Five Songs from 2021

Although the most cursory click-around on this digital slab of opinion makes it clear that I have no reservation about ranking the pop culture artifacts that stir my soul, the exception to that sorting rule comes when I look back at favorite individual songs from the year past. As usual, I commemorate the close of a calendar year with a quintet of tracks. This is not meant to be a decisive declaration of the best. Among other things, my goal is to avoid repeating artists from the list of albums I posted yesterday (I did feel compelled to make an exception to that longstanding personal rule). At one point or another, every one of these songs inspired me to opt for an immediate repeat listen.

MUNA, “Silk Chiffon (feat. Phoebe Bridgers)”

The glitter-dappled make-out song of the year, crafted especially for keen teens who long to see their desires reflected outside of the heteronormative template. Really, though, it should work for anyone who feels a tingle of dizzy recognition at the lyrics “When she turns ’round halfway down the aisle/ With that ‘you’re on camera’ smile/ Like she wants to try me on.”

Petey and Miya Folick, “Haircut”

Delivered with a deadpan wryness and exhausted honesty reminiscent of Rilo Kiley circa The Execution of All Things, Petey and Miya Folick team for a song that IDs extreme hairstyling as an expression of emotional crisis. Cunningly, the emotional wallop of the lyrics is heightened by contrasting distraught reality with the ignorantly blasé reactions of others: “I walked in, you said, ‘Damn, that’s a shaved head/ Did you go to the barber, ask for a Natalie Portman?’/ Actually, I was blacked out and alone in my bathroom/ Shaving my own head in the mirror.”

Adia Victoria, “You Was Born to Die”

In covering a blues standard that, like many from the genre, is about a man acting on murderous impulses towards a supposedly duplicitous woman, Adia Victoria declared she was doing “the blueswoman work of singing herself beyond the regard of their men.” More powerfully than any other song released this year, Victoria’s take on “You Was Born to Die” stopped me cold every time I heard it.

Hurry, “A Fake Idea”

This is exactly the sort of chunky, slacker-ish rock song that I would have clung to like a long-lost loved one back in my college radio days. After all these years, the taillights are still fading, not quite all the way to black yet.

The Linda Lindas, “Racist, Sexist Boy”

Goddamn right.

Quintets selected in previous years can be seen by clicking the “Five Songs” tag.

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