The Top Ten Best Hit Songs of 2021
January 20, 2022
Todd (VO): This video is brought to you by Curiosity Stream.
Todd plays Wizkid ft. Justin Bieber & Tems - "Essence" on piano
THE TOP TEN BEST HIT SONGS OF 2021
A year-end retrospective
Todd: So, when I did this year's worst list, I said 2021 was not a good year. By the standard that I was more interested in writing the Worst List than the Best List. And that was true, as you can tell by how fucking long it took me to make this video. But, as I was putting together this list, I was looking at it, and uh... Actually, these are pretty good songs.
Clip of video counting down to the 2022 New Year
Todd (VO): So why did 2021 strike me as so disappointing? Uh, I don't know.
Todd: I just feel kinda disconnected from the blockbuster hitmakers this year.
Montage clip of Olivia Rodrigo - "drivers license"; Doja Cat ft. The Weeknd - "You Right"; Silk Sonic - "Leave the Door Open"; Lil Nas X - "Montero (Call Me By Your Name)"; The Kid LAROI and Justin Bieber - "Stay"; Dua Lipa ft. DaBaby - "Levitating"; BTS - "Butter"
Todd (VO): I like Olivia, but I'm not over the moon for her. Doja Cat just kinda left me cold. Silk Sonic was... fine. Lil Nas X's album was really good, but I liked it more on the whole than I did any individual song from it. "Stay", "Levitating", "Butter". These are all good songs I enjoyed, but I never once considered them candidates for the Best List.
Todd: Now, I only write about big hits, cause that's way easier. But, even within that narrow field, this list feels a little off the beaten path for me. I don't think it's gonna be controversial, I didn't put [image of...] Florida Georgia Line on here or anything. It just feels weird for something I made. Most of the songs on here were [various images of question marks] from artists I wasn't really familiar with before, haven't really covered or put on any lists, some I hadn't ever even listened to at all. I wish I'd picked artists I knew a little better, honestly. Would've made writing this list a lot easier. But it is what it is, these were the songs I loved in a year that I didn't. So, we're counting down!
Clip from DylanGLC's "Nothing Left To Lose", which serves as the interlude throughout the countdown
The Kid LAROI: You cut out a piece of me
Olivia Rodrigo: So happy and healthy
Todd (VO): The Top Ten Best Hit Songs of 2021!
Todd (VO): Number 10
Video for... wait for it...
Olivia: I want it to be, like, messy
Todd slams his fist down as the beat kicks in
#10. Olivia Rodrigo - "Brutal"
Todd (VO): I like Olivia, I think she's very talented. And I'm looking forward to hearing more from her.
Todd: But I am especially eager to hear what she makes when she's moved on from this silly teenage breakup which dominates her debut album.
Clip of "drivers license"
Todd (VO): I mean, it's fine, it's good.
Todd: There were some clumsy parts in there.
Clip of Olivia Rodrigo - "good 4 u"
Olivia: Maybe I'm too emotional
But your apathy's like a wound in salt
Todd: It's salt in the wound, not wound in-
Clip of Olivia Rodrigo - "deja vu"
Olivia: Another actress
I'd hate to think that I was just your type
Todd (VO): Yes, Olivia, your ex-boyfriend is now dating a different actress.
Todd: He's an actor, Olivia. His dating pool is probably gonna be other actresses. [image of Olivia at the Met Gala with a plumber Photoshopped beside her] It's not like you're gonna be dating a plumber next.
Clip of "brutal"
Olivia: I'm so insecure, I think
That I'll die before I drink
Todd (VO): There are a couple songs on there that aren't about what's-his-face. And by far, my favorite song of hers was the album opener. Which kicks open the Olivia Rodrigo era in a giant teenage explosion of stress and angst.
Olivia: All I did was try my best
This the kinda thanks I get
It was a little odd to watch a whole bunch of 30-somethings and Gen X-ers erupt for this teen pop album. But, aww man, I got it. I've been dying for a 90s revival since forever.
Todd: Her other rock song, "good 4 u", was the 2000s, but this is 90s to the core.
Olivia: Ego crush is so severe
God, it's brutal out here
Todd (VO): Now, the snob part of me says that a Disney girl doesn't remotely have the right to be playing riot girl dress-up. But, then I remembered that child stars probably have it worse than anybody.
Olivia: And they'd all be so disappointed
Cause who am I if not exploited
Yes, part of me wants to sniff at her silly teenage problems.
Olivia: I only have two real friends
Todd (VO): Oh, look at little miss "two friends" over here!
Todd: I'd have killed for a fake friend at your age, you little brat!
Todd (VO): But for once, she's not asking you to take her seriously.
Olivia: And I'm not cool, an I'm not smart
And I can't even parallel park
Olivia said that acting is different from songwriting, because...
Todd: ...acting is lying. But in songwriting, you have to tell the truth.
