27 Best Songs From 2016

2016 was a vibrant year for music and one of the best of the decade. No matter the style and artists you were into, chances are some great tunes hit your ears.

So what were some of the best songs from 2016? Join us as we take a look at a few of the tracks that made 2016 so special.

1. “Your Best American Girl” by Mitski

Mitski was an underground indie artist at the start of 2016, but her album Puberty 2 and song “Your Best American Girl” helped her break into the mainstream and become the star she is today.

“Your Best American Girl” sees Mitski talk about the difficulties she faced due to her racial identity of being Japanese-American. The song is autobiographical, and Mitski sings of a relationship that cannot work out due to racial tension. The song begins very quietly before exploding into bombast during the chorus.

2. “Formation” by Beyoncé

“Formation” was a surprise for Beyoncé fans. She announced the song and released the music video with no build-up, and the video began life unlisted. The only way to find the video was to follow a link Beyoncé posted.

“Formation” was a smash hit for the already very successful Beyoncé, and it is another excellent example of her female empowerment music. The song has trap influences that have become bigger in popular music since its release. Beyoncé performed this song during the Super Bowl 50 halftime show.

3. “Lazarus” by David Bowie

David Bowie shocked the world by releasing his 26th studio album Blackstar in 2016 with little fanfare. Two days after he released the album, David Bowie passed away from a cancer diagnosis almost nobody knew about.

“Lazarus,” as well as the rest of the Blackstar album, is autobiographical. Bowie sings about accepting death and critics see the song as an epitaph for the man’s legendary career. Many listeners believe Bowie was singing about the increase in fame he expected from his death.

4. “Ultralight Beam” by Kanye West (ft. Chance the Rapper, The-Dream, Kelly Price, and Kirk Franklin)

Kanye West and his album The Life of Pablo went through a tumultuous year in 2016. The album was plagued with a troubled production and frequent revisions, and the media tour for promotion was not without controversy.

“Ultralight Beam” is a testament to West's ability to reinvent himself as a producer. Moving away from soul-inspired hip-hop to gospel music, “Ultralight Beam” is a touching song about faith and one man’s struggle with it. The production and featured tracks add to the song, and it remains one of the best album openers in West’s discography.

5. “Cranes in the Sky” by Solange

Solange took inspiration from soul and classic R&B music for “Cranes in the Sky.” The result is one of the singer’s best-remembered songs and a Grammy Award. The instrumental track came before the lyrics, and Solange wrote them while listening to the instrumentation.

The lyrics talk about a person trying to avoid talking about something that is bothering them. They want to steer clear of the pain and focus on things that do not upset them as much.

6. “Work” by Rihanna (ft. Drake)

When two supernovas of pop music team up, is it any surprise when the resulting song is a smash hit with critical acclaim? Drake and Rihanna collaborated on “Work,” one of the Barbadian singer's best songs. “Work” takes inspiration from several genres, including R&B, reggae, pop, and dance hall music.

The song put Rihanna in rarefied air, giving her the fourth-most number-one songs of all time behind only Elvis Presley, Mariah Carey, and The Beatles. The production subtly samples from other songs and uses slight auto-tune on Rihanna’s voice.

7. “Shut Up Kiss Me” by Angel Olsen

Angel Olsen kept the spirit of rock and roll alive in 2016 with her album My Woman, which established her as one of the leading ladies of indie rock music. Olsen said in interviews that the album and its songs focus on the difficulties of being a woman in the modern age.

“Shut Up Kiss Me” is a typical rock song with elements of romance. The song is both upbeat and melancholy at once and reflects the tumultuous feelings one has when in love.

8. “Drone Bomb Me” by ANOHNI

“Drone Bomb Me” is the last single ANOHNI released, but it is a powerful dance track. She is part of the band Antony and the Johnsons, but this song and its accompanying album were independent projects.

The song draws on real-world issues and is a love song from the perspective of a girl from the Middle East. Her family was killed in a drone strike, and she has lost the will to live, hoping to be the next person killed by an attack.

9. “Ivy” by Frank Ocean

Frank Ocean stunned the world in 2016 with his album Blonde, and the song “Ivy” from the album was perhaps his best work. Regardless of where you put “Ivy” in the ranking of all of Frank Ocean’s music, it is one of the best songs of 2016.

“Ivy” takes plenty of inspiration from indie rock, and Rostam Batmanglij of Vampire Weekend produced the song. Ocean sings about regret and the loss of youth and innocence. “Ivy” is a powerful track that left a mark on everyone who heard it.

10. “True Love Waits” by Radiohead

For many years, “True Love Waits” was the best-kept secret of Radiohead's discography. The band never recorded the song in the studio; the only way to listen to it was a live track from a concert in Oslo.

Radiohead recorded a studio version in 2016, and it lived up to fans' expectations. The song is a powerful and melancholy track to close the band’s A Moon Shaped Pool album. Not only is “True Love Waits” one of the best songs of 2016, but it is also one of the saddest ever recorded.

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