Best of 2021 – Last year we missed doing our annual “Best Of.” This year we present it after a year of quarantine albums galore. Tours didn’t start until May but new music was flowing from the start of 2021. 2022 is already aiming to be a busy year. Here are our choices for the Best of 2021.
We’ve evolved from Phoebe Bridgers, Megan Thee Stallion and others of last year to a new crop of artists.
Best Label – Fire Talk Records – Home to Bnny, Mamalarky, Packs and more this boutique label is setting up to be the next Saddle Creek Records.
Secretly Group @secretlygroup, Saddle Creek Records @saddlecreek, Fire Talk Records @firetalkrecs, Don Giovanni Records @DonGiovanniRecs
Nest New Artist – “New” is always relative. Georgia Maq has been part of Camp Cope, and Isabella Manfredi was part of The Preatures. Our winner is Ashe who album Ashlyn was hard to put down this year.
Georgia Maq @goldsoundz_, Allison Russell @allisonrussellmusic, S.G. Goodman @s.g.goodman, Ashe @ashemusic, Jillette Johnson @jillettejohnson, Hawxx @hawxxmusic, Noa Kirel @noakirel, Kill Birds @killbirdsmusic, Killboy @killboy , Sloppy Jane @sloppyjanebandd , Ydegirl @ydegirl, The Linda Lindas @the_linda_lindas, Allison Ponthier @allisonponthier, Isabella Manfredi @isabellamanfredi, Pom Pom Squad @pompomsquad
Best Local (Colorado) Artist – Local artists can often be touring or even national acts. This category was very competitive with the amount of quarantine albums that came out. Our winner is Companion who mesmerized us in the Spring. They will quickly become a national act.
Best Dance – Dance is also electronic and electro pop. Magdalena Bay & Sofi Tukker are the 800 lb gorillas in this category. Kito is our winner for surprising collaborations.
Magdalena Bay @magdalenabay, Sofi Tukker @sofitukker, Kito @kito
Best Pop – Pop like Indie is often open to interpretation. It is often what dominates at venues. Our winner is Charlotte Cardin whose Phoenix album was one of the best albums this year.
Hana Vu @hanavuuu, Lucy Dacus @lucydacus, Japanese Breakfast @jbrekkie, Baby Queen @queenofthebabies, Charlotte Cardin @charlottecardin, Jess Chalker @jess_chalker_, May-A @mayacumming, Ashe @ashemusic, Girl In Red @girlinred, Angèle @angele_vl, Sloppy Jane @sloppyjanebandd, Nadia Vaeh @nadiavaeh, Olivia Rox @oliviarox, Number One Popstar @numberonepopstar, Bahari @bahari, Noga Erez @nogaerez, Lola Lennox @lolalennex
Best Rock – Rock is often the guitar driven beat that keeps you going. Kill Birds, who have been touring with Foo Fighters are our winner.
Royal and the Serpent @royalandtheserpent, Amyl and the Sniffers @amylandthesniffers, Mattiel @mattielworldwide , Upsahl @upsahlmusicl, Self Esteem @selfesteemselfesteem, Kill Birds @killbirdsmusic, Nadia Sheikh @nadiasheikhmusic, Red Hook @weareredhook, Pom Pom Squad @pompomsquad
Best Indie – Indie always means both a sound but also a level of development. These are the artists at the small venues touring to survive. We have a diverse selection this year. Bnny is our winner.
Best Experimental – There is always a “flinch” moment when you saw experimental. It involves a great deal of risk as personified by our winner Fifi Rong who is working on her dual album set with one album all in English, and one all in Chinese. She is crowdfunding now.
Insect Ark @insectark, Fifi Rong @fifirong, Sasami @sasamiashworth, Irreversible Entanglements @irreversibleentanglements, Haru Nemuri @haru_nemuri
Best Hip Hop – This is the first year that FEMMUSIC has this category. There may be some arguments as to whether all these artists fit it. Coi Leray is the best newcomer in this area. Ray BLK is our winner.
Bia @bia, Tones and I @tonesandi, Doja Cat @dojacat, Sza @sza, Cardi B @iamcardib, Megan Thee Stallion @theestallion, Coi Leray @coileray, Ms Banks @msbanks, Ray BLK @rayblk, Remi Wolf @remiwolf, Tinashe @tinashenow
Best Jazz – We will admit to not hearing as much jazz this year. Laufey is the winner with original interpretations of classics.
