After the exhausting start of the decade that was last year, 2021 revealed itself to be yet another trying year for our patience with everyone and the audacity they held. Though, instead of wallowing in the uncertainty created by all of the unexpected, like we did last year, this year we were given a soundtrack that challenged how we'd interpret our world.
Last year, the best songs were the ones that distracted us from the tragedy outside. This year, the best songs came from artist who embraced themselves and found peace with the tragedies within. These artist gave us songs that taught us how to love the world we are in, but most importantly, they gave us songs that taught us how to love ourselves within this world.
Below, check out the list of artists that made this year memorable, and brought a wondrous soundtrack to the chaotic second year of what's sure to be an inevitably chaotic decade.
1.Megan Thee Stallion
Megan Thee Stallion
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There are some people that you don't have to meet to know that they are good people and should, at all times, be rooted for. For example, Barack and Michelle Obama. I don't need to know them to know that they are probably the nicest people in the world. Don't get me wrong. I know that they aren't perfect, but so do they, and that only makes them that much more desirable to root for. Amongst them, I would count Megan Thee Stallion. Yes, I know she is not in the exact same category as the Obamas. She is not a huge activist or civil worker as they are, but her genuineness and her ambition place her among their ranks.
Whether it's Megan judging ballroom on HBO Max's Legendary, her three Grammy wins, her promotion of "The Hottie Sauce" for her partnership with Popeyes, her collaborations with Ariana Grande, BTS, Maroon 5, Lil Nas X, her Sports Illustrated cover, her Met Gala appearance, or even graduating college with a degree in health administration, Megan Thee Stallion has made this year her own. And don't we love to see it!
Unlike the other artists on this list, Megan Thee Stallion has managed to succeed in every aspect of her life this year. While being in school, she managed to bring her music and artistry to other artists and to her own stage. Her performances have been entertaining, her features have been awe-inspiring, and her relentless body positivity has been a mirror for all Black women to unapologetically love themselves.
She has been a great artist, but most importantly, she has been a great reflection of how someone can succeed despite all of the odds stacked against them.
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Before the announcement of their collaboration, the idea of Anderson .Paak and Bruno Mars teaming up was ludicrous to me. Like a shot out of nowhere, I remember finding myself thinking, What a strange occurrence. Don't get me wrong, I had known them to have toured together before, but I never imagined them making an album together. My greatest bewilderment of the pairing had been everyone else's selling point: Bruno Mars. My mind just could never wrap its head around Bruno Mars truly being an R&B singer. (In hindsight, I attribute this to my once insistent belief--which I know now to be wishful thinking-- that Bruno Mars' singing funk and R&B was just a phase.) Nevertheless, my concerns were quickly assuaged from the moment the duo released "Leave the Door Open" under the name Silk Sonic.
Recreating R&B of the 60s and 70s, Silk Sonic easily reminded audiences of the once bold, vibrant, and adorned music of our past.
From "Leave the Door Open" to "Smoking Out the Window," Silk Sonic has made "come through" messages, insistent flirting, and unforeseeable heartbreak soulful, passionate, and, at times, downright silly. Their music is as smooth as it is nostalgically fun. Even listening toAn Evening With Silk Sonic album felt like a Friday after a long week, with a warm, inviting fire and cold beer. The album isn't perfect, but its playfulness and fervent delivery are worth a listen. With "Leave the Door Open" still on repeat on the radio (and in my car) twenty times a day nine months later, there is no doubt that Silk Sonic remains powerful artists of this year.
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I am by no means a Doja Cat fan. Between her endless antics--her use of anti-gay slurs, her mockery of COVID (just to get it months later), alleged association with white supremacists--and constant evasion of cancellation, I find it hard to root for her. With this in mind, I reluctantly listened to Doja Cat's Planet Her album after not being able to escape one damn single from the radio. After listening, I find myself coming to a stunning realization: Planet Her is a damn good album, and the marketing behind its promotion was exceptional.
