End Of Year Review — 2021 Edition

The other musical tidbits of 2021

Here we have it guys; the final article of list week, the final one of 2021 as a whole, and it’s here on the final day of the year.

Much like my end of year review in 2020, this article will give me the chance to go over some of the things in 2021 I haven’t already. This includes my top other musical tidbits of 2021, the more disappointing projects of the year, and my intents and hopes going into 2022.

But before going into this one, feel free to give my other articles of list week a read if you haven’t already.

Find out what my favourite live music sets of the year were here

Uncover my favourite EPs of 2021 here

You can find my favourite albums of the year listed here

Discover and listen to my favourite songs of 2021 here

But with those out of the way, I can now go ahead and wrap up 2021 with my end of year review, starting with my favourite other musical tidbits of 2021.

My Favourite Musical Tidbits of 2021

To elaborate, I will be going over my favourite artists, my favourite music video, and my favourite album cover of 2021 in this segment

Artist of the Year — Lil Nas X

One of 2021’s most wholesome moments for me, was to see an artist like Lil Nas X fully blossom as the queer trailblazer in the hip-hop community that he is. As a result, he has bent the culture of hip-hop somewhat to his will, and has ever-so-slightly redirected it towards a better and more communal future.

In addition to this, 2021 had also seen the release of Lil Nas X’s debut album, teased by a good handful of phenomenal singles and music videos (more on that later). But when it really comes down to it, seeing Lil Nas X in his element has definitely helped make 2021 a very hope-inspiring year for the queer community.

Upcoming Artist of the Year — Genesis Owusu

Of course, Genesis Owusu had sparked his discography officially in 2017, with the release of his EP Cardrive. However, with his debut album releasing only this year, I believe that the majority of the people who listen to him now, have done so off the back of that album. Adding that to the fact that I only really discovered Owusu the same way, I feel that he is deserving of being this years most exciting upcoming artist.

Seen as the aforementioned debut album, Smiling with No Teeth, became [spoiler warning] my favourite album of 2021, it is clear that Genesis Owusu stands as a phenomenally exciting artist. If he is able to add that level of quality and versatility, deserving of the number 1 spot, with his very first album, then what the hell is he going to sound like in years to come?

I’m saying it now, as I reckon many people might be saying it later, I feel that Genesis Owusu could be a modern legend in the making.

Favourite Music Video of the Year — Lil Nas X — MONTERO (Call Me By Your Name)

Honestly guys, how could I have put any other music video of 2021 on here besides this one? With its immaculate visual effects, marvellous direction and storytelling, and of course the impact it caused, it’s indisputable that MONTERO (Call Me By Your Name) is the most iconic visual accompaniment to a song in 2021, but perhaps it might stand as the most iconic of the whole decade (we’ll just have to wait and see).

Seeing Lil Nas X pole-dance to the deepest circle of hell is both a epitomisation of how the artist has fully embraced his identity, and also a great satirical representation of the scrutiny he receives as a result. There were of course many, but this music video was one of the biggest reasons that 2021 really was the big year for Lil Nas X.

This music video is sexy, fun, visually immaculate, and of course, absolutely iconic.

. Directors: Tanu Muino & Lil Nas X

. Creative Director & Stylist: Hodo Musa

. Producers: Saul Levitz, Frank Borin, Marco De Molina & Ivanna Borin

. Production Company: UnderWonder Content

. Visual FX: Mathematic

. Choreography: Kelly Yvonne

Album Cover of the Year — Armand Hammer & The Alchemist — Haram

I had to pixelate this album cover myself to keep this article as safe as I could. However, the album cover is easy to find of Google Images, if curiosity gets the better of you.

What the image essentially displays is two severed pig’s heads, which creates a visually striking effect (for obvious reasons) by itself. However, I feel that this cover ingeniously symbolises the grizzly undertones of this album’s context, while also playing into the title of Haram, which is essentially an islamic term for “forbidden” (eating any part of a pig is forbidden amongst islamic people). One could also argue that the themes of police brutality are addressed here too. But whichever way you really slice it. Haram’s album cover sais so much with just one striking image.

There has been a lot to praise in 2021. However, I would actually say that the album covers (for the most part) have been generally weaker in this year than most. Nevertheless, Haram’s album cover is most certainly an exception to this.

The Disappointments of 2021

I very rarely get the chance to feed my more negative critical side. But when I do, it’s in this section right here.

Although, I’m not going to pay any attention to singles or albums that were flat-out bad (because admittedly, I never listened to anything like that in the first place).

Instead, I will be focusing on an album and a song which I felt should’ve been way better than how they ultimately sounded. Thus, the best word to describe them, would be disappointing.

Most Disappointing Album of 2021 — easy life — life’s a beach

For the majority of their musical career, easy life have favoured mixtapes over albums. I even enjoyed their 2021 EP junk food quite a bit. But with the fact that life’s a beach stood as the first ever actual studio album from the band, it was definitely a big deal for fans.

Designed to be a summer vibe album with a twist, from what I gathered, life’s a beach ultimately ended up falling flat on its face. There was something about the bands sound on this project (especially with the monotone vocal deliveries and lyrics) that were just so obnoxious, and bordered on unlistenable in parts.

Some disappointing albums that I’ve written about in the past genuinely weren’t bad projects. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for life’s a beach, as I truly do not like this album at all. At a push, it’s sucked all of the appreciation I initially had towards the band right out of my soul.

Most Disappointing Track of 2021 — Trippie Redd & Playboi Carti — Miss The Rage

This track seemed to be going through a number of demos prior to its release. And through those leaks of what the song could have sounded like, I was insanely hyped for “Miss The Rage” to release at first.

