Anderson .Paak / Courtesy photo

The best music of 2016

Text Gary Chun
Thread music

When I look back at a year that can't end soon enough, I'll remember 2016 as the year of The Statement, and overall, one of the most stunning, musically, in recent memory: a time of great loss and of rejuvenation as well.

It was a year bookended with tragedy in the deaths of two of our greatest contemporary artists, David Bowie and Leonard Cohen. It was a year of tremendous, envelope-pushing hip-hop albums, highlighted by works by Anderson .Paak, Blood Orange and Danny Brown. It was a year defined by strong, badly-needed female voices in Margo Price, Angel Olsen and the Knowles sisters. And, oh yeah, it was the year we witnessed a final declaration from the punk godfather himself, affectionately known as Iggy.

For someone like myself, who grew up with the intimate poetry of Cohen and the fabulous Mr. Bowie—Ziggy Stardust, The Thin White Duke and all the other personas he inhabited throughout his incredible life—their deaths, mixed in with the shocking passing of Prince, have given the year an air of unreality. At the same time, their deaths were sorrowful distractions from the continuing development of America's black voices. I'm thankful that Anderson .Paak and Blood Orange (a.k.a. Dev Hynes) have picked up from where Kendrick Lamar left off with equally powerful and personal albums, while Detroit's Danny Brown is raw, dark brilliance on his latest album.

Speaking of raw and dark, much of the life and times of Iggy Pop could be said to be the same. But, instead, his swansong is warm and reflective, without sacrificing that sense of wild abandon that has informed the best of his music.

And god love the ladies: we knew Queen Bee was going to stay upper echelon with an artistic statement that would confidently join the arts of film and music together, but her sister Solange matches Beyoncé in both strength and confidence in her own declaration of black womanhood. And to experience the lyrical power of Price and Olsen on their respective albums was a joy to hear.

Joy—that's an emotion that came too infrequently for most of us these past 12 months. And 2017 is looking to be quite the challenge as well. Here's hoping the music will ably define, and occasionally rise above, the rough times that lie ahead.

10 favorite songs of 2016

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

“Blood Sandwich” – Aesop Rock

“Out of Control” – Lush

“Summer Friends” (feat. Jeremih and Francis and the Lights) – Chance the Rapper

“Open the Door” – Guy Garvey

“Your Best American Girl” – Mitski

“Daydreaming” – Radiohead

“Black Beatles” – Rae Sremmurd

“New Song” – Warpaint

“We the People” – A Tribe Called Quest


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