade-old track crushed industry records and hearts with its tragic, earnest storytelling.

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Doja Cat posing

5. Kiss Me More

Doja Cat f/ SZA

Basking in the glory of female sensuality, this candy-sweet song from hip-pop sirens SZA and Doja Cat was the soundtrack to feeling yourself in 2021.

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Olivia Rodrigo

6. good 4 u

Olivia Rodrigo

We don’t think anyone expected Olivia Rodrigo to be spearheading a pop-punk revival, but this Paramore-esque track drew on 2000s nostalgia and rocker-girl influences to set pop music in a new direction.

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Lil Nas posing

7. Industry Baby

Lil Nas X & Jack Harlow

For Lil Nas X, 2021 was the year he came into his own as a queer icon in hip hop and beyond. With a little help from Kentucky rapper Harlow, he celebrated his power in this elastic-bass taunt track.

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Angel Olsen & Sharon Van Etten posing

8. Like I Used To

Angel Olsen & Sharon Van Etten

This track is like if someone distilled the essence of the ‘80s down into one perfect, four-minute shot of nostalgia and adrenaline. This song was made for a movie ending.

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Lorde posing

9. Mood Ring

Lorde

A brilliant social satire on the sickness seeping through influencer wellness culture, Lorde duped the influencers themselves with this breezy pop jewel.

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NoName posing

10. Rainforest

Noname

Radical rapper Noname put music aside in 2021, preferring to lend her voice to abolition and anti-racist movements, but the searingly sharp Rainforest showed us that she’s still one of the best in the game.

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