Kiss It Better is the strangest single of Rihanna’s career. The same verse and chorus repeated 3 times across spacey synth it’s baffling. Something works though and the purred vocals and punchy defiance throughout that makes this by far the best Rihanna song of 2016. Is it RnB? Is it Pop? Is it something else entirely? It’s Rihanna and in 2016 she played by the only rules she cares about; her own.
80s Mercedes was the moment I sat up and took notice of Maren Morris as more than just another wannabe country star. Here’s one of the years best Pop records that just happens to be lodged on country radio. How this didn’t become the crossover hit of the year is beyond me. Some people are saying Maren Morris is the next Taylor Swift, comparing 80s Mercedes to the similarly era led Style, but for my money the potential in this song is so much more.
In 10 years time that opening ‘Baby I like your style’ will be the calling card for the 2010s decade. By then 15 weeks at #1 won’t even sound that ridiculous. An undeniable hit and very nearly Drake’s best single to date.
Is there a song as perfectly titled as Tilted? That off kilter opening buzz develops into a sort of unhinged vocal full of dominance and intrigue. The tilt between English and French and the fact that the song’s lyrics were altered completely between the two languages gives the whole thing this off-center view. And that’s exactly the point, there’s nothing about Christine and the Queens that’s in the center. Titled isn’t even ‘technically’ a new song for 2016, but it’s a song that has grown and grown in my estimation. A tremendous way to introduce an electrifying new talent.
I fought off Adele for many years. I would write articles, send tweets and talk to people about how I didn’t ‘need’ her. That she was for people who didn’t listen to lots of music, or that Someone Like You wasn’t one of the best songs of the decade. I was already well on board before Hello and 25 was announced, but I think the first time I heard When We Were Young was my breaking point. I stopped trying to over analyse and realised that this was a song that I’d be listening to for the rest of my life. Each chorus builds and builds, for such a nostalgic song Adele is only ever reaching further and higher. My favourite moment comes at the very end where she adds the lyric ‘Oh, I’m so mad I’m getting old, It makes me reckless’ to the chorus, it’s a classy piece of songwriting that sends the song even higher than THAT NOTE does seconds earlier. Poignant and performed to perfection, it did for me what I imagine Someone Like You did for everyone else. I just hadn’t been paying attention.
OneRepublic have always been on my radar. When Counting Stars was a huge hit I was as surprised as anyone else but I was glad they finally found the deserved success. For me, Kids is their landmark moment. It’s a thundering song that never lets up. Some parts Coldplay, other parts Haim, it powers along at a frenetic pace with Ryan Tedder’s glorious voice bringing it right back to why I fell in love with the group in the first place. OneRepublic may never find ‘their sound’ but as long as the music is always this good I really don’t care.
I nearly didn’t include No More Parties In LA in this list. It wasn’t an official single, originally released as a G.O.O.D Fridays free download and then included as a bonus track on The Life of Pablo. As it stands though this year there’s no other hip hop record that gave me as much joy as No More Parties In LA did. Kendrick lays down the law early on proving why he’s the current king of Rap, but it’s Kanye who delivers a career best verse. I’ve been a huge Kanye fan for as long as it counts, but even I didn’t think he had this in him anymore. I could literally quote his entire verse here as my favourite lyric.
For the first half of 2016 I thought that no one would release a song as good as The Sound. Unashamedly catchy but still able to feature a lyric like ‘It’s not about reciprocation, it’s just all about me’. Matt Healy is on top cocky form here and he doesn’t care one bit what you think about it. It’s the sound of his on stage presence in record form, bold and banging along. There’s very few bands who manage to blur the lines like they do here and remain unscathed. The vocal and general production is a knockout, from that opening distant chant of the chorus to the 70s glam rock guitar solo; The 1975 had me on one listen. This is a record that will be filling arenas and stadiums alike in the years to come, a song that manages to capitalize on the early promise of the UK’s most thrilling new band.
Into You is an incredible song. At the start of 2016 Ariana Grande was a good artist. Into You is the moment I’ve been waiting for, where the pieces finally click into place. The ad libs; the fact it manages to be funky and also pure pop; ‘I’m so into you, I can barely breathe’ being the year’s most memorable opening line. Into You isn’t an amazing song in spite of Ariana Grande, it’s an amazing song because of her.
2016 is the first year that I haven’t been completely certain with my choice for #1 on this list months early. All 3 songs at the top have been in contention, but when it came down to it no song gave me more this year than Friends. It feels quite appropriate that much like everyone else the first parts of Friends I heard was the chopped up sample Chance The Rapper used on his track Summer Friends. In 2016 any song, released or not was fair game to be messed with. On hearing the full song I completely lost myself. From that opening crash of drums it’s instantly unlike anything else I had heard on mainstream radio this year. The off kilter clicks that run throughout leading into ethereal vocals from Francis and the Lights and Justin Vernon is otherworldly. Friends eases you in with the most commercial sound of either acts careers and yet triumphantly grows and grows into an unintelligible wall of sound. It’s this movement, the push and pull of the overall soundscape that gets me the most; moments of silence interrupted by sudden blasts of vocoder and synth. It’s steeped in electronic sounds yet remains soulful. To some it may seem baffling against the catchier fare mentioned above, but no song has rewarded me on every listen like Friends did this year. It’s the song I feel will live on with me longer than anything else here, an incredible introduction to a brilliant new talent as well as a landmark moment for one of my all time favourite artists. It’ll be hard to forget Friends.