Celtic Moods Awards 2021: Best Music

2021 will be remembered fondly as the year I rediscovered pop punk music.

Best Pop Song: The Louvre by Lorde

When Lorde released Solar Power, I decided it was finally time to listen to her previous album Melodrama. And I’m all the better for it.

Though never a single, The Louvre stood out sonically. Known for being an “old soul”, Lorde finally sounded her age on the track, singing about a “sweetheart psychopathic crush” who she overthinks the “p-punctuation use” of. 

Except 19-year-olds don’t ordinarily dare to embrace different mediums in a single song. Lorde goes between commanding the listener to “Broadcast the the boom, boom, boom, boom / And make ‘em all dance to it” and quipping “But we’re the greatest, they’ll hang us in the Louvre / Down the back, but who cares? Still the Louvre” with a kind of self-awareness not typically found in her genre or generation.

Together with a production that dares to be different, an excellent use of her lower register, and starkly intimate recounts, The Louvre brings a refreshing perspective of how it feels to fall in love.

Honourable mentions: If We Make It Through December (cover) by Phoebe Bridgers, Forever Winter by Taylor Swift (I was initially going to make a category for “Best Taylor Swift song”)

Best K-pop Song: 0X1=LOVESONG (I Know I Love You) by TXT

I discovered this song (the title is so long that I shan’t bother typing it out) when listening to a “K-pop reading” playlist, except I couldn’t focus on reading because the song was INCREDIBLE.

The highlight comes during the chorus, where main vocalist Taehyun crashes in to shout “I know I love you!”. Combined with other members’ gravelly voices, the song explodes into a repetitive — but never tiresome — anthem.

Featured singer Seori’s light, breathy vocals should be a dynamic contrast to the song, but it instead gets lost in all the cacophony. Still, I welcome the addition — most K-pop rock songs tend to be “too perfect” (see Dreamcatcher’s discography), so I appreciate the raw, unabridged chaos that highlights the song’s emotion.

Honourable mentions: When the Rain Stops by Red Velvet’s Wendy, Ready to Love by SEVENTEEN

Best Pop Punk Song: Live Again by Grayscale

I turned to pop punk music to cope with my grief, eventually creating a 38-track playlist. The songs were amazing, but one outshone them all. 

Live Again begins with the heartwrenching lines “Broke down in the waiting room / It’s been 30 days since I talked to you”. It gets worse (by which I mean even more devastating) from there. Most verses are sung in a nonchalant monotone uncharacteristic of Grayscale, but there’s really no need for emotive singing with soul-pummelling lines like “Tell me why’s God got it out for you / Is he bored up there? / Is his ego bruised?”

The song ends on a stunning conclusion: the singer’s pleas for his father to “take my heart so we can live again” are backed by a gospel choir, reminiscent of the one in their equally gut-wrenching Tommy’s Song. 

Supported by a continuous thumping beat that encapsulates anxiety and desperation, the song brings you on a devastating emotional journey, which was perhaps precisely what I needed.

Honourable mentions: Arrivals/Departures by Silverstein, Whatsername by Green Day (now that 2021 is coming to an end I’m trying to be more nonchalant, and this song definitely helps)

Best Musical Song: Breathe (from the In the Heights movie soundtrack)

I previously awarded In the Heights the ‘Best Movie’ award, but what I didn’t say was I watched this movie in the front row of a cinema. My neck hurt and everyone’s faces were distorted. But when this song came on, I still cried my eyes out. As a fellow young girl starting university (“the one who made it out”), I could relate to Nina all too well.

What the song lacks in lyrics, it makes up for with amazing composition. Broadway loves a good company vocal moment, but how often are the lyrics in another language? The highlight is certainly at the bridge, where Nina belts out “I got every scholarship / Saved every dollar / The first to go to college / How do I tell them why / I’m coming back home?” (Uncoincidentally, this is also the part where I started bawling.)

Although Leslie Grace’s voice is nowhere near as powerful as original Broadway cast member Mandy Gonzalez, I prefer the movie rendition. Grace’s husky, dulcet voice adds a quiet layer of vulnerability to the song, one that reminds you she’s just a young girl doing her very best to represent her home in an elite (and racist) college.

Honourable mentions: Not My Father’s Son from Kinky Boots, Everything I Know from the In the Heights musical soundtrack (I will never stop lamenting over this being removed from the movie)

(Note: ‘Best Album’ would go STRAIGHT to Red (Taylor’s Version), but I’m thinking of working on a full-length review for that!)

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