A 2021 Musical Year In Review

Woman sitting at diner table with blue coffee mug in her hand. She is wearing a cheetah print sweater with long brown hair and a red headband.

This year felt like four different years. I felt like we truly lived in 2021 in quarters or in seasons at time. Each one bringing some unique kind of chapter or story to it. Some kind of new wave or page of live being unfolded before us.

What an adventure.

I say that with joy, enthusiasm, and also an eye roll because that’s what this year was. Not all at once, but moments of complete and utter joy, episodes of just excessive enthusiasm for life, and the eye rolls of the tribulations of our mundanity of existing in a global pandemic and all the other things life throws at us.

The winter brought cautiousness, fear, a continuation of 2020 with little glimmers of hope, and little bits of happiness and personal growth.

The spring brought life. The spring brought us the vaccine. The spring brought us little mistakes as we ventured back into the world. The spring brought us back to the past and then threw us into the future.

The summer brought energy. The summer was a fever dream, a record-breaking run of show. It brought confidence, it brought assuredness. It brought that last push needed to put you exactly where you needed to be.

The fall brought the normalcy. Everything settled in. Everyone settling up. It felt like there maybe was a way out. The fall brought a new chapter yet again to wrap up a year in which seems recognizable to the beginning of it all.

Phoenix – Big Red Machine (feat. Fleet Foxes and Anais Mitchell)

This song spoke to my spirit. You see, I have longingly asked myself WHY this year. Why do I have to bear the weight? Why do I have to take the long way? How come I am the one gripping the wheel, white-knuckled into the unknown time and time again?

I got hurt a lot this year. Like physically. And it sucked. REALLY BAD. And no one really knew. No one really had an idea. But I made it through time and time again, like a phoenix. I also went through a ton of personal growth through it all. Not just because of the injuries, but also from dating, from life, from the things thrown at me. 2021 was a tremendous growth year. Through the physical pain, through the emotional pain, through the growing pains, through just getting through it all. I never once for a second thought I couldn’t get through it. I just had those moments of like, “What the actual f*ck? Can I just catch a break?”

And I did. I finally did and was able to forget and move on, and that’s what it means to be a phoenix. Except you don’t totally forget. It’s always with you. The pains, the scars, physical or not, stay with you. They become your feathers that you proudly wear as you reach your wings up to the sky and fly off to your next journey.

All Eyes On Me – Bo Burnham

Oh HELL. This special wrecked me. I loved it. I hated it. I loved it harder. This song, though. THIS SONG. Spoke to me. In this song, Bo talks about how he had to take time away from things to better himself.

I’m an incredibly extroverted person, but even I need time to recharge. With all the hubbub of reintegrating into the world, it can be so hard to take the time away to do that. I’ve fully embraced ambivert since the pandemic, henceforth.

But the part where he yells at himself to “Get the f*ck up.” That part. That part right there killed me. Because that has my inner voice in the past when I was trying my hardest and working to do my best, but I was exhausted or burned out or in an anxiety spiral, and I just wanted to be so do damn tough. “Just get up, Mary. Stop being lazy. Cut the shit, Mary. Quit worrying so much, GOD. What is wrong with you?”

*clears throat*

Okay. Let’s try it again, but nicer this time.

Negative self-talk is a plague of the brain and has been something I’ve worked on this year, tremendously. Learning to just be NICE to myself. Learning to ask myself what I NEED. God, it’s a mindblowingly life changing thing.

waves – Tame Impala Remix – Miguel

This summer was another chapter. It had a clear start and clear end. And it just was a PARTY. I literally feel remorse for my liver.

Latter Days – Big Red Machine (feat. Anais Mitchell)

“How long do you think it’s gonna last?” has been a question weighing on us all for almost two year. Two years of restriction and death and fear and just complete and utter chaos. How the hell are we still in this? As I am finishing up this blog post, I am sitting here with Covid, myself. I’m thankful that I have a minor case, but it’s been an emotional rollercoaster of constantly asking, “How long do you think it’s gonna last” over and over with any symptom that I have, counting down the days until day 10 so I can finally see people. That’s the worst part. Once you start feeling better (or if you didn’t have symptoms at all), the loneliness sets in.

Bored – Billie Eilish

God, dating was getting exhausting. I literally had to take myself in and out of it time and time again. Every time it was some new ghost, some actual unhinged person, or some sad excuse. I was getting BORED. Same old shit, different day. But really, ghosting? Grow up. Not ready for a relationship? I’ll see you in one next week. Not over your ex? Go to therapy. For chrissake, it was genuinely getting more and more unhinged the more I kept going.

I genuinely had 2 of the top 3 worst dates of my life this year. Like complete bamboozlement. I still scratch my head over some of the men who seemed to get past my red flag radar. But at the end of it all, I realized one thing.

I realized that I was having such a hard time with dating because I wasn’t dating what I deserved. Over the last 2.5 years, I leveled up. I grew, I learned more about myself, I set my boundaries, I began to love myself. I was settling for less just for the sake of anything to work. And you know what? God/The Universe/Whatever you personally believe in…doesn’t stand for that. So, I guess I just kept getting thrown lessons until I got it into my head that I, yes me, deserve love. I deserve someone wonderful.

Runner’s Up with a brief WHY:

Friend of the Devil (Cover) – Mumford and Sons: This one reminds me of my Uncle Jim. Sometimes you just need to add vodka to the orange juice, show up unannounced, and be unapologetic about who you are.

I Wanna Be Adored – The Stone Roses: I like this song strictly because it reminded me of being in the middle of the street for a festival. That’s it.

Champagne Problems – Taylor Swift: Shout out to the time I fell in the bushes on New Year’s Eve and made my dad take a picture of it.

Amsterdam – Gregory Alan Isakov: Crying alone, walking down Halsted late at night. I deserved so much more.