With 2016 almost in the books, the time has come to recognize the year’s greatest tracks! From pop stars solidifying their legacy to newcomers making their presence known, this year has been one of the most exciting of the decade. Without further adu, here are the 100 Best Songs of 2016!
100. “Can’t Stop The Feeling!” Justin Timberlake
Sometimes Justin Timberlake gets a pass because he’s Justin Timberlake, and “Can’t Stop The Feeling!” is one of those times. The song is the musical equivalent of cardboard, but cardboard serves a function. We just know JT’s capable of concrete.
99. “Cold Water” Major Lazer featuring Justin Bieber and MØ
EMD’s reigning muse, Justin Bieber, does everything he can to distract from “Cold Water’s” lackluster backing track, and he almost gets it there. The minimal presence of MØ is a sad reminder that this a mere afterthought of the fantastic “Lean On.”
98. “Mean What I Mean” AlunaGeorge featuring Leikeli47 and Dreezy
Electro-R&B duo, AlunaGeorge, are still struggling to find a comfortable place between the two genres, but that hasn’t stopped them from cranking out some killer tunes. “Mean What I Mean” is arguably more exciting than most pop hits this year.
97. “Make Me…” Britney Spears featuring G-Easy
Killer pop gems like this always seem to find their way into Britney Spears’s unassuming lap; it’s a testament to her star power. “Make Me…” is one of the best songs to come her way in a while, but it would have benefited from nixing G-Easy’s verse.
96. “The Big Big Beat” Azealia Banks
For as much as her stardom is based on social media rants and scathing feuds, Azealia Banks manages to put her money where her mouth is. “The Big Big Beat” is certainly no “212,” but her unique perspective and personality carries the track to a success.
95. “This Town” Niall Horan
Surprisingly, Niall Horan was the next to emerge from the ashes of 1D’s hiatus/breakup after Zayn’s massive head start. More surprisingly, the acoustic “This Town” actually works quite well. Niall not only remains true-to-form, he exudes confidence.
94. “Make Me Like You” Gwen Stefani
Gwen Stefani’s “Make Me Like You” is one of the most sugarcoated pieces in her repertoire, but she sells the hell out of it. With one of the most charismatic voices pretty much ever, it’s hard not to get sucked into the funky bass and uplifting hook.
93. “This Is What You Came For” Calvin Harris featuring Rihanna
There’s no way these two are going to fail when they get together, but “This Is What You Came For” undeniably feels likes an afterthought next to “We Found Love.” It’s catchy, sure, but even Rihanna’s vocals seem uncharacteristically distant.
92. “Fuck With Myself” Banks
Banks has the potential to be one of the most exciting pop stars of our time if she plays her cards right. “Fuck With Myself” gets away with a lot, mostly for that reason. The minimal production and low key hooks are lush… or possibly incomplete.
91. “Heathens” Twenty One Pilots
Twenty One Pilots contribution to the Suicide Squad soundtrack, “Heathens,” does more than capitalize on their wild popularity. Time will tell how history will look back on the duo, but it’s likely we’ll all be coming back to this song for reference.
90. “Do It, Try It” M83
The clunking whirlwind that is “Do It, Try It” feels like a cut and paste job at times, but it also feels rather intentional. The single reaches the same, comfortable level of euphoria that comes with the territory of an M83 song, but it sure keeps us on our toes.
89. “Gimme The Love” Jake Bugg
It was never going to be an easy feat outdoing his immaculate debut, but you can’t deny that Jake Bugg’s been trying. What was attempted as a bold Madchester update comes out sounding like a Chili Peppers b-side, but “Gimme The Love” is a welcomed departure.
88. “Blow Your Mind (Mwah)” Dua Lipa
British newcomer Dua Lipa could very easily be on the verge of a huge international explosion, especially if “Blow Your Mind” is any point of reference. The pop anthem is the perfect platform for her innate charisma and commanding vocals.