Laufey @laufey, Nnenna Freelon @officialnnenna
Best Country – Brandi Carlile is a favorite in this category and will take home more GRAMMYs. Allison Russell wins for being new and original.
Brandi Carlile @brandicarlile, Allison Russell @allisonrussellmusic, Yola @iamyolaofficial, CMAT @cmatbaby, Jackson & Sellers @jacksonsellersmusic, Ingrid Andress @ingridandress
Best Heavy Metal – Infected Rain is a former winner in this category. Jinjer, Halestorm & The Pretty Reckless dominate. The Velveteers are this year’s winner.
Hawxx @hawxxmusic, Edge of Paradise @edgeofparadise, Jinjer @jinjer_official, The Velveteers @thevelveteers, Infected Rain @infectedrain_official, The Pretty Reckless @theprettyreckless, Halestorm @halestormrocks
Best R & B – This category includes powerhouses like Arlo Parks and Dawn Richard. Alewya is our winner for new and original music this year.
Muni Long @munilong, India Shawn @indiashawn, Dawn Richard @dawnrichard, Alewya @alewya11, Arlo Parks @arloparks, Tkay Maidza @tkaymaidza, Danielia Cotton @danieliacotton, Saleka @saleka
Best Surprise – A “surprise” for us is that unexpected performance when it was not expected. It includes some risky performances such as LVXURI and Big Klit. S.G. Goodman is our hands down winner. We caught her as an opener and she garnered as much reaction as the headliner. She is a blunt, and emotive songwriter.
S.G. Goodman @s.g.goodman, Kiesza @kiesza, LVXURI @mx_lvxuri, Big Klit @klitoriusmaximus
Best Comeback – This has been a surprisingly competitive category. Whether it’s the return of ABBA after a long time to Adele’s new album. The big surprise this month is Taylor Swift taking the world with the longest song. She is our winner.
Kylie Minogue @kylieminogue, Avril Lavigne @avrillavigne, Deborah Gibson @debbiegibson, Liz Phair @LizPhairOfficial, Taylor Swift @taylorswift , ABBA @ABBA, Adele @adele, Lorde @lorde
At first listen, “Leap of Faith,” seems like the ultimate carefree anthem, however, the inspiration and true meaning to the single digs much deeper. Vaeh wrote the song as no stranger to hardship, which can be discovered when she describes her experience with having next to nothing, but she still pursued her dreams. “I lived in my car to save money for my dreams and it was some of the best times in my life; couch hopping at friend’s places and just being a vagabond,” Vaeh explains. “Sometimes comfort is just a trap in disguise that is truly holding us back from reaching our highest potential.”
Written by Nadia Vaeh and Daena, “Spellbinding” delves into Vaeh’s past experiences with toxic relationships and building healthy relationships with yourself and with future partners. “I have always found myself in codependent relationships. This song was drawn from the place of really wanting to break free from the ‘love drug’ and learning to focus on loving myself and learning how to have healthy relationships with healthy boundaries,” explains Vaeh. “This song was almost my last hurrah in utilizing crappy relationships as escapism.”
She has teamed up with Peace Over Violence once again and will be donating proceeds from the single to the organization. “Peace Over Violence helps people get back on their feet and break free from domestic violence. It takes a lot of self-love to leave these situations that may not be healthy for us. I love the work they do and was fortunate enough to meet some of the team and volunteers as well as tour their offices here in Los Angeles last year when I aligned the release of my song ‘Boomerang’ with their amazing cause,” explains Vaeh. The track was produced by Andrew Gomez and Tyler Spratt, mixed by Tyler Spratt, and mastered by Paris Minzer.
Nadia Vaeh is the pop superstar you wish you knew. She was born in Atlanta and is now in Los Angeles. In 2019 she had a bittersweet Christmas song called “Holidazed and Confused.” This year she has a joyous song called “Christmas Cards.”
