Colton Vibe – Best Songs of 2021


J. Dollins

The Colton Vibe celebrates the best music in 2021, including from top, clockwise: Brent Faiyez, Yola, Olivia Rodrigo, Lil Nas X, Lucy Dacus, Big Thief, Mdou Moctar, Doja Cat, The War on Drugs, Pink Panthress, Lana Del Rey, Baby Keem, Silk Sonic, and more!

2021 was a strange year. The first half was spent in quarantine at home. And the second half was spent trying to find a new normal. It was awkward and contentious and defiant.

The music, though? The music was awesome.

Taking full advantage of all that awkwardness, isolation, and conflict, musicians across genres produced a number of exciting tracks.

For our first Vibe of 2022, we take a look back at 2021 to review the songs that left the biggest impression on our critics. In this Vibe, Gen Z-er Myles Garza and Gen X-er Mr. Dollins share their top 10s from the past year.


Myles Garza’s Top 10 Songs of 2021

“family ties” – Baby Keem (feat. Kendrick Lamar)

The connection between these two cousins and artists is never more explicit than on this single off Baby Keem’s “The Melodic Blue.” Coming out of his hiatus, Kendrick Lamar showed out in his first mic drop since 2018. The beat, which has three switches, shows how versatile each artist can be, leaving us wanting more. I’m hoping for a future collaboration mixtape.


“Buzzcut” – BROCKHAMPTON (feat. Danny Brown)

The beat on “Buzzcut” is insane, the open verse is great, and Danny’s feature is great too. This track hits all types of hard, trying something new for the self proclaimed boy band. BROCKHAMPTON keeps coming through with more and more bops. For the doubters who thought BROCKHMAPTON couldn’t make “Good” music anymore . . . how does it feel to be wrong?


“Kiss Me More” – Doja Cat (feat. SZA)

On one of the biggest hits of the year, Doja and SZA is the duo we need. This pop song has been all over the radio since it came out. The soft pop is a change for Doja, as she’s known for more her rap and R&B performances. What was already a good career for Doja “Kiss Me More” has boosted it.



The track is one Of PEGGY’S best of 2021. The sampling is amazing alongside his flow, making it instantly entertaining. It shows how well PEGGY can make music that is odd and submersive when compared to other artists. Which makes his work so widely appealing to the open ear of the listener.

*”HAZARD DUTY PAY!” is not currently available on Spotify, so it is missing from the Year in Review playlist. However, we include the YouTube video for your enjoyment.


“Hurricane” – Kanye West (feat. The Weeknd & Lil Baby)

YE’s verse on “Hurricane” is a perfect example of how to ride a beat. It doesn’t come off as too crazy lyrically, but is still something special. Kanye is the conductor to this smooth train of a song . That some people could start a verse this confidently with MMMH and not make it is something to be laughed at.


“Montero (Call Me By Your Name)” – Lil Nas X

A fusion of pop and flamenco, “Montero” is Lil Nas X’s best work so far. It marks a pivotal turning point in his career, ridding him of the “Old Town Road” trope. On “Montero,” Lil Nas X revels in his new role as the male Lady Gaga, and it shows in his body of work. This is his breakout moment with a new sound and style completely true to himself.


“drivers license” – Olivia Rodrigo

For a debut single, Olivia showed off her voice and storytelling. The detail of talking with an ex has hints of Taylor Swift. For some, it might be a cheesy break up song, but with a line like “you said forever, now I drive alone past your street,” whatever cheese might be there immediately grows some mold. Which sparked a sort of mania for Ms. Olivia Rodrigo. Her next album can’t come soon enough.


“Break It Off” – Pink Panthress

With a feeling of nostalgia and city pop, Pink Pantheress had me dancing. “Break It Off” seemed to come out of nowhere on its rise to popularity. This is a song that is refreshingly short and straight to the point. The melodies and vocals will leave you wanting more after the sweet short taste vanishes on your tongue.


