CUPERTINO, CALIFORNIA Apple today announced the winners of the third annual Apple Music Awards, recognizing the best artists of 2021 and their influence on global culture.
The Apple Music Awards honor achievements in music across five distinct categories – Artist of the Year, Songwriter of the Year, Breakthrough Artist of the Year, Top Song of the Year, and Top Album of the Year – and winners are chosen through a process that reflects both Apple Music’s editorial perspective and what customers around the world are listening to the most.
This year, the Apple Music Awards will introduce a new category of awards for Regional Artist of the Year, recognizing artists from five countries and regions: Africa, France, Germany, Japan, and Russia. The Regional Artist of the Year awards recognize artists who made the greatest impact culturally and on the charts in their respective countries and regions.
“The past 12 months have proved to be a remarkable year for music, and we’re thrilled to honor the artists who are shaping culture and connecting with fans around the world on Apple Music,” said Oliver Schusser, Apple’s vice president of Apple Music and Beats. “This year we’re also recognizing more regional artists, showing the world the impact of extraordinary talented musicians who are making waves globally.”
The Apple Music Awards celebration kicks off Tuesday, December 7, 2021, with interviews, original content, and more all streaming worldwide on Apple Music and the Apple TV app. Music fans who are not already subscribed to Apple Music can sign up for a three-month free trial at apple.com/apple-music.
And the winners are…
Global Artist of the Year: The Weeknd
Filtering R&B and pop through an ambitious widescreen lens, The Weeknd took over popular music and culture on his own terms. The global superstar’s 2020 album “After Hours” quickly surpassed one million pre-adds on Apple Music, and is the most pre-added album of all time by a male artist on the platform. “After Hours” also holds the record for the most streamed R&B/Soul album in its first week in 73 countries. The smash single “Blinding Lights” peaked at No. 1 on Apple Music’s Daily Top 100: Global chart, and ranks as one of the 20 most Shazamed songs of all time. The Weeknd also hosts the massively popular taste-making Apple Music Radio show “MEMENTO MORI,” celebrated for its eclectic playlists and major world premieres. He’s graced recent covers of TIME, Forbes, Variety, Rolling Stone, Esquire, Harper’s Bazaar, and GQ, and blew away fans with his 2021 Super Bowl LV Halftime Show, which was one of the most Shazamed moments of the year.
“I’m so grateful for this huge honor and want to thank Apple for all its support, not only for my work but also for great music by newer artists, where it matters so much for creators to be found and supported,” The Weeknd said.
Breakthrough Artist of the Year, Album of the Year, and Song of the Year: Olivia Rodrigo
For Olivia Rodrigo, 2021 will go down as the year of epic firsts. The 18-year-old singer-songwriter released her tear-soaked debut single, “drivers license,” in January, which quickly topped the charts and became one of the most streamed new releases of the year. “drivers license” registered the highest first-week streams ever for a debut single by an artist on Apple Music globally, reaching No. 1 on the Daily Top 100: Global chart, where it remained for over a month, and was the fastest-ever debut solo track by a US artist to accumulate five million Shazams. Her highly anticipated debut album, “SOUR,” followed in May, and was celebrated with an Apple Music First Listen virtual event with fans and an accompanying interview with Zane Lowe. “SOUR” carries the highest first-week streams for a debut album on Apple Music globally, with all 11 songs on the album ranked on the Daily Top 100: Global chart, as well as the Daily Top 100 chart in 66 additional countries. Rodrigo has been on the cover of Apple Music playlists Today’s Hits, A-List Pop, and New Music Daily, and closes her life-changing year as the deserving recipient of her first three Apple Music Awards. She took home Breakthrough Artist, Album of the Year (“SOUR”), and Song of the Year (“drivers license”).
“I did my first interview for ‘drivers license’ with Apple Music, and so much has happened since then,” Rodrigo said. “It’s truly surreal. Thank you to Apple Music for these amazing awards.”
Songwriter of the Year: H.E.R.
