Top Music Artists of 2021


Photo Credit: Akshdeep Sharma

With every passing year, music continues to shift and experience new sounds. 2021 was no different, and artists continue to leverage popular social media platforms to their benefit, including the trendy TikTok app.

A long list of artists made waves over the 12 months, but these 10 artists had the most significant impact on 2021.

10. Ariana Grande

Despite not releasing any new personal music, Ariana Grande made her presence known in 2021 through various features.

Grande appeared on a remix of “Save Your Tears” by The Weekend. Her additional vocals boosted the song to Billboard’s No. 2 song of the year.

On top of that, Grande is receiving a Grammy nomination for Album of the Year for her feature on Doja Cat’s “I Don’t Do Drugs.”

Although it was a light year in terms of individual music for Grande, she also took her talents to different platforms, including as a coach on the singing show The Voice and a role in the new Netflix film Don’t Look Up.

9. The Kid Laroi

The Kid Laroi gained traction in 2020 with his debut album, but saw a significant jump in 2021.

Born in Australia, The Kid Laroi began working with several big-time artists around the turn of the calendar year, including Miley Cyrus, who accompanied the rapper on a remix of his famous song “Without You.”

On July 9, The Kid Laroi elevated to another level with the release of “Stay,” featuring Justin Bieber. The song was streamed all across social media, soon becoming a hit. “Stay” reached number one on the Hot 100, spending seven weeks at its peak.

“Stay” was later performed at the MTV Video Music Awards in September. Laroi also went on to be named the Australian Recording Industry Association’s Best Artist and earned the Best Pop Release of 2021.

In late November, The Kid Laroi was nominated for his first Grammy, earning a nod in the Best New Artist category.

8. Lil Nas X

While 2019 was a successful year for the young and trendy pop-rap musician, 2021 saw Lil Nas X reveal his true artistry.

Throughout 2021, Lil Nas X earned more recognition by announcing that he would release his debut album later that year. Several singles from the album were released, including “Montero (Call Me by Your Name),” on March 26, 2021. The song was complemented by a music video that led to mixed reactions for the scandalous visuals and devil-worshiping nature.

Lil Nas X continued to make his mark across the 2021 landscape by releasing another single, “Industry Baby,” in late July, which featured Jack Harlow. The single became an instant hit and topped the Billboard Hot 100 songs, leading to his third number-one song.

The debut project titled Montero finally dropped on September 17, 2021. Although his music grew in popularity during 2021, he was also creating constant buzz; from vibrant performances at the VMA’s and must-see social media to a controversial satan-related shoe release.

7. Morgan Wallen

Morgan Wallen hinted at his potential late in 2020 with the release of his popular single “7 Summers.”

In January of 2021, he released his second album, named Dangerous: The Double Album. The record stood atop the Billboard 200 for six consecutive weeks, making it the first new country album to do so since 1992. The album reached mass popularity with 19 songs reaching the Hot 100.

As Wallen was experiencing success with his new album, he also ran into some controversy as he was caught on video using racial slurs. Despite the controversy, Wallen’s numbers continued to soar.

His album finished 2021 at number one on the Billboard 200. The growing country star also received countless nods for awards.

6. Justin Bieber

It was once again another year with Justin Bieber showcasing his talents to the world. Leading into 2021, Bieber previewed his upcoming album with several singles.

On New Year’s Day of 2021, the pop sensation released his third single, “Anyone,” for his project titled Justice. The album was later released on March 29 and accompanied by another single “Peaches.”

The record and the track “Peaches” quickly rose to fame with the former appearing at number one on the Billboard 200 and the latter at number one on the Billboard 100. He became the first male artist to have his first six studio albums debut at number one on the Billboard 200.

A few weeks later, Bieber delved into the genre of gospel with a surprise release of a six-song EP titled Freedom.

As 2021 carried on, Bieber accumulated several accolades, including a major feat due to his appearance on the aforementioned “Stay” with The Kid Laroi. With the song, it became his 100th entry on the Hot 100 chart making him the youngest artist to reach that milestone.

Bieber’s 2021 was capped off with a list of Grammy nominations, including Album of the Year and Song of the Year.

5. Doja Cat

In this day and age, artists look to capitalize on their music through social media and Doja Cat used that very strategy in 2021.

The Los Angeles, California-born artist accompanied Saweetie on her single “Best Friend.” The song soared in the charts and has since received a Grammy nomination for Best Rap Song.

On April 10, Doja Cat released the song “Kiss Me More” featuring SZA, which went viral on TikTok. The track spent 19 consecutive weeks within the top 10 of the Billboard Hot 100.

Leading up to the release of her album Planet Her, Doja Cat dropped, “Need to Know,” which once again received critical success.

Planet Her became widely popular, earning several award nominations at the VMAs and a Grammy nod for Album of the Year.

4. Taylor Swift

After an extremely successful 2020, Taylor Swift earned herself another strong year on the charts in 2021 without releasing a new album.

Her 2020 project Evermore continued to sit near the top of the Billboard 200 to start the new year.

While the country-pop start did not drop any new music, she surprised the industry with two releases of re-recorded albums: Fearless (Taylor’s Version) and Red (Taylor’s Version).

Both projects were widely accepted and navigated their way up the Billboard 200 charts. With these releases, Swift finished fourth on Billboard’s top artist list.

3. The Weeknd

Another artist that felt the remnants of their success from 2020 in 2021 was The Weeknd. His album After Hours received critical acclaim in 2020, however, it did not receive a Grammy nomination.

The R&B artist continued to see success with his songs “Blinding Lights” and “Save Your Tears,” among others.

With that success, The Weeknd put his talents on display at the Super Bowl LV Halftime Show in Tampa, Florida.

Despite After Hours not being nominated for any Grammys, The Weeknd still won numerous accolades, including 10 Billboard Music Awards.

With his next album in the works, The Weeknd released the project’s first single on August 6 titled “Take My Breath.” The album Dawn FM was finally released in early 2022 but was teased throughout the course of 2021.

2. Olivia Rodrigo

Each and every year, new artists make headway in the music industry and last year, Olivia Rodrigo has the biggest impact as a new artist.

Rodrigo released her debut single, “Drivers License,” on January 8 of 2021. The song immediately saw success, receiving a record 17 million streams on Spotify on January 12. It then reached 80 million streams after seven days, breaking another record for most streams in that span.

Singles “Deja Vu” and “Good 4 U” followed her original release. Both tracks also received massive success, respectively reaching the top 10 of the Hot 100.

Her album, Sour, dropped on May 21 and debuted at number one on the Billboard 200. It received critical acclaim and was praised by countless publications.

In December of 2021, Rodrigo was named Entertainer of the Year by Time. She also has earned numerous Grammy nominations, including Song of the Year and Album of the Year.

1. Drake

For the second time in his career, Drake was named Billboard’s top artist of the year.

The Canadian rapper, released several projects during the calendar year. He began 2021 with the release of the EP Scary Hours 2, which featured popular tracks “What’s Next” and “Wants and Needs” with Lil Baby. The songs entered at number one and two, respectively on the charts.

Continuing through the year, Drake appeared on several projects and tracks, including “Solid” by Gunna and Young Thug.

Drake’s sixth studio album, Certified Lover Boy, dropped on September 3, appearing at number one on the Billboard 200, making it his tenth number-one album. Single “Way 2 Sexy” became a social media classic and was heard in videos across the internet.

Although he was nominated for several Grammy’s, Drake removed his music from consideration due to his disputed relationship with the Academy.

Nonetheless, Drake continued to flex his muscles across the music industry with several highly-popular projects and countless hit singles.