As much as it pains me to include such a nothingness of a girl band on this list, especially ahead of the likes of Little Mix; Work From Home is a home run of a hit. That thundering bassline alongside the bouncing chorus is undeniable, while the ridiculously dirty lyrics make this one of the best post PCD girlgroup dance tracks.
In another universe, This Is What You Came For was the first of many hit collaborations between Pop Music’s most profitable power couple. Part of me would love to hear Taylor Swift’s original demo cut of this, but it’s hard to imagine it popping off quite as much as Rihanna’s version does. In a year where some complained that Rihanna had ‘left pop behind’ she dropped this and proved that she’s still the industry’s best hit machine.
Despite appearing on my last few end of year lists, my opinions on Ariana Grande have been somewhat biased towards bashing her lack of charisma on stage. In 2016, when songs as good as Dangerous Woman were hitting the radio every few weeks it’s hard to dislike Ariana anymore. Probably my favourite vocal performance of her career so far, Dangerous Woman manages to sound nothing like the rest of the chart in 2016.
The most incredible thing about Famous is how joyous a song as controversial as this can be. The ‘moment’ of album The Life of Pablo‘s promo was undeniably the first time we heard THAT Taylor line echoing around Madison Square Garden. It’s a genius lyric in a grinding Swizz Beatz production, but as 2016 closes it isn’t even close to my favourite thing about Famous. Rihanna’s vocal melding back into the original Nina Simone sample is effortless and the last few minutes have the most feel good vibes on the album. It’s a song of contradiction and seems apt for 2016.
A very last minute entry here, but when Laura Marling releases anything in a given year would you really expect me to ignore it on a list? Soothing is the most surprising release of her career yet, a string led sultry lilt, it’s unexpected from start to finish. If it wasn’t for Marling’s effortless vocal you’d have no idea this was the trailer for the follow up to Short Movie, with digital vocal effects and a sex fueled visual to boot. If Soothing is anything to go by, Laura Marling may be on for another stellar year in 2017.
Has a song about ‘Church’ ever resonated as much with me? Singing along to your favourite songs in the car has never sounded more soulful than it does here, with Maren’s breakout vocal soaring over one of the year’s best hooks. Subtle this isn’t, but My Church is the celebration of music I needed this year.
Work is not the best Rihanna and Drake collaboration. It’s not even the best one released in 2016, but there’s a reason it’s my most played track of the year. Naughty but playful, the crazy thing about Work is that it doesn’t really go anywhere. Work is hypnotic. The audio equivalent of watching RiRi and Drake grind against each other for 3 minutes straight; you can’t help but wish you could join in.
Becky Hill has been on the cusp of greatness for the last few years. The only act from The Voice that has truly deserved anyone’s attention, False Alarm is by far the best of her stellar list of releases in 2016. It’s that soaring vocal that sets this apart from the rest of the ‘Tropical House’ rabble. False Alarm is effortlessly uplifting and manages to hold together as a record so much more than songs that were hogging the top spot for weeks on end this year.
Healing is a slow burn. Though it’s pretty much 7 minutes of people chanting ‘It’s Alright’ over an over, the way that the song builds and builds is enthralling. The pulsating bassline; flickers of jazzy brass popping in and out; 90s era drum machines; Healing is a song that works thanks to this blend of conflicting elements. For me I heard nothing else like this in 2016, and certainly didn’t expect it from an act like Rudimental as a between albums promo track.
Alicia Keys releasing a danchall inspired dance track? In Common somehow manages to be even better than that sounds. It’s a unifying anthem that isn’t overwrought, instead talking of uniting us on how ‘messed up’ we all are. It’s a big moment in a modern icon’s career that stands out for me, where she’s free and fluid for what feels like the first time in years. This is her best song since Try Sleeping With A Broken Heart.
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