Todd (VO): But one of her best qualities is that she's a really good actress. [clip of "drivers license"] More than anyone, you can tell she treats her songs like dramatic monologues. [clip from Bizaardvark] But as an actress, she started in sitcoms. [clip of "brutal"] And of all her songs, this is the only one that has any sense of humor. Like, if she wants to capture the truth, this is the most truthful song she's written so far.
Todd: I mean, what's truer that a teenager who's stressed out that she can't drive? That shit is brutal.
Olivia: I don't even know where... to start
Todd (VO): Number 9
Todd: So, I was talking earlier about how all the big blockbuster songs this year that everyone loved I didn't really feel. Um... Adele was gonna be one of them.
#9. Adele - "Easy on Me"
Todd (VO): Adele began this album cycle the same way she began the last one.
Clip of Adele - "Hello"
With a heartbreaking, sentimental ballad about regretting the past. [clip of "Easy On Me"] And even a whole video reference to that song's video.
Adele: Here we go again
Todd (VO): Indeed.
Adele: Go easy on me, baby
Todd (VO): Now, I wasn't that impressed on first listen. I mean, being perfectly frank, I'd much rather have another "Rolling in the Deep" than another "Hello".
Todd: Also, I wasn't really impressed with the opening lyrics.
Adele: There ain't no gold in this river
That I've been washing my hands in forever
Todd: Okay, are you panning for gold in the river or are you washing your hands? What is this metaphor?
Todd (VO): But boy did my mind change on that one. And I can tell you what did it, too. I didn't do this intentionally.
Todd: But, I accidentally wound up listening to the new album while doing the loneliest, saddest thing I can think of, [image of people holding Christmas bags] Christmas shopping. [image of a crowded store checkout] A more soul-destroying experience, I don't know.
Clip of "Easy On Me"
Todd (VO): And listening to her apologize to her 9-year-old son for all her mistakes while I was also trying and failing to find un-disappointing gifts for my family.
Todd: At the end of it, I was just... ruined.
Adele: Had no time to choose what I chose to do
Todd (VO): Like, hook it right into my veins. I will take yet another plea for forgiveness from Adele. I'm in the tank for Adele.
Todd: She can do no wrong. Even when she does do wrong, it turns right when she sings it.
Adele: Now I give up
Todd: [slaps his chest]
Todd (VO): For what it's worth, I do think this is a much better song than "Hello". For one, that piano riff is just amazing. [clip of Adele NRJ awards performance] For all that Adele's image is tasteful with the spare piano and the gowns and pearls, Adele's actual music is about being very, very messy. [image of Adele's album covers] If her albums are supposed to be a tour through different phases of her life, "Easy On Me" marks the point...
Todd: ...where she is mature enough to not undercut her apologies by being defensive or aggressive. And she just lets things be very sad.
Todd (VO): And Adele is still the best singer alive, no one has better emotional control. No one can turn it off and turn it on and turn it even more on like she does. There's a reason she can take six years to make an album and it sounds absolutely nothing like anything else on the charts.
Todd: And she can still be the biggest star in the universe.
Todd (VO): I know this is to her son, but it felt like she was singing to me personally.
Todd: I-I do forgive you, Adele. And... I'm so sorry for everything I did to you. [sighs, the pulls out a wine bottle] Let's both drink wine.
Video for "Easy On Me" ends
Todd (VO): Number 8
Clip of Machine Gun Kelly live performance
Machine Gun Kelly: How many people in here have an ex?
Todd (VO): It is now time that we celebrate the great breakthrough of 2021. The long overdue ascension of a struggling artist we all wrongly assumed had squandered every last chance.
Todd: Who was doomed to obscurity, [image of "Tickets to My Downfall" cover] but finally, at last, blew up big in 2021: [zooms in on the guitar MGK is holding] the guitar. What a wonderful comeback year it's been for the guitar.
#8. Machine Gun Kelly ft. blackbear - "My Ex's Best Friend"
MGK: I swear to god, I never fall in love
Then you showed up and I can't get enough
Todd (VO): It's also a good year for Machine Gun Kelly, who had spent the last [clip of Machine Gun Kelly - "Wild Boy"] seven or eight years trying to make himself a credible rapper and failing. [clip of Machine Gun Kelly, Yungblud & Travis Barker - "I Think I'm Okay"] Then in 2019, he made a song with Yunblud and Travis Barker. Where he basically played the Mike Shinoda to Yungblud's Chester Bennington.
MGK: I hurt myself sometimes
Is that too scary for ya?
And I fucking loved it. I gave it an honorable mention that year, and I thought "Man, there goes whatever credibility I had left."
Todd: Like, who the fuck listens to MGK?
Clip of "My Ex's Best Friend"
MGK: Now we're in the back seat of the black car
Todd (VO): Well, look how much changes in 2 years. Machine Gun Kelly is no longer a j-
Todd: Well actually, he might still be a joke, I don't know. But he's a joke with some really good singles under his belt.
