It's that wonderful time of the year where the Bandwagon team gets together (digitally, because you know) to discuss our favorite music releases.
The team—comprised of exceptional writers, eagle-eyed editors, savvy social media managers, up and at 'em admin managers, and plucky designers—has been listening to an exciting pool of music where streams of different genres from across the globe come to meet. We may not all listen to the same stuff, but one thing is for sure: we all love music.
Top songs, albums, music videos, and concerts of 2021 according to Bandwagon readers – SB19, Olivia Rodrigo, BTS, Epik High, ROSÉ, Ben&Ben, B.I., and more
Check out the Bandwagon team's list of Best Songs from 2021 below.
'Butter' - BTS
YouTube Music tells me I listened to 'Butter' 154 times this year. I have a tendency to leave YouTube on while I work, but I have to admit that I did actively listen to 'Butter' countless times since it dropped last May. I already had this bop as one of my top songs of 2021 during our Midyear roundup - 'Butter' highlights BTS' strength as pop stars, from their smooth vocals to their slick choreography. The addition of a Megan Thee Stallion verse for their remix took it one step further, I wish I witnessed that live performance.
Breaking and setting records since its release, 'Butter' deserves all the accolades it has received and will continue to achieve. With everything I want (and need) in a pop hit, 'Butter' is definitely my Song of the Year. - Camille Castillo, Editorial Director
‘All Too Well (10 Minute Version)’ - Taylor Swift
Taylor Swift has always had a knack for breaking hearts, but by releasing the 10-minute version of ‘All Too Well’, she was out for blood. Like a bad guy in an ‘80s slasher film, Taylor stepped into our houses and made us cry for our lives. But instead of raising a knife, she drew the heart-wrenching lyrics she’d kept to herself for so long, and massacred me and my friends on the spot. The thing is, we willfully begged for it. Over and over again.
‘All Too Well (10 Minute Version)’ in its entirety is a masterpiece that, unfortunately, way too many people relate to. It’s a perfect reminder that we need to be careful with our hearts and make sure we don’t leave our scarves with the wrong people. - Kara Bodegon-Hikino, Staff Writer
‘traitor’ - Olivia Rodrigo
Okay, I know ‘drivers license’ is the Olivia Rodrigo song but ‘traitor’ just hits completely different. It has a level of hurt that goes much deeper than the breakup song that ‘drivers license’ is. It’s a story full of ‘what ifs’, lingering doubts, and the kind of betrayal you’re not sure happened or not.
It’s painful but cathartic, a message that needed to be said and released out into the world – or at least for those listening, sung-screamed into the world as if we’ve all collectively been through the worst breakup of our lives. - Franchesca Judine Basbas, Staff Writer
Best of 2021: Collaborations of the Year
'Easy Bake Easy Wake' - The F16s
I came across The F16s’ ‘Easy Bake Easy Wake’ during a random late-night session of Spotify auto-play and even in my immensely sleepy state, grabbed my phone and instantly added it to my playlist. Reminiscent of golden hues and psychedelic trips, it’s the type of song that grabs your attention with its groovy synth line and edgy lyrics. - Franchesca Judine Basbas, Staff Writer
'SWEET/ I THOUGHT YOU WANTED TO DANCE' - Tyler, The Creator
After Flower Boy, Igor, and CALL ME IF YOU GET LOST, Tyler’s tremendous album run and constant shoe-ins for productions of the year paints a producer at the apex of his writing. 'SWEET/I THOUGHT YOU WANTED TO DANCE' startlingly comes in just before 10 minutes in an already plump album, but the entire track meanders between features, genres, and lyricism with so much shrewdness and skills.
It’s a straight contender for the artists’ most esteemed release to date—and the singer-rapper admits it himself in a recent performance, with Fana Hues and constant collaborator Brent Faiyaz participating heavily. - Leland Tan, Associate Editor
‘Marea (We’ve Lost Dancing)’ - Fred again feat. The Blessed Madonna
Let’s face it, living in this current climate imposed with never-ending restrictions and the uncertainty of what lies ahead is jarring and exhausting. Dance floors are left empty, nightlife institutes are closing down left, right, and centre - it’s also made me completely forget what a night out felt like. Until I heard ‘Marea (We’ve Lost Dancing)’ by London producer, Fred again.
