The best of 2016 — Part four

8. Fantasia –The Definition Of…

I understand Idol worship is not the stuff of which “narratives” are made, not when a hep industry cat can admit to a homosexual crush using Notepad; otherwise he sings about love and loss with as much conviction and less skill as anyone in R&B. Would that Fantasia inspire similar devotion. As powerful as 2013’s Side Effects of You, The Definition Of… puts that chalky voice against electronic settings and gospel pop.

7. Rae Sremmurd – Sremmlife 2

Thanks to mannequins, that eternal mystery called Paul McCartney, and its indelible hook, “Black Beatles” has become the most surprising #1 hit in years. A rarity too: I haven’t gotten tired of it, and every week it’s earned a more fervent listenership. The album doesn’t let up either.

6. Britney Spears – Glory

After releasing the most distracted album of her career three years ago, Britney Jean commissions Justin Tranter, Robopop, and more Scandinavians than the credits to a Bergman film to write and produce a collection as protean, brazen, and sybaritic as any in her catalog. Mattman & Robin are responsible for “Do You Wanna Come Over” and presumably its flamenco guitar runs and the curious line “We use our bodies to make our own videos” in “Slumber Party,” while the NYC axis gets “Just Luv Me,” an electronic crawl through a rueful corner of Spears’ id. Judging from the in-Glory-ious sales, she has much to be rueful about.

5. Maxwell – blackSUMMERSNIGHT

From my SPIN blurb: A piano run here and a hi-hat there are all Maxwell needs to evoke desire, both ungratified and achieved. On his first album since 2009, the neo-soul avatar proves himself master of a terse R&B that has finally caught up to ambitions that his first couple of albums couldn’t support melodically. Shimmering pleas like “Gods” and “Lake by the Ocean” limn their title metaphors with precision and punch. Yet with Maxwell there’s a sense in which the beloved matters less than the valentines he writes: “You are the object I get lost in,” he coos on “Hostage,” admitting that concentration has made him moony. Celebrating his own prowess while pledging his troth on one knee, he’s a classic love man after all.

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