Clip of Machine Gun Kelly 2020 American Music Awards performance
MGK: Walked in my life at 2AM
Todd (VO): Part of it is that all of his rock songs have been produced by Travis Barker, who is basically a cheat code. And as it turns out, has secretly been a musical genius this entire time. [clip of blink-182 live performance] Like, people always said he was a great drummer. But even from the beginning, he was doing a lot more for blink-182 than we realized. Like, people who knew them said "Yeah, the other two guys wrote the songs, but Travis made all the decisions." [back to MGK performance] He just instinctively knows how songs are supposed to sound. Which makes sense, considering his turn as the hottest producer of 2021.
Todd: But I don't wanna withhold credit from MGK either. Turns out he's really good at this.
Clip of "My Ex's Best Friend"
MGK: I swear to god, I never fall in love
Todd (VO): It's like if Michael Jordan had started out [image of Michael Jordan playing baseball...] as a shitty baseball player for a decade, and then [...then Michael Jordan playing basketball] suddenly realized that he could dunk.
Todd: Not that MGK is Michael Jordan, but you get what I mean.
Clip of MGK American Music Awards performance
Todd (VO): And he must have had astonishing foresight that this was what people wanted. It seemed like [clip of Nickelback - "Someday"] after the 2000s where guitars fucking sucked, it seemed like no one would ever try to rock again.
Todd: But after a 2010s full of [image of Imagine Dragons] Spotify-core car commercial crap, maybe it's time to headbang again. And I don't know if anyone else thinks of this song this way, but it's also very romantic.
Clip of "My Ex's Best Friend"
MGK: You know my ex, that makes it all feel complicated, yeah
Todd (VO): I admit, I'm not clear what's going on with this love triangle. Rectangle? Pentagle? I don't know.
MGK: Cause my boy's new girl is your best friend
Is the ex's best friend also his best friend's ex? Is blackbear the best friend?
blackbear: You play like I'm invisible
Girl, don't act like you ain't saw me
Todd (VO): Or is he just some random guy? I don't know. And somehow, despite this mess of drama, it's really exciting.
MGK: I swear to god, I never fall in love
Todd (VO): And of course, the most romantic thing about it, it helped rekindle America's love of the guitar. [clip of MGK American Music Awards performance] Is it back for good? Is it just gonna be a one-year thing like the saxophone in 2011? We shall see. In the meantime, I look forward to more shit from MGK.
Todd: Maybe it'll inspire other bad rappers to find their true calling. [images of...] Hey NAV, or G-Eazy. Strap on a guitar and see what happens. You never know!
MGK performance ends
Todd (VO): Number 7
Clip from 2021 Grammy Nominations livestream
Harvey Mason Jr: Next category, we have Album of the Year
Todd (VO): The 2021 Grammys were plagued with controversy. [clip of GMA story about The Weeknd boycotting the Grammys] Most famously, The Weeknd did not get nominated.
Todd: But, did you see what did?
Clip from Grammy Nominations livestream
Todd (VO): For Album of the Year, probably the most prestigious award they have, the Grammys nominated... Jacob Collier? [clip of Jacob Collier ft. Daniel Caesar - "Time Alone With You"] A fairly obscure R&B... funk... art jazz producer, I don't know.
Jacob Collier: It's a beautiful Sunday morning
I tried to listen, and I found it... very difficult. It was real hard to see why they nominated this album which was not commercially successful or critically acclaimed or even critically acknowledged. And... also kinda sucked. (Sorry, Collier stans)
Todd: It all stank of someone having friends in high places. So, I was pretty determined to despise everything this man touched forever. [beat] Well, so much for that.
#7. SZA - "Good Days"
SZA: Good day in my mind, safe to take a step out
Todd (VO): Jacob Collier co-wrote and sang backup on SZA's "Good Days", one of the best songs of the year. At least, that's what I'm saying now, I'm... not sure I got it at first.
Todd: I mean, which happens, there's a lot of great songs that it takes me a while to really understand. [clip of...] I didn't realize how much I liked "Essence" by WizKid until I [brief clip of the video intro from earlier] played it in the intro a minute ago. Too late now.
Clip of "Good Days"
Todd (VO): So for the sake of this list, I'm very lucky that "Good Days" dropped right at the beginning of the year, because it took me the full year. Again, I think the holidays did it, those always stress me out.
Todd: And when I needed to de-stress, this was the song I found myself putting on.
Todd (VO): Which is funny, cause this kinda dreamy, languid R&B is not really my thing. I think I said...
Todd: ...in the last video that I don't really like [image that says...] vibes. As even a concept [another image that says...] I prefer bops to vibes, which are the only two kinds of songs that exist anymore.
Todd (VO): But actually, this list is, uh... pretty vibe-heavy. This one especially gets to me.
