As the year winds to a close, we at TREMG are looking back at some of the biggest musical moments of 2021. And 2021 brought a plethora of catchy songs that shot to #1 on the iconic Billboard Hot 100 chart! Between first-timers like Olivia Rodrigo and 24kGoldn, as well as industry heavyweights like Adele and BTS, there was certainly no shortage of hits this year. Here’s a closer look at every #1 smash of 2021!
Mariah Carey – “All I Want For Christmas Is You” (January 2nd; December 25th)
Is it really Christmas if Mariah Carey isn’t dominating the airwaves? We think not! Unsurprisingly, she topped the chart at the end of both the 2020 and 2021 holiday seasons with this timeless love song. The track has become a holiday staple thanks to Mariah’s soaring vocals and the magical production that stands apart without competing with her voice.
24kGoldn – “Mood” feat. iann dior (January 9th – 16th)
One of the first songs to get a true boost from TikTok, “Mood” dominated for most of January! It was refreshing to see two Gen-Z artists not only team up, but earn the biggest song in the country for two weeks straight. The playful lyrics gave the song a light-hearted air that we all needed after the chaos of 2020, while still telling a relatable story about a tumultuous relationship.
Olivia Rodrigo – “drivers license” (January 23rd – March 13th)
No one made 2021 their year quite like Olivia Rodrigo, and her 8 weeks (yup, 8 weeks) at #1 with a debut single is the perfect proof. “drivers license” was raw, evocative, and simply a stunning ballad that captured broken hearts everywhere. Now she can look back and think of how the song changed her life and career rather than thinking back to the heartbreak it was inspired by!
Drake – “What’s Next” (March 20th)
Drake flexed his work ethic, determination, and hip-hop prowess on the buzzy “What’s Next,” a track that boasts his success and ability to take time for himself in the process (see the chorus: “summer, all I did was rest”). No matter what direction Drake goes in, it’s clear that a massive hit is always “what’s next” for his career.
Cardi B – “Up” (March 27th)
Cardi B was the only female rapper to get a #1 hit this year, with her confident “Up” debuting on top of the Billboard charts. And as the chorus says, “if it’s up, then it’s stuck.” The track gave Cardi a viral moment six months after her Megan Thee Stallion collab “WAP” took over the internet, proving her staying power and the fact that she’s stuck at the top of her game.
Justin Bieber – “Peaches” feat. Daniel Caesar and Giveon (April 3rd)
When it comes to R&B-infused pop bops that you can scream the lyrics to or just relax to in your room, leave it to Bieber! “Peaches” was one of the songs of the summer, recruiting up-and-comers Daniel Caesar and Giveon for a feel-good track that gave us a dose of fun in a time when we needed it most. We wouldn’t be opposed to them permanently forming a trio and offering us more catchy hits.
Lil Nas X – “MONTERO (Call Me By Your Name)” (April 10th)
Maybe the defining queer statement of 2021, Lil Nas X unapologetically made plans with a gay lover, spun on biblical imagery, and rendezvoused with the Devil on the triumphant “MONTERO (Call Me By Your Name)” and in its accompanying music video. As a whole, the track and video not only function as an LGBT love song, but also a commentary on how some people use religion as an excuse to spread hate. Meanwhile, LNX proved bigotry won’t stop young queer artists from using their voice.
Silk Sonic – “Leave the Door Open” (May 22nd)
When Bruno Mars and Anderson .Paak joined forces as Silk Sonic, music lovers worldwide excitedly anticipated a smooth hit that combined their unique styles. And “Leave the Door Open” was no disappointment, channeling 60s/70s vibes as the two men set the stage for a romantic evening complete with dinner and a warm bath. It successfully stole the hearts of fans across America, who sent it to #4 upon its release before getting it the #1 spot just under a month later.
