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Bop Shop 2021 Favorites: Songs From Dawn Richard, Wet Leg, IU, And More

New Orleans future R&B, peppy and clever indie, and a lilac look forward

The search for the ever-elusive "bop" is difficult. Playlists and streaming-service recommendations can only do so much. They often leave a lingering question: Are these songs really good, or are they just new?

Enter Bop Shop, a hand-picked selection of songs from the MTV News team. This weekly collection doesn't discriminate by genre and can include anything — it's a snapshot of what's on our minds and what sounds good. We'll keep it fresh with the latest music, but expect a few oldies (but goodies) every once in a while, too. And to close out 2021, we've rounded up some of our favorite bops from the year, just as we did with the 2021 albums you might've missed.

Get ready: The final Bop Shop of 2021 is now open for business.

Dawn Richard: "Bussifame"

When Dawn Richard returned this year with "Bussifame," the multi-talented artist used it to showcase the future. Across her latest album, Second Line, hallmarks from hew New Orleans upbringing (like the album's title itself) combine with spaced-out R&B, funk, and glimmering grooves. The action comes together beautifully on "Bussifame," a shapeshifting celebration that obliterates genre entirely. Earlier this year, Richard told MTV News of her hope that Second Line would "open a floodgate so that when you ask the next artists under me who were their inspirations, they can name more than one token Black artist as an inspiration to them in a genre that isn't hip-hop or R&B." —Patrick Hosken

Wet Leg: "Chaise Longue"

At this point, "Chaise Longue" is essentially a meme. It's easy to see why: a song so effortlessly catchy with bright hooks and deadpan Mean Girls lyrical references that it's tailor-made for the repeat button. Thank the highly playful and canny British duo of Rhian Teasdale and Hester Chambers, who release music as Wet Leg. So far, they've released four songs ahead of their self-titled 2022 debut LP. The best of them is, of course, the delightful sprinkle of indie-rock sugar that is "Chaise Longue." After listening to it so many times, there's only one question left to ask: Would you like us to assign someone to butter your muffin? —Patrick Hosken

IU: “Lilac”

Either you spent the entirety of 2021 streaming “Lilac,” or you’re very, very lame. As the title track from IU’s critically acclaimed fifth album, “Lilac” served as a nostalgic and whimsical introduction to the K-pop superstar’s new era, which soundtracked many of our respective years. With its bright and airy synths, heavy rhythm guitar, and disco pop-inspired melody, the refreshing track breathed new life into a grim year. Featuring accompanying lyrics that bid farewell to the past and provide hope for a better future, IU inspires fans to look forward with positivity and optimism — a perfect message to convey this year. In “Lilac,” IU may have asked us to “love [her] only 'til this spring,” but I have a feeling we’ll be loving her for much, much longer than that. —Sarina Bhutani

Muni Long: “Hrs and Hrs”

Singer-songwriter Muni Long’s latest track “Hrs and Hrs” has ruled the internet for the past week and is setting a cozy new standard for cuffing season. Garnering praise from the likes of Doja Cat and Halle Berry and spawning a remix from August Alsina and numerous compilation videos from fans touting the couple goals the song’s lyrics hint at, the song has everyone online in the mood for love. “Yours, mine, ours / I could do this for hours / Sit and talk to you for hours,” she croons. “When you do what you do I’m empowered / You give me a super power / Together the world could be ours.” Given Long’s writing credits for Rihanna, Mariah Carey, and Fifth Harmony, it’s no wonder the song is a smash. If this is a glimpse of what’s in store from her in the new year, 2022 is already looking promising. —Virginia Lowman

Coheed and Cambria: “Shoulders”

It’s been nearly 20 years since their debut album, The Second Stage Turbine Blade, but Coheed and Cambria are still finding ways to excite their ever-growing fanbase, as we saw with this year’s release of “Shoulders.” The track, a continuation of the longest-running concept story in music, masterfully pairs heavy metal-infused riffs with sweeping, melodic vocals in a way that only Coheed can. For the music video, the progressive rockers deliver a powerful performance as mysterious, masked figures emerge and remove their masks one-by-one to reveal the people underneath. “As a band, we’ve always been a little outside of the mainstream and that’s helped keep us true to ourselves,” the group said in a statement. “As people, it’s important to focus on your strengths and who you are, and not try too hard for acceptance. Everyone is special and has their own unique contributions and that’s what the video represents.” —Farah Zermane

Michelle: "Syncopate"

"Syncopate," by six-piece New York songwriting collective Michelle, sounds immediate and timeless. As the group gear up to drop their majorly leveled-up second album, After Dinner We Talk Dreams, in January, they're spreading the message far and wide. And "Syncopate," with its gentle swagger and undeniable dance-pop sensibility, is the message. Unlike their soul-baring slow burner "Mess U Made," the two-minute "Syncopate" doesn't have a millisecond to spare, cramming in hooks and harmonies from its four vocalists (Emma, Sofia, Layla, and Jamee) and producers (Charlie and Julian). It's mildly nostalgic and completely suited for a bedroom dance party — both make it utterly 2021. —Patrick Hosken

