In case you hadn’t heard, 2016 was a great year for music. Even without career-best work from the likes of Beyoncé, Chance the Rapper and Solange, we were treated to a plethora of fantastic singles, some of which you can find in our list of the best songs of the year.
But greatest does not necessarily mean favorite. And though few of us here at Highsnobiety would disptue that “Work” by Rihanna is a great song, it does not necessarily make it one of our go-to, feel-all-the-feels tracks of the year. So in the name of finding those exact tracks, here are our Staff Picks for our favorite songs of the year.
Chance the Rapper–“No Problem” ft. 2 Chainz & Lil Wayne
“No Problem” featuring 2 Chainz and Lil Wayne was simply peak Chance in 2016. From start (“If one more label try to stop me…”) to end (moolah baby), the infectiously groovy, gospel-inspired track was only made better by Chance’s appearance on Ellen. A highlight in this year’s hip-hop calendar, to be sure.
Last Japan–“Ascend” ft. AJ Tracey
AJ Tracey kills it on a floaty, cinematic, sci-fi, computer games-y grime instrumental by Last Japan. Big.
Despite almost definitely being a shithead, Future is my favorite male rapper and this is peak Future: bleak, warbling, autotuned cries for loveeeee and affection over a gloomy Metro Boomin beat. No other rapper can convey as much emotion with as few words as Future, and this track has helped me feel my feelings through two harsh European winters.
Jenny Hval–“Conceptual Romance”
I’ve been listening to love songs and songs about love my entire life. This is the first one that made me realize that the nostalgic yearning I would feel in my heart was in no way tied to any actual lived romantic experience, but a pining away for something that Hval made me realize is entirely conceptual. Which is both illuminating and really stupid.
Floorplan–“Tell You No Lie”
It comes from the techno god Robert Hood so it has that pumpy bassline that is quite infectious, this element coupled with an unreal disco vocal edit makes it impossible not to dance to. It was released just before the summer and got played at every party, it even got the shutters-opening treatment in Panorama bar on a sunny Sunday afternoon which was one of the highlights of my year.
Paak was one of but a few new artists this year that I really thought delivered a cohesive project that spanned a multitude of genres.
Frank Ocean–“White Ferrari”
I’m fully aware of how unadventurous it is to select a Frank Ocean song in this kind of piece, but whatever. Frank apparently recorded 50 versions of this track before settling on the final version, once again giving credence to the theory that he’s on a personal quest to redefine the meaning of “perfectionist.” Honestly, the sparsity of the entire track is devastating, but if I could DL those synth pads into my head and have them play on an open loop for all eternity then I would. A masterpiece.
Stanislav Tolkachev–“Better Play With My Balls”
Putting the terrible name aside, I had Ukrainian techno producer Stanislav Tolkachev’s track “Better Play With My Balls” on rotation last year. Released on the Hesitation EP in January, Tolkachev builds the track up with a muscular kick drum and twitchy hi-hat as he rolls new elements in and out to anxiously psychedelic effect. Sure, the handclaps sound a little cheesy, but it does one thing incredibly well — it gets your body moving. Exactly the kind of sublime experience I’d like to remember 2016 by.
Travis Scott–“All Through the Late Night” ft. Kid Cudi
It’s my jam because it came out during the time when I was having house parties at my place in the Netherlands a couple of times a week for more than three months.
Andy Stott–“New Romantic”
Andy Stott is truly the master of dark, grimy soundscapes, so it was the most delightful surprise to hear the same textured sound he’s known for lightened up with some high keys and ethereal vocals from long-time collaborator (and his former piano teacher) Alison Skidmore. “New Romantic” is undoubtedly the most beautiful song of 2016. It’s both delicate and light, and strong and pulsing, and fits its title (and the album’s cover art) perfectly.
Kano–“3 Wheel-Ups” ft. Giggs
The UK showed the world the meaning of grime in 2016 as the genre’s renaissance continued. Veteran London artist Kano stood on the frontline with his latest album Made in the Manor reminding everyone why he’s a grime legend. “3 Wheel-ups” was arguably the grime track of the year and despite hearing it hundreds of times, it still sounds fresh to me.
Lil Uzi Vert–“Money Longer”
Spotify is telling me my top song of 2016 is “Money Longer” by Lil Uzi Vert. I feel like a lot of people love to hate the kid (and his contemporaries) but I appreciate the carefree attitude and fluid style that’s a hallmark of the new generation. Beyond the infectious production and punchy flow, I’m impressed with Lil Uzi flexing his preference for going out to eat blackened salmon. The bagel line is all time. Believe in the youth.