With just a day left till 2021 comes to a close, music giants worldwide like Spotify, Apple Music, and more have been for the past couple of weeks been releasing their lists for the most-listened and best-selling songs and albums of the year.

As per our culture as well, we do share a rundown of the most popular songs of the year, and eventually, a playlist to wrap it up.

Related: 2021 In Review: 10 Fast Rising Artists Who’ve Sound Tracked Our 2021 And Won Our Hearts. Buju, Joshua Baraka, Amaarae, Nikita Kering, An-Known, CKay & More

These 20 tracks and their creators refused to be held back by the pandemic, spent 2021 shattering the glass ceiling, raising the levels on a day-by-day basis while dominating the charts, not only regionally but globally too.

Considered is overall popularity, streams, and various milestones as achieved by the songs mentioned. Ladies and gentlemen, without further ado, here are the Top 20 for the year 2021!

21. Essence (Wizkid, Tems)

Taken off his MIL album, Essence has been Top 2 among the most popular records that have carried the year 2021. The unofficial summer track broke the record as the very first Nigerian song to crack the top 10 on the Billboard Hot 100 and even spawning a remix with Justin Bieber, the song most recently was crowned the best song of the year with a #1 out according to Rolling Stone’s year-end wrap. Essence has since put Afrobeats on the global stage.

20. Drivers License (Olivia Rodrigo)

In the most recently concluded Apple Music Awards, Olivia Rodrigo was crowned not just Breakthrough Artist of the Year, Album of the Year, but Song of the Year for this record. Released in January, the tear-soaked Drivers License marked Olivia’s debut onto the music scene & registered a couple of record-breaking milestones such as quickly topping the charts including Billboard, becoming one of the most-streamed new releases of the year as well as making all the 11 other singles off the album “SOUR” entering the Apple Music Daily Top 100: Global chart in over 66 additional countries.

19. Enyonta (Nina Roz)

Released in April, 2021 under Black Market Records is songbird, and model Nina Roz’s Enyonta. On the record, Nina Roz relayed her unique vocals on the smoothly flowing beats as she well laid by her collaboration mate and producer Daddy Andre. The two had previously worked together on tracks like Andele and Nangana. On this particular one, Roz croons about her yearning and thirst for her love interest. Definitely a favorite record for many this year, it has been.

Enyonta - Single by Nina Roz | Spotify
Enyonta album artwork (Picture: Spotify)

18. Kiss You (B2C)

B2C, Nessim and Aaronaire make it a point each year to always team up and drop a banger, at least as per my observation. Right from 2017 “Gutamiza”, “No You No Life” alongside The Ben in 2018, then Gutujja in 2019, last year with highly controversial Munda Awo. The boys were back in business this year too and dropped yet another in March titled “Kiss You”.

The Sheena Skies written record was also their first project of this year, later following it up with Aroma team-up “Yoola”.

17. Bloody Samaritan (Ayra Starr)

Following her debut to the world in January this 2021, phenomenon fast-rising Nigerian singer Oyinkansola Sarah Aderibigbe also popularly known as Ayra Starr made 2021 her own. She won the hearts of many with her self-titled EP, but she wasn’t about to stop.

On 6th August, she released “19 & Dangerous” a full-length project that followed the concept following a Gen Z girl transitioning from adolescence into early adulthood with growing confidence, artistic zeal, sentimentality and empathy, an even grown up version from the Ayra we were introduced to on her debut. London produced track “Bloody Samaritan“ served as the lead single prior the release of the album, and it has done its rounds this year;- with many people confusing its title to be “Vibe Killer”. 😂

16. Rare (Navio, Shena Skies)

Back then in March, celebrated rapper Navio (born Daniel Lubwama Kigozi) and renowned singer songwriter Shena Skies teamed up to drop ‘Rare’; a track that was produced at Icon Studios and saw arguably one best rappers on the land paired up with flawless sing writer and vocalist to share the single, that’s taken off the East Lord Navio’s forthcoming EP ‘Vibes Out The East’.

An impressive accompanying colorful music video as directed by Sasha Vybz was dropped same day as the audio, and the pair dominated charts with this their team-up.

15. Love Nwantiti (Ah Ah Ah) – CKay

Ckay is one of those acts who would have Tiktok to thank for fueling their song’s blow up rate! The former Chocolate City talent back then in August 2019 released his EP Ckay the First, which included the song “Love Nwantiti (Ah Ah Ah).” A few months later, he released the famous remix of the song, featuring Joeboy and Kuami Eugene. Then there was another popular remix, by DJ Yo! and Ax’el. This string of remixes have all contributed to the track’s ultimate global takeover and eventually topping International Charts, eventually becoming the #1 most Shazamed track in the US.