SZA: I worry that I wasted the best of me on you, baby
Funny thing, I though SZA was a lot younger, I had no idea she was in her 30s. As am I, and I totally get the feeling that maybe you've wasted your entire life on an unworthy person. Or perhaps an unhealthy obsession with pop culture, too much time sitting around, staring at a computer screen. [grunts]
Todd: Like, maybe I needed this entire disappointment of a year to grasp this song about optimism in the face of crushing disappointment.
SZA: Still wanna try to believe in (Good days), good days
Todd (VO): Sometimes, you feel like you've run out of good days.
Todd: I mean, I hit that point in, like, 2017.
Todd (VO): So, someone saying they still believe in good days, that means a lot to me. Thank you SZA for writing this.
Todd: And Collier, you're off the shit list. Or at least until Quincy Jones hands you a whole other batch of Grammys.
Video for "Good Days" ends
Todd (VO): Number 6
Video of news story about Black Lives Matter protests
Todd (VO): The year is 2020, the country erupts in protest.
Todd: And the world asks: [screenshot of Forbes article saying...] "Where are you, Kendrick Lamar?" [clip of Kendrick Lamar - "Alright"] Where is the greatest rapper and activist of our day? Where is hip hop's prophet, it's... Messiah even, in our time of need.
Clip of Kendrick Lamar - "HUMBLE."
Todd (VO): His absence seemed to stretch for ages. But at long last, in 2021, Kendrick returned in earnest.
Todd: And what he returned with sounded absolutely bugshit.
#6. Baby Keem & Kendrick Lamar - "Family Ties"
Todd (VO): Before we get to Kendrick, I feel like I should say that...
Todd: ...Baby Keem has really grown on me.
Baby Keem: Chopper doing circles, it's a bird
Todd (VO): First time I heard this song, I was like "Get to the Kendrick factory already." But...
Todd: You know, this is a really good verse.
Baby Beem: Eight in the process
Ni**as tryna tippy-toe through the progress
Todd (VO): And I know a lot of you are like "Baby who?" I don't really know that much about him either. I know he's been bubbling under for a couple years.
Todd: And I do know there have been rumors of nepotism. Like "Hey, aren't you Kendrick Lamar's cousin?" [image of title card from the second half of "family ties" with "Family" underlined in red] And so finally, he's like "You know what? Sure, I am! So what?"
Baby Beem: Headshot, Damien Kane, woo them guys
Todd appears amongst the collage of different shots in the music video
Todd: Also, I love this video by the way.
Another shot appears on the left side of the screen, covering Todd
Todd (partially covered): Hey!
Baby Beem: I netted ten million than did a 'lil dance
I'm fucking the world, I unzip my pants
My Uncle G told me that I had a chance
Todd (VO): Now, he could have been...
Todd: ...absolutely blown off the stage by his extremely famous and beloved relative.
Todd (VO): And he held his own, so you know what? Let's give it up.
Todd: But Kendrick is definitely the star of the show.
Todd (VO): And when he shows up, the song kicks into a new gear.
Kendrick Lamar: I am the omega, pgLang, Rollie gang, SIE
Don't you address me unless it's with four letters
Todd: My favorite part is the part where he addresses where he's been.
Kendrick: I've been ducking the pandemic
I've been-- social gimmicks
I've been ducking the overnight activists, yeah
Kendrick: Overnight activists, yeah
Todd (VO): Two words to remind you that he's been doing this a lot longer than 2020, and he'll be doing it long after half those people who were like "Yay, we did it, good job every body."
Todd: But mostly, I just like that he seems to be having fun. That's the thing about Kendrick, people forget that he can just be extremely funny and fun.
Kendrick: I'm tripping, I'm juuging, my mental is amazing, brother
Pop off, only on occasions, brother
Rich ni**a, mama know I made it, brother
Todd (VO): The week after this came out, I was saying "Amazing, brother" over and over again to myself. So... I mean, it's probably a good thing that I don't see anybody ever. Thanks, pandemic.
Baby Beem: Let me jump in this bitch
Two phones, but I only bring one in this bitch
Kendrick: One daughter, but they all my sons in this bitch
Anyway, then they go back-to-back, and it fucking rocks. I fucking love this song, brother. Kendrick had a lot to live up to after so long out.
Todd: And it seems like he used his entire hiatus writing for this one song. He switches styles, like, four times.
Kendrick: New flows coming, be patient, brother
Show my ass and take y'all to class
I can multitask like Megan, brother
Todd: Jesus Christ, if this is the verse he writes for his cousin, imagine what he's gonna put out on his own album. No pressure, Kendrick.
Baby Beem: Number 2 DM'ing my bitch
That's cool, I don't ask why
Todd: And hey, brother. We have to do the ad now. [clears throat] So.
Clip from All I Can Say
Shannon Hoon: All I can say
Todd (VO): Now, if you watch any of my videos, you probably like stories about One Hit Wonders from the 90s. Now, if you want one that actually goes in depth, you should check out All I Can Say, the tragic life story of Shannon Hoon, lead singer of Blind Melon. It's a wonderfully-done documentary, and you can catch it all on Curiosity Stream.