With a star-studded collaboration set, Planet Her is an infectious pop album that is quirky, insouciant, and quippy. While remaining pop, Doja Cat cleverly takes on melodies and beats of other genres, incorporating musical elements such as afrobeat, reggaeton, pop-rap, funk, trap, amongst others, to tell a compelling story. Which, in turn, makes songs that would have been typical and redundant into something new, worth enjoying. The album comes across as strong due to its intentionality. Nevertheless, this intentionality does not seem forced, or contrived, but instead cleverly crafted.
Some songs embrace womanhood and feminine diversity, such as "Woman," other songs explore the anxiety that one receives from the idea of intimacy, "Naked." Some aren't as thought-provoking and are made to only seduce or show one's desire to be seduced ("Need to Know" and "You Right").
Though there is no chance that Doja Cat will be seeing me at a concert any time soon nor paying any amount of money towards her empire, I must admit, with this album it is understandable why she is considered one of this year's guilty pleasure artists.
4.Lil Nas X
Lil Nas X
Rich Fury/Getty Images
Truth be told, I thought "Old Town Road" would be the first and last time we'd ever see Lil Nas X. Damn, I have never been happier to have been so wrong. At this point, I am elated that the world has not turned its backs on this beautifully, proudly open Black queer man. I am happy that the public is allowing his music to speak for itself and that Lil Nas X does not have to hide in a shadow of shame like so many queer Black men are forced to do in the music industry.
Every single released this year from Lil Nas showed that he has always been more than just some cheap gimmick, but an artist and businessman worth respecting. The visuals of his videos have been staggeringly artistic. His debut album Montero played with different genres and sounds, while the artist remained completely and unapologetically himself.
The album also reveals the loneliness that comes when one is a lone force to be reckoned with. It is catchy, yes, it is entertaining, but underneath all of the drums, the pop hooks, and melodious tunes, it is clear that happiness is a journey for the young artist. He is happy being himself, but with the price of that happiness, he seems to be sacrificing it everywhere else. Nevertheless, this year has been Lil Nas X's for the taking.
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Despite only being around for five years, it feels like there has never been a time without H.E.R. and her music. With her EP H.E.R. Volume 1 and compilation albums H.E.R. and I Used to Know Her, the artist made a name for herself amongst the public and the music industry. As if overnight, H.E.R. songs became known for their soulful flare, beautifully elegant arrangements, and powerful messages.
In 2021, she won a Grammy for Song of Year for the single "I Can't Breathe," a song about the anger, frustration, and pain of witnessing the death of another black innocent man, George Floyd. That same night, she won another for her moving ballad "Fight for You." Later this year, she followed up her wins with her first full-length album Back of My Mind. This album received acclaim for its maturity, ballads, and messages on success. Heavily leaning towards ballads, Back of My Mind is an R&B album that showcases H.E.R.'s vocal talents, but most importantly her songwriting skills.
By placing a contemporary spin onto the R&B genre, H.E.R. released an album that is as soulful as it is political, romantic, and unremorsefully honest.
Johnny Nunez/Getty Images for BET
It has always been my biggest grievance (and if you've read any of my other music reviews you'd see that I have not hidden it well) that the world does not give Jazmine Sullivan the recognition she has always been due. Despite being an artist since 2003, and known to many, she always seemed to be a best-kept secret in the industry. There were moments when she would go mainstream ("Bust the Windows Out Your Car" is what mainly comes to mind), but those moments were few and rare in between.
Luckily, this year, the world showed Jazmine Sullivan that it is better to show up late to the party than to never come at all. And instead of turning her back to those who are finally looking, Jazmine Sullivan has made it her mission to step out and give us a show.
With the exceptional, empowering EP Heaux Tales, Jazmine Sullivan discusses the themes of feminism, sexuality, classism, body-shaming and positivity, and other moving topics with interludes in between. The EP is art and her live renditions of the album's songs, especially "Pick Up Your Feelings," only highlight the show-stopping talent that Sullivan has always been.
During her well-deserved SoulTrain Award for Album of the Year acceptance speech, Jazmine Sullivan mentioned being "uncomfortable being seen," and that after some time, she made a "promise to [herself] to not hide anymore." And thank goodness for that because the music scene and the Black community are much better for such deserving representation.
