Another month, another ten thousand gallons of new music slopping into ecosystem. Maybe you spent a lot of time listening to it all, or maybe you just spent most of it lying down and looking at the ceiling, both equally valid. Fortunately for you, I have dutifully put together the best of the best songs that dropped in the month of March 2021.
Music-things-of-note from March: The delayed Grammy’s finally happened, the performances were good didn’t involve any uncomfortable collaborations, Beyoncé got and Taylor got their dues, and Coldplay are apparently still on the go. There was a slew of good albums released, including Nick Jonas’ spaceman, Justin Bieber’s Justice and Ziggy Alberts’ searching for freedom, plus another pleasantly ambient record from Lana Del Rey.
Housekeeping things: I’ve made a new page dedicated to all the playlists for anyone looking for a quick access point. I’ll get around to adding older ones at some point. Also, subscribe to my newsletter, I’m relaunching it this week probably!
Alright, here they are then: The Top 20 songs to debut in March.
20. Follow You by Imagine Dragons
Phew have recent years made it uncool to become an Imagine Dragons fan, huh? They may have become the butt of the joke (something which the music video readily acknowledges with guest spots from Always Sunny’s Mac and Dee), but I’ve invested too much time in the band to quit now and save face, so here I am to tell you to listen to one of two new songs, Follow You. Fellow firebreathers (the fandom name according to Wikipedia) will know that lead singer Reynolds endured the breakdown of his marriage in the not so distant past, but it turns out there was a happy ending: he and his wife got back together after months apart and are now living happily with a child in tow. Follow You is the somewhat-angsty emoting of his new found devotion to his wife (‘I will follow you way down wherever you may go/I’ll follow you way down to your deepest low), touching on some of their signature sounds and showcasing Reynolds vocals. Jury is still out on whether I like this, or if I’m just standing steadfast in my dedication to my once-favourite band.
19. 3 O’Clock Things by AJR
Releasing their fourth full-length album are everyone’s favourite music nerds, the Met brothers Adam, Jack and Ryan. There’s a lot to enjoy if their alternative electropop schtick is for you, the most interesting cut from the crop of new songs being 3 O’Clock Things. The song exudes a sense of showmanship that feels like you’ve taken some hallucinogens, gone to a magician’s show and the magician has launched into a musical number. It’s a got a speakeasy-jazz element to it, and they deliver their oh-so-clever-and-woke lyrics with their usual nuances: “It’s kinda funny how you vote for someone/ To vote for someone to vote for someone/And you might end up with someone evil/But you say that he means well”. It might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but they’ve done exactly what they set out to do.
18. Spread Love (feat. Bibiane Z) by Mausio
The origin of sound becomes more and more difficult to pinpoint as time goes on, but here some of the influences at play in Mausio’s excellent Spread Love: The Weeknd’s Blinding Lights; A-ha’s Take On Me; any Sia + Guetta collaboration ever, Adele. It’s modern 80s electropop, it’s got a catchy little hook, and if you play the first five seconds you’ll know whether this is your bag or if you think the trend is becoming to played out, so maybe just hit play?
17. Dead Girl! by Au/Ra
Sometimes when choosing songs for the top 20, I sometimes cut things because when it’s hard to really pinpoint what it is about the song that grabs you, but Dead Girl! is too good to leave out. The vocal is tight, there’s a cheerful sort of morbidity from Au/Ra (‘I’m just a dead girl, don’t live in your world/I just roll my eyes back every time I hear that’) that’s like ‘I’m shocking, but I’m also cute – deal with it!’ Whatever it that’s making this work, it’s really working.
16. Slow Clap by Gwen Stefani
In modern pop there’s a lot of pressure for artists, particularly female artists, to reinvent themselves, so you’ve got to give full respect to Stefani for unleashing Slow Clap, a song which could sit sonically alongside Rich Girl and Holaback Girl. It’s pure, infectious reggae-inspired pop, and is a positive sign for her upcoming album Let Me Reintroduce Myself. The real questions are: does it have a place in the modern pop landscape, and does this even matter?
15. It’s Raining, It’s Pouring by Anson Seabra
Purveyor of angsty pop ballads, Anson Seabra has propped his heels on top of the traditional nursery rhyme and crafted yes another gut-wrenching emotionally-charged hit. It’s the kind of song that shouldn’t really work, but the conviction and frankness of Seabra’s vocal really sells it.
14. tobacco by ILON
To the first person tell me which ABBA song this sounds like: I will post you a crisp five pound note. ILON has woven a light, catchy and perfect pop song, which contains one of the year’s best hook-lyrics so far: “I woke up to the smell of tobacco/but there was no smoke left in the air.” Listen to it, take it in, please just absorb this song, I beg you.
13. circus by Ziggy Alberts
It is with regret that I must talk once again about Australia’s most talented Anti-vaxxer, Ziggy Alberts. Whilst I’m still reeling off discovering that one of my favourite songs from 2020 was actually an unironic tin-hat anthem, it does not completely detract from the fact that his new album searching for freedom delivered the exact acoustic-led rain-against-the-car-window record I was hoping for, the crux point – circus: an anti-circus activism song that is also a metaphor for freedom. Give it a listen, I promise it’ll get ya.