As of today, the infectious track remains the most streamed African song on Spotify, and YouTube’s most viewed by an African. He’s had a couple of “hard tracks” including Amaarae’s “Fantasy”, and Davido’s “La La”.

A press released has it that he’s working on his first full-length studio album and will be released via Atlantic Records in partnership with Warner Music South Africa.

14. Nalonda Nemala (Pallaso)

The “S” in the name Pallaso must at this point be replaced with a “C” for “Consistency”. Pius Mayanja alias Pallaso has over the years continued to outdo himself, with each release. Having capped 2020 with “Malamu”, he once again went ahead to churn out a set of bangers, including ‘Nalonda Nemala ‘, a meticulous tune which sees his reassure his love interest that he chose only and only her from the many and she’s his final decision and nothing can change. Among his other releases of 2021 has been “Ani Oyo”, and “Mpa Love”.

13. Baba (Burn) – Karole Kasita

Just after the pandemic robbed us off of the chance to enjoy her 2020 dance hall heavy track “Balance” due to the closure of bars and events, famed for her stage prowess, Karole Kasita once again went solo this year and dropped another lovely tune by the title ‘Baba (Burn)‘.

The Artin On The Beat produced track was released the same day as its music video and gives off an ideal Caribbean feel, as directed by Cinematographer Sasha Vybz. In the music video, Spice Diana and Judith Heard too made cameos in there, following the director’s concept of featuring influential women in the song’s music video.

12. Stay – The Kid LAROI, Justin Bieber

When this record dropped and later became a viral tiktok sensation and favorite, I hadn’t picked its vibe but of course, with it being played everywhere, and topping each countdown, I later learned to like it. The repetitive rhythm of “Stay” makes this pop song a dance hit and a TikTok favorite hence being named the Song of the Summer by Variety. The track debuted at number #3 on the Billboard’s Hot 100 chart. STAY marked the second time LAROI and Bieber collaborated, with the first being “Unstable” from “Justice,” Bieber’s sixth studio album.

11. Omwooyo – Liam Voice

Cloud Africa signed artist Liam Voice also popularly known as Voice Boy broke out last year with “Bus”, and he went ahead to win more hearts and expand his fan base even more with “Omwooyo”, a track that has won him a bunch of accolades, including Caller Tune of the Month in the MTN Caller Tunez Awards, Janzi Awards, a win at the 2021 Buzz Teenz Awards. His most recent release “Love Olinonya” isn’t just a personal favorite, but is greatly listened to and requested highly in mainstream media. Definitely a big winner from the year, 2021.

10. Forever (Remix) – Gyakie, Omah Lay

Ghanaian songstress Gyakie is the daughter of 80s Ghanaian highlife legend, Ernest ‘Owoahene’ Nana Acheampong, the album artwork for her 5-track Solo EP ‘SEED’s cover features a picture of her and her father.

The August 2020 project birthed smash hit single “Forever” that was released under Sony Music Entertainment West Africa/Flip the Music imprint and later served up a remix version with fellow fast riser Omah Lay with production credits from Kros and saw Gyakie and Omah Lay’s soothing voices to meet and create something incredible; – the Forever (Remix).

9. Radio Call.9 (An-Known)

An-Known, Liam Voice, and Victor Ruz with their various releases continued to be R&B’s most promising voices of Uganda.

The 23-year old’s lockdown-inspired Radio Call.9 anthem (with the lockdown and long distances between people necessitating long distances saw people having to use phones as the only way to communicate & keep in touch) was one of those songs that kept people in their feels whenever it played. We all love we some emotional music that’s packed with words and soothing melodies; this is what Radio Call.9 pulled off.

8. Sango (Eddy Kenzo, Martha Mukisa)

In his bid to support young emerging talents to have them realize their dreams and talents across the country, Africa’s Golden Boy and Big Talent Boss Eddy Kenzo teamed up with Martha Mukisa and dropped “Sango”.

The Brian Beats produced project was greatly enjoyed by the masses and received enormous plays at various spots and in mainstream media.

7. Mbimala (John Blaq)

Loosely translating to “I can do all”, John Blaq’s Mbimala embodies reassurance to his love interest who he sings to that nothing is hard for him to accomplish and there’s nothing he won’t do for her.

Mbimala was released in May, and an accompanying music video later in July as directed by Swangz Avenue’s Marvin Musoke, and audio by Bomba Music.

The singer as always showcases his prowess and deep voice wrapped in that soft melody to deliver this one, just like he did on “Ngamba”, “Don’t Be Like” among his other former releases.

6. Thank God (Vinka)

In September this year, Veronica Luggya Kiyinji (also professionally known as Vinka) serenaded the world with a brand new solo release titled ‘Thank God’ as an expression of Gratitude.