87. “Controlla” Drake
“Controlla” is Drake’s victory lap. Clearly at the peak of his commercial demand, the rapper/pop star can pretty much do whatever he wants, but keeping in step with his dancehall intuitions, albeit on a more low-key basis, was a fairly thoughtful move.
86. “Dark Necessities” Red Hot Chili Peppers
The Chili Peppers are back, as if they’ve ever really strayed too far, with a pleasant reminder of just how consistent their Hall of Fame career has been. Does “Dark Necessities” expand their repertoire much? No, but that doesn’t detract from its quality.
85. “Bing Bong” Super Furry Animals
Welsh indie rockers Super Furry Animals haven’t had all that much success outside of their native UK, but they’ve been one of the most consistently interesting acts of the last 25 years. Their anthemic “Bing Bong” is an insanely unique facet of their already-unique catalog.
84. “Hype” Dizzee Rascal featuring Calvin Harris
There’s something bizarrely awesome that happens when these two get together. It’s hard to follow hits like “Dance Wiv Me” and “Holiday,” both in eccentricity and brilliance, but “Hype” manages to live up its namesake. Why fix it if it ain’t broke, right?
83. “Closer” The Chainsmokers featuring Halsey
This was not only undeniably one of the year’s biggest hits, but also a hell of a peak for The Chainsmokers. The deliriously catchy “Closer,” a duet with up-and-comer Halsey, was deliberately conceived as a mega-hit, but that doesn’t make it any less grating.
82. “Vroom Vroom” Charli XCX
Charli XCX is an incredible, well-rounded artist who’s gotten plenty of attention as a collaborator; you could call her a Sia-In-Waiting. “Vroom Vroom” is an ingeniously minimal production bedazzled with exciting hooks and intricacies for height.
81. “Space” Amber Mark
Amber Mark is so brand-spanking-new to the public eye that it could be some time before she gets much recognition, but if “Space” is anything to go off of, it’s coming. The track is refreshing and unique, yet more than keeps up with the times.
80. “Million Reasons” Lady Gaga
While Lady Gaga’s hyped “return to pop” ended up being anything but, “Million Reasons” was a generous reminder of her incredible talents as a well-rounded musician. Her incredible voice carries the ballad so well it’s easy to forget the synthesizers.
79. “First World Problem” Unknown Mortal Orchestra
Fresh off the heals of last year’s phenomenal Multi-Love album, Unknown Mortal Orchestra treated us to the stand alone “First World Problem.” The laidback, funk-infused production features one of their catchiest hooks to date.
78. “Dangerous Woman” Ariana Grande
Ariana Grande is one of the most prominent fixtures in pop music today despite failing to remain particularly consistent. The title track and lead single from her Dangerous Woman LP is a perfect representation of just what she’s capable of.
77. “Genghis Khan” Miike Snow
Swedish indie stars Miike Snow ushered in their third album, iii, on an exciting note with their single “Genghis Khan” With a name like that, you know the track is bound to be bold and authoritative, and they deliver. It’s deliriously catchy, to boot.
76. “Gold” Kiiara
It’s no surprise that newcomer Kiiara saw success with the minimalist trap of her debut “Gold.” A production masterclass in the increasingly popular “less is more,” the brilliantly intricate forwards-and-backwards chorus gets top billing.
75. “Pillowtalk” ZAYN
You can’t blame Zayn for trying to seal his fate as the emerging solo star of One Direction, and he couldn’t have led with a better single. “Pillowtalk” doesn’t stray far from the pop realm he came from, but there’s a necessary refinement injected in it.
74. “High and Low” Empire Of The Sun
After two albums spent honing in on their sound, Empire Of The Sun’s return feels more like the payoff than any form of advancement. “High and Low” is as euphoric, as catchy, and as dreamy as anything they’ve ever done, which is solid at worst.