It’s 4 minutes and 45 seconds of pure bliss. It’s an aural experience that begs for your memory’s recollection of all the hazy nights you’ve spent, the memories you’ve forged over the many years. It culminates with a sample of American DJ The Blessed Madonna vocalising: “We’ve lost the hugs with friends and people that we loved / All these things that we took for granted / If I can live through this / What comes next / Will be marvellous.”
What follows from that is an eruption of pulsating horns layered with atmospheric synths, a driving bassline and an explosive drumbeat that blows it all away. If life without dance floors is a problem, ‘Marea (We’ve Lost Dancing)’ is not the solution, but a cathartic exhale, a reminder of the life we had before, a celebration of all that we’ve missed. Above all, it’s the glimmer of hope and a sense of optimism that we desperately needed. - Sabiq Rafid, Writer
‘Snakes of Innards’ - Hyperdontia
Hail Hyperdontia. The death metal band never fails to disappoint with their onslaught of killer singles. Put out through Dark Descent Records, the opening track from their sophomore full-length album Hideous Entity certainly lives up to the Danish-Turkish band’s previous pulverising releases.
I’ve been waiting for a follow-up to 2018’s Nexus of Teeth for quite some time now so this drop was definitely a pleasant surprise. If you’re looking for absolutely filthy death metal with skull-crushing riffs then ‘Snake of Innards’ is a high-velocity track that is worth checking out for sure. - Ynez Wahab, Writer
'The Feels' - TWICE
Whenever I hear 'The Feels,' I always think about what Adele said made a great pop song—"It's all in the hooks." I mean, nothing gets stuck in your head like "Boy I, boy I, boy I know, I know I got the feels". It's such a fun and catchy track, perfect for getting ready for that socially-distanced date with said source of 'The Feels'. It may be the Korean girl group's first English song, but it doesn't stray away from their vibe and sound—it's a great introduction to what TWICE has to offer. - Camille Castillo, Editorial Director
Best K-pop YouTube and SoundCloud releases of 2021
Woman - Little Simz feat. Cleo Sol
After bagging top honours at the 2021 MOBO Awards, Islington born Little Simz employs cerebral tools in her repertoire, wrapping cultural identity, gender politics, and social theory to flourish in her fourth studio album. The track pays homage to and honours Black women around the world, with Cleo Sol delivering in a stunning array. Giving us a peek into Sometimes I Might Be Introvert, Simz’s knack for storytelling is unparalleled to none this year. - Leland Tan, Associate Editor
‘WEST’ - Warren Hue
I’ve been such a big Warren Hue fan since our interview with him last December, and seeing him grow throughout this year has been so cool. From hearing his debut song under 88rising to tuning in to his set at Head In The Clouds, he’s been having the time of his life and you really see that culminate in ‘WEST’.
There’s a sense of excitement and confidence in the party track, one that you should be hearing from a young artist who has such a thrilling ride ahead of him. It’s carefree yet so intricately put together.
