My end-of-year coverage starts next week. I’ll be posting an interview with my pick for best new synthpop artist of the year, then counting down my favorite videos, songs, and albums of 2022.
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But before we begin this year’s coverage, let’s take a look back at the best music of 2021 to put the synthpop landscape into context and revisit some outstanding tunes. Last year was an incredibly manic time as the is-it-over-or-not coronavirus pandemic upended everyone’s plans to return to normalcy and forced artists to reflect on a broad swath of themes from isolation to intimacy. Music, our forever constant, offered inspiration and hope.
Best new synthpop artist of 2021
Each year when I consider the best new synthpop artist, most of the contenders have already released a handful of singles, carefully honing their craft. That’s not the case for Cold Connection, my pick for best new synthpop artist of 2021. The Swedish duo seemingly emerged out of nowhere, debuting a full-length album that felt polished and assured. Seconds of Solitude made such a stunning impact on the synthpop scene that Cold Connection found themselves switching record labels for one closer to home, debuting their album a second time, and getting the unexpected opportunity to make videos for their songs, all the while drawing thousands of fans.
To learn more about this incredible new synthpop band, read my interview with Cold Connection.
Best synthpop music video of 2021
In 2021, I discovered an artist whose talent and ambition knows no bounds. CZARINA makes the sort of bombastic, genre-defying music that demands not mere videos, but music films that add extravagant visual elements to her art. “Wonderland,” a tribute to her adopted homeland of Galicia in northwest Spain, features a fully realized fairytale storyline, stunning location shots, and a collection of incredibly sophisticated costumes that are quickly becoming one of her trademarks. PS: You’re going to see a lot more CZARINA again in this year’s countdowns.
Here’s my complete list of the best synthpop videos of 2021.
Best synthpop song of 2021
A couple of years ago, I named German duo Beyond Border the best new synthpop artist of 2020. They have not disappointed me since. In 2021, Beyond Border released their thrilling debut album, Awakening, led by its epic single “What Makes the World Go Round.” This dancefloor banger is a celebration of music, dancing, friendship, and all the other joyous things that get us through life—things we sorely missed throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Beyond Border continues to turn out new music, including a just-released EP called Saint that will soon be followed by Sinner.
Here’s my complete list of the best synthpop songs of 2021.
Best synthpop album of 2021
Cold Connection, my pick for the year’s best new artist, also topped my best albums list with their stunning debut, Seconds of Solitude, an album 10 years in the making. Seconds of Solitude incorporates cold, mechanical beats, menacing electronics, and emotionally resonant vocals, which they combine into delicately crafted songs about life, love, and loneliness. They mine influence from their heroes Depeche Mode and Rational Youth but do so in a way that feels modern and warm. Cold Connection returned this year with a remix collection of songs from Seconds of Solitude and an appearance on at least one compilation album.
Here’s my complete list of the best synthpop albums of 2021.