Written by Nadia Vaeh and Dion Shaw, “Christmas Cards” rings in the holiday season with love and newfound traditions. “One day, I will have a partnership with lots of secret notes and inside jokes where we build lots of memories and traditions together,” explains Vaeh. Christmas cards were a staple for her family growing up, which help spark inspiration for this song. “Cards were always big for my family, and my mom would display them on the mantle every year around the holidays,” says Vaeh. “I feel like tradition is so important. For now, I am creating some new holiday traditions with myself, and I look forward to sharing and adding to these with someone special one day.” The track was produced by Dion Shaw and Tyler Spratt, mixed by Tyler Spratt, and mastered by Paris Minzer.
For the past year Vaeh has been putting out a new song and video a month. These singles included “Monroe” on empowerment, “Anxiety” on mental illness and more. Each song also has donated money to a different cause including Girl Up, Alliance of Hope, Peace Over Violence and Human Right Campaign.
Vaeh’s secret is a great team and the ability to collaborate. If you read the credits you will find many names, and many of the same names producing, directing her music. FEMMUSIC was happy to interview Vaeh about her career. For info visit https://www.nadiavaeh.com/
FEMMUSIC: Can you describe your songwriting technique? Am I correct in hearing you begin with lyrics?
NV: Typically I begin with lyrics or a melody idea. Sometimes a song can just start with a single word, like “Boomerang” and other times it can begin with just a melody idea like in “Mirrors”.
FEMMUSIC: Tell me about some of your collaborators, especially Tyler Spratt and Dion Shaw. How did you meet? What do they bring to a project?
NV: I love my team and would not have been able to cultivate the sound that I had dreamed of for so long without them. We are all stronger together and interestingly I met them on separate occasions and just saw the synergies. In the beginnings of our all working together, Tyler and Dion had not even met in person as Dion is based in Australia. We have been expanding out our team and have been collaborating with a couple producers/songwriter out of Nashville (we love you Andrew Gomez, Daena Rodgers and Jen Miller!) Some of the new music we have lined up has really been a beautiful evolution. I’ve also been doing a lot of co-writes for other artists with friends and that’s been fun to branch out in this way as well.
FEMMUSIC: Tell me about Zane and Noor Gharzeddine. How did you meet? How do you work with them to design a video?
NV: So Noor is my cousin from my dad’s side! We’ve worked together on music video projects prior to “Anxiety”. I ended up connecting with ZANE through a Film bidding website that I made a post on looking for someone of his caliber to create a video with. The project I originally connnected with him on did not go as planned, but we became friends through the experience and bonded over being Lebanese lol. Since my cousin was in Lebanon during the majority of the logistical coordination for “Anxiety” as well as for the filming was a no brainer to bring on ZANE to help fulfill the vision in full. My cousin worked really hard to ensure that the vision was clearly communicated and we all did several three-way chats and zoom calls as well as email threads (galore) to create this visual.
FEMMUSIC: I saw you were part of a Women In Music Atlanta panel in August. What made you move to LA? How have both cities influenced and changed your music and style?
NV: That was a really uplifting and fun panel to be a part of and helped me reconnect to my roots. It was also super cool to link up with some fellow Atlanta-bred indie artists.
I decided to move out to LA because I really enjoyed the collaborative culture here. I was coming out to visit quite a bit and realized I was growing so much in the small windows of my visits. I will always have a love and appreciation for my home city and it’s shaped me as an artist in person so much, but LA is where I’ve been able to do the most healing and really bloom into the artist I always wanted to be. Atlanta gave me my grit and LA made me stronger.
FEMMUSIC: You’ve released a number of singles, but haven’t released an EP or album. What benefits do you see to releasing singles only? Will there be an EP or album in the future?
NV: Oh yes! I have EPs and albums in the works, but at this stage in my career singles are the move! I also really enjoy building and branching off of one song in a very detailed way as I grow further into my artist skin as well as grow my fan-base.
FEMMUSIC: A number of your songs you’ve donated portions of the proceeds to different organizations. What motivates your activism and does it manifest beyond the donations?
NV: I do this because it’s why I’m here on this earth. My artistry is meant to shine light on various causes and working with organizations that take the intention of my songs to heart with their work is an additional way I can perhaps make a difference in my time here. In alignment with my artistry I also really enjoy mentoring young people and have been developing a school program to aid teens with issues involving body image, anxiety, self-acceptance and healthy self-esteem.
FEMMUSIC: What song (not your own) has had the biggest influence on you and why?
