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The Best Music Of 2021: NPR Staff Picks

Cat Sposato

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Zayn Malik.
Alberto E. Rodriguez, Getty Images for Disney

Zayn Malik.

This year, my music listening habits were fraught with the battles of the generation wars. My music taste contains multitudes, and while most of my favorite projects and tracks were made by my favorite millennial artists, like ZAYN, Adele and Aventura, I also found myself flocking to artists that represent the new vanguard in music: Gen-Zers like Lil Nas X, Talia Goddess and Joshua Bassett topped my playlists over and over again.

It's also disingenuous of me to try to pretend that much of my list this year didn't come straight off of my TikTok "For You" page. The artists I'm holding closest to my heart were ones I wouldn't have found without the app, like Sarah Kinsley and Jensen McRae. While I struggle with the app's grip on the charts and what that will mean for the industry moving forward, I've got to admit it, it has brought me some of this year's absolute best.

Top 10 Albums of 2021

▶ LISTEN ON SPOTIFY

1. ZAYN, Nobody is Listening
2. Lil Nas X, MONTERO
3. Natalia Lafourcade, Un Canto por México, Vol. II
4. Adele, 30
5. Xenia Rubinos, Una Rosa
6. Olivia Rodrigo, SOUR
7. Sech, 42

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8. Diamante Eléctrico, Mira Lo Que Me Hiciste Hacer
9. Brittany Howard, Jaime (Reimagined)
10. Doja Cat, Planet Her

Top 10 Songs of 2021

▶ LISTEN ON SPOTIFY

1. Adele, "To Be Loved"
2. ZAYN, "Tightrope"
3. Sarah Kinsley, "The King"
4. Omar Apollo ft. Kali Uchis, "Bad Life"
5. Joshua Bassett, "Crisis"
6. Diamante Eléctrico, "Suéltame, Bogotá"
7. Olivia Rodrigo, "Jealousy, Jealousy"
8. Talia Goddess, "Poster Girl"
9. Aventura (feat. Bad Bunny), "Volví"
10. Jensen McRae, "My Ego Dies At The End"

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