Cadenza Wrapped: Best music of 2021
We can undoubtedly agree that 2021 was full of long-awaited albums and anticipated returns of our favorite artists. But more uniquely, it was the year of musical performance. Artists bolstered their releases with unique presentations and build-ups. Kanye could have just dropped “Donda,” but instead, he presented it on a chaotic stage and made it an era. The albums over this past year have taken up space in several realms of our life, not just in the interest of music.
These are in no specific order:
“Planet Her” — Doja Cat
This album single-handedly fueled “hot girl summer.” It is truly an empowering album that has a grip on our society, especially through TikTok. Throughout 2021, we found out just how majestic Doja Cat is, but we also didn’t allow her controversial and problematic history to be swept under the rug. The duality of her being such an unapologetically problematic artist as well as a symbol for female empowerment is compelling. Nonetheless, she was able to top charts; THAT is impressive.
“Ignorance” — The Weather Station
This album is so soft and fun. Lead singer Tamara Lindeman continues to intermix her angelic voice with skillful instrumentalists in a way that highlights each of the members’ individual talents. This is a band that hasn’t been swayed by the time; they are so reliably themselves, and listeners can appreciate that.
“Hail Satin” — Foo Fighters
The Foo Fighters may be the only band to come out of the grunge era that I will allow to continue making music. They haven’t lost their charm, and Dave Grohl continues to maintain the Nirvana-esque vibe that has been long lost in other bands from this time period. The band, which eventually coined its alternative disco name, “The Dee Gees,” covered several songs from the Bee Gees in the album. From the 1970s-themed photoshoot to trolling Westboro Baptist Church with “You Should Be Dancing,” the Dee Gees thoroughly upheld their emblematic performatory nature.
“Call Me if You Get Lost” — Tyler, the Creator
This album is incredibly fun and has great songs, but it is even better as a continuous album. It is so dynamic and connected, making it easy to appreciate Tyler’s vast musical artistry. The numerous collaborations also add to the album, making it diverse and exciting throughout the whole experience.
“Sour” — Olivia Rodrigo
I feel like this one doesn’t need an explanation, but it undoubtedly deserves the praise that it has gotten. For a lot of listeners, “Sour” was a return to our earlier teenage years — it felt nostalgic but also perfectly timed. It allowed for bundled up teenage angst to shine through in an unapologetic way.
“Japanese Breakfast” — Jubilee
When this album was released, I became obsessed with it. I found it to be the perfect vibe for studying or as a background to a social function. It’s uniquely Jubilee but also diversely fun. I also appreciate the somewhat retro feel that some songs give with the bouncy guitar and synthesizers. Jubilee’s voice also reminds me of 1980s pop leaning into the retro vibe.
“If This Isn’t Nice, I Don’t Know What Is” — Still Woozy
We have waited so long for a Still Woozy album, and now that we have it, we can’t get over it. When “If This Isn’t Nice, I Don’t Know What Is” came out, I immediately fell in love with it. There’s something about Still Woozy that is so familiar but also so unique. Maybe this is because of how much I loved his singles, but even outside of this personal attachment to the artist, his music is just easy to listen to.
“Donda” — Ye
This album is the epitome of what I meant in my introduction about performance and taking up space. The value of Donda is so heavily rooted in the build-up and presentation, but of course, that is in Ye’s expository nature — he’s always a muse of the public eye. That being said, the highly anticipated album still showed up, bringing a number of hits in classic Ye style.
“Solar Power” — Lorde
I heard many times that Lorde’s new album cured depression, and after its release, I see why. It’s exciting to see Lorde in her “Solar Power” era and moving on from her “Melodrama” depression. I hope that her listeners are able to mimic this transition and live their own version of “Oceanic Feeling.”
“Sling” — Clairo
This album. Just wow. This may be the most comforting album, especially for people who have followed Clairo since her early days of “Pretty Girl.” She released the track “Blouse” early, and I must admit, it made me emotional. Despite being such a tender song, it holds so much anger — it’s anger fueled by tiredness and complacency, not fury.
“Collapsed in Sunbeams” — Arlo Parks
As I explained in my earlier review of “Collapsed in Sunbeams,” this album has the perfect medley of existential dread, poetry and soul. Arlo Parks is the storyteller of our generation, hitting topics of depression, anxiety and youth that resonate especially well during the pandemic and quarantine. Between the harmonies in “Caroline” and the conversational verses in “Hurt,” Parks showed out with this rhapsodic album.
We encourage you to respond to this list with your opinions on the music of 2021. Use the link to make comments on this list and its selections or to share your favorite music of 2021. All of the answers will be anonymous unless specifically requested otherwise. We will share some of the responses in a later edition of the paper.