The second half of 2021 finally started to move out of lockdowns and that finally bought some movie releases in the cinemas. Masked-up film starved audiences rushed to the theatres to take the risk of Covid 19 but catch their favourite stars in movies filmed more than a year ago in most cases. The pipeline of some of the big budget bonanzas saw its doors open and the films finally flowing out this year. And with these releases came the big soundtracks in the full commercial glory. What was noticible was that the soundtracks were stuck in the music trends of a couple of years ago (considering these would have been recorded in 2019 aiming to 2020 releases). There was lack of pathbreaking music in 2021 and that sure is a let down. But in some ways it felt good to get the good ol music back considering how deprived listeners have been to big commercial soundtracks.
But there are always exceptions to the rule and out year end countdown is a salutation to the top five albums who brought in a mix of familiarity with originality in music to get us back to our headphones. The year witnessed the return of big remakes as it was the trend in 2019 and these have been instrumental in driving popularity of Bollywood music again this year. The year also saw the return of the big mammoths of music including AR Rahman, Pritam, Shankar Ehsaan Loy delivering soundtracks this year with a fair amount of the known singing talents driving the big singles. But Tanishk Bagchi and Sachin-Jigar dominate the year with Bagchi creating yet another level of success for him. Punjabi music was still the main flavour dominating music style so overall 2021 is a deja vu of 2019 music just in a smaller way with a fever number of releases. Considering their online popularity, chart success, variety and consistency in the album soundtrack and innovations to musical expression here are our top 5 Bollywood music albums of the year.
We have a tie at No. 5.
5 – ‘Bell Bottom’ (2021) – The soundtrack of ‘Bell Bottom’ was a good wholesome one with 6 songs and a mix of romantic, party, wedding number, a sad sombre song and even a decent title track which is rare to get right in many cases even for a standalone song. The mix of artists with Tanishk Bagchi, Shantanu Dutta, Amaal Mallik and Gurnazar work well together in fulfilling director Tewari’s vision. Sakhiyan 2.0 is a killer remake of Maninder Buttar’s original and perhaps one of the best done by Bagchi this year. Zara Khan is a really good addition to the song on the female vocals adding a great amout of sex appeal to it. Khair Mangde is another great song with male and female versions and will work well for the forthcoming wedding season in India. Kudos to Dutta and Saini for a brilliant piece of music created here. Gurnazar’s Marjaawaan is a decent romantic number and clearly unique sound in the Bollywood romantic songs setting while Tum Aaogey is a nicely done song about separation with Armaan Malik’s amazing vocals. The album had the touch of Akshay Kumar’s personality and music tastes to it which helps engage the songs better with the movie. Overall this album had a good amount of variety and character to it for it to work commercially and for the discerning listener making this one of the top albums this year.
= 5 – ‘Sardar Ka Grandson’ (2021) – Tanishk Bagchi led the entire soundtrack of this movie rather than just contributing with a usual remake and he did that well. Although the album in essence is led by remakes but the originals delivered by Bagchi are quite impressive too. The mix of five songs have a good amount of variety to it although the lack of focus on the movie did impact the success of the songs too. But the music is pretty good and if it was a big budget movie with a stronger leading cast one can imagine these songs to have done a lot better on the commercial front than they actually did. Jee Ni Karda is the obligatory Punjabi remake and a really good one at that of Manak-E’s 2008 original Dhoor. Nikhita Gandhi & Jass Manak deliver some good vocals with the complete new set of lyrics by Baghci himself are the best part of the song making it fit effortlessly into the Bollywood Hindi setting. The remake of Milind Gabba’s 2017 hit Main Teri Ho Gayi is really well arranged with the additional lycis and soothing vocals. This is by far one of the best romantic songs of the year with a really emotional composition. The original songs Dil Nahi Todna and Bandeya are far from Bagchi’s party numbers and really refreshing to hear even with their sad theme. Both have a really strong melodic character to them with some really good writing by Bagchi and Manoj Muntashir respectively. On the whole all four songs are impressive on this album with strong deliveries in their respective settings and thus adding a lot of personality to the soundtrack making it a worthy placeholder in the top five of the year despite its mediocre success.
4 – ‘Roohi’ (2021) – One of the early releases this year, the album of the movie ‘Roohi’ is definitely one of the most successful soundtrack of the first half of the year. And it righly deserves that as the music by Sachin-Jigar and lyrics by Amitabh Bhattacharya were all for delivering a strong commercial footing for Janhvi Kapoor to grow and build from. The album did just that with giving her a couple of really big songs that have been dominating the party scene and airplays all through the year. The Shamur remake Nadiyon Paar (Let The Music Play) is a perfect dance number that has been a major viral success thanks to a well balanced music between the original and the new beats and vocals and a really good music video with great choreography and set design. Rashmeet Kaur’s vocals are very well delivered making her a great talent addition to the song. Kiston is a beautiful romantic number and one of the best ones this year thanks to Nautiyal’s vocals and amazing lyrics. The song has depth and a wonderful melody making it a top song to listen on repeat. Another good party number this year is Panghat with Asees Kaur and Divya Kumar killing it on the vocals. The unique visual styling of the song makes this song an ideal one for Halloween. Bhootni and Bhauji are average numbers but fit really well with the movie theme and thus fitting in the soundtrack adding variety to the album. But it really is the 3 leading songs that have a class to them and the success of which has led this album into the top five.