After his big showdown with the Recording Academy and lackluster halftime show at the Superbowl earlier this year, one expected The Weeknd to take some time off and focus on his artistry away from the public eye. However, this was not the case. Instead, every month, we found The Weeknd releasing something new. Whether it was a single that could, "Blinding Lights" dethroning "The Twist" for the all-time No. 1 Billboard single, or another collaboration with a fellow pop artist, Doja Cat or Post Malone, The Weekend managed to stay in the spotlight all of 2021. So much so, Apple Music named him the "Global Artist of the Year."
No longer known as the pop-synth guy, The Weeknd revealed himself as a true artist with his creation of After Hours. His ability to receive Grammy nominations, despite his boycott, shows just how truly an amazing artist the Weeknd is.
Phillip Faraone/Getty Images for REVOLT
SZA has been everywhere and, strangely, nowhere at all this year. Here, let me explain. With SZA's December release of "Good Days," it was inevitable that the single would climb the charts in the new year. After the release, SZA recorded live sessions from her home singing the single amongst others. In March, she released a video for "Good Days" and a month later "Kiss Me More," by Doja Cat featured the alt-R&B singer.
In later months, she would continue to release live performances, a mini fall tour, a single for Dear Evan Hansen's terribly acclaimed film, Summer Walker's "No Love," and another single titled "I Hate U." So, it's clear that SZA has been everywhere. Yet, in between all of these releases, she had managed to disappear from the limelight, for weeks to months at a time. So much so, that you would often have to go to her Twitter or Instagram profile to see what was going on with the singer.
Small clips of potential videos would be released, but when it came to the video--I'm looking at you, "Shirt"--and other projects, it all just felt like a tease. We know the work is out there, we can even see it. We just can't quite touch it. Still, I believe this "tease" is what has made SZA one of the artists of the year. She was never too much, always just enough.
She would release songs when the time was right and when it wasn't she would be off doing whatever she wanted while we shouted for another album. And honestly, despite desperately wanting that album, I find myself eager to wait because this year alone says it will be worth it. There are glimpses of her continuous indecisive behavior in her singles, that reflect the acclaimed CTRL. However, it is clear that the SZA that stands before us is one that is a little more whole than the one four years ago.
As if she's playing chess, SZA's ability to be in within and far out of one's reach this year, made it easily hers for the taking.
9.Tyler, the Creator
Tyler, the Creator
Who would have thought that the teenager eating cockroaches and singing about killing other artists to a demon in his head would, or even could, come so far?
Now, over the last ten years, Tyler, the Creator has released six albums, each one better than the formidable one before. Especially the newest release, Call Me If You Get Lost, which is the most cohesive and artistic album to date. Talking about the blessing and curse of growing up in the public eye, Call Me If You Get Lost takes us into the world of Tyler, the Creator under the guidance of DJ Drama. In this album, he confronts his success and the rollercoaster it has created. Tyler talks about love and its haunting. He talks about becoming wealthier and wiser, but in the end, the album seems a little more broken than before, but not unsalvageable.
The album is masterful, and in addition to his features this year, Tyler, the Creator himself is the same. He shows what beauty can be created when a person is given time to grow, instead of immediately calling for one's cancellation. He is more refined here, more mature, but he is still himself as audacious as ever.
Now, it's just a little more purposeful and controlled.
Amy Sussman/Getty Images
Cardi B hosted the American Music Awards. She recently earned her third diamond single certification with the song, "I Like It." She starred in Normani's heavily praised "Wild Side" video while pregnant. She set February on fire with "UP" single, video, and TikToks. She collaborated with Lizzo, gave inspiration to Summer Walker, and became one of the most lucrative female rappers in 2021.
Cardi took the year for her own in the early part of the year, had a baby, took a two-month break, and came back to dominate the fall.
Just like H.E.R. and Meg Thee Stallion, Cardi B made her career off being 100% authentic and cultivated her career in knowing just when to be so. She could have released a full-length album this year, and in the spirit of rappers, it is honestly surprising that Cardi hasn't released more albums between now and her first. Instead, this year we found Cardi stepping into the role of product promoter, host, collaborator, and businesswoman.
