Over the past few days we at ESCXTRA have poured over the archives of New Music Friday releases throughout 2021. Here we have picked out ten of the best and asked the team to rank the contenders. So which songs made the cut and what was the team’s overall ranking? Let’s find out!
10. 🇮🇪 Sarah McTernan & HalfTraxx – ‘Loving You’ – (20 Points)
First up on our New Music Friday best of 2021 countdown is Ireland’s Eurovision 2019 representative, Sarah McTernan. Despite an extended break from music and personal tragedy, the former The Voice star has remained committed to her true passion. During the last year, Sarah has made her late grandmother, who raised her, proud with multiple Irish Homegrown Chart hits. Such as ‘Close My Eyes’ and ‘Heavy On My Heart’. In ‘Loving You’, Sarah teams up with Limerick electronic duo HalfTraxx for a laid-back anthem of love, backed with enough saxophone beats to get Epic Sax Guy excited.
Spotify: 59k/YouTube: 11k
Best scores: 5 – Lisa.
9. 🇷🇺 Little Big – ‘Sex Machine’ – (44 Points)
Sadly it seems we have missed the opportunity to see Little Big represent Russia on the Eurovision stage for now. However that has not stopped the satirical pop band still holding the record for the most viewed Eurovision entry of all time on YouTube. Over the past year Little Big were a well oiled, music machine. Releasing a string of hits, such as ‘MOUSTACHE‘ with Eurovision 2018 winner, Netta. As well as ending the year with ‘A Lot of Money‘, a parody of hit Netflix show Squid Game.
Yet, it was ‘Sex Machine’ that got people talking in 2021. Many believed this catchy anthem would be the return entry for Little Big. Despite the rumours, they did not participate in the national final. Instead it was Manizha who represented Russia in 2021.
Spotify: 2.3 million/YouTube: 28.3 million
Best scores: 8 – Dominik. 7 – Isaac. 6 – Nathan W.
8. 🇳🇱🇬🇧 Armin van Buuren feat. James Newman – ‘Slow Lane’ – (50 Points)
It certainly was not a slow lane for James Newman in 2021! After much speculation following the cancellation of the 2020 contest, the BBC announced James’ return for Rotterdam 2021. Although the ‘Embers’ singer received the dreaded ‘nul points’ and last place, the dignity and grace in which James accepted the result, won hearts across Europe and Australia. Of course this triumph over adversity would come to play later in 2021, as James won a legal case over ‘Waiting All Night’.
Early last year, James joined forces with Dutch DJ icon, Armin van Buuren. Together the good friends released ‘Slow Lane’. One of seven tracks on Armin’s Euthymia EP, the EDM number is a reminder to enjoy the road with the ones you love, no matter where it leads in life.
Spotify: 7.5 million/YouTube: 1.7 million
Best scores: 7 – Lisa. Nick. 6 – Nathan P. 5 – Isaac, Maria.
7. 🇦🇲 Athena Manoukian – ‘You Should Know’ – (63 Points)
Late last year Armenia announced their return to the 2022 contest. Since then rumours, as well as hope, has grown that perhaps Athena Manoukian could also return. Previously she represented Armenia in the lost contest of 2020. After Armenia’s winning return to Junior Eurovision last month, many believe it is Athena’s time to do the same. However it is not yet known who ARMTV will select for 2022.
Meanwhile Athena has continued to release music. Recently she dropped the beats on, ‘OMG’. But it was ‘You Should Know’ that surprised us. The powerful mid-tempo ballad showed us another side of what Athena is capable of.
Spotify: 63k/YouTube: 434k
Best scores: 10 – Dominik, Nathan P. 8 – Costa, Lisa. 6 – Isabella, Maria.
6. 🇮🇹 Mahmood – ‘Inuyasha’ – (64 Points)
Soon we will see a lot more of ‘Soldi’ singer, Mahmood. Once again he is set to participate in this years’ edition of Sanremo 2022. Although this time it is as part of a duet with Blanco. Despite having to reschedule his much anticipated tour to 2022, nothing kept Mahmood down for long in 2021. Early last year he featured as a songwriter on two Sanremo entries – ‘Chiamami per nome’ and ‘Glicine’. As well as this, Mahmood explored his creative artistry in his second album ‘Ghettolimpo‘.
A revolutionary album of 15 tracks, showing respect to his ancestry and the music sounds that inspire him. From this came ‘Inuyasha’. A stirring single that references the 90s Japanese manga of the same name. However in this, Mahmood is expressing his vision of our inner demons and how we try to hide parts of ourselves.
Spotify: 18.1 million/YouTube: 12.7 million
Best scores: 12 – Costa, Nathan W. 7 – Maria, Nathan P. 6 – Tom O.
5. 🇳🇴 KEiiNO – ‘Unbreakable’ – (65 Points)
Of course no New Music Friday special would be complete without Eurovision 2019 televote winners, KEiiNO! Last year KEiiNO, along with Electric Fields, won our New Music Friday 2020 special. So it comes as a surprise that they only place 5th this year. Not that KEiiNO will mind, they were one of the busiest acts in 2021. No less than 9 singles were released by the Norwegian hit-makers last year. Including ‘Monument‘, which finished runner-up in their Melodi Grand Prix 2021 return. Yet that did not stop the KEiiNO fanbase voting them as OGAE Second Chance winners.
Meanwhile 2022 is set to be even busier for the trio. Amongst the exciting news of the return of Eurovision – Australia Decides, KEiiNO dropped the surprise announcement that they are performing a guest interval slot in the national final. As well as another tour of the nation, after the successful tour Down Under in 2019.
