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The 50 Best Songs of 2021

Wizkid’s global-pop sunshine, Taylor’s 10-minute masterpiece, Silk Sonic’s 1970s slow jam, and much more

Rob Rusling; John Esparza; Simon Emmett; Beth Garrabrant

This year, the pop-music world felt more wide open than ever. Our list of 2021’s best songs includes a beautiful indie-pop celebration of queer love, a reggaeton star tucking into some sweet Eighties synths, a self-celebrating pop-rap smash that scandalized the American right, a Lorde track that sounds like it could’ve been a Nineties U.K. club hit, and unforgettable anthems that pushed the boundaries of K-pop, rock, and country.

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From Rolling Stone US

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Taylor Swift, ‘All Too Well (10 Minute Version)’

Swift doubled the length of her 2012 fan-favorite album cut, adding new melodic flourishes and perspective. Whether or not Swift wrote the words “fuck the patriarchy” is beside the point: What’s most moving about this remembrance of red scarves past is the way in which Swift reworks her opus in the present day. The 10-minute version is a thirtysomething’s memory of a memory, a moving revisitation and reconsideration of some of the more sinister elements of a young twentysomething relationship that she now remembers more vividly than ever. —J.A.B.

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Wizkid feat. Tems, ‘Essence’

Wizkid’s massive international hit offered the best vision possible of our eternally shrinking world: at once local and global, intimate and universal. On it, the Nigerian singer, one of the most popular pop artists in Africa, embraced one of his country’s newest talents. Their performances are distinct yet seamless, joining together over a melange of Nineties American R&B, U.K. Afroswing, and percussive Nigerian Afrobeats. “Essence” hit the top of several U.S. charts in 2021 after it got a Justin Bieber remix this summer, but its reach was wide well before. “I want everyone to understand [the song],” said P2J, one of its producers, “but still understand the essence of the music is from Africa.” The result was a sound of status and place coalescing without the loss of identity. —M.C.