Vicki Mileson, Rose Hitchens, Daria Paterek, Kiah Tooke, Emily Campbell and Lucinda Dodd
2021 is drawing to a close, so it’s the perfect time to look back at the best music that has been released this year. Over the last couple of weeks, Impact’s Music Collaborators have been voting in a survey to crown their artist of the year, group of the year, album of the year, debut album of the year, EP of the year, and song of the year. Without further ado, here are the results!
ARTIST OF THE YEAR : Taylor Swift
Taylor Swift really made it 2021 (Taylor’s Version). She kicked off the year with six GRAMMY nominations – including album of the year for 2020’s folklore. Then, she started re-recording her first six albums; the first two of which to be released, Fearless and Red, have become chart-topping sensations all over again.
The two albums included previously unreleased songs “from the vault” and, leading up to their release, Swift shared coded hints about both Fearless and Red. Taylor Swift seems to know all about giving the fans what they want while still building anticipation. She’s also one of the few artists who can release a 10-minute song without it becoming tedious and repetitive, as well as a short film to accompany it that she directed herself.
In 2021, she became the second most streamed artist worldwide on Spotify and seemed to top everyone’s Spotify Wrapped. Taylor Swift made 2021 her ambitious project to reclaim control of her music and inspire other musicians to do the same. She brought old and new Swifties together with her re-releases and there are always more projects on the horizon. Victoria Mileson
GROUP OF THE YEAR: Måneskin
2021 didn’t seem like it was going to be the year where an Italian rock-band would be topping the charts. But, following their win at this year’s Eurovision song-contest, Måneskin have done just that, which makes them Impact’s very well deserved group of the year.
Turning their Eurovision victory into an international breakthrough, the band, who were formed in 2016, have found mainstream and viral success in tracks such as I Wanna Be Your Slave and their cover of the Four Season’s 1967 hit Beggin’ which they covered during their stint on Italian X-Factor in 2017. The Rome-based four-piece, all aged between 20 and 22 years old, have managed to become the first ever Italian rock band to reach the top ten in the UK charts with their winning track Zitti e buoni.
Not only did the group manage to win Eurovision and gain worldwide recognition all in one year, but in the midst of all this craziness they managed to release their second album entitled Teatro d’Ira – Vol I, which is part of a larger project the band is expected to continue in the coming year. On Spotify, the band were included amongst the most streamed songs of the year, with their 2017 cover of Beggin’ being the 10th most streamed song globally in 2021, currently sitting at an impressive near-800 million streams.
These Gucci-clad rockers haven’t been limited to the charts this year, with their success translating across to TikTok where tens of millions of videos have been made using their most viral songs. Adding on to their triumphs from this year, the band have begun releasing new music from their suspected third album, the first single of which entitled Mammamia! was released in November this year to rave reviews. “Rock n roll never dies!” stated lead-singer Damiano David upon the group’s Eurovision victory earlier this year, and with all the success Måneskin have had this year, it’s safe to say he was right. Rose Hitchens
ALBUM OF THE YEAR: Planet Her – Doja Cat
Planet Her was one of the most anticipated releases of 2021- and it certainly lived up to the hype. Planet Her is masterfully produced, empowering, and simply out of this world. The album demonstrated Doja Cat’s versatility, as she jumped from pop tracks such as Kiss Me More to slower and more sensual tracks like You Right and Naked.
The album is full of skilfully chosen collaborations. Kiss Me More, the lead single, sets the tone of the album as female empowerment through sexual pleasure. The most underrated collaboration, in my opinion, is Options, which features JID. Doja Cat’s singing is smooth and magical, and JID’s verse perfectly matches her energy. JID effortlessly slides onto the track, and his verse elevates Options, making it one of the best songs on the album.
