Tag Archives: Best of 2016 (Music)

We’ll get by, I suppose — a farewell to 2016 and all that

On the last day of 2016, I can’t dispel the mephitic vapors of an autumn that in South Florida never cooled and an election season that didn’t and won’t end. I published some of my finest work. I read, deeply, discovering Lorrie Moore and at last finishing Thomas Mann’s Joseph tetralogy. I’m at the apex of my teaching powers. The sex wasn’t lousy. To mourn the collapse of our expectations after Nov. 8 is to call attention to the fact that “setting goals” is a capitalist’s conformist trick. I don’t New Year’s resolutions to steel myself. The work remains, it must get done, unfinished, forever.

Thanks to my readers, who, like events both national and personal, bring sustenance and friction. Focus not on the concept of a Bad Year. Periods both good and bad aren’t still points on a compass but circumferences.

Natalie Cole, whose death was announced on the first day of the new year.

– On Fleetwood Mac’s Mirage reissue

– On Being 17, being young, being queer, being stupid.

The primacy of dance clubs in queer culture, more necessary than ever after the Pulse shootings in June.

– The late Fidel Castro’s far-reaching influence on Cuban families like mine.

– Miranda Lambert’s The Weight of These Wings was a statement by an artist at the peak of her powers.

The raft of excellent albums by K Michelle, KING, and other R&B women.

– Why Moonlight wasn’t quite the queer tour de force that critics sought.

– What George Michael meant to me in September 2016 and what he meant to queer culture after his death last Sunday.

Adjusting to the Clintons — before their abrupt November banishment.

– David Bowie, who taught us about the vitality of posing.

On my favorite early Prince album.

I’m off for a vacation. Take care of each other. See y’all on the other side.

2016: the year in singles

Every year I announce I’ve reviewed more singles than ever, and I’m not wrong. I’m also doing more sit-ups than ever. Below are the original scores of every tune I’ve reviewed at The Singles Jukebox. I’ve kept the original grades despite the adjustments that radio listening have demanded I make — not that top forty radio was all that impressive in 2016.



A Tribe Called Quest – We the People


Maxwell – Lake By the Ocean
Maxwell – 1990X
Miranda Lambert – We Should Be Friends
Maren Morris – 80s Mercedes
Eric Church – Record Year


Miranda Lambert – Vice
Lady Gaga – A-Yo
Vince Staples ft. A$AP Rocky – Prima Donna
Danny Brown – When It Rain
Sabina Ddumba – Time
Rae Sremmurd ft. Gucci Mane – Black Beatles
Bucie ft. Black Motion – Rejoice
Eric Church ft. Rhiannon Giddens – Kill a Word
Martin Solveig ft. Tkay Maidza – Do It Right
Katy B & Chris Lorenzo – I Wanna Be
Alex Anwandter – Siempre Es Viernes En Mi Corazón
Ingrid – Double Pedigree
Utada Hikaru ft. Shiina Ringo – Nijikan Dake no Vacance
Rihanna – Kiss It Better
Tim McGraw – Humble and Kind
Brandy Clark – Girl Next Door
KING – The Greatest
Anohni – Drone Bomb Me
The 1975 – The Sound
BTS – Run
Ngaiire – Diggin’
Corinne Bailey Rae – Been to the Moon