73. “Feel Like I Do” Disclosure featuring Al Green
Al Green was so impressed with Disclosure’s sample utilizing his “I’m Still In Love With You” he gave them access to the master track, making “Feel Like I Do” effortlessly badass. The laidback groove these guys have thrived on is the cherry on top.
72. “The Wheel” PJ Harvey
PJ Harvey has never been focused on having hit singles, but every time she launches a new album era with a new track, there’s an incredible excitement. “The Wheel,” the first to precede The Hope Six Demolition Project, feels aptly circular yet beautifully captivating.
71. “Needed Me” Rihanna
The sleek, laidback vibe of Rihanna’s “Needed Me” exudes confidence. She opts for self-assurance and poise over possession and vigor, which speaks volumes to her ability to conjure up so much out of so little. This is RiRi at her most true to form.
70. “untitled 07 | levitate” Kendrick Lamar
Kendrick’s trap-infused “levitate,” is a cutout of untitled unmastered.’s 8-minute epic “untitled 07.” The single version hones in on a very specific portion of the original, but his decision to favor consistency results in a rather exciting new experience.
69. “No Woman” Whitney
Newcomers Whitney didn’t go unnoticed this year thanks to their incredible debut album and their single “No Woman.” The stripped-down, lo-fi pseudo-ballad has the perfect, warm texture only, which is not easy. It’s exciting to think what they have in store.
68. “OBLIVIOUS” The Strokes
The Strokes strive on a hit-or-miss mentality, but when they get it right, they tend to really get it right. “OBLIVIOUS” is one such moment. Julian Casablancas & co. stay true to form here, which, in this case, feels incredibly current, in a timeless kinda way.
67. “Famous” Kanye West
Kanye’s opening line was 2016’s shot heard around the world. Regardless if you’re siding with Kanye (err.. Kim) or T.Swift, “Famous” remains one of Pablo’s biggest standouts. Even with a Rihanna-led hook, the track never fully opens itself up to accessibility.
66. “Daddy Lessons” Beyoncé and The Dixie Chicks
Of all of Lemonade’s highlights, the country-infused “Daddy Lessons” stood out from the pack. So much so, in fact, that the Dixie Chicks couldn’t keep away. When paired together, these ladies took the track to an entirely new, gloriously unapologetic level.
65. “Work From Home” Fifth Harmony featuring Ty Dolla $ign
“Work From Home” is the career-solidifying hit Fifth Harmony was so desperate for. Sometimes a pop song comes along that’s so perfect, it’s destined for world domination. Ty Dolla $ign’s involvement adds nothing, but the girls absolutely nail it.
64. “Three Packs A Day” Courtney Barnett
Fresh off the success of her immaculate debut album, Courtney Barnett kept our appetites whet with the stand-alone release of “Three Packs A Day.” It feels true to form, which can only be described as a good thing. It’s so incredibly balanced throughout.
63. “Bounce” 2 Chainz featuring Lil Wayne
“Bounce” is a proper collaboration compromised almost entirely of trade-off verses between the two rappers. Save for a couple hook-breaks, 2 Chainz and Lil Wayne engage in an exciting, non-stop oneupmanship, and the beat is as solid as it gets.
62. “I Need A Forest Fire” James Blake featuring Bon Iver
It is so incredibly intuitive hearing these two artists together. Both James Blake and Bon Iver have built their careers around atmosphere, and “I Need A Forest Fire”is no exception. The track masterfully avoids its peaks and valleys, leaving so much to the imagination.
61. “Go!” M83 featuring Mai Lan
“Go!” proved that M83 haven’t forgotten how to concoct euphoria. The Mai Lan led track toggles between beauty and energy, often blurring the line between the two. With a searing guitar solo and thoughtful nuances of sax, we’re left wanting for nothing.
60. “Bang Bang” Green Day
Green Day made their post-Hall of Fame debut with a track that reminded us just why they’re considered legends by so many. “Bang Bang” is a characteristically polished punk anthem that feels just as comfortable and familiar as it does present and important.
