First things first, 2016 can blow me. This is a year that was crap, if you were American of course. Personally, it has been a horrid year, but that is not here or there. If you were listening to music to survive the idiocy and absolute malarkey of the year, you were in luck because it was actually a great year in music.
Streaming services were blowing up, vinyls were making a comeback and we all realized Kanye West needed some help and he realized it finally. This 25 songs are what I consider the best of the year that was 2016. Unlike last year’s 20 list, I actually had to whittle down over 40 plus choices just to compile a proper list of only 25 songs. Like the past two years, the pop music rule is tossed aside in order for all genres to be shown. Let’s not waste another moment in 2016, here is the first half of the Best Songs of 2016.
25. “Surfin'” by Kid Cudi ft. Pharrell Williams
In all honesty, I was never the biggest fan of Kid Cudi. I enjoyed his beats, I did like his rhymes, but overall, never really got why he was popular. This album proved me otherwise by him coming to terms with his mental health issues and informing his audience he is doing alright. On this song in particular, he combines his signature strings in his beats with the vibrant bombast of horns and drums with tribal-styled production by Pharrell carrying the tune along. It’s a celebration of him surviving his struggles and heading back to take control of his life once again. The man on the moon has returned.
24. “Send Them Off!” by Bastille
It only took three years since their last appearance, but Bastille did in fact not end up another “one hit wonder” band because I had high hopes. They combine an indie aesthetic with keyboard driven work, but decide to create a collage of funky bass lines, dramatics horns and Dan Smith’s sweet vocals. The audio samples also add to create a funky futuristic sound that hearkens to the past as well as taking advantage of the future at large. I’ve had this song in my head for weeks after release and still has not left quite yet. Bastille have come a far way since their placement in the countdown back in 2013.
23. “Bury It” by CHVRCHES ft. Hayley Williams
In the recent months, I grown into a very big fan of CHVRCHES as their previous two albums are what I listened to after a very rough time in my life. With that said, they are on the list for that reason alone from getting me out of a dark place and this is just one of the songs they got me out of a funk. With “Bury It,” the vocals of Lauren Mayberry and Hayley Williams clash together to form quite a sweet duet of overcoming the odds and putting all the things in the ground and rising above to conquer it all. It’s a sweet pop tune of synths, stark drums and a combination of the best alternative female singers at the moment. I’ll be going to CHVRCHES more often then before now.
22. “This Is What You Came For” by Calvin Harris ft. Rihanna
This song teaches us the beautiful lesson of not taking your girlfriend for granted on her talents because it will come back to bite you in the ass. Written by Taylor Swift while still with then-boyfriend Calvin Harris, this song has the feel of going to a club in the 90’s (from my mother’s accounts anyway) adding a swift repetitive wave of drums n’ synths in a style only C + C Music Factory would envy. It’s driven by one hell of a great chorus with Rihanna hitting the highest of highs on the melody’s wave. The only thing is her voice sounds bored halfway through the song, but i guess RiRi was just having a bad day.Either way, this is exactly what we came back to the song for.
21. “Colors” by Halsey
Want someone with a Lana Del Rey vibe but with more accessibility? That’s Halsey in a nutshell with her breathy vocals oozing in a collection of dark beats with songs of lust and heartbreak that don’t stray away too far from the Top 40. On “Colors,” she shines bright proving her worth singing of someone blue and broken and being engulfed by his influence. There is drama and vibrancy throughout with Halsey taking advantage of every rhyme including a spoken word section that does not feel force. This is another song that helped me through some personal growth as well, so for that, I thank Halsey for engulfing myself in the colors of her world. Who knows, maybe she engulfed me to appear again later on this list.
20. “Me and Your Mama” by Childish Gambino
Childish Gambino a.k.a. Donald Glover is a rare triple threat me get these days. Besides being one hell of an actor and comedian, he takes his time to live and be Childish Gambino and I’ve been a fan for several years. Since the rules change from two years ago of not just pop music, Gambino can be welcomed in with this funk and soul inspired opener to his album “Awaken, My Love!” with blues and chorus throughout. Gambino feels like he is giving a heartfelt sermon and we as the congregation are there to witness his heartbreak and longing for romance. It’s beautiful in the way it begins slowly then dives into the madness of his sermon ending with calm after the perfect storm given. It’s a masterwork that is nothing short of being Childish.
