Welcome to my ranking of the top 25 songs of the midyear. This list is a current perspective of the recent releases that I have been listening to throughout the first half of 2021. To make this list, a track must have received a proper release on streaming platforms between Jan. 1 and June 30, 2021. There is no limit to the amount of tracks a single artist can land on here; I’d prefer to promote accuracy over variety. As the list progresses, more detail will be given on my opinions of the tracks.
I have found this year to be rich in moments, and weaker for full albums so far. Choosing an album to call the “best of the year so far” is challenging, despite easily finding more than enough content for this list. Personally I have always found ranking individual songs to be easier and more entertaining than full albums, so this curation has been a thoughtful and surprising process at times. Opinions shift everyday, so this is purely a snapshot of my current thoughts.
25. “HOT WIND BLOWS (feat. Lil Wayne)” — Tyler, the Creator
24. “favorite crime” — Olivia Rodrigo
23. “Dearest Alfred (MyJoy)” — Khruangbin & Knxwledge
22. “Baby + Do It If It Feels Right” — Mount Rainier
21. “Lumbago” — Yeek
20. “What You Need” — Don Toliver
19. “Kino Cave River” — Mount Rainier
18. “3000 Miles (Baby Baby)” — Yeek
17. “BERNADETTE (feat. Joyce Wrice)” — Zack Villere
16. “LAW OF AVERAGES” — Vince Staples
15. “shots in the dark (feat. Trippie Redd)” — iann dior
While iann dior has never stood out to me, this track is by far his most catchy and memorable. It’s nothing new stylistically for dior, just the perfect try supported by talented collaborators.
14. “Close To You” — Dayglow
The opening chords of “Close To You” define the whole track. Whether it ends up sounding dated quickly or not, the retro fun Dayglow created here was perfect for 2021. I’m surprised this song was not bigger.
13. JUGGERNAUT (feat. Lil Uzi Vert & Pharrell Williams)” — Tyler, The Creator
Drums have not been this bouncy and detailed all year. No rapper feels outshined here either, and Pharrell’s “secret service” line is one of the best vocal moments of the year.
12. “4U” — Pi’erre Bourne
Droney, video game chords power Bourne’s leadoff single up this list considerably. While his performance vocally holds strong, he shows why production is his main trait.
11. “Untouched” — BabyTron
Babytron is proving himself as a consistent personality in 2021. His nonstop flow and bars are so recognizable, and “Untouched” makes you feel his casual cockiness over a smooth sample.
10. “MASSA” — Tyler, The Creator
It hasn’t been long since “CALL ME WHEN YOU GET LOST” dropped, and as of now this stands as my favorite cut. As the instrumental grows more melodic, it becomes one of the most beautiful and passionate performances on the project.
9. “BUZZCUT (feat. Danny Brown)” — BROCKHAMPTON
“BUZZCUT” was the ultimate comeback for the boy band this year. It’s textured and inventive in the same way “BOOGIE” was back in 2017, this time with an even wider range of sounds.
8. “Jeez Relax!” — ShittyBoyz
BabyTron, TrDee and StanWill make up ShittyBoyz, one of the most fascinating young groups in rap. The late night radio feel of the beat feels celebratory as each member wastes no time dropping quotable lines. This group’s personality was unmatched this year.
7. “Falling out the Sky (feat. Earl Sweatshirt)” — Armand Hammer & The Alchemist
After four albums of attempts, The Alchemist found the best sample of 2021 with this track. The synth melody is such a strong hook, and each rapper flows unpredictably. The song feels intelligent and accessible, a difficult combination to achieve.
6. “California Dreamin’” — Hazel English
English’s cover of the classic The Mamas & The Papas song is a modern remaster of the original, staying very loyal to the initial composition. She couldn’t have chosen a more appropriate track for her style, the haunting progressions are filled beautifly by her western tones.
5. “American Honey” — Current Joys
The shocking emotiveness of this song is strong to a point where it nearly hinders. Despite the simplicity of the chord progression, the harmonies between instruments transcend to a point no other track could match this year. It’s a beautifully sorrowful song that’s not meant for most occasions. I hope that it never loses its potency.
4. “Ryan Garcia” – ShittyBoyz
On a completely opposite note, the ShittyBoyz deliver their best track to date as a complete trio. The group is consistently in their prime over sampled instrumentals like this one; it’s a one of a kind sound that is instantly interesting. The best moment comes when TrDee staggers his flow stating “if you talk behind my back, you bet’ not say what’s up.” This group has piqued my interest in hip-hop this year.
3. “Blouse” — Clairo
Clairo steps away from her bedroom pop roots on “Blouse” and returns with a stripped, orchestral peek towards her upcoming sophomore album. Her lyrics sound primary to this song, and every vocal line is harmonized, which details the shy melodies and forms one of my favorite vocal hooks of the year on the chorus. As my top song from June, I believe Clairo has a solid shot at releasing one of my favorite albums of the year this July.
2. “Big Wide Body” — SoGone SoFlexy
After being backed by BROCKHAMPTON’s new label Video Store, SoGone SoFlexy’s newest single modernizes southern rap in the catchiest way possible. The electronic bass and synths are funky and mood-setting, helping to paint SoFlexy’s deep vocals into a defined characterization of him as an artist. The “swinging in a big wide body” line is the stickiest chorus of the year so far, and the melody is so easy to sing. When enhanced by visuals as well this track has a whole world to it.
1. ”Duo” — Sam Gellaitry
Since the end of April, “Duo” has been my frontrunner for this position. Sam Gellaitry has taken the transition from quiet producer to self-made pop star with confidence, and blown me away with his initial single. His electronic production is so detailed, and it shows that his understanding of himself as an artist is thorough. The calculated execution of this song is very impressive, from the stretched out lyrical phrases to the five-second synth solo to close. As of now Gellaitry has my favorite song of the year by a fairly wide margin, and despite how much I enjoy “Duo,” I expect someone will challenge this title in the second half of 2021.