59. “24K Magic” Bruno Mars
It’s honestly hard to stay if we’re supposed to take “24K Magic” seriously or not, but assuming we are, it’s just Bruno Mars doing what Bruno Mars does best. Throwback vibes, great vocals, and plenty of hooks. It works, even if it doesn’t fully excite.
58. “Love On The Brain” Rihanna
Rihanna’s Anti wouldn’t feel quite as dynamic without the necessary texture of “Love On The Brain.” The doo wop-inspired ballad sets her vocal powers front and center, and despite referencing a classic sound, gloriously feels like a ghost of itself.
57. “Never Be Like You” Flume featuring Kai
Flume made sure the highly-competitive EDM world stopped and paid attention to him with the release of “Never Be Like You.” The electro-R&B slow jam, featuring newcomer Kai on vocals (and she nails it,) manages to create so much height without excess.
56. “Wild Love” Cashmere Cat featuring The Weeknd and Francis & The Lights
Cashmere Cat is one of the most talented and exciting DJs/producers in the world today. His stripped-down “Wild Love” is composed almost entirely of vocal samples, save for some delicate nuances. The Weeknd’s howling falsetto is the perfect texture.
55. “In Bloom” Sturgill Simpson
It’s not often covers are truly able to stand out amongst new material, but Sturgill Simpson’s country, roots-y spin on Nirvana’s (previously) untouchable “In Bloom” is the exception. Simpson breathes just as much new life into it as he does morbidity.
54. “Radio” Sylvan Esso
Synthpop experimentalists Sylvan Esso teased their upcoming sophomore album with the stunning “Radio.” Reaching new heights of both energy and refinement, the duo created an exciting club-ready banger that completely lacks any cheap tricks.
53. “GLOWED UP” KAYTRANADA featuring Anderson .Paak
“GLOWED UP” more than lives up the hype inevitably created by bringing these two exciting artists together. This linear experience brings out the best in both artists. KAYTRANADA’s production provides the perfect balance to Anderson .Paak’s charisma.
52. “Life Itself” Glass Animals
While British indie rockers Glass Animals remained true to their sound on their sophomore effort, their level of confidence is noticeably bigger. “Life Itself” folds in several eastern textures to the mix, heightening the psychedelic experience quite well.
51. “Berlin Got Blurry” Parquet Courts
Parquet Courts are one of the most musically charismatic bands on the planet. Their “Berlin Got Blurry” harks back to classic sounds a la The Clash or Velvet Underground in the best possible way. The track is perfectly timeless and comfortable.
50. “untitled 08 | 09.06.2014” Kendrick Lamar
While Kendrick Lamar’s untiled unmastered. compiled demos that missed the boat for his legendary To Pimp A Butterfly, it featured no shortage of masterworks. The album’s closer, “untitled 08” is one of his funkiest pieces to date, and it’s downright addictive.
49. “Don’t Touch My Hair” Solange featuring Sampha
A Seat At The Table is saturated with context, and “Don’t Touch My Hair” is its cornerstone. While she mostly gives the hook up to Sampha, Solange’s delicate control both captivates and remains distant as to remind us the message is bigger than her.
48. “Wow” Beck
The ever-imaginative Beck tackled hip hop head on with his single “Wow” in a way only really he could pull off. It’s a track that could have gone terribly, terribly wrong, but instead builds more than enough of an argument for a second (plus) listen.
47. “Girl Next Door” Brandy Clark
Country star Brandy Clark’s explosive “Girl Next Door” is a definitive reminder that she’s anything but. The bombastic anthem crosses genre-boundaries opening up a world of empowerment. Clark’s conviction is so incredibly endearing throughout.
46. “Freedom” Beyoncé featuring Kendrick Lamar
On an album where big statements are plentiful, the concept of empowerment is portrayed as an endgame for most of the record. “Freedom” feels like the big pay off. With a stellar Kendrick verse for intensity, the track is a glorious, albeit cautiously aware, celebration.