3 – ‘Chandigarh Kare Aashiqui’ (2021) – One of the most recent releases, ‘Chandigarh Kare Aashiqui’ is a class soundtrack with a strong commercial flavour to it with its massy Punjabi music. Sachin-Jigar are clearly a force to recon with on the music front delivering depth, personality and a great amount of variety in this album. The dance tracks are more prominent on the album while romantic songs are well done too. A whole amount of credit goes to well written lyrics across the board on this soundtrack by IP Singh and Priya Saraiya. The title track Chandigarh Kare Aashiqui and its remix 2.0 with Guru Randhawa both are easily one of the best Punjabi songs of the year as it retails a lot of the original in it while the remix is a really cool and interesting urban take on the song. The translation of Jassi Sidhu’s original in these ways has given a new life to this 2004 mammoth hit. Hearing Sukhwinder Singh on Tumbe Te Zumba is quite uplifting as the singer delivers his usual high dose of energy. Kheench Te Nach and Attraction are other good party numbers on the album. Both songs are truly unique with modern House and Techno sounds which has become quite rare for Bollywood recently. Vishal Dadlani is amazing on the former while Mika Singh rocks the latter which is a departure from his usual Punjabi flavoured dance songs. Kalle Kalle is a wonderful romantic number with some amazing lyrics and vocals by Saraiya while Maafi is another good vocal by Ayushmann Khurrana althought not the best song for it. Overall this album has so much meat to it that one would not get bored and there is a whole amount of content to enjoy making it one of the most memorable ones of the year 2021.
2 – ‘Sooryavanshi’ (2021) – Rohit Shetty compiled a high decibel commercial massy soundtrack for his next super-cop adventure ‘Sooryavanshi’ that finally released this year. He achieved that by mainly banking on the remake & production mammoth Bagchi for delivering three major remakes in the form of Aila Re Aillaa, NaJaa and Tip Tip. Although all are remakes they are solid ones at that and really the ones that have helped audiences forget the pandemic and go back to happier times of 2019. The opening song Aila Re Aillaa is quite well done reinventing Kumar’s 2010 song with some catchy new lyrics by Shabbir Ahmed and powerful vocals by Daler Mehndi, while the later song Tip Tip is almost basic sticking to the strength of the original sex appeal of the song with Udit Narayan and Alka Yagnik’s vocal magic brought back. But Bagchi does well on the Punjabi song’s remake with Najaa that has some brilliant vocals by Gandhi and great new Hindi lyrics and is one of the best remakes this year thanks to its uber cool beats and Gandhi’s amazing vocals. The best song is the original romantic Mere Yaaraa by Jam8 with Singh and Mohan’s vocals and Rashmi Virag’s lyrics delivering an evocative number. DJ Chetas delivers the theme music well to sum up the album ending it with yet another mass appeal song. Overall the album sure has character and delivers well on expectations in line with its predecessor movies. If only the album had more original content and variable genres it would have a lot more credibility as a music albumbut commercially each single has some mettle to it and it surely enjoyed success on all fronts making it a top two soundtrack of 2021.
1 – ‘Shershaah’ (2021) – The best part of this album was that ‘Shershaah’ soundtrack was a pleasant surprise and definitely much better than expectations. Karan Johar and Vishnuvardhan did extremely well picking each song that is just beautiful to listen to while also adding a whole lot of value to the movie. Each song fits with the story and setting of the film and thus feels perfectly adequate in itself. The brilliant part is that each of the 6 songs are background songs and not performed in to the camera giving further authenticity to the character of Captain Vikram Batra & thus the story of the movie. Each song is an original with no remakes here!! There is great amount of romantic songs in the album with one patriotic song which is the only negative here as there is less variety and by the end of the album one can’t help but feel a little blue. But at the same time that is a big positive as the soundtrack fits well for the movie staying authentic and true to the narration. Each song is brilliant on this soundtrack! Raataan Lambiyan is truly the romantic song of the year thanks to the excellent work of Bagchi & vocals of Nautiyal, while Ranjha, Mann Bharryaa 2.0 and Kabhii Tumhhe are all amazing sad songs. B Praak is a force to recon with and Jasleen Royal is super as always. Lyrics by Manoj Muntashir & music of Montrose on Jai Hind Ki Sena are worth a listen. All in all this is a great album with each song worthy of success in their own right making this the best album of the year by a fair margin.
In addition to our top 5 we always give a special mention to some of the other deserving work from the year that just missed the mark in our top soundtracks.
‘Mumbai Saga’ (2021) is an album that just had three songs but three hugely successful songs. Jubin Nautiyal’s Lut Gaye is one of the most viewed and played songs this year across all broadcast and social formats and it deserves that success with a terrific melody created by Bagchi and lyrics by Muntashir. Honey Singh’s Shor Machega is yet another big hit thanks to its dark gangster vibes that has not been heard in Bollywood for sometime.
Another recent John Abraham album ‘Satyameva Jayate 2’ (2021) is a good soundtrack with a fair amount of variety and depth to it but with all average numbers. But the three leading songs have had quite a bit of success recently with Kusu Kusu with Nora Fatehi killing it on the dancefloor, even though it is bit cheesy on the lyrics. The remake of Tenu Lehanga is a big hit on the Punjabi circuit with Jass Manak and Bagchi’s collaboration while Meri Zindagi Hai Tu is a decent romantic song.
Salman Khan’s ‘Radhe’ (2021) enjoyed a fair bit of commercial success with its massy street favourites in Seeti Maar and Zoom Zoom and item song Dil De Diya. The songs are all one track and the album lacks depth to it making it a successful but not very memorable.
Rahman’s ’99 Songs’ (2021) is one detailed album that had really high expectations from it but turned out to be far less impactful. There is good amount of talent and merit to the soundtrack with songs like O Aashiqa, Nayi Nayi, Humnawaa but even with eleven songs the album turns out to be an average one.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author.