The Hit Songs of May 2021

Ed. Note: I just realized that this month never got posted and it’s possible this post is incomplete. My apologies for the lateness, and for the next one…

Last month was pretty above average compared to the last few months. You’ll see a lot of J. Cole here because his entire The Off Season record charted the week it came out. So I think the best way to describe it would be: alright. Cole is at his technical best, and the songs all sound good, but there’s no real radio single here. All the tracks fell into the same decent to good area on my scale. A good listen but I dunno how often I’ll be revisiting it.

  1. Billie Eilish – Your Power

A heavy, minimalistic folksy ballad, the track is a sledgehammer blow against the powerful who punch down instead of up. And it is jarring and impactful with that simple production, letting Billie’s lyrics and wispy vocals with a touch of reverb just bounce around your head.

2. Regard, Troye Sivan And Tate McRae – You

Sidebar before we get started: since when does the producer get headlining credit on a song? I’ve always begrudgingly been okay with them getting a feature credit, I suppose, if I have to, especially in an age where it has been impossible for a band to gather. But first and foremost, right off the bat? Isn’t someone getting a little boastful, considering this is the first tract of his to get past #60 on the Hot 100? This is the set up of a very negative review, but that’s not the case, just some nitpicking. The song itself is an early candidate for song of the summer. This is a clear bop and has all of those notes that made me love Dua Lipa’s work. It’s got that electronic dance beat that feels retro but even the 80’s didn’t have this level of sheen. Sivan and McRae’s voices mesh so well that you ignore the emotional base of the song; another upbeat song that hides its true, more depressing intentions.

3. Moneybagg Yo – Wockesha

You wouldn’t think a track comparing a cup of lean to a woman would work, but it really, really does. Moneybagg uses it to talk about his relationship with it like it was a romantic tryst with the pain of seeing it end. And the Debarge sample works so well with the track as well. That’s right, that Biggie track was backed by Debarge. It’s not the first track to draw that parallel between a romantic relationship and drugs but it just works and it’s clearly a very personal track.

4. Olivia Rodrigo – good 4 u

Rodrigo’s brand of break up pop goes Alanis. Well, the appropriate comparison is probably Avril. There’s at least anger in the lyrics and it gets wrapped up in a sugary pop rock chorus. But it has far more energy than her first two singles and the album could end up being the full circle of break up emotions and this is the angry phase. It’s actually pretty good at that with the chorus being catchy and energetic while biting at the same time. I’m a fan of those kinds of songs to begin with.

5. J. Cole ft. Lil Baby – p r i d e . i s . t h e . d e v i l

6. J. Cole ft. Bas – 1 0 0 . m i l

7. J. Cole ft. Bas  – h u n g e r . o n . h i l l s i d e

8. DK Khalid ft. Nas, JAY-Z and James Fauntleroy – SORRY NOT SORRY

When does this track get good? After the last “We the best music” and a god awful chorus like thing. It sounds like its from another song and just got slapped in here. Then Nas and Jay do Nas and Jay things and the space in between is good. I wouldn’t say it’s Jay’s greatest verse, but Nas is on fire. My rating is pretty much for them alone, because the well-regarded producers don’t give them a world-class backing track to work with.

9. J. Cole – c l o s e

10. Duncan Laurence – Arcade

This will be a trivia question because Arcade is the first Eurovision winner to hit the top 40 in about 45 years. Without checking, I think it’s safe to say the last act to do it was ABBA. The fact that this is hitting in 2021 is interesting because this is absolutely the sound of pop in 2019, 2018 really. Which could be why radio picked it up, it’s pre-pandemic pop at a time when we’re trying to get back to that life. That being said, think Imagine Dragons with more piano and you’ve got the sound.

11. J. Cole – p u n c h i n’ . t h e . c l o c k

12. Nicki Minaj, Drake and Lil Wayne – Seeing Green

A Young Money reunion from the re-release of Nicki’s 2009 mixtape, we start with a solid R&B sample that gives us a throwback feel to a boast track about the lives that success have brought them. The thing is, the guys are really just window dressing. Lil Wayne sounds relaxed here, like he’s just having fun in the studio but his verse is nothing special. Drake feels like he just brought a spare brag verse and did some rearranging to make it fit the beat, just formulaic. Nicki brings the fire to the down tempo track. She is at her peak and firing blast after money-filled blast. It’s fun but I think I was hoping for more.