Also, that “Look, 6 figures tryna make that for my momma / 6 periods in high school turn to commas” line, iconic. - Franchesca Judine Basbas, Staff Writer
'Rosario' - Epik High feat. CL, ZICO
A mammoth addition to an already legendary discography, Epik High’s first single off their 10th studio album, EPIK HIGH IS HERE PART 1, sees the venerable trio synergise with luminaries in CL and ZICO, the former emblemising its hook and the latter cementing the downtempo effort in sheer power. The track dwells in just that with Tablo's lyricism and the song's roster both matching its M.O in weight. The ALPHA act's shift in energy for its chorus, alongside Mithra Jin’s ‘to your face’ delivery, shines poignantly in the powerful track. - Leland Tan, Associate Editor
'Leave the Door Open' - Silk Sonic
Bruno Mars and Anderson .Paak, the GRAMMY-winning artists who make up Silk Sonic, sound absolutely amazing together. Makes you wonder why this collaboration took so long to materialise. The pair make their debut with 'Leave The Door Open,' the lead single off their first collaborative record. Full of soul, sultry harmonies, and old-school vibes straight from the '70s, the song offers a preview into their critically acclaimed album, An Evening with Silk Sonic. - Camille Castillo, Editorial Director
‘The Chapeltown Rag’ - Slipknot
It’s always a good day when there’s new Slipknot. Things just get even better when you get to catch them live, albeit through a screen, and start headbanging at a restaurant surrounded by oldies. Yes, I was having lunch at an Almon Marina during Knotfest LA, so playing ‘The Chapeltown Rag’ through my phone speakers (I forgot to bring my earphones) might’ve terrified the merry old couple sitting behind me. - Kara Bodegon-Hikino, Staff Writer
'Page' - Hideyuki Hashimoto
Hideyuki Hashimoto’s music seems to capture a very particular and unexplainable feeling. With no lyrics and just an acoustic piano, you can hear the keys going up and down and everything moving around in its place. You can almost hear the room the Japanese pianist is in, and picture his hands moving across the keys.
'Page' is a song I fell in love with this year simply because it makes me feel so much every time. This is a song for a quiet night at home, or for when you just feel a little offbeat with everything happening around you. This song is like a warm cup of tea in a cold room. - Desirée Chew, Designer
Summer - The Volunteers
Yerin Baek’s off-left effort as the frontrunner of Korean rock group The Volunteers marks an album release that sticks out within an industry lauded for its dousing in heavy electronic sensibilities. Here, the group’s first studio album (after multiple teasers since 2018) harks to an era of burgeoning indie-rock and a clean, fresh-sounding authenticity. Even though 'Summer' was leaked years prior, it’s been the entry-point to the group’s magnificent debut that fans have been lurking for, and having it officially released in their stunning debut speaks volumes of The Volunteers’ capability to disrupt and stand out in seas of prescription-pop. - Leland Tan, Associate Editor
‘Eternal Procession’ - Mortiferum
Finnish death-doom band Mortiferum’s putrid new album Preserved in Torment follows their odious and malevolent debut Disgorged from Psychotic Depths—like the latter which had a penchant for depravity, the former promises an equally perverse blend of suffocating death metal amidst the ominous and melancholic dirges of funeral doom. Intended to surround the listener with an encircling sensation of atmospheric dread, ‘Eternal Procession’ boasts hefty riffs that are layered upon an unabating artillery of mid-tempo drum beats and a chunky, distorted bass tone. Mortiferum is disgustingly good, enough said. - Ynez Wahab, Writer
'Hati dan Paru-Paru' - Lomba Sihir
I always thought I was a lyrics person until I discovered Baskara Putra’s solo project, Hindia, this year. When Lomba Sihir formed, from just playing as Hindia’s live band, their music continued to keep me captivated through every incomprehensible word.
As Baskara said in an interview with Bandwagon, “At the end of the day, I believe that we can find common connections in many different ways as humans,” this rings true in all his music, being relatable to people (such as I) who don’t even speak their language. 'Hati dan Paru-Paru' shows off not only their chemistry as a band but also their chemistry as friends just having fun, singing a song about their city. This song makes me wish I was from Jakarta and understood Bahasa Indonesia. Saya suka Lomba Sihir banyak. - Desirée Chew, Designer
‘Paagi’ - UDD
I’m one of those people who finished Trese in one sitting and one of those who never skipped the closing credits because of ‘Paagi’. It had been a while since UDD dropped anything new so it was great to finally get something fresh and repeatable from them this year. But possibly my most favourite part of the song is how it ends. It’s different and so unlike the Filipino band to deliver a verse that’s darker with this hair-raising tone I absolutely adore. - Kara Bodegon-Hikino, Staff Writer
‘Living With Ghosts’ - W. Y. Huang
‘Living with Ghosts’ by W. Y. Huang is one of the two solo singles the multi-hyphenate artist released in 2021, and it is the most vulnerable offering from him thus far. Lyrically, the Singaporean electronic artist prances around the domain that houses the agonizing emotions that come with regret, growing up, and losing yourself in the process.
