Compiled by our Arts & Entertainment staff editors and writers, here is the best music of 2016.
Best Albums of 2016
Throughout Blonde, Frank Ocean expresses the small victories and big heartbreaks of everyday life. The album is a mosaic of pop and R&B songs that each tell a captivating story.
Beyoncé’s visual album is a daring collection of genres and her boldest work to date. The album addresses the pride and pain of black lives in America, as well as the struggles of matrimony, through haunting lyrics and exceptional film footage.
3. We Got it From Here… Thank You 4 Your Service
The final release from the inimitable rap group A Tribe Called Quest—with politically-charged songs and a repertoire of sampling and instrumentation—is an apt tribute to the late, great Phife Dawg.
Solange’s recent release is rich with soulful harmonies and her signature contemplative lyrics. Solange gives a poetic voice to her personal and political experience.
Excellent collaborators and deeply personal themes make this album an unforgettable oeuvre. The Life of Pablo pushes musical limits and launched an era of Kanye that today includes endeavours in art, fashion, and celebrity.
Bon Iver’s latest delivers low-fi, experimental beats while retaining the haunting vocals listeners have come to love. Sometimes angry and often auto-tuned, this album is only strengthened by its refusal to adhere to the indie folk mould.
Montreal-based producer Kaytranada delivers an album packed with expertly mixed beats that walk a brilliant line between ambient electronic and engaging pop.
Anderson .Paak’s second album offers new R&B sounds with a delicious twist of pop. .Paak’s uniqe voice and instrumentation combine funk with electronic in a few standout hits while maintaining a smooth and sexy tone throughout.
Rihanna’s eighth studio album is confident and mature. Jumping through classic soul, glittery pop, and aggressive trap-inspired tracks, her voice remains the connecting factor: raw, raspy, and incredibly honest.
10. Puberty 2
Mitski experiences a second coming-of-age in Puberty 2. On top of heavy rock guitar, Mitski’s operatic voice is melodic, clear, and angry. This album cuts deeper than most of her indie contemporaries.
Best Songs of 2016
1. “Cranes in the Sky”
“Cranes in the Sky” floats a foot above the ground. Solange showcases ethereal vocals and becomes a voice for the disenchanted minds and hearts of Americans.
“Redbone” is an innovative departure from Child Gambino’s previous work. The slow funk bass line is accompanied by compelling vocals passionately recounting a love gone wrong.
3. “Ultralight Beam”
Kanye West’s track is an anthem; with a diverse use of instruments such as horn, rap, gospel, gospel choir, and the famous opening sample of an enraptured child, “Ultralight Beam” is as catchy as it is provocative.
4. “Burn the Witch”
With its shrill strings and piercing lyrics, Radiohead’s chillingly encapsulates modern fears of demagoguery and ignorance. In other words, it captured 2016 better than anything else.
5. “Too Good”
“Too Good” is a celebratory, Caribbean-inspired pop song in which Drake’s love life dissatisfaction is echoed by his female counterpart, Rihanna. Sampling Popcaan, dancehall beats create an urge to dance that matches the emotional epiphany of the lyrics.
6. “Really Doe”
“Really Doe,” the most accessible track from Danny Brown’s Atrocity Exhibition, hits hard with staccato chimes, aggressive verses, and excellent features from Kendrick Lamar, Ab-Soul, and Earl Sweatshirt.
7. “Your Best American Girl”
Japanese-American musician Mitski’s plainspoken lyrics, crisp harmony and heavily distorted guitar boldly articulates the insecurity of interracial love, and how it is slowly overcome.
Backed up by a twerking Serena Williams, Beyoncé unapologetically claps back at cheating partners everywhere in Lemonade’s feistiest track. “Sorry” is infectious and electrifying, demanding respect in every verse.
Frank Ocean masterfully plays with melody over a sparse guitar riff. The lyrics are a late summer reflection on growing up and falling in and out of love. The chorus has Yung Lean pleading with an ex lover: “Keep a place for me.”
Backed by Erykah Badu, D.R.A.M. lets his gospel background shine in this sensual and humourous track. Reminiscent of mid-90s R&B, “Wifi” is an ode to technology’s knack for bringing lovers together.