45. “The Greatest” Sia featuring Kendrick Lamar
Following the massive success of “Cheap Thrills,” the Kendrick Lamar-featuring “The Greatest” feels like a reflective celebration. Sia doesn’t need to prove how masterfully she can craft a song, but she continues to remain as determined as ever to do so.
44. “Good To Love” FKA twigs
The only output FKA twigs gave us this year, “Good To Love,” certainly left us craving more, but it reminded us that this wildly talented and created artist is on the verge of exploding. The simple, atmospheric track ebbs and flows so masterfully it’s chilling.
43. “Unconditional Love” Esperanza Spalding
It’s been four years since avant garde jazz artists delivered a studio LP. It was the same year she stunned a nation of Beliebers winning Best New Artist at the Grammys. “Unconditional Love” really seals her deal as one of the most compelling acts out there.
42. “U Coulda Been An A” Colleen Green
Colleen Green’s summery, lo-fi “U Coulda Been An A” is one of the year’s most exciting indie pop moments, which, by nature means it remains a hidden gem to many. The simplicity in instrumentation and productions packs an enormous punch.
41. “The Community Of Hope” PJ Harvey
PJ Harvey’s The Hope Six Demolition Project has a cold start, almost as if something is in progress.”The Community Of Hope” mirrors this sentiment, lyrically. As it climaxes with, “They’re gonna put a a Walmart here!,” the portrait becomes painfully vivid.
40. “Best To You” Blood Orange
Dev Hynes is one of the most talented all-around artists in the world today. “Best To You” from his Blood Orange’s Freetown Sound is an assured record that creates a delicate groove that most would have turned into a frenzied mess.
39. “Fade” Kanye West
Kanye West’s eccentric The Life Of Pablo‘s original closer, “Fade” stands out as it’s most upbeat moment. This is a masterclass in class in sampling and production from one of the best hip hop has ever seen. It doesn’t need anything remotely coherent.
38. “MOVE” Rat Boy
Newcomer Rat Boy comes off like a caffeinated child at times, but his songs are insanely well-composed concoctions. “MOVE” sounds like what have come from a Beck/Beastie Boys collaboration, and through all of its insanities, it really, really works.
37. “Below” White Lung
The clear highlight of Canadian punk rocker’s four LP, Paradise, remains the anthemic “Below.” Its soars with a tight array of electric guitar and thundering drums, but it’s Mish Way-Barber’s pitch-perfect belt that remains its undeniable highlight.
36. “Adore” Savages
Savages preceded their highly anticipated sophomore effort with the unexpected, but downright epic “Adore.” The track keeps us guessing from start to finish, crescendoing cautiously out of a relentlessly teasing, bluesy slow jam, yet never climaxes.
35. “Black Beatles” Rae Sremmurd featuring Gucci Mane
Rae Sremmurd’s unstoppable “Black Beatles”could easily end up as a novelty, even one hit wonder, from a historical perspective, but you have to give it the benefit of the doubt right now. The viral track has all of the makings of a unique hit, and hit it was.
34. “Perfect Illusion” Lady Gaga
Despite failing to reach the commercial heights she’s used to, “Perfect Illusion” may just be the most important single Lady Gaga has ever released. She proves here that she can deliver the same quirky exuberance on any palate. The possibilities feel endless.
33. “Beautiful Thing” The Stone Roses
One of the year’s most exciting events was the release of new Stone Roses material after 22 years of waiting. While their comeback single “All For One” failed to live up to the hype, “Beautiful Thing” was the perfect validation that these guys still had it.
32. “One Dance” Drake featuring Wizkid and Kyla
Ok Drake, we’ll give you this one. This dancehall-infused nugget of pop brilliance was the most inescapable earworm of 2016. “One Dance” is an undeniable standout that will go down as a career-defining official surrender to pop music in its entirety.