Due to her ability to put on multiple hats--and wear them nicely--Cardi has shown all audiences and fans alike why she will always be "up" and "stuck."
Featured image by Arturo Holmes/Getty Images for Whipshots
Taysha Robinson is a writer and high school English teacher, based in metro-Atlanta. A self described philomath, you can find her reading books and articles of every genre, attending educational conferences, and hiking wherever the terrain will allow.
This article is in partnership with Sensodyne.
Our teeth are connected to so many things - our nutrition, our confidence, and our overall mood. We often take for granted how important healthy teeth are, until issues like tooth sensitivity or gum recession come to remind us. Like most things related to our bodies, prevention is the best medicine. Here are five things you can do immediately to improve your oral hygiene, prevent tooth sensitivity, and avoid dental issues down the road.
1) Go Easy On the Rough Brushing: Brushing your teeth is and always will be priority number one in the oral hygiene department. No surprises there! However, there is such a thing as applying too much pressure when brushing…and that can lead to problems over time. Use a toothbrush with soft bristles and brush in smooth, circular motions. It may seem counterintuitive, but a gentle approach to brushing is the most effective way to clean those pearly whites without wearing away enamel and exposing sensitive areas of the teeth.
2) Use A Desensitizing Toothpaste: As everyone knows, mouth pain can be highly uncomfortable; but tooth sensitivity is a whole different beast. Hot weather favorites like ice cream and popsicles have the ability to trigger tooth sensitivity, which might make you want to stay away from icy foods altogether. But as always, prevention is the best medicine here. Switching to a toothpaste like Sensodyne’s Sensitivity & Gum toothpaste specifically designed for sensitive teeth will help build a protective layer over sensitive areas of the tooth. Over time, those sharp sensations that occur with extremely cold foods will subside, and you’ll be back to treating yourself to your icy faves like this one!
3) Floss, Rinse, Brush. (And In That Order!): Have you ever heard the saying, “It’s not what you do, but how you do it”? Well, the same thing applies to taking care of your teeth. Even if you are flossing and brushing religiously, you could be missing out on some of the benefits simply because you aren’t doing so in the right order. Flossing is best to do before brushing because it removes food particles and plaque from places your toothbrush can’t reach. After a proper flossing sesh, it is important to rinse out your mouth with water after. Finally, you can whip out your toothbrush and get to brushing. Though many of us commonly rinse with water after brushing to remove excess toothpaste, it may not be the best thing for our teeth. That’s because fluoride, the active ingredient in toothpaste that protects your enamel, works best when it gets to sit on the teeth and continue working its magic. Rinsing with water after brushing doesn’t let the toothpaste go to work like it really can. Changing up your order may take some getting used to, but over time, you’ll see the difference.
4) Stay Hydrated: Upping your water supply is a no-fail way to level up your health overall, and your teeth are no exception to this rule. Drinking water not only helps maintain a healthy pH balance in your mouth, but it also washes away residue and acids that can cause enamel erosion. It also helps you steer clear of dry mouth, which is a gateway to bad breath. And who needs that?
5) Show Your Gums Some Love: When it comes to improving your smile, you may be laser-focused on getting your teeth whiter, straighter, and overall healthier. Rightfully so, as these are all attributes of a megawatt smile; but you certainly don’t want to leave gum health out of the equation. If you neglect your gums, you’ll start to notice the effects of plaque buildup, which can irritate the gums and cause gingivitis, the earliest stage of gum disease. Seeing blood while brushing and flossing is a tell-tale sign that your gums are suffering. You may also experience gum recession — a condition where the gum tissue surrounding your teeth pulls back, exposing more of your tooth. Brushing at least twice a day with a gum-protecting toothpaste like Sensodyne Sensitivity and Gum, coupled with regular dentist visits, will keep your gums shining as bright as those pearly whites.