Shura – What’s It Gonna Be
Beyonce ft. Dixie Chicks – Daddy Problems
Ian Ramil – Derivacivilização
Mon Laferte – Si Tú Me Quisieras
The Chamanas – Dulce Mal
Garth Brooks – Baby Let’s Lay Down and Dance
Twice – TT
Brad Paisley – Today
The xx – On Hold
Kaytranada ft. Syd – You’re the One
Brandy Clark – Love Can Go to Hell
Kim Gordon – Murdered Out
Violeta Castillo – Envuelta
John Mayer – Love on the Weekend
Blackpink – Playing With Fire
Britney Spears ft. Tinashe – Slumber Party
Francisca Valenzuela – Estremecer
Mister Wallace – It Girl
Anna Straker – Serious
Fernanda Abreu – Outro Sim
Beyoncé – Hold Up
Garth Brooks – Baby Let’s Lay Down and Dance
Sevyn Streeter ft. The-Dream – D4L
BTS – Blood Sweat & Tears
Nelly Furtado – Islands of Me
Little Mix – Shout Out to My Ex
Twice – TT
Mary J. Blige – Thick of It
Nadia Rose – Skwod
MØ – Final Song
Lydia Loveless – Longer
Chris Young ft. Vince Gill – Sober Saturday Night
Ahlam – Talqah
Beth Orton – 1973
Tkay Maidza ft. Killer Mike – Carry On
AlunaGeorge – I Remember
Usher ft. Young Thug – No Limit
Aminé – Caroline
Regina Spektor – Bleeding Heart
Kanye West ft. Ty Dolla $ign & Post Malone – Fade
Tiwa Savage ft. Dr. SID – If I Start to Talk
Soobin Hoàng Sơn – Lalala
Tim McGraw – How I’ll Always Be
Tinashe – Superlove
Alex Anwandter – Intentarlo Todo de Nuevo
Sistar – I Like That
Petula Clark – Sacrifice My heart
PARTYNEXTDOOR & Jeremih ft. Lil Wayne – Like Dat
Dënver – El Fondo del Barro
Britney Spears ft. G-Eazy – Make Me…
Kaytranada ft. Anderson .Paak – Glowed Up
Snow Tha Product ft. W. Darling
Usher – Crush
Beth Orton – 1973
Oh My Girl – Windy Day
Jonghyun – She Is
Thalia ft. Maluma – Desde Esa Noche
Luna – Free Somebody
Blake Shelton – Came Here to Forget
Kevin Gates – Really Really
Justin Timberlake – Can’t Stop the Feeling!
Margo Price – Hurtin’ (On the Bottle)
Deep Sea Diver – See These Eyes
Jana Hermann – Kults
Temi Dollface – School Your Face
Intocable – Tu Ausencia
Sophie Beem – Skyline
Skepta – Man
Tiffany – I Just Wanna Dance
Garbage – Empty
Azealia Banks – Can’t Do It Like Me
Old Dominion – Snapback
Brad Paisley ft. Demi Lovato – Without a Fight
Jason Derulo – If It Ain’t Love
Case/Lang/Veirs – Atomic Number
Blake Shelton ft. Gwen Stefani – Go Ahead and Break My Heart
Chloe x Halle – Drop
Perfume – Flash
Bonnie Raitt – Gypsy Like Me
TT the Artist & Snappy Jit – Dig
P!nk – Just Like Fire
Grimes – Kill V. Maim
Kendrick Lamar – Untitled 02 06.23.2014.
Tegan and Sara – Boyfriend
Mannie Fresh ft. Juvenile & Tunechi – Hate
Tove Lo – Cool Girl
Blackpink – Whistle
Clare Dunn – Tuxedo
Jordan Fisher – Lookin’ Like That
Isaiah Rashad – Free Lunch
Playa Gótica – Fuego
The Band Perry – Comeback Kid
Mac Miller ft. Anderson .Paak – Dang!
Ladies’ Code – Galaxy
Taemin – Press Your Number
Trace Adkins – Jesus and Jones
Beyonce – Formation
Mamamoo – Taller Than You
Prince Royce – Culpa al Corazón
Riton ft. Kah-lo – Rinse & Repeat
Pet Shop Boys – The Pop Kids
Chairlift – Crying in Public
Ulises Hadjis ft. Gepe – Movimiento
Mamamoo – Taller Than You
Kevin Gates – 2 Phones
Katie Gately – Tuck
Jeremih – Oui
Erykah Badu – Phone Down
Jason Derulo – Get Ugly
PJ Harvey – The Wheel
Esperanza Spalding – Good Lava
Laura Mvula ft. Nile Rodgers – Overcome
Morning Musume ’15 – Tsumetai Kaze to Kataomoi
Seventeen ft. Ailee – Q&A
J Hus – Lean & Bop
The 1975 – UGH!
Dua Lipa – Be the One
Blink-182 – Bored to Death
Adele – When We Were Young
365 – Selfie
Metronomy – Night Owl
Trentemøller ft. Jehnny Beth – River in Me
Mura Masa ft. Shura – Love For That
Gepe – Punto Final