Award-winning singer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist H.E.R.’s work within the R&B genre grew even more expansive in 2021 with the release of her acclaimed 21-track album “Back of My Mind,” which captures the artist at her most brilliant, confident, and freewheeling. The chart-topping album was the third most streamed R&B/Soul album on Apple Music in its first week of release by a female artist this year, with singles “Damage” and “Come Through” (featuring Chris Brown) both spending multiple weeks on the Daily Top 100 chart in over 30 countries. The former Apple Music Up Next artist also penned the anthemic original “Fight for You” for the celebrated motion picture “Judas and the Black Messiah,” and covered Marvin Gaye’s “Inner City Blues (Make Me Wanna Holler)” for Apple Music’s exclusive “Juneteenth: Freedom Songs” compilation. H.E.R. is a regular guest on Zane Lowe and Ebro Darden’s shows on Apple Music 1, and she has been featured as the cover of popular Apple Music playlists New Music Daily, R&B Now, and more.
“I am very honored and blessed to receive this recognition,” H.E.R. said. “As a young Black and Filipino artist, and a woman who is on the stage giving my all, there’s no doubt that representation is important. Thank you so much, Apple Music.”
Artist of the Year (Africa): Wizkid
Singer-songwriter Wizkid is one of Africa’s biggest crossover acts, having worked with Drake, Skepta, and Chris Brown, among others. The Nigerian musician first found regional success in 2011 with the massively popular single “Holla at Your Boy,” which appeared on his debut album, “Superstar.” Wizkid went global in 2016 after his collaboration with Drake on “One Dance,” which soared to the top of the charts in 15 countries. Between 2019 and 2020, Wizkid was featured in Beyoncé’s projects “The Lion King: The Gift” and its companion piece, “Black Is King.” In October 2020, he released “Made in Lagos,” his critically acclaimed and most commercially successful album, which included his hit song “Essence,” a track that gained 125 million plays on Apple Music and over 2.8 million Shazams. This past year, he’s been the most streamed African artist on the continent on Apple Music and ranked on the Daily Top 100 charts in 60 countries, in addition to his monthly plays on Apple Music growing by more than 250 percent outside of Africa. He’s also been featured on Apple Music’s Today’s Hits and R&B Now playlists, and he’s a frequent guest on Apple Music Radio shows, including “Africa Now Radio,” “The Ebro Show,” “New Music Daily with Zane Lowe,” and “OVO SOUND RADIO.”
“Thank you to Apple Music for this award,” Wizkid said. “It’s a blessing to get to do what I do, and I’m proud to be representing for Africa.”
Artist of the Year (France): Aya Nakamura
French-Malian pop singer Aya Nakamura is the most streamed Francophone artist in the world. Best known for her hit song “Djadja,” she has released three albums featuring countless chart-topping songs, including “Copines,” “Pookie,” “Plus Jamais,” and “Jolie nana,” and she has been on the cover of Apple Music’s Hits Français playlist. In France, Nakamura is one of the only female artists to consistently appear in the streaming charts in a market dominated by male rappers, and her album “AYA” garnered the highest first-week streams for an album released by a female artist on Apple Music. Her songs “Jolie nana” and “Plus Jamais” hold the top two spots for the highest first-week streams for a song by a female artist on Apple Music in France, and all 15 songs on the album entered the Daily Top 100 chart in France, Belgium, and Niger, with “Jolie nana” peaking at No. 1 in those countries. Her song “Bobo” also peaked at No. 1 on the Daily Top 100 chart in France, Niger, Cape Verde, and Micronesia. It marked her fifth single topping France’s Daily Apple charts.
“I am extremely honored to be the very first Francophone artist to win an Apple Music Award as Artist of the Year (France),” Nakamura said. “Thank you, Apple!”