19. “Goosebumps” by Travis Scott ft. Kendrick Lamar
A song so good, not even YouTube can handle it. Travis Scott is a rapper I was not familiar with until my friend let me listen to this song and his entire album and, man, the world was missing this. Taking advantage of AutoTune in a way not heard since T-Pain, Scott raps about the goosebumps he feels about the emotions he feels when thinking of his lover, even if she is not around to give him the feeling. Scott is the only one that feels that way about their lover because Best Song list favorite Kendrick Lamar comes in for a verse to add on to what Scott is rapping about with his signature West Coast rhymes and taking advantage of his quick burst. Scott brings a fresh and unique view in a genre that is slowly becoming a shadow of its former self and this song provided them with plenty of goosebumps to feel it.
18. “Too Good” by Drake ft. Rihanna
Drake is a weird dude. Instead of going into a more hip-hop and rap direction in a world filled with trap music and mediocre at best hits, Drake went full pop mode with this somber and simple collaboration with his constant partner in crime Rihanna. It has a more world focused sound with tropical house thrown in for good measure. It sound drab at times, but the drabness adds to the song in the same way “This Is What You Came For” did. Drake has been the subject of controversy for a series of ghost writers and becoming part of the problem rather than being a solution. Views was mild at best and showed a direction that was bold, but not a proper step in the right direction. Hopefully the next album will be too good to put down. Speaking of rappers being the solution though…
17. “False Prophets” by J. Cole
J. Cole is one of them by coming back stronger than ever and rapping from the heart while also calling out very obvious subjects. Cole decides to take a bite out of the false ideas of the rap world and the public conscience on Kanye West. He also manages to diss the previous entries artist Drake with his ghost writers. Armed with a fresh jazz beat and sample that oozes Gil Scott Heron at his finest, Cole embraces what he gave to the world by telling the truth of his friend falling into the stereotypical trappings of rap and the constant need for fame and attention. The false prophets will always loomed, but at least J. Cole can at least be reeling and go toe to toe with them.
16. “I Can Only Stare” by Sleigh Bells
I’m surprised this group was never on the previous countdowns, considering I’m a fan. Sleigh Bells head in a darker direction with their typical noise pop sound by venturing into a post-punk sound with the power of The Smiths and Echo & the Bunnymen. Singer Alexis Krauss raises it up with her breathy vocals guiding the song alongside the combination of melodic guitar and synths a plenty. It is not as bombastic as their work on Treats or Reign of Terror, but rather a more mature sound for the duo to start embarking on grabbing the past and making a modern interpretation of it.
15. “On Hold” by The xx
The xx are another group I’m quite surprised was never on the countdown, mostly due to the original “must be pop songs only” rule I had years ago. Coming back after a long while, The xx deliver a tune about love being lost and how it can be gone in a instance, despite the constant running back and forth to one another seeking a stronger bond. On a personal note, this song came at a good time for me when I was losing myself in false romances and the like. With moments that hearken back to the past just like the previous entry, it becomes a great collage of sound, somber synths and remarkable lyrics. The line “the stars and the charts and cards make sense, only when we want them to” will stick with me for a long while. Let’s be glad that The xx is no longer on hold.
14. “Burn the Witch” by Radiohead
Radiohead makes their first appearance on this list with a symphonic haunting song in the form of “Burn the Witch.” Thom Yorke provides the vocals for the terrifying collection of deep bass, strings and drum machines bringing in a darkness to the world. The video above only adds to the creep factor by taking the story of The Wicker Man and using it as the backdrop of the song. It is absolutely great production work by Radiohead and a A Moon Shaped Pool clearly benefited from it all. Radiohead has always been a personal favorite of mine and many others and deserved their due on this countdown because of it. Yes, that’s right, they did more than just “Creep.”
13. “Pink + White” by Frank Ocean
Well, Frank Ocean, it only took about four years to write about you on this list again and, luckily, is was worth the wait with this number. “Pink + White” takes a mellow hip-hop route with neo-soul vibes, acoustic guitars and Ocean giving his thoughts of his lover at the current moment. It’s a nice and simple song that doesn’t linger too long and overstay its welcome. Blond was a disappointment to most anticipating something greater or the best album in existence, but personally, I enjoyed it as Ocean decided to go simpler with his sound and become more open with himself about how he sees the world. Now, let’s make sure you stick around. The world does not need another D’Angelo incident.
That does it for this part of the list. Part 2 shall cover the top 12 songs of 2016, so stick around.