Year in review 2021: Music

When I look at the songs that I downloaded this year, it seems to reflect a lot of the moods but also the fun discoveries. Download? Yes. I’m a dinosaur and instead of letting Spotify take over my life, I want to have a collection. I really hate YouTube Music that took over Google Play Music but it is what it is.

It’s hard to believe that I discovered “You broke me first” (Tate McCrae, 2020) the same year as what is ending now. It’s one of those songs that NPY might say is “scorned women” but it’s like thinly veiled anger – at life, at misogyny, chauvinism, a**holes. He’s the one who told me about “driver’s license” (Olivia Rodrigo, 2021), how it was super successful and he didn’t get it, doesn’t appreciate the story-telling.  I would also get her “deja vu”. These kinds of songs bring back vague memories I’m glad are firmly in the past.

For his part, he likes slick and marketed Dua Lipa. I liked “New rules” (2017) way back which is funny because I generally dislike “counting songs” but the subject matter is just so funny/ironic. He bops to “Boys will be boys” (2020) and wants to believe it but doesn’t know it’s a blast against that mentality. We played a lot of her music and I picked up “Love again” (2020) and and “Levitating” (2020). For a while, Kiddo really wanted to watch her 2020 AMAs performance of that song. It’s relatively family-friendly. Gotta watch out with official music videos.

Like The Weeknd who went all dark and gimmicky or something. I didn’t want to and didn’t know how to explain his After Hours album cover. NPY pointed out how the 80s make a comeback in music like songs like “Save your tears” (The Weeknd, 2020), “Bad Habits” (Ed Sheeran, 2021), “Cold Heart” (Elton John & Dua Lipa, 2021), “Leave before you love me” (Marshmello x Jonas Brothers, 2021) and “Beggin'” (Maneskin, 2021). Those were the stuff of our dance parties with the kids. Until they discovered Gummibar and Crazy Frog later in the year.

I picked two songs from Lady Gaga’s 2020 Chromatica album and feel smarter for it: “Sine from above” and “Babylon” – she’s too much for NPY and I’m buoyed by what she represents and happy that she reminds me of such.

I heard “Strange” (Celeste, 2021) when she was part of the hold music before a work webcast – the fun and big kind that has mood music before starting.

Before switching to listening to Chinese radio whenever I was in the car, I was listening to one of the two pop stations I know (94.5 and 95.3) and there was a three-song set that caught my attention. Each of the songs has something like “break my heart” in the lyrics. So I got those songs: “Break my heart” (Dua Lipa, 2020), “This city” (Sam Fischer, 2020) and one other I lost track of. I often think my heart is broken. Not in the way you think. So, funny enough, this music still hits me.

The term “sister albums” is so wistful and perfectly describes (and cross-promotes) Taylor Swift’s 2020 folklore and evermore albums. They have the whimsical or country sound of hers that I like: “Exile”, “Willow”, “No body, no crime”, “‘Tis the damn season” and “champagne problems” that feel less a product of marketing machinery.

I laughed at first to NPY humming to a song called “Afterglow”-do-you-know-what-it-means? (Ed Sheeran, 2021) But I was the one who looked it up and it’s legit and I think knowing what it meant, he was reluctant to like it as much. His “I see fire” is all the way back to 2014 but good.

“Dancing with your ghost” (Sasha Sloan, 2019) – I think NPY went on one his benders and played every version of this song. I like how moody it is.

Another “recommendation” of his was “Monster” (Justin Bieber & Shawn Mendes, 2020) which is an interesting compare and contrast between the style of two Canadian super-pop stars. We caught a bit of the documentary about Shawn Mendes (he’s so young) and that are-they-aren’t-they drama with him and Camila Cabello, his gushing over her as a person. Have I mentioned they are so young. But I went back to appreciate some of his earlier music: “Treat you better” (2016), “Senorita” (2019) although I think it’s gimmicky, and the volume of “Something big” (2014).

I continue to ask Spotify to play Alec Benjamin and added to my collection “Jesus in LA” (2019), “Match in the rain” (2020) and “Swim”. I narrowly missed his September concert at the Vogue. I learned about it in like October, that it had been postponed so maybe there’s a chance I will catch the re-scheduled show! Recall that his “If we have each other” was my 2019 song and how I learned of him in the first place.