31. “Crying In Public” Chairlift
Synthpop duo Chairlift made a welcome return this year with their third LP, Moth. The emotional pseudo-ballad “Crying In Public” was the instant highlight of the record. Restraint is the name of the game here, leaving plenty of space for that killer hook.
30. “Nikes” Frank Ocean
“Nikes” was a hard sell following an impatiently long wait in between albums. Ultimately, though, the atmospheric ballad powerfully exemplifies the evolution of Frank Ocean. His fearlessness is the champion as the track is perplexing but always compelling.
29. “Sorry” Beyoncé
Beyoncé’s “Sorry” is so much more than “Becky with the good hair,” and anything but an actual apology. The Lemonade standout fuels the electro-soulfulness of the record, but is a little rougher and certainly more scathing than many of its album-mates.
28. “Don’t Let Me Down” The Chainsmokers featuring Daya
The Chainsmokers made 2016 their bitch, hailing as the year’s most unstoppable EDM act. If history is anything to go off of, they’ll be gone faster than they came, but they’ll be leaving behind this gem of a hit featuring perfectly-paired vocals from Daya.
27. “Radio Silence” James Blake
“Radio Silence” is James Blake at his James Blake-iness. It’s simple, it’s atmospheric, it’s chilling, and it’s inexplicably memorable. He’s truly mastered the art of the nuance, keeping the instrumentation so minimal that any variance has great impact.
26. “Summer Friends” Chance The Rapper featuring Jeremih and Francis & The Lights
One of Coloring Books‘s most astounding highlights, “Summer Friends” showcases Chance the Rapper at his most thoughtful as a creator. Heavily built around a Francis & The Lights sample, the track manages to be as memorable as it does momentous.
25. “Lake By The Ocean” Maxwell
Maxwell is one of R&B’s most reliable artists. His “Lake By The Ocean” lives up to expectations, swirling with a euphoric chorus, and an incredible use of backing vocals for texture and height. He positions his voice front and center, which is exactly where it should be.
24. “Good Grief” Bastille
Following the incredible success of their debut, Bastille was more than primed for a sophomore slump, but they remained as determined as ever to plow right through it. “Good Grief’s” height remains true to form, but there’s a noticeable refinement.
23. “On Hold” The xx
The xx’s return felt nothing but momentous. The fantastic “On Hold” provides a fresh update on their unique sound, opting for a more uplifting kind of euphoria. With a killer Hall & Oates sample at the helm, the track is a well-timed masterpiece.
22. “Drunk Divers/Killer Whales” Car Seat Headrest
Car Seat Headrest’s 6 minute “Drunk Drivers/Killer Whales” is an elaborate indie anthem riddled with metaphor and exciting twists and turns. Its one of the, if not the, year’s most exciting, stadium-ready songs, and a personal peak for the band.
21. “We The People…” A Tribe Called Quest
Lifted from A Tribe Called Quest’s final studio effort, “We The People…” is the perfect reminder of why hip hop matters. The unapologetically current and relevant lyrics hold nothing back and Q-Tip’s production is as tight and fresh as it’s ever been.
20. “10 d E A T h b R E a s T ⚄ ⚄” [Exteded Version] Bon Iver
One half of the first sampling from 22, A Million, an extended version of “10 d E A T h b R E a s T ⚄ ⚄” was instantly eye-popping. Built around a frenzied distorted drum loop, this version features a welcomed cool-down coda the album version skipped.
19. “Boyfriend” Tegan and Sara
Tegan and Sara have been building to this moment their entire career. At the completion of their seamless transformation from folk rockers to synthpop masters remains quite the payoff in the form of the brilliantly electrifying “Boyfriend.”
18. “Father Stretch My Hands Pt. 1” / “Pt. 2” Kanye West
While Kanye broke up “Father Stretch My Hands” into two separate tracks on his Life Of Pablo, it’s really one complete experience. Going from gospel-tinged, slow jam to “Panda”-sampling trap romper, only an artist this intrepid could make it work.
