2021 was a weird year for sure. While we were getting over the pandemic-induced hangover of 2020, ’21 played an equally average set of cards. Covid, lockdowns, WFH, quarantines, travel restrictions — it was the same drill, different day. But hey, at least we had music.
Living in the ‘new normal’ needed a lot of fresh music and 2021 didn’t disappoint in that department. From banger albums, trending tunes on social media, quarantunes, an Adele return, Drake and Kanye ending their beef — the year saw a lot of music being added to our playlists.
Here are 5 of the biggest trends in music this year that we witnessed and fans pressed play on.
Bad was the new good
Bad Bunny didn’t release an album this year. But still collected over 9 billion streams on Spotify! The Puerto Rican trap and reggaeton star continued his streaming reign for the second year running.
Taylor Swift was out painting the town Red and came second in the list of 2021’s most-streamed artists. K-Pop phenomenon BTS too had a fabulous 2021. They had 12 non-consecutive weeks on top of the Billboard Hot 100!
SOUR went sweet
2021 was the year of Olivia Rodrigo. The teenage alt-pop star found her way from Disney sets to playlists across the globe. Her debut album SOUR was the year’s most-streamed album, while her breakthrough single ‘Drivers License’ with over a billion streams was the year’s biggest track.
Trends were built around Justin Bieber’s tunes too, courtesy of his collaborative track with Kid LAROI ‘STAY’ and album Justice.
If it Tiks, it talks
Trends broke tunes into the social stratosphere this year. According to TikTok’s 2021 Music Report, 175 songs that trended on the platform hit the Billboard Hot 100!
TikTok also made our playlists a global one by bringing tunes from different countries. If you have been grooving to CKay’s ‘Love Nwantiti’ (from Nigeria) or Mc Don Juan’s ‘Bipolar’ (from Brazil), thank Tok for that.
TikTok also helped turn back the tune clock. Old-school hits like Boney M’s ‘Rasputin’, George Michael’s ‘Careless Whisper’, Van McCoy’s ‘The Hustle’ were making the new-school groove and also re-entering charts after decades.
Rock is dead. Long live Rock.
A look at the Billboard charts over the recent years will make it clear that rock music isn’t to be found at its peak. With hip-hop churning out superstars while pop continues to trend, rock has arguably slipped from its heydays. While Post Malone may fantasize about ‘livin like a rockstar’ the genre isn’t generating new stars.
But while modern rock may not have giants like the ones who strut earlier, there are positive signs. The rise and popularity of new-age rockers like Måneskin, Dirty Honey, Greta Van Fleet; a renewed interest in The Beatles (thanks to Peter Jackson’s ‘Get Back’ documentary series) and TikTok bringing old-school rock back to trend shows that rock still stirs interest. Hopefully, 2022 sees the genre regain its swagger.
Playlists for every vibe
Stuck in their rooms with nowhere to go, people ventured into vibes via music in 2021. And it took them to quite faraway places and playlists.
A lot of new playlists ‘sprouted’ as Spotify’s Music for Plants playlist grew by 1400% in the pandemic.
And it wasn’t just WFH plant parents that did the exploring. Streaming fans ventured to journey across the seven seas as playlists on ‘Sea Shanties’ took sail (187,000 of them were created on Spotify).
Also, a weird year on planet Earth got people thinking about life forms beyond our realms. Music fans kept looking up as they pressed play on over 25 million space, UFO, and alien-themed playlists.