The Music Club 2021

Entry 14: The end.

Two women on stage.
Photo illustration by Slate. Photos by Rick Kern/Getty Images and Phillip Faraone/Getty Images for REVOLT.

Dear music-scribe mayors who are not the mayor,

I wish we could go another dozen rounds to dig into all the fascinating stuff that’s come up this week. I’m sure in many ways we will, in many other venues. But now, it remains only for me to thank you all for your insights and, more than usual this year, your emotional openness, about the ways our aesthetic viewpoints have been inflected by drastically unsteady times.

People arguably have gotten better in recent years at talking about artworks as arising not so much as lofty statements but as uncertain, provisional, personal guesses. It’s chancy, in a field that so often calls on us to pose as experts, to acknowledge how much that’s true of criticism, too. Instead of authoritative certainty, the best we can do is to bring to it our whole selves: intellectual, emotional, physical, and beyond. I’m grateful for how that’s happened in this exchange.


There’s no way a mere playlist can represent that, but as I do every year for Music Club, I’ve tried to synthesize one. Since this year’s roster was bigger than usual, the playlist is our longest yet—just short of 12 hours’ worth of tracks from 2021 that inspired one or more of us. I was the one playing DJ, so the final cut is my call, but I did my best to ensure that songs each of our guest writers brought up are represented, even including a few tracks I’m not so sure about! It ranges from pop hits to (more often) sidelined sounds that offer multiple paths to pursue.

I like to think of it as Music Club’s annual gift to everyone who engaged with our work this year, and to those who might in the future. Thanks so much to both kinds of readers.

To healthy holidays, and a less-languishing New Year,