An author by the name of Alexandra Katehakis once said this about orgasms: “Great spiritual teachers throughout the ages have stated that orgasm is the closest some people come to a spiritual experience because of the momentary loss of self. Why is this true? Because with spiritual sex, you move beyond orgasm into a connection with yourself, your partner, and the divine — recognizing them all as one.”
If it’s counterintuitive to what you’ve ever thought about orgasms, believe it or not, there are even pastors who have said that climaxing is the closest comprehension of heaven on this side of it: it is an extreme kind of bliss that is indescribable and is best experienced between two people who share a sacrificial kind of love for one another.
Although this might seem like a heavy way to intro this particular topic, because the O Method is an orgasm-achieving technique that centers around housing energy, embracing the mental practice of manifestation, and the attempt to achieve the best climaxes ever — it all works together pretty well if you ask me. If you want to take your orgasms to the next level, it’s important that you get out of yourself (to a certain extent), that you see the spiritual role that manifestation plays, and that you are open to trying new things. No doubt about it.
So, let’s learn more about what the O Method is all about and how it very well could be just what you’ve been looking for…even if you didn’t know it.
What Is the “O Method” All About?Giphy
Question: When’s the last time you’ve had an orgasm? Not just any orgasm — I mean a really mind-blowing one (I’ll give you a second to think about it). Now, what if you could manifest that experience to the point where it wasn’t a rare occurrence but something that happened almost every time that you and your partner had sex with each other? How absolutely awesome would that be?
That is pretty much what the O Method is all about — helping you achieve the kind of orgasms (and sexual pleasure, in general) that you desire through the practice of manifestation. And since your biggest sex organ is your brain, it would make perfect sense that even with all of the tips and techniques that you might learn to do as far as your body is concerned, honing in on what you think about is super imperative to sexual fulfillment, too. And that’s just where manifestation comes in.
What If You’ve Never “Manifested” Anything Before?Giphy
Before we get into a quick lesson on manifestation, I think it’s important to mention two things. One, for the cynics, there is a lot of truth in the fact that it’s got some solid spiritual basis to it because even the Good Book says that as a man thinketh in his heart, so is he (Proverbs 23:7). At the same time, that same Good Book tells us that faith without works is dead (James 2:14-26). So, while it is always a good idea to focus on good, positive, and productive thoughts, just thinking about them isn’t enough — at some point, you’ve also gotta get out here and DO something (bookmark that).
Okay, with that mini-sermon out of the way, whether it’s in the bedroom or not, manifestation is basically about focusing on something tangible that you desire, harnessing your energy in such a way that your words and actions are directed towards that longing until what you want, well, manifests. For the record, aside from this having a spiritual backing to it, in many ways, science cosigns on manifesting, too. There is actually a scientific process known as neuroplasticity that consists of reframing your mind so that your actions ultimately end up aligning with your goals — and that is another way to look at manifestation.
So, what if you’re someone who has never set out to do a manifestation practice before? No worries. Something that’s awesome about it is there are several different approaches that you can take.
Some people manifest what they want in their lives via:
- Visualization/Creating vision boards
- Writing down their desires before going to bed (so that they can “download” them into their dream state)
- Creating mantras and affirmations
- Applying the 369 Manifestation Method (you can learn more about that here)
- Learning more about what you want to manifest (which brings forth clarity)
This is important to keep in mind because, when it comes to manifesting the types of orgasms that you want to have, as you can see, you can try different manifestation methods until you find one (or ones) that you are truly comfortable with. One that can ease you into the entire process rather smoothly is something known as sex journaling.
How Sex Journaling Can Actually Help You to Have an OrgasmGiphy
As a writer, I’m a big fan of journaling. Mostly because it’s a way to get out some of your deepest thoughts and feelings so that you’re able to really process what is happening inside of you in a private setting. And when it comes to sex journaling, specifically, it’s all about centering yourself on the things sexually that you want to “unpack,” get clarity on or come to some revelations about. For instance, if there’s only been one partner from your past who’s been able to help you achieve the type of orgasms that you wish to manifest, journaling about what makes him different from the other guys can provide you with some solid ah-ha moments.
Or if you need help getting as specific as possible about the sexual experiences that you’re after, journaling can help to make that happen for you — because one thing that manifesting reminds us all to do is be as specific as possible.
