The MixtapE! Presents Taylor Swift, BTS, Adele and More of the Best Music of 2021

From BTS and Lil Nas X to Kacey Musgraves and Olivia Rodrigo, see who made our list for the biggest songs of the year.

By Mike Vulpo Dec 31, 2021 2:00 PMTags
Watch: Taylor Swift's "All Too Well" Short Film is Here!

New music Fridays are a thrilling, yet daunting prospect for any music lover. 

It's essentially a weekly holiday where fan-favorite artists and fresh faces alike drop their latest offerings for all the world to hear, flooding streaming services and digital retailers with an onslaught of aural goodies (and if we're being honest, usually a few stinkers, too). But who has the time to sit there and listen to everything before updating their playlists? 

As it turns out, we do. Welcome to The MixtapE! and a special year-end edition featuring the best of 2021. 

Narrowing down the best songs from an entire year? It's easier said than done!

Just ask the biggest radio DJs in the country who have spent the past 12 months watching the charts, interviewing musicians and playing hit after hit for millions of listeners.

"Carly Pearce is definitely someone you should be watching," Go Country 105 radio host Tim Hurley shared with E! News. "Carly won the CMA Female Vocalist of the Year award and was also inducted into the Grand Ole Opry. She had a massive year and this is just the beginning for her."

Musicians Performing Live on Stage

If you ask iHeartRadio's Ellen K, Ed Sheeran deserves a round of applause for an unforgettable year. "I loved his new album =. I also loved the way he finished the year with Elton John and their song ‘Merry Christmas,'" she said. "He continues to be one of the sweetest."

One thing all music fans can agree on is how grateful they are for new and old artists alike creating fresh hits during another not-so-ordinary year.

"I respect the artists that have broken into the scene during this pandemic," iHeartRadio's Tanya Rad shared. "Olivia Rodrigo had the best year of her career and could be selling out stadiums for her first tour. But nope, she's choosing to do smaller venues so she doesn't ‘skip any steps.' To me, that is so admirable and major modern woman energy!"

While it's impossible to include every incredible artist this year, we found 10 phenomenal songs that will continue to be played in the months to come.

Cliff Lipson/CBS; Will Heath/NBC

Taylor Swift—"All Too Well (10 Minute Version) (Taylor's Version)"

Nine years after dropping "All Too Well" on Red, the Grammy winner released an extended version of the powerful ballad on her re-recorded album. A short film soon followed and Swifties were reminded just how special the track is. "They say all's well that ends well, but I'm in a new hell every time you double-cross my mind," Taylor sings on the track. "You said if we had been closer in age maybe it would have been fine / And that made me want to die." Is she talking about ex Jake Gyllenhaal? We'll let you decide. 

Olivia Rodrigo—"Drivers License"

Starting off the year with a bang! The High School Musical: The Musical: The Series star quickly grabbed the attention of music fans with her single that was rumored to be about a love triangle between herself, Joshua Bassett and Sabrina Carpenter. While Olivia isn't confirming anything, the song wasn't any less relatable for anyone who's ever endured heartbreak. "I was like driving around my neighborhood actually listening to really sad songs and like crying in the car and I got home and was like, ‘Maybe I'll write a song about this, like crying in the car,'" she told Apple Music's Zane Lowe. "So I just sat down at my piano and plucked out some chords that I liked."

Silk Sonic—"Leave the Door Open"

Is anyone really surprised that Grammy winners Bruno Mars and Anderson .Paak created more music magic in 2021? "I'ma leave the door open / I'ma leave the door open, girl," Bruno sings in the catchy chorus. "I'ma leave the door open, hoping / That you feel the way I feel / And you want me like I want you tonight, baby / Tell me that you're coming through." See you at the 2022 Grammys, gentlemen. 

Adele—"Easy on Me"

Some things are absolutely worth waiting for. When dropping her first song in six years, Adele gave fans exactly what they wanted: personal lyrics, powerful vocals and a chorus worth singing night after night. Little did fans know it was only the beginning of a special album titled 30


In a time when music fans just wanted to dance, BTS delivered with their smash-hit single. Variety's Record of the Year broke YouTube and Spotify marks during its 10-week reign at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100. With the addition of "Permission to Dance" and a collaboration with Coldplay called "My Universe," the South Korean boy band promises not to disappoint the BTS Army in 2022. 

Tainy, Bad Bunny and Julieta Venegas—"Lo Siento BB"

This trio collaborated on this ethereal single that blends reggaeton beats with pop undertones. The songwriting weaves a heartbreaking tale thanks to the collaboration among the three, with Bad Bunny's and Venegas' lyrics offering different and interesting perspectives of the "no-strings attached" relationship, and Tainy's music offering the perfect sound.

Doja Cat feat. SZA—"Kiss Me More"

While this year was filled with epic collaborations, Doja Cat and SZA's track grabbed the attention of fans for months and months—and don't act like you didn't sing the lyric "Can you kiss me more?" over and over. "SZA was in my heart when I wrote this and I needed her to be on the hook," Doja told Capital XTRA Breakfast. "I needed her to put a verse because she brings just a depth to everything that she does." 

Brothers Osborne—"Younger Me"

In February, singer-guitarist TJ Osborne came out as gay, making him the most visible gay man in country music. What came next was an inspiring song about resilience and living your authentic self. "Younger me / Overthinking, losing sleep at night," he sings. "Contemplating if it's worth the fight / If he only knew he'd be alright / Yeah, younger me." 

Kacey Musgraves—"Breadwinner"

When the six-time Grammy winner released her fourth studio album in September, one song in particular resonated with a large audience. "Breadwinner" told the story of a partner's initial acceptance of Kacey's success—until he realized what a relationship with a successful woman entails. "He wants a breadwinner / He wants your dinner / Until he ain't hungry anymore," she sings. "He wants your shimmer / To make him feel bigger / Until he starts feeling insecure." Spill the tea, Kacey!

Lil Nas X—"MONTERO (Call Me By Your Name)"

After finding success with "Old Town Road," Lil Nas X returned to the airwaves with this hit single that references the LGBTQ film Call Me By Your Name. Though the lyrics and music video are decidedly raunchy, Lil Nas X wrote to his past self that he knows his boundary-pushing ways will "open doors for many other queer people to simply exist." And he wasn't wrong, as the the song debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 list.

Happy listening! 

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