Asides the excellent production from Top Tanzanian producer Lizer and mixed/mastered by Kusseim. Another great standout from the track was its music video that featured exquisite choreography. The track was well-received, took over Tiktok and hit 1Million views in a space of 3 weeks from release.

5. Save Your Tears (The Weeknd)

This was expected, right? Before you can fold fists at me as to why a 2020 record is appearing on a countdown of 2021;😁🙈 in my defense; the Save Your Tears music video was released January 10th, 2021.

Taken off his 2020 LP “After Hours”, SYT was originally a solo project, and on 23rd April, The Weeknd’s frequent collaborator Ariana Grande hoped on to it for a remix, hence seeing it blast to #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 Top 10 making it the sixth number one entry for both artists on the chart.

“Save Your Tears’ MV was also the most-watched music video globally according to a report by Vevo

4. Feeling (LadiPoe, Buju)

In May, Mavins Records’ Ladipo Eso popularly known as Ladipoe (Poe) teamed up with Buju, and dropped an impressive feel-good track “Feeling”. 

The track presented a sonic reprieval from our worries as Ladipoe rapped about the need to find happiness even in the face of challenges. Life is short and the pursuit of happiness is what keeps us going.

Speaking about the song, the rapper remarked: “In these times, it’s hard to be grateful’, Ladipoe reflects. “Feeling” is a song about gratitude. It is a tune serenading the importance of tuning the bad thoughts off and projecting positivity. It did top Apple Music charts continent-wide and amassed over 14Million views on YouTube for both the Lyrics and the official music video of the track, and 12.5M listens on Spotify as of the time of writing this.

3: Tupaate (Pia Pounds)

Tupaate just like Ckay’s Love Nwantiti (Ah Ah Ah), and Kachumbali by Quex, the song received its flowers after quite a while. To think that a September 2020 song would come forward to 2021 and become an instant hit is something we can only attribute to favor and things falling in line when its their time.

Related: ‘Tupaate’ and Why NOW?

The blowing up of this track is largely due to viral Tiktok video of Mc Africa who would be watched sing the chorus of this song out passionately with “Issa Friday” as the punch line.

Tracy Kirabo also professionally known as Pia Pounds on the inspiration behind the track, she remarked that the track served as a dedication to everyone who made it out of the daunting events of 2020, as it revolves around expression of dance in many forms – mood and subject and croons while inviting out her love interest that they should both go hang out and have some fun.

Tupaate became the first song to top the Apple Music Top 100 and on the YouTube Chart, and first Ugandan female to do so ever since Azawi’s My Year, and third after Eddy Kenzo’s Weekend in the month of August.

It is also off an EP by the singer that was released in September the previous year and serves as the lead single from the 4 track project. The song later got a remix version in August.

2. My Year (Azawi)

Manifesting!! You know how we keep saying that the tongue is a creator, and how the statements we say over ourselves or the people/ things around us? Well, Priscilla Zawedde (also professionally known as Azawi) in May released a track titled “My Year” as a manifestation about how 2021 was going to be her year, and also as a message of hope to all countrymen about how this year was going to be different from the previous one.

When a second wave of the pandemic happened and necessitated a lockdown happened, many mocked the song for selling them false hope, however, the year has really been a good one for a number of people; I mean many have found love and gotten married, just like she sang, some have won big contracts, etc.

Anyhow, it has been a really good year for the crooner! She released her debut album in October, dominated the Apple Music Chart the next day with the entire LP charting, became one of the few Ugandan acts to actually top the Top 100 chart (as we are all aware, it’s always topped by West African/ European acts) but she broke barriers with her records. Azawi has won over 15 awards this year including Buzz Teenz Awards, Janzi Awards, among others in just 2 years since debut; and how can I forget, our feature on the New York Times Times Square & in London.

The Michael Fingers produced record appears as track 10/16 on her album “African Music”.

  1. Oluvannyuma – Zulitums 

Blacq Avay Records signee Ssemwogerere Sam also professionally known as Zulitums took the world by storm last year, when he added singing/ recording artist/ songwriter to his docket of talents when he dropped his debut solo single “Tabu”, “Easy” and later a body of work “Invictus” in November of the same year.

The new raving star once again in August on the 27th served up his fans with a new impressive masterpiece of a song tagged “Oluvannyuma”. The euphoric single is said to be a buildup lead to his forthcoming album that he’s already working on.

The rhythm, vocal prodigy, and glossy polished abilities all were showcased with this one track. It was released alongside an emotional music video directed by Sasha Vybz.  

His former album accumulated over 1.2Million streams. We do trust that come next year, he’ll steal the show once again when his new LP arrives.

Check out these Top 21, and the full overall 50 of the year on Spotify below!

Read Also: Best of 2020, The Music Year in Review