This year was INSANE for music, as expected. We had some major artists promise us releases, and we had some surprise drops, we even had some surprisingly great tracks from artists I hadn’t really taken seriously. So without further adieu, here are the best tracks from this year so far.
15. For Free (feat. Drake) – DJ Khaled
Funnily enough the best Drake song we got this year didn’t come off his platinum-selling-album VIEWS, but off of this DJ Khaled feature. For Free is the best pop-rap track we have gotten in years. Whether you love or hate DJ Khaled’s persona, there is no denying that he can make on hell of a dance beat.
14. BOOMBAYAH – Blackpink
You would think that the best K-POP song of 2016 would come from an already established group, but NO! You are mistaken. Blackpink have seemingly come from nowhere and are seeking global domination. With only two songs out, their debut has sparked a massive international following. BOOMBAYAH presents the girls as equally cute, sexy, gangsta and Aegyo, all on one hell of an EDM beat.
13. Voodoo – Nick Jonas
Opening his sophomore effort, this track is the most experimental that we have ever seen Nick Jonas. Breaking the boy-band stigma, Nick Jonas’ lyrics about being addicted to sex scream loudly to the listener that he isn’t a kid anymore and he’s an artist to be taken seriously. Will he be the next Justin Timberlake? Maybe. He’s far from it, but certainly on the right track.
12. Radio Silence – James Blake
With the imagery of radio silence, James Blake utilises his own direct influences to tell this story of heartbreak. Opening his third album, this song not only features James Blake changing up his vocal style, but also presents one of the most layered, weird and room-encompassing instrumentals ever.
11. That’s My Girl – Fifth Harmony
This is Fifth Harmony’s best song. By far. It matures the Derulo-inspired instrumentation of their most-popular track Worth It and layers it with lyrics that unapologetically shout Girl Power. As girl-groups have traditionally followed the path of feminism, this song does so through the encouragement of each other and achieving goals, all without the help of dumb boys.
10. Glowed Up (feat. Anderson .Paak) – Kaytranada
What do you get when you put two, bubbling-under, incredibly talented artists? A masterpiece. Anderson and Kaytranada reinvent the meaning of collaboration as these two competing forces clash and explode on this stanky beat. If dope had a song-ification, this would be it.
9. Into You – Ariana Grande
Coming off-the-bat of a slightly less exciting lead single, Into You is persistently climbing the charts to reach the platinum success that it deserves. Embodied by the more grown-up Ariana Grande, this entirely infectious track delivers the goods in all aspects. The vocals are on fleek, the instrumental is just soft enough for radio and just hard enough for the club. This is the pinnacle of manufactured pop music. Enjoy it now, before she tops it again next year.
8. Freedom (feat. Kendrick Lamar) – Beyoncé
Seemingly fitting into the adulterous narrative that is the masterpiece of LEMONADE, this Kendrick-collaboration doubles as a statement about racism, justice and cultural violence. Blending together a soulful and powerful Beyoncé with a fiery rap verse from already-politically-charged K.Dot, this energetic beat draws everyone into the artist’s emotions that’s so powerful you’ll want to pick up a sign and protest for equality as well.
7. Never Be Like You (feat. Kai) – Flume
This Skin highlight is the pinnacle of mainstream-pop Flume and experimental-beat making Flume on one magnificent, probably-gonna-win-hottest-100, banger. Featuring the mesmerising vocals of the Canadian Kai, this track brings back trap-bounce to the Sydney nightlife that’s increasingly becoming more and more basic.
6. Burn the Witch – Radiohead
Props to this song for its ability to invite you in right before frightening you and leaving you out to dry. Paired with one of the weirdest videos ever inspired by childhood characters, this song manages to be beautifully creepy. With incredibly ambiguous lyrics, you can decide what this band are trying to say. Cause I can’t.
5. No Problem (feat. 2 Chainz & Lil Wayne) – Chance the Rapper
The history of rejecting record labels and remaining independent makes this sassy Chance the Rapper all the more entertaining. Not to mention, the selective features of 2 Chainz and Lil Wayne, the two most notable voices in the game, add for one hell of a party track. If you didn’t have problems before, you’ll want to have them now. Predictions for a Grammy on this track (since he’s allowed now), also for another spot on this list.
4. Kiss It Better – Rihanna
A highlight of ANTI, Rihanna’s Kiss It Better blends catchy hooks with a full production, resulting in one of the most relatable songs of 2016. I think we’ve all been at that point in a fight with our significant other when we’ve just hand enough, and we wish we could just “take it on back”. Rihanna skilfully plays around with her vocal delivery delivering emotions of desperation, emptiness and sorrow, side-by-side with one spicy guitar hook.
3. Nikes – Frank Ocean
Frank is back, and swaggier than ever. Debuting his sophomore through one of the most beautifully nostalgic music videos ever, Nikes sees Ocean at his most experimental. The opening vocals see a Kendrick-esque pitched vocal manipulation over an ethereal, spacious trap-beat. As Frank’s actual vocals kick in with slight auto-tune and he belts his sexy falsetto, suddenly you think its 2012 again, and you realise just how much you’ve missed him.
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2. Ultralight Beam – Kanye West
With help from a soulful Kelly Price verse, a raw Chance the Rapper, and one hell of a gospel choir, Kanye delivers his best track yet. The production on this Pablo introduction is the epitome of the simpler the better, with nothing but a synth, a beat, subtle horns and an Instagram sample fusing together to create this masterpiece. At a time with countless shootings, frequent worldwide attacks, Kanye’s track invites the listener in, encouraging love, faith and togetherness.
1. Formation - Beyoncé
Formation is to the African-American community what Flawless is to women; a ground-breaking statement to be seen, heard, and taken seriously. Coupled with an impeccable music video, Formation references the Black Lives Matter movement, the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and braggadociosly establishes Beyoncé as a boss ass bitch (again). The plucked synths and blurring horns from MikeWillMadeIt complement Beyoncé’s vocals tremendously as she singlehandedly creates the best new proverbs for 2016 (see: “I SLAY”). Formation is on another level. We just need to enjoy it, and accept that we’ll never be on that level, ever.