Summer 2021 marked fresh starts for an emerging and evolving world in the midst of COVID-19. We watched the world slowly open up as states reopened their cities, music festivals like Lollapalooza and Rolling Loud invited fans to see their favorite artists again, and travel bans lifted, making it easier for visitors to reconnect with the world. With all of this happening in the foreground of summer, there were albums and singles which acted as our playlist through all of these fresh starts.
“lately I feel EVERYTHING” by WILLOW
For her fifth studio album, Willow Smith taps into broody punk rock melodies and lyrics about growing up, relationships, mental health issues, and more. The album starts with the moody “t r a n s p a r e n t s o u l” featuring Travis Barker about Smith’s failed relationships with the individuals around her through a punk rock with drums and electric guitar being the key instruments. This is continued with the rest of the album from tracks such as “F**k You,” “Gaslight” featuring Travis Barker, and “don’t SAVE ME.” Though the album can be quite redundant in its nature of instrumentation and punk rock lyrics, Smith manages to solidify her album as one of the picks for sounds of the summer with her leading track taking over social media platforms such as TikTok.
“Happier Than Ever” by Billie Eilish
In the midst of a scandal about her older boyfriend, Matthew Vorce, about being both racist and homophobic slurs to Eilish herself mouthing a racist slur and queer-baiting, Billie Eilish released her second studio album, “Happier Than Ever.” With a total of 16 songs, “Happier Than Ever” leans into softer sounds in tracks such as “my future” and “Halley's Comet,” with steady hints to Eilish’s first studio album debut, “When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?,” with tracks such as “Therefore I Am” and “Oxytocin.” Though most songs in the album slow down with Eilish’s siren-like voice, “Happier Than Ever” manages to land a spot as one of the sounds of the summer with tracks to both pump listeners up and slow them down.
“Planet Her” by Doja Cat
For her third studio album, Doja Cat effectively shows her pop versatility with her space era debut. Her sophomore album, “Hot Pink,” tapped into an eighties-pop sound with small hints of futurism dripping through. For “Planet Her,” Doja Cat further leans into these futuristic sounds and makes new additions to compliment her sound. These new additions can be seen with hints of afrobeats with the album’s first track, “Woman”, to upbeat trap in the album’s third and fourth tracks, “Get Into It (Yuh)” and “Need To Know.” From hit after hit, Doja Cat’s “Planet Her” solidifies her not only as one of the sounds of the summer but proof of her longevity as a pop artist.
“RY RY WORLD” by Mariah the Scientist
Mariah the Scientist proves she is one of the best R&B’s singer and songwriter after the release of “RY RY WORLD.” With the use of pianos, synths, and 808s, “RY RY WORLD” stands out like no other album from its concise nature of 10 tracks and Buckles’––the singer’s real name––vivid storytelling lyrics to immerse her audience in a cosmic headspace of heartbreak, unexpected confessions, love, and more. Mariah the Scientist earns her space as one of the sounds of the summer with her melodic and cosmic-like tunes as well as the vivid imagery she gives to anyone willing to listen to her.
“SOUR” by Olivia Rodrigo
Olivia Rodrigo’s “SOUR” arrived four months after her signature hit, “drivers license,” put her fans on the edge of their seats wondering what to expect from her. When “SOUR” arrived in May of this year, the newest popstar offers a distinct collection of light chaos from her opening track “brutal,” a punk rock track about aging into young adulthood with the various struggles teenagers transitioning into adulthood often face, to “deja vu,” a moodier and slower track, as the album continues. Rodrigo has taken over many social media platforms with her notable songs, “drivers license,” “deja vu” and “good 4 u” making her a shoe-in for one of the sounds we loved all summer long.
“Coastin’” by Victoria Monet
Victoria Monet has not stopped with her music since her debut EP, “Jaguar,” from last year. Earlier this year, she returned to the R&B sphere with her single, “F.U.C.K.,” which featured low-fi R&B with sultry lyrics from the singer. This summer, Monet has kept the ball rolling with her new single, “Coastin’.” Much like “F.U.C.K.,” “Coastin’” features more sultry lyrics from Monet along with a slow, upbeat melody to match. Though it is unclear if this is a hint to yet another debut album from Monet, it still remains a solid song to end off the summer.
“Industry Baby” by Lil Nas X featuring Jack Harlow
After the debut of “MONTERO (Call Me By Your Name)” this past April, Lil Nas X recently has teamed up with Jack Harlow on his new track, “Industry Baby.” With its backdrop of trumpets and trap beats, “Industry Baby” proves to be a commentary about embracing the ideals of Black queer sexuality. With impressive lyricism and flow, Lil Nas X and the addition of Harlow on the track keeps everyone at the edge of their seats and wanting more. Though Lil Nas X has received much backlash after his “MONTERO (Call Me By Your Name)” music video and was accused of selling his soul, there are still many individuals ready for his upcoming album after these two hit singles.
“Magic” by Rico Nasty
Last year, Rico Nasty released her proper major label debut, “Nightmare Vacation.” This summer, Rico Nasty returned with her single “Magic” and prepped her fans for the arrival of her forthcoming mixtape, “Rx.” The tune features the slow strum of a guitar and leads into a beach-esque trap beat. From a statement seen by “Pitchfork,” the rapper, real name Maria Kelly, said she wants the song “to bring out another side of you and almost feel like you’re being taken over by magic.” From the tone of the music and Kelly’s comment, “Magic” is a shoe-in for one of the sounds of the summer.
“All Me” and “Something in the Water” by Boys World
Boys World is the U.S. girl group who is currently dominating TikTok with their bubblegum pop beats and catchy lyrics. Earlier this year, the girl group released their debut EP, “While You Were Out,” featuring their first and second single “Girlfriends” and “Wingman.” Their work has not slowed down since the summer months hit with their debut of two new songs to kick off the summer season.
For lovers of “Girlfriends,” “All Me” incorporates this same vibe with its addition of pop trap beats and bass. This song proves the girl group’s ability to solidify their space in the pop realm. Their second single, “Something in the Water,” showcases the versatility of Boys World. While tapping into their pop roots, the song radiates beach-like energy with Boys World’s harmonic voices and its upbeat build-up as the song continues.
ANTICIPATED SINGLES AND ALBUM RELEASES
“Have Mercy” by Chloe Bailey
Though the summer is coming to an end, there has been one single which has been highly anticipated from Chloe Bailey of the duo Chloe x Halle. Starting her new journey as a solo artist, Bailey’s single “Have Mercy” is set to release this August, making this her first single. Along with the single, there has been buzz about an upcoming solo album as well as a solo debut at the 2021 VMAs.