Todd: Go to curiositystream.com/toddintheshadows and you will get an entire year [URL shows up on screen] for just 14 dollars and 79 cents. That's nothing. Not only is that [yellow text reading "$14.79/yr! (26% off!)" appears on screen] a 26% discount on the regular price, you will also get free access to...
Clip of ad for Curiosity Stream and...
Todd (VO): ...Nebula. A streaming video platform built by and for independent creators like HBomberGuy, Adam Neely, and myself. So you will get all the high budget, premium content you get on Curiosity Stream plus all the independent video creators on Nebula.
Todd: Once you use the code and get Curiosity Stream, you'll get a welcome email from Nebula giving you access, and you'll have access to both services.
Todd (VO): So sign up now, click the link in the description, and enjoy.
Todd: Alright, and on with the show.
Todd (VO): Number 5
Video for... wait for it...
Senator: Stupid, aggressive whores. Good job, Senator.
Todd (VO): Ha ha, I wonder...
Todd: ...what this could be a reference to?
Clip from The Ben Shapiro Show
Ben Shapiro: Stripper behavior. I mean, this is stripper behavior on stage with music. I mean, that's what it is.
Todd: Pancake that motherfucker.
#5. Megan Thee Stallion - "Thot Shit"
Megan Thee Stallion: Hands on my knees, shaking ass on my thot shit
Post me a pic, finna make me a profit
Todd (VO): Remember [clip of...] "WAP"? Good times, everyone was so angry.
Todd: "WAP" is probably the biggest event song of this decade so far.
Todd (VO): But if I had one criticism for it, it was built as a duet, but to me that's a Cardi song.
Cardi B: Park that Big Mac truck
Right in this little garage
Cardi had, you know, the train noise. And the line about the dangly thing in the back of her throat.
Todd: Megan did very well, but I think the judges would have to give that one to Cardi on points.
Clip of "Thot Shit"
Megan: I've been lit since brunch, thot shit
Order 42 for the table, let's pop shit
Todd (VO): 2021, however, belonged to Megan. [clip of...] Like, I liked "Up", it was a good song for Cardi. It didn't come close to "Thot Shit".
Clip of "Thot Shit"
Megan: Hoes tryna call me a snake, shit, I guess I can relate
Cause a bitch spit a whole lotta venom
Since these hoes all rats, when they come around me
All I see is a whole lotta dinner
Todd (VO): You know, it's funny, because I was already thinking of this as "WAP Part 2". But after many listens, I realize that it isn't that at all. Like, the song is supposed to be about being hot. You know, she's on her hot girl shit.
Megan: Looking in the mirror, like "Damn, I don't brag enough"
But I think Megan is just generally too pissed with too many things right now, because she spends, like, 20% of it being hot. And the rest of it is just...
Todd: ...totally destroying every jealous bitch and fake friend she ever had.
Megan: I don't give a fuck who talk behind my back
Cause a bitch knew better than to let me hear her
Todd: Park that Big Mac truck right over your fucking face.
Megan: Acting like you winning, if you think about it, actually
Are they supporting you or really just attacking me?
Todd (VO): I mean, I don't know if Megan has a single score to settle after this, she has settled all of that shit.
Todd: Like, this song is weirdly not raunchy at all. You know, for a song called "Thot Shit".
Todd (VO): Even her sexiness, she's using it to hurt you.
Todd: And not for nothing, it has some of the funniest lines I've ever heard.
Megan: Hot girl, but I'm still the coldest, hey
I'm the big homie, but I ain't the oldest, hmm
Bitch dry hating, tryna get noticed
Man, ain't nobody come to see you, Otis, look
Todd (VO): Ha!
Todd: I talk about the best two seconds of the year, that's my pick. Otis.
Clip from The Temptations
David Ruffin (Leon Robinson): Ain't nobody coming to see you, Otis
Clip of "Thot Shit"
Todd (VO): No video has ever captured its song like this one does. This is a song where Megan Thee Stallion beats the shit out of you, and then twerks on you.
Todd: Well anyway, don't fuck with Megan Thee Stallion.
Megan: Hands on my knees, hands on my knees
Todd (VO): Number 4
Clip of Bad Bunny - "Yonaguni"
Bad Bunny: Por ti cojo un vuelo
Ya Yonaguni le llego, ey
Todd (VO): Despite a pretty thorough mainstreaming since "Despacito", I remain a bit of a reggaeton moron.
Todd: As you can tell by the way I just pronounced that. Hold on, let me try again. I'm a bit of a reggaetón morón.
Todd (VO): I'm surprised I haven't been called out for it like I have for the billion other ways my taste is extremely narrow. So I may as well just head that off now. It is time.
Todd: It is time for a reggaeton artist to be on one of my Top 10 lists. The song itself is not remotely reggaeton, but... uh, you know, pretend like it is.