Artist of the Year (Germany): RIN
Rapper Renato Simunovic, aka RIN, was born in 1994 in Bietigheim-Bissingen near Stuttgart in the south of Germany. After releasing his first EP, “Genesis,” in 2016, his debut album, “Eros,” followed quickly in 2017. A 25-time gold and three-time platinum artist, RIN has performed countless live shows, done features with legends, and collaborated with some of the world’s most influential brands. With his third album, “Kleinstadt,” RIN freed himself from the idea of what German rap should sound like, and fans and critics alike cite this album as hugely influential in shaping the current sound of rap in the south of Germany. He was the first German artist to host his own show on Apple Music, “KLEINSTADTRADIO,” tied to the new album, and he has graced the cover of Apple Music’s HYPED and Deutschrap 100 playlists.
“2021 was such a good year for me because it has borne a lot of fruit of things that I postponed for a long time,” RIN said. “My music has evolved in the same sense. I am much more personal.”
Artist of the Year (Japan): OFFICIAL HIGE DANDISM
Formed in Shimane, Japan, in 2012, OFFICIAL HIGE DANDISM, aka HIGEDAN, consists of lead vocalist and keyboardist Satoshi Fujihara, guitarist Daisuke Ozasa, bassist and saxophonist Makoto Narazaki, and drummer Masaki Matsuura. They released their debut mini album, “Love to Peace wa Kimi no Naka,” in 2014. Their first full-length album, “Escaparade” – which includes their popular song “No Doubt” – was released in 2018, but it was their second single, “Pretender,” that rocketed to the top of the Apple Music charts in Japan. HIGEDAN entered Shazam’s emerging artists lists in Japan and Australia for the first time in June 2019, ahead of the release of the band’s follow-up album, “Traveler,” which became their first No. 1 album in Japan. The group has been featured in three different Apple Music Japan commercials, with their hit songs “Stand by You” and “I Love…,” along with the 2021 song “Apoptosis,” taken from their third album, “Editorial,” which carries the third-highest first-week streams for an album released in 2021 in Japan, and was recently featured in an Apple Music Japan spatial audio with Dolby Atmos commercial. The band has also made several guest appearances on “J-Pop Now Radio” on Apple Music 1.
“We didn’t know Japanese artists could win this award and were shocked when we were told,” the band said. “We’re super happy to be the winners of the first Apple Music Award for Artist of the Year (Japan).”
Artist of the Year (Russia): Scriptonite
Rapper Scriptonite, aka Adil Zhalelov, was discovered by Basta and signed to his label Gazgolder in 2015. Scriptonite’s debut album, “House with Normal Activity,” became an instant classic and has been deemed one of the biggest records of the new Russian hip-hop revolution. In 2017, Scriptonite followed up with two more LPs on Gazgolder, rising to the top-ranked producer and performer of the current hip-hop era, with fans and critics crediting him as the most important voice and sound of the new generation. After starting his own label, Musica36, in 2019, Scriptonite’s “2004” album was released exclusively on Apple Music to critical acclaim, becoming the No. 1 streamed record of the year. Scriptonite also holds the record for the two most streamed albums for its first week on Apple Music in five countries (Russia, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Moldova). His single “Baby Mama” landed him in the Top 20 of worldwide Shazam charts. In 2020, Apple Music exclusively released the short film “Behind Scriptonite’s ‘2004’” along with a “36 Jam” live concert of all Musica36 artists. This year saw the release of his album “Svistki Y Bumazhki,” as well as a COVID-postponed show in Moscow, both released exclusively on Apple Music. Scriptonite has graced the covers of Apple Music’s Kirillitsa, Russian Hits, and New Music Daily playlists, and he’s currently working on his first English-language record in collaboration with Gee Baller, a young Nigerian rising star who recently signed to Musica36.
“This award is the culmination of an incredible few years, and Apple Music has been with me for so much of it along the way,” Scriptonite said. “Thank you for the recognition.”
About the Apple Music Awards
Apple designed a series of physical awards that represent the extraordinary craftsmanship integral to creating music. Each award features Apple’s custom silicon wafer suspended between a polished sheet of glass and a machined and anodized aluminum body. The result of this multi-month process, before it is sliced into hundreds of individual chips, is stunning and distinctive. In a symbolic gesture, the same chips that power the devices that put the world’s music at listeners fingertips sit at the very heart of the Apple Music Awards.