The fairytale anthem, ‘UNBREAKABLE’ features on the Deluxe edition of OKTA. Beneath the song is a message of togetherness and finding a place to fit in. It is a fitting story of what KEiiNO has become and the unique bond with their fans.
Spotify: 3.9 million/YouTube: 545k
Best scores: 12 – Isaac. 10 – Isabella, Lisa. 7 – Bente.
4. 🇸🇪 ABBA – ‘Don’t Shut Me Down’ – (68 Points)
Last year Sweden’s Eurovision 1974 winners, ABBA announced their comeback with brand new music after a 40-year absence. Along with the highly anticipated, ninth studio album Voyage, a journey the ABBAMania fanatics had been waiting decades for. More than worth the wait, the album has now charted at no.1 in 19 countries worldwide. As well as smashing UK chart records. Not content with the charts, ABBA are being recognised for their success with nominations at the BRIT Awards 2022 and the 2022 Grammy Awards.
Recently the group announced the Voyage album and accompanying tour will be their last project together. Setting sail on a high, ABBA have promised revolutionary performances of new songs and old favourites on tour later this year. Unlike a traditional concert, the Voyage Tour will see the band emerge as digital avatars of themselves from 1979. Together with the team at Industrial Light & Magic, a 3,000 seat purpose built arena located in Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in London, will be home to ABBA’s latest tour from 27th May 2022. More dates are continually being added, with tickets available here.
Spotify: 41.9 million/YouTube: 19 million
Best scores: 10 – Isaac, Nick, Tom O. 8 – Bente, Maria. 7 – Costa.
3. 🇸🇪🇷🇺 Måns Zelmerlöw & Polina Gagarina – ‘Circles and Squares’ – (69 Points)
Former Eurovision 2015 winner, Måns Zelmerlöw held onto his reputation as ‘Mr. Eurovision’ in 2021. Among a star-studded collection of six previous winners, Måns took part in the Eurovision 2021 ‘Rock The Roof‘ interval act. Meanwhile Russia’s 2015 runner-up, Polina Gagarina also returned to Eurovision in 2021. During a voting sequence packed with star names, Polina was the spokesperson for the Russian jury votes. As well as this, Polina mixed the 80s with Russian pop on new track ‘VCHERA‘.
However it was at the beginning of 2021 when old rivals became music allies. Together Måns and Polina showed that music unites us all on ‘Circles and Squares’. This dramatic duet was written for the ISU World Figure Skating Championships 2021. So of course, the crossover sports fans among the team propelled this with a triple axel onto the New Music Friday podium.
Spotify: 1.1 million/YouTube: 104k
Best scores: 12 – Dominik. 8 – Nathan P, Nick. 7 – Isabella, Nathan W.
2. 🇮🇹 Måneskin – ‘I Wanna Be Your Slave’ – (90 Points)
Surprise! Yes, unfortunately Italy cannot win all things in 2021. But the reigning Eurovision champions have nothing to fear. Already they have set themselves apart as a global phenomenon. After the 2021 contest, Måneskin stormed the global charts with ‘Beggin” ‘I Wanna Be Your Slave’ and of course, ‘Zitti e Buoni’. As well as this, the group took the US by storm. Cracking the Billboard charts and performing on The Tonight Show and The Voice USA. Meanwhile they have been acknowledged for their breakthrough year in the music awards season too. With a win for ‘Best Rock’ at the MTV EMAs 2021 and two nominations for the BRIT Awards 2022.
Later this year Måneskin will be even busier with the hopeful return of the festival scene. Among their very busy touring schedule, includes performances at the famous Reading & Leeds Festivals and their appropriately titled, LOUD KIDS ON TOUR ’22.
Spotify: 516.5 million/YouTube: 67 million
Best scores: 12 – Bente, Isabella, Maria, Tom O. 10 – Nathan W. 8 – Isaac.
1. 🇬🇷 Helena Paparizou – ‘Apohrosis’ – (103 Points)
Always our number one at ESCXTRA, Helena Paparizou is our winner of New Music Friday 2021! The Eurovision 2005 champion released her first studio album in four years, with ‘Apohrosis’. The 13-track album showcased the many shades of Helena’s musical inspirations. Aside from this Helena also released new single, ‘Lightning‘. A hard bass anthem that is a new direction and was previewed at MadWalk 2021.
Like Måns Zelmerlöw, Helena was also among the six Eurovision winners to perform in the 2021 ‘Rock The Roof‘ interval in Rotterdam. Yet in another lifetime, it could have been Helena on stage instead of Elena Tsagrinou. Not a year goes by without a return rumour and 2021 was no different. Ahead of the contest it was revealed that she was offered the chance to perform ‘Colors’ for Cyprus. Away from music, she also become the first ever Greek ambassador for UNICEF!
Spotify: 221k/YouTube: 239k
Best scores: 12 – Lisa, Nathan P, Nick. 10 – Bente, Costa, Maria. 8 – Isabella, Nathan W, Tom O.
Do you agree with the team ranking of the New Music Friday top 10 songs of 2021? Let us know! Be sure to stay updated by following @ESCXTRA on Twitter, @escxtra on Instagram and liking our Facebook page for the latest updates! Also, be sure to follow us on Spotify for the latest music from your favourite Eurovision acts. As well as YouTube to see our reactions to the news in the run up to the 2022 contest in Turin!