Against Me! – 333
Cathy Davey – The Pattern
Years & Years – Meteorite
Blood Orange – Augustine
HyunA – How’s This?
RaeLynn – Love Triangle
Ravyn Lenae ft. Appleby – Free Room
Joss Favela – Cuando Fuimos Nada
Sophia Abrahão – Sou Fatal
Manuel Medrano – Una y Otra Vez
Joey Bada$$ – Devastated
Butterfly – Sorry for the Wait
Keith Urban – Blue Ain’t Your Color
Letters to Cleo – Can’t Say
Leonard Cohen – You Want It Darker
William Michael Morgan – I Met a Girl
Emeli Sandé – Hurts
Skrillex & Rick Ross – Purple Lamborghini
A Tribe Called Red ft. Yasiin Bey, Narcy & Black Bear – R.E.D.
Nice as Fuck – Door
Justice – Safe and Sound
Agust D – Agust D
M.O. – What Do You Thi
JoJo ft. Wiz Khalifa – Fuck Apologies nk of Love?
Bat For Lashes – Sunday love
Maggie Rogers – Alaska
Didrick ft. Amanda Fondell – Smoke
Aommy – Shake
Maluma – Sin Contrato
Anderson .Paak ft. Schoolboy Q – Am I Wrong
Dreezy ft. Jeremih – Body
Angel Olsen – Shut Up Kiss Me
Swet Shop Boys – T5
Espinoza Paz – Que Mal Te Ves Sin Mí
Kent – Egoist
Yuna ft. Usher – Crush
Lil Uzi Vert – Money Longer
Ayumi Hamasaki – Mad World  
Desiigner – Tiimmy Turne
PARTYNEXTDOOR & Jeremih ft. Lil Wayne – Like Dat
Pitbull ft. Enrique Iglesias – Messin’ Around
Kristin Kontrol – X-Communicate
Nick Jonas ft. Tove Lo – Close
Suzy & Baekhyun – Dream
Alicia Keys – In Common
Paul Simon – Wristband
Radiofish – Perfect Human
Twice – Cheer Up
Adele – Send My Love (to Your New Lover)
The Corrs – I Do What I Like
Kiiara – Gold
E-Girls – Dance With Me Now!
Mitski – Your Best American Girl
Jamala – 1944
Gwen Stefani – Make Me Like You
Loretta Lynn – Who’s Gonna Miss Me?
Carlos Vives – Las Cosas de la Vida
Kelsea Ballerini – Peter Pan
Panic! at the Disco – Emperor’s New Clothe
Cam – Mayday
Dessa – Quinine
VIXX – Dynamite
Primal Scream & Sky Ferreira – Where the Light Gets In
Chvrches – Clearest Blue
Lush – Out of Contro
Aubrie Sellers – Sit Here and Cry
Ella Mai ft. Ty Dolla $ign – She Don’t
Stellar – Sting
Francisca Valenzuela – Catedral
Vince Gill ft. Little Big Town – Take Me Down
Carrie Underwood – Heartbeat
Frances – Borrowed Time
Stormzy – Shut Up
Tegan and Sara – BWU
Unnies ft. You Hee Yeol – Shut Up
Rat Boy – Fake ID
Mabel – My Boy My Town
Lali – Boomerang
Beyoncé – Hold Up
Snakehips ft. Anderson .Paak – Money on Me


