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NJ's Top 10 Songs of 2021

Updated: Dec 27, 2021


Well, one of the weirdest years on record is almost over. It's a lot for anyone to deal with, of course, but musicians are a slightly different breed. Having been locked down for much of 2020, it was inevitable that artists and creatives across the globe would emerge from the isolation and solitude with a lot of new work, and a lot to say, but New Jersey just has its own attitude. This year saw some of the most exciting and diverse songwriting in years, full of reflection and evolution. And throughout what was a wildly tumultuous year, both the musicians and their fans turned to music to help restore some semblance of normalcy. Here are Soup Can Magazine's Top Ten songs by New Jersey artists in 2021.





10. "Cigars and Fancy Cars" by Shawn Rock

Instantly a pure classic, Shawn Rock gave us everything we've ever loved about Hip-Hop wrapped up in one song, the perfect lyrics for the nostalgic beat. It's not necessarily anything we haven't heard before, but the familiar elements come together to make it somehow fresh and signature to Shawn, leaving the listener feeling like they're sitting in the car with him, along for the ride.


9. "SHADOWS" by June's Landing

Addressing materialism and philosophy, June's Landing's latest offering brilliantly brings us further into our own heads with an ode to what we're missing in our lives. Their mysterious single, "SHADOWS," is a cruise control road trip headed west through the American desert toward the mountains in under three minutes, but in a good way.


8. "Be Smart" by Nick Nubz and New Br33d

Nick Nubz and New Br33d have got chemistry, wit, and of course smarts, with the talent to tie it all together. The duo dropped their first collaborative album of absolute gems this year, but its leading track shines a little more brightly than the rest. It's an introspective look at how those around you will try to influence your life, even when they don't understand the tribulation of it, and why finding your true purpose and vision doesn't permit access to the easy road.


7. "Fruit Water Szn (Stripped)" by Sof

It's 2021's self care anthem about looking in the mirror and honoring what you see, while still pledging to do better. In the age of vices, Sof is drinking matcha tea and eating clean, and providing the model soundtrack for both. Although each version of this song is a solid vibe, the "Stripped" version has just a few more earth tones, which goes well with the matcha.


6. "Motions" by Ashtin Larold

After last year's string of hit singles about money, partying, drinking, and just how awesome he thinks he is (he's not wrong), Ashtin Larold follows it up with a song about the aftermath of it all, and the toll such a life can take. But between the questioning of his sanity and fear of dying, there's an element of survival still toiling. While learning to breathe underwater and running for his life, Larold teaches us that even in our darker moments, there is still light.


5. "boys+girls+inbetween" by Remember Jones

This is easily the new crown jewel of the Remember Jones catalog, strutting in on what I can only assume are high heels. Reminding us that it takes all kinds of people to make up a world ("A deck needs aces, kings, and queens") while also throwing a middle finger to the haters, Remember Jones celebrates the diversity and importance of the gender and sexuality spectrums. The disco atmosphere is truly the only one fit for such a message, since you can't celebrate without a dance party.


4. "Leaves" by joe p

Joe p plays the long game in the lyrics of "Leaves". It's not about a clever one liner here or there, but the entire song as a whole moment. There's a commonplace pain inherent in the heartbreak of missing someone who's right next to you, but he articulates this as if it's the first time anyone has ever felt this way. The manic energy in the music and the muted melancholy of the lyrics make for stark but sweet juxtaposition, and despite the somber meaning, it's one of the year's biggest bops.


3. "Swervin" by Chill Smith

Context matters, and knowing that this song was written in 2020, one of the most trying years on recent record for people of color in America, changes perspective a bit. Chill Smith wrote a song about feeling blessed and inspired ("I could be the next Obama, I could be the next president"), rising above the racism, and not just surviving, but thriving during a year of profound racial tension. Plus, doesn't hurt that it's catchy as hell.


2. "Vera" by Madhavi Devi

A humble recording lends itself to the pure, genuine spirit of this song, with lyrics that instantly feel timeless. In "Vera", Madhavi Devi pens perfectly the unadorned but all too familiar story of how even the deepest love can fade or fall apart, and sometimes we'll simply never understand why.


1. "Not for Sale" by Blaise

Lyrically, this song shows up in one of Blaise's famous fits; creative, bold, and entirely unapologetic. With lines like "Hands with no plans/ They just understand/ They go where they feel at home," he perfectly blends ravenous lust with real love, intimately portraying the secret moments shared between two souls who find home in each other. Blaise is a spectacle to behold live, but he doesn't hold back in the studio either. The hook is powerful, and the age old message has never been more clear, or more needed: Money cannot buy true love.


Blaise
Blaise // Photograph by David Ross Lawn


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