Rauw Alejandro: One, two , three, four
#4. Rauw Alejandro - "Todo de Ti"
Rauw: El viento soba tu
Todd (VO): Rauw Alejandro apparently shocked the reggaeton world by releasing a song...
Todd: ...where the beat goes [mimics a disco beat] instead of [mimics a regaeton beat].
Rauw: Aceleras to' mis latidos
Todd (VO): I mean, I was shocked to hear it too, honestly. Most of the Spanish language stuff that gets popular is not this neo-disco.
Todd: I expected to hear Dua Lipa over this, not something in Spanish.
Todd (VO): Is this the first foreign language song I've ever put on a Best List? All the other ones, I think, have had a little English in it.
Todd: I mean, I'm kinda impressed that this didn't wind up with a [image of...] Justin Bieber verse. Cause this could've been a huge crossover hit.
Rauw: Me gusta tu olor, de tu piel el color
Todd (VO): For some reason, he did not add a verse from Katy Perry or whoever. But it was a big enough streaming hit that, even with minimal crossover, it made the Year-End Hot 100.
Rauw: Ye' que me gusta todo de ti
Todd: It's just such a good fucking song.
Todd (VO): Like, this is the kinda dance pop that Bruno Mars would be making if he hadn't moved on to a different decade.
Rauw: Ya yo le di en to’a la' posi
Champú de coco
Todd: I do have a high school command of Spanish, so I can tell you that [text appears on screen...] "Todo De Ti" means [...and then the translation...] "All the tea". Yeah, a lotta hot gossip in this.
Clip of "Todo De Ti"
It's entirely possible that, through the language barrier, I'm missing all sorts of important subtext.
Todd: But I've seen the lyrics translated, and as far as I can tell, this is just a simple, happy crush song that really does not need you to think very hard about it.
Rauw: Aceleras to’ mis latidos
Todd (VO): There's no indication that there's anything groundbreaking or amazing here, it's just meant to be catchy and disposable. And somehow, it's one of the best songs I've ever heard. This song could be remembered for decades, or it could be forgotten tomorrow, I don't know. I'm just happy to exist at a time when it's popular.
Todd: So there you go. Maybe next year, I'll be open-minded enough to listen to an actual reggaeton song. But, uh... this will do me for now.
Video for "Todo De Ti" ends
Todd (VO): Number 3
Todd: As a pop critic in the early 2020s, my life has been completely ruined by TikTok.
Video from TikTok using the "Oh No" song
Todd (VO): TikTok is an insane, random world where songs catch on with no rhyme or reason whatsoever. [clip from lyric video of Capone - "Oh No"] For example, one of the things that went viral this year was a rap beat.
Todd: No rapping on it, just the beat.
Todd (VO): From the early 2000s, back when chipmunked-up samples were the thing. [screenshot of Reddit post hating on the "Oh No" song] And now everyone thinks they hate on of the best songs of the 60s [clip of The Shangri-Las - "Remember (Walking in the Sand)"] because this random scrap of it got hammered into the ground decades later on a stupid app. [more videos from TikTok] I don't get it. I've tried, I don't think I ever will.
Todd: But I do also have to acknowledge that it can also be a force for good.
Video for... wait for it...
Todd (VO): Every once and a while,
Todd: ...TikTok gets it really, really right.
#3. Kali Uchis - "Telepatía"
Kali Uchis: Quién lo diría que se podría
Hacer el amor por telepatía
Todd (VO): This is yet another vibe song. And boy, what a vibe it is. It is also the second Spanish-language song on here, although this one is about half in English. Which means I actually did hear it on the radio a couple times.
Kali: You know I'm just a flight away
I don't think that's, like, cynical pandering for crossover or anything, Kali Uchis had a childhood split between America and Columbia.
Todd: And more importantly, I just really can't imagine a version of this song that is entirely Spanish or entirely English.
Kali: All these voices in the background of my brain
Y me dicen todo lo que estás pensando
Todd (VO): One of the best things about this song is its smooth bilingualism.
Todd: You cut out either part, you'd have lost something pretty huge.
Kali: You know that I can see right through you
Todd (VO): The way Kali tells it, singing in both languages met a lot of resistance from her higher-ups, who, you know, told her to pick a lane. She did it anyway. And at another time,
Todd: ...perhaps this would've also fallen through the cracks.
Video from TikTok of two people dancing to "telepatía"
Todd (VO): So we really do have to thank TikTok, where songs don't have to be...
Todd: ...[air quotes] "marketable" to go viral.
Todd (VO): But I like to believe this song didn't need TikTok anyway.
Todd: You don't really need to speak the same language as this song for it to speak to you.
Todd: After all, she can read your mind.
Kali: Cause I can read your mind, I can read your mind
Todd (VO): Number 2
Clip from The World's a Little Blurry
Billie Eilish: To everybody else. Uggh, I hate this!
Finneas: Billie, I don't want you to-
Billie: Why do people belt?
Todd: Billie Eilish does not like to sing loud.