MNEK – At Night (I Think About You)
Future – Wicked
Zay Hilfigerrr & Zayion McCall – JuJu on Dat Beat
Childish Gambino – Me and Your Mama
Rihanna ft. Drake – Work
Kehlani – CRZY
The Hiatus – Bonfire
Valesca Popozuda – Boy Magia
Ward Thomas – Guilty Flowers
Bruno Mars – 24K Magic
Hana – Underwater
Brave Girls – Deepened
Starlit – Kita Berbeda
Raveena – Johnny It’s the Last Time
Hana – Underwater
The Weeknd ft. Daft Punk – Starboy
Rae Sremmurd – Look Alive
Calvin Harris – My Way
Kideko & George Kwali ft. Nadia Rose & Sweetie Irie – Crank It (Woah!)
Zay Hilfigerrr & Zayion McCall – JuJu on Dat Beat
Puer Kim – Pearls
Röyksopp ft. Susanne Sundfør – Never Ever
Charli XCX ft. Lil Yachty – After the Afterparty
Victoria Kimani – My Money
The Strokes – Oblivius
Tinie Tempah ft. Wizkid – Mamacita
Lil Wayne, Wiz Khalifa & Imagine Dragons w/ Logic & Ty Dolla $ign ft. X Ambassadors – Sucker for Pain
Frenship ft. Emily Warren – Capsize
Kari Faux – Fantasy
M.I.A. ft. Zayn – Freedun
Radwimps – Zen Zen Zense
Dragonette – Lonely Heart
The Strokes – Oblivius
DJ Khaled ft. Drake – For Free
Tinie Tempah ft. Wizkid – Mamacita
Chance the Rapper ft. 2 Chainz & Lil Wayne – No Problem
Bump of Chicken – Butterfly
Frank Ocean – Nikes
Fabio Rovazzi – Andiamo a Comandare
Nite Jewel – Kiss the Screen
Keith Urban – Wasted Time
Calibre 50 – Préstamela a Mí
Daya – Sit Still, Look Pretty
Anitta ft. Maluma – Sim Ou Não
Sigur Rós – Óveður
Little Big Town – One of Those Days
The Record Company – Off the Ground
Desiigner – Panda
Red Hot Chili Peppers – Dark Necessities
Elle King – America’s Sweetheart
Snuper – Platonic Love
Julieta Venegas – Tu Calor
Troye Sivan – Youth
MNEK – At Night (I Think About You)
Zhu – In the Morning
Lush – Out of Control
Renaud – Toujours Debout
Green Day – Bang Bang
Snakehips ft. Zayn – Cruel
Ellie Goulding – Something in the Way You Move
The Joy Formidable – The Last Thing on My Mind
Dierks Bentley – Somewhere on a Beach
Fnaïre – Chayeb
Flume ft. Vince Staples & Kučka – Smoke & Retribution
David Bowie – Blackstar
The Rubens – Hoops
Jessy Lanza – It Means I Love You
Tara Thompson – Someone to Take Your Place
M83 – Do It, Try It
I.O.I – Crush
Chris Stapleton – Nobody to Blame
Puff Daddy & the Family ft. Ty Dolla $ign – You Could Be My Lover
Ashley Campbell – Remembering
Turbo ft. Yoo Jae-suk – Again
Miriam Bryant – Black Car
Frenship ft. Emily Warren – Capsize
Amine Aminux – #Makayen_Ma
Volbeat – The Devil’s Bleeding Crown
Renaud – Toujours Debout
YG ft. Drake & Kamaiyah – Why You Always Hatin’?
Jeezy ft. Janelle Monáe – Sweet Life
Justin Bieber – Love Yourself
Wale – My PYT
Twenty One Pilots – Stressed Out
Loyle Carner – Ain’t Nothing Changed
One Direction – History Colonel Loud ft. T.I., Young Dolph & Ricco Barrino – California
Colonel Loud ft. T.I., Young Dolph & Ricco Barrino – California
Cole Swindell – You Should Be Here
Rostam – Gravity Don’t Pull Me
Hooverphonic – Badaboum
Tinie Tempah ft. Zara Larsson – Girls Like


