What contrasts in mood the two most dominating songs of 2021 offered us: hovering and over him. With “Levitating,” Dua Lipa floated a record that really did feel lighter than air, while in “Drivers License,” Olivia Rodrigo was crying in a car, seeming anything but liberated by her new vehicular freedom. That the year should be led by two songs at such opposite ends of the scale felt fitting: Is our spirit at last buoyant, with quarantine conditions lifting a bit? Or is breaking up — or away — still hard to do, whether it’s escaping the pandemic or leaving your first boyfriend? So many of the moods of 2021 could be found throughout the year’s top 25 smashes, whose streaming and airplay data were used to determine who belongs in Variety’s annual Hitmakers Impact Report — our roundup of the producers, songwriters, mixers, managers and key executives who made the smashes happen. Levitate, drive or dance your way on in and take a look.
How we choose the Hitmakers: The music editors at Variety analyze each song’s merits — including structure, melody/hook, cultural relevance and commercial performance — and dissect who played a role in bringing the song to life, from idea to writing to production to execution, and out to the marketplace.
*Grammy nominee †Audio streams, sales and airplay YTD through Oct.18