MUSIC: From ABBA to Taylor Swift and St Vincent, the top songs of 2021

From ABBA’s comeback single to a euphoric track from Billie Eilish and a Taylor Swift’s diary entry turned drama, here are my top songs of 2021

ABBA : Don’t Shut Me Down

Their comeback album was patchy, but the comeback single was impeccable: this mature banger, plus the stirring I Still Have Faith In You.

 

Olivia Rodrigo: Drivers License

The song that will always remind us of 2021 was made by a girl of only 17. She’s so likeable that you can even forgive her for that missing apostrophe.

 

Billie Eilish: Oxytocin

A relative veteran of 20, Eilish has coped superbly with the pressures of fame. On this euphoric track she shows that it’s possible to whisper on the dancefloor.

 

The Anchoress: Show Your Face

Surging anthem from the self-produced singer-songwriter who stormed the Albums of the Year lists with The Art Of Losing.

 

Taylor Swift: All Too Well (Ten Minute Version)

Taylor Swift (above) shows how much she’s learnt in the past nine years, turning a diary entry into a drama in All Too Well

Taylor Swift (above) shows how much she’s learnt in the past nine years, turning a diary entry into a drama in All Too Well

Taking an old song of yours and making it twice as long sounds like a terrible idea, but Swift shows how much she’s learnt in the past nine years, turning a diary entry into a drama.

 

Afterlight: The Ghost Of Love

From the mother of all break-up albums, a moment of grace.

 

Neil Young and Crazy Horse: Song Of The Seasons

Vintage Young. He had me at the harmonica solo.

 

Joan As Police Woman, Tony Allen, Dave Okumu: Masquerader

Is it art-rock, or soul-jazz? It’s both, and it’s beautiful.

 

Little Simz: Introvert

The London rapper broke through with her fourth album, reaching the top five and landing four Brits nominations. Introvert belies its name, and hers, by being as big as a Bond theme.

 

Joan Armatrading: Already There

In her 70s, she has lost none of her blazing clarity.

 

Chilly Gonzales: Music Is Back

A classical pianist celebrates the return of the gig with a Hamilton-style rap. Performing it this month at the Royal Festival Hall, he threw in a tribute to the musical film clip of the year: ‘Paul McCartney writing Get Back’.

 

St Vincent: The Melting Of The Sun

Annie Clark adds delicious warmth to her undoubted cool.

Annie Clark (above) adds delicious warmth to her undoubted cool in St Vincent's The Melting Of The Sun

Annie Clark (above) adds delicious warmth to her undoubted cool in St Vincent’s The Melting Of The Sun

 

Crowded House: To The Island

The Finn family have had a year to remember. After moonlighting with Fleetwood Mac, Neil returned to the day job with a subtly rousing pop-rock song…

 

Tim Finn & Phil Manzanera: Caught By The Heart

… while his big brother Tim joined Roxy Music’s guitarist to make some magical eco-pop.

 

Adele: Hold On

On a hit-and-miss album, this is the one potential classic – a ballad that swells into a gospel anthem.

 

James Blake: Funeral

Blake is bleak, in a good way: his songs are pared down to the soul.

 

Brandi Carlile: Right On Time

A mighty voice finds a ballad to match.

 

Nick Cave and Warren Ellis: Carnage

Sparse, haunting, then suddenly gorgeous, this is Cave’s best tune since Into My Arms.

 

She Drew The Gun: Behave Myself

‘I am the rage of all women,’ sings Louisa Roach, ‘condensed to the point of explosion.’ That’s just the first line.

 

The Felice Brothers: To-Do List

The wittiest song of the year has been waiting for this week: it’s all about resolutions. 

 

To hear all these songs on Spotify, go here

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