12. Die For You (feat. Dominic Fike) by Justin Bieber
I have limited myself to three (3) songs from the excellent Justin Bieber album, because otherwise it would dominate the whole thing – which would be reasonable because it’s a strong and varied pop album. Chuck any prior prejudices you have for the teen pop star and listen to this with an open mind, because – it’s a banger that borrows from high octane stadium-ready pop-rock, via the very talented Dominic Fike, delivering a soft chorus that goes heavy in the musical interludes. [Other songs of note from Justice: Deserve You, Hold On, Ghost, and Peaches (feat. Giveon and Daniel Caesar)]
11. If Only by Tom Grennan
Tom Grennan, the most prominent blue-eyed soul singer of the moment, released his second album, which has a decent selection of bangers on it, but none quite so instantly-good as If Only: a high energy, good-for-running anthem with gravelly vocals, a massive chorus, a Sinner-Man esque bridge, and a satisfying finish. You just know would be a phenomenal thing to experience live.
10. Off My Face by Justin Bieber
Second of the three songs in this month’s top 20 from renown R&B singer Justin Bieber’s new career-best record, Justice, is Off My Face – the album’s obvious standout. It’s classic Bieber-and-his-acoustic-guitar, it shows off his softer vocals and whispered falsetto which have always been his greatest strength, the hook is on point, and reminds us why so many fell into his gravity over a decade ago. The song that will inevitably spawn ten thousand covers.
09. Found by Jacob Banks
Jacob Banks possesses one of those voices that epitomises the soul genre. His latest, Found, is raw, honest, and carries a heap of emotion for a song which is just him and a guitar line (which sounds a bit like it’s going to break into When You Say Nothing At All at any moment) before the strings kick in to tie it all up. A straight shooting, heart-breaking lament, and the best sad song to drop in March 2020.
08. Do You by Ken Fu + Duke Al
You know when someone you know makes a song and you cannot separate yourself from it enough to tell if it’s actually good or not? Well, whilst I know Ken Fu, I am ABSOLUTLEY CERTAIN that his song with Duke Al is a banger. It’s cringey, cheerful blue-eyed hip hop with lyrics I’ve not been able to shake since I heard the demo of this months ago, including but not limited to: ‘be my girl/I could show you all around my world/spend a little minute by my side/maybe we could do this all the time/JUST MOVE TO ME’. Does it lack a bit of polish and production? Yes. Could the vocals use work? Maybe. But don’t those things just add to the charm of it? If I had it my way, this would be a global hit.
07. Till Forever Falls Apart by Ashe + FINNEAS
Ashe uses her storytelling chops to deliver a wistful, end-of-the-world love song with Lana-Del-Rey-channelling vocals and a guest spot from the older Eilish sibling, who really steals the show with the line ‘So this is it, that’s how it ends/I guess there’s nothing more romantic than dying with your friends’. It’s the sweet earnestness which delivers the irony on this charming ‘we’re all gonna die’ duet.
06. 2Drunk by Nick Jonas
One of the two songs I’ve allowed myself from Nick Jonas’ new album that features in this month’s top 20 is 2Drunk: a cute, lets-spend-the-weekend-inside-and-in-love, honeymoon-but-forever song, which the middlest Jonas brother lands neatly. [Other songs of note from his album spaceman: Don’t Give Up On Us, Delicious, and Selfish.]
05. The Kiss of Venus (Dominic Fike) by Paul McCartney
Kicking off this top five is, to nobody’s surprise more than me, a remix of Paul McCartney’s The Kiss of Venus from his album last year, this time featuring the exceptional Dominic Fike. The former Beatle sounds just like he did on FourFiveSeconds: vocal distortion, pitch altering, impossible to tell who it is. Going back to the original, Fike’s stamp has delivered this Mr-Bluesky-esq jaunt into a rip-roaring surrealist alt-pop which is shockingly good.
04. As I Am (feat. Khalid) by Justin Bieber
Where his last album changes was all about subtle R&B, his new record Justice is a wall-to-wall shot of pop anthemia. It’s hard to tell which of the many, many 10/10 songs on this album will stand the tests of time, but the Khalid-featuring As I Am has the bones to be the best of them all: huge, anthemic chorus, Zedd-style ticking, a perfectly pitched build, and a guest spot from one of the sturdiest vocalists of the moment. Inject this into my veins, over, and over, and over.
03. The Thought by Emma Kelly
I’ve been on a journey with this song. First it had me wanting. The title and hook, ‘the thought‘ feels incomplete, like there should be another word or something which ties it together a little. ‘The thought’ isn’t a standalone concept. It needs context. But on repeat plays it becomes clear that it’s the open-endedness ‘the thought‘ and the way which Kelly delivers it over and over which puts this feeling of incompleteness into hyper-focus. She sings that she is in love with ‘the thought’, the intangible idealism of a person which in reality is never quite the truth of it. It’s ingenious. Oh, and its a total banger.
02. Favourite Song by Tim Chadwick
I’ve been waving my Tim Chadwick foam finger at anyone who will listen ever since his top-tier sad-banger I Need To Know. With the unending onslaught of new music every single week, it’s been retired from my current rotations, nothing has really come along to replace this very specific void until now, once again via Chadwick, with his new track Favourite Song. He’s back doing what he does best with a huge, emotive vocal, dripping in electronic drums, 80s influences, echoing backing vocals, and a melody which will will break your heart. Simply: phenomenal.
01. This Is Heaven by Nick Jonas
Sometimes a song comes along and you’re like ‘yes, this is it, this is the song’. And Nick Jonas did it this month, with This Is Heaven. After debuting it on SNL early in the month, the studio recording dropped and, folks: it’s far and away my most played song of 2021. His best since Jealous by a long, long way. It’s euphoric, soulful, vocally impeccable, and that saxophone break is to die for. A really fucking *huge* song.