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Best songs of 2021 so far, including Olivia Rodrigo, Bruce Springsteen and Miranda Lambert

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As the music industry continues to emerge from hibernation, cautious optimism follows – along with a trove of new material.

Some of this year’s notable output so far was recorded pre-pandemic but shelved until the world could exhale a bit. Other material was crafted in those dark days of 2020 and is now providing us with a dash of sunlight (hi, Olivia Rodrigo).

From the British electronica of Jungle to the sassy country-pop of Elle King and Miranda Lambert, 2021 is bestowing a smorgasbord of sounds. Here is what we think is some of the best so far.

Bleachers, ‘Stop Making This Hurt’

Melding ‘80s-era synth-pop with the quirky sensibilities of The Talking Heads, singer-songwriter-producer-frequent-Taylor-Swift-collaborator Jack Antonoff again manages to both mine nostalgia and craft sparkly freshness. The latest single from Bleachers’ third album, “Take the Sadness Out of Saturday Night” (due July 30), is imbued with a chanting chorus customized for live singalongs and a glossy pop sheen that belies the song’s forlorn storytelling. – Melissa Ruggieri

Chvrches, ‘How Not to Drown’

After expanding their pop horizons on maximalist 2018 effort "Love is Dead," Scottish synth trio Chvrches are back with some of the most vulnerable and thrilling music of their decadelong career. Driven by Lauren Mayberry's lilting vocals and a haunting piano line, the aching "How Not to Drown" evocatively captures how it feels to be overwhelmed by cynicism and self-doubt. ("I'm writing a chapter on what to do after they dig you up / On what to do after you grew to hate what you used to love.") Featuring a broody assist from The Cure frontman Robert Smith, the track underscores why Chvrches' fourth album, "Screen Violence" (out Aug. 27), is one of our most eagerly anticipated of the summer. – Patrick Ryan

Doja Cat, ‘Kiss Me More’

While not entirely a callback to her sleek 2019 breakthrough, “Say So,” the SZA-guesting Top 5 hit is the highlight of Doja Cat’s third album, “Planet Her.” A breezy melody and gently pulsing backbeat steer the song – which includes hints of Olivia Newton-John’s “Physical” knitted into the chorus – as the two women assert their sexuality in raunchy lyrics slicked with sugar. – Ruggieri

Doja Cat, shown performing at the 2021 Billboard Music Awards, released her third album, "Planet Her," in June 2021.
Doja Cat, shown performing at the 2021 Billboard Music Awards, released her third album, "Planet Her," in June 2021.

Elle King and Miranda Lambert, ‘Drunk (And I Don't Wanna Go Home)’

An ode to sloppy revelry, the second collaboration between these former tour mates is the kind of rousing stomper that will always sound perfect blasting out of pool hall speakers at 2 a.m. King unapologetically teases, “You like my gin and tonic kisses, 'cause you know they taste so sweet / And I know you got your missus, but there ain't no one like me” before the galloping chorus kicks in, while Lambert adds a tangy rasp to her lines about partying in the moment. The country spitfires are clearly having a blast as they prove themselves to be the world’s best wing-women. – Ruggieri

Jungle, ‘Keep Moving’

A straight shot of serotonin, Jungle's euphoric "Keep Moving" marries a slick disco-funk sound with the U.K. duo's signature, falsetto-laden harmonies. No Fourth of July picnic is complete without this infectious tune on the playlist, previewing the band's forthcoming album "Loving in Stereo" (out Aug. 13). – Ryan

The Killers featuring Bruce Springsteen, ‘Dustland’

As the story goes, Springsteen – a longtime hero of Killers frontman Brandon Flowers – texted the singer in February 2020 after watching the band’s Glastonbury performance from the previous year. Along with a compliment about The Killers’ live set, Springsteen said, “We gotta do ‘Dustland’ one day.” Flowers shook off the disbelief and recast the band’s 2008 song, “A Dustland Fairytale,” as a duet with The Boss and the result is a meeting of grit-rock excellence. Both Flowers and Springsteen carry their own emotional baggage into the slow-burn song as they share Flowers’ lyrics that cast his dad (“some kind of slick chrome American prince”) and mom (“Cinderella in a party dress”) into a typical Spring-stonian world. – Ruggieri

Lucy Dacus, ‘Thumbs’

Long a staple of Dacus’ live shows, the sparse, haunting ballad is a vise-grip on your heart. With only a synthesizer and Mellotron underneath her vocals, Dacus projects an eerie calm as she unspools, with lyrical precision, the story of accompanying a college friend to visit the person’s estranged father. Dacus’ captivating presentation ranges from tender concern for her friend to internal rage at a parent who caused devastating pain. – Ruggieri

Olivia Rodrigo, ‘Jealousy, Jealousy’

Time and again, Rodrigo has proven that her record-smashing breakthrough anthem "Drivers License" was no fluke, from its kaleidoscopic follow-up "Deja Vu" to the snarling pop-punk kiss-off "Good 4 U." Any number of tracks from her preternaturally confident debut effort, "Sour," could be included on this list. But "Jealousy, Jealousy" – with its throbbing bass line and sing-songy chorus about the inevitable "com-comparisons" of social media – has been firmly ensconced in our brains ever since the album dropped last month. Single No. 4, perhaps? – Ryan

Serpentwithfeet, ‘Wood Boy’

Josiah Wise, who goes by stage name Serpentwithfeet, leaves little to the imagination on "Wood Boy," a playfully sultry bedroom anthem about pining for a – to put it modestly – deeply passionate lover. ("Think I'ma need a map after this / 'Cause I don't know wherе anything is / Where's the grocеry store? What's my address? / What's my name again?") Blending woozy electronics with transfixing Auto-Tune, the song reflects just one facet of queer Black love, which Wise delicately explores on phenomenal second album "Deacon," released earlier this year. – Ryan

St. Vincent, ‘Down’

Annie Clark, better known as singer/guitarist St. Vincent, gives us a punchy quasi-sequel to her uncanny 2011 song "Cruel," about society's casual callousness toward women. Here, she takes the power back over a hazy '70s-inspired groove, declaring, "When you hit me two times / You got yourself a fight." If St. Vincent's latest album "Daddy's Home" was a sleazy sojourn in New York's grimy wonderland, then "Down" is the White Rabbit that takes you there. – Ryan

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Best 2021 songs (so far): Olivia Rodrigo, Springsteen, Miranda Lambert