Yeah, simply saying, “I want to have better sex” isn’t detailed enough when you want to get your energy to match with your desires — instead, describe how all of your senses should feel in the experience, along with why, that can get you so much closer to achieving your goal. Once those things are documented, you can segue into creating mantras and/or meditation that are based on them. Yeah, sex journaling really is an underrated superpower on a lot of levels (check out “The Art Of Sex Journaling (And Why You Should Do It)”).
5 Tips for Making the O Method Work for YouGiphy
Now that you know more about what the O Method is and how manifestation plays a direct role in its process, let’s talk about five ways to make the O Method truly effective in your own (sex) life.
1. Focus, FULLY, on your feminine energy. What do rose quartz, amethyst, moonstone (which is a Gemini birthstone as well; yes, I’m a Gemini), selenite, and rhodonite all have in common? They’re crystals that help you to go deeper into your divine feminine energy. Traits that are associated with this include compassion, creativity, kindness, gentleness, and sensuality (feminine energy is also accepting and forgiving). If you were to study energy from a biological standpoint, it’s about producing change, responding to stimuli, and having the ability to do what needs to be done (work). So, when it comes to manifesting the kind of orgasms or sexual experiences that you want, using things like your creativity and gentleness in your thoughts and actions can play a role in bringing balance to your partner’s masculinity, which can create a profound sense of pleasure — after all, opposites do attract.
2. Don’t hold back on what it is that you desire. Whenever I interview sex therapists, something that they all say is, a huge mistake that people make as far as sexual satisfaction is concerned is, they have walls up — not just with their partners but even within themselves. Sometimes, there is intimidation, fear, or even shame around what they really want to happen during sex to the point where they aren’t able to channel their energy fully in those directions in order to manifest what they want. For the O Method to work, you can’t let those types of negative emotions hinder you; the more you are able to articulate what you want and how you want it, the better chance you have of making it happen. So yes, get graphic. As graphic as possible.
3. Make manifestation a daily practice. Repetition is important when it comes to manifestation. That’s because the more you declare what you desire (a mantra), get still and think on it (meditation), or look at the “art” that you’ve created surrounding it (visualization), the quicker it becomes a part of you. So yes, make manifestation a daily practice. For instance, if one of your mantras is, “I am going to have intensely passionate orgasms, one right after the other,” don’t just state that 15 minutes before sex is going to happen. Wake up and declare it. Then say it on your lunch break. And again before turning in. The more your thoughts are “streamlined” in this way, the easier it will be for your body to follow suit.
4. Share this practice with your partner. If you were to do even more research on the O Method, one thing that most of the articles will mention is it’s a practice that you can do alone or with your partner. Indeed. However, I just want to make sure that you get into your psyche that great sex is, in part, about good communication. And so, the more comfortable you are sharing with your partner what you are doing as far as the O Method is concerned and what you ultimately want to happen as a result of the practice, the easier it will be for him to “match your energy” — both in and out of the bedroom. And when your partner is on the same page as you? That definitely increases the chances of attaining your sexual desires — exponentially so.
5. Stay in the moment. While I was reading one article on manifestation, I really appreciated something that the author said: manifestation isn’t some supernatural power. In other words, while it can be beneficial, it’s not like you can just think of something, and it instantly appears out of nowhere. Manifesting is a discipline, and it must be accompanied by action, consistency, and patience — this means that you must also practice mindfulness. Meaning, now that you know better what you’re looking to achieve as far as sex is concerned, every time that it transpires, maintain a level of positive energy, remember what your end goal is, and then determine in your mind to enjoy the moments as they come. Remember, manifestation isn’t to add stress…it’s to cultivate clarity.
At the end of the day, the O Method is simply a way of reminding you that your mind plays a huge role in your sexual pleasure, and when you channel it and your energy exactly where you want them both to go, you’ll be amazed what your body is capable of doing…and accomplishing.
So, what kind of orgasm are you wanting to achieve? You’ve got a tool to get you there. USE IT.
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Featured image by Giphy