17. “Cheap Thrills” Sia
It’s almost as through Sia’s entire career was building to this moments. With plenty of success under her belt as a collaborator and a solo act, it’s incredibly fitting that her first trip to the summit came in the form of the fresh, celebratory “Cheap Thrills”
16. “Your Best American Girl” Mitski
Singer-songwriter Mitski’s been around for a few years, but she’s finally starting to get some well-deserved traction, thanks largely to her impeccably crafted “You Best American Girl.” It’s so impeccably timeless, but unapologetically sucks you into the present.
15. “Jesus Alone” Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds
After the tragic loss of his son, the already dreary Nick Cave had to dig even deeper with his new output. “Jesus Alone,” the brilliant first offering from his Skeleton Tree, stood out as the record’s darkest, most lyrically earnest moment. It’s gut-wrenching.
14. “Hold Up” Beyoncé
Of Lemonade’s many standouts, “Hold Up” was one of the brightest. With Diplo, Vampire Weekend’s Ezra Koenig, and one hell of a Yeah Yeah Yeahs interpolation on board, Beyoncé absolutely dazzles atop the glorious, light and airy reggae-infused beat.
13. “The Sound” The 1975
The ever-intriguing 1975 did everything they could to prove they would never be viewed as a one trick pony. “The Sound” highlighted their pop-ier, new wave-ier tendencies with copious amount of euphoria and catchiness. They even snuck in a full on guitar solo.
12. “33 ‘GOD'” Bon Iver
Of all the tracks featured on Bon Iver’s 22, A Million, “33 ‘God'” stands out as one of the most beautiful, and well-composed. Justin Vernon’s sample-heavy production creates so much height, yet leaves so much sonic space open for necessary breathing room.
11. “Ivy” Frank Ocean
Frank Ocean proves once again how little he actually needs to create emotion. With a distorted guitar courtesy of ex-Vampire Weekender Rostam Batmanglij, and additional production from Jamie xx, “Ivy” is the Frank track we’ve been praying for.
10. “Work” Rihanna featuring Drake
We should know by now that every time we think Rihanna can’t get any bigger she’s only going to prove us wrong. Who knew she’d have one of her biggest singles nestled into her fittingly titled Anti? “Work” takes full advantage of the same dancehall tendencies dominating pop and dance music she’s been utilizing for over a decade. It’s certainly not new territory, but her confidence and ownership speaks volumes, and that hook is nothing but addictive. Even another Drake collaboration feels timely and tactful. “Work” is a massive payoff for one of the most meaningful artists of this generation.
09. “Starboy” The Weeknd featuring Daft Punk
The Weeknd didn’t take much of a break in between albums, but he certainly ushered in a new era with the level of excitement acts conjure after years in between projects. With Daft Punk prominently on the bill, it’s no wonder why. “Starboy” finds the perfect middle ground between the two acts but leaves plenty of room for The Weeknd to refine, if not define, his sound. The track was always conceived as a shore-fire hit, but it ends up being one that comfortable and exciting to embrace. This is the proof that we’re witnessing one of the most exciting, innovative artists of our time.
08. “In Common” Alicia Keys
For better or worse, Alicia Keys has always been a reliable artist. This go around, it’s not that she had anything to prove, but more something she wanted to prove. In an exciting change of pace, “In Common” capitalizes on the increasingly popular dancehall and latin house influences dominating pop music, and makes something completely memorable out of it. Keys’ sincere and vulnerable lyrics hold our attention throughout, affording her the opportunity to keep her vocal delivery as minimal as the backing track. This is a defining moment for an otherwise definitive artist.
07. “No Problem” Chance The Rapper featuring Lil Wayne and 2 Chainz
Chance The Rapper took his career to the next level this year. Sure, it was the next step up we all saw him taking, but it still feels victorious. “No Problem,” lifted from his dazzling Coloring Book mixtape, is just as much a challenge to record labels as it is an uplifting celebration of its own accord. Chance brings everything from a gospel choir to a hell of a hook to Lil Wayne and 2 Chainz to the table and more or less just revels in its glory as it all comes together. “No Problem” is a defining moment for a talented artist who has a world of opportunity in front of him. It’s clear he’s more than aware.