Another reason Planet Her earned the title of album of the year is due to the aesthetic. Not only does the album’s cover ooze richness and pleasure, but this majestic aesthetic continues in Doja Cat’s music videos. The album shows the full scope of Doja Cat’s musical talent, from her singing and rapping to song writing. It’s no surprise that Impact voted Planet Her as the best album of 2021. Daria Paterek
DEBUT ALBUM OF THE YEAR: SOUR – Olivia Rodrigo
On May 21st 2021, singer-songwriter Olivia Rodrigo made music history with the release of her debut album ‘SOUR’. Before the album was even released, lead single drivers license racked up 13.7 million streams in a single day, shattering records for the most streamed song in a single day.
The most impressive part of ‘SOUR’ is the range of emotions Rodrigo touches, embracing all the negative feelings teenage girls experience growing up but with a universality anyone can relate to. From the heart-breaking enough for you to the bitterness in good 4 u, Rodrigo plays on numerous elements of pop – bedroom pop, pop-punk and folk pop being just a few of Rodrigo’s specialities.
For a debut album, ‘SOUR’ shows self-awareness and promise that has been unparalleled this year, deservedly earning her the title of best debut album this year. At just 18, Rodrigo surpassed all expectations, trading her Disney acting career for becoming one of the biggest names in the music industry. Kiah Tooke
EP OF THE YEAR: THE WALLS ARE WAY TOO THIN – HOLLY HUMBERSTONE
Holly Humberstone, a 21-year-old musician from Grantham, has quickly established her place in the music industry as an up-and-coming musician. In the short space of two years, and during multiple lockdowns with no live performances, people have connected to her vulnerable lyrics and innovative blend of electronic pop and traditional acoustic styles of music.
Her new EP ‘The Walls are Way Too Thin’, which was released on 12th November, is honest and real. It explores universal topics such as the transition to adulthood and relationships that many students and young people alike can relate to. Highlights of the EP include the title track, which depicts the challenges of moving away from home to a new environment and Please Don’t Leave Just Yet, a collaboration with The 1975’s Matty Healy which explores online dating.
Humberstone’s music style has evolved from her previous EP; she utilises the electronic synthesiser and production techniques which enable her music to have its own unique sound. She has recently won the BRIT Rising Star award, which marks her success up to this point and the start of a long career ahead.
Read her interview with Gemma Cockrell in the new print edition of Impact, to find out more about the inspirations behind her EP and her links to Nottingham. Emily Campbell
SONG OF THE YEAR: t r a n s p a r e n t s o u l – WILLOW feat. Travis Barker
You never really know what to expect with a WILLOW release – it could have the indie-pop flavour of Wait a Minute!, the neo-soul influence of Warm Honey or the ethereal quality of Female Energy, Part 2. The release of her fiery pop-punk track transparent soul in April saw Willow Smith add to the diversity of her discography.
Appropriately featuring Blink-182’s drummer Travis Scott, transparent soul takes listeners back to the early 2000s. The upbeat drums and electric guitar instrumental along with Willow’s loud, raw vocals are reminiscent of the 2007 Paramore track Misery Business, or dare I suggest, even Evanescence’s 2003 song Bring Me to Life. The lyrics are fierce as WILLOW divulges her struggle with fake people. The chorus sees her chant: “Transparent soul / I can see right through / Just so you know”.
I think the reason why people like this song so much (apart from the fact that it’s just so catchy) is because of the nostalgia it brings with it. This is seen in both its sound and accompanying performance visual, which sees Willow embrace thick eyeliner and an all-black outfit – one you can imagine seeing pop-rock’s princess Avril Lavigne wearing on a noughties red carpet. Perhaps this return to angsty, grunge pop-punk is something our generation crave as we were too immersed in the Teletubbies to appreciate it last time round? Lucinda Dodd
And so, the Impact’s Music Awards 2021 are drawn to a close. All that’s left to say is, on behalf of all Impact Music Contributors, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! Enjoy the festive season, and have fun celebrating.
Victoria Mileson, Rose Hitchens, Daria Paterek, Kiah Tooke, Emily Campbell and Lucinda Dodd
Featured image courtesy of Gemma Cockrell. Permission to use granted to Impact. No changes were made to this image.
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