Clip of Billie performing "Happier Than Ever"
Billie: When I'm away
Todd (VO): Like, that's what she's most famous for, right? She sings quietly. It forces you to pay attention. And it makes it more powerful when she does let loose.
Todd: And this year, that's what she finally did.
Clip of Billie Eilish - "Happier Than Ever"
Billie: Just fucking leave me alone
Todd (VO): And all her fans erupted, because the moment was so powerful. I'll admit, just the shock of it was pretty amazing. But for me...
Todd: ...Billie retains her most power when she just lets things sit in devastating silence.
#2. Billie Eilish - "Your Power"
Billie: Try not to abuse your power
Todd (VO): One thing Billie's imitators haven't quite gotten is that Billie doesn't just sing softly.
Todd: It's also in how she pronounces the lyrics. Like she's choking on her own words.
Billie: No wonder why you didn't ask
Todd (VO): Like, she swallows the lyrics, she cuts them off. Like speaking any louder or longer would physically hurt.
Todd: I'm not sure that hit as hard on the first album...
Clip of Billie Eilish - "when the party's over"
Todd (VO): ...where Billie Eilish seemed more like a character. [clip of "Your Power"] But on her follow-up, it's impossible to not think of Billie as a real person. [clip from The World's a Little Blurry] Watching her Apple+ documentary will give you a lot of context, but [back to "Your Power"] even before that, I was just struck with how not prepared she was for any of this.
Billie: You made me feel like it was my fault
On one level, "Your Power" is just a breakup song. On another level, it's a protest song about any girl who's been in that situation. She was a teenager dating a sketchy older guy.
Billie: But you ruined her in a year
Don't act like it was hard
Todd (VO): I'm not gonna say what power he did or didn't abuse, because I don't know. I do know that Billie feels taken advantage of in hindsight. Now, if this were a Taylor Swift song, we'd know all the specifics.
Todd: But Billie decides to make this universal.
Billie: But now she's got to get to class
How dare you?
Todd (VO): It's about every guy who's done something creepy like this.
Todd: But, it is also about this one guy. Through one devastating detail.
Billie: Will you only feel bad if it turns out
That they kill your contract?
Todd (VO): We don't need to know what that's a reference to. I'm sure that guy knows what it's a reference to, and I'm sure it fucked him up. You can have your "good 4 u", your "All Too Well". For me, there wasn't a breakup song that annihilated its target more than this one.
Billie: But power isn't pain
You wouldn't think of this as an angry song, exactly, but you can cut someone with heartbreak just as much as you can with anger. It's very rare you hear a song this full of outrage despite not having any rage in it.
Todd: But once again, Billie Eilish kills in silence.
Video for "Your Power" ends
Todd: [sighs] Alright. And now, before our number 1, some honorable mentions.
Marshmello x Jonas Brothers - "Leave Before You Love Me"
Nick and Joe Jonas: Dancin' on the edge, bout to take it too far
Todd (VO): Believe it or not, this was the last cut I made from the list. I couldn't really justify putting this on here, as you know, I don't really think I'm gonna think about it much after this year. Couldn't really say this was something transcendent. You know, maybe it sounded a little too much like "Last Christmas."
Todd: You know, I don't know! I liked this song more than I liked most songs this year.
Todd (VO): Sometimes songs don't have to be special just to be really, really good.
Nick and Joe: Gotta leave before you love me
Silk Sonic - "Leave the Door Open"
Bruno Mars: I'mma leave the door open
Todd (VO): Silk Sonic is an amazing business arrangement, first and foremost, allowing Bruno Mars to share his success in exchange for Anderson .Paak's cred. Yeah, the music was pretty good too, especially this one.
Todd: The hand-off between the two on the pre-chorus?
Anderson .Paak: Of this mansion, what's happenin'?
Bruno: I ain't playing no games
Todd: [kisses fingers] One of the best moments of the year.
DJ Khaled ft. Lil Baby & Lil Durk - "Every Chance I Get"
Lil Baby: I'mma turn up on a hater every chance that I get
Todd (VO): I don't know why, but one of my favorite moments this year was Lil Baby just bluntly saying "Miss me with that shit".
Lil Baby: You can miss me with that shit
You know I live in the mix
Pooh Shiesty ft. Lil Durk - "Back in Blood"
Pooh Shiesty: Yeah, you know who took that shit from you
Come get it back in blood
Todd (VO): I'm gonna start using this line when anyone asks me for anything.
Todd: Oh, you want me to return your [image of...] Sandman trade paperbacks that I borrowed? Come get it back in blood!
Eric Church - "Hell of a View"
Eric Church: This ain't for everybody
Toes hanging off the ledge
Todd (VO): It is so deeply cliché to say that Eric Church is your favorite country artist. But... aww man, he just makes really, really good country music.
Todd: So, you know, check that out.
