2016 in Review

In my mind, 2016 is one of the most notable years in music, and is easily the best of the 2010s. 

David Bowie died January 10, 2016, two days after the release of his 26th album. The album had been receiving hype for a few weeks ahead of the release, and love and adoration for the album only grew in the weeks and months following his death.   

Bowie wasn’t the only artist to put out an album close to his death.You Want It Darker by Leonard Cohen was released October 21, 17 days before the legendary songwriter’s passing. And on November 11, A Tribe Called Quest’s last release came out, eight months after the death of Phife Dawg. The double album brought together by Q-Tip and a giant cast of high-profile collaborators, who paid their respects, felt just as authentic as any of Tribe’s classic records of the 90s. And while his final albums technically came out late in 2015, Prince passed away in April of 2016, another legend lost. 

Another early-year development, Kanye West’s endless tinkering and delays to The Life of Pablo, his first release in three years. It resulted in Kanye’s first (and one of many to come in the future) clear musical missteps. For every brilliant production note, there was another song that felt incomplete. The lyrics were simple and childish, and subjects not that interesting, and the features lacked their usual punch. 

That is, except for Chance the Rapper on “Ultralight Beam,” a feature that shot him to the front of the hip-hop world. Chance rode the hype into his summer release, Coloring Book, which led to songs on the radio, headlining summer and fall music festivals, and plenty of award nominations. The “Artist of the Year” debate was pretty squarely between him and Beyoncé for her performance at the Super Bowl and work on Lemonade. Drake’s Views and Rihanna’s Anti got their fair shares of attention, too (Rihana’s much more deservingly so). 

It’s hard to quantify the number of noteworthy and long lasting albums that came out in 2016. Those listed above clearly have a place in history. Frank Ocean’s Blonde was probably the best release of the year and has a cult-like following as fans have waited years for a follow up. Despite Beyoncé’s commercial success, Solange actually bettered her sister with A Seat At The Table. Car Seat Headrest established themselves as an indie rock force, while ScHoolboy Q, Danny Brown and Childish Gambino proved that they could hang in Kendrick Lamar’s class of highly skilled, highly unpredictable hip-hop artists. You also had long-awaited returns from Radiohead, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, American Football, even Iggy Pop and Paul Simon. And just when you thought the year was over, RTJ3 dropped on Christmas. 

That doesn’t even touch on the individual songs that came out and made an impact. I’ll let you look through the playlists for that. 

Songs of the year

2016 Albums

BlondeFrank Ocean★★★★★96Hip-HopR&B
Teens of DenialCar Seat Headrest★★★★½92RockAlternative RockIndie Rock
BlackstarDavid Bowie★★★★½89RockArt Pop
Blank Face LPScHoolboy Q★★★★½87Hip-Hop
A Moon Shaped PoolRadiohead★★★★½86RockArt RockChamber Pop
22, A MillionBon Iver★★★★½85RockArt RockIndie Folk
We Got It from Here…Thank You 4 Your ServiceA Tribe Called Quest★★★★½85Hip-HopAlternative Hip-HopJazz Rap
Run The Jewels 3Run The Jewels★★★★81Hip-Hop
A Seat At The TableSolange★★★★80Hip-HopR&BNeo-Soul
Let Them Eat ChaosKate Tempest★★★★79ElectronicBritish Hip-Hop
TelefoneNoname★★★★78Hip-HopAlternative Hip-HopJazz Rap
Atrocity ExhibitionDanny Brown★★★★77Hip-Hop
4 Your Eyez OnlyJ. Cole★★★★77Hip-Hop
Coloring BookChance The Rapper★★★★75Hip-Hop
The Colour In AnythingJames Blake★★★½74ElectronicR&B
HopelessnessANOHNI★★★½74ElectronicArt PopExperimental
Skeleton TreeNick Cave and the Bad Seeds★★★½73RockAlternative Rock
A Sailor’s Guide to EarthSturgill Simpson★★★½71CountryCountry RockAlternative Country
Holy GhostModern Baseball★★★½70RockAlternative RockEmo
Birds in the Trap Sing McKnightTravis Scott★★★½68Hip-Hop
WorryJeff Rosenstock★★★½67RockPunk RockPunk Pop
PsychopompJapanese Breakfast★★★63RockIndie PopDream Pop
American BandDrive By Truckers★★★63RockCountry RockAlternative Country
GoreDeftones★★★62RockAlternative RockAlternative Metal
Is the Is AreDIIV★★★62RockShoegazePost Punk
Bobby TarantinoLogic★★★62Hip-Hop
Disguise The LimitNyck Caution★★★61Hip-Hop
Human PerformanceParquet Courts★★★60RockAlternative RockPost Punk
Blood BitchJenny Hval★★★60ElectronicElectropop
PainLVL UP★★★59RockAlternative RockEmo
Adore LifeSavages★★★59RockAlternative RockPost Punk
The Life of PabloKanye West★★★59Hip-Hop
Are You SeriousAndrew Bird★★★58RockIndie PopChamber Pop
Puberty 2Mitski★★★58RockIndie Pop
The GetawayRed Hot Chili Peppers★★★58RockAlternative Rock
Awaken, My LoveChildish Gambino★★★58Hip-HopAlternative Hip-HopNeo-Soul
3001: A Laced OdyssyFlatbush Zombies★★★58Hip-Hop
RomanticMannequin Pussy★★★57RockPunk RockIndie Rock
How to Be a Human BeingGlass Animals★★★57RockIndie PopIndietronica
American FootballAmerican Football★★★57RockAlternative RockEmo
Post Pop DepressionIggy Pop★★★57RockAlternative Rock
Untitled UnmasteredKendrick Lamar★★★57Hip-HopWest Coast Hip-Hop
The Sun’s TiradeIsaiah Rashad★★★57Hip-Hop
Stranger to StrangerPaul Simon★★★56RockPop Rock
Dangerous WomanAriana Grande★★★56PopR&B
Midwest Farmer’s DaughterMargo Price★★★56CountryCountry Rock
My WomanAngel Olsen★★★55RockAlternative RockIndie Rock
MalibuAnderson .Paak★★★55Hip-HopR&BNeo-Soul
JefferyYoung Thug★★★55Hip-HopPop Hip-Hop
Freetown SoundBlood Orange★★★55Hip-HopDance PopNeo-Soul
Savage Mode21 Savage★★★55Hip-Hop
Painting WithAnimal Collective★★½54RockAlternative RockExperimental
Weezer (White Album)Weezer★★½54RockAlternative RockPop Punk
Lil Uzi vs. The WorldLil Uzi Vert★★½54Hip-HopPop Hip-Hop
Lewis Del MarLewis Del Mar★★½53PopIndie Pop
MastermindBig Theif★★½52RockAlternative RockIndie Rock
24K MagicBruno Mars★★½51PopR&B
WoodstockPortugal.The Man★★½50RockIndie Pop
StoneyPost Malone★★½50Hip-HopPop Hip-Hop
SirensNicolas Jaar★★½50ElectronicAmbientExperimental
Prima DonaVince Staples★★½48Hip-Hop
PreoccipationsPreoccupations★★½47RockAlternative RockPost Punk
StarboyThe Weeknd★★½47PopR&B
I Had A Dream That You Were MineHamilton Leithauser + Rostam★★44RockIndie Pop
ViewsDrake★★43Hip-HopPop Hip-Hop
WildflowerThe Avalanches★★43ElectronicAlternative Hip-Hop
CardinalPinegrove★★41RockAlternative RockIndie Rock
The Mountain Will FallDJ Shadow★★41ElectronicAlternative Hip-HopInstrumental Hip-Hop
I like it when you sleep, for you are so beautiful yet so unaware of itThe 1975★★40RockPop RockSynthpop
HymnsBloc Party★★40RockAlternative RockAlternative Dance
Farewell, Starlite!Francis and The Lights★★35PopPop RockSynthpop
SremmLife 2Rae Sremmurd★½34Hip-Hop

