Happy Boxing Day – hope you’ve all had a good, safe and peaceful Christmas so far! As is annual tradition on this corner of the web, today is when I hand out my End of Year Prizes, where I name my favourites from the world of music, TV, books and podcasts from the last 12 months.
Obviously with this year being a bit more challenging than usual for us, I’ve not been quite so active on the blogging front since I took a break at the start of August, but I hope to be back writing more regularly in 2022. In the meantime, let me thank every single one of you who continue to read and support these pages, it is much appreciated.
Now grab yourself a cuppa, Quality Street – hell, a full on roast dinner – and get ready to see what I’ve found to be the best of the best in 2021. Big love always,
X x 🏆🌟🎶📚📺🎙️📝
MAN OF THE YEAR – Jay Blades
Fresh from dazzling the Strictly Come Dancing Christmas dancefloor and announcing his engagement, Jay walks off with my prize for best gent of 2021. With a bestselling book (Making It), a new TV production and talent venture called Hungry Jay Media, and another series of his own that we’ve loved (Jay’s Yorkshire Workshop on BBC Two) all to his credit, it seems there is no end to the talents and ingenuity of The Repair Shop’s main man.
WOMAN OF THE YEAR – Britney Spears
I mean, if we’re honest, Britney has always had a special place in our hearts since the moment we first saw the “…Baby One More Time” video back in 1999. But after finally releasing herself – with the help of the #FreeBritney movement both online and in public from her fans around the world – from the cruel conservatorship that has only now just ended 13 years after it should have done, here’s to hoping that she has a brighter and better future ahead in 2022, whatever form that may take. As the lady herself once sang, she is now stronger.
BAND OF THE YEAR – Little Mix
After taking in a year which has seen another number one single (“Sweet Melody”), making history as the first ever girl group to win the BRIT Award for Best British Group, making it to a decade in music, releasing a storming greatest hits album (Between Us) and welcoming new arrivals into their families, it is little wonder that after their tour finishes next year that Jade Thirlwall, Perrie Edwards and Leigh-Anne Pinnock will be taking a little rest for a while. The least we could do therefore was honour their work with our Band of the Year prize. Enjoy your break ladies!
SINGER OF THE YEAR – Natalie Imbruglia
Having released her last full studio album in 2009 (Come to Life, which sadly never saw a full UK release), it seemed unlikely that Natalie Imbruglia would ever get round to doing what she did best again. But what a comeback she gave us this year; her new album Firebird is aptly named, soaring high and burning bright with a renewed optimism and confidence that we’ve truly loved hearing again. It’s great to have her back.
COMEBACK OF 2021 – ABBA
SONG OF THE YEAR – ABBA, “Don’t Shut Me Down”
And speaking of unexpected comebacks, in a year chock-a-block with them, the biggest of all undoubtedly came from Sweden’s biggest export outside of Volvo cars and IKEA furniture. Yes, after years of whisperings and potential rumours, the world got the ABBA reunion they had long been craving for. And it’s safe to say that with their now Grammy nominated comeback single “Don’t Shut Me Down”, they delivered a timeless pop banger for the ages with bells on as only they know how. It’s like they were never away at all.
ALBUM OF THE YEAR – JLS, “2.0”
Still, if ABBA gave us 2021’s most impressive renaissance, then Aston, Marvin, Oritsé and JB ran a close but very respectable second. Their first full new studio album in 9 years returned them to the UK top 5 after selling out the year’s most successful arena tour, and was full and plenty of the R&B flecked pop bangers that they’ve been turning out effortlessly since 2009, but with an up to date take on proceedings.
TV SHOW OF THE YEAR – The Repair Shop (BBC One)
It is heartwarming to know that, even in a world of such changing uncertainty, there are some small corners of our week which continue to be an oasis of calm and love and people generally being a shining example of humanity at its best. And for the second year running, the expert team of craftspeople and restorers at The Repair Shop have continued to prove themselves as being all those things and more on our Wednesday evenings.
PODCAST OF THE YEAR – People, Just People with Dermot O’Leary
Only available on Audible, and now onto its third series, Dermot O’Leary’s weekly podcast talking to a wide range of guests (amongst them, Arsene Wenger, Niall Horan, Richard Curtis and Claudia Winkleman) from a variety of walks of life has been our go-to for much of this year, for its insightfulness and approach to interviewing that makes this a really engaging listen.
BOOK OF THE YEAR: Sophie Ellis-Bextor, “Spinning Plates: Music, Men, Motherhood and Me”
It turns out that her weekly Kitchen Discos weren’t the only brilliant thing to come out of the lockdowns last year; for Sophie Ellis-Bextor also found time to write her excellent autobiography to boot as well. Speaking with her trademark eloquence, wit and honesty about her experiences across her life to date, this is a highly enjoyable read and one we couldn’t recommend more highly.
COMEDIAN OF THE YEAR – Munya Chawawa
I forget exactly where it was I first became aware of Munya Chawawa. But like most people, I believe it was from his brilliant sketches he records for his Instagram, most notable of all his hilarious take off of disgraced MP Matt Hancock to the tune of Shaggy’s 2001 infidelity banger, “It Wasn’t Me”. Now, the bright young comic talent is using his platform to bring a light hearted approach to a more serious and personal subject (we highly recommend his excellent YouTube series Race Around Britain) and is sure to shine even brighter into 2022.
ICON PRIZE – Sarah Harding
This year will always be associated with some sad passings as well – not least all from Sarah Harding, who was a big part of our music loving life for 10 whole years, and to this day continues to be. But although the Girls Aloud singer passed away at the early age of 39 from breast cancer in September, it is not only her mark and impact she left on the world of pop music that will be her lasting legacy, but also utilising her platform in the final months of her life to raise awareness and funds to a cruel and still preventable disease that means she will always be an icon to us, and it is in her memory that we dedicate our End of Year Prizes post to this year.