Francis and the Lights ft. Bon Iver – Friends
Natalia Lafourcade – Mi Lugar Favorito
LP – Lost on You
Sofía Reyes ft. Reykon – Llegaste Tú
Olly Murs – You Don’t Know Love
Ariana Grande ft. Nicki Minaj – Side to Side
Kent Jones – Alright
Simone – Heart-shaped Hole
Zay Hilfigerrr & Zayion McCall – JuJu on Dat Beat
Rag ‘n’ Bone Man – Human
Mickey Singh – Phone
Sofía Reyes ft. Reykon – Llegaste Tú
Stevie Wonder ft. Ariana Grande – Faith
Mickey Guyton – Heartbreak Song
Little Big Town – Better Man
Ingrid Michaelson – Hell No
Kenny Chesney ft. P!nk – Setting the World on Fire
Oh My Girl ft. Skull & Haha – A-ing
Simone – Heart Shaped Hole
Busu – 116 RIP
Sleigh Bells – Hyper Dark
Norah Jones – Carry On
Coldplay – Hymn for the Weekend
Happy Meals – If You Want Me Now
Dierks Bentley ft. Elle King – Different For Girls
Schoolboy Q ft. Kanye West – That Part
Drake ft. Rihanna – Too Good
Kano – This is England
Dua Lipa – Hotter Than Hell
Kanye West – Famous
Miles Davis, Robert Glasper & Bilal – Ghetto Walkin’
Tokyo Police Club – Not My Girl
Nothing But Thieves – Trip Switch
Justin Bieber – Company
CL – Lifted
Ariana Grande – Into You
Carrie Underwood – Church Bells
Martina McBride – Reckless
Jake Owen – American Country Love Song
Kelly Clarkson, Chloe & Halle, Missy Elliott, Jadagrace, Lea Michele, Janelle Monáe, Kelly Rowland & Zendaya – This is for My Girls
Mike Posner – I Took a Pill in Ibiza (SeeB remix)
Snakehips ft. Tinashe & Chance the Rapper – All My Friends
Mary Chapin Carpenter – Something Tamed Something Wild
Young Thug – Best Friend
Nu’est – Love Paint
GFriend – Rough
Drake – Summer Sixteen
Yandel – Encantadora
Kira Isabella – I’m So Over Getting Over You
Flo Rida – My House
FKA Twigs – Good to Love
Massive Attack ft. Tricky & 3D – Take It There
Zayn – Pillowtalk
AlunaGeorge ft. Popcaan – I’m in Control
Matt Simons – Catch & Release (Deepend remix)
Selena Gomez – Hands to Myself
Bonnie McKee – Wasted Youth
DJ Mustard ft. Travis Scott – Whole Lotta Lovin’
Jack Garratt – Breathe Life
Dierks Bentley ft. Elle King – Different For Girls
Happy Meals – If You Want Me Now
Schoolboy Q ft. Kanye West – That Part
Drake ft. Rihanna – Too Good
Jonas Blue ft. JP Cooper – Perfect Strangers
Section Boyz – Do the Road
Psy ft. CL – Daddy
Nick Jonas ft. Ty Dolla $ign – Bacon
Mary Chapin Carpenter – Something Tamed Something Wild
BØRNS – Electric Love
Martin Garrix and Bebe Rexha – In the Name of Love
Ronnie Dunn ft. Kix Brooks – Damn Drunk
Hank Solo – Söpö
Bon Iver – 33 “GOD”
Danielle Bradbery – Friend Zone
Izzy Bizu – White Tiger
Kiss Daniel – Mama
Jessica ft. Fabolous – Fly
Laura Mvula – Phenomenal Woman
Maroon 5 ft. Kendrick Lamar – Don’t Wanna Know


