It’s brutal out there, and that’s why, more than ever, we needed the consoling and prodding pleasures of popular music to help everything make sense in here. [Stage direction: taps chest, knowingly.]

This list of the 50 best songs of 2021 — out of about 500 that were under consideration — is a modest attempt at representing what a fruitful year it was across genres: pop (Olivia Rodrigo, Taylor Swift), hip-hop (Little Simz, Tyler, the Creator), hip-hop-pop (Doja Cat), R&B (Jazmine Sullivan, Leon Bridges), country (Mickey Guyton, Carly Pearce), classic singer-songwriters (Brandi Carlile, Aimee Mann), jazz (Esperanza Spalding), punk (Turnstile, the Linda Lindas!), TV and movie themes (Sparks) … even a crazy little thing called rock (Måneskin, Manchester Orchestra and, sure, Olivia Rodrigo). Take a look, and click on the images to take a listen.

(Meanwhile, if this is too much goodness to take, you can cleanse the palate by checking out our list of the worst songs of the year here.)