Here, Huang makes it clear that he’s had enough - he’s ready to relinquish the shackles of the past that had a grasp on him. “When did I stop feeling? / When did I forget? / When did my companions become voices in my head? / I think I’m done / Living with ghosts / I’ve followed them round and round / Now I’m getting old,” he pensively croons his testament.
An acoustic guitar leads the track right from the get-go, accompanying Huang’s silvery voice. A distinct sound, however, takes centre stage - a french horn played by Robert Permo; adding another layer of melancholy that fully wraps the track in all its vulnerability.
We’ve known Huang from his days as the frontman of Monster Cat, to his experimental motifs under his previous moniker as Yllis, delving into R&B beats and virtually every and any genre that doesn’t fit into a 'genre' box. But only with ‘Living with Ghosts’ does it then feel like we’ve been given a true glimpse into what he is. But even then, I think we’ve only begun to scratch the surface. (This was also the top song on my 2021’s Spotify wrapped.) - Sabiq Rafid, Writer
Love Me Like That - Sam Kim
This song was first introduced to me in the K-drama, Nevertheless (yes, the one that sent everyone into Team Jae-Eon vs. Team Potato Boy, or if not that, the show just made them really angry). I remember getting goosebumps when I heard the opening with the unforgettable guitar sound followed by Sam Kim's soulful delivery of “I get defensive and insecure".
This dreamy acoustic ballad feels like a warm hug - soothing, sincere, intimate, and relatable. It puts you in a certain mood and makes you feel like you’re falling in love with someone. I was one of many who frantically searched YouTube and Twitter for this song right after the series premiere only to find that the track hasn’t been released yet. I spent days listening to it through bootleg clips from the show. - Rachel Yap, Digital Media and Projects Manager
‘Mahirap Mahalin’ - Valley of Chrome
Filipino metalcore act Valley of Chrome perfectly spoke the words that have been running through my mind over the past two years with ‘Mahirap Mahalin’. It’s brutally honest in a raw and powerful way that people should pattern after when it comes to following your gut and speaking your mind. - Kara Bodegon-Hikino, Staff Writer
'Every Day' - Terrible People
“Stay put and lose yourself, or wait it out - it’ll be over soon”
Terrible People always get me with their lines about mundane things said a hundred times by hundreds of other people but somehow the lyrics of a Terrible People song always hit' different. “A sound came into my head and it comforted me so I sang it out loud / And I sang it again.” Alif’s verses fit perfectly with Hadi’s bridge at the end.
It is a breath of fresh air to hear the same voice that sang ‘Subiaco’ so quietly in the Singaporean emo band's previous album, Like Clean Air, go into a shout at the end of ‘Every Day’. If I close my eyes while listening to this song, I am at Lithe House getting pushed around by 20 other very sweaty people, looking up, eyes closed and screaming “the sounds, the sounds, the sounds" - feeling heard by a band who sings about everything I did not know how to say myself. - Desirée Chew, Designer
‘LOCO’ - ITZY
The days leading up to the release of ITZY’s full-length album CRAZY IN LOVE and its lead single ‘LOCO’ were some of the most exciting weeks of 2021. And I gotta say, the wait was totally worth it. ‘LOCO’ constantly gets stuck in my head any time of the day, but most especially when I’m on my bike cruising up and down the hills of my village. It’s just a really fun song! - Kara Bodegon-Hikino, Staff Writer
This is the first part of Bandwagon's Best of 2021 lists. Watch out as we unveil our top collaborations, albums, EPs, music videos, virtual concerts from this year.
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