50 Best Songs

  1. Drone Bomb Me – ANOHNI
  2. Your Best American Girl – Mitski
  3. Cranes in the Sky – Solange
  4. Night – Frank Ocean
  5. The Ballad of the Costa Concordia – Car Seat Headrest
  6. I Need You – Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds
  7. Drunk Drivers/Killer Whales – Car Seat Headrest
  8. True Love Waits – Radiohead
  9. 33 “GOD” – Bon Iver
  10. Really Doe – Danny Brown, Kendrick Lamar, Ab-Soul, Earl Sweatshirt
  11. I Can’t Give Everything Away – David Bowie
  12. Vincent – Car Seat Headrest
  13. We The People… – A Tribe Called Quest
  14. Me and Your Mama – Childish Gambino
  15. Never Be Like You – Flume, Kai
  16. Ultralight Beam – Kanye West
  17. Work – Rihanna, Drake
  18. All Night – Beyonce
  19. Good as Hell – Lizzo
  20. Tinker Tailor Soldier Sailor Rich Man Poor Man Beggar Man – Radiohead
  21. All That Heaven Allows – Mercury Girls
  22. Change – J. Cole
  23. Wow – Beck
  24. Best to You – Blood Orange
  25. Nobody Speak – DJ Shadow, Run The Jewels
  26. Devastated – Joey Bada$$
  27. All We Got – Chance The Rapper, Kanye West, Chicago Children’s Choir
  28. Redbone – Childish Gambino
  29. Burn the Witch – Radiohead
  30. Romantic – Mannequin Pussy
  31. Groovy Tony / Eddie Kane – ScHoolboy Q, Jadakiss
  32. Fill in the Blank – Car Seat Headrest
  33. Daydreaming – Radiohead
  34. In Heaven – Japanese Breakfast
  35. Kick Jump Twist – Sylvan Esso
  36. Overtime – ScHoolboy Q, Miguel, Justine Skye
  37. way back – Travis Scott
  38. Parking Lot – Anderson .Paak
  39. Wat’s Wrong – Isaiah Rashad, Zacari, Kendrick Lamar
  40. Real Friends – Kanye West
  41. Apple Cider, I Don’t Mind – Modern Baseball
  42. Choose Me – James Blake
  43. Love Me Like That – The Knocks, Carly Rae Jepsen
  44. Call Ticketron – Run The Jewels
  45. Life In a Bubble I Blew – Joywave
  46. Nikes – Frank Ocean
  47. Freedom – Beyonce, Kendrick Lamar
  48. Roma Fade – Andrew Bird
  49. Weston Road Flows – Drake
  50. Best Kept Secret – Neko Case, k.d. lang, Laura Veirs

Genre Highlights




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