If you’re like us, you probably sought out pop songs with sultry grooves and big choruses. Escapism was the name of the game this year, and many of our “best of” picks certainly understood the assignment. Below, we’ve compiled a list of the top artists of 2021 based on our review readership, fan engagement and overall career potential.
No. 1 ー David Archuleta
2021 Releases: “Beast,” “Losing Sleep,” “Movin’,” “Be That For You,” “I Know He Lives,” “The Perfect Fan” with Matt Bloyd
David Archuleta went into literal “Beast” mode this year. His 2020 EP, Therapy Sessions, unlocked something deep inside, creatively speaking. While also releasing a delicate hymn with “I Know He Lives,” he continued tunneling further into the pop sphere with addicting banger after banger.
They’ll all get you “Movin’” in one way or another.
No. 2 ー Just Sam
2021 Releases: “Africando,” “Change”
Just Sam pleads for “Change” with her standout single. After parting ways with Hollywood records, and going underground once more, the singer-songwriter isn’t short on undeniable talent. She did win American Idol after all. Her lyrics pierce the soul, with her voice as smooth and commanding as the tides.
No. 3 ー Obeeyay
2021 Releases: “Make You Mine,” “Just a Fling,” “Winnin’”
Obeeyay is an undeniable star with an infectious presence.. “Make You Mine” generously deals out an endless groove, production clinking around him, whereas “Winnin’” slathers on the vibe. His vocals caress the melodies, and it’s never overwrought or undercooked. It’s just enough to leave you craving more.
No. 4 ー Blake English
2021 Releases: “Getting Over You”
Compared to an impressive 2020 and the release of his Spiders Make Great Poets EP, Blake English’s 2021 was cooler in temperature. Yet “Getting Over You,” a heart-splitting punk-rock anthem, can’t seem to leave our minds. It pulls from Panic! At the Disco, while continuing to demonstrate English has impressive chops of his own.
No. 5 ー Isak Danielson
2021 Releases: Tomorrow Never Came album
There’s no denying how monstrous Isak Danielson’s album is. Tomorrow Never Came immerses the senses with little accompaniment, often only a single piano or guitar. His voice is enough to deliver a wallop straight for the jaw. He doesn’t need smoke and mirrors, an indication he takes his work rather seriously.
No. 6 ー Holiday Sidewinder
2021 Releases: Face of God album
Neon synths, retro aerobic wear, beats that just won’t quit. Holiday Sidewinder is an ‘80s soul lost in modern times. If this were 35 years ago, Face of God would find its place perched alongside Olivia Newton John and Boy George. It’s not echoes of the past; it’s sonic blasts as world-stopping as explosive detonations in the desert.
No. 7 ー Ivory Layne
2021 Releases: “Perfect Love,” “In the Air Tonight,” “Don’t Stop Holding Me,” “Celebrate,” Confetti EP
Ivory Layne not-so-quietly makes waves. In the indie-pop scene, she’s somewhat of a reigning pop queen. She began releasing music nearly eight years ago, and each release keeps getting stronger. Songs like “God Save the Queens” and “Celebrate” spin across the sky, emitting sparks and sending your body into a rhythmic tizzy.
No. 8 ー Clinton John
2021 Releases: Embarrassing EP
Look, Clinton John’s songwriting and production could go head-to-head with most A-list pop stars. There’s no excuse that he hasn’t become a household name yet, except most gatekeepers have poor taste in music. John’s Embarrassing EP brims with addicting melodies, bow-tied with deeply personal songwriting. The stars will align eventually.