Turns out that another super-pop star who is Albanian is Ava Max. NPY likes to think that Dua Lipa is more of an artist (hah) while Ava Max is known her covers and that sounds like a fake name and it was the anthematic “Kings and queens” which for a while one of the pop stations kept playing as their last song before the “three o’clock hour” and changing to a different DJ. I went back to picked up her non-covers, “Sweet by pyscho”, “Who’s laughing now”, “My head & my heart”, “Let it be me”, “My way”, “Blood, sweat and tears” and “Tabu”. Basically,  if I wanted to blast through some work, I would ask Spotify to play Ava Max. If I paused while asking Spotify to play something, trying to think of another artist, Spotify (Google Home) recognized my voice and played Ava Max. In the year-end wrap up from Spotify, I “won” because Ava Max was top played!

The P.S., I Love You movies ended and “About Love” (Marina, 2020) was featured in the last movie.

While shopping at No Frills, discovered they released an album because “Haulin’ State of Mind” was catchy and my ears perked up at the sound of it.

This was the year that I stopped following Chrissy Teigen. Not so much for what she did to have gotten cancelled the content just got old to me. I stopped following Jennifer Lopez, too. “Wild” (John Legend, 2020) is about her and just uninhibited so I liked it.

NPY thinks he so knows music and is into DJ (electronic) music – like everyone else. But I do have to agree that the heavy hitters are doing well: “Faded” and “Darkside” (Alan Walker, 2018), “Alone” (Alan Walker & Ava Max, 2019), “Nightlight” (ILLENIUM, 2020). The music can be so consuming if a bit trope – lyrical female over the electronic beats, could be singing about anything but it sells.

I started following Allie & Sam on IG and thought for a moment that there’s a Whole Foods in Halifax now: “Whole Foods parking lot” (Hannah Hausman, 2021).

We watch a few of the “biggest ever on Netflix” K-dramas: Itaewon Class and Crash Landing On You and bopped to their soundtracks on repeat. And then it seems like every next K-drama is the biggest thing. They are having a moment. I thought It’s Okay Not to be Okay was gimmicky but have to support the song “OK not to be OK” (Marshmello x Demi Lovato) of the same name.

I reached out more to a kind of local, inspiring vegan IG’er, Keira-Anne Morgan. We have kids kind of the same age. She posted about John Mayer’s album with throwback sound with the first single, “Last train home”.

It’s a bit of a trope but because it turns out Virgina to Vegas is Canadian (despite the name), I’m all for “Better for you”, “Just friends” (so many songs like this) and really catchy one with Delaney Jane, “Just as much”. The songs about friends getting together really stick me in the gut you know?

The was a summer Olympics and the unofficial pop song anthem was “Fearless” (Kellie Loder, 2019).

It seemed like several books in a row were providing music recommendations starting with Wang Chung’s “Let’s Go” in The Guncle. Then in Meet Cute Diary, Halsey was listed amongst LGBTQ favourites and I like “The tradition” (2021) because I think it’s about defying it, and discovering Troye Sivan, primarily “Angel Baby” and “Youth”.

Music discovery through what I was reading really came to a head when I read Crying in H Mart. Maybe I felt quite admonished for dismissing her dedication to her band “just get a real job” and then at the end to hear that she was met with some success under her current bank, Japanese Breakfast. So I discovered “Head over heels”, “Better the mask”, “Kokomo, IN” and “Be sweet”.

The 2021 entry for Imagine Dragons was “Wrecked” – awesomely gut-wrenching.

While working on a work project I would think of as a “school project” the way we had to work as a team and I had to be a leader, I searched in YouTube “Vancouver music” looking for local musicians and that’s when I discovered Vancouver Sleep Clinic (not based in Vancouver, BC) and “Someone to stay”, “The Wire”, “Ayahuasca”, “Middle of Nowhere”. Very somnambulent music, no false advertising there! The sound also reminds me of Coldplay. But it was Svavar Knutur’s “Girl from Vancouver” that I faced the most and ended up being the track running through our presentation.

On this day..