There was obviously the whole controversy surrounding dropping Mario Judah as a feature, and replacing him for Playboi Carti, simply to garner more hype. But there was actually a version of the leaked track I listened to, which mixed both Judah and Carti, and it sounded amazing! Why Trippie Redd didn’t end up going with that beats me, but it breaks my heart to know that this track could have potentially sounded that way.

What we ended up getting instead, almost sounds as if someone stole the original track from Trippie Redd, and just completely ruined it! Redd’s own hooks are ok, but the weird, out of place thuds in the beat, and replacing an awesome verse from Playboi Carti, with another that doesn’t sound half as good, just make the track an absolute mess.

All the best components from the original leaked mix were there, but Trippie Redd idiotically discarded them, as I he was out to disappoint everybody with “Miss The Rage”, because that’s exactly how I felt listening to the final released version.

The Highest Climber & The Hardest Faller

I thought I’d try something a little bit new on this list, and make this segment, in which I cover an album I originally shunned, but ended up loving. Along with this, I will be doing the same with an album I originally liked, but ended up finding forgettable.

I feel that this list goes to show that you shouldn’t take anything I say at face value, and any opinion I have is subject to change. But anyway, here we go…

Highest Climber — Playboi Carti — Whole Lotta Red

Going from an album that I gave a 2 on my initial review, to one that appeared on my top 50 of the entire year, is sure one hell of a glow up. In fact, Playboi Carti’s Whole Lotta Red is the absolute definition of a high climber.

I don’t know what it was about the initial review that I found so disappointing. Perhaps it was the fact that this was a far grittier project, and perhaps lacked in that more psychedelic atmosphere that I was used to.

However, the one thing I forgot completely about Playboi Carti and his music in general, is that it has an undying habit of growing more and more on the listener as time goes on.

This is exactly what happened with me and Whole Lotta Red. I stubbornly moved the 2/10 score only up to a 6 in my re-review back in January. But I would now give an album like this one a solid 8.

This is kind of why you may have seen this album, which was a Christmas release of 2020, crop up so much on my 2021 articles. The constant warming I had towards this album throughout 2021, made it feel much more of a 2021 project than 2020.

Hardest Faller — Xiu Xiu — OH NO

OH NO indeed.

Following the release of Xiu Xiu’s 2019 masterpiece Girl with Basket of Fruit, I was insanely excited to listen to the experimental outfit’s upcoming project. Perhaps it was said excitement that clouded my initial judgement of this album.

In my initial review of OH NO, I still praised it pretty highly, and could still spot some of the Xiu Xiu-isms that felt a little reminiscent of the aforementioned 2019 project.

However, this record went stale, and fast! I can barely remember what the vast majority of this record sounded like. From what I can remember, however, this record was far more drab and melancholy, as opposed to the near-disturbing nature of an album like Girl with basket of Fruit.

Said melancholy feel didn’t really feel like a great aesthetic coming from a band like Xiu Xiu. I just hope that they cut that out going forwards, and revert to being the truly unique artists that I know they are.

Going Into 2022

I’m going to be concluding this article with a little bit about what readers can expect in the year to come, starting with a list of upcoming projects that I’m excited to review. Just bear in mind, that any one of these projects might release at a different time, and perhaps not even at all.

Anticipated Projects of 2022

A list of projects that I am highly likely to review in 2022

. 7th January — Years & Years — Night Call

. 14th January — Earl Sweatshirt — SICK

. 21st January — Comeback Kid — Heavy Steps

. 4th February — Black Country, New Road — Ants From Up There

. 11th February — Alt-J — The Dream

. 11th February — Shamir — Heterosexuality

. 25th February — Soft Cell — *Happiness Not Included

. 4th March — Stereophonics — Oochya!

. 18th March — Charli XCX — CRASH

. 29th April — Bloc Party — Alpha Games

. 27th May — Liam Gallagher — C’MON YOU KNOW

. 24th June — Porcupine Tree — CLOSURE/CONTINUATION

What I Plan on Doing Differently

After trying out a few different things this year with my album reviews, I’ve decided that I want to switch things up again.

In regards to scoring albums, I will move on to scoring them out of 100, giving each of them a percentage score. As for EP’s, I feel that it would still be nice to differentiate those with the usual star-rating out of 5.

I will still be taking criteria into account (such as enjoyment, memorability, etc), but I won’t be displaying these on each article.

As for my instagram posts, I am going to go ahead and redesign a template for those as well, and I am perhaps even considering putting the score on there too.

So that concludes my rollout of music articles for 2021. Thank you all so much for your support and engagement.

Have a damn good 2022! I’ll see you then.

--

--

--

My articles mainly revolve around music reviews and analysis. A bit like Anthony Fantano, but just a decade behind.

Love podcasts or audiobooks? Learn on the go with our new app.

Recommended from Medium

Dua Saleh — ROSETTA — EP Review

What sparks joy?

An Over-The-Top Analysis of Ramstein

Do Nothing — Glueland — EP Review

Backspin: Lil’ Kim — Hard Core (1996)

NYE 2021: The Biggest Night Yet for Virtual Concerts?

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store
Joe Boothby

Joe Boothby

My articles mainly revolve around music reviews and analysis. A bit like Anthony Fantano, but just a decade behind.

More from Medium

Let it Snow, Let it Snow, Let it Snow… COVID

Inspired by Black Swan, Chinese Classical Dancer Lin Niu Expands Her Dance Repertoire & Directs Own…

A Midwinter Night’s Dream in 2022

A Complaint from a Pissed-off Cat