Eric Church: You holdin' me holdin' you
It's a hell of a view
Chris Stapleton - "Starting Over"
Chris Stapleton: Startin' over
Todd (VO): Ditto for Chris Stapleton. Also still good, check that out.
Lil Nas X ft. Jack Harlow - "Industry Baby"
Lil Nas X: I told you long ago, on the road
Todd (VO): I honestly don't think there's a single artist whose stock rose higher than Lil Nas X's this year. And this song is a well-earned victory celebration.
Jack Harlow: I didn't peak in high school
I'm still out here getting cuter
Points too to Jack Harlow for the assist of the year.
Lil Nas X: I'm the industry baby, yeah
Todd: Okay, and here we go. Let's do this.
Todd (VO): Number 1
Todd: I've been reviewing music for a while, and one thing that I have learned is time makes fools of us all.
Clip of Ke$ha - "Tik Tok"
Todd (VO): Artist I didn't respect at the time, I have better understandings of later. [clip of Lupe Fiasco - "The Show Goes On"] Songs I used to like, I have no idea what I was thinking.
Todd: And most especially, artists who I never expected to hear anything good from, or even anything else ever again, will re-emerge from nowhere and surprise me. So, what I'm saying is that I wouldn't expect my favorite artist of 2021 to be this person:
Clip of Willow Smith - "Whip My Hair"
Willow Smith: I whip my hair back and forth
I whip my hair back and forth, just whip it
Todd: But here we are.
#1. THE ANXIETY, Willow, Tyler Cole - "Meet Me At Our Spot"
Willow: When I wake up, I can't even stay up
Todd (VO): I've seen some weird comebacks. I lived through the Mike Posner revival.
Todd: But I don't think I've witnessed a single one more surprising than...
Clip of "Whip My Hair"
Todd (VO): ...Willow Smith. The former child start best known for "Whip My Hair", one of the most obnoxious jackhammers of a song ever written. [clip of Willow ft. Travis Barker - "transparentsoul"] But shockingly, music was not just something that was forced on her by her celebrity parents, but an actual, genuine interest of hers.
Willow: Transparent soul
And so, 11 years after her first hit, she managed to re-invent herself in young-adulthood as a badass punk rocker. Not only shattering her image. But also...
Todd: ...changing the face of this genre. [images of various punk bands] For a long time, we assumed that being a pop-punker meant being a certain demographic.
Clip of "transparentsoul"
Todd (VO): And Willow proved that you can play punk rock even if you are...
Todd: ...stupefyingly rich.
Clip of "Meet Me At Our Spot"
Todd (VO): But while she did make great music this year, the true gem for me came from a year earlier. When she dropped a side project named THE ANXIETY with her boyfriend, Tyler Cole. It went unnoticed at the time, but was given a second chance by, yes, TikTok.
Todd: Boy, am I grateful for that. "Meet Me At Our Spot" is... I'm just kinda stunned by it.
Willow and Tyler: Meet me at our spot
Todd (VO): It feels fitting that I started this list with Olivia and I ended with Willow, because both songs are about how being young sucks.
Willow: I can't even stay up
I slept through the day, fuck
You hear old people missing their youth, like "Oh, if only I had that energy again".
Todd: Bullshit. Being young is sleeping all the fucking time, you're just awake at all the wrong fucking hours. And also, you're exhausted all the time by everything because you don't know what the hell you're doing.
Willow: But when I'm older
I'll be so much stronger
Todd (VO): What "Meet Me At Our Spot" makes feel good about being young is the idea that you still have your future.
Tyler: But when I'm older
I'll be moving onward
Speaking personally, I have no faith that anything will ever be good ever again. Like, "Whoo, get ready for Pandemic: Year 3, everyone".
Todd: But I am touched by that level of innocence and optimism.
Willow: Caught a vibe
Baby, are you coming for the ride?
Todd (VO): Like, yeah, it will get better. Or it won't, no one knows. But there is something kinda magical about the song.
Willow and Tyler: I just got a drunk text
Meet me at our spot
Like, in an extremely stressful time to be alive, there's just something... very comforting about having a spot to get away to and be tipsy with someone you love. And shut the world down and still have your entire future to look forward to.
Todd: And who else better than to sell that optimism than Willow Smith.
Clip of Willow performing "Whip My Hair" on The Ellen Show
Todd (VO): This is the girl who made fucking "Whip My Hair". Now she's one of the best artists of the year.
Clip of "Meet Me At Our Spot"
Willow: Meet me at our spot
If she can do it, maybe we all can do it. I mean, granted, we don't all have that Will Smith money coming after us. But, if she can go from that to here, maybe there's something better coming for all of us.
Todd: Dear God, this song's fucking good.
Willow: Baby, we can hit the 405
Tyler: Hypnotized by the lights
Willow and Tyler: Man, this must be the life
Closing Tag Song: Drake - "What's Next"
This video is owned by me
It was exceptionally difficult to make, thank you for your patience
THANK YOU TO THE LOYAL PATRONS!!
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