“Smokin Out the Window” – Silk Sonic

Let’s start the funk revival! “Smokin Out the Window” is the best song from Silk Sonic. The Bronco-Anderson connection is apparent as they trade chorus and verses. With witty lines and soul for days, Silk Sonic’s self-titled debut album is in a deserving contender for Album of the Year.


“Miss The Rage” – Trippie Redd (feat. Playboi Carti)

Heavy chords and distortion make the production on “Miss The Rage” so enjoyable. The song, which leaked back in 2020, had fans clamoring for it. Both Carti And Trippie have a distinct flow on the song making it perfect for a hip-hop flavored mosh pit.


Mr. Dollins’ Top 10 Songs of 2021

“Old Skin” – The War on Drugs

Once that drumline kicks in, this song reaches places other songs just can’t go. And for this middle-aged white dude, the idea of shedding old skin and leaving all the past behind feels like a mission statement for the back half of my life.


“MYSTERY” – Turnstile

We are constantly being told that “Rock is Dead.” The iconography may be, but the anarchic spirit most definitely isn’t. The Baltimore post-punk rockers blow the cobwebs off your Spotify playlist’s mamby-pamby soft sounds before blowing your mind.


“Certainty” – Big Thief

I am a sucker for Laurel Canyon singer-songwriter acoustic guitar, nasally voices, and sweet sweet harmonies. Big Thief, a Brooklyn-based indie rock outfit, makes you think for a moment they might actually have some Southern Comfort in their bones—or just in their shot glasses.


“Afrique Victime” – Mdou Moctar

We are always looking for the next great guitar hero, but perhaps we are just looking in the wrong place. Mdou Moctar, from Nigeria, shreds like he spent just as much of his life listening to Eddie Van Halen as he did traditional Twareg. On “Afrique Victime,” the guitar eruption is an earth shattering force.


“Barely Alive” – Yola

Everyone has been talking about Adele all year and her divorce album, “30.” What they should have been talking about was neo-soul powerhouse Yola, who’s album “Barely Alive,” and this title track are the real business. Yola’s diva voice doesn’t just change keys; it changes lives.


“VBS” – Lucy Dacus

Lucy Dacus is a great storyteller, and “VBS” may be her best story—living at the intersection of sanctity and sin as she describes falling in love and finding heartbreak at Vacation Bible School in 2007. And the song ends with an all-time stinger: “You said that I showed you the light/But all it did in the end/Was make the dark feel darker than before.”


“Thunder” – Lana Del Rey

Lana Del Rey released two albums in 2021—“Chemtrails Over the Country Club” in March and “Blue Banisters” in October—a rare feat for any artist, and “Thunder” is perhaps her best song. In traditional LDR fashion, it comes at you through a filter of smoke and echo, as if she is speaking to you from a past that feels like the present.


“Across That Fine Line” – Nation of Language

Nation of Language, another Brooklyn-based band, is so good they made me like Depeche Mode. Their sound is a throwback to the darkwave sounds of Joy Division, Depeche Mode, and OMD, but their execution is more funky, and more fun.


“Galacticana” – Strand of Oaks

Timothy Showalter, the singer-songwriter who performs under the band name Strand of Oaks, is best known for his raw, all-too-real songs about addiction and personal struggle. On “Galacticana,” the stand out song from his mostly optimistic new album “In Heaven,” Showalter realizes that perhaps he’s the problem in a relationship as he passionately declares, “I don’t want to drag you down.” It’s a moment of self-reflection that feels so refreshing during a time when all anyone seems to be doing is pointing fingers.


“All Too Well (10 Minute Version)” – Taylor Swift

I woke up at 2 a.m. in the morning, headphones still on after drifting to sleep, and was greeted to Taylor Swift’s bitter refrain: “And I know it’s long gone and there was nothing else I could do/And I forget about you long enough to forget why I needed to.” I couldn’t go back to sleep, thinking that in this 10-minute version of her break-up song, re-recorded in 2021, she somehow managed to recontextualize her song as about the heartbreak of living in a divided America.