06. “Cranes In The Sky” Solange
There was an instant draw to “Cranes In The Sky” the moment Solange dropped her immaculate A Seat At The Table, and for good reason. In a sea of fearlessly honest lyrics, this track is the most earnest and vulnerable. Solange’s vocals are fragile, that when she reaches the hook, it’s almost as she’s on the verge of cracking at any second. Not because her voice isn’t up for the challenge, but because there’s far to much weight in the words she’s singing. It’s just one example of how “Cranes In The Sky” thrives on texture. The jazzy, funky groove and pure production, if anything, are just a welcomed bonus.
05. “Burn The Witch” Radiohead
Anytime Radiohead does anything, there’s grounds for hype, expectation, and celebration. They’ve got one of the best track records in the history of rock and roll. The release of “Burn The Witch” was no exception. The frenzied, string-ridden track seemingly exposes its fervor right out the gate, but, true to form for these distinguished masters, it crescendos from start to finish without ever breaking momentum. As Thom Yorke slides in and out of his increasingly haunting, hollow falsetto, there’s more texture crammed into this one track than most get on a whole album.
04. “I Can’t Give Everything Away” David Bowie
There’s something undeniably haunting about David Bowie’s “I Can’t Give Everything Away.” Tactfully positioned as the final track on would be his final studio album, Blackstar, this fittingly became his de facto swan song. The music itself is the perfect balance between reflective and uplifting, swirling around a drum loop and soothing synthesizers and touches of sax and guitar in the forefront. Bowie’s lyrics feel just as much a final statement as it does an acknowledgement and explanation of all that came before, but they, without a doubt, well leave a smile on your face and a tear in your eyes.
03. “Ultralight Beam” Kanye West
“Ultralight Beam” is an intense spiritual journey curated by a bonafide genius. The Life Of Pablo‘s opening piece is another noteworthy masterclass in production to add to Kanye’s immense repertoire, and for all of its counterintuitive tendencies, it manages to captivate. Despite several guest spots and delicate, yet powerful tinges of gospel choir, excess somehow manages to feel like a dated concept. Whether this is Kanye exposing a new level of thoughtfulness or Kanye deconstructing his own essence, you have to appreciate the outcome.
02. “Drone Bomb Me” ANOHNI
With synth drops powerfully exploding as to highlight the poignant drone warfare themes, ANOHNI’s “Drone Bomb Me” transports us into the epicenter of its frenzied poignancy. The deep, resonating bellows of her voice acts as the perfect vessel to guide us through what becomes more of an empathetic experience than a story. The Antony and the Johnsons frontwoman delivers one of the year’s most powerful moments with a level of fearlessness so often unattempted; her devastation resonates far beyond the track’s completion. “Drone Bomb Me” is an absolute herald.
01. “Formation” Beyoncé
This isn’t a song, this is a moment, one Beyoncé knew she couldn’t mess up. With the attention of the world at her beckoned call, Queen B decisively took the opportunity to make less a statement than a call to arms, and the timing couldn’t have been better. “Formation” was rolled out in a surprisingly chart-unfriendly fashion (in the form of Tidal-exclusivity, naturally.) It stealthily allowed Beyoncé to put her message in the proper context via its award-winning music video and show-stealing Super Bowl performance, and the track was more than up for the challenge. While the song is hook-heavy, Bey ditches structure in favor of something more linear, confidently guiding us through her stream of consciousness. By the end, she has us rooting for her, she has us rooting for each other, and she has us rooting for ourselves. When Beyoncé exposes the vastness of her vigor, incredible things are possible. “Formation” is the most important thing she’s ever done, and likely will always be.
Check out all 100 Best Songs Of The Year (sans a few Beyoncé jams) right HERE!