Somehow Kanye featured Kendrick Lamar and bested the prodigy Compton rapper to make my favorite hip-hop song of the year. Beyonce, on the other hand, tapped Jack White and sampled Led Zeppelin to make the biggest, baddest, headbanging rock song of the year.
But both of those artists are featured in my best albums of the year list already, and here I wanted to highlight some of the amazing artists that didn’t make that list.
I found Kaytranada’s album “99.9%” a little disjointed, but without a doubt “Glowed Up” is the standout track and worthy of topping any best songs of the year list — with or without the restrictions I’ve placed on myself here. Anderson .Paak of course helps to elevate the track, but it’s also a perfect synthesis of all the stellar beats found on the album.
Rap in particular lends itself to great singles despite often over-bloated albums, and that certainly played out in this list. “Broccoli” is an undeniably catchy tune and seeing D.R.A.M. live the other week in all of his positivity and sexuality really solidified this one near the top.
Future and The Weeknd released “Low Life” very early in 2016 and it quickly became a jam that appeased hipsters and clubbers alike in my friend groups. It’s a shame The Weeknd’s whole album wasn’t more like this song. Kamiyah, Danny Brown, and Kendrick Lamar all had great years as well, but YG’s album Still Brazy hits you over the head with some brutally honest lyrics — most notably “Police Get Away Wit Murder.”
In the singer songwriter department, Billie Marten’s “Milk & Honey” would have any fan of Joni Mitchell swooning. Likewise, Hiss Golden Messenger continues to expand his sound to create appropriately emotional instrumentation to his already stellar lyrical prowess.
Kevin Morby’s Singing Saw isn’t always an easy listen, in part because his optimism doesn’t sound believable, and that somehow makes it all the more depressing. But on “Water” he packages that same uneasy feeling into a really infectious chorus crafted to perfection.
Maren Morris picked up some of the slack left behind by a disappointing year in the pop-country realm to deliver all the frills of the often-bemoaned sub genre, but with a little more meaning behind her lyrics.
Pop music was especially disappointing this year. Albums are purposely made too long so they have a better chance of charting higher in our new streaming economy, and the music followed the same Justin Bieber formula of songwriting — verse, pre-chorus, soft EDM drop with no vocals.
That being said, Drake still had a great year given the sheer amount of times I heard “Controlla” blasted on bluetooth speakers in Prospect Park this summer. It took me the entirety of the year to come around to Rihanna’s surprisingly divisive album Anti, but once “Kiss Me Better” sunk it’s teeth into me I was hooked. Santigold never got the recognition she deserved either for a slew of songs as catchy as anything else in the top 40.
Take a listen to all of the songs on my Spotify playlist (minus Lucinda William and Glenn Hansard since apparently they like selling albums), and let me know what you think on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.
- “Glowed Up” - Kaytranada Ft. Anderson .Paak
- “Broccoli” - Big Baby D.R.A.M.
- “Low Life” - Future Ft. The Weeknd
- “Milk & Honey” - Billie Marten
- “Heart Like A Levee“ - Hiss Golden Messenger
- “Kiss Me Better” - Rihanna
- “Starboy” - The Weeknd
- “Normal American Kids” - Wilco
- “Wedding Singer” - Modern Baseball
- “Police Get Away Wit Murder” - YG
- “Your Best American Girl” - Mitski
- “Faith And Grace” - Lucinda Williams
- “What’s So” - John Paul White
- “untitled 02 | 06.23.2014” - Kendrick Lamar
- “Midwestern Guys” - Lydia Loveless
- “Really Doe” - Danny Brown Ft. Kendrick Lamar, Ab Soul, and Earl Sweatshirt
- “Hide In Plain Sight” - Jim James
- “Water” - Kevin Morby
- “Controlla” - Drake
- “I Wish I Was” - Maren Morris
- “Shut Up Kiss Me” - Angel Olsen
- “Roll With The Punches” - Dawes
- “What It Means” - Drive-By Truckers
- “Way Back In The Way Back When” - Glenn Hasnard
- “How Does It Feel” - Kamiyah
- “No Matter Where We Go” - Whitney
- “I Was Home” - Sunflower Bean
- “Can’t Get Enough Of Myself (Ft. B.C.) - Santigold
- “Blood Honey” - Soccer Mommy
- “Best Kept Secret” - Case/Lang/Veirs