In the streaming age, the most popular songs aren’t always Hot 100 chart-toppers — music is so accessible now that fans can curate their tastes from major-label pop stars and indie darlings at once. Chart success, controversy, and social media virality are all factored in when we talk about impact. Plus, anything can be pop — by definition, it’s just popular music.
As 2021 comes to a close, we’re looking at some of this year’s most iconic moments and how we think they’ll shape pop music next year.
Lil Nas X Montero
Controversy is king, and his name is Lil Nas X. After coming on the scene and stirring the pot, this star hasn’t let up – I mean, he was the only person to ever snatch Mariah Carey’s long-held title of most weeks at number 1 on the Hot 100.
Before the fame, Lil Nas X, known as Nas Maraj, was Twitter’s premier troll-gone-pop star. The rapper is right at home at the intersection of meme culture and controversy that serves as the perfect backdrop for hit after hit. Kissing Satan, dancing in showers, even an episode of Maury are just some of his schemes from his MONTERO album rollout, so let’s hope next year brings more.
Kali Uchis Enamora El Mundo Con “Telepatía”
Music has always been global, and language has never been something to stop a great track from being successful. Leaning even further into her roots this year, Kali Uchis saw success with her viral Tik Tok hit “Telepatía.”
Uchis has been on the scene for a while, but “Telepatía” showed a whole new side from the singer. She has come into her own, embracing her heritage by singing mostly in Spanish on her latest album, “Sin Miedo (del Amor y Otros Demonios)."
Doja Cat’s Planet Her
2021 was truly Doja Cat's year. The pop singer spun a viral moment into gold – and now she’s up for 8 Grammy nominations. Doja started by giving us some of the biggest collabs of the year with the Saweetie-assisted single “Best Friend,” or “Kiss Me More” with SZA. Doja Cat kept the cheeky cuteness with “Planet Her,” coupled with out-of-this-world production, chic fashion, highbrow performances — Doja's reign won't end anytime soon.
Twerkulator Finally Drops
After driving TikTok crazy for months, City Girls finally gave us a "Twerkulator" music video directed by rap legend Missy Elliot. Throughout its rollout, "Twerkulator" has made more impact than we give it credit for. From unreleased fan-favorite to single, it has taken over digital spaces everywhere.
Maneskin’s Sleeper Hit
Following a win at Eurovision this year, Maneskin’s cover of 1967’s “Beggin’” shot up the charts in their native country Italy and just as quickly shot onto all of our "For You" pages. This track has only grown since the group performed their version at the American Music Awards. Reaching new heights across the world five years after its initial release, if this isn’t a sleeper hit, I don’t know what is. Maneskin scored a top 20 hit when “Beggin’” reached #13 on the Hot 100 chart beating out two other versions of the song.