“Happy New Year, everyone. Here’s hoping it’s better than the last one.”Kyle’s 2020 Pandemic Playlist, Dec. 30, 2020
“Eh…no.”—2021’s official response
Remember late last year, when we were all saying some variation of “Bring on 2021, because there’s no possible way it could be as bad as 2020”? There was a lot of change coming on the horizon (a new president, new vaccines, a new focus of societal issues that had long been ignored), and there was even some hope that country music would finally mend its ways and become a more inclusive and interesting genre. Everything was coming back, and it was coming back better.
As we stand today, you could make a strong argument that exactly none of this promise wound up being fulfilled. We’ll talk about the non-music stuff at some point before the new year, but from a music standpoint this year felt noticeably worse than previous ones, as every song seemed to devolve into the same three instruments and the same ten buzzwords, with a continued emphasis on drawing sharp lines between “us” and “them” and drowning ourselves in both nostalgia and alcohol. Things seemed to improve at the end of the year, however, and I prefer to draw conclusions using data rather than feelings (even if said data is 100% based on feelings—such is the critic’s plight), so I crunched some numbers to find out if 2021 was really as bad as I suspected.
|Year||Average Review Score|
So the short answer is that yes, 2021 was the worst year for country music as recorded here at the blog. However, 5.18 is still an average score, so my usual quote still holds as well: “In the end, the year still resembles the previous two [now five] that I’ve ranked: Some good stuff, some bad stuff, and a lot of stuff in the mushy middle.” (This also corroborates the near-zero Pulse scores we’ve been recording for the last few months.) Even a “bad” year like this one appears to have ended up being “meh” overall.
So who excelled and who floundered in this year of insurrections, virus variants, and reborn YouTube channels? It’s time to find a comfortable chair, tip our hats to Bob Kingsley, and count down the hits of the year that was. The only rules for this list are as follows:
- A song must have been reviewed during the 2021 calendar year to be eligible.
- Rankings are not strictly tied to my review ratings, as my opinion of a song may have changed between now and the review date.
We begin with one last salute to the best song of 2020:
2020 #1 Song: Mickey Guyton, “Black Like Me” (final rating: 10/10)
Guyton finally got her album released in 2021, but as yet another sign of how little things ended up changing, Capitol didn’t release an official single for her in 2021. So who took the top spot on our list this year?
New/Returning Arrivals*: 27
*Tyler Hubbard is excluded from the count, since he appeared last year as part of Florida Georgia Line. BRELAND is included in the count despite only appearing as a featured artist.
- Best New Artist: ????, #1
- Worst New Artist: ????, #87
Artists Returning To The Top Ten: 2
So What Happened This Year?
|Mickey Guyton||#1, #7||No covered releases|
|Eric Church||#2||One release, #27|
|Tim McGraw||#4||Two releases, #35 and #45|
|Rascal Flatts||#5||No covered releases|
|Old Dominion||#6||2.5 releases, #21, #37, and ????|
|Randy Travis||#9||No covered releases|
|Dolly Parton||#10||No covered releases|
Artists Returning To The Bottom Ten: 2
|Artist||2020 Peak||2021 Peak||Gain|
|Artist||2020 Peak||2021 Peak||Gain|
“Hey, this is MY spot!” Award: No winner this year.
“Hey, this is MY spot!” Honorable Mention:
|Artist||2020 Position||2021 Position||Missed It By…|
|Chris Stapleton||#46||#47||1 spot|