Tier Ranking 2021's Biggest Hits
BY HARSHINI MAGESH '23
2021 has been quite an eventful year for pop music, with new artists and styles transforming the industry. Since this summer brought us so many new bops, I decided to rank some of the most popular songs that dropped in the last three to four months. Here is an overview of my ranking system:
S - Mind-blowing. Extremely unique sound and elicits strong emotion from the listener.
A - Understood the assignment. Must have an addicting melody.
B - How did that song go again? These are good for the first few listens, but easily forgettable.
C - Not my vibe. I wouldn’t say these songs are entirely bad, but...
Let’s get ranking!
S tier: “Happier than Ever” - Billie Eilish
Going in, I thought that this would have the expected melancholy and ASMR-type sound typically seen in Eilish’s music. The first half of the song is very chill and ballad-like, with only the minimalistic use of the ukulele as an accompaniment.It then unexpectedly transitions in the middle to a full-blown rock song. The gradually increasing volume, multiple vocal layers, and blasting guitars, combined with the emotion in her voice, is what makes this transition utterly GODLY. The music video also does a great job portraying emotion, creatively using metaphors to symbolize the song’s message, such as Eilish swimming underwater to represent the suffocation she felt in a relationship.
A tier: “Stay” - The Kid LAROI ft. Justin Bieber:
With nearly 20 billion streams on TikTok and 830 million on Spotify, “Stay” is undoubtedly one of the year’s smash hits. Layered with synths and infused with continuous energy throughout, it leaves the melody ingrained in the listener’s head. I didn’t vibe with the song initially, but I was soon humming the hook without even knowing it. The music video of this song didn’t really stand out to me, but I can say that the TikTok trend definitely did, with people using drones to film themselves doing the dance from a 360-degree aerial view.
B tier: “Shivers” - Ed Sheeran
I was initially going to include “Bad Habits,” but I changed my mind after watching the music video for this song (which I’ll get to shortly). I didn’t hate the song, but I felt that it lacked novelty in its chorus. The music video is a whole other story; never in hundred years did I think that Ed Sheeran riding Thomas the Tank Engine would be all it took to bring back my childhood nightmares (if you’re wondering about the backstory, I was one of those kids who found entertainment in those creepy Thomas and Friends memes). If you’re someone who likes music with a hint of horror, this song is right for you.
C tier: “Permission to Dance” - BTS
We finally arrive at the last song on this list, which I would, unfortunately, rank as C tier. I like BTS’s music, but Permission to Dance didn’t come close to meeting the standards set by their previous releases. It sounded generic to me—maybe it’s because of the excessive autotune, the shallow lyrics, or the unnecessary vocables (the “nananana” at the end), but I think that this song would fit better in High School Musical than in BTS’s discography. Also, who thought that a neon green mullet was a good hairstyle (RM’s hairstylist, I’m looking at you)? Nonetheless, the song has a cheery message, so I understand that some people may enjoy it.
In my opinion, a good song has a unique melody and meaningful lyrics, both of which contribute to the emotion and connection that the listener feels. As for bad songs, I think that they’re completely subjective—for example, jazz music isn’t really my vibe, but I know a lot of people enjoy it. Nonetheless, you made it to the end. Whether you read the entire thing, parts of it, or just the ending, I hope you felt enlightened afterward.