The Year in Music 2021

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Lil Nas X performs on stage during Audacy Beach Festival at Fort Lauderdale Beach Park on December 05, 2021 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. (Photo by Jason Koerner/Getty Images for Audacy)

As we continued to navigate the pandemic in 2021, music remained a key source of solace and entertainment. We reemerged into public spaces to attend live shows and festivals. Lil Nas X had everyone talking with a very savvy release of his debut album “Montero” and made clear he was no “one hit wonder.” Wizkid and Tems’ infectious Afro-pop song “Essence” got a second life at parties and cookouts, becoming one of the year’s biggest hits. Powerhouse singers Jasmine Sullivan and Adele both had triumphant returns with searing, vulnerable albums after years without releasing music. And we got a new look at beloved artists like Tina Turner and The Beatles in feature documentaries. We unpack some of the biggest songs and musical moments of 2021.


Suzy Exposito, music reporter, Los Angeles Times

Sidney Madden, host and reporter, NPR Music

Charlie Harding, songwriter; co-host and co-author. "Switched on Pop" podcast and book