I love lists. I make lists for everything. I’m one of those people that adds something to a list—even after it’s finished—just so I can cross it off.
I love making lists. I love reading list.
And of all the lists I make during the year–this one is my favorite. Reviewing music in preparation for compiling this list gives me an opportunity to revisit periods of the year tied to that music. Like listening to Blonde for the first time in my hotel room in Tokyo. Running through a village in Denmark and hearing Usher’s surprise turn on Yuna’s song, Crush. Ending my dance class with a cooldown to All My Friends. Checking out A Moon Shaped Pool on my drive back from Eaux Claires festival and being moved to tears by the closer, True Love Waits.
Festivals are often a source for my favorite music experiences of the year. And no one reminds me of this summer’s festival season like Chance the Rapper and his surprise appearances at Lollapalooza and Pitchfork. (Sadly, I missed him at Eaux Claires.) No Problem will always remind me of #summer16. He is the only artist that appears on three tracks on this year’s list.
Each year’s list tends to be a mix of old favorites and new finds—and there’s something extra special when a song brings both together. One of my musical highlights of 2016 is Craig David’s comeback and one of my great finds was the Kaytranada album. (I discovered it by Shazamming the pre-show music at the BØRNS’ concert.) So of course–the Kaytranada track Got It Good FEATURING Craig David was gonna make my list. Other mixes of old and new can be found on D.R.A.M’s duet with the incomparable, Erykah Badu on the sexy WiFi and Anderson Paak and Schoolboy Q’s perfection, Am I Wrong?
Or sometimes, two favorites come together like the Waves remix, with Miguel and Tame Impala—both artists on my 2015 mix—creating a track that still freaks me and it dropped in January. And of course, my favorite couple of 2016 (and 2010, 2012…)—and sadly just #summer16—Drake and Rihanna’s track, Too Good.
My list runs from November 1, 2015-October 31, 2016. I want to have time to give things a proper listen (thus why Missy Elliot’s WTF is on my list this year, even though it appeared on most 2015 year-end lists). But sometimes you have to make an exception. After four different friends asked me if I’d checked out the new A Tribe Called Quest album, I knew I needed to stop and give it a listen. I’m glad I did and We the People…is included on this year’s list.
Then there’s Beyoncé. Like everyone else, Lemonade was it for me this year. It only took one listen to know it would be my favorite album of the year–and it’s only gotten better and better with time. And no song blew my mind like Formation making it my favorite song of the year.
It’s no coincidence I call the list my “favorites” and not the best. These are the songs I returned to again and again throughout the year. I could’ve easily made this list 100 songs long–but figured that’s obnoxious. I could make the case that any song on David Bowie’s album is one of the best of the year. It’s just too hard for me to listen to them. Similarly, this year will always be remembered as the year we lost Prince. I debated adding a Prince song in memorial, but I still struggle to listen to anything from his catalog and have yet to make it through Purple Rain without crying. So I didn’t.
Finally, this year will also be remembered as the year music listening got incredibly fractured and complicated. For example, the only complete list with all my top 50 favorite songs appears on Tidal. Spotify is close, but is missing Formation, making the list feel incomplete. I can’t purchase my favorite Car Seat Headrest song or Kanye West’s Ultralight Beam on Itunes so my CDs have holes. And YouTube doesn’t have four of the songs: Ivy, Too Good, Got it Good or The Ballad of Costa Concordia (Car Seat Headrest is making it incredibly difficult for you to hear this epic track.)
But I want you to have the chance to give my list a listen, so I’ve created three different playlists on three different platforms based on what’s available—and I am always willing to get you CD old school-style—just ask! Hopefully, one of these options will work for you.
And remember—while I love making lists—I love reading them. I will spend the next few months checking out everyone else’s lists—including yours. So please post your favorite songs from 2016 below so I can give them a spin!
I hope you find some new tracks or artists on this list that become your new favorites, too. Or maybe they bring back good memories from this year. I know this year has been hard, but it’s also been one of the best in music that I can remember in a long time.
Can’t wait to hear your feedback on my list and start checking out your favorites, too!