NV: Recently Demi Lovatos “I love Me”. I’ve struggled with orthorexia on and off and body dysmorphia which is an issue so much on the rise with social media for both men and women. I really admire Demi and how she uses her voice and artistry.
FEMMUSIC: What challenges, if any, have you faced as a woman in the music industry? And how did you overcome them?
NV: Lol I think being a woman in the music industry is automatically setting you up for adversity and struggle. It is not an industry that is kind to women. I will say, women are so incredibly strong though and built to endure the pain, which I hope one day will not be a norm. I’ve been undervalued for my thoughts and ideas, talked down to, sexually violated in various ways, been “demoted” for declining these sexual advances or standing up to myself, not been seen for my talents or contributions of the mind but for how much “heat” I bring to a room. It’s hard as hell to be a woman in this world, let alone one of the more toxic industries. [this is the light version] What keeps me going are the good ones that I am lucky to have encountered and work with, as well as the calling to put myself out there through music as I know it is for a greater purpose than even I still to this day have a full understanding for.
FEMMUSIC: Whom would you most like to collaborate with, or tour with? Why?
NV: This is so tough!!! Lately, I have been really falling in love with Miley Cyrus more and more. She uses her platform to promote so much goodness and it would be such and honor to align with her. I also feel like our voices would sound really interesting together.
FEMMUSIC: What one thing would you like to change about the music industry?
NV: The way that artists are valued is so imbalanced and I would want to restructure the economic design of how songwriters, producers, and artists actually make money. In other words, I would restore balance and create a pay structure that is actually a decent livable wage for the creatives that make the industry go round.
You may have heard Nadia Vaeh’s “Anxiety” and now you get to see it.
“Anxiety is a fabric of my life, as it is for so many others. This world breeds anxiety as if it were positive for us. Sometimes I am able to channel my anxieties in a positive way; other times, it can disable my ability to function. It just depends on the day… sometimes the hour,” explains Vaeh. “I am just glad society is arriving at a place where we can keep the topic of mental health a bit more open. The more we embrace the light and dark sides of the human experience, the easier it is to recognize and enjoy the goodness.”
Vaeh is donating a portion of the proceeds to MusiCares, a non-profit organization incorporated into the GRAMMY (NARAS) organization which has provided over $60 million in health, financial and rehabilitation resources to music people in times of need. Vaeh says, “I want to help my music family. My peers need help more than ever with the state of the world. The entertainment industry is so high pressure, and this organization helps artists navigate the mental health issues that can arise or become exacerbated from these pressures.”
Vaeh is a Los Angeles based pop artist who has been releasing a number of singles including “Naked”, “Rise”, “Boomerang” and others. She has been an activist and donated proceeds from other projects to: Girls Up, Human Rights Campaign, Alliance of Hope and Peace Over Violence.
Nadia Vaeh’s new track “Anxiety,” is a reflection on her personal mental health struggles and how she copes with the highs and lows of anxiety. She is donating a portion of the proceeds to MusiCares, an organization focused on providing critical assistance to people in the music industry, and resources that affect the music community’s health and welfare. https://www.nadiavaeh.com/
Nadia Vaeh is bringing her positivity and an inspirational message to her new track “RiSE”. “I wrote RiSE in hopes to help to bridge or repair some of the gaps and barriers between our one human race. When I found “Love has no Labels” I immediately felt a connection with the organization and their message to the world. After looking deeper I saw their affiliation with HRC (the Human Rights Campaign). Since LHNL does not accept donations from the public, I will be directing proceeds from “RiSE” to HRC. Happy Pride month! Let’s celebrate love for all, regardless of any identity label,” explains Vaeh.
Nadia Vaeh appeared on our radar last year with the song “Holidazed and Confused.” She released the women’s empowerment song “Monroe” a couple of weeks ago and has just released the video. It features 50 women of all backgrounds singing the lyrics to this song that pays homage to those who have made the path. For info visit https://www.nadiavaeh.com/
Atlanta Singer-songwriter Nadia Vaeh has been releasing a number of singles including “Heart Shaped Box”, “Naked”, “1000 Cuts” and “heavy.” Her holiday release is a different take on the holidays coming from the personal experience of losing her mother at 17 and how her feelings towards the holidays are changed because of it. The video is both cheerful and reminiscent with family photos and home movies. For info visit https://www.nadiavaeh.com/