Kat DeLuna ft. Jeremih – What a Night
Danny L Harle ft. Carly Rae Jepsen – Super Natural
Idina Menzel – Queen of Swords
The Chainsmokers ft. Phoebe Ryan – All We Know
Local Natives – Fountain of Youth
The Avett Brothers – Ain’t No Man t
E-40 ft. Kamaiyah – Petty
Louisa Johnson – So Good (3)
Andy Grammer – Fresh Eyes
John Legend – Love Me Now
Davido ft. Tinashe – How Long
Kiiara – Feels
Florida Georgia Line ft. Tim McGraw – May We All
Rick Astley – Keep Singing
Tyler Glenn – Trash
Fetty Wap – Wake Up
Katy Perry – Rise
Mike Perry ft. Shy Martin – The Ocean
Jon Pardi – Head Over Boots
Demi Lovato – Body Say
Beast – Butterfly
Cassius ft. Ryan Tedder & Jaw – The Missing
Mura Masa ft. Bonzai – What If I
The Avalanches – Frankie Sinatra Go?
OneRepublic – Wherever I Go
Fergie – M.I.L.F. $
Tom Odell – Magnetised
Drake ft. Popcaan – Controlla
Charlie Puth ft. Selena Gomez – We Don’t Talk Anymore
The Avalanches – Frankie Sinatra
Céline Dion ft. Lindsey Stirling – The Show Must Go On
Chase & Status ft. Slaves – Control
Bibi Bourelly – Ego
Dustin Lynch – Mind Reader
Galantis – No Money
Robbie Williams – Party Like a Russian
Alan Walker – Sing Me to Sleep
Kent Jones – Don’t Mind
Bebe Rexha ft. Nicki Minaj – No Broken Hearts
Drake ft. Wizkid & Kyla – One Dance
Lady Gaga – Til It Happens to You
Meghan Trainor – No
Fifth Harmony ft. Ty Dolla $ign – Work From Home
The Lumineers – Ophelia J
Bat for Lashes – I Do
Chris Young ft. Cassadee Pope – Think of You
Valentino Khan – Deep Down Low
Ridenna – Knickers
Kanye West, Gucci Mane, Big Sean, 2 Chainz, Travis Scott, Yo Gotti, Quavo & Desiigner – Champions
Kent Jones – Alright
iKON – What’s Wrong?
Diana Gordon – Woman
Lucinda Williams – The Ghosts of Highway 20
LoCash – I Love This Life
Hailee Steinfeld – You’re Such A
DJ Snake ft. Bipolar Sunshine – Middl
Zendaya ft. Chris Brown – Something New
Lucinda Williams – The Ghosts of Highway 20
Enrique Iglesias ft. Wisin – Duele el Corazón
Alan Walker – Faded
Lauren Alaina – Road Less Travelled
Tucker Beathard – Rock On
Sia ft. Kendrick Lamar – The Greates
Lali – Único
Andra Day – Rise Up
Billie Marten – Bird
Morat – Cómo Te Atreves
Neiked ft. Dyo – Sexual


Brett Eldredge – Drunk on Your Love
Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds – I Need You
Joel Adams – Please Don’t Go
Michael Bublé – Nobody But Me
Zion & Lennox ft. J. Balvin – Otra Vez
Fifth Harmony ft. Fetty Wap – All in My Head (Flex)
DNCE – Toothbrush
Bon Jovi – This House is Not for Sale
Future ft. The Weeknd – Low Life
Zion & Lennox ft. J. Balvin – Otra Vez
Twenty88 ft. K-Ci & JoJo & Detail – 2 Minute Warning
The Strumbellas – Spirits
Grouplove – Welcome to Your Life
Michael Bublé – Nobody But Me
Gnash ft. Olivia O’Brien – I Hate U, I Love U
Fall Out Boy ft. Missy Elliott – Ghostbusters (I’m Not Afraid)
Florida Georgia Line – H.O.L.Y.
Twenty One Pilots – Heathens
D.R.A.M. ft. Lil Yachty – Broccoli
Fall Out Boy ft. Missy Elliott – Ghostbusters (I’m Not Afraid)
Ariana Grande – Dangerous Woman
The Chainsmokers ft. Daya – Don’t Let Me Down
Twenty88 ft. K-Ci & JoJo & Detail – 2 Minute Warning
Demi Lovato – Stone Cold
Alle Farben ft. Younotus – Please Tell Rosie
DJ Snake ft. Justin Bieber – Let Me Love You
Cher Lloyd – Activated
DJ Mustard ft. Nicki Minaj & Jeremih – Don’t Hurt Me
DLOW – Bet You Can’t Do It Like Me
J. Cole – No Role Modelz
Sia ft. Sean Paul – Cheap Thrills
James Bay – Let It Go
The Veronicas – In My Blood
James Arthur – Say You Won’t Let Go
Post Malone ft. Justin Bieber – Deja Vu


