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“Essence” by afrobeat superstar WizKid, featuring Tems, was another of the year's undeniable songs. Reaching No. 1 on Billboard’s R&B/hip-hop airplay and the adult R&B airplay chart, the sultry, melodic duet record was crowned by many as the song of the summer. “Essence,” which beckoned listeners to find their significant other — or perspective crush— to get up and dance, would explode and become so gigantic that the Nigerian native welcomed a remix from another R&B star: Justin Bieber.

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This blissful ’90s disco-pop throwback with a hip-hop heart earned three Grammy nominations for record of the year, song of the year, and best pop duo/group performance. The song by Doja Cat, featuring SZA, also won an American Music Award (collaboration of the year) and an MTV Video Music Award for best collaboration. “Kiss Me More” even surpassed Brandy and Monica’s iconic 1998 duet “The Boy Is Mine” for the longest-running all-female top 10 collaboration in Billboard Hot 100 history. If you listen close, you’ll hear a Gwen Stefani-ish refrain but also an interpolation of Olivia Newton-John’s “Physical.” But don’t work too hard, just let this steamy, smooth song wash over you.

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The Lil Baby and Kirk Franklin tandem may seem like an odd combo. Lil Baby is known for his street rap lyrics, while Franklin built his legendary career on gospel music. Despite their different musical approaches, they form a strong duo on the inspirational Just Blaze-produced “We Win,” a song from the “Space Jam: A New Legacy” soundtrack. Franklin served as the hype man with a choir singing background while Lil Baby rapped about how prayer ultimately brought him through during a time when he felt cursed.

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While “Easy On Me” and “I Drink Wine” have gotten the most attention from Adele’s “30,” it’s “To Be Loved” that is the underappreciated standout of the album. There’s a rawness to the track that is rare for the singer. The 33-year-old’s powerhouse vocals usually sound polished, but in “To Be Loved,” her voice teeters on cracking.

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Olivia Rodrigo kicks off her debut album “SOUR” with the words “I want it to be, like, messy” and she goes on to deliver just that. The 11 songs from the 18-year-old singer-songwriter’s breakup album are raw and angry, dreamy and mocking, playful and profane, with shards of punk and princess pop. It’s an astonishing human hello from the youngest solo artist ever to debut at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100. Taylor Swift is clearly a role model — and even gets a writing credit for a Swift interpolation in “1 step forward, 3 steps back” — but there also are echoes of Alanis Morissette’s fury from “Jagged Little Pill.” It’s indeed a messy album, and messy was perfect for 2021.

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The New Yorker magazine recently called him the greatest talk-show guest of all time. Hard to argue. Whether he’s appearing as the obnoxious Jiminy Glick or crooning an original song, Short’s love of show business shines through.

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Babs is back with a new compilation of rare and previously unreleased songs. Highlights include a duet with Willie Nelson on “I’d Want It to Be You” and, for sure, the rendition of “Rainbow Connection” with Kermit the Frog. Due out Friday.

These songs all have the end goal being something you’d want to crank up on a road trip to the lake or beach or maybe just an afternoon spent at the backyard pool.

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This was the song that really got the ball rolling for Billie Eilish — after she and brother Finneas O’Connell uploaded the song to the internet and it quickly went viral. The rest is history, as Eilish has gone on to become one of the biggest stars in all of pop music.