13. J. Cole ft. Bas and 6LACK – l e t . g o . m y . h a n d

14. J. Cole – t h e . c l i m b . b a c k

15. DJ Khalid ft. Lil Baby and Lil Durk – EVERY CHANCE I GET

16. J. Cole – 9 5 . s o u t h

17. J. Cole – a p p l y i n g . p r e s s u r e

18. J. Cole ft. 21 Savage and Morray – m y . l i f e

19. Moneybagg Yo – Time Today

A tight flow on a tight beat but not a ton here stands out. I feel like we’ve had a handful of tracks hit the charts this year that could be defined the same way. Nothing about the song feels bad, but nothing pushes it into another tier really

20. Moneybagg Yo – Shottas (Lala)

Time Today with some synth strings hit. I had to double check to make sure the Spotify playlist advanced.

22. Trippie Redd feat. Playboi Carti – Miss The Rage

This one’s about 2/3rd there. Come for the beat. A-plus, 5 stars. Those synth runs rule all and the bass turned up to 11 hits so hard. Trippie comes in and fits his flow to meld into the beat and works so well. Then Carti shows up and just seems lost. Like he wandered into a studio and was fumbling to find the light switch but they were recording him talking to himself in there. He throws the whole thing out of whack and it takes the last chorus to bring us back around.

23. Eric Church – Hell of a View

So I have to agree with many of the reviews I read of this one: it’s Eric Church’s attempt to do a Springsteen song. It doesn’t sound bad but it doesn’t sound like much either. The lyrics want you to believe it’s an anthem to moving up but there’s

24. JESSIA – I’m Not Pretty

I feel like I’m just wading into a minefield here but I was not that impressed with this body positive anthem. And that’s not a message I feel good criticizing. So, this is not about the message of the lyrics at all. But man, does this feel hamfisted in its presentation, especially in the chorus. The production is fine, the beat’s good, the chorus is even catchy, and if it’s being taken as a positive message in the TikTok circles that have been very slowly pushing it up the charts, that’s good. But it just hit a dead space for me.

25. J. Cole – a m a r i

26. J. Cole – i n t e r l u d e

27. Migos – Straightenin

It’s a Migos song. You know what to expect. It just drags on past the point where you enjoy an average banger and are impatiently waiting for the next track.

28. Jake Owen – Made For You

I had to listen to this song like 4 times because in it’s 3:58 runtime, I kept falling asleep. Take Luke Bryan’s “Knockin Boots” but take out all the bad sex almost-similies and drop in the most generic love references, drop the tempo and suck what little personality was in that song and you have this snoozefest. And I say this knowing that this vacuum of emotion, talent and charisma will probably end up mostly being played as a slow dance of thousand of weddings from here on out, you know when all you’re looking for a slow tempo song that has like two or three lines that a couple can connect to but are either just blah the rest of the way, or aren’t really anything you’d wanted attached to a new marriage (looking at you Journey’s Faithfully), you know… schlock. Boring, boring schlock.

29. Sam Hunt – Breaking Up Was Easier in the 90s

The title alone does not give me hope. Oh good, it’s actually “Break Up In A Small Town” combined with “Smartphone”. That’s it. It’s the same formula as “Break Up in a Small Town”, same verse, chorus, verse, chorus, bridge, chorus (everything but guitar drops out), rest of chorus (welcome back bad), solo with the title of the song thrown in again. But it’s lack of originality along isn’t enough to send it plummeting to the bottom of my chart. This is a country song after all. But then you throw in all the fake nostalgia in the lyrics. Boy, I sure do wish I didn’t have this smartphone and social media because then I wouldn’t have to see that you’ve gotten over me. Back in the day, all I’d have to do is sit on my porch and sip shine and that girl would just disappear from my mind, but now every time I look at her TikTok’s it’s always reminding me of her. And answering machines, do you guys remember that? How he managed to turn a million Buzzfeed lists into a break up song I don’t know. That’s not totally fair. I can see how he did it, but the real question is why. This song isn’t really meant for the people who actually did breaking up in the 90’s. They’ve move on to the heavier forms of break up because marriages, kids, houses, cars, debts, no-fault states. That shit doesn’t fly. And it’s not for Gen Z, who have lived their entire lives on social media and embrace the twitter breakups. So it’s really false nostalgia for people who have false memories of times they either didn’t live through or were just there for. Like if you were born in 1988, you aren’t a child of the 80’s, you just happened to exist for a part of them. Hell, I was born in 1984 and I’m sure I qualify as a child of the 80s because all of the most culturally relevant bits of the decade, well I was in diapers for. Purple Rain was an unknown commodity to me until much later because I was still learning object permanence when it came out. I digress. Finally bottom lining this, the song sucks musically, lyrically, on originality, on tone, and on trying to be clickbait the musical. In the immortal words of James May…. bomb it!

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