Wolfgang Gartner ft. Wiley & Trina – Turn Up
Timeflies – Once in a While
Tiësto ft John Legend – Summer Nights
The Chainsmokers ft. Halsey – Closer
You Me At Six – Night People
Porter Robinson & Madeon – Shelter
Marshmello – Alone
RedOne ft. Enrique Iglesias, R. City, Serayah & Shaggy – Don’t You Need Somebody
Ruth B – Lost Boy
Catfish and the Bottlemen – Soundcheck
Tiësto & Oliver Heldens ft. Natalie La Rose – The Right Song
Meghan Trainor – Me Too
The Stone Roses – All for One
Calum Scott – Dancing On My Own
Cash Cash ft. Sofia Reyes – How to Love


David Guetta ft. Zara Larsson – This One’s for You
Twenty One Pilots – Ride
Cash Cash & Digital Farm Animals ft. Nelly – Millionaire

Best albums of 2016 — full list

The full list:

1. KING – We are KING
2. Danny Brown – Atrocity Exhibition
3. A Tribe Called Quest – We Got It from Here…Thank You 4 Your Service
4. Miranda Lambert – The Weight of These Wings
5. Maxwell – blackSUMMERSNIGHT
6. Britney Spears – Glory
7. Rae Sremmurd – Sremmlife 2
8. Fantasia – The Definition Of…
9. David Bowie – Blackstar
10. Corinne Bailey Rae – The Heart Speaks in Whispers
11. Dawn Richard – Redemption
12. Schoolboy Q – Blank Face LP
13. Kevin Gates – Islah
14. Pusha T – King Push – Darkest Before Dawn: The Prelude
15. K Michelle – More Issues Than Vogue
16. Brandy Clark – Big Day in a Small Town
17. Maren Morris – Hero
18. Parquet Courts – Human Performance
19. Suede – Night Thoughts
20. Bonnie Raitt – Dig In Deep
21. Beyonce – Lemonade
22. Vince Staples – Prima Donna (EP)
23. Shura – Nothing’s Real
24. Lori Mckenna – The Bird & the Rifle
25. Alex Anwandter – Amiga
26. Paul Simon – Stranger to Stranger
27. Anderson Paak – Malibu
28. Anohni – Hopelessness
29. The 1975 – I like it when you sleep, for you are so beautiful yet so unaware of it
30. Katy B – Honey

Best albums of 2016 – Part Five

4. Miranda Lambert – The Weight of These Wings

In October I thought the second disc was a disappointment after the masterful second. Now I need it all, even the song about the Tin Man and the dear old sun. Big, beautiful, as responsive to affection as a willing heart, The Weight of These Wings has the inevitability that masterful albums wear and none of the self-importance. As I wrote last month, I hesitate to call The Weight of These Wings her best album less than three years after Platinum earned this honor, but here’s the thing: Platinum reflected the confusion of an artist who at the peak of her clout was indulging in wistfulness about VCRs and with a yen for dumb jokes at the expense of women no less hick-ish than the persona she has adopted since Kerosene. Using the road as a controlling conceit and the ramshackleness of the double album structure itself, The Weight of These Wings arrives with a rather unsettling confidence, the questions answered, the referent-rummaging settled. A plain sense of things.

3. A Tribe Called Quest – We Got It from Here…Thank You 4 Your Service

Seizing a historical moment that threatens to flatten them as much as us, Q-Tip, Jacobi, and the late Phife Dawg write a classic up-with-people anthem that recontexualizes Phife as a voice of cross-cultural protest. As a conceptual move and palliative, sticking “Lost Somebody” on the second side strengthens the album’s inexorable current; so present is Phife on “Dis Generation” and “The Space Program,” the little bro eulogized by Tip and Jarobi, that the transformation of man into symbol reflects We Got It from Here‘s depiction of the potency of ideals in a dark time. “Mass un-blackening, it’s happening, you feel it, y’all?”? Mass un-everything, Tip.

2. Danny Brown – Atrocity Exhibition

I imagine the Detroit rapper stepping away from a mic, driving himself home, and opening a bottle of a Catena Zapata in front of House of Cards. It’s not that I don’t believe him when he raps about smoking so much he faints or about lines and lines of coke; it’s that the interaction between his lurid scenarios and his high, barking voice creates a not unpleasant distance. Paul White’s beats are up to Brown’s nightmarish scenarios.

