As the year comes to a close, the human urge to reflect upon the past, present, and future is inevitable. Spotify Wrapped’s popularity is a prime example of this, everyone loves to see their year in a review even if it outs some of your embarrassing data—white noise helps me sleep okay! You have your camera roll to go down the rabbit hole of your year personally but what about the rest of the world? So much happened in the world of music, album releases were plentiful, live performances returned, and award shows were attended. From Olivia Rodrigo’s music debut and Bad Bunny’s fastest-selling tour to Kanye’s many Donda livestreams and The Beatles’ new documentary—these are the best moments in music from 2021.
Olivia Rodrigo Released “Driver’s License” (January)
2021 was Olivia Rodrigo’s year and it all started when she released “Driver’s License.” Take a sad song about teenage love, a rumored breakup between co-stars, and a world stuck at home and what do you get? A No. 1 Hit and the birth of a superstar. Her debut album Sour proved she’s not a one-hit-wonder, and her ability to make pop-punk lyrics about teenage angst that feel relatable to all ages is why she’s one of the most talked-about artists this year.
The Weeknd Pepsi Super Bowl LV Halftime Show (February)
The Weeknd made his Super Bowl debut with a halftime show that showcased his strong catalogue of hits. In 14 minutes he seamlessly transitioned through songs such as “Starboy,” “The Hills,” “Can’t Feel My Face,” “House Of Balloons,” and “Blinding Lights” with a football field of look-alike backup dancers. He even got a documentary titled The Show giving fans a BTS look into the creative direction of the performance along with the challenges of overcoming pandemic restrictions, available now on Showtime.
Grimes Sold $6 Million Worth Of NFTs (February)
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NFTs made a big splash this year, outshining its cryptocurrency cousin Bitcoin and the music industry was quick to hop on board. Grimes kicked off the year selling around $6 million dollars worth of digital artworks, the highest-selling piece (pictured above) was a one-of-one NFT that sold for nearly $389,000. If you’re confused about NFTs read this or want a more current update on the marketplace, we’ve got that too.
Harry Styles Grammy Awards Performance (March)
At the beginning of this year, Harry Styles reminded us of the power of live music with his debut performance at the Grammys. The always fashionable Styles paired a feather boa with a leather suit and performed his hit “Watermelon Sugar” with Dev Hynes assisting on bass. He went on to win Best Pop Solo Recording award for “Watermelon Sugar” later in the night.
Billie Eilish Enters Her Blonde Era (March)
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Not long after the Grammy Awards, Billie Eilish surprised fans by ditching her signature green hair for a sleek blonde bob. She made the announcement via IG and broke Selena Gomez’s record for the fastest likes. The new hair came with a new album, Happier Than Ever, a namesake fragrance, and 2022 Grammy nominations.
Elton John & Rina Sawayama’s “Chosen Family” (April)
Unlike most, Elton John did not spend his time making banana bread in lockdown but rather collaborating with his vast network of musical friends. Now known as The Lockdown Sessions, a stand-out track was his collaboration with Rina Sawayama who he calls “an extraordinary talent.”
The people want Bad Bunny! After a long pause on live performances, tour dates started to emerge this year and Bad Bunny fans were eager to secure tickets to his tour. So many fans hit “add to cart” that El Último Tour Del Mundo became the quickest-selling tour on Ticketmaster since Jay-Z and Beyoncé’s 2018 On The Run tour.
Ariana Grande Got Married (May)
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In 2020, Ariana Grande got engaged and in 2021 she got married—in the most low-key way possible. Tying the knot to Dalton Gomez at her home in Montecito, the intimate ceremony had less than 20 guests but she did give Vogue a photo diary of her special day.
A$AP Rocky Confirmed His Relationship With Rihanna (May)
Fans of A$AP Rocky and Rihanna have been manifesting a relationship between the two for YEARS. Rumors of their relationship started circulating in late 2020 but it was only this year that A$AP Rocky confirmed it was true. In his GQ interview, he gushed about Rihanna calling her “the one” and saying “when you know, you know.” Prompting us to put together a chronology of their relationship—you’re welcome Rih$AP fans.
Lil Nas X Staged His Own Nike Court Battle (July)
A takeaway from this year is that Lil Nas X could teach a class on marketing. He spent a good portion of the year making TikToks, music videos, and content that was sometimes controversial but impossible to ignore. The teaser for his single “Industry Baby” was a two-minute sketch showing Lil Nas X in fictional court battling Nike for his “Satan shoes.” The shoes released in March 2021 were Nike Air Max’s customized by the brand MSCHF (without the permission of Nike.) He also launched a campaign on social media pretending that the teaser was a real court appearance and got the hashtag #FreeLilNasX trending.
Kanye West’s Donda Livestreams (July)
If there were an award for the longest album roll-out of 2021, Kanye West would undoubtedly win. It all started with a private listening party in Las Vegas, followed by a second listening party in the Mercedes-Benz Stadium that was livestreamed and the listening parties kept going on and on. Highlights include a long-awaited reunion between Kanye and Jay-Z, Kanye living in the stadium until the album was completed (he livestreamed that too), cameos from music royalty, and finally, the album.
Aaliyah’s Music Is Released On Streaming Platforms (August)
After being out of circulation for the last two decades, the late Aaliyah’s music catalog became available on streaming platforms. The release started with One In A Million in August, followed by Aaliyah in September, and I Care 4 U, and Ultimate Aaliyah in October.
Karol G Made Her Latin Billboard Awards Debut (September)
Karol G swept the female categories at the 2021 Latin Billboard Awards, winning Hot Latin Song Artist of the Year, Female and Top Latin Albums Artist of the Year, Female. Her debut also included a medley of her songs “Bichota” and “El Makinon.”
Kacey Musgraves Performed On Saturday Night Live (October)
Kacey Musgraves was the musical guest for the Season 47 premiere of SNL and her costume (or lack thereof) paid homage to Jenny’s nude acoustic performance in Forest Gump. Her latest album star-crossed is the breakup bible you didn’t know you needed, full of relatable lyrics but her SNL performance of “justified” lives rent-free in many minds.
Adele Went Live On Instagram For The First Time (October)
One of the best gifts of 2021 was the return of Adele, her emotional lyrics, her voice powerful enough to charge a phone, and her cheeky humor were all missed. There were so many good Adele moments it’s hard to pick one but her IG live was iconic. The 41 minutes long Q&A featured IT help from Alicia Keys, ASMR nail tapping, and quotable one-liners like “my favorite thing to do in lockdown was drink wine….obviously.”
Britney Spears Regained Her Freedom (November)
It’s been a long time coming but Britney Spears finally regained control over her life when her conservatorship came to an end on November 13th. Spanning from 2008 to 2021, the conservatorship allowed legal guardians to make decisions about Spears’ personal and professional life. Learn more about the #FreeBritney movement and how the conservatorship came to an end here.
‘The Beatles: Get Back’ Documentary Is Released (November)
Beatles fans rejoice as never-before-seen footage of the band is released in a new documentary series called The Beatles: Get Back. It takes a deep dive into the making of the band’s 1970 album Let It Be which had a working title of Get Back. Directed by Peter Jackson, it premiered on Disney+.
Like what you saw? Here’s more:
BeatRoute’s Favourite Albums Of 2021
My NFT Wishlist Inspired By Jay-Z, Lil Baby & 3LAU
Take A Netflix Break With These Must-Read Music Memoirs