What an absolutely colossal year it's been for music. 2021 gave us everything from Lil Nas X literally giving birth to his new album, right through to Adele yanking on our heart strings with her first new music in six years.
This year delivered all the great pop music that we had been craving and more. But which albums will go down in history as the most iconic? Here are my picks for the top 10 albums that defined 2021.
Ballad - Pop - Soul
The most highly anticipated album of 2021 didn't let us down. Adele hadn't released music since 2015, so to say her fans were hungry for new music is a massive understatement.
I could go on for days about how amazing this album is, from the heartbreak of a divorce to a love letter to her son. Adele really has all the emotions covered with this album.
Taylor Swift "Red (Taylor's Version)"
Pop - Country - Heartache
Taylor Swift's re-released Red (Taylor's Version) features previously unreleased songs from "The Vault" alongside those on the 2012 release. The album also features a 10 minute version of "All Too Well" which reached number one on the Billboard Hot 100, making it the longest song (in duration) to make it to number one.
Taylor's famous boyfriends may have always overshadowed her music but you have to give credit where credit is due, this girl can write a song.
Olivia Rodrigo "Sour"
Fun - Party - Pop
Olivia Rodrigo got her start in High School Musical: The Musical: The Series and released her debut album Sour this year. In my opinion, "Driver's Licence" is one of the most clever pop songs to be released in 2021, evoking a moment of nostalgia recalling going to your crush's house for the first time.
Sour should be your first choice for a summer road trip. It'll keep the kids quiet on the way and has a familiar feel to it. Definitely worth a listen!
Lil Nas X "Montero"
Rap - Hip Hop - Pop
When releasing his debut album, Lil Nas X did a full pregnancy photoshoot to announce he was giving birth to his first album. Think Beyonce pregnancy photoshoot. Then there was the music video with semi-naked men in bright pink jumpsuits in a high security prison.
Or what about the time he slid down a pole on Saturday Night Live and ripped his extremely tight leather pants? Amid an outrageous year, Lil Nas X's album is brilliant. I can't wait to see how he's going to annoy the conservative in-laws next.
Billie Eilish "Happier Than Ever"
Pop - Indy - Electro
July was a monumental month for Billie Eilish fans. "Happier Than Ever" is the second body of work that Billie has released. After the success of her first album "When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?" you'd expect Billie to have a bunch of writers and producers credited on her second album, but that just isn't the case.
"Happier Than Ever" was another album that she created in her brother's bedroom. After a year lacking in oxytocin because we've been cooped up in our houses for what feels like the better part of the year, I suggest listening to track number 5 for an audible cuddle.
Justin Bieber "Justice"
Justin Bieber has made his fair share of mistakes, but his album Justice isn't one of them. Sixteen tracks break further away from the "Bieber Fringe", giving him more credibility as a pop superstar. If you've listened to radio at all this year, you've definitely heard "Peaches" at some point.
Justice features vocal collaborations from Khalid, Chance The Rapper, The Kid Laroi, and Dominic Fike, just to name a few. Justin is bringing his "Justice World Tour" to New Zealand in December 2022. If you're stuck for Christmas gift ideas, tickets are on sale now.
Dua Lipa "Future Nostalgia (The Moonlight Edition)"
80s - Pop - Nostalgia
Technically speaking, Future Nostalgia was released in 2020, but the Moonlight Edition of the album was released this year and features six new tracks that weren't included in the original release.
It's the perfect combination of 80s vibes mixed with a timeless sound that will have us dancing to these tunes for many years to come. If you're still not sold, Dua Lipa released a collaboration with Sir Elton John titled Cold Heart, which is an absolute banger.
Doja Cat "Planet Her"
Rap - Pop - Hip Hop
2021 is the year of Doja Cat. June saw her release her debut album "Planet Her". When you're as creative as Doja Cat there's only one thing to do - transport your fans to another dimension.
For Doja, "Planet Her" is exactly that. From music videos to live performances, everything she has done this year has been NASA standard intergalactic genius. When space travel is more affordable, "Planet Her" is something we should all visit at least once.
Halsey "If I Can't Have Love, I Want Power"
Pop - Electro
This year has been life-changing for Halsey. She gave birth to her first child and released her fourth studio album "If I Can't Have Love, I Want Power". Halsey is one of those artists that can write a song about something happening in her life and somehow it magically relates to something you have experienced in yours.
If 2021 has been a struggle, there is a good chance this album will help make sense of the tribulations of the year and let's be real, there have been a few.
Lorde "Solar Power"
Dream Pop - Indie - Art
We can't mention music and 2021 without mentioning our own national treasure Lorde. She last released an album in 2017, "Melodrama". Her follow up album, "Solar Power", was never going to be remotely similar to "Melodrama" but that's why we love Lorde.
She's full of surprises and she never disappoints. From Vogue's 73 questions to iconic performances on Good Morning America, my proud Kiwi heart bursts a little bit more every time I see Ella representing New Zealand on the global stage.
2021 has been quite the year, but the music has provided some welcome relief. If there are any albums you've think I've missed, feel free to drop me a DM here.
•Cam Mansel is the host of ZM's Late Show 7 - 10pm weeknights on ZM