1. KING – We are KING

Too vaporous for some listeners – hell, sometimes too vaporous for me. This most delicate of albums, recorded and produced and written by Paris Strother and Amber Strother and Anita Bias, has a warm glow. Its mildness is a balm. Its dedication to modest sensuality a relief. Adult in the best sense. The Strothers also had a hand in Corinne Bailey Rae’s fine album. Expect to read more credits.

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.

Best albums of 2016 – Part Three

12. Schoolboy Q – Blank Face LP

A few days ago Blank Face LP sat in the bottom half of my top ten. Replays undermined my case. Its weaknesses are its strengths, though, the sprawl reflecting an imagination struggling over the age-old conundrum: is description criticism? As I wrote in July, It’s hard to figure out what Schoolboy stands for or who he is besides a party boy who in this climate and thanks to his bros (Kendrick, Anderson Paak, etc) summons more interesting beats and backdrops than he would’ve in, say, 2006; it’s like Hillary running as a progressive. But, like Hillary, it’s what I needed in 2016, especially if the tracks are as heady as “Groovy Tony/Eddie Kane” and “JoHn Muir.”

11. Dawn Richard – Redemption

Pairing with Machinedrum for jungle-inflected sparkle machines like “Love Under Lights,” Dawn Richard evokes a drunk-at-3.am. bliss with a handful of catchphrases and her thick soprano. “Lazarus” sounds like Daft Punk’s “One More Time” heard from beneath a pillow. Collaborations with Noisecastle III take greater risks. A despondent Richards wanders “The Louvre” to the accompaniment of distorted violins and punctuative bass drum (“Stare at you like you’re a work of art/You should be on a wall instead of hangin’ in my heart.” Redemption is a meteor shower on a clear cold night.

10. Corinne Bailey Rae – The Heart Speaks in Whispers

This creator of two genteel predecessors finally writes melodies worthy of a Grammy winner, and the result is her best album: a poised example of adult music that foregoes neither an erotic life nor a consideration of what adulthood means. With contributions from the classic (Valerie Simpson) and new (KING’s Paris and Amber Strother) wing of R&B.

9. David Bowie – Blackstar

Not a film star. Not a porn star. Not a black star. He never gave anything anyway.

Best albums of 2016 – Part Two

16. Brandy Clark – Big Day in a Small Town

Her debut an intelligent bore, Brandy Clark’s sophomore album is the equivalent of a defibrillator. She does disco-inflected country (“Girl Next Door”), sarcasm-crazed Loudon Wainwright (“Daughter”), and well-lit melancholy (“Three Kids and No Husband”). Still too infatuated with details, but she’s singing as if she had to inhabit a Bernard Sumner libretto; she’s coming along fine.

15. K Michelle – More Issues Than Vogue

The year’s best title. Suffering exquisitely while asserting her right to ravish and be ravished, K Michelle is a diva to her bones. If R&B still made pop inroads, female secretaries and clerks would treasure her albums while men would recognize the similarities between their wives and lovers and the women Michelle inhabits and for whom she sings; she’s too practical for self-help bromides. Her priorities demand resolution yesterday. She’s at her best in “Not a Little Bit,” the sturdy piano hook mirroring her determination to get over it; and on “If It Ain’t You” she blasts a man who accuses her of being complicated – “you can take it,” she assures him.

14. Pusha T – Darkest Before Dawn

Possessor of the best sneer in hip hop, Pusha T writes scenarios that draw from headlines as much as from heist films. “I’m my city’s Willy Falcon/How you niggas celebrating Alpo?” he rasps on “F.I.F.A.” Elsewhere he aims his scorn at johnny-come-latelys who eat swordfish. With beats by Metro Boomin, Q-Tip, and even Kanye contributing something listenable, King Push releases a solo album that comes in at a fleet thirty-three minutes. If you bought it during last year’s Xmas rush, give it another listen.

13. Kevin Gates – Islah

“2 Phones” is the mainstream rap hit that won’t be denied, indelible enough to force me into passive voice. The rest of Islah has a slew of other odes to a lifestyle that’s catching up to Kevin Gates but from which he is nevertheless too infatuated with to disavow.