Maisie Peters: “I’m Trying (Not Friends)”

This deceptively chipper cut from English indie-pop singer Maisie Peters packs the sort of oh-so-relatable punch only a solid breakup bop can. Try as she might, Peters can’t bring herself to swallow her pride when she encounters her ex-boyfriend in public. “Not friends / No, we’re somewhere in between / ‘Cause you’re awful and I miss you / And I killed you in my dream last night,” she sings over a clapped-out beat and dainty guitar flourishes. Between Peters’s lilting vocals and airtight songwriting, it’s damn near impossible to resist hitting repeat. And hey, if “at least I’m trying” isn’t a perfect summary of 2021, then I don’t know what is. —Sam Manzella

Claud: “Soft Spot”

Claud unleashed the “gay shit” on their first full-length album, Super Monster, back in February, but this especially soft cut has stayed close to mind during the cold winter months. An exceptionally earnest declaration of feelings for a lover long gone, the song and its strumming and slow-thumping chorus is bedroom pop at its finest. “I wish I left all my things at your place / So I could come get them,” they sing, imagining a dream scenario where “we’d do things we might regret,” before resolving that perhaps it’s a hatchet better left unearthed. Still, its dreamy chorus reminds us that a soft spot in the heart stays soft. —Carson Mlnarik

CKay: “Love Nwantiti”

You can’t scroll through TikTok or Instagram without coming across Nigerian artist CKay’s tropical hit “Love Nwantiti.” With 100 million weekly streams, the Afrobeats song is the earworm we’re all playing and dancing to on a loop. And while the love tale CKay sings of — the kind of love that makes your “temperature rise,” that familiar feeling of someone being “like the oxygen I need to survive” — isn’t new, the introduction of an African dialect into mainstream American pop culture is, and it’s a welcome one. “Love Nwantiti” is Igbo and loosely translates to “small love.” Throughout the song, CKay weaves in other Igbo words and Nigerian cultural staples like “Nkwobi,” which he gets cheeky with lyrically. Hip-hop, pop, and reggaeton all draw inspiration from Afrobeats; music continues to be our gateway to exploring and strengthening our own sense of “love nwantiti” for new cultures. —Virginia Lowman

Tkay Maidza: “Cashmere”

Australian singer-songwriter Tkay Maidza confronts her deepest thoughts alongside smooth hip-hop and soulful synth stylings on her EP Last Year Was Weird, Vol. 3, but no track better describes her dualities than “Cashmere.” A heavenly chorus precedes a bopping beat, highlighting the Zimbabwe-born singer’s velvety voice as she admits she’s both soft and tough — like cashmere — in the midst of a spiraling relationship. And what its dreamy and colorful video lacks in sweaters, it makes up for in bold artistic vision and wildfire spirit. —Carson Mlnarik

Vincint: “All Over Again”

If there was one album that I played on repeat and danced to with reckless abandon, it was Vincint’s There Will Be Tears. A master of heartbreak pop, Vincint has an uncanny ability to layer vulnerable lyrics over an uptempo beat and yield a song that is both a mirror and a cheerleader in your most emotional hours. Though I didn’t experience a breakup this year, spending a year indoors in 2020 definitely put a lot about life and love into perspective, and as this year comes to a close and another few months of quarantine are likely on the horizon, who isn’t questioning what they hope to “do over again” and do better this time around? —Virginia Lowman

Flock of Dimes: "Price of Blue"

One of the best lead-guitar lines of 2021 is thankfully attached to one of the year's best songs, period. Both the ascending ax work and the tune construction come from Jenn Wasner, half of indie stalwart group Wye Oak and Bon Iver member who records solo as Flock of Dimes. Her wraithlike vocals make "Price of Blue" instantly memorable, but her work with producer/Sylvan Esso talent Nick Sanborn to create layers and build upon a skeleton of scuzzy guitar noise transforms it. Thanks to a deceptive chord progression, the song keeps climbing higher like a freed balloon until it's fully out of view. Six and a half minutes feel like a blink. When you open your eyes again, Wasner has quieted — but "Price of Blue," and the rest of her great album Head of Roses, will linger well into 2022. —Patrick Hosken

Drinking Boys and Girls Choir: “There Is No Spring”

When Korean skate-punk band Drinking Boys and Girls Choir returned this year with Marriage License, they simply had no time to waste. The excellent and urgent LP crams 11 songs into 22 minutes, exploding out of the gate while still managing a few wistful and even borderline progressive moments. The best song on it, "There Is No Spring," combines all those elements in a sneak-attack single that shows how much they've matured since 2019's equally kick-ass Keep Drinking. The promise of their future is potent enough to get drunk on. —Patrick Hosken