Olivia Rodrigo – “good 4 u” (May 29th)
The ultimate middle finger to an ex that underestimated Rodrigo’s impact on his life, “good 4 u” was the year’s quintessential angry breakup song. Drawing from pop-punk while still maintaining the clever pop sensibilities she became known for with “drivers license,” it’s no surprise that the anthem became such a hit! It wound up being good 4 her and her already record-breaking career.
BTS – “Butter” (June 5th – July 17th; July 31st – August 7th; September 11th)
Thanks to a catchy melody, slick pop culture references, and BTS’ diehard fans, “Butter” spent a whopping 10 weeks on top of the Billboard Hot 100! It became Spotify’s fastest song to hit 100 million streams, doing so in just eight days, and earned the biggest debut for any music video on YouTube, collecting 108.2 million views in its first day. Not only does BTS have some of the most impressive stats in the entire industry, but at its core, “Butter” is a bouncy hit that was destined to be a global smash.
BTS – “Permission to Dance” (July 24th)
While “Butter” was dominating the charts, “Permission to Dance” came through as a worthy follow-up that solidified BTS’ status as global pop titans. It quickly became an iconic feel-good track, especially after a year and a half of pandemic living that made dancing together feel more like a distant memory than a weekend plan. It’s so meaningful to both BTS and their fans that they named their four-night run of shows in Los Angeles this year Permission to Dance On Stage.
The Kid Laroi – “Stay” feat. Justin Bieber (August 14th – September 4th; October 16th)
“Stay” sees The Kid Laroi and Justin Bieber truly staying at the top of their game, with a polished pop anthem that has just the right amount of teenage/young adult angst. The two take turns trying to win back an ex they hurt, all while they won over hearts all around the world. We need another collab after hearing this radio-ready masterpiece!
Drake – “Way 2 Sexy” feat. Future and Young Thug (September 18th)
Between the impressive features and the cheeky interpolation of Right Said Fred’s “I’m Too Sexy,” “Way 2 Sexy” achieved both meme-worthy hype and commercial success. The lead single of Drake’s Certified Lover Boy project garnered a mix of acclaim and critique, but the skeptics didn’t stop fans from devouring (and rampantly streaming) the track. Drake stays winning!
Coldplay and BTS – “My Universe” (October 9th)
One of the galaxy’s biggest crossovers, Coldplay and BTS joined forces on the star-studded love song “My Universe!” After BTS covered “Fix You” at the start of the year, we were waiting for the day they’d collab, and this catchy anthem was totally worth the wait. It also gave the K-Pop Not gonna lie, Coldplay and BTS are kinda our universe.
Lil Nas X and Jack Harlow – “Industry Baby” (October 23rd)
As one of the most prominent pre-release singles for Lil Nas X’s MONTERO album, “INDUSTRY BABY” was nothing short of a blockbuster. Between its court-themed teaser, production from Kanye West and Take a Daytrip, and its buzzworthy music video, the song was a lesson in 21st-century marketing and its confidence clearly resonated with the public!
Adele – “Easy On Me” (October 30th – November 20th; December 4th – December 18th)
Adele’s massive comeback kicked off with the fluttery ballad “Easy On Me,” the lead single of her introspective 30 album. With the strong vocals fans have adored since “Rolling in the Deep” and the raw honesty present on past hits like “When We Were Young,” “Easy On Me” has all the makings of a future Adele classic. And if you could see how many times we’ve streamed it over the past few months, you’d think it was already a beloved Adele classic.
Taylor Swift – “All Too Well (Taylor’s Version)” (November 27th)
“All Too Well” was already a fan-favorite track after its original release in 2012, but when Red (Taylor’s Version) came out, it became an epic. Alongside a rerecording of the OG five-minute song, Swift released a ten-minute version based on the original demo recording. And in the process, she turned a painful heartbreak into the longest-running song to ever top the Billboard Hot 100!
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Hi! I’m Madison Murray, a pop culture and music writer who also loves writing about lifestyle and fashion. I have credits on sites like TREMG, The Honey POP, Genius, Young Hollywood, and Audible Addixion, as well as my own Melodic Musings blog. Find me on socials @madisonmwrites!