We ranked the year’s 50 best albums earlier this month, and now it’s time to dig into the 50 best songs. Putting a list like this together is never an easy task, but in a year like 2021, when so many artists finally released music after holding onto it in the early stages of the pandemic, it was even more difficult. Sifting through a massive collection of songs, we set out to select the most essential moments from each of the subgenres we cover on a daily basis at Complex Music, including releases from rising stars and A-listers alike.

Some of 2021’s best songs were introduced to the world in moments of spectacle, like Kanye West’s Donda listening sessions this summer. Other songs had slower, more organic paths to success, like Capella Grey’s “Gyalis” and Nardo Wick’s “Who Want Smoke??” Some tracks were inescapable, like Doja Cat and SZA’s massive radio hit “Kiss Me More,” and others resonated with more niche audiences, like Mavi’s “Time Travel.” All together, this list doubles as a soundtrack for the year, representing the Complex Music staff’s favorite songs over the past 12 months. These are Complex’s picks for the 50 best songs of 2021.